Well, so much for catching up while I'm on leave! The weather has been so good that I've barely been near the computer (though today's rain is making up for it!). We've had a couple of days out and there has been lots of gardening. More of those another time though as I still have one more post from our Northumberland holidays.
Today we're headed to Cragside, former home of the Victorian engineer, Lord William Armstrong. He used technologies from his business to create one of the most innovative homes of its time.
It was built between 1863 and 1884 and is set on a rocky hillside in more than 1000 acres.
It was the first private house in the world to be lit with filament light bulbs, powered by the first application of hydro-electricity in the world.
It was also filled with lots of home comforts such as its own Turkish baths! There are a suite of rooms including a steam bath, cold plunge, hot bath and shower. They were kept warm with another of Armstrong's innovations, central heating. He really was an amazing man!
The rooms were decorated using the top interior designers and furniture makers of the day.
These stained glass windows were made by William Morris's company, and designed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
I think this was the White Bedroom though don't quote me on that. The wallpaper is definitely William Morris again and we both loved the old rocking horse.
The kitchen: always one of my favourite rooms, particularly with an enormous old range and rows of copper pans. Like other parts of the house it was filled with labour-saving gadgets such as the spit which automatically rotated in front of the range, and a dumb-waiter lift. Elsewhere in the house was a hydraulic lift to carry coal, laundry and other equipment.
After the tour of the house it was time to explore the gardens.
We descended the steep terrace to cross over the bridge (photo later) to visit the formal garden.
This church-like building is called the Clock Tower but was also the pay office.
On the middle terrace, the gardeners were in the middle of laying out a design for summer bedding.
The pretty cottage in the background was once the home of the estate manager but is now holiday accommodation.
As we entered the fernery, we noticed a man taking photos and wondered what had caught his attention.
It was this blackbird sitting well hidden on her nest. We never would have noticed her without the sharp eyes of a fellow tourist.
Away from the formal garden, we headed to the wildlife hide where feeding stations had been placed.
Unsurprisingly, they were a hive of activity with mainly bullfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch and coal tits. I was particularly thrilled to see the bullfinch which I don't think I've seen before - so colourful.
I was also thrilled to see Douglas, the 'tree spirit'. The sculptor, Tommy Craggs, took only 3 days to carve him with a chainsaw!
Here's the bridge I promised to show you earlier, built in 1869.
We didn't cross the bridge back to the house but instead wandered along the burn, enjoying the cool shade from the trees on a hot day.
At the end of the burn is a newer addition to the estate, an Archimedes screw - that's the thing in the tube. I'm not going to attempt to describe what it does except that it generates hydroelectricity - you can read more about it here.
Our visit was nearing an end but, after a quick picnic stop, we ventured back to the garden to have a last look around the rock garden. At that time, in early June, it was filled with colour from azaleas.
A fascinating place to visit and there's so much more which we didn't have time for as you can take a 6 mile drive around the estate with lots of stopping points. Definitely worth a visit if you're ever in the area.
Hope you enjoyed all the holiday tales, even if it has taken me an age to finish them! I absolutely fell in love with Northumberland and there is still so much to see. I wouldn't be at all surprised if we head back there next summer.
Next time I think I might actually have something to show you from August! Wonders will never cease ;-)
PS Kezzie mentioned she'd had problems with leaving a comment because of the captcha thingy. I've checked my settings and it's turned off - is anyone else having problems?