OK, at just 12 miles away from our home, the Dudmaston Estate doesn’t technically qualify as a ‘far away place’, but given the fact that:
a.) This National Trust property is far away from some people
b.) I’m yet to come up with a witty f-word for nearby day trips
We’ll roll with it!
Dudmaston marked our first foray into the world of National Trust properties, choosing to go on a Bank Holiday was perhaps a tad foolish. As we drove up the impressive (and very long) driveway we were convinced there must be some kind of massive event taking place. With the exception of a few May Day Bank Holiday celebrations (more on those later), we were wrong. We had simply chosen the day that everyone in the locality decided to descend upon the hall and grounds! To the point where we later found out that some of our relatives visited on the same day as us, also enduring the constant queuing!
We queued to pay for our tickets, which was terribly disorganised, but as most of the National Trust staff are volunteers you don’t really feel you can complain. The queuing wasn’t much better around the house, where we stood inline to move from room to room. It did somewhat spoil our enjoyment, but over-hearing one staff member telling another visitor how they had worked there for 11-years and never known people having to queue to move around the house, just proved that we’d come on an uber popular day, rather than this being a consistent issue.
Our first port of call was the May Day Bank Holiday celebrations held in The Orchard, we tied a rag on the traditional May Tree and made a wish.
We watched Morris dancers do their thing.
And then we headed to the house, to be faced with the aforementioned queues. Were they worth the wait? Were they worth the stress? Kind of. Dudmaston Hall is still lived in by a family who allow access to certain rooms within the house, hence some slightly strange opening hours. This lends the house a unique edge. This is a ‘lived-in’ stately home where riding boots loiter on the doorstep and half-drunk bottles of whisky glisten enticingly in the library. It is nice, but it’s not really all that grand.
The history of the hall and it’s owners are recounted through various displays and you get to see into a number of rooms, including a couple of guest bedrooms, as well as climbing the beautiful staircase.
There are numerous art galleries in the final few rooms of the house tour, which, with their mix of contemporary and classical art, ensure there’s something for everyone (as well as something for everyone to moan about). When we visited there was an amazing art installation in the final room, made entirely from cardboard it depicted life in the trenches and, for me at least, was the highlight of the house tour. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
It’s the grounds where Dudmaston wows, after all, there are 3,000 acres of them. The best thing about that? Even on a busy day you can still meander off and find your little oasis of peace. We walked around the large lake taking in the stunning views back to the house.
We came across a stunning view where Big Pool meets Mill Pool.
We saw ducklings (not the best photo – look for the ball of yellow fuzz in the grass).
We saw bluebells in the woods.
We saw all that was good about spring.
We climbed through long grass on hills just to see what was at the top. And, we eventually wound up in the gardens area. Now I’m anything but green fingered. How my long-suffering house plants are still alive is a mystery to me. But these gardens are stunning, even if you’re not botanically minded, and are well worth a stroll.
I took a particular liking to this tree. So pretty!
Heading back into the thick of the crowds we decided to grab a cream tea. Not only was it delicious, but because the cafe was so busy it meant we got to share a table with a lovely elderly couple who made us smile.
As we left the May Tree had been raised so our wishes could be carried away in the wind.
Worth a visit? Yes, but skip the house – unless you’re really interested – and pay for entrance to the garden and park. Oh and don’t forget the cream tea.