Having recently got National Trust memberships, Emily and I were buzzing to get out and explore one of the places close to us. So when Martyn and Steph (Martyn being my longest suffering friend of 26 years and Steph being his partner who we met in University) asked if we wanted to do something last weekend we jumped at the chance. After a look at the various options open to us, we settled on A la Ronde. The 16 sided house seemed the perfect choice – quirky, not too big for a quick afternoon visit and open for its last weekend before closing for the winter.
Like something out of Harry Potter – we could see Luna Lovegood living here
The exterior of the building was the instant draw. 16 sides is not a normal architectural choice, after all. Built in the 18th-century following Jane Parminter’s grand tour of Europe, the unusual design of A la Ronde was inspired by 6th-century Byzantine basilica of San Vitale at Ravenna. Many mementoes of this tour are still on display and her passion for craft is seen through the shell gallery and frieze. Designed and owned almost exclusively by women for the best part of 200 years, the collections were tied in with a wider National Trust examination of 100 years since the suffragette movement and women getting the vote in the UK. This blend of local history, early feminist movements and women’s history was a real draw for Emily and really interesting to see.
The Shell Gallery
After a stop at the tea rooms (have you even visited a country home if you don’t have cake and a hot drink afterwards? – not if you’re British… or American it would seem!) we all headed back to Steph’s house. Capping off with stew, wine, more drinks, board games and great company all made up the perfect Saturday. I’m really looking forward to where our National Trust memberships take us next.
Watch this space!
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Walking around National Trust grounds on sunny Autumn days is about as British as it gets!