Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fun Packed Weekend

Last week was a busy one in our household, with each evening being rounded-off by a performance of 'Guys and Dolls' for our youngest daughter. A lot of 'toing and froing' to her secondary school, late nights and an enjoyable Friday evening show for us, with her playing General Cartwright, finished off our week nicely.
We had planned an escape on Saturday evening for a much needed couple of nights away from home...
After work, we headed down to Staverton, Devon and stayed at The Sea Trout Inn.
It was a very quiet little village and the perfect base to explore one of our favourite counties.
On Sunday morning we decided to visit A La Ronde, which is a magical house now owned by The National Trust.
It is a 16 sided house built in the late C18th by two spinster cousins who were passionate about crafts. The idea of the house, was to follow the sun throughout the day, working in each of the rooms in turn that were built around the edge of the house - The sun would rise and wake them in the bedrooms at first light. The rooms were fairly square; tiny wedge shaped areas in-between each one had narrow doors connecting them, which meant one could move easily from room to room. An impressive central octagon shaped room has doors into each of these outer rooms to connect them again, to make access for the servants a little easier.
The home was full of creative ideas inspired by nature and include collections from the grand tour of Europe that the ladies made.
It is a fascinating house to visit - I loved it, as it is very down to earth and not pretentious or full of expensive artefacts. The women created a fabulous shell grotto in the upper gallery, which is very fragile today, so has to be viewed via video link.
The quirky windows make A La Ronde very distinctive.
Cutting paper silhouettes were one of the crafts enjoyed by the cousins.
(The red tube below is a speaking tube, to communicate with the servants wherever they were in the house.)
Looking back through one of the small doors into a connecting wedge shaped room.
A small winding staircase now leads the visitor to the upper floor, where the bedrooms were moved during the Victorian era.
Lovely eiderdowns!
Washstand with all the necessary accessories.
Adorable rocking horse.
All mod-cons!
Victorian bathroom.

A glimpse up another staircase to the shell grotto, where over 250,000 shells were used in its creation.
It can also be just seen from below, in the central octagon room with its under-the-sea inspired design. Fabric swags at the top represent the waves and wallpapered walls mimic seaweeds.
A witch ball hangs from the centre and reflects all of the doors radiating into the outer rooms.
This sitting room was my favourite, as it was full of souvenirs from the women's travels, as well as more of their crafts.
Stunning shell collage.
Shell decorated fireplace.
The frieze around the doors is made from hundreds of feathers, some from exotic birds.
It continues along the picture rail too.
A wall niche with decoupage arch and stippled paint effect on the lower section.
Another of the wedge shaped adjoining rooms full of lamps.

A truly inspirational place, which has me thinking about projects I would like to create in my own home. Hope you enjoyed the short tour too!
After lunch we headed to the coast (I always need to see the sea when down in Devon!) - Dawlish to be precise. We couldn't find any sea shells though, so our shell grotto will have to wait! ;-))
Black swans live here.
It was then a round trip back to the hotel, via Buckfastleigh. We wanted to visit the ruined church again, after stumbling upon it on a previous visit to Devon.

Monday morning found us briefly in Totnes. We visited lots of shops on the High Street and I found a few treasures, which I shall show on another post.
Have to say that we did find the charity shops rather expensive here. We called into a hospice shop where I spotted a 50's Vernon Ward framed print, but soon backed off when I noticed it priced at £75.00!!! I've had several of these in my shop over the year and normally charge around £15 - £18 - I'm all for the charities making money on their donated items, but I feel they will be lucky to sell this one! (We travelled home via Okehampton and saw a similar Vernon Ward print in the antique shop there for £18, so I think that is generally the going rate.)
Anyway, moving on...After a quick flit to Ashburton (mostly closed on a Monday), the afternoon was spent at Castle Drogo. It was the last castle to be built in England and is actually a comfortable family home inside - not too stately (apart from the stunning chandeliers!), with lots of 1930's objects sitting amongst antiques from the C17th.
Love this chair with its frame covered in fabric...I would love to try to create something similar...
The kitchen downstairs has two beautifully polished ranges.
How's that for a plate rack?!
As well as the large kitchen, there were lots of more intimate rooms to discover, such as the butler's bedroom and hall boy's quarters.
The gardens were wonderful too - which are sure to be spectacular during the summer months with the roses and herbaceous borders in full flower.
This chap was enjoying the grounds anyway!
Time to head for home and a final treat of dinner in our local!
It was back to work yesterday, so the sorting of treasures has had to wait until today...

To be continued/....!
Niki x


  1. Wow Niki, what an amazing place A La Ronde is. Thank you for sharing, I'm off to so a bit more research now. Tamara x

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  3. Hi Niki
    What a lovely weekend! I love Devon and look forward to my next visit there. I agree that some charity shops are charging far too much for certain things now...
    I have not been to A la Ronde, it looks very interesting.
    Looking forward to the next post as I really like the Totnes area.
    Isabelle x

  4. What a lovely posting. We went to Castle Dorgo many, many years ago before we got married and I have always wanted to visit the NT's A La Ronde. Do they allow you to take photos these days or do you have to seek permission - usually in NT properties they are a bit stuffy about that sort of thing - please tell! What a super week-end you had!

  5. Thanks for sharing your photos, I love Devon but have yet to visit so far this year and have my fix but you're pictures will put me on for a bit longer :)

    Bee happy x
    Have a delicious day!

  6. Thank you for taking us on your lovely weekend. The Ronde House is beautiful.
    We have up to 4 squirrels visiting at a time hoovering up the birds' seed. I don't really mind, they need food too.
    I've been collecting Vernon Ward pictures for a few years, my favourite is a seashore one of birds in flight which was £8 from a charity shop, others cost from 50p - £2 at carboot sales, then last week I found a large flower one in a "vintage" shop at £10. I know charity shops are getting dear but £75!!!
    Looking forward to seeing your treasures............
    Carol xx

  7. Anonymous12:15 pm

    Lovely post, Nikki. I've always wanted to go to A La Ronde - all that dedication and work and presumably with only candles and gas light!
    Love the vase, by the way. :-)

  8. Hi Niki

    Glad you had such a good weekend!

    Sue x

  9. Oh I loved this post!
    I feel like I've visited all those places too!
    I particularly like the Spinster's house, right up my street as they say!
    Didn't that squirrel look 'blue' with cold? LOL!

    Thanks so much Niki!
    Love the sneak peek of the roses vase?

    Sandie xx

  10. Hello Niki
    Thank you for sharing your amazing adventures with us. I live in Australia & would so love to visit the UK one day, if my husband will let me.

    All of the photos are amazing & it was just like being there with you. Thank you.
    Your Friend
    Elizabeth xxx

  11. Thank you for such a wonderful tour of the lovely places you visited - loved all the beautiful photos and details! Can't wait for the next post of all your lovely treasures! God bless, Brenda

  12. I visited A La Ronde many years ago when it was still owned by the family. We were shown around by one of the family members and it was SO much better than when I went back to see what the NT had done with it. I loved the house and it made an impression on me for sure. The collection cabinet that had things piled up inside - including 100 year old swiss chocolate, the musical decanter...

    The thing that impressed me most though, was that the house was passed down through the female line rather than the male. What a breath of fresh air that was! xx


Thank you for finding the time to visit me...
Niki xx