Dear Blog, For those of you who live in other countries and perhaps have never heard of The National Trust, it is an organization that buys and preserves old buildings here, and then opens them to the public. The public pay an annual subscription to belong to the N.T. and can then visit as many of the properties, all over the country, as they want to.
Coleton Fishacre in South Devon
The ladies from the local Art Society were going on their annual outing. Thirty ladies of varying shapes and sizes congregated in the local coach park, waiting for the bus to arrive. It was already ten minutes late and a rumble of discontent began to filter along the line. Thankfully, the temperature, even at 9 a.m., was in the mid-sixties and the sun shone down. Just imagine the moaning that would be going on amongst the ladies if it had been raining.
Suddenly the coach could be seen chugging up the steep hill, and the mood of the assembled throng immediately changed, as the ladies began to chatter in excitement. You would have thought that they had never been on an outing before!
The driver alighted from the coach, doffing his cap in a gentlemanly way, before apologizing for his lateness. He was a swarthy looking man with dark skin, black eyes and thick unruly eyebrows. He looked as if he would be more at home in the vineyards of Tuscany, rather than this quaint little English village.
Once everyone was all aboard the coach, Raymond, the driver, proceeded with caution along the A38, heading for their destination. Eventually he turned off the main road onto the winding lanes of the Devon countryside. They drove through the pretty town of Dartmouth, travelling across the River Dart by an ancient little car ferry before passing through typical narrow, winding Devon country lanes to the little hamlet of Kingswear.
Suddenly the sea mist lifted, and there was the house in all its glory. Coleton Fishacre was built between the years of 1923 - 6 for Rupert D'Oyly Carte, whose father Richard had been the impressario behind the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Rupert had developed the business empire he inherited, which included the very posh and upmarket Savoy and Claridges Hotels in London.
Rupert D'Oyly Carte and his wife, Lady Dorothy, actually found the site for their new house from the sea, whilst sailing their yacht between Brixham and Dartmouth, two very pretty coastal villages in Devon. The interior of the house really does evoke the modernity of the Jazz Age, and it would be just perfect for a weekend in the country.
All the ladies agreed that the house was absolutely perfect. The Architect who designed the property, Osward Milne, was an assistant to the famous Sir Edwin Lutyens. The house is, in fact, thought to be one of the most successful smaller country houses to be built in the 1920's. Another wonderful feature of the house is that you have quite stunning views of the garden from every single room in the house. Although the house does speak of elegance from a by-gone age, the ladies agreed that they could all imagine themselves living there and, on a lovely summer's evening, wafting out onto the beautiful terrace with a gin and tonic in hand.
The garden itself is quite magical. Like several in the South West of England, it descends from open views around the house, down through increasingly jungle-like vegetation, until you get spectacular views of the sea beyond.
We are very lucky in the area that I live, in that we have lots of lovely National Trust properties to visit. They do close from October to March to carry out renovation and cleaning work, but the gardens are open all year round.