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My final morning in Beer dawned as one of those late spring/early summer days that seemed absolutely perfect, the type you wish would go on forever. The mist of the past few days had completely vanished, leaving blue skies in its wake, and the colours along the waterfront transformed from drained and muted to bold and vibrant. It was hypnotic to watch and listen to the gentle waves against the cobbled shore, and I couldn’t resist recording a minute of calm to revisit once I returned to the real world.
I wasn’t the only one enjoying this picture perfect view. The seafront came to life with people out enjoying the water, from kayaking to fishing, and I had a suspicion that every deck chair would be filled by noon. But MrElaineous and I had a journey home to contend with. So we bid a very fond farewell to Beer and began the long drive north.
Okay, so long is relative, but we couldn’t resist in fitting in just one more National Trust property to score a holiday hat trick: there was the Coleridge Cottage, Castle Drogo, and, finally, we finished off with a visit to Lytes Cary Manor, a medieval manor house with a modern twist.
It was owned by the Lytes family from the 13th until the 18th century. Let me repeat that: the same family lived in the house for nearly 500 years. During that time the Black Death struck England (many times, but quite badly in 1348), the printing press was invented (c. 1439), Columbus sailed the ocean blue (1492), monasteries across England were dissolved (1536-1541), Shakespeare jotted down a few lines (1590-1612), England had a Civil War (1642-1651), London burned down (1666), and the Kingdom of Great Britain came into being through the Acts of Union (1707).
While all of this was going on, the Lytes family were gradually expanding their home in Somerset and carrying out a bit of academic research. Henry Lyte published the Niewe Herbal, a book about plants, and dedicated it to Queen Elizabeth I in 1578. His son, Thomas Lyte, went one step better and produced a family tree for James I that showed that the king was a direct descendent of Brutus, the founder of the Roman Republic. While this may have been slightly less than accurate, James I rewarded him handsomely for the endeavour.
Yet in 1755 the Lytes were forced to sell the house due to financial problems, and it was lived in by a series of farmers who used it more for agricultural storage than a family home. The manor was purchased in 1907 by Sir Walter Jenner, and it was his family who restored it to its 17th century heyday (and added a new wing—you can book it for your next holiday). He and his wife scoured the country, purchasing furniture and paintings from different time periods to recreate the appearance of a house that had been lived in for so many generations. It is down to their hard work that Lytes Cary now feels like a time capsule that showcases centuries of English domesticity.
Today, Lytes Cary is also known for its stunning gardens and they were in full bloom during my visit, turning a patch of the green English countryside into a multi-coloured oasis. There was an oasis of a different sort to be found just outside the garden, where a flock of house martins had discovered a puddle and were happily bathing, drinking, and collecting mud to repair and build their nests along the eaves. I was touched to see that a National Trust employee later added more water to ensure the birds had plenty of mud for their home improvement projects.
Although not as grand as the nearby Montacute House or Barrington Court, Lytes Cary is well worth a visit. Besides its beautiful garden, historic architecture, and incredible grounds, it’s a property with a great deal of heart and soul.
[ There is one more part of the Bound for Beer series; check in next week for photos that I haven’t been able to include so far, or sign up to have the next instalment delivered directly to your inbox. And don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Instagram for new photos each day. ]