Warwickshire country retreats . . .

In the lead up to the Olympics, summer finally arrived last week. It was bright and sunny, hot even, and so welcome after all the wet weather we’ve had for so many weeks.

So we decided to make a couple of National Trust visits, to a couple of country houses about 30 miles as the crow flies to the southeast of Bromsgrove. And they were two very different properties.

Upton House lies close to the village of Edghill, site of the first pitched battle of English Civil War in October 1642. An original house was built on the site towards the end of the 17th century, but the estate was acquired by William Samuel, the 2nd Viscount Bearsted, whose father had founded the Shell oil company. With his private fortune, the house was extensively remodelled as a country retreat (it was never intended as a permanent home) and as a location for his collection of paintings and priceless ceramics.

The house, garden and art collection was donated to the National Trust in 1948. The gardens are not large by country house standards, but beautifully complement the style of the house, with landscaping to the south.

Here’s a link to a web album.

The other house we visited, Farnborough Hall, lies only about 7 miles almost due east from Upton House (just follow the map over the M40 to the northeast). But in this instance, Farnborough Hall is essentially the same house that was built by the Holbech family who acquired the estate in 1684.

And although partially open to the public twice a week during certain months through the National Trust, the house is still occupied by the Holbech family. There’s a nice collection of artefacts collected during the Grand Tour.

The gardens are small, but there’s a fine grassy avenue, about a mile in length, leading to an obelisk (raised in the early 18th century) overlooking the valley below Edghill.

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