Woolley Wood and Arlington Court

DSC_0023Today I visited Arlington in North Devon, a 3,000 acre estate once owned by the Chichester family and now in the hands of the National Trust. Chichester is a well-known name in these parts; John Chichester was a long-standing MP for Barnstaple in the early 19th century and his name lives on in the names of streets and pubs in the area. Francis Chichester was the nephew of the last owner of Arlington, Miss Rosalie, who bequeathed the estate to the nation on her death in 1949. Francis is probably best known for being the first person to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe by sailing boat; I remember him being talked about a lot in 1967 when he returned, and he was subsequently knighted by the Queen for his endeavours. At the time I was unaware that he also laid the foundation stone for the Barnstaple Civic Centre in the same year. Knowing the disdain with which most local residents view that controversial example of 1960s brutalism, perhaps the latter event carried less importance to Sir F, especially as the sword with which the queen touched his shoulders was the very same one which Elizabeth 1 had used to knight Francis Drake after he became the first Englishman to sail around the world, albeit with a crew. Anyway, I digress.

Arlington comprises a manor house, stables housing the National Trust’s carriage collection, church, walled vegetable garden, ornamental garden, tea rooms, parkland, woodland, a lake, and farmland grazed by Jacob sheep and Red Devon cattle. For me the highlight is the woodland, and there are 20 miles of footpaths to explore. I chose a circular route of just over 2 miles which took in the lake and passed by two fabulous kids’ adventure areas where rope bridges and log forts abound. An avenue of Monkey puzzle trees was quite unusual but spectacular, although oaks and beeches probably make up the largest part of the woods, with some evergreens, ash, chestnut and sycamore. I saw one huge sequoia with a trunk wider than a car at the base. I don’t know the number of bird species found here, but there is a hide in the woods, so I imagine it’s a haven. I saw a tree creeper, chaffinches and a robin without even trying.


Monkey Puzzle

The lake was formed by damming the River Yeo and is home to many water birds including the heron which is the symbol of the Chichester family, adorning various pillars and buildings. The house itself, or what the public gets to see of it, is suitably grand, though most of the rooms I saw were not as large as I expected. It is home to the many collections that Rosalie gathered on her travels; such items as hair adornments, fans, sea shells, pewterware and model ships are here in their dozens along with the usual porcelain, paintings (one by William Blake) and books that one would expect to see in the home of a baron. On the upstairs landing I counted 88 bound volumes of The London Illustrated News spanning more than 50 years across the 19th and 20th centuries. Downstairs I was particularly taken with a large Swiss cylinder music box which played ten tunes with perfect clarity.

I am told that 50,000 daffodil bulbs have been planted over the last three years, so plan to visit again in the spring.







Wooden Ears

Originally posted on Head in Book:

It’s the morning after the night before. I hoped that Scotland would not opt for independence, for various reasons more or less irrelevant since I had no vote anyway. Now that it has, though, I feel no sense of victory, no gleeful gloating over those who campaigned so passionately and persuasively for the alternative. There is no pleasure in the hurt of decent people.

Yesterday’s referendum was about Scotland, and the message of the votes is from no-one else. As the political leaders settle, rather unedifyingly, to squabbling over the fall out, I still wish that the rest of us could have a chance to make our feelings similarly known.

I know that there was a certain degree of negativity on both sides. Primarily, though, I believe that whether choosing Yes or No people were voting FOR something. The huge turnout, the almost universal interest and the strength of feeling together show that people…

View original 600 more words

What I’ve been reading: Coe/Heller

After sixteen days without my computer, I was delighted to be able to bring it home today after a protracted wait for new parts.

For my thoughts on these two books, click here


Deep roots & bones, a love letter.


I started this morning by reading this letter from Chiller. It feels like things will never be the same again. Wishing soul on you all.

Originally posted on Chiller:

An audio version of this post is available here.

Hello, love.

Come with me. Come on. 

Once upon a time, in a country very, very close to here, there was an enormous party thrown by a Queen. Well. Some people organised it for her and the people of the country actually paid for it, but she was there, is the point. They had hundreds and hundreds of boats all decked out with little flags and golden crowns and stuff, and people waved flags and the Queen’s own boat, which was made of SOLID GOLD yet somehow floated, was so full of unicorns and lions that she couldn’t actually ride in it herself, and they had to give her quite a boring boat with hardly any gold on it and she was made to stand in the rain. While the unicorns and lions had a proper party.

And then later on –…

View original 1,887 more words


North India March 1990

What I’ve been reading: Kent/McEwan

Read what I thought of them here : Librarium 2014


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 428 other followers