My first trip to Basildon Park.
Friday, February 21, 2014.
Dear mummy, ever since the 2013 Christmas Special of Downton Abbey you’ve been wanting to take me to Basildon Park. I couldn’t figure out why until today. It’s the tail end of half term so we decided to head off early to avoid the crowds. It’s another short jaunt up the road for us so I have a sneaky nap while you drive us through Pangbourne village towards Lower Basildon.
Basildon Park is a stones throw from the M4, which is handy, on the other side of Reading. The country road takes you alongside The River Thames and today we could see that its quite flooded from all the heavy rain we’ve had.
The day is bright and sunny but very cold and the wind makes my mummy’s ears hurt and her hands blue (silly mummy forgot her hat and gloves!) when we get there we are greeted with imposing gates and a long drive up a hill towards the car park and entrance. We are the first people here and the car park is empty.
We see staff bustling around getting ready for 10am all with big smiles on their faces (they must love working here!) Basildon Park is well catered for buggys with wide doors and a slope going up to the entrance of the estate.
We met a lovely guy called Colin at the visitors centre who gives us a map and directs us towards the house. A quaint little courtyard (stable yard) which has toilets, shop and a visitors overview of the estate sets the scene.
Lady Iliffe, was the lady of the manor in the 1950s and lovingly restored Basildon Park back to its former glory. 25 years later the National Trust aquired it and opened it’s doors to the public so everyone could enjoy the estate. Lord and Lady Iliffe did a great job restoring the house and there is a room off the courtyard with a 1950’s feel to it with a TV playing an interview with Lady Iliffe. The room is just like a comfy front room and mummy gets a bit too comfortable there. It also doubles up at a secondhand bookshop where visitors can make a donation and pick up a real find! Next to it is a old fashioned garage.
This is all in the courtyard and we haven’t even walked up the hill to the house yet! I would say the woodland walk was a bit hairy with a buggy as the shingle underfoot made mummy slip a bit as it was hilly, but it was fun to be pushed past a giant chessboard, carved woodland creatures and sculptures.
Finally we glimpse a look at the impressive house, the first thing you notice are the giant pillars! It’s so windy up here so we pause for a second then head into the house. It’s 10:30ish and the first floor isn’t open till 11, so we grab a quick bite to eat in the very pretty tearoom.
The home-made cakes looked gorgeous and mummy indulges in a slice of lemon drizzle cake which is lovely. The tearoom is busy with lots of visitors enjoying tea and other little babies to gurgle to. I enjoy this immensely and we both chill out and take our time eating lunch.
Mummy leaves the buggy downstairs as we go upstairs to see the first floor of the house. She carries me in her Pouchlings Mei Tai wrap which is sensible considering the amount of stuff I could grab (it’s not exactly baby safe in the house!)
Basildon Park was the setting for the Downton Christmas Special in 2013 and through the house you can track the ‘behind the scenes’ story. The National Trust has printed photos of the cast of Downton Abbey in the rooms used.
It’s amazing to see this and know that mummy’s favourite actors were here. All the rooms are stunning and ropes corner off the furniture and breakables….good thing too with me around! In the main hallway there are visitors playing the piano which was a nice touch 😉
We visit the library where the cast were filmed in the smoking room playing cards. It seems much smaller in real life, must be due to all those wide angle lenses!!
The volunteers are helpful and friendly, but it’s busy and stuffy indoors and I’m getting fractious not being able to touch things and crawl around. So we head back outside. We only stay for a couple of hours due to the wind and coldness outside, but I bet this place is lovely in the summer. Lots of walks to go on but next time we’ll get to that!
Bye Downton Abbey Fans!