Shropshire 27 - Boscobel House /The Royal Oak/hiding up a tree /a horse fly bite /Cranberry, Brie and Bacon brunch

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June 25th 2022
Published: June 25th 2022
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First things first . Boscobel House is in Shropshire . Boscobel is one of those oddities in our small isle . The building , the house itself lies inside the boundary of Shropshire however part of the property and its land lie in neighbouring Staffordshire . The post address is Brewood which clearly falls into Statffordshire and the house has a Stafford postcode . So I have one foot in one county and one foot in the next . The house once belonged to the nearby priory . The White Ladies priory which we would be visiting next .

When we move we usually draw a circle of fifty miles from our home or one hours driving time . This is the limit we like to travel without taking our girl Gabby out for an overnight stay or a holiday away from home . Both Boscobel and White Ladies were within that fifty mile radius and easily achievable in one hour . We hate the drive to this part of Shropshire .It is a pretty enough county full of large country houses , small towns and green fields . But we have travelled it a few times lately and it not our favourite run out . Boscobel was probably the last place we needed to visit in this part of Shropshire . I think I had been here before . Perhaps in the 1980's. I had a vague memory but could not be sure . Why were we here ? To see the black and white house where a king had been sheltered and to view the Royal Oak were he was hidden overnight before being spirited off .

The car park was relatively empty but then it was a Thursday and not the school holidays. We parked up by a deep pond full of yellow brandy bottle shaped water lilies . They reminded me of a picture I had once on a small card . The card was part of a collection of cards collected out of PG Tips tea . The flowers of Great Britain . The reception was welcoming and the guide asked for our Cadw cards and perused them . He checked the fronts . He read the Terms and conditions on the back . Were we returning members ? Yes we had been members since ....... we couldnt remember how long . He put the details in the machine . Happy that we could go in for nothing . Had we been members for just one year we would have had to pay half price entry . How he would have known that I will never know . The sun was beaming down and it was exceedingly hot and muggy . He brought out a guide book and showed us the map . Toilets next door . Watch out for the cobbles . Tea room across the yard . Be careful he said . They are cleaning the floors and there will large hose pipes everywhere . The door to the house is over there he pointed the way . In through that door and out through the other one . Then you will come to the pig sty with the rare breed pigs , the field with the rare sheep , the gardens , the Royal Oak and you can walk to the White Ladies Abbey . Full of all that information he tried to sell us the guide book. Never buy one as they are expensive and would never save them or read them again so declined politely and moved off .

Breakfast or brunch first . Hot cappacino declared not the best that the driver had ever had . A double espresso . Welcome and excellent and a large bap filled with melted brie cheese, oozing cranberry sauce and smoked bacon . We declared it delicious as we sat on our own in the small cafe .

Following brunch we looked at the stables which were full of old farming implements kept from the Victorian heyday of the farm . All perfectly preserved they told a story about life in rural England over a hundred years ago . The house was the epitome of Elizabethan charm with small windows and white walls with black wood between . The more modern Victorian additions were just painted black to blend in with the old house . A group had congregated in the first room and were listening to a guide who was dressed as a servant told the story of the house and its history . We stopped for a while and piped up that we were probably Puritans and Roundheads . We probably would have supported Cromwell and not the Crown . She laughed and said that there was always one in the group . We did not stay to listen to the end of the story but moved on before the rest of the crowd .

The hall was small with a modest staircase . From it was the parlour full of Tudor chests and cupboards . Fireplaces with ornate overmantles . Pictures of Cromwell and the King on the walls . It was a cosy but dark room . Upstairs were a number of small bedrooms with more modest fireplaces . Some tiled with blue dutch delft tiles . The uneven floors creaked under foot and the doorways were wonky . The beds were four posters with strange parasol type tops rather than flat tops . They looked dutch rather than English . The priest holes were dotted around the house . Small and cramped . Some rooms had displays telling the story of the civil war . Others asked us to try to imagine what we would have done in the families position. Which side would we have fought on? What would happen to the wife if the husband picked the wrong side and was captured , killed and she had to run the household ? Downstairs the dairy , the cheesemaking equipment , the small kitchen . Before long we were outside in the blazing sun . We read that the house had been created in 1632 by the landowner John Gifford of the White Ladies Priory converted the timber framed farmhouse that we could see in parts today . Priory to his ownership the Priory had used it as a hunting lodge . As always there was a history of ownership being leased from the crown at the point of the dissolution of the monasteries . The building had been well used by the family .

We walked to the farmyard and stood for a while watching the very large brown sow languishing in the sun and the dirt . The male kept snuggling his nose up to her in an attempt to move her on but she was having none of it . In the end he dig a hole for himself and settled down . The rare breed sheep were nowhere to be seen . Our next stop was the meadow . I had expected to see a wildflower meadow complete with yellow Corn Marigolds , red Poppies and blue Cornflowers but all that seemed to be there was long grass and a few oak saplings as they tried to recreate the oak woodland that would have been there during the English Civil War . Disappointed we stood in front of the Royal Oak .

The Giffard family were recusants . Catholics who refused to participate in worship in the established church . They were fined at times and had suffer discrimination . Harbouring a priest could mean execution . Catholic priests were hidden here and the priest holes were well used . By 1651 the house was going to play a key part in English history . Boscobel played host to Charles II. The parliamentary soldiers had been fighting the king down in Worcester and he had made his escape to nearby White Ladies Priory The family looked after the king and kept him safe . The king spent some time hiding down a priest hole but for safety sake he was moved to spend the night up in the oak tree in the fields . This seemed a better hiding place than the house when the soldiers began to look for the king . After hiding up the tree which was not the one we were standing in front of he eventually was moved to nearby Moseley Old Hall another Royalist Catholic household . The original tree had suffered from lightening strikes , too many visitors climbing it and just reaching old age . It was replaced by a sapling that had been grown from an acorn from the original oak. Since then that tree had suffered much damage and recently another sapling from the original acorns had been planted nearby .

We left the fields and found ourselves in the vegetable garden . All beautifully laid out , Fruit trees , gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants all grown as standards and full of fruit . Artichokes about 6 feet tall . We were getting ideas for a vegetable garden as we walked round . The flower garden was pretty with cottage plants in the borders . Lupins and Foxgloves . None of the formal bedding you can get in a stately home or large mansion . Just simple planting . It was all lovely . All things that could sit in a house garden easily . With the sun on our backs there was only one thing left to do. That was make the decision to walk all the way along the fields to the priory . Or drive there along the country lanes .

Walking went out of the window when I got bitten by a horsefly . Not the worse thing that could have happened but an itchy bite nevertheless which put us off walking .

Health is the greatest possession , contentment is the greatest treasure - so wrote Lao Tzu . How true those sentiments are .


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