Friday, March 10, 2017

Scotney Castle ~ Kent ~ England

Time spent in England would just not be right without a visit to country estates or castles that have survived the test of time over several centuries.  Many of these have been donated and are now owned by National Trust as the families were not able to maintain the upkeep and maintenance required.  

Old Scotney Castle
The word castle derives from a Latin word and describes a type of fortified structure built by nobility.  It is usually considered to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble.  Our visit today was to Scotney Castle, which was surrounded by a moat.  The main building still stands strong but as you can see, there has been some destruction to other sections of it.

Picturesque tower
This Scotney Castle was built in 1378-80 by Roger Ashburnham, although there are records of the estate being owned by Lambert de Scoteni in 1137, which I would guess determined the name.  It is believed the castle was built as a defence again the French forces who had attacked nearby towns in 1377 during the Hundred Years War.

"romantic folly" garden
There were several architectural changes made during construction over the years.  The eastern range was partly dismantled on the completion of a new house in 1843, to allow the ruin to be a “romantic folly” garden feature.

Hiding door
The Darrel family owned the estate for 350 years, during which time they hid Catholic priests, as Catholicism was illegal in England at that time.  This door is a cupboard size, which leads to the hiding place the priest would go to when visitors arrived at the house during the years 1591-1598.  Jesuit Father Richard Blount, S.J. fled over a wall into the moat and escaped during the second raid when authorities came to arrest him.

View of Old Castle and Quarry Garden
 It was 1778 when Edward Hussey bought the Scotney Castle.   His grandson, also Edward built the ‘new’ castle from sandstone that was quarried from the estate.  The quarry later became the Quarry Garden. The new castle sits on a hill overlooking the picturesque spot down in the valley where the ‘old’ Scotney Castle sits, with the garden filling the space between.

Old Castle moat
The Hussey family used the old Scotney Castle mainly as a country home for 58 years.  There was nothing fancy about the inside of this old castle, it was very plain but the main purpose when built had been for defence so it wasn’t surprising to learn that with the wealth from the iron industry in the family, Edward Hussey lll decided to build a new castle.

New Scotney Castle
The Scotney Castle had been lived in by someone of the Hussey family from 1778 until 2006 when the last family member, Elizabeth (Betty) Maude Hussey passed away at the age of 99 years.  It became the property of National Trust in 1970 but was kept as a family home for Betty until she passed away.  The National Trust opened it to the public in 2007 and has maintained it to look like it was still the Hussey family’s country home.

Rooms of the Scotney Castle
We had a walk around inside the new Scotney Castle that was filled with lots of carved walls and ceilings, books shelves filled with their old books, large portraits lined the walls in the staircase, beautiful fireplaces with carved words, the quality of the work has well survived these many years.  It was totally luxurious compared to the Old Castle.

Gardens in September
There have been several apartments on the estate that were rented out by the Trust.  In the 1970’s and 80’s it served as a country retreat for then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  It is easy to understand why someone would choose this beautiful place to relax.  In spite of the many other visitors that were there during our visit, it was quiet and serene with the magic of the past showing us around.

Spend some time with us at Knole House, just click here..

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Knole House ~ Kent ~ England

Knole House is an historic house built over 600 years ago.  There have been archbishops, kings and others who owned this home over the centuries.  Now owned by the National Trust, it is being refurbished and restored with a budget of over 19 million pounds. 

Knole House 
The original house was an Archbishop’s house, it was eventually purchased by Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourchier in 1456 and was used as a country retreat for the Archbishops.  It was later surrendered by Archbishop Thomas Cramer in 1538 to Henry VIII.

Knole Park 
During the years that the Archbishop of Canterbury lived there, he created a deer park which is now Kent’s last medieval deer park. He fenced the acreage and it became home to a wild deer herd.  The 1000 acres of today are home to over 350 deer.  There are two different kinds, one is the Fallow and the other is the Sika deer.

Fallow deer family
The fallow deer have a smooth spotted coat which darkens in the winter.  The males have a flattened antler which falls off annually.  This visit was in September so perhaps the colors were changing for the winter.  The Sika deer have a darker brown coat and spikier looking antlers.  It seemed that we were seeing the fallow deer on our visit.   My thoughts were perhaps the two herds have mingled and are showing the combination on their offspring.

curious fallow deer
These deer are free to wander the grounds so were within just a few feet from the tourists.  They are not approached by the visitors who are also not to feed them, but they show no fear.  There are staff members that look after these well cared for animals.

