We had agreed to meet up at midday at Buscot Park, with a view to proceeding up the road to Kelmscott Manor for our picnic, as Buscot didn't open until two. In the event, although Buscot House and gardens themselves (the bits you pay for if not a NT member) were not yet open, the car park and picnic area were; so, as we were both starving, events were reversed. We scoffed the picnic, luxuriously seated on sets rather than camp chairs or the ground (and invaded by only two wasps), then drove the long way round to Kelmscott to kill a little time until two o'clock.
I had no expectations at all. My experience of so-called stately homes resides mostly in the North and West of England. We parked ten minutes' walk away, opposite the church, and strolled up to the Manor, past an enticing pub (I don't know my friend well enough yet to suggest stopping off for a swift half). But the walk up through the village was delightful. Dry-stone walls are an art form created by craftsmen. (Hey, there's a buzzword - Arts and Crafts.) I could have stood and stared at them for tens of minutes.
Kelmscott is not National Trust, so can charge what it likes: £9 in this case. We didn't intend to visit there anyway - "I've had enough of Pre-Raphaelites", said my companion - so we made our way back to Buscot. (Mind you, Buscot charges £8 to non-NT-members, but I think you get a bit more for your money.) But what a fantastic place! I use that adjective carefully - there's a lot of fantasy in there. You wander into the next room and are confronted by a Gainsborough or a Rembrandt juxtaposed (in your mind) against an intimate Faringdon family portrait. Futuristic glass sculptures sit next to genuine Egyptian godesses and Rossetti houris. Eclecticism was possibly the crowning glory of the Victorian age; I was reminded of the Burrell collection.
So, having achieved cultural saturation, we wandered around the gardens and the park. The water garden with its wide lake reminded me of Stour Head; mock temples around the edges. The Swinging Garden (which I had been informed was for adults) was a disappointment; I'd expected it to be full of swingers behaving badly. But I think I was too tired for that by then.
And I haven't even mentioned the terracotta warriors.