Coffee and Cameras: pretty much sums up my week off!
Ightham Mote, Kent
The National Trust safeguards some of the countries most beautiful heritage sites, and we visited castles, gardens, manor houses and parks during our week.
Knole, Kent * Hughenden, Buckinghamshire
Cliveden, Buckinghamshire * Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire
One thing that struck me during a visit to Chartwell, Winston Churchill's home, was the connection with Europe. Once I noticed it, I picked up on it everywhere; Hughenden, Knole, Scotney Castle, Wimpole Manor... every time we walked into a library, or living room, or bedchamber, there would be books written in French or German; photographs from across the continent; letters from acquaintances in Italy; maps of travels, art and sculpture decorated the walls.
Disraeli's desk in his study at Hughenden
There was a deep and recognised connection with Europe: European culture was sought after and highly prized. Learning from across countries was seen as the pinnacle of scholarship. Young men would take the Grand Tour to experience life on the continent in order to expand their horizons and grow up.
As Brexit bites deeper I couldn't help but think that, while many who voted Leave claim to want 'our country back', our country has always been heavily influenced by Europe and European culture - indeed, we sought it out.
My (EU National) partner and I came away from the week uplifted - buoyed by the rich and interesting heritage of England; proud of the beauty of the country we call home, and excited by how much more there is to discover. The lesson I took from all of the places that we visited was that our history has always tried to be open, expansive and interested.
However it also made me feel saddened that this gorgeous glut of history is being interpreted as a sign that we must turn away from Europe. I don't think that our past should dictate our future, but in this case I would argue that our predecessors aspired to and admired European culture, sought union and exchange with the continent, and saw themselves as European, and in that I would support a return to the ideals of the past.