‘the loveliest place in the world’…

Agatha Christie said Greenway, which nestles beautifully on the edge of the River Dart, was ‘the loveliest place in the world’, and although I probably shouldn’t admit it, it’s one of my favourite places to visit.

Our most beloved queen of crime made this typically Georgian house her holiday home from 1938 until 1959, and since being opened to the public for the very first time in 2009, visitors have been able to the view the many personal collections and mementoes of our best-loved mystery writer and her family.

Here is a house that portrays the spirit of a holiday home in its 1950s heyday. Agatha Christie gathered with her family and friends here for long summer days together, often to celebrate a novel just completed for publication.

Agatha Christie’s family gave Greenway to the National Trust in 2000 and for several years visitors were able to enjoy the beautiful woodland garden, with its romantic pathways that lead down to the Dart estuary.  The house however, as the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Rosalind and Anthony Hicks, remained closed to the public for their quiet retirement.  Following their deaths in 2004 and 2005, the house passed to the Trust, along with the generous gift from Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, of the majority of the contents.

One of the most frequent comments made about Greenway is its ‘informality’, ‘it feels just like they are visiting Agatha and her family, with some coming to visit again and again throughout the season because each time they visit they learn something new either about the house or the history of its infamous family.

Visitors to Greenway are once again strongly encouraged to visit the property via the most scenic route, via ferry from Dartmouth.  During its first year over 55% of visitors reached the property via a green transport way.

In addition to the rooms open to daily visitors, part of the house is available as a holiday apartment, continuing Greenway’s legacy as a holiday retreat, accommodating up to ten.  The holiday apartment can be booked via the National Trust Holiday Cottages Website on www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk

Due to traffic restrictions in the lanes leading to the property all visitors are encouraged to arrive by green ways to Greenway.  However, visitors wishing to arrive by car can do so by prior booking only at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway or by telephone 01803 842382 (during normal office hours).

You can also find out more about Greenway at its facebook site and also follow them on twitter.

England without bluebells?

…it would be like cancelling spring and going straight to summer! Can anything actually beat walking through a bluebell wood on a warm spring day with all your senses in total overdrive?

Wander down to a wood in April or early May and it’s likely that you’ll be confronted by a wonderful sight. A carpet of blue will stretch out into the distance with a scene full of delicate, fragile flowers. A bluebell wood in full flower is a true assault on your senses.

For generations bluebell woods have captured the public’s imagination and they have become the perfect symbol of the beauty and seasonality of our world. They are emblematic of new life and remain a real crowd pleaser: a time for celebration and joy.

Bluebells are usually at their best during mid morning, making it a great time to visit when you get the softer dappled light on a sunny day and their scent wafting through the air. Look also for the changes in colour from the rich dark blue when they are at their youngest and freshest, to the softer almost pale blue as they begin to fade away as the summer months draw nearer.

This is nature at its best and a quintessential sight in the spring months. It’s a sign that the days are getting longer and warmer.

As our climate has gradually become milder the first bluebells began to get earlier every year. In west Cornwall they could even be spotted in March thanks to frost-free winters and the milder nature of the west country. It would be late April or even early May before the rest of us could marvel at these lovely bluebells as they force their way through the soil stretching tall and proud towards the warm spring air.

The bluebell starts growing in the previous autumn, its sole purpose to flower before other woodland plants. This means that it’s free from competition, attracting the early spring pollinators. But cold weather can slow its clock down. Not only will the bluebell then have to compete with other ground flora but also shade from above in the form of trees coming into to leaf, preventing sunlight reaching the forest floor.

To help us keep up to speed with the bluebell season, the National Trust has set up Bluebell Watch as a way to provide updates on when the bluebells are at their best. Wardens and gardeners are sending in their sightings of the first bluebells as they appear and will be keeping a close eye on the peak time for bluebells; they’re normally at their best for one week.

The blue haze of bluebells has also begun to appear at National Trust woods from the gardens at Agatha Christie’s former holiday home on the banks of river Dart in Devon.

Woods in the UK really do matter globally for bluebells. Half of the world’s population of English bluebells can be found on these shores but their future remains uncertain.

Climate is important for bluebells but they are also struggling to cope with another threat so common for many different species of British wildlife – invasive species.

Spanish bluebells, a more cultivated form of bluebell, are normally found in our towns and cities in gardens and parks. Yet this welcome splash of colour in urban areas is putting the future of native bluebells at real risk. A blend of the English and Spanish bluebells has created a virulent hybrid that is difficult to distinguish from our own true bluebell.

