When Margot Shaw, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flower Magazine says,”…still the trip against which all others shall be measured,” you know it must be super special. She’s referring to May of 2015, when she and Charlotte Moss designed a trip to London and the English countryside for eighteen attendees. Both share an affection for Nancy Lancaster, interior designer and tastemaker extraordinaire (she introduced the “English country house style” to the world). Hence, the delicious six day itinerary was planned to touch the high points of Nancy’s life, works, interests, houses and gardens (think Colefax and Fowler and her home, Ditchley, in Oxfordshire).
What a delight to be reliving this trip…and Margot is joining us, in a sense, as she is providing some of the images, where noted (many of mine were lost when I upgraded to a new iPhone). These snippets will capture a week that was to prove, yet again, that Nancy Lancaster embraced the art of living well.
After a very early morning at the Chelsea Flower Show, we headed out to the countryside, pulling up to a breathtaking Cotswold-stone, 18th century Georgian manse that was Nancy’s home from 1933-1947 (and also provided a retreat for Winston Churchill during high bombing threats from the Germans during WWII).
As Charlotte observed “…part of Nancy’s genius was her ability to humanize rooms, so that they have a sense of welcoming grandeur.” On our chilly May day, a fire in the dramatic entry hall’s fireplace conveyed that message beautifully!
The next two days were a glorious blur of quintessential English house party details (in a home that does not often accept “paying guests”). From breakfast to tea, with cocktails at 7:00 in the White Drawing Room looking out on the Churchill Terrace (don’t you love the prepared-with-precision checkerboard canapés of caviar and smoked salmon?).
And four-course dinners with paired wines, which on our last evening was served in the saloon, one of the prettiest rooms in which I’ve ever dined.
The combination of candlelight and late setting sun added a magical glow to the scene as we entered while the advancing twilight signaled the finale to a very festive evening.
Glorious landscapes were to be seen from every window at Ditchley.
But it was at Haseley (her third home) that Nancy Lancaster left an indelible garden mark, starting first with the photo-worthy and whimsical topiary garden, still kept immaculately manicured.
And then the laburnum tunnel (inspiration for Rosemary Verey many years later?) at the height of its glory in May!
While in a far off corner of the property, a water feature and spout added a witty touch to a stone wall.
But it was the pleasure of strolling around a very private home, with its so English garden details enchanting at every turn, that gifted me with memories I’ll forever cherish. The fact that it has honored Nancy’s design sensibilities makes it that much more relevant.
What a treat to share these images with you on a cold winter’s day! Hoping that you can now savor Margot’s opening words about the special nature of this trip. And did I mention the name we gave ourselves as we travelled those six days together? The Mossflowers.