I've been having so much fun on my Nice Days Out that my mum has joined in! We've been to Hampton Court together, and to see the poppies at the Tower of London... and back in August we spent an afternoon at Dorney Court, a charming Tudor manor house built in 1440.
The village of Dorney is quite local to us, and Dorney Court is one of the places where I can get a discount with my Art Pass so it seemed like a perfect choice for a summer day out. It's great fun visiting the big, famous tourist attractions but sometimes it's nice to go somewhere where the "car park" looks like this:
Dorney Court has been owned by the Palmer family for nearly 500 years. It's still lived in by the family, who hire it out for weddings and as a film and TV location, and open the house to the public on open days each summer. Maybe you've seen the house in a movie or on TV? The house and village were also apparently the model for Huntercombe in Susan Cooper's novel The Dark is Rising.
We went on the guided tour of the house, then wandered around the small but charming gardens. The house itself isn't huge but it's fabulously quirky and full of interesting things including lots of pineapple motifs, as the first pineapple grown in England was grown at Dorney Court. Visiting a lived-in home is so different to visiting a property where everything is just for display - with family photos next to the antiques on the sideboard and the adorable family dogs excitedly sniffing all the visitors as we bought our tickets and postcards.
The tour was hugely entertaining, with lots of detail about the house and its contents and lots of funny stories about the family's history, like how one generation would modernise and redecorate and then the next would furiously put everything back again. We also heard snippets of local history (apparently Dorney is Anglo Saxon for "island of bees") and stories about the filming that's happened in the house over the years. You can see some photos of the house and read more about its history here.
After touring the house we visited the next door church of St James the Less, a petite and charming little building dating from the 12th century whose current "claim to fame" is that it's where Kate Middleton (the Duchess of Cambridge)'s parents got married.
Then we headed to the neighbouring Dorney Court Kitchen Garden for a cuppa and a cake. This has to be one of the nicest garden centres I've ever
visited! There was a nice selection of plants in a beautiful setting,
with informative and quirky chalkboards dotted throughout with added
info about the plants and gardening-themed quotations.
The cafe was lovely, serving lots of tasty looking food made with ingredients grown on site, and we were also very tempted by the gorgeous selection of gifts in the shop. A cup of tea and a slice of yummy homemade cake was the perfect way to finish our afternoon out!