Gothic Temple of my soul to be precise.
We were away last weekend. It was sort of work. We needed stimulus and I needed to do research for a novel I want to work on soon. I needed a building.
|The Gothic Temple exterior|
When we need buildings and architecture, and we want to research those things, one of the resources we turn to is the Landmark Trust. You’ve probably read stuff I’ve written before about this wonderful institution.
The Trust takes small historic buildings and conserves them for the nation. It also rents them out to the public as holiday lets. The husband and I love them. We visit them whenever we get the chance. They offer a wealth of stimulus and research for the books and stories we write, they offer wonderful spaces in which to write them, and they offer us the opportunity to leave our own four walls behind for a few days. We spend a very great deal of time within our own four walls. We love chez Abnett, but even we get cabin fever from time to time.
The Gothic Temple in the grounds of Stowe School is special. It is very, very special. Of the half-dozen or so Landmarks we’ve visited, I wonder whether it isn’t our favourite. It might be the space or the light. It might be the very gothic-ness of the exposed masonry of the interior, or the gorgeous domed, decorated ceiling. It might be the balustrade over the living space, or the echoes. It might be the access to the tower, where we sat and watched the sunset. It might be the sheep and rabbits, and the owls and bats. It might be any of those things. I think it must have been the combination of all of those things.
|the domed, decorated ceiling|
The Landmark Trust does things so well, I think, because it does everything so consistently. Every building is different, every one individual and special, and the character of each is allowed to shine through. The rest is about simplicity and comfort. The furniture is good, but not showy. Someone, somewhere buys old wood: tables, chairs, cupboards, towel rails, beds, bookcases, chests, just enough to supply the visitors needs, but not so much as to clutter the spaces. Sofas and armchairs are plain colours and feather filled for comfort. Kitchens are solid with shelves and wooden counters, pans are le creuset and the crockery is the same blue and white in every property. When we visit a Landmark we are surrounded by the familiar. They have become homes from home. The consistency of the styling is reassuring and never detracts from the experience of living in these glorious places.
Every building also has a housekeeper, and every Landmark we have visited has been wonderfully clean and beautifully presented for our arrival. Beds are properly made with blankets and counterpanes. Towels are laundered and folded. Surfaces are pristine, rugs are hoovered. All is as it should be. And there’s the tea tray, complete with teabags, sugar and a pint of milk in the fridge, and as often as not a posy of flowers, too, and a welcome card from the housekeeper.
Once in a while, a sofa or armchair might feel lumpy or uncomfortable, but there’s an old trick to feather filled furniture that not everyone in the modern age has the feel for. If you drop the cushions on their edges on the floor, the feathers re-distribute and plump up, and comfort is restored. I’ve done this once or twice on arriving at Landmarks, but it’s the work of a few minutes, and no harm done.
I cannot recommend the Landmark Trust highly enough. We use the buildings for research, but you should holiday in them, use them for weekend parties, take your families away for Christmas or Easter. Go! You’ll love them.
If you go, and I hope you will, there’s a trick to getting the very best out of your Landmark. I’ve developed a kit for our trips. Everything you need is provided by the Landmark Trust in their buildings, but I’m a belt and braces sort of person, and I like to cover my bases, so there are a few things I like to do before I visit a Landmark and a few things I like to keep in the car.
My kit includes:
|The setting for the Gothic Temple at Stowe|
Walking boots: some of the Landmarks are located in fields, up tracks and generally in the country, and I like my shoes, so boots come in handy.
A big maglite torch: the countryside can be pretty dark.
A big fur blanket: The Landmarks are generally well-heated and we take advantage of the stoves and fireplaces that many of them also have, but having a big, snug blanket to throw over my knees when I’m sitting on the couch in the evenings is just sort of nice.
The mini-cine: We have a tiny cine projector and a tiny speaker that we hook up to a computer that plays dvds. We project it onto a wall or a sheet pegged up over curtains. The Landmarks have no TV, no landlines and often no mobile signals, which, frankly, is heaven. We often work at Landmarks, so we take the mini-cine for research purposes.
BT wifi: Because mobile signals and wifi are often erratic or non-existent at Landmarks I also have BT wifi and can usually hook up to a BT hotspot while I’m at a Landmark, again for the purposes of work. Frankly, it’s bliss to be without it if I don’t absolutely have to have it.
|The setting for our meals|
I also like to find local shops for food, because one of our great pleasures when we visit a Landmark is sharing meals. The kitchens are well-equipped, so we like to cook in them. Good food with great company in a wonderful setting is a great pleasure. It makes sense that the raw ingredients should be good. We don’t pack food to take to Landmarks, we find local farm shops. Boycott Farmshop was brilliant for just about everything when we stayed at the Gothic Temple, and we ate extremely well while we were there.
We’ve already decided that we’ll be returning to the Gothic Temple, and when we got home we took up the Landmark Trust book and turned down the pages on another half-a-dozen properties, including Rudyard Kipling’s house in Vermont. It sleeps eight, so if any of our TransAtlantic buddies fancy staying with us, just let me know and we’ll see what we can organise.
So much to look forward to, I can hardly wait.