Monday, 3 October 2011

Greys Court, the National Trust and Apple Day

I'm a big fan of the National Trust - not only does it protect our heritage but it's original and forward looking too and their tea rooms are extremely good.  So I always try to pay a visit to any nearby National Trust property (if only for tea) when I go out.

Thanks to everyone for the good wishes. Things are at present easier and since we weren't required at the hospital this weekend, we dropped by at the National Trust's Greys Court, near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on Saturday.  Weren't expecting much more than a nice big house and (of course) the tea room,  but actually we happened upon the Greys Court Apple Day.  This is a national celebration of English heritage apples, and events take place over the country. The National Trust had decided to make a big deal of it at Greys Court, which grows many heritage plants. 

Throughout the garden are dwarf and espaliered apple and pear trees in all kinds of diffferent varieties.  Volunteers had picked many of the fruits and were selling their harvest it at very low prices as well as offering tasters and descriptions of each type of apple. 

All the produce for sale - which included flowers, veg and honey - was extremely cheap and beautifully laid out. I bought a couple of quinces, some wacky looking carrots, some pears, and more.

The house dates from many different periods and has the atmosphere of a family home - I wish I could have taken photos of the elegant yet comfortable rooms, but photography isn't allowed inside.

Its  lovely gardens are also full of variety and interest.  They are divided into "rooms" each with different atmospheres and different types of plants.

Some parts of the garden include ruins. Below, is some of the old "castle" bit, which dates from medieval times. I think the owners probably just got fed up of living in a nasty uncomfortable castle and decided to abandon it and build something infinitely more cosy and comfortable.  

In the old kitchen gardens, they were raising money to build a third greenhouse which will be used partly for community gardening projects. The garden here contains various types of edible plants, chosen for beauty as well as practicality. Behind this huge artichoke you may spot marigolds and nasturtiums and other edible flowers.

Some sections of the garden had water featuresl; fountains, ponds. Other had lawns, or flower borders with autumnally coloured dahlias and other plants.

One "room" was devoted to a huge wisteria. In Spring this would be a mass of dangling lilac coloured blossoms, but the weather was so warm that for us, its tangled stems and large leaves created a nice retreat from the blazing sun, as well as a rather mysterious, almost fairytale atmosphere. 

And, on the fairytale theme, we then heard a jingling of bells.

Actually it was morris dancers, in search of other morris dancers. 

They'd been booked for a performance on the main lawn an hour previously. Oh dear! Luckily, being morris dancers, they were not that bothered.  And of course they weren't fairy-like at all - as anyone who has seen them dancing, or drinking beer, will know.   They were a particularly good side and I was sorry not to catch their name - if anyone recognises them, please let me know.

They were very good dancers. Their music was great, and best of all they involved everyone in their music and dancing.  Here they are, having enlisted some kids to dance with them. 

They had a good hobby horse, with a particularly realistic head, but he was so friendly that even the youngest kids weren't afraid.

In fact, they ended up patting him, and even having conversations with him.

Apple Day was brought to the UK many years ago by a rather low profile but very interesting organisation called Common Ground.  If you live in the UK and are keen on the idea of community involvement in our heritage, check out Common Ground's site here.   

 And, although I try to keep polemic out of this blog, (hmmm... without huge success...)  I want to mention the National Trust's petition.  Perhaps if you are a UK resident you might like to check out the details of its objection to the Government's proposals to de-restrict UK planning law.

The planning law certainly could do with a shake up. A big one.  It is bureaucratic and unduly restrictive, But despite this, the radical changes being proposed to make development much easier don't convince me. Firstly, they are loudly applauded by developers, who maintain it'll enable them to build more low cost homes.  But, I don't know any other group who supports these plans.

Also, the Government has no sensible answers to pertinent questions about the proposed changes.  Such as, "why are many developers refusing to build on  land they already own that already has permission for housing?"    The answers I've heard to that one include  "Sorry, I don't  have the exact figures - I'll get back to you." to "Low cost housing doesn't make enough profit - oops! Er, I mean - .."

In short, maybe pockets are being lined here? Or something else.  Whatever.

