My recent blog posts may suggest that I have been spending my time touring stately homes in southern England, like a character in a Jane Austen novel. First Gravetye Manor, and now Mottisfont Abbey. Rest assured that despatches from the gritty streets of London will return soon.

Mottisfont is perhaps best known for the walled rose garden planted by Graham Stuart Thomas. It’s impressive, and the roses are underplanted with lots of perennials. But there were things I liked more about Mottisfont. It’s home to lots of great art (and art exhibitions), has a racy past thanks to notorious Bloomsbury Set parties and some amazing trompe l’oeil in the drawing room. Oh, and it has a 1950s ice cream parlour, trout leaping from the river and a secondhand book shop.

It was the busiest, hottest weekend of the year when we visited but it didn’t feel overrun (although panic did ripple through the ice cream queue when rumours of a shortage circulated). The National Trust is all about being accessible and giving kids freedom to roam these days, and they’ve certainly got it right at Mottisfont. Families were picknicking, lying under trees, rolling down grassy banks and dozing in the sun. And best of all: dangling their feet in the stream. I half expected a health and safety official in a tabard tell us all to move on, but no one came. It was truly lovely.


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