Friday, August 27, 2021

You can't have your cake or eat it!

Last weekend we finally made it to Chastleton House in rural Oxfordshire after being forced to abandon a recent planned excursion courtesy of a Covid isolation period.

I was happy to be venturing to pastures new and even happier about the mix of warm sunshine and interesting cloud formations which always make for better photographs.  Heads up, this is a photo heavy post.  

I'd read Vicky's informative and engaging description of the property following her visit to this National Trust managed property earlier in the summer (Vintage Vixen: The Distancing Diaries - 9th & 10th June, 2021 ( Inspired to visit and armed with some pre-existing knowledge of the place, we were able to relax and just soak up the atmosphere. Below was our first tantalising glimpse of the honeyed facade.

The pathway to the property passes a wonderful dovecote and the neighbouring St Mary's Church (built in the 12th Century).  

We were encouraged by the volunteer on the gate to take advantage of tea and cakes on offer inside the church before our timed entry slot.  The quintessentially English scene that greeted us outside the church appealed to my dark sense of humour.  A church hall cake sale with proceeds going to charity was set up inside, with visitors seated at various plastic garden tables and chairs dotted amongst the gravestones.  The volunteer's cake sale schtick obviously worked.  As we arrived, an orderly queue was already forming on the path through the centre of the graveyard.  Talk about God's Waiting Room!

Given that they had sold out of ginger and rum cake (I was only interested in the boozy cake), we opted to have a wonder around the graveyard instead.

I loved this alternative view of the house from the back of the graveyard.   Apologies for this black and white interlude, but some places - particularly graveyards - demand it.

At the far end of the churchyard, just in front of a low stone wall, with breathtaking views across the Oxfordshire countryside, I spotted this much more recent gravestone.  

It is the final resting place of former Eton student, scholar and Bletchley Park codebreaker (recruited straight from University), Stephen Freer, who died in 2017 at the impressive age of 97.  In press cuttings, he was described as "a kind and gentle soul."  Where better to rest a while?

Moving onto the main event, this stunning example of a Jacobean country house was built around the time that Shakespeare was toiling over The Tempest and MacBeth. 

Stunning from every angle... immediately had me wanting to up sticks and relocate to the Cotswolds.  With residents including Jeremy Clarkson, Alex James and Kate Moss, we all know that house prices are through the roof in these parts.  Every wealthy London type and gentleman farmer wants a piece of England's green and pleasant land.  

That said, I'm realistic in my expectations.  I definitely see myself moving into Chastleton House, but would be quite content to occupy just about any corner of the for example.  This redundant space was a bit of a mystery to the volunteers working at the house, so I posed the question on Twitter.  The Brickworks Museum suggested it would have been a good place for naughty children.  I'm going with puppet show stage.

As with houses of this size, the windows were numerous...  

... although there wasn't a puff of wind that day.  Strange.

The gardens were relatively small but perfectly formed...

...with a croquet lawn,

kitchen garden and greenhouse,


...and resident snoozing cat.

There were other garden delights of course, but you might want to discover them for yourself!

Inside, the hallway was a time capsule - relatively untouched by the 21st century.  The large windows and deep sills were a house plant gardener's dream.

As usual, I was drawn to the little details; light play,

decorative plasterwork,


...and woodworm.  This isn't just any woodworm.  This is Jacobean, National Trust woodworm.

I could happily wake up to a morning cuppa in this room.

The uppermost floor was dedicated to "the Long Gallery" a grandiose space used variously for female exercise, childhood games and dances.

You could fit several children or adults on this hobby horse!

Rather than asking about the panelling or plasterwork, we asked whether the floorboards creak at night on their own -  a way more pressing question.  The answer?  Yes of course.  Curiously, the guide also told us that on stormy days, the entire space creaks and groans like the bowels of a Spanish galleon.  I would pay good money to spend a night here with a sleeping bag and a torch.  I think the National Trust are missing a trick.  

Back down to the kitchen - those of a sensitive disposition may wish to scroll on.  Apparently, back in the day, it was viewed as bad luck to clean the ceiling of a kitchen, so here you go - feast your eyes on centuries of soot and grime!

Buoyed up by our day out, we've decided to squeeze in another short trip before the end of the summer holidays.  After wrangling with the problematic ID procedure of Airbnb, we finally received confirmation of our booking. An island destination awaits. 

To more domestic issues, the remainder of my spare time this week has been spent tackling bamboo.  I may be a nature lover but as the enormity of this task dawned on me (after we'd gone too far to change our minds), I can reach only one conclusion.  It. Must. Die.  Either that, or we dig for Britain, pot them up and make a small fortune from other suckers daft enough to plant this invasive, leaf shedding, allergy-provoking monster.  

In the midst of my battle with the bamboo, I discovered this beauty.  It's long since served its purpose, but it has been crafted from all manner of things by a blackbird with infinitely more patience than me.  So far I've spotted some oak leaves, one of my discarded anti snag hair bands and a section of our garden twine.  The presence of sweet peas is my artistic flourish.

And so we reach the end of the week.  The temperature has dropped a little, clouds are gathering and the first Autumnal arachnid has made an appearance, so I've decided to try on my latest acquisition - a vintage Anokhi co-ord outfit, paired with Lotta from Stockholm unmade socks (it's chilly) and gold clogs. I hadn't yet found an outfit that these socks worked with, until now.  I had thought that the co-ord was black, but, as is sometimes the way with Ebay photos, the reality is quite different.  It actually a really lovely shade of chocolate brown.

As for TV viewing, we're dipping into Truth Seekers, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who also share writing credits) on Amazon Prime.  It's like the love child of X-Files and the budget-busting episodes of Dr Who, with a light sprinkling of the classic humour and humanity of a Pegg/Frost collaboration. 

What are you up to?


  1. Hello Claire, Monsieur and I laughed out loud at your church cake amongst the gravestones pictures. I am not a religious person but I do love a good church fete, all for the wrong reasons ;) The tea tastes pretty good too at these events, cast from holy, archaic, thoroughly stained teapots. Now that is the strangest hobby horse I have ever seen. They must have had a lot of children! ...which explains the enclosure at the top of the stairs theory. Isn't that kitchen ceiling utterly gross!!! Your marvelous photos show your inquiring mind. I love the found birds nest and you are totally rocking the socks and sandals. Lulu xXx

    1. Hi Lulu, Ha! Yes, we're on the same page regarding religion, but I must sample the tea some time. I'm trying to think of way I can keep that birds' nest - it's too beautiful to throw away. I never thought I would end up wearing socks and sandals again - haven't done so since I was approximately 10 years old! xxx

  2. Like Lulu, I laughed out loud at the church cake sale set among gravestones. That is exactly why I love England so much, and miss it terribly after two years of not being able to visit.
    Your photographs are a delight as always. So atmospheric that I'm getting tingles down my spine. The one with the curtain billowing out of that window, well of course a house like Chastleton must have several resident ghosts! Our visit to Chastleton House was 15 years ago this Summer. How I wish to revisit it one day ...
    Your Anokhi co-ords are exquisite, and just perfect with the Lottas and socks! xxx

    1. Hi Ann, England never changes - it will still be the same strange little island with eccentric, unruly inhabitants when you are able to come! I hope it's soon. I was disappointed not to have seen any resident ghosts, but they were there I'm sure. Thanks for the lovely compliments. xxx


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