Sunday 21st June 2015
This goes back my last day down in Exmoor, when I decided I would make good use of my newly-acquired National Trust membership. By now, I’d already packed up, loaded the boot of my car and was setting off in a westerly direction towards Barnstaple; leaving Somerset for North Devon.
I arrived at Arlington Court about five-minutes after they’d opened. The free car park had tonnes of space and despite crossing counties, it was only a thirty-minute drive from my campsite in Exford.
A grand entrance beyond a pair of clean wooden gates leads you towards the estate’s main entrance (where you have to pay for admission). The view above is available for free, if you crook your head to the right whilst making this wooded walk.
It was quite a nice feeling to be able to enter a National Trust property without having to reach for cash or my debit card. They scanned my membership card in an instant an I was then free to explore. No more questionairres; no more post for “Mr. Paridians“, I hope!
On the other side of the shop, they had these almost-abstract wooden sheep sculptures (it took me a minute to decide upon which animal they were).
I didn’t head off immediately towards the house. For one, it was likely to be the main attraction of the estate but, as you can also see above; the exterior at least was undergoing repairs and renovation and it was a little off-putting.
So, I wandered off to the right and discovered some more wooden animals:
This dog is one creature not made of wood:
It marks the resting place of Memory, a dog who survived her master, Rosalie Chichester, by seven-weeks.
From there, I decided to explore the Woollen Woods:
I believe there’s some kind of ‘trail’, if not a challenge for kids to be able to search and identify each of the animals and creatures hiding amongst the trees and overgrowth. That’s the impression I got from a family I happened to pass. There might have been something to indicate this on my visitor’s map – but alas, that now resides in possession of a Brummie who’s since decided that two-hours is too much of a drive to make it worthwhile.
There was no admittance for real woollies (not to mention their waste).
My map detailed there was still a lot more to see at the other end of the estate. Before venturing off, I took a step inside the main house to see it for myself.
It was pretty busy inside and, as expected, I was by far one of the youngest visitors on the day.
I’m very good at walking through an old building, taking notes of the architecture and features, only to forget all details of its history and tales.
I admired the view from this writing desk though.
Fortunately, they have signs in place to direct you on your way, room by room.
In a darkened space known as the boudoir, with its high vaulted ceiling, there were examples of furniture (including the small table below) that were apparently made from papier-mache… Unthinkable, in today’s world!
Yet this table still stands… Perhaps only because full access to this room and its features is restricted, with thanks to a velvet rope.
Elsewhere, this table was adorned with some rather insanely exquisite marquetry.
Making my way up the grand staircase, the woodworker within me couldn’t help but to notice what appeared to be edge-moulding applied to the ends of each stair tread (not ignoring the grand piano below, either). It certainly doesn’t look like end-grain.
As you would expect from a house of such an age and stature, it was decorated with the most excellent and yet frightening or sculptures.
After a reasonable amount of time indoors, it was time to step outside again; time to breathe.
Across the way from the main entrance to the house, you’ll find this ancient English oak tree, which may’ve once been used to mark a boundary.
There’s a church less than one-hundred yards from the main house. I assume it must allow for public access.
This huge old door (quite possibly, the original) was perhaps my favourite feature of this church. It was a challenge to open, along with the best of them and on inspecting the edges closely, you could see its age, the ‘patina’ and how the through tenons now sit slightly proud of the surrounding timber.
I was half expecting to be greeted by a volunteer as I entered the church; perhaps offering to give me a tour or to encourage me to leave a donation (which I think I did, anyway). But there was only the usual church smell. Beyond that, the place was soul-less. It often surprises me that such buildings are quite happily left unattended through these days.
As I eventually made my way back towards the entrance, another group of visitors were arriving. On the way out, I signed my name in the book (as I often do in churches, for no real reason, other than the minute hope that one day, someone might recognise my name…). It was interesting to note the locations of some of the other visitors over the past month, including a couple of names from Bristol, one other from Cheddar and yet again, there were numerous visits from Dutch families – I can only imagine that people from the Netherlands really love their churches?…
From here, I made a rather natural progression to the Carriage Museum – but, as this post is only increasing in length; I’m going to leave it there, to be continued in Part 2!
Thanks for reading.