Shrove Tuesday fell during the Tribe’s half term this year and we decided to have a few neighbours over to race with pancakes, make pancakes and eat pancakes. Nowadays, the Tribe and probably a lot of other children know Shrove Tuesday better as pancake day. A shame but that’s the commercial world that we live in today. The word shrove came from the old English word ‘shrive’ meaning to confess. The ingredients that make up pancakes were supposed to be restricted during Lent, a period of about 6 weeks (40 days) leading up to Easter Sunday. So, to ensure no wastage, pancakes would be made up and eaten before Ash Wednesday (the day following Shrove Tuesday). The Christian church doesn’t impose strict fasting during Lent. Continue reading Pancake Pandemonium
Mottisfont is a National Trust property in Hampshire, just 25 minutes away from us. It dates back to medieval times and is set in glorious grounds. As it is so close, we have been taking the Tribe there ever since we moved out of London, arriving by both car and bike and we seem to find something new each time we visit. We all love it. This time we discovered that there is a lot of work being done at the entrance for a splendid new eco visitor’s centre. There is also a new trail for the Tribe to follow – a map and pencil is provided, they just have to answer the questions.
Mottisfont was originally founded by William Briwere in 1201 as an Augustinian priory offering food and shelter to pilgrims traveling between Salisbury and Winchester. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII granted Mottisfont to his Lord Chancellor, William, Lord Sandys, in exchange for the ‘villages’ of Chelsea and Paddington. Lord Sandys converted the property to a grand Tudor mansion; in the 1740s it was turned into a smaller family home.
In 1934, Gilbert and Maud Russell bought Mottisfont as their weekend home. Maud was from a German Jewish family (Nelkes) and during WW2, she helped Jewish families leave Germany and bought or rented homes for them in England. She was a patron of the arts and Mottisfont became a place for artists, designers, writers and philosophers of the day – guests included Ian Fleming, Rex Whistler, Norah Lindsay and Derek Hill to name a few. Wandering through the house and gardens today, it must have been a wonderful place to be before the horrors of WW2. The Tribe always look out for the mosaic angel in a secret corner of the house and garden. Created by the Russian artist Boris Anrep in 1947 (he became Maud’s lover), the angel bears a remarkable resemblence to Maud – Anrep’s angel.
The ancient plane tree outside the house, where the Tribe once climbed and played, is now roped off to prevent any further damage. It is believed to be 300 years old and the oldest tree of its kind in the country.
Crossing the Abbey Stream, a man-made channel made to bring the River Test closer to the house, the Tribe spot the new Wild Play Area – a climbing bog. Mucky, muddy and perfect! Only one of them manages to fall in – I won’t say which one, but you can possibly guess. Now they want one at home too – minus the bog perhaps.
We make a quick pitstop at the Kitchen Cafe, situated in the original kitchens, before heading to the grounds next to the stables where the Tribe want to find the old ice house, hidden deep amongst a copse of trees, where ice was once packed tightly together in order to keep meat and other perishables from going off. And of course to provide plenty of ice for the occasional G&T.
The Tribe have a final game of chase around the stunning Winter Garden situated near the font – a spring of pure water running for over a thousand years.
On this vist we didn’t see the fishing hut, the stables, the lime walk, the walled rose garden, the old summer house or even visit inside the house. Here the Tribe love the beautiful drawing room, known as the Whistler Room. Rex Whistler was commissioned to paint it in Gothic fantasy trope l’oeil. At the top of one arch he painted a tiny pot of ink with a paintbrush left in it to show that he would be back to finish his work. He also wrote in small print, “I was painting this ermine curtain when Britain declared war on the Nazi tyrants, Sunday, September 3rd, RW”. Tragicallly he went to the Front never to return. Just another fascinating fact to be found amidst this wonderful place.
On our first free day this year, we decide to head to Stonehenge. I discovered that our National Trust membership was still valid and it gives us entry to the English Heritage site of Stonehenge. The last time that we visited as a family was on New Year’s Day in 2007. The Tribe was one less; the Eldest had just finished her first term at school and they were all very, very little. It seems like a lifetime ago. Since then, although the stones themselves have obviously remained unchanged, a rather magnificent glass visitor’s centre has been built together with a museum and some Neolithic huts. They still have the audio tour, but now have a family one that even the Littlest listened to quite intently, as we got onto the bus and headed towards the stones.