An English Christmas

By Jo Phillips

What is nicer this time of year that a walk? Yes wrapping up warm is well-advised but a night walk especially when lite for Christmas can be nothing but magical.

Think Waddesdon Manor which on a sunny day glows in the golden winter sunshine, but comes alive at night like some kind of Aladdin’s cave.

First, there is the visit to the house and for those, not in the know, Waddesdon Manor is in  Buckinghamshire. The Grade I listed house was built between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898) as a weekend residence for grand entertaining and as a setting for his collection. Bequeathed the house and its contents to the National Trust. It is now managed by the Rothschild Foundation chaired by Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild. It is one of the National Trust’s most visited properties, and it is known all over the world for its splendid Christmas events.

As you approach the house by walking down a long-lined walkway during the festive season either side of the walk is flanked by local produce housed in little wooden pop-up’s, for a Christmas fair, think artesian goodies, sausages, puddings via some flavoured spirits and even gifting ideas. So before you have even partaken in the decoration inside there is a little shopping Chritsmas style to be appreciated.

Book in advance to visit the splendid house decorated each year to a theme. 2019 is all about music and its connection to the family and the house. Visitors enter to the sound of classic carols which get the mood in place for a walk around the rooms each one uniquely decorated. Count up the copious Christmas trees but the number of baubles is probably not worth counting as there are way too many.

One of the star rooms this season is the White Drawing Room, where the three yes three  Sèvres porcelain ship vases, sit centre stage among a glorious table laid for Christmas. As there are very few of these even made and few of those made, survived. Waddeson manner owns more of these than the Queen of England so its a very rare sight to behold three sitting together on one table.

Each and every tree in every room is dressed with opulent decorations whilst the hallways are delightfully dressed in Christmas greenery meaning every step taken is a step into the season. But the most fairytale part of all is once the night seeps in.

The Manor’s facade is bathed in two unique light projection shows, bringing the building to life all set to a musical score in keeping with this year’s theme. Should light inspire you then step along to the coach house and stables for a truly unique and literally mesmerizing experience where a kinetic light installation will hypnotise you. Ever-changing coloured obs move up and down in simultaneous motion to a music score. Repeated every few minutes the blacked-out room has an addictive comfort to it as the lights rise and fall in beautiful softly coloured harmony.

But the highlight for many this season will be the gardens that come alive after dark. Wrap up warm and meander through the winter light trail through the pleasure gardens. As daylight moves towards dusk, the whole area begins to sparkle so beautifully its like a fairytale.

From traditional baubles lights and dressed trees to art installations that would not look out of place in the Tate, the walk offers the highs and even higher of glistening glory. From Disco balls to royal lanterns no light is left out. As the walk continues towards its end bringing you back outside the front of the house a bed of spheres illuminate the grown as though some space aliens saw Waddeson Christmas from afar and just had to visit to join in.

As usual, the manors shop is stocked with seasonal treats to eat or to gift or both and the cafe on site has all the Christmas fare on offer for that hungry after a sumptuous tour.

As one of the greatest houses styled along the lines of a french chateau Waddesdon is a pure Christmas fairytale wrapped up in the best glistening wrapping you could ask for: a slice of old England encased for the season in gold and magic.

Saturday 16 November 2019 – Sunday 5 January 2020 (11am-6pm, Wednesday to Sunday . Closed 23-26 December Find out more waddesdon.org.uk/

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