Sackville Family symbol
In 1603, Thomas Sackville, cousin to Queen Elizabeth l, bought Knole House and it has been in the Sackville name ever since.  The family symbol, the leopard can be seen inside and outside, as well.  His descendent, Charles gave the Knole House to National Trust but the family retained ownership of the Gatehouse Tower.
View from Gatehouse tower
Restoration was being done while we were there so many of the furnishings and priceless antiques were displayed behind glass containers.  We were not able to take photos inside this very large house, with a roof that is a total of 6.7 acres, but were seeing many rooms, halls and galleries that were full of hundreds of portraits from the history of England.  Incredible sights to be seen.

Gatehouse Tower
Edward Sackville-West, usually called Eddy, lived in the Gatehouse Tower from 1926-1940 and his apartment was opened to the public in June 2016 so we were able to climb the steep and very narrow spiral staircase and visit some of those rooms.  He was a very colorful gentleman with many colorful friends who spent time with him here.  There were many stories chronicled including the visits by Virginia Woolf who wrote the book “Orlando” in 1928 with Eddy’s cousin Vita Sackville that was set in Knole.

Plumbing of ye olde days
While visiting the private apartment that still belongs to the Sackville family, I took photos of the ‘modern’ looking bathroom; the water tank is suspended above the bathtub.  It was then I learned that photos could not be taken in there, either.  Some places are very lenient, others are very strict about taking photos, often due to the damage that flash can do to antiques.  Note the message below the mirror.

Entrance to Knole House
The history of the Knole House is fascinating in many ways.  The Sackville family, Virginia Woolf connection and many more colorful stories are interesting but also the antiques and art collection collected and showcased was very impressive.  Seventeenth century letters were found in the restoration, what a great find that was!

We enjoyed a lunch in their cafeteria before heading back home.  Another day of enjoying the history of England.  If you wish to learn more about Knole House or National Trust, click here.
To share our visit to Scotney Castle, click here.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cheetah ~ Living Desert ~ Palm Desert, CA

The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA is celebrating “The Year of the Cheetah” and great efforts are being made to prevent this endangered animal from becoming extinct.  One hundred years ago there were about 100,000 cheetahs and now there are only 10,000 in the world.

Beautiful cheetah sisters
These three beautiful cheetah sisters now make their home at the Living Desert and can be seen on your visit.  They live in their large compound safely behind a fence that allows us to see them without having to look thru a chain link fence.

"Are they looking at me?"
Most cheetahs do live alone but some live within a small group, like this sisterhood.  The cheetahs were found in India, the Middle East and many Asian countries in years past but are now only found in the eastern, central and southern Africa.

"A crowd is gathering"
The cheetah is considered the fastest animal on earth and can run as fast as 110 kilometres per hour (68-75 mph) in short sprints.  They cover more than 7 m (23’) between strides.  These girls do not have to run that quickly and with limited spaces only get to about 30 mph on their runs, but they enjoy their rest time between.

Big yawn and stretch
The markings of the cheetah include the “tear streaks” that run from their eyes to their mouth.  Their spots allow them camouflage in the wild so they can hunt for food.  This cheetah realizes it will soon be feed time and is watching for their feeder.

"I might as well wander over there"
The cheetah’s stance looks intimidating but as she watches movement in the crowd that is here to enjoy watching her run for feeding, she is just stretching and keeping her eye out for the one who will bring the food.

"call us when the feeder comes"
I believe they spend most of their time lounging in the sunshine on the hill overlooking the visitor’s path.  They sleep about twelve hours a day so what better way to enjoy the sun.  The cheetah moves so gracefully and are beautiful to watch.

"lazy sisters"
The first sister is patiently sitting waiting for lunchtime.  They really pay no attention to the crowds with all those cameras snapping but the pose looks like she enjoys the attention.  The cheetah is very slim, their tail is as long as half their body, which helps them when they run, and their claws do not fully retract so they give a grip.

"I'm first to the food, not you"
Cheetahs will try to trip their prey from behind when hunting but we watched one sister try to trip the other when they were running for their food.  There is a person with some food for them at each end of the run and when they hear the whistle, they run.

"me, me, me"
They were each given treats through the fence by a handler but the competition showed during those few moments.   Two sisters were scrapping over their treats fighting for the others food.  They were too quick to be caught on camera doing that.  Feeding time is on the schedule which makes this a great time to plan your visit.

"I'll race you, there is more food over on this other side"
They prefer to do their hunting in the daytime but do have competition at times.  They lose the prey to the lion or hyenas often as they are not too aggressive. They tire quickly and give up the hunt within a few 100 metres (328 ft) if they have not caught it.  When they do catch it, they rest for half an hour before eating.

These cheetah sisters may stay here indefinitely but if required for breeding elsewhere, they will move.  They are well looked after and seem very happy in these surroundings and will one day breed to help build the cheetah population of the world.

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