Last Monday afternoon my friend Ruth and I visited a stately home called Burton Constable Hall.
It's been the home of the Constable family since the early sixteenth century and is still a family home today.
It was open to the public to show off their Christmas decorations.
We try to go to a different stately home each year if we can, though we've done most of them more than once at some time or other and I have been to the this hall before, but Burton Constable hadn't ever opened for Christmas so we were looking forward to it.
We weren't disappointed.
Ruth's husband's family lived on the estate as tenant farmers for many years, his father farmed it and he took over after his father's death.
He farmed it along with another farm here in my home village and only gave up the estate farm last year after his mother died so Ruth is a mine of information about the estate and as I love history she's a perfect companion for info which isn't public knowledge as you walk around the hall and grounds...she imparts extra little titbits to whet the imagination...I love it!
We awoke last friday to torrential rain and on Monday morning, four days later, it was still raining.
Lots of places are flooded and where the hall stands is pretty low lying but after consulting the farming weather forecast for the area we decided to set off as it looked set to fair up for a while at least.
It was quite spooky really as I said airily 'It'll be dry by one o'clock.' at which Ruth laughed and said 'So it'll be fine by the time we got there...yeah, as if!!' and Hey Presto! we got out of the car in the hall's carpark at two minutes past one and by the time we'd shut the doors the rain had stopped...lol...Ruth said 'You should be a weather forecaster!'.
Before we managed the carpark we had to turn back at one point as the road was flooded and there were signs telling us to avoid various village routes, we were lucky Ruth knew her way about the area but it still added around half an hour to our journey.
It was quite odd at times driving down a country lane with the fields on both sides filled with water and the winscreen being lashed by yet more of it!.
You enter the estate at the back where the old stables block has been converted into washrooms, carpark and a tearoom.
The desk where you get you entry ticket is in the tearoom and the minute we walked in my spectacles fogged up...lol...the warmth and smell was lovely and the atmosphere positively crackled with a coach load of chattering WI women all taking tea and eating warm mince pies, it almost got to us but we decided to see the hall before partaking of refreshment.
As we walked through the garden to the front entrance a lot of the surrounding fields and parkland were flooded, they sparkled in the weak sunshine that shone intermittently now the rain had eased.
Alpacas and sheep munched away contentedly at the grass, in an unflooded field, which is still lush after the wet weather we've had.
Entering the hall through the grand front door we found ourselves in the Great Hall where a tableau of life sized singers sang carols around a grand piano in the shadow of a huge Christmas tree.
We followed the signs through the sumptious downstairs rooms all subtley decorated in a simple way which complimented the old house and it's decor.
Each room, and there were thirty one open to the public, was beautiful with soft lighting and pretty treasures.
Some had a theme and suitable music was playing softly in the background.
The Long Gallery was a pantomime theme on Aladdin.
There was Wishee Washee's laundry with Widow Twanky washing the clothes and a couple of clothes horses with them hanging out to dry, Aladdin's palace and a wonderful gold and jewel encrusted lamp.
The French Corridor and bedrooms had a ballet theme of the Nutcracker, the soft music sounded lovely as it echoed along the old corridors and the rooms were decorated with tutus and toy soldiers.
The State Rooms were done out as a nursery with childrens toys and games, stockings hung from the beautiful ornate fireplace and two trees decorated with homemade paper chains and gingerbread men filled the corners of the room.
The beautiful family Chapel was simply decorated with a manger scene and in the Sacristy a small choir of life sized children sang 'Away in a manger', they were cleverly made from paper and card and looked very realistic.
Santa's workshop was the room I liked best, they'd painted over one of the windows so it looked like a snow scene outside, it was set in a small room which had bits broken from the walls and ceiling so the old plaster and wattle showed through and an old brick uneven floor.
It had been a room used for storage so it looked suitably old and broken down.
I'm not sure how they did it but it was very chilly and cold with draughts of air blowing around it and realistic sounds of the wind moaning...it was very effective!
Santa was snoozing by the fire whilst his dog lay watching him, there was a 'good' children list by his side as if he'd been reading it and fallen asleep and the 'naughty' children list was there too waiting to be read, half finished wooden toys littered the floor and together with the sound effects, the chill wind and the painted window it felt as if you were actually in the North pole!
We visited the tearoom of course, it was warm and muggy after the walk back through the soggy gardens.
We had warming mugs of hot chocolate and a very decadent piece of, naughty but very very nice, homemade chocolate cake...Oooo, yum yum yum!!!
When my eldest son was small and we'd been anywhere if you asked him which bit he liked the best, he invariably said 'The cafe'...lol...in this case I whole heartedly agree with him!
It was a wonderful afternoon, we got back in the car to head home and five mniutes in the weather decided to play dirty again, it poured down!
Someone was watching over us on our visit, we had fine weather, beautiful surroundings, good food and lots of lovely photographs, mental images and memories to take home.
I took a load of photos which are on my Flickr page but here are just a few to whet your appetite:
The Staircase Hall
Corner of the French Landing with the ballet theme
In the Dining room the table is set for Christmas dinner, white napery and gold and green tableware
A partridge in a pear tree
Family chapel with nativity
Life sized children made from card and paper
Snow scene complete with snowman
Painted snow scene window
The 'naughty' list
Burton Constable Hall