Sunday, 12 April 2015

Stoneywell Cottage

A visit to Stoneywell!

After an exciting week in Leicester, I now find myself, not quite back in Loughborough, but in Charnwood!
You may have noticed that National Trust properties are in very short supply in Leicestershire, but I have no idea why! Of course, Loughborough being close to the county borders, does mean that there are a couple of NT things nearby, like Calke Abbey, Kedleston Hall, Duffield Castle, Sudbury Hall, and Southwell Workhouse. What I hadn’t realised though, was that although Calke Abbey is in Derbyshire, Staunton Harold Reservoir is in Leicestershire!

I also hadn’t realised that there is an NT nature reserve in Ulverscroft, although access to this is restricted to permit holders. So, how wonderful it is to now have the lovely Arts and Crafts home that is Stoneywell, in the hands of the NT, and now open for visitors.

In order to visit Stoneywell one has to book in advance. This is because it’s a very small property, and visitors are shown around in small groups, by well-trained, well-informed guides. Access to Stoneywell is via the minibus which can be picked up at the dedicated Stoneywell car park. The journey is only a couple of minutes, and the driver will tell you a little bit about the place en route.
When you get there, you arrive at the stables, and are greeted by someone who takes your payment and books you onto the tour. Another guide then tells you a bit more about the property, and, if you have to wait for your tour, you can wander around the stables, or walk around the gardens, as long as you’re ready and waiting outside the house at your allotted tour time.

The house, seemingly bursting out of the rock, was built in 1899: We know this from the lintel over the front door, which has the date carved into it. The house was a real surprise to me as I was expecting it to be tiny, but actually, it was very large, and all higgledy-piggledy, and full of exciting features!

The guide we were assigned took us through the house and made everything come alive! He really knew his stuff and was able to talk to us about almost everything we could see in the house, which was a large amount of furniture made by either Ernest Gimson or the Barnsley brothers in the early days of the twentieth century, and many other artefacts from the 1940s and 1950s, which were things that the last Gimson owner (Donald, until 2012) would have been familiar with.

Some of my favourite things were the books shelves just under the line of the ceiling in the lounge, and the bookcases made especially to fit spaces in the bedrooms. I also loved the Orkney Chair, the tiny little radiators that were fitted in about 1965, the beautiful chess set that Donald made in 1985, using a wine bottle box in which to store the pieces, Donald’s pipes sitting in their stand on a bookcase, his shaving brush in its shaving mug on the side of the sink, and the 1950s foot warmer on the bed!

Of course, the dining table, made to be used, was pretty spectacular, as were the dining chairs and the beds!

Although we were quite a large group, there was ample space within the rooms to see everything, and our guide made sure everyone got a chance to look at all the interesting things, and not get left behind. Some of the stairs were quite steep and narrow, but if Donald Gimson could climb these when he was well into his 80s then so could we!!

 Once we’d been on the tour of the house, we had plenty of time to explore the gardens: The gardeners were out in force when we went, and some were working on the kitchen gardens, turning them back into such, planting potatoes, tying up raspberry canes and planting out herbs. The grass tennis courts were immaculate, the daffodils were out in force, and the ground was springy with bracken.

At the little rocky outcrop called the fort, we pretended to be on the lookout for “baddies” and imagined ourselves playing as the little Gimson children, so lucky to have such a wonderful place to play and run around in. 

We also stopped to look into the stables, which hadn’t changed much from the picture one of the guides showed us from the early 1900s! Inside were many interesting artefacts, including a suitcase full of leather horse harnesses, a horseshoe on the wall and a lovely knife-grinder. Originally, the NT were going to have their offices upstairs in the loft, but bats were in residence, so plans had to be changed so as not to disturb them.

Stoneywell Tearooms
On the day we visited the little tearoom was so overcrowded that we didn’t stop for refreshments, but we would have liked to have done. Instead, we hopped into the mini bus, collected our car, and made our way to Ulverscroft Grange, where we sipped our drinks whilst looking out over the valley.
The view from Ulverscroft Grange Tearooms











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