‘And there in the midst of the woodland walk, perchance, a painting … with a view of it’s subject.’
Cliveden, another jewel in the crown that is the National Trust, lies about a hour from my home in Wimbledon. Love these frosty morning when the driving is easy and the backroads through the English countryside reveal new places to discover – fuelled with hot coffee I was revelling in the sight of horses on frost, red berry hedges and those quaint English signposts pointing in three different directions with names like Taplow and Slough.
In fact Kerry was the Neo-natal Sister holding my hand at the birth of my firstborn – so she has seen me at my worst, and at my best. Now, both living in England, with such very different lives to those back then, it is always a privilege to meet up again, each choosing the next venue – somewhere we can share our love of nature and gardening. Cliveden was my choice.
Today the pile that is Cliveden is a luxury hotel, but once the home of Nancy Astor and infamous rendezvous of the cast in the Profumo scandal – these walls do talk. Access to the house is limited, but the grounds are open to the public, in true National Trust style, offering walks, parterres and lakes, all under the opulent eyes of fountains and featured statuary.
This dude was brave: all the other statues were covered up for the winter – and if I were a few centuries old, I’d also opt for a winter blanket to keep them old bones of marble and granite from fracturing in the freezing temperatures.
Kerry brought Kimbo along. Kimbo. Best described as a ‘Township special’, Kimbo was discovered on the side of a highway, emaciated, feeble and a broken, teenage dogboy. The bond was set – mongrel meets mother. When Kerry moved to England, Kimbo came along.
Today I met Kimbo for the first time. White around the snout, legs trembling a little with age, but the excitement of space had him gleeful. I had forgotten what it was like to be around an animal – the simplicity of running, bringing back sticks and other gifts, the constant checking that the one he loved above everything was close. So enamoured were we with our chatting and watching Kimbo frolic, we did the unmentionable – we had walked outside the bounds of doggy trail which is why we later discovered the reason for the disapproving looks by those akin to following the rules.
Tempered by knowledge and back to law abiding follow the guide information, the November chill did not deter the healthy walking, sitting outside in seven degrees where Kimbo was allowed to warm the hands on coffee cups. We met other dog lovers, in particular a woman who had blind dog – yes, completely blind but loved enough to cherish. See, I am finding goodness all around on this walk around the woodland paths. Beauty of landscape, comfort of animals, culture of circumstance, friendship of importance. A beautiful walk indeed.
Walking on a magnificent property in England, so grand, so majestic, so epic in proportion with a dear friend and a mongrel dog from a township in Merrivale – three immigrants, far from home but enriching each others lives was a magical time. I bought the Christmas cards, Kerry bought the scones and coffee and Kimbo brought the magic to the day.
Images: Visit England, National Trust.