In an effort to make use of our recently acquired National Trust membership cards, Ally and I visited Wimpole Estate over the weekend.
First built in 1643, the estate went through many renovations at the hands of its different owners, and is today the largest country home in the county of Cambridgeshire. The last owner of the house was Elsie Bambridge (Rudyard Kipling’s daughter), who made it her life’s work to track down the house’s original furnishings. It is in large part due to her efforts that the hall is as grand a place as it is today.
While the hall itself is magnificent, we spent most of our time walking a small portion of the 2500 acres of rolling green hills that surround the estate. (The view from above can give you an idea of the size of the place.)
While walking the grounds, I was again struck with amazement at the level of freedom visitors are granted to explore these wonderful historical sites. We were free to walk anywhere on the grounds, including through the packs of grazing cattle and sheep that roam freely around the lawns, and asked simply to respect our natural surroundings.
A non-traditional scratching post? Ouch.
Coming down the hill from the Hall, we were greeted with a magnificent view of an old ruin atop the back hills of the estate. Or at least, we thought it was a ruin. As it turns out, we were actually looking at Wimpole Folly – a structure built around 1772 to resemble Gothic ruins. Apparently, these types of things were all the rage for the extravagantly wealthy who were looking to do a bit of “creative landscaping”. And sorry kids, it’s not an affectation we can try to pass off on the English. Our own former Prime Minister Mackenzie King got in on the act as well, importing a number of ruins to scatter around the grounds of his estate in Ottawa.
The view from the Folly back towards the Hall.
When we finally arrived back home that night, our shoes had covered more kilometers than they’d care to remember (and dodged a fair share of cow bombs as well). We were absolutely beat and very glad to be home, but were both still buzzing from a day spent out in the beauty of nature and history.