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Monday, 26 January 2015

The Royal Shakespeare Company and Charlecote Park

Volunteering at Charlecote Park is never dull, there is always something going on and when I received an e-mail asking if I could take some photos of a very special visit, I felt very honoured.

The Royal Shakespeare Company, director Christopher Luscombe and cast of 'Love's Labour's Lost' and 'Love's Labour's Won' (the latter of which is normally known as 'Much Ado About Nothing') came on a field trip to National Trust's Charlecote Park in June 2014. The reason behind the visit was because Charlecote was the inspiration for the amazing backdrops being used on stage at the RSC, designed by Simon Higlett. The behind the scenes work and research which has gone into these two productions is clear to see. Such perfection in all areas.

I was more than a little nervous as I headed To Charlecote Park that day but I shouldn't have been, everyone was really nice and a pleasure to be in the company of.  I met them at reception and we all walked down the back drive which is normally  reserved for staff and volunteers but on this occasion the long main drive to the house was being re-surfaced. The walk down the back drive is a very pleasant walk which runs along the River Dene and has a lovely view of West Park. I love this walk first thing in the morning when the mist is just lifting and out of the mist you can spot the odd deer, sometimes swimming across the river or as the sun goes down and the rays shine through the trees.

As we reached Charlecote house, we were greeted by another volunteer on the front lawn in front of the gatehouse for an introduction speech. The gatehouse features in the plays and was a good place to start.

We all climbed the twisting stairs up to the gatehouse roof and admired the views........and of course the bells had to be checked out for the plays too! The bells were recorded and can be heard chiming by the audience inside the theatre. That is what I call dedication to one's profession. 

The views from the top of the gatehouse are really beautiful.

I left the RSC group to explore Charlecote House on their own but I will share some photos of inside  which I have taken on previous occasions. 

The beautiful Library which has inspired one of the backdrops. 

The stunning drawing room which I call the 'Golden Room' was once a bedroom fit for a Queen. Queen Elizabeth I visited Charlecote Park in 1572. 

The Ebony Room dressed beautifully with it's gorgeous writing set on the dresser.

The Dining room all set for dinner with it's amazing dresser standing against the wall. It was made just down the road in Warwick by J M Wilcox in the 1850's. 
There is so much more to see but I will leave that for you to explore should you visit yourself. Charlecote House has been closed since Christmas for it's annual Winter deep clean but will re-open to visitors on Feburary 14th.

The connection between Shakespeare and Charlecote goes back over 400 years when it is said that the young William Shakespeare was caught poaching on Charlecote land. He was brought before the local magistrate, who just happen to be Sir Thomas Lucy, owner of the land. 

The picture below hangs on the walls inside Charlecote House and shows the young William Shakespeare being brought before the magistrate.

In the Grand Hall you will see William Shakespeare Himself, not in a picture as a poacher, but displayed with pride as a writer.

The Lucy's have owned this land since 1189 and there are lots of lovely old stories about knights going off to war and on all sorts of adventures in a great book I read called 'Charlecote and the Lucys' by Alice Fairfax-Lucy. Unfortunately this book is 'out of print' now but there are still plenty on the internet to find. If you are interested in local history, this book is worth a read. It doesn't just cover Charlecote and the Lucy's but local history too, including a little of the  life inside Warwick Castle. One book which is still for sale and an excellent read (also written by Alice Fairfax-Lucy) is 'Mistress of Charlecote' which follows the life of Mary Elizabeth who is responsible for much of what you see on a visit today. Mary Elizabeth Williams married George Hammond Lucy in 1823 and became the lady of the house and lived at Charlecote until her death in 1890.

Charlecote Park has been in the care of the National Trust since 1946 but the present baronet, Sir Edmond Fairfax-Lucy and his family still live in one wing of the house. 

Charlecote Church has also been used in the plays and it was another stop on the field trip before heading back to London for rehearsals.

Watching the partnership between The RSC  and Charlecote grow over the year has been amazing. While walking around the park I have often heard people comparing what they had seen at the theatre the night before to what they were seeing while visiting the park. It became a two day adventure for many I think. All I have heard is raving reviews. Everyone has loved the plays and it has made them want more so a trip to Charlecote Park they have made. With the RSC theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon being so close (4 miles down the road) this has been very easy for people to do.