In the meantime, use the arrival of this year’s fleeting bluebells as the perfect excuse to spend time in a nearby wood – and share the resulting photographs with the rest of the world.

From Booby’s Bay to Slapper’s Rock; our guide to silly walks…

Today we’ve launched some new walks taking in some of the most unusually named places on our land.

The ten ‘Silly Walks’ have been created at places such as Kiss me Arse Steps in Cornwall and Scrubby Bottoms in Pembrokeshire.

The walking guides will be available to download for free from 1 April 2011 from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walks and have been launched as part of a wider initiative to encourage the nation to get outdoors and closer to nature.

Jo Burgon, Outdoors Programme Director for the National Trust, said: “The National Trust looks after a hugely an extremely diverse range of places from green urban spaces to remote islands and for too long these places have been one of the Trust’s best kept secrets.

“We’re finding that more people want to get out into the great outdoors but often need to be pointed in the right direction. Part of the joy of being outdoors is having a great experience and these silly walks are designed to tap in to the British love of a real sense of humour.”

The walks vary in length from one to four miles and anyone taking part will be invited to share their experience by uploading photos of the walk to Twitter with the hashtag #NTsillywalks.

The English Places Names Society based at Nottingham University would also like walkers to get in touch to report on the state of more remote spots around the country.

Paul Savill, Editor of the Journal of the English Place-Name Society, and former Principal Research Fellow for the Society, said: “Place-names in England and Wales are often the product of long evolution. Swine in East Yorkshire has nothing to do with pigs, Nasty in Hertfordshire is not a comment on the living conditions, Snoring in Norfolk has nothing to do with sleep and Trevor in Wales is not the name of a man.

“Most names describe the geography or ownership of the land, so finding out the meaning of place-names may be particularly useful to walkers. As place-name scholars work on interpreting documents containing names, information about the physical appearance and condition of the places named is vital which is why we want to hear from you.”

Limited edition commemorative t-shirts will be given away to the first ten people who complete each walk and tweet their photograph of it as proof. The t-shirts feature the iconic National Trust omega sign specially created with the silly place name underneath.

Last year 350,000 walks, or one every one and a half minutes, were downloaded from the National Trust website.

The ‘silly’ walks in the south west are:

Booby’s Bay, Cornwall
A booby is a seabird closely related to the gannet and can be seen diving off-shore in stormy weather which might explain the name. This four mile walk takes the walker popular stretch of the north Cornish coast offers walkers stunning views across Constantine Bay and onwards to the lighthouse at Trevose Head. There is the chance to see some rare species of bird and plant life, and hidden coves. For more information call: 01208 863046.

Slapper’s Rock, North Helford, Cornwall
The rock may well be named after the sound of the sea hitting it and slap in Old English meant a ‘slippery muddy place’ that could well have an influence on its name. The four mile walk runs east of the valleys of the National Trust’s Glendurgan Garden, and next to Helford River, is a mixture of woodland and cliff-top, wildflower-rich fields. You can spot wild thyme, heathers, orchids, dog violets and sea campion growing here and a variety of wartime structures as during the Second World War the Helford River was the base for operations against German-occupied Europe. For more information call: 01872 862090.

Kiss me Arse Steps, Lansallos, Cornwall
The origins of the name are somewhat mysterious but it is believed to have been coined from the steep steps which on ascending would result in the person in front you having their posterior close to your face.

This walk of three miles takes the walker along a magnificent stretch of coastline with the natural splendour of secluded coves and beaches. Slightly inland, the soft rolling hills separate the coast from farmland and the sunken lane at Lansallos Cove conjures up images of smugglers and wreckers hauling carts laden with contraband. For more information call: 01208 265212.

Scratch Arse Ware, Dancing Ledge, Dorset
The meaning behind the Scratch Arse part of the name are unclear and the National Trust would love to hear theories on this and land for rough grazing is normally known as ‘Ware’. This four mile walk along the spectacular Jurassic Coast has been shaped by the quarrying industry and the ever-changing backdrop of the sea. In spring this area has many wildflowers such as cowslips, chalk milkwort, horseshoe vetch and the rare early spider orchid. Butterflies such as chalkhill and Adonis blue, and the local Lulworth Skipper also thrive on the short turf. For more information call: 01297 561900.

Mass south west beach clean

Going to the beach for a walk with my dogs is about the most enjoyable and relaxing thing I do but I was really shocked to discover that there are two pieces of litter for every footstep I and you take on beaches in the south west.

