Saturday 11 January 2014

The Vyne

I've decided that I want to donate myself to the National Trust. The 'winter clean' was underway at The Vyne today and it's an idea that really appeals to me. Everything gets covered up and then each piece of furniture or wall or ceiling is checked to see if it survived the summer season without a load of woodworm moving in or someone spilling a Fruit Shoot on it. I could definitely do with three months under a dust sheet and someone restoring me lovingly with a hog's hair brush to get me ready for Spring. 

But never mind that. Let's start at the beginning. THE VYNE. It really does have the best name of any National Trust property if you ask me, apart from Horsey Windpump, which sounds like the Kenneth Williams character had there been a Carry On Farming. The Vyne sounds mysterious, like the title of a Virginia Andrews novel, or, for any younger readers who haven't heard of Virginia and her books about children being locked in attics by their mothers, a Twilight sequel (note to self; write Twilight sequel called The Vyne, make squillions).

The Vyne is actually an estate near Basingstoke. This is a rubbish photo of it:

The Vyne National Trust

However, it does have an ABSOLUTE CORKER of a literary connection. If you're sitting comfortably, I'll begin.

The story goes that in 1785 a farmer ploughing his field up the road in Silchester found a gold Roman ring with an inscription on it. Later, a 'curse tablet' was found on the site of a Roman temple in Gloucestershire - apparently if you did something to irritate a Roman, they would get their revenge on you by writing a curse on a piece of lead and offering it to the various gods asking them to send terrible misfortunes your way. The curse tablet found in this story seemed to invoke misery on a man who had stolen the gold ring found in the Silchester field from its owner. 

The archaeologist who was researching the tablet and ring took his findings to the Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, as you do. That professor was one J.R.R. Tolkien, who later wrote a book called The Hobbit and then a trilogy that you might have heard of called Lord of the Rings. Both feature a ring. You do the math.

The ring is kept in a little exhibition area within the house and it is quite literally awesome:

Ring at The Vyne National Trust

It's definitely one of the best things I've ever seen in a National Trust property. The rest of the house was under wraps for winter, although the Tudor chapel was open and well worth seeing.

The Vyne scone
The Vyne reputedly got its name from being the site of the first vineyards planted by the Romans when they got here and realised there was nothing decent to drink. Sadly, they didn't leave any record of their views on the scones and my opinions were also nearly lost when we realised it was cash only in the restaurant due to a broken PDQ machine. I had about 47p on me so we ended up sharing a cream tea. It was worth it though - a lovely soft, light, well-baked scone:

The Vyne National Trust Scone

I'll definitely be going back to The Vyne in the summer months - it's a beautiful estate with stunning lakes and woodland walks. Just look out for the orcs.

Scones: 4.5 out of 5 
The Ring: 5 out of 5
The PDQ machine: 0 out of 5

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