Back in 2015 we went to visit the not long opened to the public Stoneywell Cottage. It is a beautiful place, and made me think I should rejoin the National Trust because it's very much on our doorstep, and seemed like a place it would be good to go back to regularly.
We joined up in March this year, and since then it's been on my to do list, but never seemed to happen, until last week when an email told me it was closing up for Winter on the 30th of November. We went on Sunday - which was a perfect sunny, frosty, early winter day.
I cannot overstate the charm of Stoneywell. It literally emerges from the bed rock of a slope and gently descends down a hill on a Z plan. Inside you go up and down a lot of stairs to find yourself consistently at ground level.
Three years down the line the house has a more established feel to it, which adds to its charm. The cafe has improved a bit too - but everything is on a small scale, so booking is essential and it's worth trying to pick a quieter time to tour the house.
To keep people flowing through access to the Cottage is only via guided tours, the upside of that is that you don't miss anything, the downside is that you go at tour pace which might not always suit. The grounds are extensive, and lovely to walk through - with the definite advantage that you aren't part of a tour and can find peaceful spots for general contemplation in.
I love Stoneywell because it is the most fairy tale house I've ever seen, it remained in the family until 2013 when the National Trust bought it, and is dressed much as it was when the last owner knew it as a child in the 1950's. It's a nice mix of arts and crafts simplicity with the warmth of family life.
It's also a wonderful example of the best and worst of arts and crafts design. The determination to sit the buildingbin the landscape rather than on it is a big part of its magic, but it also means it's prone to damp. Narrow, twisting stairs that are not much more than a foot wide and built into the wall must have been a nightmare to go up and down with washing water and chamber pots (mains electricity and a bathroom came in 1938. The day after the bathroom was finished the electrical wiring set fire to the thatch roof, this was probably a good thing, the slate replacement allowed for some extra windows and other alterations that made it a little bit more practical.
And yet despite the eccentricities of the place (it's built of stone, the bedrooms have no fire places, it must have been a fridge in winter, although delightfully cool in summer) it's sheer romantic appeal wins out.
This coming weekend it will be dressed for Christmas before closing up for the year. If anyone is near north Leicestershire I absolutely recommend visiting. (Check the National Trust website for car park booking details).