PackWood House and a Town of Memories……. Warwickshire

Packwood HOuse

Woolly says – With the sun shining and fluffy white clouds dashing across the sky we set off for the wilds of Warwickshire.  Jo, who is not enamoured towards driving, seemed to be enjoying the smooth traffic less roads as we sped along a highway that has been driven many times over the years. All was going so well until a left turn took us into a small town which seemed to be swamped with police, ambulance and helicopters, I turned to look at my carer who in turn looked at the sat nav.  A quick debate and the decision to continue along the main road and take the next left in the hope that we would run parallel to the accident.  Tiny lanes of trees with roads so narrow I wasn’t convinced we could get down them let alone the consequences of meeting oncoming traffic.

Twenty minutes of leafiness brought us straight back to where we had started the diversion, with the sat nav shouting at me to take the road we had just come down, I choose to ignore it’s frantic voice and headed back to the town in the hope that the accident had cleared, it hadn’t.

Woolly says – Obviously everyone locally was affected and as we performed a three point turn once more, I suggested following the rest of the cars to see how they were dealing with it.  As hundreds of vehicles descended onto a housing estate, I took the opportunity to fill my human in about our ultimate destination. 

Packwood House is a timber-framed Tudor manor house near Lapworth, Warwickshire owned by the National Trust since 1941, the house is a Grade I listed building. Began as a modest timber-framed farmhouse constructed for John Fetherston between 1556 and 1560 the house was purchased in 1904 by the Ash family, who spent the following two decades creating a house of Tudor character. As a sign finally hove into view I bounced happily in my seat at the loveliness of the building.  The external Tudor beams might no longer be on show but as we approached there was defiantly an air of grandeur.

As a large number of people were all queuing to enter the property, I suggested that we stroll around the garden and wait for the folks to disperse.

Woolly says – The Carolean garden was wonderful with huge flowering shrubs and bright blooms lining the pathway, a small plunge pool was contained within a boundary of yew with succulents and grasses surrounding it. 

Each corner had a small brick-built gazebo providing a tranquil place, we sat for a while watching the bees gathering nectar before attempting to gain entrance to the house.  Walking through the sturdy front door we weree plunged into a low level of lighting, it gave a great feeling of atmosphere as I slid along the foot wide floor boards and into the dining room where Baron Ash would have once entertained his visitors with small parties and Shakespearean plays. Next door was a snug room once used as a drawing room with wonderful panelled walls and in pride of place the chair used by Queen Mary on her visit in 1927.  Across the passageway was the former study of the residence which would have been wonderful with its large fireplace burring in the winter months.

As we entered the long gallery the temptation to slide along the entire length was to much, I mean what is the point of having a wonderful wood floor if you can’t skate along it!  The look I received from Jo as I slid over the step and into the great hall was not one of kindness.

With its huge open fireplace and small window seats the gallery was a place that just made you want to curl up with a book and watch the changing seasons through the mullioned windows. The walls were adorned with huge tapestries which although delicate were still in incredible condition and would still provide insulation for the manor today.

Woolly says – The Great hall in contrast with its timbered beamed ceiling had once been the cow barn until the family converted it in 1927 to allow dances to take place with a minstrel gallery for the musicians to sit.  As we climbed the stairs upwards each wall had beautiful panelling which glowed from the polishing and care the staff must take to preserve the building. 

The first room was a rather cool looking bathroom with blue and white delft tiles lining its walls and a very funky looking lions head through which water would have gushed, a corner cupboard concealed the basin and vanity unit.

Next door was the Ireton bedroom, named are the Cromwellian General, Henry Ireton who was said to have slept there before the Battle of Edgehill in 1642.  Although we all know that beds were smaller back in the day it never ceases to surprise me as to how small, this one barely had room for me let alone a human, although with Jo being so short, she would have had plenty of space to move around.

Due to plaster falling and further repair work needed quite a few of the rooms on this floor were currently closed, we were however allowed to peek through the door of the bedroom that Queen Mary had used on her visit with its wonderful tapestries and panelling.

With the house tour complete we set off towards the Yew Garden. Standing for over 350 years the gardeners of the estate currently battle the soil conditions for the huge trees spending a considerable amount of time digging trenches to allow drainage. 

As my small companion raced from tree to tree, I followed the pathway towards a yew that stood far higher than the others and found myself on a winding trail leading me up towards its branches.

Woolly says – as I bounced along the spiralling path getting dizzy as I raced round each bend, I was slightly disappointed to find that the final steps were into a shaded area with no view but lots of people, barely pausing for breath I turned tail and raced back down again.

With a brief look at the lake and its bulrushes I trotted towards the kitchen garden with its vibrant colours and overflowing beds of onions, cabbages and flowers.  Once used to provide for the house the produce is now given to the onsite café or sold to visitors.  As Jo became fascinated with the sunflowers and bees using them, I found a small coinvent bear to sit on, he didn’t seem to mind and kept very quiet as I rested my paws.

Passing the café my tummy let out a large rumble, turning towards my carer I wondered if lunch might be anytime soon, as if reading my mind Jo smiled down at me and told me to be patient.  As I climbed into the car, I sat admiring the greenery of the small roads as we headed towards to what hoped would be lunch.

I had a plan which was a trip back in time for me, nearly ten years to the day I had visited this small picturesque town to meet, for the first time, the man that changed my life on our first date.  We had lunched in a small pub called the Black Swan, once owned by the actor Michael Elphick known for his roles in Boon, EastEnders and Gorky Park, followed by a walk along it’s Tudor main street.

Woolly says – The Black Swan had changed along with the menu according to my human, sadly not for the better and having attempted to tackle a rather inedible plate of Sunday lunch even I gave up as the raw carrots and cabbage stuck in my throat.  Henley in Arden is probably known best for it’s now demolished ‘lunatic asylums’, as we strolled along it’s high street I was delighted by the Tudor buildings and it’s air of affluence. 

St Johns church was originally built on the site in 1367 although no trace remains and its present place of worship was constructed in 1443.  With the doors firmly closed to our internal investigation I peered through the glass door at some lovely stained glass windows before a rather cute dragon gargoyle attracted my attention.  As Jo sighed, I noticed her slightly teary eyes and gave her a small kick of sympathy, she might not have her man anymore but she has a mammoth, what more could a woman want!