On a lovely morning, the group boarded a coach for Knebworth. Our journey, as far as Wycombe, was amazingly quick with hardly any traffic on the roads. At this point our driver had notification that there was an obstruction ahead of us, and so we diverted. Unfortunately, when we got back onto the M40 we had not passed, what turned out to be a RTA. However, the traffic began to move again and we were back on the planned route. Arriving at Knebworth we were greeted by a member of staff and given maps and a few general tips. We used the facilities and café and then it was time for the first tour to begin, whilst the remainder started to look around the gardens. Both tours had incredibly well-informed and friendly guides who had a wealth of knowledge to share with us. After the tours there were various gardens to visit . The Gardens at Knebworth were delightful. The 28-acre formal gardens include a maze, colourful borders, fine trees and a wilderness area with an exciting Dinosaur trail. There is also a walled vegetable garden planted with colourful and unusual vegetables. In the gardens was a Matombo Garden Sculpture Exhibition, which had sculptures with many interesting shapes and designs.
The romantic exterior of Knebworth House with its turrets, domes and gargoyles silhouetted against the sky does little to prepare the visitor for what to expect inside. The House has stood for many years longer than the Victorian decoration suggests; the stucco hides from view a red brick house dating back to Tudor times.
Knebworth House first achieved fame in Victorian times as the home of the novelist, playwright and politician Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton; author of the words “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Other notable family members include Lady Constance Lytton, a well-known member of the Suffragette movement.
Every generation of the Lytton family has left something of its style and taste; making Knebworth an extraordinary walk through 500 years of British history. Stories and heirlooms reflect the family’s contribution to literature, politics and foreign service; alongside visits by characters as diverse as Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill.
Within Knebworth House there is a fascinating display and video presentation telling the story of the Lytton family’s connection with India. Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl ofLytton, the Viceroy of India who proclaimed Queen Victoria Empress of India at the Great Delhi Durbar of 1877.
There have been gardens at Knebworth House since at least the 17th Century, but the present layout dates largely from the Edwardian era. The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, who married into the Lytton family, simplified the ornate beds and statuary of the Victorian garden with lawns and avenues of pollarded lime trees. Lutyens created ‘garden rooms’ with each area having a different feel depending on the planting. The Herb Garden was recreated in 1982 from Gertrude Jekyll’s 1907 design. Each generation has enhanced the gardens and the recent wood carvings around the garden are particularly interesting.
The Mill tells a fascinating story about the people and the events behind the last working flour mill in Bedfordshire, which has been tucked away on the River lvel, for over 150 years; a story of innovation and survival as Holme Mills continues to keep our food heritage alive to this day.
The Williams family who own the Mill have kept the mill operational through good times and bad. The family firm away from milling flour has its own range of breakfast cereals and cereal bars including Ryvita. The Mill is one of the last rollers mills in the country and a fine example of Victorian technology preserved for future generations to see.
The gardens were very interesting and divided into many different sized plots showing what could be grown pn very small plots; including many herbs, vegetables, fruit and flowers. A children’s trail went all round the grounds, we saw a few interesting items for them to find.
The café which overlooks the River Ivel, had tables and chairs outside which made it very pleasant to sit in the sunshine with a hot or cold drink.
The journey home was uneventful and we arrived back in Carterton at approximately 6.15pm.