A small group of Society members paid a visit to Blickling on 19 June. Arriving at the Hall we noticed that a theatre company were assembling a stage for Shakespeare's The Tempest that evening - and the weather was proving to be rather appropriate! We experienced a cool blustery day with a few short sharp showers, but fortunately the worst of the rain held off until we were back on the coach for our return.
The Hall itself dating back to the 17th century is a fascinating place to explore. The last owner to live at Blickling in the years leading up to the Second World War was Lord Lothian who was visited by many famous guests including Nancy, Lady Astor, the first woman to be elected to Parliament. Visitors were allowed access to most rooms, including the very grand Long Gallery with its huge collection of books assembled by Sir Richard Ellys over a forty year period in the 18th century. I found 'below stairs' areas (the kitchen and service areas) particularly interesting, as one was able to hear recordings of several former servants reminiscing about life at Blickling in the inter-war years. One of the gardeners, who was responsible for preparing floral displays for a royal visit by Queen Mary, found her to be a rather "nice old girl"!
The gardens were looking stunning. There was a parterre with a spectacular display of herbaceous shrubs and further afield the Dell, with its rustic summer house. We had to search for a while before finding a charming leafy bower called the' Sitooterie' with three stained glass windows depicting different trees, which catch the light perfectly. The Orangery was a delight - the highlight of my visit to the gardens. There was an abundance of citrus fruit bushes - orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime - and a wonderful aroma of orange blossom permeating the whole building. There was also time available to browse in the second-hand bookshop, the garden shop and plant centre and the rather quaint little museum which outlined the story of nearby RAF Oulton and Blickling during the Second World War. Despite the unseasonal weather there was plenty to see and do at Blickling.