Shute Hayes is wonderful house with extensive gardens and 7 acres of land to accommodate Philippa’s horses. John gave me a brief history of its life over the egg and bacon breakfast (wafts of which had awakened me): It was built in the mid 1800s and belonged to the Stone family with the profits of a tea plantation before it had come into Poppy’s family. I loved the traditionally tiled hallway lined with comfy chairs and paintings with the winding, wooden staircase at the end (and the servant’s staircase winding upstairs from between the kitchen, utility and pantry). The kitchen held an aga and was a haven for the three cats (the youngest of which had been one of Poppy’s kittens). Outside there was a well tended vegetable garden, a terraced shrubbery and lawns swathed in daffodils and a dovecote above the separate barn housing Jackdaws. Even in the rain, it was a beautiful home that I thought must need an army of servants to keep it going?
“Yes”, laughed Philippa, “that would be me!”
Also Mary, who came twice a week and had helped the family keep the house running smoothly for the past 24 years – and knew how to grow things in the garden, and was a great team with Philippa, who knew how to weed. There was a man who looked after the vegetable patch for a share of the produce too.
Philippa is an energetic, youthful looking woman who still loves riding long distances. Being a horsewoman must keep one looking young, I think, as most of the horsewomen I know have great posture and lots of enthusiasm - all that mucking out I suppose.
Thankyou both, Philippa and John (and Poppy) for rescuing me, feeding and spoiling me and setting me on my way to Poole. Thanks also to Poppy’s daughter Alice for the welcome card stuck to the door the night before!
The ride down to Wareham was lovely, undulating, and the drizzle gradually fizzled out to make way for a watery sun. I am glad and I have earned my lunch.
I got to Lytchett Minster shortly after, and a sign saying only 6 miles to go, so stopped at the Baker’s Arms for a half pint of bitter shandy (to make the most of my last few hours in Blighty).
Even quicker than I thought, and following the phone sat nav – I arrived at Bex’s house around 4.30pm, to find Kev kneeling outside pushing a brush down into the drain. Bex was standing beside him holding a bucket of water and said “Good timing!”. Drains fixed and time for tea. We pushed Rowenna into the hallway and I collapsed on the comfy chair (“oh NO not the comfy chair!”).
I met daughter Emily – bouncy, beautiful and all of 9yrs old – and we practised a bit of yoga on the floor together – me rolling around massaging my back and she showing me Dharma Dog position. I also got shown all of her knitted cats so they could be introduced to the mascot Welly.
I’ve known Bex and her friend Donna, who came around later in the evening, since they both came to a knitting retreat I organised in Devon about 6 years ago. We’ve all met at regular intervals since – at Woolly festivals and knitting camps and online, on Ravelry (the social networking site for knitters, spinners and woolly types). I couldn’t tell them apart at one time (because they were always hanging out together) and I think other people had the same problem, so they got T shirts with arrows on saying “She’s Bex” and “She’s Donna”. They both gave me a lovely supper and very fun evening (and they weren’t wearing thoseT shirts) . And don’t EVER say “I think I’ve forgotten my hat” to a knitter: next morning Bex presented me with the woolly hat she’d finished knitting for me (under my very nose) – my favourite colour too! (green).
I was in bed and asleep before midnight.