Another road trip. Another refreshment break courtesy of the National Trust.
Clumber Park was established as a deer park at the beginning of the 18th Century, a fenced of area for the local gentry to go hunting, though over the years the hunting lodge was developed to become the manor house of the Dukes of Newcastle.
Now I’m not a political animal; that is to say I follow political developments nationally and internationally, but I owe allegiance to no particular party or political model.
I source my news from the BBC, The Guardian and the Independent; does that make me left leaning? I’ve never voted that way. The fact is I’m cynical about a system where doing the right thing is secondary to partisan bickering.
I mention this because for the first time I felt a sense of discomfort at the ostentatious display here. Not in the rich works of art on display in the mansion; those were dispersed in sales and auctions before the National Trust gained control, nor in the rich architectural details of the mansion itself, because it was abandoned in the early 20th century and demolished in 1938.
So what could be so offensive about the remaining outbuildings and 15 square km of parkland? Other great houses I’ve visited bear testimony to the excesses of the nobility, and yet I think I’ve been able to forgive them because of the legacy they have left; the gardens and incredible vistas at Stowe or the sense of history at Wimpole for example. There is nothing similar here to sugar the pill.
My arrival was along the lime tree avenue; the largest double avenue of its kind in Europe featuring over 1200 carefully spaced trees that draw the eye to… nothing. It doesn’t even have an aesthetic value, for the avenue runs alongside, rather than to, the estate. Pointless excess it seems.
Then there is the Serpentine Lake, an engineered swelling in the River Poulter. Extending from the estate it runs for a couple of kilometres and covers 87 acres. It keeps the local bird life happy and provides a medium for reflective photography, but need there be so much of it? Yes if you’re to stage mock naval battles from a lakeside gunnery against the 1/3 size frigate that you have to patrol the waters as the 2nd Duke did in the early 19th Century. Every home should have one!
How about a small chapel to conduct family worship? How does this Grade I listed piece of Gothic Revival suit? 180 feet of spire? Too much? Surely not?
Even the cricket ground pavilion has a sense of self importance.
Perhaps it was the fact that this week Oxfam announced that there are 62 individuals in the world whose combined wealth equates to that owned by half of the rest of the world that created this unease. Or perhaps it was the ghost of a legendary resident of these parts. The park does adjoin Sherwood Forest.