Despite it being bitterly cold (I mean serious, chilled to the bone, head straight to the cafe and hug that cup of coffee as hard as you can cold) today was also gloriously sunny and just the sort of day off to venture out and explore something on. We went to Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire.
It's National Trust not impossibly far away, and charming. The house has been evolving for centuries, from a medieval farmhouse, to a Tudor Manor House, into a Georgian country house that puts me strongly in mind of Pride and Prejudice's Longbourn, or maybe the Musgroves house in Persuasion. Nothing seems to have been knocked down, rather it's been added to or built over and whilst most of the rooms on public display are large, they're large on a domestic scale. They also have a comfortably battered feel about them - in a way that speaks of age rather than misuse - which adds to the general appeal of the place.
The house came to the Trust in the 1980's, apparently in a state of rapidly developing decay, and just in time. Part of it is still a family flat, and there's a Landmark Trust flat in the tower so you can stay there (which is appealing). It was to cold to really enjoy the gardens today, but they seem to be the most remarkable survival, an early eighteenth century formal layout of the sort that was swept away by the fashion for acres of open grass in the style of Capability Brown. Right now there are snowdrops everywhere, and if it hadn't been so cold (so, so, cold) there would have been pictures of them.
Most National Trust properties seem to house a cobwebby second hand bookshops, mostly filled with the sort of things that high street charity shops would automatically bin, but I got lucky today. I found a copy of 'His Majesty's Well Beloved' a 1919 Baroness Orczy title, in the curiosity section. It may well be terrible (a lot of words seem to be capitalised which isn't generally an indication of high literary quality), but it might also be fun, and as a Scarlet Pimpernel fan it had to be worth a punt, and the £2.50 price tag. I also found W. M. Thackeray's 'The FitzBoodle Papers', I can't find much about it from a quick search, but it looked promising, and now it's mine.