Summer is arriving, at last!

Looking out of my office window while tapping out this, I realise how very lucky we are to be living in this stunningly beautiful and peaceful part of England. As my husband said on ‘Countrywise’ a couple of years ago, that wherever we go we are always longing to come back to the beauty of Hartland! The sun is streaming down, the black Welsh Mountain sheep and the donkeys in the parkland are looking  contented,  there is a lovely wedding going on in the Walled Gardens,

Evening in the Walled Garden

the grandchildren have gone to the beach and everyone is happy. What a day for a wedding, with the temperature in the late 20’s and how different it could have been! How wonderful it is now the sun is shining and we are, at last, warm after all the struggles in the winter with the cold and damp, floods and leaking rooves! We wear so many clothes to keep warm as the house is so expensive to heat.  Sometimes we feel the struggle is almost too much but days like this make one forget the downside and appreciate the beauty of it all. 

The garden is looking beautiful as a result of all the earlier rain and the wildflowers in our woodland walks and on the cliffs are really spectacular. Our walk to Blackpool Mill is bright pink with the campions.

We always miss the bluebells once they are gone but now really is the best time of year for wildflowers; the foxgloves are coming out in all their glory too! It is said that the foxgloves at Hartland grow where the drops of blood from St Nectan fell as he was carrying his own head around the parish!

Cliff flowers

There certainly must have been a lot of blood if the foxgloves are anything to go by!We are all very excited at the thought of the Jubilee. 

Gazebo and foxglove

There is so much going on in the village that we are not doing anything special at the Abbey but we have got our Union Jack flying and lots of bunting in the Tearoom Courtyard to get everyone in the spirit!  It will be a lovely time to visit the Abbey as everything should be looking its best. Nigel and Sam have been working so hard in the garden to get all the tender perennials and annuals planted out as well as the vegetables. It was so wet at Hartland that it was impossible to get on the ground. The indoor floral displays in the house should be looking lovely with all the geraniums coming into flower now; the Abbey is renowned for its beautiful pot plants grown by Nigel in the greenhouse and we receive many compliments from our visitors.

Geranium in the window

In fact it was so wet at the end of April that the tennis court lawn at the front of the house flooded. While I was photographing this ‘lake’ on the lawn I noticed something moving in the water; the sweetest little mole was desperately trying to save himself from drowning so I rescued him and took him to the other end of the park to safety. Ironically he was the little chap who had been annoying us by digging up the lawn for months!

Rescued Moldy Warp

Now I shall forgive them everything in the future; they really are the most adorable, soft creatures but with mighty, scratchy feet! When I put him on the ground he went straight down into the earth before I could even get the camera out!

Sir H surveying the flood!

There has been great excitement here as Nancy Johns, who has voluntarily run our Tea Room in aid of St Nectan’s Church for fifteen years, was invited to go to the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace this week.  She is so modest that she had kept it very secret until almost the day she went. She has now returned to carry on baking the thousands of scones and cakes that our visitors so love. She and her daughter in law, Joyce, had the most wonderful time and the sun had shone at its best for them!  I am sure she was representing all the wonderful Tea Ladies who have raised so much money for the church over the past 26 years through providing lunches and teas for the visitors. Very very sadly this is their last year as anno domini has caught up and they all feel it is time to retire. We will miss them hugely. We are now looking for someone who would like to take the Tea Rooms on for six months of the year as a franchise; it could be a wonderfully rewarding small business providing delicious home made lunches and cream teas to our visitors.

Our first ‘Summer Outdoor Theatre Season’  in conjunction with The Plough Arts Centre, Torrington will soon be upon us. We are looking forward to it so much and just hope that the weather will be kind. There is something so quintessentially English about watching outdoor performances, even if it means being wrapped in a rug! We have got lots to look forward to with performances of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ by Charles Dickens, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde, and ‘Private Lives’ by Noel Coward while, for children (and adults!),’ The Twits’ by Roald Dahl and ‘King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone’ should be very good fun. Jenny and Sam from Exmoor Kitchen will be doing delicious barbecue food, there will be a Pimms and Wine Bar and ice creams but do bring a picnic if you would prefer to. Rugs or chairs are essential. All the details are on our website; tickets are obtainable from The Plough Arts Centre at Torrington or on the gate.

Sir H has made a fascinating display for visitors of his uncle’s olympic memorabilia; his uncle, The Hon. John Bampfylde was his mother’s brother who was sadly killed in a steeplechase fall at Taunton races in 1936, just after his return from fencing in the 1936 Olympics in Munich.  He was a member of the British team and in the display is a  letter to his mother vividly describing the extraordinary atmosphere when Hitler appeared in the stadium along with much more memorabilia. Hartland Abbey also has another Olympic connection in that one of the masters of Highgate Junior School which was evacuated here in 1939 had been in the British football team.  A pamphlet instrucing team members how to get fit  before the Games and what kit to take  makes amusing reading in this day and age!

a happy Madge

At the end of April Barbour clothing had a week-long photoshoot here for their 2013 spring catalogue. 

Photoshoot in the drive

They took over the whole house for the crew and managed to get some great shots in between the downpours. Sir H’s beloved Madge starred in one of the shots and looked very pleased with herself! They were a lovely crew and we hope the pictures will look really good for them.

We have already had lots of visitors this year. We so enjoy meeting as many of you as we can. Sadly we are not always around as so much time nowadays seems to be spent at our desks! But lets hope the sun keep shining, particularly for the Jubilee, and that lots of people will come on holiday in this beautiful corner of North Devon and visit us here at Hartland Abbey.

Angela Stucley