A Storm, Stourhead and a Faraday Cage

Side Entrance to The Spread Eagle Pub at Stourhead (c) copyright Sherri Matthews

Side Entrance to The Spread Eagle Pub at Stourhead
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews

“Let’s escape!” I said to Hubby on Sunday afternoon.  “I’ve got to get out of the house and breathe in some release from this October air.”

“I know just the place!” he replied and off we went.

One hour later, there we sat in the car park at Stourhead in Wiltshire, having paid two pounds for the pleasure (they didn’t used to charge for parking), as thunder boomed from above and shards of lightening sliced through a very ominous-looking sky from which torrential rain hammered down upon the roof of our car.  This was not the escape I had envisioned.

Incredibly, the car park was full to overflowing.

This the thing about us Brits.  If we didn’t do anything because of a few raindrops then we wouldn’t do anything at all.  What’s a raging storm to us?

So there we sat, Hubby and me, watching as families with young children dressed in spotted rain coats and brightly coloured wellies ran hurriedly by, hand-in-hand, in a effort to make their own escape from the downpour.  We sat there, he and I, inside our car eating cheese and Marmite sandwiches and a bag of crisps, one for each of us.

This is what Hubby did for me. He knows what to do.  He knows that packing a picnic and taking me somewhere into the green of this pleasant land always helps dispel my malaise.  Sometimes there is nothing so good as my husband’s cheese and Marmite sandwiches.

More lightning struck, more thunder boomed.

“Are we safe in a car with lightning all around?” I wondered out loud, just a little concerned.

“Absolutely, a car is the perfect Faraday cage!” Hubby assured me. Something to do with the car’s metal, he went on to explain.

He is an engineer in the aerospace industry.  He knows about these things.

So there we sat, eating our sandwiches, in our Faraday cage.  Safe against the storm raging all around us, getting our money’s worth out of the car park fee.  We played ‘I spy’, we wiped down the steamed up windows (steady on) and we waited optimistically, hoping for that moment when we might be lucky enough to see enough blue in the sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers.

Not a smidgen of blue appeared, but a call of nature meant we had no choice but to leave our little cage and take a short walk across the car park to the toilets.  After that, since we had already braved the rain, we thought we may as well go for broke and take that walk come hell or high water.  In this case, I think that high water was going to happen first.

Stourhead house and gardens were owned by the Hoare family since the early 1700s until it was taken over by the National Trust in 1946. The gardens were designed by Henry Hoare II between 1741 and 1780.  The lake was artificially created and as you walk around it you come across various stone buildings which were designed as copies of Greek temples.

As it turned out, being quite shocked at the admission fee of £8.50 each (we are no longer National Trust members, otherwise it would have been free) and since we have walked around the lake many times before, we decided to give it a miss and walk around the grounds of nearby St Peter’s Church instead and then afterwards we could head back the other way as far as we could go up to Stourhead house.

A beautiful place to breathe in that release and shake off the blues if ever there was one.

St Peter's Church, Stourhead (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

St Peter’s Church, Stourhead
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

View from St Peter's Church grounds of the Bridge and the Pantheon in the gardens at Stourhead (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

View from St Peter’s Church grounds of the Bridge and the Pantheon in the gardens at Stourhead
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Bristol High Cross near the entrance to Stourhead Gardens. A monumental market cross erected in 1373 in the centre of Bristol & moved to Stourhead in 1780. The Bridge & Pantheon in the background. (c) copyright Sherri Matthews

Bristol High Cross near the entrance to Stourhead Gardens.
A monumental market cross erected in 1373 in the centre of Bristol & moved to Stourhead in 1780.
The Bridge & Pantheon in the background.
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews

Wall in front of Bristol High Cross  (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Wall in front of Bristol High Cross
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Stone Cross, St Peter's Church Stourhead (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Stone Cross, St Peter’s Church Stourhead
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

St Peter's Church Stourhead (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

St Peter’s Church cemetery Stourhead
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

We had a little look inside the church and were shocked to see this sign:

Someone stole the lead roof!

Someone stole the lead roof in April.  We could already see evidence of watermarks coming through from inside the church.

After we left the church we took a walk up to the house which gave us lovely pastoral views of the fields off to the right hand side of the path:

Stourhead Estate (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Stourhead Estate
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

However, we were warned not to attempt to walk across the fields!