It seems this tide of litter on our beaches is on the increase and not only can it be a  health hazard to us and off putting for our much needed tourists, its estimated that over 100,000 marine animals die every year from entanglement or ingestion of plastics, discarded on our beaches or at sea.

An annual event for us in the Trust and our energetic band of volunteers is our annual spring beach clean, and this year from the 2nd of April, we have 27 beach cleans taking place from Cape Cornwall to the top of Dorset.

Beach cleaning not only helps to improve the coastal habitat for plants and animals but also to ensure beaches that we care for are clean and ready for the first visitors of the season.  But its a big job as we care for over 700 miles of coastline in the south west and each beach costs approximately £400 to clean each time.

If we stood all the skips we fill with beach rubbish side by side, it would stretch as far as three Jumbo jets parked end to end.  If stacked on top of one another it would stand as high as 20 London double-decker buses .

Marine environments are also hugely affected by litter pollution at every level – from tiny microscopic organisms through to the very largest animals such as whales and turtles. Even the most remote beaches are affected by litter blown or brought in on the tide. Litter comes from many sources – the public, fishing activities, sewage pipes and shipping, but it is all preventable.

Previous beach cleans have revealed a number of items from the grounding of the Napoli on Branscombe Beach including BMW parts.  Parts of an old cooking range probably from old cottages washed away in the early 1900’s were discovered at a beach clean on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall, a scaffold clamp from a WW2 beach defence barrier an unbroken light bulb and a telegraph pole weighing 1 tonne, were some of the other items.

Rangers in charge of the beach cleans are anticipating that various plastics will form the greatest volume of litter, and these can present some of the greatest hazards to wildlife, both on and offshore. Plastics can be ingested by turtles, seabirds and cetaceans (whales, dolphins etc) and noxious contaminants can also poison wildlife.

All our teams involved will be reporting on the volume of rubbish found on their beaches, and documenting the stranger or more surprising items found!

Below you’ll find details of beach cleans taking place over the next week or so, otherwise contact your local National Trust place for more details of how you can get involved.

Ayrmer Cove – Ringmore 2 April, 10am
Woolacombe Beach at Mill Rock 5 April 10am
Mansands 6 April,  10am
Scabbacombe 6 April, (following mansands clean)
Wembury Beach 13 April, 10am
Trelissick 6 April, 9.30am onwards
Turnaware 6 April, 9.30am onwards
North Helford 6 April, 9.30am onwards
Gunwalloe Church Cove 9 April, 10am – 1pm
Cape Cornwall Car Park 9 April, 2pm
Godrevy Beach 2 April, 10am
Porth Curno 9 April, 10am
Penberth Cove 9 April (following beach clean at Porth Curno)
Polzeath 2 April, 10-12 noon
Holywell 6 April, 1-3pm
Crantock 6 April, 10-12
Northcott 10 April, 10-12
Poldhu Beach 2 April, 10am
Porthcurnick 4 April, 10am
Strangles 5 April, 10 – 12
Brownsea Island 16th March
Seatown 17 April 11 -1
Burton Bradstock 17 April 11 -1
Cogden 17 April 11 -1
West Bexington 17 April 11 -1
Ringstead 17 April 11 -1
Studland Heath (Poole Harbour side) 13 April, time
Porlock Beach Clean up 15 May, 10am
Brean Down 13 April, 9.30 – 3pm

Lets revive the great British Picnic

It seems we are in danger of losing our sense of adventure when it comes to eating outdoors and are at risk of forgetting a national treasure – the great British picnic.
Some recently conducted research has revealed that although the majority (91 per cent) of parents and their children say they love eating outdoors, over half (58 per cent) are put off eating al fresco food because of unpredictable weather.

While 41 per cent of families decided to picnic in August last year, only 13 per cent ventured outdoors for mealtimes in March – a time of year when people are afforded beautiful spring views, birdsong and glimpses of newborn farm animals.

Apart from the weather, people are put off eating outdoors because of wasps and other insects (62 per cent) and getting dirt and sand in their food (26 per cent).

So we are encouraging a revival of the proud and stoic British tradition of the picnic, whatever the weather, to help people take advantage of the stunning views across its 250,000 hectares of amazing countryside that includes 200 gardens, 100 orchards, 700 miles of coastline and breathtaking hills and mountains.

The top spots for a ‘picnic with a view’ in the south west are at Kynance Cove in Cornwall and Stourhead in Wiltshire.

