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I don’t watch a lot of television. I mean, besides the current series of Back to the Land with Kate Humble. And I just saw Alice Roberts’ Britain’s Most Historic Towns and was pleasantly surprised to discover I have actually been to many of them. And of course I catch any of Lucy Worsley’s history programmes. Oh, and I might have seen every episode of I Escaped to the Country when it aired last year. I’m a sucker for a country view, and catching up with people who moved to the countryside is my type of reality programme.
In fact, it very much became my own reality when I decided to pay a visit to one of the properties featured on the show. MrElaineous had a milestone birthday coming up, we had never been to the Malverns, and one of the escapee couples had started up a B&B. This alignment of events meant I recently found myself standing in front of a picture-perfect little cottage in the middle of a glade of trees, complete with duck pond and chatty ducks.
This is Massington Lodge, run by the lovely Suzanne and Danny. They have three self-catered rooms on the property, from an eco-friendly shepherd’s hut (picturesque but it looked a tight fit for the two of us) to the self-contained Bluebell Lodge. This is where we stayed, and it was absolutely ideal for a long weekend away: the food magically refreshed itself while we were out during the day (which included eggs from the ever-obliging ducks), the views from every window were stunning, and there was plenty of space at the dining people for the two of us to spread out with our respective laptops in the evening. The setting even encouraged me to do a spot of designing!
While the B&B itself is charming, its location just a mile from the quaint market town of Ledbury is also ideal. While the timber-frame market hall is perhaps one of the most eye-catching buildings, Ledbury boasts a mixture of architecture that means you never know what to expect when you turn a corner. While the buildings may have an olde worlde flair, many of the shops housed within were quite modern: we enjoyed a visit to a recently opened art gallery and a store that imported housewares from around the world, leading to an interesting juxtaposition of Danish and Japanese kitsch that somehow worked well together.
We hit a slight snag on our first full day in the area: the blue skies and sun gave way to a more stereotypical drizzle and general greyness. Our grand plan of going out for walks in the Malverns scuppered, we decided to turn our attention to National Trust properties. While they are more photogenic in better weather, they also have plenty to do indoors and usually have an associated tea room. What’s not to like?
The first property we visited was Brockhampton Manor, a Tudor estate set in an incredible valley. It boasts miles of paths which would usually pique our interest, but on this day we dodged puddles and potholes to head directly to the house. Two of the manor’s most distinguishing features—its gatehouse and moat—were built more for status and appearance than actual defense, and they continue to impress even today.
The house itself was actually lived in until relatively recently, so the National Trust had some interesting decisions to make when it came to deciding how to display over 400 years of history in one building. I think the solution they hit upon works really well: each room represents a different time period, and you move forward through time as you explore the house. There’s the Tudor great hall, a 17th century bedroom, Victorian attic, a poignant bedroom dedicated to a soldier from Brockhampton who died in World War I, an Edwardian kitchen from the turn of the century, and more modern spaces from the past 70 years.
One of my favourite rooms was the 1930s parlour. On the day we visited a fire was roaring in the fireplace and the room felt warm and cosy. With music of the time playing on a radio and little games and puzzles scattered about, it was easy to imagine yourself back in a pre-digital age. One such game that caught my eye was Brickplayer, which I assume was a precursor to Lego; I imagine there was less you could actually do with it (building a miniature brick wall has to get boring eventually), but it would also be far gentler on feet if trod on during the middle of the night.
Having seen Brockhampton, the plan was to go to Eastnor Castle in the afternoon, but we fell to chatting to one of the National Trust volunteers who recommended the nearby Berrington Hall. She was an excellent salesperson and we headed off to Berrington instead.[Come back later this week for the next part of As Seen on TV, or sign up to have the blog delivered directly to your inbox. You’ll get a free copy of Off the Beaten Track as a thank you gift for subscribing. It’s full of some of my favourite photographs and walking adventures (and occasional misadventures) from the past year.]