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Published: March 26th 2019
Gabby the motorhome has exchanged a muddy field for a dry one. It is massive and it's full to bursting even on a midweek dull day. We have travelled along the south coast of Wales back to almost where we started a week ago. We had intended to stop here on the way down but it did not quite work out according to plan. We are definitely heading home but not quite yet. It is time to flex the National Trust card for the first time this season. Wherever we live we try to use the card. We exhausted every property from Anglesey to the borders of Cheshire and Shropshire. When we moved here to did the same in the East Midlands from Yorkshire, down to Staffordshire. Within a year or so we had seen nearly everything. We only used the card when we spent holidays in Cornwall or Norfolk. The rest of the time it gathered dust.
We could stop the night here as there is a campsite right next to Tredegar House. The plan today - see how the day progressed and if we felt like it we could stop on the Camping site right in the grounds
of the house itself. All good plan and that sort of thing. You know sometimes when you make a plan it doesn't materialise. So it was with Tredegar House.
We walked over the car park number 1. That is my name for it. It is out of the way of other cars with plenty of space for Gabby. She is not going to upset anyone where she is parked up. The parking is free for us Trust members so my first job go to car park number 2 and get a parking ticket to display in her window.
Job done . After putting the ticket in we head off for the house. Reception is part way over . We show our tickets and they tell us it is free flow. Just wander round the house as you wish. That is of course when you find it. It is a long walk to the house. We follow the outside of the walled garden and the vegetable plots. Beds of hyacinths smell divine as we walk through them. Every colour under the sun. From delicate lemons and whites through to the deepest of mauve and crimson. What a smell. A
massive Cedar of Lebanon stands proud in the middle of the parkland. We can see the side of the house now . In through the gates and through the impressive stables. Not a bad home for a horse or two. Then round the corner and the house is there. Red brick and different to most houses in Wales of its day. It was reached by walking through the most impressive gates I have had the pleasure to walk through. Gilded gold they shone. The sun came out at just the right moment. We have been unlucky with the weather this week.
Tredegar House is a 17th century Charles II country house mansion. Not many of those about in Britain. It stands at the western edge of the city of Newport and is described as the grandest most exuberant country houses in what was Monmouthshire. It holds the title of one of the most outstanding Restoration houses in the whole of Britain. For over 500 years it was the home of the powerful Morgan family who later became the Lords Tredegar. When we walked up the steps to the reception hall we were grabbed by the guide . Welcome she
said - she asked if we had been before. As we had not she went into great detail explaining how the original house was stone but it was demolished and replaced with expensive brick. Just to show off the Morgans wealth. She explained that the mansion stands in landscaped gardens of 90 acres. We should start in the impressive hall where the Morgans welcomed their guests. Then go either right or left. After that we could go upstairs and see the bedrooms. She did warn us that much of the furniture had been lost as the Morgans wealth diminished . The house had taken on new uses and the owners had stripped much out of it. You don't need all that old fashioned furniture in a school do you?
The one thing that hits you when you walk around the house is the darkness of all the wood panelling. It makes the rooms dark and rather gloomy. We saw the huge hall where guests were welcomed, the dining room set out for dinner. Wood fire surrounds faked as expensive marble. Some of the downstairs rooms were decked out with period furniture. The sitting room had been converted at some
time during the Victorian period to a hall/reception room which faced the gardens.
The grand staircase was probably best described as large but not grand and upstairs the rooms were Spartan. Some were furnished in a 1930's style reflecting the later Lord Tredegars taste.. The reasons for the décor became clear when we were grabbed by the room guide who clearly wanted to talk to someone. She explained how the furniture had been lost , some had been returned after the National Trust had found bits and pieces in country auctions. The décor had been inspired by the memories of Princess Olga Sergievna Dolgourouky a Russian aristocrat who married into the family in 1939. She was the daughter of Prince Serge and Princess Irina and as a young child left her home country for a new one first in Paris and later in London . Her marriage to Lord Tredegar was short lived but she presided over some very odd parties which her husband threw. We were told of the poets who sat next to the priests and the boxers next to the bohemians. A fly on that table would have had a pretty interesting time. They kept a
menagerie of exotic pets including a honey bear and a boxing Kangeroo.
Our visit came to a close as we headed in search of lunch. The café was rather small and full. We did however manage to find seats and cawl was ordered for Glenn., That was the easy bit - I pondered over the cawl and whilst I fancied it I didn't want to upset my fine balancing of the 6 :1 diet. There wasn't much choice for me. Nothing fishy, nothing pasta based. In the end I chose a jacket potato boringly covered with cheese. To be fair it was tasty and I did enjoy it but I would have loved something different.
We headed back to Gabby and headed for the coast. We wanted to find a campsite for the night somewhere near the sea. That proved difficult as most of the sites near to Borth were shut. The first involved another drive down single track muddy roads. Our buttocks clenched as we prayed nothing came the other way. That campsite closed until April 1st. This seemed to be the order of the day. We gave up looking in the end. We ate our tea on a strip of land alongside the sea wall. We could have slept the night there but somehow it didn't feel right and these places have to feel right.
Do you know what was the most fascinating fact we heard about the house? It wasn't that it was the best preserved house of its kind. Nor that it was one of the first built by bricklayers with bricks. It certainly wasn't the eccentric life style of Lord Tredegar. No for us it was the fact that a Vulcan bomber flew by on one of its last flights before it was grounded and the sound was so loud it damaged the Vatican inspired ceiling of the dining room.
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