Layla Astley, Visitor Services Manager in Cornwall said: ‘Its a special place which looks spectacular whatever the weather. When you reach the cliff edge the Cove reveals turquoise water and clean white sand woven between rocky pinnacles to shelter behind on a windy day. During the spring and summer it’s not too affected by bigger swells, which makes it the perfect family beach to enjoy a picnic’.

Fiona Reynolds, Director General at the National Trust said:  “Picnics are something we’re well known for in this country, but we don’t need to wait for the summer sun to arrive.  Spring is finally here and we have our extra hour’s daylight – it’s a great time of year to head outdoors and enjoy food with a view.  Spending more time outside is also the perfect way to refresh and re-energise both body and mind.”

Our poll also reveals that 48 per cent of families regard eating outdoors as a welcome change from meals indoors, with 60 per cent saying it is part of a fun day out and 47 per cent saying it’s a great way of getting fresh air.  However, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of parents are unclear about where they are allowed to picnic.

“One in four families feels restricted about where they are allowed to eat outdoors and 10 per cent of families haven’t eaten outside in the last year at all.  We want people to join us for a food adventure, to pack up mealtimes and come to eat outdoors at one of our beautiful places,” Fiona continued.

The Trust has also produced a delicious range of seasonal ‘food on the go’ recipes to counter spring chills and make picnic packing lighter and less messy – a welcome relief as nearly a third (31 per cent) of families said they find it difficult to create varied and exciting meals to eat outside because they don’t want to carry too much. Over two thirds of people (68 per cent) rarely or never take hot food to eat outside.

Brian Turner, the National Trust’s National Food Specialist, has created seasonal stews and soups for flasks, and also recommends some simple tips for planning picnics – such as cooking sausages for hotdogs warm by placing them straight from the pan into a warmed wide-mouthed thermos and carving out a cottage loaf of bread and filling with dips to make an on-the go edible bread bowl.

Willie Harcourt Cooze, food writer and chocolate entrepreneur, said:

I love eating outdoors – it’s a simple pleasure that really makes you feel connected to the land you’re walking on. While walking in the hills and mountains fruit is easy to carry, refreshing and delicious – and you don’t even need to worry about waste because it’s bio degradable.

“My top tip for outdoor eating is if you’re making sandwiches, carry the salad ingredients separately and assemble at the moment of feasting, especially when a dressing is involved, as it keeps things crisp. Taking large salad leaves to wrap your whole sandwich in is a great way to keep it in shape and avoid losing any of the best bits.”

To find out more about our top 10 ‘food with a view’ sites, seasonal picnic recipes and what to look out for this spring when you’re eating outdoors, please visit: www.foodgloriousfood.org.uk.

Celebrating spring Bristol style

Spring walks at Tyntesfield, nr Bristol, North Somerset

Spring walks at Tyntesfield, nr Bristol, North SomersetAs dappled sunshine peeped out across the South West, we celebrated the arrival of spring (and the weekend) in Bristolian style at Tyntesfield.Time for a squiz at the new Home Farm visitor centre and a carefree walk around Tyntesfield’s sprawling grounds before a spell in the city.

A mighty fine soya cappuccino and gluten-free shortbread (spot the girl with special dietary requirements) from Tyntesfield’s Home Farm set me on my way. It was lovely to see lots of families striding about and breathing in the fresh air. Strolling past the picnickers and kids having a kick about was a splendid way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Have a peek at our pictures.

I glowed with a little vicarious pride as I overheard lots of positive oohs and aahs coming from fellow explorers of this grand Victorian estate.

‘This is a gorgeous, gorgeous place’ – sighed one Bristol resident.
Another remarked ‘Everywhere smells lovely after the grass has been cut.’

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Seas of narcissi and daffodils under the trees, pots of purple hyacinths and freshly sewn seeds in the kitchen garden added to the spring in my step.

And with Tyntesfield‘s turrets and pinnacles standing proud and free from scaffolding for the first time in two years – what a lot of eye candy on show.

The Spring Festival

Continuing Bristol’s seasonal celebrations required a stop at The Spring Festival in the city centre. It was great to see a fellow National Truster – roving recruiter Emma – setting up her stall among local lovers of the outdoors and moreish morsels.

Find her there tomorrow (Sunday 27 March, 11am-5pm) at Brunel’s Old Station (next to Temple Meads). She’ll be joined by the Tyntesfield crew who promise lots of inspiration on getting outdoors and closer to nature just outside one of Britain’s greenest cities.

