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Between a Lanhydrock and a hard place...

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Cornwall » Bodmin 15 June 2010 Lanhydrock and the Luxulyan Valley

sunny 20 °C

It would be unfair to say that we left the best 'til last because, on this holiday in Devon and Cornwall, we've seen some truly remarkable places and some great houses. However, I think Lanhydrock, set in a densely wooded valley of the River Fowey near Bodmin, must rank among the best.

But was Castle Drogo ('Wild Dartmoor' blog) more unusual? Or did Heligan ('Lost and found') have more interesting gardens? Did Coleton Fishacre ('Topsham is tops!') have more atmosphere? Or was The Eden Project ('The garden of Eden') better presented? Or...?

Oh, how can one possibly decide without offending someone? Now do you see why I'm between the proverbial (Lanhyd)rock and a hard place?

Perhaps we enjoyed our visit to Lanhydrock so much because this wonderfully grand house had such a variety of interest above and 'below stairs', something that most of the others didn't.

Maybe it was because one could easily imagine everyday life in former times, something generally missing from the others (except perhaps Coleton Fishacre).

Or, possibly, it was because the house and its grounds were immaculately maintained and presented to reflect the grandeur of those days - and there were no petty restrictions about photographing the treasures in any part of the house.

Whatever it was, we really wouldn't hesitate to visit this one again and again in the future.

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This property, originally built in the early-17th century, was lucky to survive into the 21st. Its isolated position and sometimes unfashionable architecture meant it was considered for demolition in the 1750s and again, after an almost catastrophic fire, in 1881. The owning family diminished throughout the 20th century and, when the National Trust accepted it in 1953, it did so for the landscape value of the park and estate. The house itself was considered a white elephant. However, it has been so well restored and presented that, to our mind, it is the house that is the jewel of the estate.

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Its historic connections to the Robartes family, from when it was acquired by ultra-wealthy Richard Robartes around 1620 right up to Julia Agar-Robartes, the last of the family to live in the house and who died as recently as 1969, are complex to say the least. So, I won't dwell on that. Suffice to say that what we see now is down to the 2nd Lord Robartes. Let me explain:

In April 1881, an exposed timber in the kitchen chimney caught fire. Fanned by a strong wind, the flames quickly spread and the Jacobean structure of the building was severely damaged. The 1st Lord Robartes (Thomas James) and his wife, resident there at the time, survived. Alas, Lady Robartes died a few days later from shock and, the following year, Lord Robartes followed suit, reputedly of a broken heart. Before doing so, however, he gave instructions for the damaged structure to be restored to how it was before the fire.

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Their son, the 2nd Lord Robartes (Thomas Charles), took over the task, building-in lots of anti-fire measures and commissioning progressive architects to design an interior in keeping with the then more up-to-date style of the Aesthetic Movement. So, here we now have an ancient-looking exterior and a Victorian interior. It was the height of fashion, don't you know?!

The house itself is remarkable in that it has been carefully and cleverly interpreted using genuine items of the Agar-Robartes family's belongings. These have been displayed as if the family and their servants had just gone away for a fortnight's holiday and would be back soon.

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Entering by the gatehouse, a former hunting lodge dating from 1651, there's a broad, gravelled walkway flanked by lawns and 29 sentinel clipped yews. There's also a formal parterre with box-edged geometric beds filled with colourful flowers. The wider estate has some lovely herbaceous borders and parkland walks with views towards the valley of the River Fowey. In all, the estate owned and managed by the National Trust totals 367 hectares (910 acres).

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I could probably bore you for hours with the detail of this wonderful property. Instead, I'll leave you to enjoy the photographic tour of the house and its gardens that you'll see above.

Before leaving, we visited the adjoining Church of St Hydroc. Although not part of the National Trust property, this mid-15th century church is in Lanhydrock's grounds. Lanhydrock means 'the site of somebody called Hydroc'. Since 1478, the little understood Sanctus Ydroc (St Hydroc) has been regarded as the church's patron saint. The Robartes family crypt is in this church.

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*****

After several hours touring Lanhydrock, including quite a few rests on seats in the house and among the herbaceous borders, and a picnic lunch looking out to the parkland, we made our way back to our holiday cottage in Tregrehan.

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Tregrehan Gardens - The walled garden, just a two-minute stroll from the front door of our cottage.

On several journeys during the past few days, we'd seen a sign to the unusually-named Luxulyan Valley. So, while the sun was shining and as it was on our route, we wound our way through country lanes to the start of the valley at the village of Luxulyan.

We drove slowly through the steep-sided and thickly wooded valley of the River Par on a winding, single lane road. The valley is said to contain a major concentration of early 19th-century industrial remains and was designated as part of a World Heritage Site in 2006. Most of the remains hereabouts apparently result from the endeavours of Joseph Treffry (1782-1850), who owned one of the deepest, richest and most important of the Cornish copper mines and built an artificial harbour at Par. The woods were important too for making charcoal that was needed in large quantities for smelting tin from deposits on the moors to the north-west.

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We didn't see much trace of anything remotely industrial until, rounding a bend, we came across a towering structure that turned out to be the Treffry Viaduct spanning the thickly wooded valley of the River Par. Each of its ten 40 feet (12.2 metres) arches were around 100 feet (30.5 metres) high, making it both taller and longer than the huge one spanning the Mimram valley at Digswell near our home town in Hertfordshire. The one here had been a dual-purpose tramway viaduct and aqueduct used for transporting ore and water to Treffry's works, and it ran for around 5 kilometres (3 miles). It was an interesting sight amid attractive scenery.

Then it was back the last few miles to Tregrehan ('An ideal base in a lovely area' blog) - and yet another well-earned pot of tea.

*****

Our restful week had turned out to be anything but. We wouldn't have missed a minute of it, however!

This brings to an end my ramblings about a very enjoyable West Country break. Clearly, we only managed to scratch the surface of Pat's home county of Devon and its neighbour, Cornwall. As always, we have to save something for next time - and a 'next time' there will surely be!

Posted by Keep Smiling 04:23 Archived in England Tagged england lanhydrock bodmin cornwall national_trust

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