“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.
We had a little look inside the church and were shocked to see this sign:
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:
However, we were warned not to attempt to walk across the fields!
Then at last the house itself:
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!
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:
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