Why not stop by to find out more about fun things to do in the fresh air from yoga on the lawn to growing your own veg. Simple pleasures, hey?

Hunt begins for the fab four oil beetles

Members of the public are being asked to help with the first ever nationwide survey to map the location of the threatened and beautiful oil beetles.  The survey is being launched today by Buglife – The Invertebrate Trust and the National Trust in partnership with Natural England and and Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Often found on the coast, and particularly in the south west of England, the number of oil beetle species found in the UK has halved in the last 100 years and the survey will help establish the whereabouts of the remaining four species and boost efforts to secure their future.

We are asking people to keep a look out for oil beetles this spring when they are out and about enjoying the countryside.  Visit the Buglife website www.buglife.org.uk for a free identification guide, more information about these brilliant beetles and to report sightings and photographs.

Buglife’s Conservation Officer, Andrew Whitehouse, said: “Oil beetles have been hit by the double whammy of flower-rich habitats disappearing from our countryside and a drastic reduction in populations of wild bees – upon which the beetles depend to complete their life cycles.

“With the public’s help we can get a better understanding of the distribution of four species of oil beetle found in England, helping our efforts to enhance habitats to secure their survival.”

There are four oil beetle species found in the UK: the Black oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus), Violet oil beetle (Meloe violaceus), Rugged oil beetle (Meloe rugosus) and Short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis).

All of these beetles are at risk of disappearing from our countryside and the Short-necked oil beetle was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered on National Trust land in South Devon in 2007.

Oil beetles are normally found between late March and June.  They can be found on wildflower-rich grasslands, heathland, moors and coastal areas such as cliff tops.

TV Presenter and Buglife Vice President Nick Baker is a huge fan of oil beetles.  He said: “They’re big, bold beetles with a lustre that would put any oil droplet to shame. They are also very unique in their highly complex life cycle and when you get to know them, it makes you realise what a miracle each and every beetle is.  Oil beetles are also one of our most charismatic insects and are an icon of our wildflower grasslands.”

“Look out for them this spring and if you are lucky enough to discover one ambling along, take the time to enjoy it and then pass on the details of your experience to Buglife as every record received will go a long way to helping us understand these beautiful beetles.”

Andy Foster, an ecologist at the National Trust, said: “Female oil beetles like to dig their burrows in bare ground on the edge of footpaths so they are easy to see, and this is a great opportunity for the public to send in sightings and help us understand more about them.”

“Buglife and the National Trust are erecting ‘don’t step on the beetles’ signs at oil beetle hotspots to remind visitors to look where they step and to send in their oil beetle sightings to the survey.”

To find out more about Buglife and oil beetle conservation visit www.buglife.org.uk.

Tour de Trust

We are one of the country’s biggest owners of outdoor spaces and this year we are working with a cycling team, Shred, in a new partnership for the 2011 season.

Throughout the season Shred, a well known UK mountain biking and road racing team based in the south west of England, will be wearing National Trust branded cycling kit and will be working closely with the us at a number of biking events over the coming months.

Jim Pascoe our cycling project officer, said: “We’re gearing up for a cracking year of cycling and the new link with the Shred team reflects the importance of getting more people on their bikes. We manage large swathes of stunning countryside and wonderful country estates and exploring these places by bike is the ideal way to experience the great outdoors and get that bit closer to nature.”

In the south west of England we are involved in the 1SW project and is in the process of creating a new mountain biking trail centre on the outskirts of Plymouth and planning another one in Cornwall.

Steve Toze, Team Manager for Shred, added: “Teaming up with the National Trust for the 2011 season made lots of sense as they own the land where we can do the things close to our heart – riding, surfing, walking and camping.

“Their greater focus on the fun side of cycling which appeals to everyone really chimes with what we’re about – a great experience in the outdoors.”

We’ve launched a mini cycling revolution  this year with a series of seven magnificent challenge rides (also known as sportives) starting with a ride through the beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside on the 1 May and visits the South West with a Dartmoor to Boscastle sportive on 2 October.

In late July (16-24 July) a cycling festival will see some of our properties open their doors for after hours riding and events to help kids get the bike bug.

The route for the Olympic road race in July 2012 was announced in early February, with the Box Hill Zig Zag Road, a National Trust owned site, the highlight. The men will negotiate the tactical hairpins and punishing climb nine times and the women’s race will do it twice. For the men’s road race, the Box hill loop is over half the entire distance. Olympic medals could be won or lost here.

