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The Hartland Abbey Newsletter

March 2013

Dear Visitors,

Where does the time go? We are always asking ourselves this question at this time of year! Nearly six months has gone since we closed at the end of the 2012 season. We had many good intentions to fulfil this winter and as normal we have not achieved them all. Unexpected things always happen to put us back and this winter has been no exception. The legacy of last summer will be very long lasting; the incessant, torrential rain wreaked havoc on our harvest which was very disappointing. Our visitor numbers were not very good; there simply were not the people around. Our animals suffered from the wet too and it looks as though we will not have a good calving this spring. Some of our oak trees fell down, the roof leaked and after Christmas a large chunk of the garden wall collapsed! These disasters were all caused by so much rain. So now our hopes are for a better 2013.

Now we have a new team, and we wish them all the very best in the future. Theresa Seligmann has joined us as our Administrator and Kath Morrison and Jo Wade have taken over the lease of the Tea Room. They have all worked tirelessly towards making this season a success and we are looking forward to all the delicious things on offer in the Tea Room. Tantalisingly delicious smells have been wafting up to the office as they try out new ideas! The whole kitchen has had to be renovated as the church ladies did their cooking at home; Jo and Kath will be cooking here so we now have some very smart up-to-date equipment. Jo and Kath have painted chairs, collected pretty china, made tablecloths, attended courses on hygiene and all the things required of them today and filled in a lot of forms! They are now fully qualified to look after our visitors in the best possible way. Please do try and support them.

At the end of September it was with great sadness that we said goodbye to many good friends who had been with us for the 26 years since we first opened. Mary Heard, our wonderful administrator, had been with us for all those years and Nancy Johns and her team of St. Nectan’s Church Ladies, who had provided such delicious food for such a long time, retired too. Anno domini was simply catching up and no younger volunteers coming on; we wish them a long, happy retirement.

Happily Nancy Johns and some of her wonderful tea room stalwarts are joining us as stewards in the house; they will be a great asset to the Abbey. Tony will be joining Mick and Colin on the kiosk; a lovely job in good weather but at the beginning of this season in the cold, not an enviable place to be! Mary and John Heard are wonderful friends and have already been back to help on Daffodil Day, Mary keeping the helpers well fed  and warm with lots of food and hot soup.

Carol, Dave, Leighton, Nigel and Sam have all worked so hard all winter; Carol burnishing everything she can find, Leighton making our new exhibition space, mending the garden wall, keeping the water flowing in the bog garden and keeping the roof as rainproof as possible! The garden staff of Dave, Nigel and Sam have really strived to get the gardens as tidy as possible for the season. We have even had the grandchildren clearing paths and making bonfires, trying to bring them up to care for the Abbey, hopefully giving them a sense of responsibility for the future. None of them complained even though the weather was icy when they were doing this!

Theresa has worked incessantly in the background to make a better experience for our visitors and has also produced lovely new peacock signage all over the house. The room stewards also have smart peacock badges. During the winter Steven Hobbs, John Hodges and Richard Macdonald, with Theresa, have been updating the stewards’ files with much more information on the chattels in the house so please feel free to ask them some pretty searching questions and they should be able to answer! This was a lot of hard work, well overdue, but all done voluntarily to give our visitors a better experience. Our thanks to all who have helped us in the winter.

Joining the new arrivals are Becky and Snowdrop, a mother and daughter donkey who have arrived together to join poor Nutmeg who had lost both her sisters in the last year. She was utterly miserable when Bluebell died but Sir H did a wonderful job finding the two donkeys quickly from very close by. Donkeys are miserable on their own but luckily Nutmeg was joined by her new friends after only a few days on her own.

As soon as the weather warms up they will come back to Hartland from the farm but the baby donkey does need cherishing while it is so cold. The black sheep are at the farm too; lambing is in full swing and soon they will also be coming back here. We have to be very careful as our large fox population at Hartland means death to small lambs; we bring them back only when they are able to survive. Both foxes and badgers will kill vulnerable lambs which is very distressing.

We have a very exciting season of events coming up. We started with our Daffodil Day on the 17th March which was a beautiful day. Over 400 people turned up with lots of dogs and were able to sit in the sun and eat outside in the Courtyard! Latterly it has been so cold that the daffodils stopped abruptly in their tracks! There will still be plenty of daffodils and narcissi flowering at Easter when they will be looking their best and it seems as though they will go on for many more weeks!.

What a difference a year makes – on exactly the same Daffodil weekend last year we were worried that they would all be over as it had been so hot! Masses of primroses and violets are now flowering on the way to the beach and magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons are coming out in the woodland and Walled Gardens.

