The opening time was 11am so we were there waiting for the gate to open with another eager couple. Access from the canal is via Essex Bridge, an old packhorse bridge, which was built in 1550. We were both rugged up warm... although Mick's finished with his cold I'm still coughing and sneezing. The wind was bitterly cold as soon as we were outside. When we crossed the bridge at the junction with the Staff & Worcester Canal there was a bit of a narrowboat traffic jam! One boat was coming out from under the bridge and two more were trying to head in. In the few seconds it took me to get my camera out they had sorted the problem but it was interesting to watch.
Shugborough really was an amazing property with lots to see and learn about. We started with the walled garden which was a fair walk in the howling wind. Being keen gardeners ourselves we enjoyed hearing all about its history from one of the gardeners there. She seemed to enjoy telling us about it as much as we enjoyed listening. The head gardeners residence was itself a lovely building. There wasn't anything much planted up so it would be nice to see it in the peak of the growing season. There was a friendly black pig living withing the walled garden. He was rather excited to see some dogs walking past and eagerly followed them along the fenceline trying to entice them to play. Mick gave him a scratch and got a snuffling reply.
Next was the gardeners' "bothies" where the young male gardeners may have been lucky enough to live. They are now little craftshops including a wood turner, a candle maker and a lady spinning wool. We particularly liked the willow-weaving which is something you don't see back in Australia. How lovely those items would be as garden ornaments. I took a photo of the flowers and fish for my mum. I wish I could have bought her some for her garden.
We had lunch at one of the tea rooms (amidst the chaos of a couple of mothers lunching together with a handful of extremely feral and obnoxious children - I'm glad it's not me buying the things displayed in baskets along the front counter) while we looked around the farmyard and buildings There were lots of lambs, chickens, an old mill and brewery, many displays including buttermaking and griddle scones to taste. Then back through the wind to the mansion to have a look inside. What a grand building it is and the inside so ornate and elaborate. I don't think I'd have liked to live there though. It sure didn't feel too homely with everything on such a large scale. We also checked out the servants quarters and museum. The kitchens and laundries are always interesting in grand houses like this. I also enjoyed seeing a few samplers on the walls in some of the rooms. I have a small collection at home.
Walking back along the canal we saw a working boat (nb Auriga) turning out of the junction so we called out to him to ask his coal prices. He moored up and we grabbed a couple of bags which he kindly let Mick bring back to the boat using his wheelbarrow. We'd much rather be giving our money to a working boat if we can. As Mick leaned over the side of the boat to pick up one of the coal bags he dropped his reading glasses in the drink. The second pair since we arrived and his third "in the drink" since he got back from Australia!
A thoroughly enjoyable day.