Saturday 16 January 2016


I had a Ladybird book when I was little that featured a picture of a giant tree in America that you could drive through. It was amazing. I desperately wanted to see that tree and drive through it, possibly reversing and driving through it again.

And last year we did it. We actually went to Yosemite National Park and saw that tree. Unfortunately there was no driving through it because it fell over in 1969. This was extremely disappointing - I was born in 1974, so the tree had toppled over long before I arrived on the planet. People sue each other for less than this in America, although who do I sue? Ladybird books? My parents? The tree?

Anyway. What has this got to do with Sunnycroft in Shropshire? 


Well, my sad experience with the Fallen Tunnel Tree has not put me off giant redwoods, or sequoiadendron giganteum, and Sunnycroft has an avenue of them that was planted in 1899! The Scone Sidekick and I were overjoyed to see them today and we relived our time in Yosemite, with the added bonus that no massive bear was likely to come lumbering out of a hedge and take my face off with a swipe of her paw.

Sunnycroft redwoods

It took us almost as long to get to Sunnycroft today as it did to get to California*. There had been a frost during the night so naturally all the trains had stopped working. But we persevered and it was well worth it. Here's a bit of history: 

  • Sunnycroft is a Victorian villa, built by John Wackrill in 1880
  • Wackrill was a successful brewery owner and, like many prosperous professionals of the time, he wanted a nice mini country estate in the suburbs to show off his success
  • Mary-Jane Slaney bought Sunnycroft when Wackrill died - she extended it and furnished it with fashionable, good quality materials 
  • She too shuffled off this mortal coil and Sunnycroft was bought by her brother-in-law, JVT Lander, in 1910
  • He owned an iron foundry and was thrifty at work and at home - he was a lot slower to introduce any innovations to the house 
  • His daughter Joan moved to London and became a successful embroiderer - she worked on the Queen's Coronation robe! Amazing. 
  • Joan returned to Sunnycroft to look after her sick parents and stayed on after their deaths
  • She gave Sunnycroft to the National Trust in 1997
A couple of my highlights from today's trip: 

The house
I had read the guidebook before I went to Sunnycroft and have to say that it didn't exactly oversell the place; "Sunnycroft makes no claims to great architecture and is rather solid and conservative in style" is a sample line. 

But I absolutely LOVED the place. It joins Hughenden, Packwood, and Avebury Manor on the list of NT properties that I would happily move into tomorrow. 

The staircase hall is particularly beautiful:

Sunnycroft staircase hall

And the rooms were big but homely too, like the Drawing Room:

Joan Lander and her diaries
I've decided that Joan Lander is my hero. Today she put my mind at rest on a matter that has troubled me for years; the difference between mine and other people's diaries.

For example, political diaries when they are published always seem to sound something like: "Tuesday 4 October. Peter put both hands on the table and said "Mike, fiscal adjustment that targets deficit and debt reduction does not necessarily prevent fiscal instability." He was shaking with rage, his knuckles were white and his eyes had an unusual green-ish tinge to them."

My entry for Tuesday 4 October on the other hand reads "Spoke to mum. Had chips." And today Joan proved that I am not alone. Her entries - "We were going to have tennis, but it was much too wet, so Heath, Mary Leake and I played ping-pong, Daddy and Mr Leake billiards" - prove that people can keep simple diaries that end up being useful and interesting to other people. Alright, maybe not mine.

The Sunnycroft scone

The Scone Sidekick kept asking very helpful questions on our lengthy journey today, such as "what are you going to do if there are no scones? What if we've come all this way and there are no scones?" I was therefore VERY relieved to see a pile of scones on display when we reached the tea room.

Sunnycroft scone

I have to say that it tasted a lot better than it looked. I'm not sure why, but shop-bought scones always remind me of someone that has been a little bit too fond of their sunbed. It was also a bit dry and metallic-tasting. But I enjoyed it and so did the Sidekick. They had other cake options too, and the tea room was fabulous - it's inside the house, so very much part of the Victorian house experience. 

I'm going to end with a tip for the National Trust: find the lovely, lovely girl that was working in the tea room at Sunnycroft today and give her a job sharing her customer conversation skills with other staff and volunteers. She's a diamond.

Sunnycroft: 4 out of 5
Scone: 3.5 out of 5
Lovely friendly tea room assistant: 5 out of 5

*this may be a slight exaggeration

1 comment:

  1. I had that same ladybird book as a kid in the 1970s. Was always so in awe of the drive thru tree. I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area, the drive thru trees are near Humboldt Redwood State Park in northern California. There are still some standing that you can actually drive thru just not in Yosemite.