Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In Baronial Splendor

Dave and I are back from Kent, scrambling to get our laundry done and give the house a last-minute touch-up before the arrival of his parents today. Our adventure in rural England went well -- Dave managed to squeeze exceptional musical performances from his students in just under a week, and I got my fill of woods-wandering and wildflowers.

These photos show where we stayed -- the Benenden School, a girls' school of which Princess Anne is reportedly an alumnus. (Though Benenden physically hosted the music program, it's organized by Kent Music, which is affiliated with local government.) The school is housed partly in a Victorian mansion built on the site of a homestead dating back to the Middle Ages.

It had extensive gardens punctuated by intriguing statuary, and beyond them, acres and acres of green parkland, pastures and forests criss-crossed with walking trails.

This was the view from the terrace overlooking that parkland.

The oldest parts of the mansion were like something out of Brideshead Revisited -- grand staircases, stained glass, high ceilings, plaster friezes around the tops of the walls. I felt like I should be dressing for dinner.

The weather was almost entirely hideous, with pouring rain on several days. I went out on some of the walking trails and got my shoes muddy and soaked, but fortunately I was able to spruce them up and dry them on the windowsill during our brief sunny moments.

One evening we went up on the roof of the mansion with one of the music program employees. We had a sweeping view across the Kent countryside, and also a good straight-on look at the house's elaborate conjoined chimneys.

The local cows were very curious. As I walked past one day, they ambled over to get a better look at me. One let out a low moo right in my face, which I am ashamed to say scared me a little bit. Cows seem very big and loud when you're standing right in front of them. When I put out my hand, though, the cow was skittish and backed away -- so there seemed to be mutual mistrust.

I kept thinking about that line on customs forms that asks about wandering around in agricultural areas. I suppose if I travel internationally anytime soon, I'll have to mark yes!

This was our one visible sunset, after our one clear afternoon. You can see how the cows have gnawed the bottoms of the trees in a level line. They're quite efficient tree groomers, actually!

Anyway, I'll fill you in more tomorrow and Friday on my walks and adventures. I'm also going to put a set of Kent photos on Flickr -- as soon as I get those up I'll give you the link.

It's good to be home!


Reya Mellicker said...

I wouldn't be ashamed of that. Cows are really big and up close I, too, think they're frightening.

Beautiful writing today (and pics of course).

"I got my fill of woods-wandering and wildflowers."

Beautiful phrase.

Sharon said...

I'd love to have a stay a place like that but, sorry to hear you had such horrible weather. The grounds certainly are gorgeous.

Linda Sue said...

Yes, we are having winter/summer here as well, but nothing as lovely as the grounds where you have been. Cows are just silly- They see things bigger than they actually are, that is why butterflies scare them...

The Bug said...

That does look like a lovely place. We got up close & personal with a buffalo the other day - & even though there was a fence between us I was pretty nervous. I might have to write a poem about mutual mistrust - if I ever write again.

Lynne said...

Oh, my heart be still! This is exactly what I think of as the "quintessential" English manor house. Mr. Darcy is about to pop out at any moment and offer me his arm!

Lovely grounds! Beautiful house!

Is that a lichen-encrusted dog?

Those chimneys! Wow. Great shot.

I have to say as one who has been on a "farm" and petted cows and gotten back on the airplane and checked the box "No, I have not been on a farm," you don't want to admit that! Seriously, this is one time not to tell the whole truth. Plus, cows are not the brightest animals! ;)