Thursday, 9 April 2009

Things you CAN do at Ashdown Park!

Ashdown House and Park opened for the 2009 season at the beginning of April and I'm looking forward very much to taking my first tour round on Saturday April 11th. Recently a number of people have siad to me that they had considered visiting Ashdown but decided against it because there wasn't much of the house that was open to the public. This got me thinking - Instead of emphasising all the things you CAN'T do at Ashdown, why not point out all the wonderful things that you CAN do, which all go to prove what a fabulous place it is for a visit. So here goes:

1. You can go on a guided tour of the outside of the house, the hallway, staircase, cupola and roof and hear the story of the Craven family, owners of Ashdown. Trust me, it's worth the tour for the view alone which is said to be the best in three counties. Also if you like dolls houses you have to see Ashdown - lots of dolls houses are modelled on it!

2. You can visit the information centre where there are, amongst other things, interpretation boards for the house and the estate, a costume display, a timeline, a wonderful album of the pictures taken by the pioneering photographer William, 2nd Earl of Craven in the mid-nineteenth century, and lots of knowledgeable guides who can tell you all about the fascinating history of the place.

3. You can view the very fine seventeenth century portrait collection on display in the house, the dreadfully uncomfortable footmens' chairs and... um... the fascinating collection of early carved stag heads!

4. You can stroll in the formal parterre and gardens or wander through the woodlands, which are the remains of the medieval hunting forest. There you may see a huge variety of wildlife - birds of prey and woodland birds, deer, foxes even badgers - and beautiful flowers - primroses and woodland anemones at this time of year, and carpets of bluebells in a few weeks time.

5. You can visit the "lost" village of Ashdown, once a thriving community supporting the estate, where the marvellous Victorian stables still stand on the village green with a very cute weather vane on the top sporting an earl's coronet!

6. You can climb Weathercock Hill and walk along footpaths that take you all over the estate, including past three Bronze Age barrows and along the medieval park pale, originally designed to keep the deer within the hunting grounds. You can also see the Sarsen Field, a site of special scientific interest where there are stones with holes in them that were created by the roots of palm trees... If only we had that sort of weather now!

7. You can visit Alfred's Castle, the Iron Age Hill Fort built on the site of an earlier Roman Villa, reputedly the site of the Battle of Ashdown where King Alfred defeated the Danes in AD 871. Some very friendly horses live there!

8. Nearby on the ancient Ridgeway is Wayland's Smithy, an impressive neolithic burial chamber and Uffington Castle, White Horse Hill and Dragon Hill where Saint George, the patron saint of England, allegedly slew the dragon. No grass has grown where the dragon's blood fell ever since. Local legend also states that on the full moon the horse comes down off the hill to graze in the valley below...

9. You can follow the Michael and Mary Ley Line which passes through Ashdown, making it part of the mystical landscape.

10. When you've done all that you can go to the Rose and Crown Inn in the historic village of Ashbury for a delicious cream tea!!

Oh, and don't believe the National Trust handbook when it says there are no WC facilities at Ashdown House - there are!! Now, you have to admit that sounds like a very nice day out, doesn't it!


Melinda Hammond said...

You've convinced me, Nicola! Not only to see the house, but to stay in the area and fit in everything you mention!

Beth Elliott said...

You've convinced me to visit. hope I get there during the bluebell time.

Nicola Cornick said...

Fantastic! Thank you. I'll be there to give you a special guided tour!

Alison said...

You had me at no. 1, lol!

Nicola Cornick said...

LOL, Alison,any time you are travelling in this direction, do call in!

Suzanne Macpherson said...

Alison, is there ever a time that a tour of the interior of the house is allowed?

Nicola Cornick said...

Hi Suzanne! The hall, stair and roof is open to the public so you do see inside the house but unfortunately the rooms aren't open. This is a shame as some are stunning recreations of the original seventeenth century look and although there are not a lot of the original features left, there are some. The only way to see the interior at the moment is to visit the website of the estate agents where there is a brochure showing all the interiors. Maybe in the future with a new tenant we will gain more access. One can only hope!