Anyway, that feeling of sheer suspiciousness is why I've signed the petition against these law changes. They're also opposed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (who have their own petition) and many other conservation groups.

(PS "Marigold Jam" suggested I enter the Travelizer draw, so I'm going to put this post in. It's only a draw, but fingers crossed)


  1. What a wonderful celebration! I'd love to see that house and gardens in person.

  2. I love apples, apple pie, those ruins, and the horse costume! :-) Great post, enjoyed it very much.

  3. Hello Jenny:
    Yes, we are great supporters of the National Trust too and feel, as you do, that we owe the organisation a great debt of gratitude for saving so much from falling into ruin.

    Your day at Grey's Court sounds to have been such fun and all enjoyed in such splendid weather. Amazingly good for October.

    When we were in Herefordshire, a heritage apple collection was developed in the orchard at Berrington Hall. It is so good that there are still people who are making the effort to keep these old varieties alive.

  4. We just had an Apple Festival in our area, but sadly no Morris Dancers!

  5. what a great day, and it looks like you got nice weather for it too!
    lovely home, never visited it. we used to be NT members, sigh.

    i'm also highly suspicious of such laws.....

  6. A lovely post, of what looks like a superb day out. Just to echo what Jane and Lance said, the National Trust is the very best of Britain, I think.

  7. I am green with envy about your opportunity to take part in historical and cultural events and festivals. Meanwhile, thank you for the photos and the post.

  8. Wonderful photos! A beautiful house, parts of a castle, music and dancing. Wonderful.

  9. That looks like a great day. I think the theme of this evening is ruins, this is the third post I'm looking at with some, and I love it!

    If the developers are in favor of the changes, be very suspicious. They probably won't build more low-cost homes, they'll simply pocket more money. At least that's how it works here in Colorado!

  10. How fabulous! And the Morris Dancers looked like so much fun...not to mention the old castle ruins, juxtaposed against the fresh and crisp apples. I can just taste the Apple Crumble that would come out of those lovelies.

  11. What beautiful photos and it looks like such a good time. I would love to see Grey's Court and enjoy the celebration!

  12. An enchanted day at an enchanting place! Those gardens and the house, I wish I could go exploring right now.
    Not long ago, there was an interesting article in my weekly paper about apples and pears and how important it is to preserve variety instead of limiting them to about 5 kinds which are nowadays sold as standards in supermarkets all around Europe.

  13. Great post, Jenny. We are NT members. We used to live near Stourhead and visited there a lot; now we have Brownsea Island close by. I always look for properties to visit wherever we go, but I don't think I've been to Greys Court.

  14. I'm interested in the various apples and toy pumpkins in the basket. Curious purple flower is interesting, the reddish brown dahlia is fantastic!! My favorite is the smiling elderly men dancers on the pretty dress. ♪ q(^-^q)(p^-^)p q(^-^q)(p^-^)p ♪
    Thank you for sharing so happy day.

  15. Love Morris men they are so cool!

  16. I love the National Trust and I just hope they don't get their voice dampened by legislation.

    As for the changes to the planning laws, have you noticed that he people proposing them have, in the past, refused changes to their own backyards?

  17. A fabulous post Jenny, beautiful photos. We love eating and finding out about heritage apples. My hubby has a small orchard which he has espaliered.

    What a lovely day - so nice to share it with you.

    Cheerio for now :D)

  18. A lovely, satisfying, three-course meal of a post. Although when I saw mention made of Apple Day I thought I was again going to get another review of the new IPhone 5

  19. Jenny,
    Thanks a lot for your warm concern.
    National Trust is great! They have protected a lot of precious nature in Japan too.
    Oh, I am interested in Apple Day very much. I am enjoying testy apple every morning!
    I just wonder if women can be morris dancers or it is exclusive?
    Best wishes,

  20. A great organisation the NT - I'm a member. Can't beat a good NT property with a decent tearoom. (My current favourites are Wallington in Northumberland and Plas Newydd on Angelsey).

    The top man in the trust was on Any Questions the other week - I didn't catch it all, but sadly I disagreed with a lot of what I heard him say (about the NHS) and I thought he didn't come over very well.

  21. The girl looks understandably nervous of the horse-headed monster


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