The gatehouse at Charlecote Park which you can see reproduced on the stage at the theatre.

If you haven't seen the plays yet, there is still time as they are playing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until March 14th 2015.

 If you can't make it to the theatre, there is a chance to see both plays broadcast live to cinemas around the country. On the 11th of February they will be showing, 'Love's Labour's Lost' and on the 4th of March, 'Love's Labour's Won'.

My next experience with the RSC was in receiving a copy of a leaflet they had designed which happen to have one of my photos on the back. I was well chuffed and must have been walking around with a smile on my face all week! This might be a small thing for most people but it wasn't for me so sorry people, here it is, my claim to fame :)

Earlier this week, director Christopher Luscombe, assistant director Guy Unsworth and some of the cast of  'Love's Labour's Lost' and 'Love's Labour's Won', returned to Charlecote to plant a celebratory tree.

In the picture below, right to left.... actor Jamie Newall. actress Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Director Christopher Luscombe, actress Michelle Terry, Charlecote Park's Head Ranger Adam Maher, assistant director Guy Unsworth, actor Nick Haverson, actress Emma Manton and last but not least actor Edward Bennett.

What better way to celebrate the partnership between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Charlecote Park than planting a tree which will be around for future generations to enjoy for a very long time.

The tree planted was a  Beech which when grown, will attract many types of wildlife and will be a beautiful sight in autumn with it's changing colours!

In the picture below from left to right..Adam Maher Park Ranger at National Trust's Charlecote Park, RSC Director Christopher Luscombe, National Trust Midland's Simon Prosser and Assistant Ranger, Nick Woodman.

The lovely Emma Manton with assistant director Guy Unsworth.

I think it has been a great experience to join The RSC to Charlecote as it has been through these two wonderful plays and I have enjoyed recording some of it in my photos.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog. Thank you for reading it.

For more information on the RSC click on this link.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A Beautiful Frosty Start To The Day

The weather over Christmas has been very cold and white in some places with snow or frost. I was so wishing for snow as I do love it but we did get the next best thing. A lovely cold frost which makes everything look so pretty and very different.

Frozen flowers in the gardens. They look like they have been frosted with sugar.

With four layers of clothing and a flask of coffee, off I set for an early morning walk. The weather man had said it would be frosty and foggy but when I got to Charlecote, the sky was clear and a lovely pink which made the frost look a little pinkish too!

Sunrise and sunset photos are often just luck.You can check the weather beforehand, look outside before you leave but the sky can change very quickly. This morning was perfect! A crisp frozen ground below me and a pink sky above, I was very happy :)

I love Winter but then I love every season. There is always something new to see and it is amazing how a covering of frost or snow can make somewhere look so very different. It's like seeing it all again for the first time. Something is always happening at Charlecote with the changing seasons, be it that of the animals and wildlife that live there or the changing landscape as the leaves fall and open up the views for you.

At the moment you can see the landscape of the park better and it looks so much bigger. It is a perfect place for someone like me who loves to walk. I can chose where and how far I would like to walk on any particular day and I get to see the lovely animals and wildlife along the way :)

Have you ever seen a Robin puff his breast feathers and belly out? They do it when they are protecting their area and feel threatened. These birds are very territorial and tend to protect their area all year around, sometimes staying in the same garden for all their life. Charlecote Park has a pair of Robins that can often be seen around the Orangery or at the entrance to the Woodland Garden. There are plenty of them around the park but these two are easier to spot. The next two photos show the Robin as it is normally, then puffing it's breast feathers out.

 This day with the frost on the ground, I knew I would be walking most of the Park. I guess I am a little like a child, when the weather changes my view, I get excited and I want to see it all!

This morning started in West Park to see if my friends the Owls were out but I guess they were all staying in this morning as it was around - 4 degrees! I heard many birds but could not see them as it was still a little dark when I first arrived.

With the sky a beautiful pink, I knew without looking at a watch, that the Sun would be up soon and that I did not have much time to decide where I would go to catch the sunrise. I had not planned for this as I had expected fog but I was not going to miss the chance of photographing a nice sunrise either. One place which is always guaranteed a nice view, is by the slaughter bridge which goes over the River Dene and separates West Park from the rest of the estate. I arrived there just before the sun came up with the sky still very pink. It made a beautiful frosty picture.

