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Dinner at Muncaster Castle

After we all got settled into our hotel everyone spent time getting ready for dinner at Muncaster Castle. It isn’t everyday that one gets to eat dinner in a castle with the family who lives there – at least not every day for me! Phillipa Turnbull is friends with the Pennington family and generously organised this special evening for all of us.

As we climbed into our beautiful tour bus we recalled the talk given on our first evening together in Appleby by Belinda Alexander entitled “Manners Maketh Man, From Downtown to Diana”. It was a fun and informative talk about titles of nobility in Britain. We learned about Kings and Queens, Princes, Princesses, Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts and Barons. It is a maze of detail, protocol and history!

Fortunately the Pennington family was more relaxed with our group and introduced themselves by their given names.

We got to meet Iona Frost-Pennington who, in addition to being the latest Pennington to run their family home with her husband Peter Frost Pennington, was appointed the High Sheriff of Cumbria by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in March, 2011.

We also met the patriarch, Patrick Gordon-Duff Pennington. He is, as he himself told me, a farmer and a poet. He has written two volumes of poetry which are irreverent, thought provoking, poignant, overwhelming, sad and hilariously funny. His gardening is legendary; he, with three other gardeners, have managed to keep the massive gardens of Muncaster Castle beautiful and healthy. To read more about his gardening, and to get a flavour of his delightful sense of humour, take time to read this article from Saga Magazine.

Our excellent bus driver managed to negotiate a series of extremely difficult turns on very narrow roads and we got off with this view of Muncaster Castle in front of us.

37586653 Dinner at Muncaster Castle

It was raining a bit but we all managed to walk – many of us arm in arm to steady ourselves – without mishap down the drive and around the castle to the door which is around the corner to the right in the photo below. On the way we had a glimpse of the stunning scenery that surrounds Muncaster.

muncaster castle Dinner at Muncaster Castle

Just around the corner to the right n the photo above is the entrance to the castle. We walked through the large double doors and found ourselves in a large hall where the was a fire burning in the huge fireplace. Champagne and hors d’oeuvres were being served. Iona Pennington and her father, Patrick Gordon-Duff Pennington were taking time to meet everyone and the conversation was lively! There is a motto Phyllida and her husband Patrick adopted ‘The ornaments of a house are the friends that frequent it’. Phyllida died in 2011 but her legacy is carried on by her family and, as a result, visitors from all over the world as well as the staff who work at the castle, all became their friends.

muncaster jf7302 Dinner at Muncaster Castle

When it was time for dinner, the double doors opened to reveal the stunning dining room, with the long, long table laid for a delicious meal. I felt very lucky to sit next to Patrick Gordon-Duff Pennington. He is a brilliant conversationalist and a highly irreverent observer of life. He kept all of us entertained throughout the evening and we were sorry to say goodbye.

60088898 Dinner at Muncaster Castle

When it came time to say goodnight all of us agreed it had been an evening we would never forget!

 

**No one took photographs inside the Castle that evening – we were guests in their home – so all of the photos in this article come from their own website or from the website of TripAdvisor. This is why you see a Christmas tree in the hall of the photo of the dining room.

 

 

 

Lady Anne’s Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

On Tuesday morning we all had to be awake, packed and ready to go on one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever experienced. We traveled from Appleby, which is in the Eden Valley on the east side of the Lake District National Park, down to Orton to visit Kennedy’s Fine Chocolates, on to Holker Hall in Grange-over-Sands and then up the western coast of Cumbria to Ravenglass.

Google Maps1 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

Although it was a foggy, misty morning, the grey skies only enhanced the green and grey landscape. Through the large windows of our coach we saw the most wonderful countryside. Conversation slowed as we were all enthralled with the views.

IMG 3016 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

In what seemed like no time we pulled into a tiny village called Orton, the home of Kennedy’s Fine Chocolates. We stopped there simply because Phillipa thought that some of us might like to try the chocolates: she was right! The shop is located in a small stone building where the chocolates are made and sold. You can see below the huge variety of chocolates they have on offer and deciding what to buy was a carefully thought-through purchase.

IMG 3381 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

There is a small window through which visitors can look to see the chocolate being made and, as you can see, the kitchen isn’t large and all the chocolates are made by hand.

IMG 3378 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

We then carried on towards Holker Hall, passing this Victorian railway viaduct on the way.

