We were very sad that we had to cancel Snowdrop Weekend but we decided soon after Christmas that the waterlogged ground would not dry out in time for cars to park on it. Luckily we were entirely vindicated as the ground is still completely saturated and everyone would have been stuck in the car park. Lets hope 2014 will be kinder to us and Snowdrop Days will return.
Since Christmas everyone has been flat out with our exciting new projects at the Abbey.
The new kitchen and Tea Room are beginning to look really good for the start of the season. Jo and Kath, both local Hartland girls, have taken on the lease of the Tea Room from the church ladies who retired in 2012 after 26 years! After stripping off centuries of paint, Leighton has repainted the walls and the room now looks really fresh. Kath and Jo have brought some very pretty tablecloth material, the new china has arrived, Lofty has attached a new electricity supply and soon masses of delicious food and drink will be provided for our visitors. The big question now is what sort of coffee machine to have…! Carol has been having a major springclean all winter. We hired the carpet cleaning machine to do the red carpet in the Alhambra passage; it was horrifying to see how filthy the water was but hardly surprising after many thousands of people had walked round the house last summer. Thanks to our fashionable blue overshoes it wasn’t worse! Apologies to those who don’t like wearing them but please think of Carol and what it would be like in your own home if 14,000 people walked round it, straight from the garden!
Nigel, Sam and Dave are hard at work to get the gardens looking smart for opening. Torrential rain all winter hasn’t helped, in fact it has brought down a lot of trees and branches and part of the garden wall. It has just made a lot more work. But morale is
very high and Nigel will produce a wonderful display come the spring. We are so lucky to have such a fantastic team.
Our next big project is staging the ‘William Stukeley – Saviour of Stonehenge’ exhibition; again poor old Leighton has been hard at work lining the walls in the ‘dungeon’ to make a good display space. When we decided to stage this I deluded myself into thinking it would be easy. Having got to know William Stukeley a lot better I realise how wrong I was. Trying to sort out what to display is the difficult bit; he is such an intriguing subject, friend of Sir Isaac Newton,a polymath into everything imaginable from saving Stonehenge and Avebury to dissecting a dead elephant in the centre of London with Sir Hans Sloane in 1720. My husband’s cousin who is a professor in America is being a wonderful help and support. David has created a fantastic, very original design for the display so it is all becoming a reality. We have to go to the Bodleian soon to get some images. Hopefully we will be able to open in May.
The Bear has been really spruced up and has now got WIFI and some smart new hanging cupboards since last season. It
is a really cosy cottage for a holiday. We are putting in lots more tongue and groove at Blackpool Mill as the walls are always crumbling, they are so old. Poor Leighton never stops painting them. The t and g should make it much warmer too and use less oil.
We have had terrible donkey sadness. Bluebell, who has enchanted us and our visitors, young and not-so, for so long suddenly became ill last week and was off her food. Our wonderful vet came and took blood samples which came back with the bad news that she had an incurable liver disease. She would never recover and to save her further sufferingshe was put to sleep immediately with her sister Nutmeg beside her. She is great friends with Qajar and Harold, our retired point-to-pointers, but she realises that racehorses are no substitute for her lost sisters. Donkeys must have company to be happy. But the good news is that today we have picked up the
nicest mother and daughter donkeys, Becky and Snowdrop II (as she arrived at snowdrop time!), from nearby who have settled in really well already and will soon be meeting our visitors when we open. It will be lovely for all the visiting children to have a baby donkey to pat. We are still terribly sad to lose Bluebell as she was 37 and very much part of the family.
We are all really looking forward to our new season. Daffodil Day is on Sunday 17th March and then the season starts properly on
24th March. Bluebell Days on 21st and 28th April. The Hartland Hartbreaker Charity Run on 5th May – it sounds awful – 17 miles of sheer hell but in aid of a wonderful cause, The Children’s Hospice and our own Parish Hall as well. So much to do before then. …Theresa has done some wonderful new interpretation notices for our displays so everything will look so much better in 2013.
We have lots of exciting theatre productions coming up in the summer. So it is all go down at the Abbey in 2013….
Martin Dorey, the Campervan Man, is putting on some exciting Campervan holidays here, by the river. Here he is on his last visit to Hartland when he was making a film in 2010. Martin is great fun and his holidays will be fantastic .
This week I mustn’t forget to design our new leaflet, check proofs for our advertising, order the seeds, order all the new catering equipment for Kath and Jo, start deadheading at least 200 hydrangeas, help Alice write her blog, go to the Bodleian to research the exhibition and so it goes on! ‘Apparently’, according to the children, it keeps us young! We will see.