Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Quex Park House and Gardens

Once you have finished wandering around the galleries in the Cotton-Powell Museum you can go and have an explore of the house and its wonderful gardens.
This beautiful building is part museum, part still-operating-family-home but unlike a lot of other British manor houses is stuffed full of artifacts from the family expeditions around the globe.  A lot of the styles, carvings and statues reminded me of my grandmothers' and my parents' house which used to be full of Thai and Burmese influenced decor.  You can see the oriental vases and the spectacular carved Asian dragon table in the traditional dragon pose (complete with pearl in his mouth; an old folk legend) and the statue which I think is a standing Buddha wearing a lungi.
There has apparently been a house on this site since the 1400's and the house that is currently standing was built in the 1800's as a Regency home, a fact that is very evident once you move into the hallway and upstairs.  Jane Austen would have been very at home here!  You just need Mr Darcy to climb out of the pond in the gardens but I'm getting ahead of myself.

One of the things I love about manor houses is the level of detail and craftsmanship that is displayed.  These carved banisters with the intricate cherub heads (which must be a nightmare to dust) are simply beautiful.
Upstairs are a number of rooms off the landing where the details continue with the plaster friezes on the walls and the ceiling roses as well as portraits of long dead gentry and family members staring at you as you have a look around their home.  King William III often stayed at the original mansion during his reign whilst awaiting a favourable wind to carry him across the Channel from Ramsgate to France.
My favourite room was the library, filled with dark woods, dimly lit with heavily draped lamps and bookshelves that ran from floor to ceiling absolutely packed with books.  I would love to have my own library one day and I would be quite happy curled up in here for hours.
The ladies drawing room was quite a contrast; bright, sunny and decorated in light pastel colours.
Apparently the two rooms were connected and could be opened up together to allow for possibly more freedom of post-dinner mingling than was strictly traditional!

I did spot this little guy who made me laugh.  Who doesn't love a Rococco style Lord proudly riding a mountain goat?!
Having had a good nosey around the house we ventured out into the impressive gardens (all 15 acres of them), the trickling heart of which is the lily pond in the centre of the lawns, surrounded by flower beds and with a statue of Apollo and his twin sister Diana in the centre.
Like a lot of English Country Gardens, the gardens at Quex are zoned into smaller areas.  You can picnic on the main lawns or go and play croquet nearby or hide in the den under the ancient trees.
There are bird houses and sundials scattered around hidden ponds and statues.
The absolute highlight of the gardens for me had to be the Victorian Walled Garden.
The avenues are ablaze with colour and flowers, bees and butterflies, leading you on a path towards the greenhouses.  In 2012 Quex launched a 3 Year Restoration Project which is focusing on all aspects of the gardens including renewing the garden design and planting and the restoration of the historic greenhouses.  Work is well underway and the result is a truly magical area worthy of Mary Lennox.
Look out for the cucumber pit!  It's rather rare apparently.  Sorry for the amount of bumble-bee on flower shots as well.  I can't seem to help myself.
There is a Woodland Walk through the shady trees around the borders of the garden which includes a treasure trail for children.  Keep an eye open for the Bug Hotel,  a structure teaming with ladybirds.
Carved toadstool benches and tea tables for woodland animals add to the magic of this walk, making you feel like you are in a fairytale.
Great hewn tree trunks line the walk and hundreds of variety of trees are in the gardens, including some varieties not native to England such as this giant redwood.  Each tree has a little plaque next to it explaining its species and Latin name.
After all that walking around we were feeling rather thirsty so headed to the tea room for some drinks and locally produced crisps.  Be warned - the peacocks come looking for treats and they can peck quite hard!
The final stop on our visit was the Quex Park Craft Village, a single street lined with wooden huts set amongst the converted farm buildings that independent craftsmen and women work out of.  Each hut is a workshop and shop and they aren't always all open.  Many of them offer lessons and activities which would make for a wonderful birthday party or hen activity I would think!
Visitors are encouraged to inter-act with the artisans and watch the products being made in front of them.  Children are particularly welcome.  Prices vary but as every item has been made by hand you should expect to pay a little more than you might on the high street.  Products range from knitted goods to handcrafted candles and soaps, ukuleles and banjos to jewellery, egg carving to floristry.  If you are looking for something unique for Christmas presents I'd recommend coming here and having a look around.
On the way back to the car I spotted this in the car park.  It's called a Barmobil Party Bike and like its name suggests it is a mobile bar you can hire - all the customers sit on the stools around the bar and pedal and the entire thing moves down the streets as everyone drinks.  I have no idea how practical it is or how easy it is to control once people have had a few tipples but it looks like a lot of fun!
We ran out of time before we could do the Maize Maze.  Next visit....

4 comments:

  1. oh this is such a great post! lovely blog darling:9

    xx

    http://combo-monster.blogspot.com/

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  2. Great post. it's all so beautiful. I love your photos!! I hope you'll have a chance and stop by my blog. All about Beauty. Life. and DIY. If you ever have an OTD, LOTD, hair or nail tutorial, or a fun fashion DIY, I'd love for you to share it at "That's my Style" Link party every Friday. Don't have anything to share? Stop by anyway for beauty tutorial and fun DIY projects. Hope to see you there. :)

    Karla @ www.MySerendipitousLife.com

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