Bringing the Memories Back….. Attingham Park and Craven Arms, Shropshire

Woolly says – The weather wasn’t looking hopeful with large ominous grey clouds staring down at me, I added my raincoat to my collection of clothing for the day and jumped into the car.  With the constant changes in climate it seems sensible to carry a hoodie, a t shirt, boots, sun glasses and a waterproof every time you exit a building, it also didn’t bode well for photographs which always benefit from clear skies.  As I munched my way through my bag of pistachios being careful to spit the shells out of the window, I took the opportunity to fill Jo in our expedition. 

Attingham Park is an English country house and estate in Shropshire. Now owned by the National Trust, it was built in 1785 for Noel Hill, 1st Baron Berwick, who received his title in 1784 during the premiership of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. Noel Hill was a politician who aided William Pitt in the restructuring of the East India Company, which we had learnt a lot about on our trip to India, much of it not reflecting well on the British! With roughly 4,000 acres it would certainly give my paws a work out.

It was lovely to skim along the country lanes passing fields of sheep and cows munching away at the grass and seemingly enjoying the dull day.

Woolly says – My bestie Sion the Sheep doesn’t enjoy dull days, I sighed, it’s been to long since Sion and I have had an adventure.  The carpark was filling up quickly as Jo spotted a space and managed to beat off two other drivers allowing us to park and escape the confines of the car.  A very new looking wooden building allowed us to pay for our tickets and having been provided with a map I set off to investigate the house.  As we followed the pathway, we found ourselves at a small café area which felt vaguely familiar, I looked at Jo who was frowning.  ‘Have we been here before Jo?’ I asked, she inclined her head slightly and hurried towards the house, rounding the end of the building the colonnaded entrance stood in all its glory with a lovely curly set of steps that I remembered very well, I stopped in my tracks and glared at Jo.

I have no idea how neither of us had not realised that we had already enjoyed a wonderful day here with Sion and his carers Jen and Glenn in July of 2013…. Where have all the years gone!

Woolly says – The memories started to flood back including the incredibly boring guided tour that we had had to go on, luckily, we could guide ourselves today and having already paid it seemed silly not to at least go inside and see if anything had changed.  The entrance hall was exactly the same with its heavily grey tones and pictures of Roman gods.  As I trotted into the sitting room, I was most impressed the the intricate ceiling and huge canvas’s that lined the walls.  A rather nice shade of aqua set off with gold gilded additions.

Next door in the sultana room, so named because of its seating in the nearby alcove, had a display case of miniature ivory portraits of the family who had once inhabited the house.  The information boards told me that the ceiling had had to be repainted following Clough Williams – Ellis (founder of Portmerrion in Wales) having allowed his bathwater to over flow and cause immense damage, I bet he didn’t get invited back!

At the end of the corridor was a circular room known as the Boudoir which was very feminine in design and execution, having raced round three times and found that it made me dizzy I followed Jo into the library.

The display case of stuffed exotic birds instantly took me back to our last visit along with the smell of books and the rich tones of the room.

Woolly says – The dining room was impressive, with it’s fully laden table I wondered if anyone would notice the disappearance of a few of the cakes on display, jo as if reading my mind shook her head firmly and pointed to the incredible red ceiling which really deserved a good inspection of the detail used and the colour contrast.

Next came the portrait gallery which due to the current exhibition didn’t allow us to see it in all it’s finery, the large boards that took over the entire space had pictures form the National Portrait Gallery of famous people who had dedicated their lives to conservation and all things wild.

The bearded face of William Morris who was so famous for his wallpapers and paintworks, the wonderful Beatrix Potter, David Attenborough, David Bellamy, Gerald Durrell and many more lined the display stands.

The glass ceiling and the huge works of art seemed to disappear into themselves.

A set of stairs led us upwards and into what had once been the bedrooms for the Berwick family, now except for the coving it leant little to its historical roots which was a shame, we quickly moved through the rooms before descending into the servant’s quarters.

A room full of room bells which must have made a shocking amount of noise if all rung at the same time made me consider whether having a bell to summon Jo might be a good idea!

If he thought I was going to react to a bell my small friend had another think coming!

Woolly says – The large servants hall led us into an ante chamber where the shining silver collection lived, huge platters, large amounts of cutlery and some impressive urns were displayed in glass cases, I looked to see if there was a way of opening them as I’m sure no one would notice if a couple of the smaller items were to fall into my paws, alas it was not to be and I followed my carer into the Butlers Pantry which although spartan would have been the height of luxury for servants of the day.

The kitchen was huge with a beautifully preserved oven and enough brass wear to keep Jo cleaning for years.

The housekeeper’s area was large and would have benefitted greatly from the addition of a huge comfy sofa instead of the rather severe looking chairs. The side board displayed a large arrangement of cakes and biscuits which I promptly tried to tuck into before realising that plaster cakes don’t taste very nice!

Leaving the house behind we headed through a rather lovely clock gate and into the parklands.

Woolly says – Trees that had stood in place for hundreds of years gave shelter from the drops of rain that were now plopping down from the skies, racing from tree shelter to tree shelter provided me with great fun as I missed droplet after droplet.

The Walled garden was a sea of colours and produce, built in 1780 it had provided enough food to feed all of the house and the staff.  We wandered happily along the beds admiring the flowers and the vegetables which looked like a bumper crop.  A dipping pond which had once allowed the gardeners to fill there watering cans was still being used by the current staff.

The Bothy stood in the corner of the large area where the gardeners would have once lived and maintained all the food supplies for the estate. As more splashes arrived from above, we raced towards the stable block and the chance for a sit down and some sustenance.

Although we had already visited the site, I had enjoyed the place again although it wasn’t the same without Sion.  As I clambered back into the car I settled down with a small after lunch snack for the journey back, the lanes flowed round corners and through the green lands and just as I was being lulled into my afternoon nap Jo indicated and changed our direction, I peered up at her with a quizzical look.

I’d spotted a sign for a place that I knew Woolly had never been to and with a ten-mile detour it didn’t seem to far out of our way.

I frantically opened my mammoth book of facts as we entered the town of Craven Arms. Craven Arms is a small town in Shropshire, on the Welsh Marches railway line, and which links the towns of Shrewsbury and Ludlow. My book told me nothing else and I scratched my tusks in puzzlement as to why Jo thought this might be a place worth coming to!

The Museum of Lost Content was a small, largely unknown collection of memorabilia.  Set up in 1991 it was a place that had enthralled me on a previous visit, hopefully it would do the same for my small companion.

Woolly says – It was like walking into a over stuffed antique shop, everywhere I looked it was crammed with items on the walls, the floors and even the ceilings.  We set off along it’s yellow brick road and I found myself looking at a huge range of Victorian costumes and Knick knacks closely followed by grocery items from the 50’s onwards and chemist supplies.  It was impossible to look at everything there was just too much to see.

Jo chuckled and pointed out a brownie uniform which was identical to the one she had once worn as a child.  As we went up and down stairs each and every cranny was crammed with items, costumes from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s gave an insight into the terrible dress sense of these era’s along with Christmases long gone and toys that would have once delighted rosy cheeked children. 

Pop memorabilia took up a whole floor as Jo pointed out bands and artists that she had once liked.

Radios covered shelves and a whole section was dedicated to sweets and tobacco products, we could have spent weeks inside and never seen every object on display. It was an incredible find and for once I was impressed with my carer.  As I clambered back into the car I voiced something that had been on my mind all day, ‘When will I see Sion again?’, Jo smiled down at me and said ‘As soon as we can, I promise’, I sighed that wasn’t the answer that I wanted but it appeared that it would have to do for now.