I'd had Newstead Abbey on my list of places to visit for over a year, so we decided to go there. Newstead Abbey was once the home of Lord Byron, one of the romantic poets. (Lived: 1788 - 1824). The history of the Abbey, and the life of Byron are both of supreme interest, but they can wait for another day. The Abbey is about a twenty minute drive from Nottingham, and is owned by Nottingham City Council, when it was gifted to its predecessor the Nottingham Corporation in 1931 by Sir Julien Cahn. In view of what follows, it should be remembered that the house and lands were presented to the people of Nottinghamshire to enjoy. In all, the house, gardens and park covers about 300 acres.
Arriving at the entrance gate to pay our fee, we were met by a member of staff who couldn't have been funnier, or more helpful. We paid just to get into the grounds, as we thought there wouldn't be enough time to see the house as well. The drive to the car park must have been approaching a mile and a half, and I was glad that I had left visiting the place until someone with a car was with me. We started with a lovely picnic overlooking one of the lakes, and by the side of the Abbey. Feeling well satisfied, we went to explore the gardens. Talking to a staff member at the gate to the garden area, it transpired that we couldn't have visited the house anyway, as there were only booked tours, and these were full.
I have somehow missed the decisions recently taken by Nottingham City Council about Newstead Abbey. The Council decided in their budget setting for 2011 to make cuts to its services at Newstead Abbey. From the 1st April this year, the house will only be open to the public on certain Sunday afternoons, Bank Holidays and for guided tours. The grounds will be open throughout the year. It seems a great shame that the legacy of Lord Byron, which is enclosed within the Abbey will be lost to the general public. Will Wollaton Hall and Nottingham Castle be next?
There was also a modern touch that I found delightful. I'm into my works of public art, and it was good to see four (I think that number's right) sculptures of gardeners, with implements and in different poses, all made out of chicken wire. They were life size, and I think added to the loveliness of this walled garden. On the way back to the car park, there was one more visit that was a must to do. My son and I agree totally on this, though my daughter-in-law may not feel quite so strongly about it.
I sat back in my chair and thought how lovely this is. Good coffee, great setting in warm sunshine and being with excellent family members. The day doesn't get much better, but unfortunately it was time to make our way home. One last look at the outside of the magnificent building that is Newstead Abbey, and we were off.
I can't finish this blog without reference to one more 'incident' over the Easter Weekend.
My daughter-in-law is from Poland, and last evening she asked me if I knew of the Polish custom (name given but forgotten - is it Smigus-Dyngus 'wet Monday'?). I did not pursue the answer.
I got up this morning, Easter Monday, and went into the kitchen, only to be met by my daughter-in-law throwing about half an egg cup of water at me. Apparently on Easter Monday, up to midday, people throw water at each other. Having researched it today, I definitely got off very lightly. Originally, the custom was simply conducted by young men who would sneak into the bedroom of their beloved (with her parent's permission) and throw buckets of water over her while she was in bed. It also included being lightly hit with something like a birch stick.
Now it seems that the custom is to throw water over everybody and anybody. You can find loads of examples on You Tube. Looking through You Tube this morning, we came across a clip that took 'Wet Monday' to a different level. In a town square, two fire engines appeared and raced round and round the square shooting water from their fire hoses at everyone within reach. That's why I say I got off lightly.
So, daughter-in-law beware, I now know the custom, and will be ready for next Easter Monday, if we are anywhere near each other.
Whatever you've done this Easter weekend, I hope that you enjoyed it. I certainly did.