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Time for another visit to a National Trust place. When I booked, for last Wednesday, 10th November, the forecast was for a 14% chance of rain. By the time the day came it was more like 50%. But we were lucky. Driving though showers to get there, I feared another rain-sodden visit, as to Park Cottage, but not a drop of rain fell during our wanderings, (unlike the journey home).

Montacute House is the most splendid of houses to visit in the area, (pace Barrington Court, which runs it a close second, and whose gardens I also visited recently) much used as a filming location, including for the recent television version of Wolf Hall. While the house was not open to the public, under current lockdown regulations, the gardens were, and we had them almost to ourselves.

As you drive there, you have a tantalising glimpse from the road of the long drive and the house at the end, but cannot stop. Here it is from the other direction.

I had forgotten to pick up my camera as I left home, but am quite pleased with the service my phone gave me, and by the time Daphne and I met up at this point, I had already taken photos of the displayed map,

of the amazing house front,

and of the crest emblazoned thereon.

We ambled round the gardens together, looking inwards and outwards.

The back of the house is even more impressive than the front.

A gate entices you into the formal, walled garden,

of which I select just one photo.

We were soon on the other side of the wall once more.

One person’s gazebo is another’s whole house.
We didn’t explore the parkland.
One of several holm oaks
Sweet chestnut
Kitchen garden

Daphne could not stay much longer, with a delivery to receive at home, but found time to have a takeaway coffee bought from the café (I had to improvise a mask, my nearest being in the car). We sat on a bench, which was just long enough to enable us to be socially distanced, with the view at the top of this post ahead of us.

I was not in a hurry, and had never walked round the village before. The car park was not closing for another 30 minutes, so I took the opportunity to rectify that lack.

The lodge to the house
For further exploration some time.
Sir Edward Phelips built Montacute House in the late 16th century, and the Phelips family held it until 1929. Bankrupted by a 19th century gambling Phelips, they first let, then in 1929 relinquished the house entirely, and it passed two years later to the National Trust.
Almost the entire village is built in the beautiful Ham stone (or hamstone).

If the house at the far end of this row looks a little wonky, that’s because

… it is.
I’ve not been able to identify the origins of this, now a private house.
All that remains of a former Cluniac Abbey, now also a private house
One of several B and Bs in the village
I had just taken this picture when a family of four came out of one of the doors. I couldn’t help but cry out from over the road, “You are so lucky living here, it’s beautiful!”. They heartily agreed and the children told me they were going off to the park to play football. (I suppose I was breaking lockdown regulations by speaking with more than one person.)
The explanation for the name, courtesy of Wikipedia (village link above): The name Montacute is thought by some to derive from the Latin “Mons Acutus”, referring to the conically acute St Michael’s Hill dominating the village to the west. An alternative view is that it is named after Drogo de Montagu, whose family originated from Montaigu-les-Bois, in the arrondissement of Coutances. Mortain held Montacute after 1066, Drogo was a close associate.
I’ve turned back to meet the car park’s closing time.
I couldn’t believe how colourful this garden was in mid-November!
Back at the lodge – which is a National Trust holiday let.

I felt so good after that visit, and all evening. With all the electronic means of communication and entertainment that I have at my disposal, I had not felt at all lonely during this or the previous lockdown, but I had not realised how much good some real face to face conversation with a friend – enhanced by a beautiful setting both during and after – would do me. That was great!