Warning!  Bull with Cows and Calves! (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Warning! Bull with Cows and Calves!
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Then at last the house itself:

Stourhead House Built 1720 - 24 for the Hoare family (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Stourhead House
Built 1720 – 24 for the Hoare family
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Then a miracle!  As we turned around to walk back along the path, the sun came out and shone it’s gleaming face upon us!

Entrance to Stourhead House from the main road (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Entrance to Stourhead House from the main road
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Gate Keeper's Lodge Stourhead (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Gate Keeper’s Lodge Stourhead. Notice the smoke coming from the chimney!
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Stourhead Oct 2013 (65)

Back of the gardens of Stourhead House
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Stourhead Entrance (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Stourhead Entrance
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

There was one more discovery to be  made; my eyes, ever close to the ground as I kicked through the myriad of fallen leaves, caught sight of a reminder of a distant past, a buried treasure full of memories:

Conkers, anyone? (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Chestnuts, Conkers…anyone?
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Remember those days when we used to make conkers out of these brown, shiny beauties by threading a piece of string through a hole pierced in the middle and take them to school? What playground fun we had as we attempted to break someone’s conker by bashing them with ours,  never minding how many times we got whacked on the wrist when someone missed.  It hurt, and it was all part of the fun.  No longer allowed.

So ended my escape into the October air as the dark rain gave way to that conspiring sun even as the storm had rumbled all around.  On the way home and lost in thought I wondered, how many times before had I sat inside a Faraday cage, kept safe from so many lightning strikes, and never knew it? I don’t think I will ever know the answer.

‘Few people know how to take a walk.  The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
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47 Responses to A Storm, Stourhead and a Faraday Cage

  1. mumblypeg says:

    Loved this. I feel as if I was on the walk with you both. Lovely photos that showed the mood of the weather to perfection. England almost at it’s glorious best. Another few days and the cloours will be stunning.lol xx m

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Glad you enjoyed this, thought you would 🙂 Just a few more days and the colours will be stunning indeed! With the mist from the rain I don’t think the photos were the best they could have been but it was fun to take them and lovely to get out and about! Thank you MP lol xxx

      Like

  2. mumblypeg says:

    Sorry about the spelling mistake. I meant colours, of course!! Or colors if American! x

    Like

  3. Heyjude says:

    I know how you feel Sherri, I often need to get out of the house just to breathe! These last two weeks in Cornwall we went out every day (fortunately the weather was good and I discovered it is possible to get sunburn in England in October) but since getting home it has been very wet. I know that I shall have to brave the rain soon though, as I am becoming desperate to go for a walk 🙂

    Stourhead is lovely, and you have some great photos despite the weather, the sun on that tree though is really nice – we managed to visit there a couple of years ago after attending a medal ceremony nearby in Wiltshire for my youngest son’s regiment who had returned from Afghanistan. A very emotional day!
    Jude xx

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      How lovely Jude, you had that wonderful autumn sunshine and in Cornwall too! Unfortunately, although my husband had some days off we were doing ‘fixing’ jobs and so didn’t go out until Sunday when it chucked it down!
      Glad you liked the photos, coming from you with your beautiful photography I do take that as a great compliment. I experimented with different settings on my humble Sony Cyber Shot but I was a bit disappointed. Still, when the sun shone I was pleased with the light.
      Goodness, what a day that must have been for you and your son, and returning from Afghanistan, how proud you must have been of your boy and I can just imagine how emotional that day must have been. xx

      Like

  4. Rachel says:

    What an absolutely beautiful place! I love the photo with the bridge over the lake and the Pantheon in the background. And I can’t believe someone stole the roof from a church! What kind of person would do that? Unbelievable.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Rachel, so glad you enjoyed this and the photos too. If you are ever in the Wiltshire area, you must visit, it is well worth it. Your children would love it too.
      I know, how low can people go? Every single part of that lead roof, gone. It is absolutely disgusting.