The Bluebell Sundays will be on 21st and 28th April. For the first time ever we will not be able to be here on the first Sunday as our eldest daughter, Charlotte Scudamore, will be running in the London Marathon for The Children’s Hospice South West. It is such a wonderful charity caring for children and their families at a desperate time in their lives. We feel so proud of Charlotte who is not blessed with the best hips and shins for road running and has been ‘off the road’ quite a lot during her training!

We will go to London to support her and take their children, Margot and Myrtle, to watch. Sadly her husband, Tom, who is a National Hunt jockey will be working on that day and won’t be able to be with us. If anyone would like to support Charlotte running for this wonderful cause please send any donation to The Children’s Hospice South West.

We are hosting the first ever ‘Hartland Hartbreaker’ charity cross country run here on the Hartland Abbey Estate, on 5th May. Again this is in aid of The Children’s Hospice South West. It is about 17 miles of very steep and precipitous running, up and down the coastal path and the muddy tracks inland from the sea. It will be arduous to say the least and sadly at our advanced age we won’t be taking part but willing on the runners, every step of the way. Kath and Jo really will have a busy day in the Tea Room with all the supporters and runners needing sustenance! All details are on our website

Starting late in May, when we have managed to get everything together, we are putting on our first exhibition entitled ‘William Stukeley – Saviour of Stonehenge’. Dr. Stukeley was a distant, early ancestor of Sir Hugh’s who lived from 1687-1765 in the Age of the Enlightenment. He was an Antiquarian, an archaeologist, an artist, a doctor, a rector, an Arch-Druid, a cosmologist, a collector of coins and a fascinating man. His circle of friends included Halley, Sloane, Newton and Wren. He was a great friend of Newton and wrote his ‘Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’, in which he describes his conversation with him over the falling apple. He travelled the country on horseback as a cure for his gout; he visited Avebury and Stonehenge from 1719-24 and brought the destruction of the stones to the public notice in about 1719, fearing they would not survive much longer as they were being shattered in order to build tracks and houses! His original books on Avebury and Stonehenge will be on display, as will his travels in his Itinerarium Curiosum, all beautifully illustrated by him. He was a prodigious writer on many subjects including a description of dissecting an elephant with Sir Hans Sloane in 1720 in the vicinity of what is now probably The Chelsea Physic Garden! Many months of research have gone into this project; we now have nearly all we need but we have to put it all together. It is very exciting but equally daunting. We will be showing a facsimile of his Newton Memoirs, kindly given to us by the Royal Society who hold the original. Our thanks also to those at The Bodleian, The Society of Antiquarians, The Royal Society, The Spalding Gentlemen’s Society who have helped me, with a very special mention to Professor David Northmore, whose mother, Betty Stucley, was Sir Hugh’s aunt. David lives in America where for many years he has been part of the Science Department at the University of Delaware. David has put so much of his time and brilliance into producing this exhibition with us. I will never be able to thank him enough. Hours of emailing each other with images and text will soon come to fruition.

During the summer we are having seven theatre productions here in conjunction with The Plough Arts Centre at Torrington. Richard Wolfenden-Brown, their artistic director, chose the productions from a variety of touring theatre companies. Last summer we had some wonderful evenings when mercifully we escaped the bad weather. Jo and Kath will do delicious refreshments and we will have a Pimms Bar on offer but many people choose to bring a picnic.

It is a quintessentially British way to spend a beautiful summer’s evening and the greatest of fun. This year we have Lark Rise, Waiting for Godot, Romeo and Juliet, The Mikado, Treasure Island, Babe the Sheep Pig and Alice – An Extraordinary Adventure. A busy season and lots of choice! All the details are on our website

On the family front the grandchildren are all growing up so quickly. Sadly this is the first time in 13 years when we no longer have a baby! Edie, our youngest, is now 2 and it doesn’t look as though there are any more on the horizon. I have just spent a week in Scotland with our youngest daughter, Lucinda, and their family. It was so hot that we were in shirtsleeves while here everyone was freezing. She has just started painting again now the children are growing up and has just designed her own website with a gallery of her paintings on She mainly paints commissions of horses and dogs but will do anything!

And last but not least – our new back drive! After such a dreadful winter the back drive (where you leave the Abbey) which was anyway not in a very good state, finally became an embarrassment and very bumpy for the coaches. Now, a fortune later, we have something resembling a motorway but very un-Hartland! But it will be much nicer to drive on and looks so smart and we need no longer feel embarrassed.

Thank you so much for visiting us. We appreciate your support so much and hope very much that you have enjoyed your day. Everyone here works so hard to keep the house and garden looking as good as possible but living so near to the Atlantic coast is a challenge as the wind and rain really do wreak havoc. We will never be immaculate but this is our home which the family loves and strives hard to keep going.

Our thanks go to our wonderful staff who do their best to make your visit enjoyable. Without them we could not possibly manage. But please tell us if you have not had a good visit. We would much rather you told us than told the world! Thank you very much. Hugh and Angela Stucley March 2013.