Two weeks ago we were in Cheltenham, for the happiest wedding, one of Charlie’s old friends getting married to her wonderful man. So much laughter along the way and a lot of dancing (no photos on the blog, sorry).

But we started at Chastleton on the Friday afternoon – I’d had a meeting nearby and Charlie came and met me – a place I’d dreamed of visiting for so long, I could hardly believe I’ve never been. Is this perhaps the perfect National Trust house? So gentle, so beautiful, so simple in its presentation “this is what it is”. The house has been preserved essentially as the family left it, when the Trust took over in the early 90s.

The dovecote is the first building you spy on arrival, set in fields before the house. A wonderful building.

And then the great dreamy stone Jacobean facade, so grand, yet so intimate in scale. 

The interior really speaks for itself. It is a dream, requiring no interpretation or explanation. But here are some favourite moments, among too many to mention. 

The attic stair leads to the astonishing long gallery, set high in the roof, a beautiful room. 

Back down to the internal courtyard in the middle of the house…

The old kitchen…

And the garden.

Great gate piers on the edge of the east garden look as if they have been buried, such is their scale.

Next door, in the church.

A fine assortment of Bridie’s and my favourite chairs, the monobloc, featured so many times on this blog before. 

We left and went on our way to stay the night with our friends James and Arthur – calling in at Lodge Park, Sherborne, on the way – another building I’d dreamed of seeing but had never visited.  Heavenly especially in the flat autumn light.

The best of Friday evenings, catching up after too long; we woke with slightly sore heads and headed up to Cheltenham where it was time to start all over again – and even more sore heads on the Sunday morning.  A walk around the cool, lucid, 18th century streets of Cheltenham felt clearing. It was a city I’d never visited for long before and lovely to get to grips with, albeit briefly. Rather curiously American in feel, like being in a great federal town, Charleston or Savannah.

And then back to London and a full week and the weekend hurtled around. On Friday, early, I left from Heathrow with Danny and Manan from the office – heading out to beautiful Piedmont, in Northern Italy. We are starting an exciting new project – restoring old buildings, and designing a fine new farmhouse, on a lovely tumbling site, a small farm filled with vineyards and fruit trees, and hazelnut groves.

We arrived on the softest late afternoon, the sun gently glowing.

Inspiration is close at hand.

The following morning we were back, in hazy, misty light – for a further visit and to meet with our local architect collaborators. A happy meeting and a highly fruitful one – which ended in a long lunch washed down by copious local red wine.

And then to Milan – Torre di Pisa for supper that night…. 

A walk through the Milanese night…
And the next morning, Villa Necchi – another building I had LONGED to visit for years. A sensation – and so beautifully presented and displayed.  I loved especially the service quarters, which is of course so often the way….

And the amazing Art Deco bathrooms… a dream. 

The stairs to the basement. 

The orangery really is the finest room in the house….

So good to see it in the garden in that autumnal moment.  I loved the vegetable garden too. 

And we were intrigued deeply by Villa Mozart next door, even more amazing perhaps?  That was it for the sight seeing – by the power of social media, I’d seen that our friends Sam and Alex were in town, and we had met for a long and happy lunch, and I just about managed to catch my flight home.

London looked dreamily beautiful as we came floating in on Sunday evening, glittering in the night. 

It was a weary but happy head that hit the pillow that night, although I’m seriously looking forward to seeing Charlie and the dogs tomorrow – I will admit.


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