The combination of a bad cold and horrid weather is a good moment to update the Hartland Abbey blog, well overdue after a busy 2016 season which culminated in a proud moment for us when, in October, we won The North Devon Journal Gold Award for the best Country House and/or Garden in North Devon.
It was a hugely proud moment for us at the Award Ceremony at the Barnstaple Hotel. To us this award is a recognition of the hard work by our small team who do so much to look after the house and gardens, provide delicious refreshments, look after our visitors and do their best to give everyone the best possible experience. We are so grateful to all our staff and room stewards for everything they do. Theresa, our administrator, puts every ounce of her energy into looking after the coach parties and individual visitors to make sure everyone, even the least mobile, have an enjoyable time.
The interest generated from BBC’s ‘The Night Manager’ was instrumental in encouraging a huge number of people to visit the Abbey during the season and walk down to Blackpool Mill cottage where it was filmed. We were thrilled that it won three Golden Globe awards; we were certainly gripped by it!
Much to our surprise the autumn was very busy with the media. Marks and Spencer chose the Hartland Abbey Estate to shoot their online autumn catalogue. The rusty hues of autumn in the stunning scenery provided a great backdrop for their very stylish clothes. Even Rosie, our terrier, managed to get herself into some pictures! The production team all stayed at Hartland Quay; Blackpool Mill and Spekes valley were the locations.
This was followed by Blackpool Mill cottage being used again as a film location, but this time for an online, short 45 minute film. The cottage had been painted in the summer and was looking particularly smart, that is until the film company, on purpose, ‘mucked it up’! Oh dear, we could have cried! Our beautiful cottage was surrounded by heaps of junk, the outside walls
were covered in grime, and it looked disgusting, in and out, with some very good special effects from the art department! Having read the plot, ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’, produced by Alastair Gourlay of Park Drive Productions and starring Clive Russell of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame, promises to be a gripping production. They were a lovely production team and we wish them every success when the film comes out online. The cottage is almost back to normal..!
BBC’s ‘Escape to the Country’ was filmed with us in the autumn. A couple were looking to buy a house locally and they were brought to see a local attraction. Hopefully the photography will be good.
Prior to this a marvellously eccentric Channel 4 pilot production starring Adam Buxton chose The Warren, above the cliffs at Hartland Quay, to shoot something about camping in a new fangled tent that lies on top of your car! I watched for a bit only to see Adam and the crew becoming more and more confused as to how to put this thing up! It certainly wouldn’t have survived a stormy night! I am not sure if and when it comes out.
Our outdoor theatre productions last summer, in conjunction with The Plough Arts Centre, were a huge success with Hartland Abbey gaining the largest audiences in North Devon. And we stayed dry! We have built up a reputation as a good ‘stage’ against the backdrop of the house (also a shelter from the worst weather!) with lots of diverse productions suiting all ages and tastes. With our bar and barbecue, free entry to the beautiful grounds a couple of hours before the start, it makes a lovely, relaxing treat. This summer we have some really exciting productions coming to entertain us all, which you will find on our ‘Events’ page. Sadly Mr and Mrs Crackling, who have provided the barbecue for the last five years, have hung up their trotters and we are looking for new people to provide a really good barbecue. If you are interested please contact us.
We were very fortunate to be contacted by a local couple, Alan and Pauline Whittle, who wanted to donate their huge collection of ‘Lady Hamilton’ porcelain to us to display. This china has been much appreciated by our visitors and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
We had a lovely birth in the summer when Marjorie, our only, white, peahen, hatched a solitary egg. A tiny white chick emerged which she looked after really well. Hoping for a girl, of course it was a boy! They are inseparable and we pray they both survive our fox problem; foxes have eaten nearly all our other peafowl. Where there were 11, now only four survive.
The Library has had a facelift with new chair covers, making it look very smart! The old ones were on their last legs. Fire doors have had to be put in in three places. This has saddened us as we feel that with an old house like Hartland Abbey anything modern looks totally out of place. But it will help to put our minds at rest as the fire at Clandon House completely gutted the house and everything was lost, something every historic house owner dreads. They will also mean that we will be able to open the downstair passage to visitors before the house itself opens, enabling visitors to see most of the exhibition areas from 11am when we open. On wet days particularly this could be a huge bonus.
In summer 2016 we opened two new exhibitions in the old Housekeeper’s Room, last used during the war and since falling into decay. This has made a wonderful, light exhibition space where visitors can enter from 11am as part of their garden ticket. Two displays, ‘The History of the Hartland Abbey Estate’ and ‘ Filming on the Hartland Abbey Estate since 1934’ are proving very popular and being under cover, are particularly well received on wet days!
Christmas was a lovely family time; a time when we were all together without the worry of day to day work. The grandchildren are all growing so fast that we are being dwarfed already! My mother celebrated her 95th birthday very lately; she is an amazing person who still has vivid memories of her part she played as an officer in the WRNS in the War, in Harwich, Gibraltar, Algiers and Naples, for which she was decorated, as was my father for his part at El Alamein, now sadly dead for almost 25 years.
Bluebell and Snowdrop, the donkeys are wintering well at the farm with their old horse friend! They have a lovely shed, deep in straw, which they almost never go into, preferring to get thoroughly soaked instead! They also live with the black sheep, bantams and chickens in a beautiful part of Devon overlooking Dartmoor and Exmoor from their fields! Not a bad life….. Soon they will return to Hartland to entertain our visitors. We are hoping to find a husband for them very soon but we only want a small, beautiful chap so if you know one please let us know!
We look forward to welcoming as many visitors as possible in 2017 and just hope we will have a proper summer this year. We hope to have a lovely new holiday let up and running later in the spring in the farmhouse at Affeton with the swimming pool and tennis court; all details will be posted on our website. We have got lots of exciting events coming up starting with Daffodil Sunday on 12th March. Angela Stucley February 2017