I’m writing this from the cafe stop I had promised not to make. But I was desperate for coffee. You see I have travelled all day to get here. Plane, trains, but no automobile. Indeed I have trudged across two fields from the level railway crossing called Mottisfont & Dunbridge, hiked up a narrow road, and seen horses doing nature. And that calls for coffee.
Mottisfont Abbey & Gardens has recently been awarded by the National Trust for offering an excellent visitor experience and this is what has called me to Lizzy Bennet over the Hampshire countryside in search of.
I’ve ordered my National Trust Special (a brownie and a hazelnut latte) to chow down on while I catch my breath and take in the estate. Although they will struggle to top a brownie from Northern Ireland, it’s good, and I like it more for finally being able to shrug my pack from my shoulders.
Mottisfont Abbey is an eclectic piece of architecture but, like many things, it’s the inside that counts! It’s the ponies I am here to see (and not the philandering ones from earlier). There is a Norman Thelwell exhibition in the gallery running until April 10. Mottisfont runs five exhibitions per year. I’d say Beatrix Potter they have planned will be an impressive one to see in this anniversary year.
The exhibition is funny and brilliantly set out in bright rooms. Not being known for particularly historic or beautiful interiors like other properties, the team at Mottisfont decided to convert one of the upper floors into a gallery space. It is an ideal setting for Thewell’s cute and funny cartoons along side some exquisitely coloured landscapes. Cartoons is what Thewell was famed for and they really are brilliant. He had a great eye for one scene commentary on English life! But it is his landscapes I really adore.
I have heard come June you can hear heels clacking on pavement as though a switch were flipped on and the visitor flood gates released. Alas, it’s too early now for rose garden walking, but this estate is reputed to boast a rarity of blooms. Another reason to visit again, perhaps? Maybe when I have my own wheels though. I am not sure how safe those lanes are for walking during the height of the ‘season’ (summer). I don’t want to get mowed down by old ladies keen on roses!
Although another beautiful location for a country walk, Mottisfont is kind of inconvenient to get to if you are not already in the area. It took me two hours on the train from London via Southampton and cost about GBP40 return. That’s a bit expensive for a day trip, in my opinion, but I suppose in terms of London prices you could do a lot worse. Then of course there is the 20 minutes of field walking as well. My National Trust card got me in for free, so there is that bonus of not having to pay for entry which sweetened the blow somewhat.
I recommend approximately 3 hours to visit: 1 hour in the gallery, 1 hour in the gardens and – of course – a snack!
Have you visited this stately home before? What National Trust properties have you ticket off this year? I hope to visit a lot more before my time in the UK is up!