Thursday, 12 January 2017

Cotswolds part 3: Blenheim, freezing fog and old stones

Are you sitting comfortably?  Good, this is a long post!

December 28th arrived with freezing fog

This was our sunrise

The garden view wasn't much better, in fact it was worse

A morning visitor was looking for pickings in the haze

We had decided on a visit to Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire at some point during our holiday, ever since we discovered it wasn't too far away and we could get in for free.

One of our better buys of 2016 was membership of the Historic Houses Association for just £32 each for the year.  They have over 300 private houses signed up to allow members in for free so we thought it would be good value for money.

Blenheim is part of the HHA so we were able to visit with our membership cards.  Considering the entrance fee to Blenheim is £24.90 each
(although you can convert your day ticket to an annual pass for no extra charge) I think we had a good deal.

The drive there was simple enough, although one of the main roads was blocked by police cars.  We discovered on our way home that there had been a 20 vehicle pile up in the ice and fog and one person had been fatally injured.  They were still removing smashed up cars when we drove past on the opposite carriageway around 6 hours later.

Foggy Blenheim!

As we arrived at Blenheim, we noticed patches of blue sky peeping through and hoped that going into the house first would give the sky a chance to clear a little.

Blenheim was hosting some modern art supplied by Michaelangelo Pistoletto, founder of the poor art movement.  I really don't 'do' much modern art and found it off putting in such a setting so tried to exclude it as much as I could from my photos, hence lots of ceiling shots and parts of rooms.

Entrance hall ceiling

Entrance hall, complete with twin Christmas trees.  

I have a thing for keys, and Blenheim has the poshest front door key I have ever seen on display in the hallway, and I was so distracted by the guide talking to us I forgot to take a photo, it is gilt and is topped off with a crown.

Blenheim was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, although he was not directly in line for the title (his father being the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough), his grandfather was and he was born there whilst his parents were on a family visit. One of his all-in-one lounge suits was on display (he wore these as an adult).  He referred to these suits as his romper suits

Romper suit in what looks like burgundy velour, with matching slippers

Ground floor bedroom where Churchill was born 

Only the ground floor state rooms are open to the public, they are ridiculously grand and stuffed with antiques and fine art.  I was rather taken with the other hallway on the opposite side of the house to where we entered.

Hall ceiling

Why have just one grand marble fireplace? Note the height of the internal doors, which look to be about 12 feet high

Thought I would wear my new to me Betty Barclay wool skirt £2.49, and my charity shopped leather jacket too, £15

Acres of marble

Shhh, don't tell anyone but OH is wearing second hand from head to foot too, his jacket was £7 and retails at £189, charity shopped Levi's and Ebay leather trainers

Looking back through the door you get the sense of height

Other state rooms were of a similar ilk. As we walked through them the story of the house and family unfolded, and what we see today is mainly due to a good marriage between a titled heir and an American railroad heiress by the name of Consuelo Vanderbilt.

Consuelo Vanderbilt brought money and height to the Spencer-Churchill family

Fine art

Massive tapestries

 Antique writing paraphernalia and personal items

Huge library

Stunning library ceiling, everything at Blenheim is supersized!

 Blenheim was built in the early 1700's, after the 1st Duke of Marlborough was given land and £240,000 by a grateful Queen Anne for his successful leadership at the battle of Blenheim in Germany.

Favourite of many aristocratic families, Lancelot Capability Brown was commissioned to landscape the gardens in 1764, it took 10 years

 I absolutely loved the gardens, nearer the house were water gardens and terraces, all frozen and enveloped in the thinning fog

 As much of the house as I could get in without walking a long way!

Couldn't resist a little Blenheim timer selfie  

In the chapel we found the only bit of Michaelangelo Pistoletto's work that made any sense to me, Venus of the rags

 Although this Venus looked rather different to the other one I found on the link above, it reminded me of all the cast off clothing I used to wade through in my charity shop sorting days 

Ha! I think Pistoletto would get a kick out of the fact that two visitors came to such a grand setting to view his Venus, dressed head to foot in other people's cast offs

A walk around the large shop at Blenheim and I spotted these umbrellas 

They made me smile (not enough to buy one though!)

December 29th, our last day, started pretty much the same as the previous one. The fog was lower, colder and where we were, we could see above it

Puffed up pheasant waiting for sunrise

As we soon discovered, the road conditions were treacherous, ice was visible all over the place and we are obviously spoiled in Worcestershire as our main roads are gritted, here they appeared to be left.  We saw several overturned vehicles and even at silly low speeds of 15mph still felt the lack of grip.

We therefore had a short journey out to the Rollright Stones, a collection of Neolithic stone monuments not too far away.

 The Kings men, a stone circle of carefully placed stones measuring 104 feet in diameter

The whispering Knights, a group of three tall stones, thought to have been the entrance to a long barrow, or burial mound

Across the road, and in a different county, the solitary King stone

A quick look across Warwickshire from the border, then back to the car for a coffee

The sun was low, the road extremely icy, lunch was calling, so we decided to go back to the cottage and have lunch, followed by an afternoon on foot around the village

Driving back through Chipping Norton, I noticed the nativity scene, Baby Jesus appeared to have good taste in sunglasses

The sun had finally burnt off the fog at the cottage

Our walk was cold and refreshing, because of the low sun we walked mostly in frozen shadows.

OH found a new friend (spot the charity shopped weirdfish jacket)

That new to me Lilith jumper is keeping me warm, but

we struggled with the stone stiles!

I loved this old building, probably a mill, built over the river

Back at the cottage my new little friend, this pied wagtail, finally tucked in to the bit of crushed shortbread I put out for him

Our last sunset in Oxfordshire

 We were sorry to leave this lovely place, but the new year was almost upon us and it was time to get back to work.


  1. Lovely post. Blenheim is truly magnificent, your photos are superb! Who knew that Churchill wore a onesie?!
    Baby Jesus' shades made me laugh. The new BB skirt looks fab with your leather jacket.

    1. Oh thank you Fiona, I love my new skirt. I did a double take at Baby Jesus and the Churchill onesie made us both titter!

  2. Lovely photos. I would love to go to Blenheim, my great aunt and her husband worked there in the 70/80s. The Venus in Rags reminds me of me in my spare room lol :-)

  3. I really enjoyed that post. Love the foggy photos, they really sum up winter. Blenheim is magnificent. For some reason, we never made it there, although we visited Woodstock. Finally, we got to see you wearing that Betty Barclay skirt, and it suits you very well indeed. We visited the Rollright Stones during a heatwave! xxx

    1. Thank you Ann, Blenheim is huge! We need to go back and do the grounds properly. xxx

  4. I like Blenheim! We went last year! What did you think of that whole interactive thing with the servants? I like your skirt- really cheerful!

    1. Ooh, didn't see that, only the state rooms were open.

  5. I so enjoyed revisiting Blenheim through your eyes ( I visited there way back in 1975, maybe its time to come again ). It truly is magnificent in every way.Looks like you both had a great time exploring despite the weather.

    1. Thanks Jill, the weather really made it very atmospheric.


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