Spring Lunch | Tuesday 18 April
Our Spring Lunch will be held at the Sherborne Golf Club, Higher Clatcombe, Sherborne. From the A30 take the B3145 north out of Sherborne (Bristol Road) for about 1 ½ miles; turn left into Clatcombe Lane. This is a self-drive event, and there is a large car park across the road from the club.
Spring Walk | Thursday 27 April
Our walk will be in the Stourhead Area. We meet at 10:00 in the main car park at Stourhead.
The walk will start with a guided tour of, and talk about, the gardens. We then set out on a four-mile circular walk in the Stourhead Woodland Estate.
There are a couple of stiles and a short incline and on completion lunch can be taken in the NT Restaurant or at the Spread Eagle Pub.
Longleat | Tuesday 23 May
This is a day out at Longleat House, with the opportunity to explore the house, the gardens and the animals. We have organised two events, the rest of the day is free for you to explore independently.
We start with a one-hour guided tour on the Scandalous History of Longleat, hearing stories and visiting parts of the house normally closed (eg the former Lord Bath’s apartments). Following that, your ticket will give you access to explore the staterooms of Longleat House, with its libraries, tapestries and art collection, as well as the formal gardens and the 900 acres of Capability Brown parkland.
During the afternoon our coach will drive through the Safari Animal Park, where we should see giraffes, lions, tigers, elephants, wolves, cheetahs, rhinos, camels, oryx and ostriches. It promises to be a very full day!
Greenway + trip on the River Dart | Thursday 15 June
We journey to Dartmouth town ferry pontoon where we leave on the ferry for the 35 minute trip up the estuary of the River Dart.
Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home, has been described as ‘the loveliest place in the world’. However the gardens are steep with gravel paths and many steps, but there are plenty of seats as one enjoys the gardens with truly magnificent views of the River Dart.
We disembark at the Quay where there is a steep walk of about half a mile up a metalled road or shorter through the garden but with a zigzag gravel path up through the woods. There are 22 steps to be negotiated with the aid of a handrail and you can make use of the 7 benches on the way to Visitor Reception.
The house has a relaxed atmosphere set in the 1950s. On display over two floors are family collections including archaeology, Tunbridge-ware, silver, botanical china and books.
The gardens are extensive and include a Peach House and Vinery. The gravel paths are sloping and uneven but well served with seats. If you can make it, the Boathouse is well worth a visit.
Houghton Lodge | Wednesday 28 June
Houghton Lodge offers a unique visit to see an early example of a Gothic Cottage Orne (or rural retreat) that is still a family home. Built in 1793 and designed by architect John Plaw (disciple of Nash) as a fishing lodge, it is listed Grade II. Bought in 1910 by the Busk family, Houghton could be that house described by Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility. The Lodge is set in fourteen acres of park and water meadows, part of which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, on the famous tranquil River Test with its clear chalk stream where trout abound and jump to the May Fly.
The Gardens, re-designed by Mrs Busk, have been brought back to much of their original planting in the 18th Century and consist of a magnificent, imaginative walled garden containing a 300 ft herbaceous border, fruit trees, rose arch, herbs gardens and much more. There is also a topiary garden and wonderful orchid house created and cared for by orchid expert Andy Phillips, three alpacas, art exhibition and other features. The Lodge looks towards curving slopes down to the River Test with views across to water meadows.
Willow & Wetland Centre | Crowcombe Court | Wednesday 12 July
We travel to the Willow and Wetlands Centre at Stoke St Gregory in Somerset, where there will be time for coffee before the talk and tour at 11:15. A sandwich platter lunch will be served at 12:30 in the Conference Room. The Centre is part of the Coates Wicker Works and there is a museum and shop on site. Other “attractions” are a leather shop, a craft shop, a café and a photographic gallery.
Working with willow is as traditional to Somerset as cider and cheese. The tour will explain the mysteries of the craft, while the exhibition will show the history of the industry.
After lunch we drive the short distance to Crowcombe Court arriving for our tour at 14:30. The house was built in 1740 to show off the affluence of Thomas Carew and entertain his guests. The design was by Nathaniel Ireson who also built Stourhead. The style is described as English Baroque. The Carew family owned the house until the 1950s and it has been restored over the last 14 years.
Evening tour of Lytes Cary Garden | Wednesday 19 July
An opportunity to spend a (hopefully) balmy summer evening exploring Lytes Cary Garden, with the bonus of a guided tour led by the Head Gardener, Damian Mitchell, and colleagues.
We will learn about the history and the future of the garden, and Damian will take us behind the scenes, showing us the greenhouses, the stables and the more “quirky” parts of the garden.
The tour will start at 18:00 and last about 2 hours, allowing plenty of time for questions and for taking photos.
Greys Court | Nuffield Place | Tuesday 8 August
Greys Court (NT) is an intimate family home and peaceful estate set in the rolling hills of the Chilterns. This picturesque 16th-century mansion and tranquil gardens were home to the Brunner family until recent years. The house exudes a welcoming atmosphere with a well-stocked kitchen and homely living rooms. The series of walled gardens is a colourful patchwork of interest set amid medieval ruins. Other buildings from earlier eras include the Great Tower from the 14th century and a rare Tudor donkey wheel.
After lunch at the museum we shall take a short drive to Nuffield Place (NT) the former home of Lord Nuffield, the founder of the Morris Motor Company. The house was designed by Oswald Milne who also designed Coleton Fishacre (NT). At Nuffield Place we can learn about the surprisingly down-to-earth lives of Lord Nuffield and his wife and see their home and personal possessions just as they left them.
The house is surrounded by pretty gardens and there is a pleasant walk through woodlands. Tea can be taken in the garden before we set off for home.
Saltram House | Wednesday 30 August
Our visit is to the National Trust property Saltram House, near Plymouth, with a half hour coffee stop at Monkton Court Hotel en route.
Saltram House is large, as the illustration shows, and two floors are open to visitors. The property is a Palladian Mansion with a Tudor heart and is the result of centuries of extravagance and sophistication. There are Robert Adam interiors and ten Reynolds paintings to enjoy. The grounds are extensive with follies and an orangery. The Chapel houses an interesting Art Gallery.
Coleton Fishacre | Thursday 7 September
Coleton Fishacre, in Devon, was built for Rupert and Dorothy D’Oyly Carte in the 1920s as a weekend retreat. It is in an Arts and Crafts style with elegant Art Deco interiors and is evocative of the Jazz Age. Most of the furniture has been introduced into the house but is of the correct style. The architect was Oswald Milne and the stone used to build the house was quarried on site.
Richard D’Oyly Carte’s name is well known in association with Gilbert and Sullivan and the Savoy Operas. Rupert was his son and took over the opera company in 1913.
The gardens are extensive and lead down to the sea.
Many exotic plants find their home in this environment. There are daily garden tours of the area close to the house.