Saturday, 10 May 2014
I had an adventure yesterday. On impulse, I decided to visit somewhere that I have always wanted to go: The Manor at Hemingford Grey, near Huntingdon. It is the house where the children's author Lucy M Boston lived and set her Green Knowe series of books. I had a magical afternoon. It's funny how sometimes the least planned events often turn out to be the best.
I arrived in Hemingford Grey at lunchtime and asked my way to the Manor. "Walk along the path by the river and you'll pass a gate in the wall. It's through there," said the lady at the cafe. This stretch of river is amazing, all weeping willows, reeds and willowherb. The little gate was so hidden by clematis and foliage that I walked past it the first time, but then I lifted the latch and found this:
And this house:
The garden is a mix of informal and these amazing yew trees shaped like chess pieces and others which are symbols of the Coronation.
It was just beautiful. I knew that there was a guided tour of the house at 2pm. I hadn't booked, although this is recommended. We were treated to a very interesting hour. Parts of the house are 900 years old. It is lived in now by Lucy M Boston's daughter in law Diana and it's very much a family home: nothing is contrived, just very homely and welcoming. This is the hallway, there are little collections of treasures everywhere you look:
Paintings line the walls. I had to be a bit careful about taking photos inside. I didn't want to annoy everyone else on the tour and I also wanted to absorb all the loveliness. Our guide said it was okay to take a few shots, but she asked me to be discreet and 'behave nicely,' which is absolutely fair enough.
One of the things that attracted me most about this house was the fact that Lucy M Boston is famous for her patchwork quilts. She moved into the house in 1939 and found herself without much spare cash. She bought a couple of patchworks to put at the windows to keep the draughts out, and when she had to mend them she began to master the art of quilting. Here are the patchworks that she bought and mended:
Gorgeous. But there was more, much more! Upstairs, we were treated to a viewing of all the patchwork quilts that Lucy Boston made. They are stunning. I didn't photograph many, but here is just a glimpse:
And another one:
Lucy Boston was quilting until she was 86 and had to ask children from the village to thread her needle for her! She does sound like quite a woman.One of the most moving rooms in the house is a family room containing a beautiful old gramophone. This is where she would invite young airmen from the nearby airbase during WW2. She would play them music from her vast library of 78s, to entertain them before they went out on missions. Our guide played us one of the records. It was very poignant.
At the top of the house is the old nursery. Now this really is like the pages of a children's book come to life:
And I loved this corner of the room too.
A peek out of the window:
I didn't really want to leave, it's such a beautiful place. But there was just time for a pot of tea and slice of apricot cake at the Community Cafe in the village. The whole place feels like a step back in time with tiny crooked cottages and roses around the doors.
I would really highly recommend a visit.
More information here: www.greenknowe.co.uk