IMG 3025 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

Holker Hall is the home of Lord and Lady Cavendish. It is, like most great country houses and estates in the UK, open to visitors. Photographs were not allowed in side the house but the web site has excellent photos of all the rooms we visited. We were given a lovely tour of the house and time to look at the embroidery we saw. One of my favourite pieces was a Jacobean hanging and bed cover in the Gloucester Bedroom.   Many of us agreed that the house was one of the more intimate and comfortable country houses we’d visited.

IMG 3392 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

After the tour of the house we had ample time to wander through the stunning gardens.

IMG 3393 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

We came across a fountain with these beautiful green and black feather ducks enjoying the water. Can you imagine do a silk shading piece of just one feather? It would be stunning, if very difficult!

IMG 3427 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

As we were leaving Holker Hall to go on to Ravenglass the sun came out! Perfect!

IMG 3044 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

We passed one field after another filled with sheep. Something about sheep is so restful – I just love them!

IMG 3031 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

Late in the afternoon we arrived in Ravenglass. I didn’t know what to expect and was pleased to find we were staying in a tiny, quiet village right on the estuary of three rivers – the Esk, the Mite and the Irt. Ravenglass became an important naval base for the Romans in the 2nd century and the oldest Roman bath

How quiet was Ravenglass? Well, I went out before dinner to see if there was a charity shop (where things people don’t want any more are sold to support charities) where I could pick up a small brooch to wear on my tartan sash at dinner. (I’d forgotten to pack mine.) I walked to the shop across the street,  which turned out to be the Post Office, the milk, bread and newspaper shop and the ONLY shop in Ravenglass. I asked about a charity shop and the only customer in the shop explained that I was standing in the only shop in Ravenglass. She then asked what I wanted so I explained thinking I would satisfy her curiosity. No sooner had I finished than she said “I have a box full of brooches and you can borrow one for tonight and then leave it at the desk in the morning for me to pick up.”

IMG 3104 Lady Annes Retreat: From Appleby to Ravenglass

I said, “Yes please! Thank you!” and went back to the hotel, wondering at the friendliness and warmth of people everywhere! She came along in just a few minutes, left me the box of brooches and I found one that was perfect. Then I went upstairs to get ready for dinner at Muncaster Castle with the family! More about that next time!

 

 

Phillipa Turnbull’s Private Collection

On Monday evening Phillipa generously invited all of us to her home for an evening of delicious food and wonderful textiles. During the evening, small groups got to see and learn about the textiles Phillipa has collected.  She is, as you know, an expert in crewelwork so it was not a surprise that we saw fabulous examples of historic crewelwork..

DSCF5596 Phillipa Turnbulls Private Collection

The piece above has been used as the basis for the design of one of Phillipa’s pretty porcelain mugs. You may not be able to see the details clearly in the photo, but there is a lion and a large red flower stitched on the pillow cover. The mugs are available in her shop in Appleby and perhaps at shows where she exhibits around the UK. When you look at the pillow and then at the mug, I know it’s difficult to see the designs are similar but they are, I promise! That’s the genius of Phillipa – she can see and translate these beautiful old designs into a pattern and stitches for us to recreate.

DSCF5695 Phillipa Turnbulls Private Collection

There are also plans in the works for the design to be used as the basis for a new crewelwork piece.  You can be sure my name is on the list for this kit!

DSCF5553 Phillipa Turnbulls Private Collection

Above are two piece of work, the one on the left of the photo with the more traditional flower motifs we associate with crewelwork. The other one – stitched in two shades of red – is a reproduction Altar Frontal. The original is part of the Embroidery Guild UK collection. Phillipa was asked to replicate the original by Charles Gotto, a past President of the Guild. Three other embroiderers assisted with the stitching; Val Osborn,  Lesley Atkinson and Melanie Vincent.

The wool was specially spun and dyed for the replica using Cochineal red dyes. The background linen is the same linen Phillipa uses for all of her kits. The scenes are mostly German woodcuts but subtly altered to include King Charles 1st (who was beheaded in 1650) and his Queen.

DSCF5560 Phillipa Turnbulls Private Collection

The detail work on it is truly amazing. My favourite bits are the small seeding stitches used to shade the clothing of all the people depicted. It reminds me a bit – a tiny bit! – of pointillism. The faces of all the people in the scene are just wonderful, each one looking distinctively individual.

The combination of beautiful textiles, delicious food and drink made an evening I won’t ever forget!