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Sudeley Catsle, Winchcombe in January

PUBLISHED: 16:12 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:40 20 February 2013

Sudeley under snow

Sudeley under snow

Lady Ashcombe recalls the January night she first saw Sudeley ... with a whippet chasing rabbits on the lawn and frozen taps in the icy bedroom

January.... and out with the old, in with the new - a time to celebrate the birth of new opportunities and make new resolutions for better health and wealth - a time to meet friends and remember old friends, a time for reflection and hope.



It is also on record as the coldest month of the year. I'm sorry to immediately reflect on January's worst aspect, but it is difficult to be cheery and positive, loving and resolute, when one is constantly preoccupied with draughts and burst pipes, stoking the fire, searching for warm gloves, trying to conserve on heating, not managing very well and pining away in the long dark evenings.



My first ever sight of Sudeley was sometime in mid-January back in the dark ages of the early Sixties when I, a young design student in New York, came over to visit England at the invitation of my then unsuspecting husband-to-be, Mark Brocklehurst. He had met my plane in Paris where we had a merry whirl around that exciting and romantic city, and returned to London for the week where he deposited me in a small hotel, and went to work as usual leaving me to explore London for the first time. He had told me little of Sudeley Castle, except that it was his family home and that we would go there for the weekend where I would meet his mother.



Mark was devoted to his whippet Alfie who I also took to right away, and we three set off for Sudeley. The drive from London, before motorways, took longer than it does now and it was Marks' habit to leave London around 6pm, drive to Marlow on the Thames, have dinner at the Compleat Angler (which I believe is still there) and then another couple of hours on the road until we finally turned into the Castle gates.



It was a misty night and my first sight of my future home was in the dark with the Castle's towers, castellation, trees and ruins outlined in the ghostly moonlight. Before I could take a breath, Mark let Alfie out of the backseat where he promptly leapt onto the lawn chasing rabbits, with Mark in hot pursuit using the car's headlights. This seemed to be their regular joy ride when reaching their Friday night destination. With Alfie well exercised we parked the car, unloaded the suitcases and proceeded along what seemed like miles of dimly lit passages until we reached the Lace Bedroom where I was to sleep, with instructions to meet in the dining room the next morning at 8.30am sharp.



Well, I can only say that it was colder than one could imagine. The taps in the basin in my bedroom were frozen over and the only way I could undress was under the bedclothes against icy sheets with my coat wrapped around me. Many more words could be added to describe my introduction to Sudeley, including the solitary breakfast I had with Mark's mother the next morning, but space doesn't allow. Mark didn't appear until well after 9 o'clock and when his mother chided him for making tyre marks again on the lawn, he winked, rolled his eyes at me, and said ingenuously, 'Sorry Mummy'.



I have often been asked what my first impression of Sudeley was, and quite frankly, if I had thought then that I would have to come and live in this dreary cold spooky mausoleum, I would have bolted on the spot. Fate decided otherwise and here I am today looking forward to my 47th January with our wonderful now centrally-heated rooms and cosy fires, most mod cons and fingers crossed against burst pipes and lost gloves this year.



Sudeley grows on one, despite its greedy requirements for constant financial nourishment, and old buildings aches and pains. Its history is intriguing and the buildings and surrounding countryside beautiful, two qualities which I hadn't appreciated on my first encounter on that long ago winters night. January is probably at the bottom of the pile of my favoured months here, but there are always the snowdrops to look forward to and the coming year and all the promise that it may hold.



Wishing all the readers of this column a very Happy and Peaceful 2009 and remember that we will be open again to welcome you to visit us in March...........



Sudeley Castle re-opens on 30th March 2009. Check the website for up to date news. - www.sudeleycastle.co.uk



January.... and out with the old, in with the new - a time to celebrate the birth of new opportunities and make new resolutions for better health and wealth - a time to meet friends and remember old friends, a time for reflection and hope.



It is also on record as the coldest month of the year. I'm sorry to immediately reflect on January's worst aspect, but it is difficult to be cheery and positive, loving and resolute, when one is constantly preoccupied with draughts and burst pipes, stoking the fire, searching for warm gloves, trying to conserve on heating, not managing very well and pining away in the long dark evenings.



My first ever sight of Sudeley was sometime in mid-January back in the dark ages of the early Sixties when I, a young design student in New York, came over to visit England at the invitation of my then unsuspecting husband-to-be, Mark Brocklehurst. He had met my plane in Paris where we had a merry whirl around that exciting and romantic city, and returned to London for the week where he deposited me in a small hotel, and went to work as usual leaving me to explore London for the first time. He had told me little of Sudeley Castle, except that it was his family home and that we would go there for the weekend where I would meet his mother.



Mark was devoted to his whippet Alfie who I also took to right away, and we three set off for Sudeley. The drive from London, before motorways, took longer than it does now and it was Marks' habit to leave London around 6pm, drive to Marlow on the Thames, have dinner at the Compleat Angler (which I believe is still there) and then another couple of hours on the road until we finally turned into the Castle gates.



It was a misty night and my first sight of my future home was in the dark with the Castle's towers, castellation, trees and ruins outlined in the ghostly moonlight. Before I could take a breath, Mark let Alfie out of the backseat where he promptly leapt onto the lawn chasing rabbits, with Mark in hot pursuit using the car's headlights. This seemed to be their regular joy ride when reaching their Friday night destination. With Alfie well exercised we parked the car, unloaded the suitcases and proceeded along what seemed like miles of dimly lit passages until we reached the Lace Bedroom where I was to sleep, with instructions to meet in the dining room the next morning at 8.30am sharp.



Well, I can only say that it was colder than one could imagine. The taps in the basin in my bedroom were frozen over and the only way I could undress was under the bedclothes against icy sheets with my coat wrapped around me. Many more words could be added to describe my introduction to Sudeley, including the solitary breakfast I had with Mark's mother the next morning, but space doesn't allow. Mark didn't appear until well after 9 o'clock and when his mother chided him for making tyre marks again on the lawn, he winked, rolled his eyes at me, and said ingenuously, 'Sorry Mummy'.



I have often been asked what my first impression of Sudeley was, and quite frankly, if I had thought then that I would have to come and live in this dreary cold spooky mausoleum, I would have bolted on the spot. Fate decided otherwise and here I am today looking forward to my 47th January with our wonderful now centrally-heated rooms and cosy fires, most mod cons and fingers crossed against burst pipes and lost gloves this year.



Sudeley grows on one, despite its greedy requirements for constant financial nourishment, and old buildings aches and pains. Its history is intriguing and the buildings and surrounding countryside beautiful, two qualities which I hadn't appreciated on my first encounter on that long ago winters night. January is probably at the bottom of the pile of my favoured months here, but there are always the snowdrops to look forward to and the coming year and all the promise that it may hold.



Wishing all the readers of this column a very Happy and Peaceful 2009 and remember that we will be open again to welcome you to visit us in March...........



Sudeley Castle re-opens on 30th March 2009. Check the website for up to date news. - www.sudeleycastle.co.uk



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