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Just over a year ago with Christmas approaching we decided to go out there with John and Sue to the National Trust’s Hughenden Manor. Here, as at other National Trust properties, the house takes on a Christmas theme in keeping with the era for which it is famous. So the idea was to get us into the Christmas mood with a look around the house, and taking advantage of some quieter weather to go for a walk out there around the grounds.
Hughenden Manor in the late 19th century was the country home of Benjamin Disraeli and in the Second World War was a secret intelligence base. The Manor house is set among gardens and parklands in the rolling Buckinghamshire hills. It can be found about 1½ miles North of High Wycombe on the A4128 heading towards Great Missenden. The brown signs with the iconic National Trust oak leaf will lead you to there and if you want to do some homework before you go to Hughenden you will find a very good document on the website detailing the access to the site. This link will take you directly to the document.
When we went it was a grey December day. We drove up the long driveway past the church and through the parkland and discovered a large car park with twelve parking spaces reserved for blue badge holders. We were still quite some distance from the house and grounds although there was an electric buggy with a driver waiting patiently for any visitors who needed assistance to get to where the action is.
As the paths were good and it was downhill we decided to progress under our own steam. Titania, putting her FreeWheel to good use, enjoyed the run!
We whizzed through the trees past the visitor kiosk, selling mistletoe at this time of year, and on by the stable-yard where we pulled off the path to allow the buggy which had collected some passengers to pass us. Soon we were in front of the Manor house, tented kiosks from a Christmassy event on the weekend before obscuring the view. As we followed the path round the tents we found the entrance to the house flanked by Christmas trees and carpeted with door mats. A small step posed a minor challenge to Titania but then we were in. Apparently a ramp could have been provided by the staff if Titania had not been up to the challenge.
The ground floor of the house was easy for Titania, but powered wheelchair “cannot be accommodated” according to the access document on the website. There were four rooms and the entrance hall we could see on the ground floor, dressed in the Victorian period as they may have looked when Disraeli lived here. They were a dining room, a lounge, and a library, dotted with Christmas trees and stockings hanging on the mantelpieces, and a children’s nursery with Victorian toys and fairies projected onto the walls.
The upstairs rooms and also downstairs to the basement with its exhibition of the Second World War activities of the house were not practical for Titania and therefore Richard. However, Richard was able to sit in the library and look at albums containing pictures of what he was missing while the rest of the team saw the real thing.
We left the house, thanking the life-size statue of Disraeli for his hospitality, and ventured out into the gardens. Gravel paths led us round to the front of the house where we looked down onto the formal gardens and Parterre from the top of the flight of steps. There was a route down into the garden which we could have taken, a sloped gravel path, but instead we found our way to the walled garden. Here we wandered around the stony paths on a pronounced slope. In its winter apparel the garden was not showing off but was interesting nevertheless.
By the time we had been round the walled garden we knew it was time for a warming bowl of soup and a roll, and so headed over to the nearby Stableyard cafe to see what we could find.
Suitably fortified by our victuals and buoyed by the fact that the weather if anything was becoming less grey, we decided to leave the delights of the gardens, ignore the statement on the access document which said that none of the woodland walks were “currently suitable for wheelchair access” and go and find out for ourselves how well Titania would do.
Here, of course, lay madness! We trudged back up the hill on the lovely paths towards the car-park, but then took a side route off into the woodland walks. Initially the paths were good if slightly muddy, but then they became either thick with leaves or thick with mud or both. In any case they were often laced with tree roots to catch you out. The video clip below best describes our adventure. Without John, Di, and Sue all taking turns on the helm Titania would still be there to this day! It was great fun!
Eventually we came to a gate which led out of the woods and into a field. We had climbed up the hill and the vista of Hughenden valley was laid out before us. We stayed and discussed the landmarks we could make out in the distance before making our way across the field to another gate and from there walking into the sun along a farm track (which seemed to become progressively muddier!) eventually finding ourselves back in the car park.
It had been an adventure. Titania was caked in mud and leaf spattered, her FreeWheel was clogged and no longer free-wheeling. When we got back home both Titania and Richard needed a good hosing down before being allowed into the house!
Hughenden Manor had been another enjoyable day Out there for the team. The Christmas theme throughout the house had been fun, but to do the grounds justice a return trip in the spring or summer seems only fair. When we make this trip Access-Out-There will let you know how we get on.
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Richard & Di
4th February 2017