      Like

  5. I quite enjoyed this tour with you. When the sun came out, I like it even better. 😉 Lovely pictures.

    Like

  6. Wow! What a lovely outing, Sherri, thanks for taking me along! I loved the written tour and the beautiful photos…I feel so relaxed. 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      So glad you enjoyed this outing along with us Jill! I feel so happy that it made you feel so relaxed – it could have been a disasterous day out but we were determined not to let the storm beat us 🙂

      Like

  7. Steven says:

    Sounds like a perfect outing to me, especially with all the lightning, you lucky beggar! Looks like a very harmonic place to skulk around. Very nice snaps – and oh yes, fond memories of playing with my conkers.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, it is a great place in which to skulk about Steven! Glad you liked the photos too, and yes, I did think you might just share some of those conker memories 🙂

      Like

  8. jennypellett says:

    Stourhead looks lovely, your pictures are fab. (how do you get them to show up so big on your blog?) I’ve often wondered what it was like as we hurtle past the brown sign on the A303 en route to the west country. Actually, that’s a lie: we never hurtle on the 303 due to weight of traffic.
    Minor point, sorry to be picky but that photo of conkers should read chestnuts! Conker shells are tougher looking, with fewer spikes. You could’ve taken those home and roasted them 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Jenny. When I add my photos through the media import I just choose the large settings – does that help? I am probably not explaining it very well though 😦
      Ah yes, that lovely A303..know it oh so well!
      Yikes…you caught me out! I was just thinking of conkers and realised they weren’t the real thing after the fact but oh well, I was hoping nobody would notice…(there goes my writing integrity!) You got me on that one…! These would do very nicely roasting wouldn’t they! Oh well, you get the gist… 🙂

      Like

      • jennypellett says:

        Yes, and both chestnuts or conkers are real harbingers of autumn – but you wouldn’t win many matches if you threaded chestnuts in the same way as you wouldn’t want to eat a conker!! Lovely post, though – and I just checked my photo settings which I didn’t even know existed…so thanks for that! 😉

        Like

  9. Wonderful pictures!

    I love a good walk in the rain; actually, I love a walk anytime. I put on quite a few miles in a week for my health and my sanity.

    And isn’t it a shame that worldwide, all the hiked-up admission prices are making it prohibitive for some people to ever learn from and enjoy the history that surrounds us? Some people simply can’t afford those kinds of luxuries–and we, too, have to make choices about which luxuries we want to afford/when.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Tracy, glad you enjoyed the photos. Yes, I know what you mean about health and sanity! Nothing like a walk in the fresh air to help with both 🙂
      We were shocked at the price hike – such a lot of money. If we had eaten in the (very nice) restaurant, maybe bought a couple of small souvenirs as well as paying the admission we could easily have spent the best part of the equivalent of $100 just for the two of us. That just isn’t afordable and I don’t know how it can be these days. That’s what I love about walking – you can do it anywhere and it’s totally free 🙂

      Like

  10. Glorious photos, Sherri. Absolutely love the autumn colors, the tree in front of the Gate Keepers Lodge, oh, and that viney wall in front of Bristol High Cross – my absolute favorite! Thank you so much for showcasing God’s creation, rain and shine!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh, thank you Susan! I’m so glad you liked the photo of the wall, I really liked that one too as I love walls with old vines growing all over them, and with the autumn colours I thought it looked so beautiful. God’s beautiful creation indeed, in all its glory 🙂

      Like

  11. simplyilka says:

    Beautiful Pictures! Beautiful Writing! Thanks Sherri!

    Like

  12. Denise says:

    This looks so beautiful, I was thinking, all the way through… right until the sun came out! And then I was like Wow! The light is incredible.

    What is really beautiful is the relationship you have with your husband. Especially as I know relationships in your life have not always treated you well.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Denise, really glad you enjoyed reading this and yes, you can read between the lines of that there is no doubt!
      Thank you for sharing such a beautiful sentiment…

      Like

  13. What a lovely trip to take us on with you! We’ve had a bout of rainy weather lately, and agree that you can’t let it hold you back! So glad to see that the sun was out by the end though 🙂

