Last weekend the National Trust had a special deal going. Free entry into most of their properties. What an absolute bargain. We made the very most of it, on both the Saturday and Sunday. The National Trust is one of my favourite organisations in the world, preserving the historical infrastructure of the country for everyone to enjoy. We were members last year, and would have renewed this year were we certain to be here for much of it. We aren’t, so we didn’t.
We visited the stately home and gardens of Stourhead, renowned for their manicured lawns and colourful floral displays. This was very much the wrong time of year to visit. The cold start to spring has delayed the fresh shoots of flowers and trees. It all still looks very bleak and wintry. But it was also still an interesting visit.
The photo above? An ice hut. I’d long wondered what people did for ice in the middle of summer in the days before electric refrigeration. I still don’t know what people did for ice, generally speaking. But I now know what rich people did. They had an ice hut. And when their lake was frozen over in the depth of winter, they’d send down their manservant to brings slabs of it back. It’d be stored in the ice hut between layers of straw. Ice could be kept frozen for up to two years. Ingenious.
We also visited Poole and took the ferry over to Brownsea Island. Again, the scene was wintry and bleak. But then the sun came out. If I’m asked what the most beautiful thing in the world is, I have to answer ‘the sun’. When it casts it’s rays upon the earth, everything in it’s path is transformed into an object of natural perfection natural. There is nothing so ugly that the sun cannot bestow it with instant radiant beauty.
Brownsea Island is a haven for wildlife. Birders have a feast of winged beasts to go spotting. Children will be entertained by the peacocks and roosters that strut their stuff around the lawns, demanding to be fed tidbits from visitors picnics. It’s also one of the last places you’ll find the native Red Squirrel out and about in the wild. The American grey squirrel has pretty much seen off it’s ginger cousin from the rest of the country.