Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Mixing with the Mitfords at Alconleigh

Asthall Manor 'Alconleigh' from the churchyard
I seem to have had a very literary week - starting with the Brontes in Yorkshire and ending with the Mitfords in Oxfordshire.  I've just spent the weekend at Asthall Manor, near Burford, which was the family home of the Mitford sisters and the template for Alconleigh, the fictional house in Nancy Mitford's novel Love in a Cold Climate.  I've looked at the fireplace where Uncle Matthew hung his First World War entrenching tool, sat in the ballroom, but failed to locate the Hons cupboard which is now probably a bathroom.
My own ensuite, complete with antique weighing scales
It is the most beautiful house, owned now by Rosie Pearson, who opens it up every other year for a big sculpture exhibition in the house and gardens. Neil was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the exhibitors, alongside some really big names, such as Peter Randall Page.

The gardens are legendary - about six acres of land running down to a water meadow, with mixed formal parterres and wild planting that spills over onto the paths.  There are wild flower meadows and woodland.
Poppies, cornflowers and daisies - oh,  and a few sculptures!
The sculptures are scattered through the landscape so that you come upon them as a surprise - it's like a treasure hunt.  The exhibition is called OnForm, featuring an international group of sculptors, 50% of them women, and it's open to visitors for a month. Full details here.

On Saturday 18th June, poet TamarYoseloff is going to be doing a poetry workshop in the gardens, called 'Sculpting the Line', at 14.00 in the afternoon.

Some of Neil's work was between the big sculpted box hedges.


We were given one of the Mitford bedrooms, the Blue Room, with big bay windows, surrounded by climbing roses overlooking the church.  It was very special for me - I loved Nancy's novels and have always been fascinated by the different, and rather tragic, lives of the sisters.


There was poetry beside my bed and in the wonderful antique bathroom next door. Add in the most delicious vegetarian food and the kindness of strangers and it was a weekend to remember.
Skinny dipping in the lily pond
All the travelling and dashing about has taken its toll though. Neil snapped me at the end of a long day looking rather blurred!



On Form - Asthall Manor, Burford.



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