    Like

  14. Your photography is stunning, Sherri. You certainly know how to capture scenes.
    The Gat Keeper’s Lodge evokes so many story ideas; St. Peter’s Church cemetery is peacefully rich and calm; and the View from the bridge (from St. Peter’s Church) reminds me of the setting from Pride and Prejudice.
    These are wonderful!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Marylin, I really do enjoy taking photos and always have but I would like to be so much better! I experimented with different settings on my digital camera as the light was difficult to work with, it being so stormy, so I was very pleased when the sun came out and cast that beautiful, late-in-the-afternoon glow!
      The cemetery at St Peter’s is indeed incredibly calm, a lovely place to walk around and interesting you say that about the view from the bridge, as it was actually used in Pride and Prejudice!
      I have some photographs of Stourhead gardens and some of the temples taken in the snow which I think I will now put in a post at winter time, and I will mention that fact about the bridge then 🙂
      PS Yes, great story ideas indeed, I shall remember that 🙂

      Like

  15. Glynis Jolly says:

    The entire place looks like it belongs in a fairytale. I don’t believe there are any places like that here in the US, although Mesa Verde is interesting.

    I don’t melt in the rain either. It can get soggy and cold, which will make me shiver but often I enjoy walking in the rain rather that hating it.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Glynis, I’m so glad that you enjoyed seeing these photos! As I commented above to Marylin, I will do another post at some point showing some photos of the actual temples taken in the snow. As many times as I have walked around Stourhead gardens I never tire of it. It really is a most beautiful place. Just think it was all designed by one man too! Can you just imagine how lovely it would be to have your own garden just like that? (With gardener too, of course 😉 )
      I agree, walking in the rain can be rather lovely…so long as you keep moving and don’t get too cold 🙂

      Like

  16. xbox2121 says:

    Sherri, you are getting very good at these type of travel blogs. They allow me to see the sites I never will as well as live them through your words. All of the subjects in your pictures appear to be a photographers dream come true. The only thing I find strange is you crazy Brits and your fondness for walking in the rain 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      So glad you enjoyed reading this Bob and also looking at the photos. Thank you for your encouragement! I think I might start doing some more posts like this as I did really enjoy doing it. Stourhead is a particularly beautiful place and only about a 40 minute drive from where we live so we are lucky to be able to visit it so often and yes, there have been many photographs taken by photographers far better than I!
      As for walking in the rain, well, what can I say? We are crazy Brits and I have no excuse… 😉

      Like

  17. A wonderful atmospheric autumnal post and stunning photographs!!

    Like

  18. thirdhandart says:

    Love the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote. Very beautiful photos Sherri! Thank you for taking us on the walk around the grounds with you. I agree… “A beautiful place to breathe in that release and shake off the blues if ever there was one.”

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Theresa, I’m so glad that you enjoyed this ‘walk’ around Stourhead, even if it was raining at first! I am very flattered that you like my photos knowing how stunning your photography is, so I accept the compliment very humbly, thank you 🙂

      Like

  19. Shelly says:

    Loved going on your little trip with you through your pictures. Absolutely beautiful! It was a nice escape this morning. Maybe one day I will get there in person. Be blessed today and bless someone else!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Shelly for dropping by and visiting and I’m so glad that you enjoyed taking this trip with me through Stourhead grounds! I hope you do get to visit one of these days. I am greatly blessed by your visit, blessings back to you and I will visit your blog very shortly 🙂

      Like

  20. restlessjo says:

    I SO enjoyed this, Sherri. When you started out the gardens reminded me very much of Fountains Abbey and Royal Studley and I’ve seen them on a damp day, too. Wonderful moment when the sun came out! Doesn’t it just lift everything? I love your gentle humour. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh thank you so much for taking the time to read this post Jo, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! Yes, when that sun came out it changed everything, as can be seen from the photos. I was pleased to be able to capture the way the light set fire to the leaves on the autumn trees. I’m thrilled to have been able to share it with you 🙂

      Like

  21. poppytump says:

    What lovely photos of a place I haven’t visited for years Sherri, such a great contrast the grey building stones and the autumnal colours ! Somehow a range of weather conditions can really make a walk interesting with a camera in hand especially trying to capture atmospheric shots 😉

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Hello poppytump, thank you so much for coming over here and for your lovely comment! I’m so glad that you enjoyed these photos of Stourhead, a place you’ve obviously enjoyed visiting a long time ago! The weather did play a big part, and it was lovely to have the sunshine as well as the earlier rainy patches! Certainly does make for atmosphere! I hope to see you again, take care 🙂

      Like

  22. Pingback: Story From A Cemetery And A 99 Word Flash Fiction | A View From My Summerhouse

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