I had no idea that Florence Nightingale used to live here in Bucks; and I had no idea I would ever be standing in her bedroom…
The Claydon Estate is north of Aylesbury, seemingly miles from anywhere. Set high on a hill, the view of unspoilt countryside is spectacular.
The estate consists of Claydon House, The Courtyard, the landscaped gardens and the surrounding parkland. Walking around the parkland is free but there is a small admission charge for Claydon House (National Trust), The Courtyard and the gardens. The house contains over 400 years of history of the Verney family, some of which still live there to this day.
Built by Ralph, 2nd Earl Verney in the 1760’s, the house is an example of 18th C extravagance. Huge double height rooms are filled with ornate wood carvings of faraway lands, all painted white. It was built to demonstrate wealth and status, and it certainly does that. When you visit see if you can find the tiny painting of the hot air balloon. Let me know if you do.
The Courtyard houses an interesting collection of art galleries, studios and independently run craft shops. It’s a hub of creativity with exhibitions and workshops galore, attracting people from all over the country. There is a 2 bedroom cottage to rent if you want to extend your visit and stay a couple of days.
Amongst the artisan businesses you will find the Phoenix Tea Rooms. Now don’t think of the tea rooms as just somewhere to have a cup of tea; they offer so much more than that. We had the most delicious Phoenix Burger with chunky homemade chips and mugs of warming hot chocolate.
The tea rooms also sell local produce and we couldn’t resist buying the Claydon Set Honey which apparently is made by hard working Claydon bees!
Florence Nightingale (her sister was married to Sir Harry Verney) lived at the house and you can visit some of the rooms she used and even lie on her bed if you want to. You can also try on some of the 18th C replica costumes and sit on the sofas to read through scrapbooks.
The landscaped gardens were designed by James Sanderson, a pupil of Capability Brown. With herbaceous borders, attractive pools, a decorative walled garden, and an interesting fernery, there is plenty to explore. Follow the circular Phoenix Trail and get the kids to find the wooden plaques.
I’m very much looking forward to returning to Claydon Estate, especially when the gardens are in full bloom.
The Estate is closed on Thursdays and Friday. For further information and to check opening times visit www.claydonestate.co.uk