You know how sometimes there is a wonderful place in your local area that everyone raves about, but you just never get around to visiting? It’s on your list, but, well, you never quite get there. Up until a week or so ago, that was Grey’s Court for me. Tucked away in the countryside just outside Henley-on-Thames, Grey’s Court is a gorgeous National Trust property that has to be seen to be believed.
Purchased by the Brunner family in 1937, Grey’s Court actually dates back to before the 1500’s. Lord and Lady Brunner made it into their family home, and members of the family lived there until 2003. Of all the National Trust properties I have visited, this is the one that most feels like a home. There is an air of cosy family familiarity about it. Lady Brunner’s study still has a 1970’s era television in it, and there are stuffed toys that belonged to her grandchildren on the window seats. And don’t get me started on the library upstairs. Shelf after shelf of books and glorious dark wood furniture fill this lovely light room. And then, downstairs, there is the kitchen. This was a kitchen that was actually used, and has been, for centuries. Charmingly kitsch, a Welsh dresser sits just feet from a pink, 1940’s style kitchen table and chairs, and the bottom of the kitchen units are concealed with curtains.
The architecture of the kitchen is stunning, with exposed joists and posts that date from the 1450‘s. The larder still has an ancient metal lock on the door. Lady Brunner was chairman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, and I am sure I could almost smell the aroma of boiling fruit being made into jam they say used to fill the house for much of the summer and autumn.
I wish I could have taken more photographs in the house – I actually wasn’t meant to take any, but I just had to snap this one. It looks like Lady Brunner just stepped away for a few minutes, and might return at any moment.
It isn’t just the house that is striking though. The gardens are not to be missed, and include a Rose Garden, the Wisteria Walk, a Kitchen Garden containing herbs and vegetables, a Cherry Garden and an Orchard. I have never before experienced anything like the Wisteria Walk, where the Wisteria literally surrounds you. It’s incredibly beautiful.
The rest of the gardens are pretty impressive too, especially the kitchen garden.
There are so many other gorgeous places to wander too.
Grey’s Court is an idyllic place to spend an afternoon, and one of the most evocative National Trust properties I have ever visited. I will definitely be returning very soon.
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