 The view towards Slaughter Bridge and West Park just before the Sun came up.

It is a real magical time to be in the park as the Sun comes up, especially if there is a really nice sunrise. One of the many privileges of volunteering at Charlecote Park :)

The Sun just shining through the trees

As the Sun came up the pinks started to fade and the warmer oranges appeared. By this time I had moved further into West Park, I was able to get a couple of lovely warm pictures as the Sun was rising. It is amazing the change in the colours all around you when you have a white start to the day. The views went from a crisp pink cold colour to a lovely warm glow, back to a crisp fresh day once the Sun was up. It was beautiful to see and even more lovely to be able to capture it and share it with you all.

As I walked further into the park, the sunrise followed me. 

              I love the way the Sun shines from the side of this tree.

The early morning light on the ground, such a beautiful day.

As you walk around West Park with it's hilly ground, the views with the Sun coming up are just stunning and constantly changing.

A frosty post on the footpath.

Frozen crystals on the grass under my feet.

I was still in West Park when the acting Ranger of the day, Matt, came to feed the deer and he was not alone. He had brought with him the lovely family who were staying in the holiday flat within Charlecote house, to see how the deer were fed. I was a little way away at the time but I could see from where I stood that Matt had made one little girl's day :)

Some of the deer in West Park waiting for the buggy to arrive. They can tell the time better than me!

For those who have not read my blogs before...The deer get help with food during the Winter months as they lose a lot of weight during and after the rut and will only gain some of the weight back up to December. During this feeding time, the deer, especially the bucks will get close to the buggy, knowing what it is carrying. To be sat in the buggy is an amazing experience as it is the closest you will ever get to the deer, as I found out later myself that very same day.
As Matt finished feeding the deer in West Park, he very kindly allowed me to join him on the buggy as he headed for the deer in Main Park. The deer there are more used to people walking around and are a little less jumpy than the ones in West Park. It is also the bucks that tend to spend much of their time in the area and they mellow a little after the rut! Too tired to protest I guess!

 It was quite magical especially with all the frost on the ground. A very perfect day :)

''Please sir, can I have some more?'' This young buck got very close to the buggy. As the buggy moves along, the trailer which is attached to the back of it, drops nuts for the deer to eat.

  In the year I have been at Charlecote Park, I have never been this close to the deer and all I can say is 'WOW!' What an experience and a big thanks to Matt who is a total star! Well he will be when I have finished going through my video :)

After the feeding of the deer, I headed  through the gardens and over to Hill Park on foot to see the sheep and take a walk around the lake before heading home.

 The frost was already starting to disappear in some places with the rising Sun but it was starting to cloud over a little so I knew the frost would be around for a little longer.

The holiday flat which anyone can rent is on the top floor on the right of the picture above. Entrance is through the turret spiral staircase. The views from the top of the house are stunning all year around. for more information on the Turret Flat, here is the link and  a sneak preview of it :)

One day I am hoping to stay there myself :) Hope it snows then :) Imagine going to sleep and waking up with these views. Beautiful!

A frosty Jacob sheep in Hill Park. They need their warm coats in this weather!

The sheep also get fed during the Winter months. From Spring to Autumn the land provides the deer and the sheep with plenty to graze on. There is still plenty of grass around but it never hurts to give animals and wildlife a helping hand through the cold months.

While waiting for their breakfast, they look out for the Ranger which is always good for photographs as they are looking in the right direction for a change :)

                       The Jacob sheep in Hill Park.

                                         Charlecote family and Village Church

                                  The Lake looking very frosty.

Everything looks so clean and fresh. I loved the frozen long grasses around the lake.

                      It is amazing how the ice crystal build up.

Slaughter Bridge.

              The beautiful reflections from the bridge.

 The park was open and I wasn't the only one wrapping up warm enjoying a crisp walk.

 Now I am just wishing for an even better frost and some snow please. If anyone can arrange that for me? I would be very happy :)

I hope you have enjoyed this blog and had a chance to get out and enjoy the frost or snow yourself. More on the Winter feeding of the animals coming soon.

                                                   Copyright Jana Eastwood