The National Trust property at Calke Abbey is one of the nearest to us and one we love to visit regularly. The house has been maintained in the condition that the Trust acquired it in the late 1970’s, not tarted up to look as somebody imagined it might have done a long time ago.
Talking to the Volunteers and reading around books about the place, it seems incredible how much of an impact death duties have had upon the stately homes of the UK. Essentially, when death duties (or Inheritance Tax) was introduced, if the landowners hadn’t worked out what to do (either through ignorance or stupidity) when they died, their descendants were lumbered with a large tax bill based upon the value of property which they had to find cash to pay or (as happened at Calke) to hand over large chunks of property to the Government in lieu of the tax due.
Calke also has the unusual situation that the owners had not really had the funds to run the property effectively for a number of years and had moved from a multi-bedroomed mansion to a small number of rooms within it, leaving the rest to decay, filled with all the detritus of living (broken furniture, etc.) that accrues when you don’t need to use the rooms.
The National Trust has maintained the house in this state, even to the point of having to repair the ceiling of one of the rooms damaged by water with the crack in place, despite the fact that it would have been cheaper to replace the ceiling without the crack.
Anyway, we took the five mile walk around the Tramway, as we did back in March last year and it was a pleasant walk. Despite the fact that its only mid August, the hedgerows are extremely autumnal, mushrooms & fungi, blackberries, elderberries, sloes, acorns, conkers, and other such fruits in abundance. In the usual way this year, the weather was mixed. We walked most of the way in beautiful sunshine then, just before we got back to the Abbey, the heavens opened. Lashing it down with large spots of cold rain, thunder and lightning. We sheltered for ten minutes under a tree with the sheep (yes I know you shouldn’t but the alternative was to get very wet – we hadn’t got rain gear with us) until it passed over and then made our way to the restaurant for a bowl of soup.
After that we went up to the garden, where everything was looking beautiful, flowers, vegetables, fruit and we looked into the hole where they are excavating a new tunnel, interesting.
All in all a pleasant day out, despite the changeable weather.