Are daycations the new holiday?

The sun is shining (well it was) and we all need to grab the opportunity of getting away from it all once in a while.  But time and financial constraints mean we can’t always take that two week holiday our parents would have saved all year for.

So in comes a ‘Daycation’, which literally means a day trip where one visits a tourist destination or visitor attraction from his/her home and returns home on the same day.  So you get to return to your cosy bed at the end of the day at least!

Some research we’ve done has revealed that the number of people in the South West taking a two-week holiday has decreased by 22 per cent over the past five years with 54 per cent not planning to take a fortnight’s holiday this year, showing a new trend for us Brits taking multiple single day holidays throughout the year, rather than the traditional two-week break our parents worked towards.

30 per cent of the people we polled in the South West said they are planning to take at least ten single days holiday – or ‘daycations’ – this year and a further 36 per cent will take between five and ten.  53 per cent of those in the South West cite the cost of a fortnight’s holiday as the main reason for not taking two weeks off work, whereas 6 per cent of hard-working employees blame the inability to switch off from the job.

For us time-poor Brits in the South West the growing daycation trend means they can split their time into smaller and more frequent holidays or days off and 49 per cent of those polled cite this as the reason for favouring day trips.  A further 69 per cent said the daycation was a cheaper alternative to the traditional holiday and 58 per cent believe they are a lot more hassle free.

Our research reveals an interesting trend for Brits taking multiple single days off work, making the most of their spare time – and enjoying these daycations, as we’ve coined them.  Our visitor numbers for 2009-2010 also reflect this with over 17.2 million paid-for entries and over 50 million visits to enjoy National Trust places, from houses and gardens to the stunning coastline and countryside we care for.

The research revealed that daycations were not only convenient but time well spent with 84 per cent saying they were relaxing, 52 per cent agreeing that these days were calming and 45 per cent appreciating them as escapism.

With 32 million of us intending to take a day trip this year to help unwind we’re perfectly placed to help the nation enjoy their days off.  With over 300 National Trust places of beauty and interest to visit across Britain we have a huge choice of mental refreshment pit-stops and as you are never more than 40 minutes away from one of our beautiful places there is no excuse not to enjoy a daycation.

Top daycation destinations in the UK:

1. London and South East England (54 per cent) e.g. Petworth House and Park, West Sussex

2. South West England (41 per cent) e.g. Stourhead in Wiltshire or Killerton, Devon

3. Yorkshire and North East England (40 per cent) e.g. Fountains Abbey, Ripon

4. Wales (37 per cent) e.g. Powis Castle, Powys

5. Scotland (32 per cent) e.g. City of Edinburgh

6. East of England (27 per cent) e.g. Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire

7. North West England (25 per cent) e.g. Sizergh Castle and Garden, Cumbria

8. Midlands (24 per cent) e.g. Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire

9. Northern Ireland (13 per cent) e.g. Castle Ward, County Down

10. Other (six per cent)

Killerton’s stunning new costume exhibition

Dressing up, dressing down Killerton's new costume exhibition

Why did our ancestors change their clothes so many times a day?  This week I managed to get a sneaky view of the new wonderful new ‘Dressing Up, Dressing Down’ costume exhibition at Killerton prior to its opening to the public this saturday.

The atmospheric displays and room sets for ‘Dressing Up. Dressing Down’ have been fashioned out of the 4,000 items in the Killerton costume collection which was begun by Paulise de Bush who saved many exquisite 18th and 19th century costumes from destruction during World War II.

What was the first thing an Edwardian child put on in the morning? What did Victorian gentlemen keep in their pockets? When would a Georgian lady put on her best jewellery and how would you get ready for a good night’s sleep in the 1920s? The answers to all these questions and the reasons behind our ancestors changing their clothing so many times during the day are uncovered in this new stunning exhibition.

Shelly Tobin, Killerton’s Costume Curator explained, ‘There was a huge amount of intricate work involved in creating our new exhibition. We had 19th– century silk afternoon dresses to measure and fit to mannequins, 20th-century jewellery to clean and we’ve delicately mounted a splendid hand-embroidered Chinese silk banyan (dressing gown).’

Visitors can also see rare and specially conserved pieces including a patchwork and appliqué coverlet made in 1810, fragments of printed textiles originally part of bed-hangings recently discovered at Godolphin House and a children’s nursery dating back to 1890.

‘Dressing up Dressing Down’ open daily from 12 February, 12-4pm and then 11am-5pm from 12 March. More details from our website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk