I have wanted to return to Charlecote park for what turns out to be 3 years, mostly because of happy memories of the really excellent farm shop it had. Well, I went back yesterday with a friend to whom I'd waxed lyrical about the farm shop, and was just as excited about visiting it.
Reader, the farm shop was gone, which quite frankly was a disappointment. The hose s still lovely, the park still full of deer, the cafe had an excellent scone (though wasps were out in full force) but none of that was quite enough without the chance to buy some purple carrots. The National Trust had let us down.
Charlecote is just a few miles outside of Stratford, and easily one of the most family friendly Trust properties I've been too. There's lots of outdoor space for running around or picnicking on, the dairy, brew house, coach house, and kitchens are nice to see, and because of that family friendliness it was busy. I love seeing places like this full of people but it's not ideal for quiet contemplation, so we decided to go to Upton House as well, which was new to both of us.
Upton was a revelation. No farm shop there either, but a really spectacular art collection. We got there relatively late in the day, and are determined to go back soon rather earlier, so I didn't buy a guidebook, and am now hazy on the exact details but it's something like this.
Upton is a charming William and Mary country house on the edge of the Cotswolds, it changed hands a number of times other the years, before being bought by some wealthy brewers in the 1890's, and then sold to Lord Bearsted in 1927. His family owned Shell, so he had all the money he needed to turn it into his ideal country home and a gallery for his art collection. He was a notable philanthropist heavily involved in helping get Jews out of Germany in the 1930's, as well as making sure there was employment for those who needed it in the local villages. He sounds like a remarkable man.
Eventually he gave Upton, along with his art collection to the Trust, partly with the intention of creating a really good art gallery in the depths of the country. Once again I really don't know how I didn't know about Upton before now. It's not so far away from here (Warwickshire going towards Oxfordshire) and it's a fantasy house.
I think we really and truly fell in love with it when we saw the silver and scarlet bathroom - it looked like Fred and Ginger out to be dancing around it, and is the most perfectly glamorous, decadent, bit of nonsense you could imagine.
The real point of Upton though is it's art collection - it's an eclectic mix with some real gems in it, and it's gardens, which are beautiful. It wasn't as busy as Charlcote, and real garden buffs will carry on to Hidcote which isn't so far away either, which made it perfect for us. There were plenty of people about but never too many in the same place so we could really take our time looking at things. There were also plenty of comfortable chairs and benches to sit on, and the attendants were particularly knowledgeable, especially when it came to the paintings. The whole place is a total gem.