The only slight glitch in our plans to travel from Chester to Crewe, in Cheshire, on Friday morning was the cancellation of our first choice of train departing at 11.35. Only a half hour wait though and we were on our way to Crewe as planned. Mal was there waiting for us with a warm welcome and a very smooth ride in his shiny black Merc out of Crewe and then to the beautiful village of Sandbach.
We immediately felt at home with Mal and Pat and enjoyed our catch up and the first of many long conversations about family, travel, gardens, history (and pension schemes) over lunch.
Pat and Mal planned our first afternoon outing to nearby Little Moreton Hall, an extraordinary National Trust property - "the finest example of a Tudor era timber framed building in Britain".
Our first sight of the building was breathtaking. It looked so well preserved and yet with so much evidence of sinking, bending and yielding to the forces of gravity and ancient, sometimes inadequate building methods. The house is set in verdant green grasslands, and on this sunny warm day the grounds were filled with holidaymakers, children playing and sleepy well fed sheep.
The writing on the barge board says this part of the building (the bow window) was completed in 1559 (the year Elizabeth 1 was crowned Queen). It was an extension to the older section of the manor house.
The new glass & leadlight windows were very precious in their day and Richard Dale, "the Carpeder" was very proud to be acknowledged as their builder.
Once inside this incredibly well preserved building it became much easier to imagine the times and learn how much of our language preserves words used for domestic arrangements in Tudor times: chair man, cup board, thresh hold etc. The house makes great use of beautiful old English oak and there is a strong smell of old timber and fresh beeswax. The glass mullioned windows create beautiful plays of light on the ancient oak floors, wall panelling and furniture.
The Long Hall built on to the front extension of the manor house has needed significant propping over the years as it was built on the ceiling joists of the floor below (instead of being supported by the walls). The slate roof makes it very heavy. There is not a straight line in the whole building.
The mantel of this chimney is level, but it is very difficult to believe this when standing in front of it.
Considerable work has gone into restoring the gardens too. The vegie patch at the side of the house is already looking like it will be most prolific in the coming months.
It's late in the afternoon by the time we leave and most of the families enjoying the grounds have left by the time we have ended our tour of this amazing manor house.
Pat and Mal introduce us to the delights of the historic old pubs in the district. We drop into the Bears Head Pub for a pre dinner ale.
Mal cooks us a wonderful dinner tonight: Rick Stein's fish pie and a lemon drizzle cake. It has been a lovely start to our Easter break with Cath's family in Cheshire.