Sunday afternoons can be tricky….you know Monday is looming on the other side and you just want to make the most of your last few hours over the weekend and more times than ever, you become stuck as to what to do.
That’s what happened to us last Sunday after lunch. We had no plan (coz hey, we are living for the moment hahaha!) and it was a glorious autumn day outside and we felt adventure beckoning us…yet we were too lazy to venture far! So we kept it to our doorstep and drove 10 minutes up the road to the gorgeous area of Hughenden.
In that sleepy Chiltern village lies a manor fit for a Prime Minister: Hughenden Manor. And what a gorgeous manor it is. Having driven up the long and windy pebbled drive up to the car park, the views were quite spectacular as we descended on the red-bricked house. The large front drive was filled with beautiful Cedar trees, from my birth country of Lebanon.
We were welcomed in by National Trust staff, who were immediately drawn to Yara. They gave her a special children’s sheet to spot objects around the house; a task Yara took very seriously, which is quite surprising for a 3-year old. Nevertheless, I was encouraged by her enthusiasm, which in turn led me to learn more about the house and its famous resident.
In a nutshell, Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli lived at Hughenden Manor from 1848 to 1881. He had fine taste and maybe overspent on the house a little bit, hence why his nephew, who then took over the house upon Disraeli’s death, had to sell parts of the library (my face dropped at that point because who sells books?!!! Shame on that boy!)
Hughenden also had a secret past until a few decades ago when it was revealed that the manor played a vital role in World War 2. It was used as a secret intelligence base code-named “Hillside”. UK Air Ministry staff at the manor analysed aerial photos of Germany and created maps for bombing missions. We took a stroll down at the basement where a room was recreated to show how the family who looked after the place back then lived. Yara took every opportunity to play with the typewriter and tea set, much to the amusement of the tourists around.
I couldn’t stop staring at the photos of the secret intelligence staff who worked there during the war…their faces full of smiles and hope despite the country going through war. It brought home something very sombre to me.
We headed up to the top floor, which had mind-blowing views of the surrounding Chiltern Hills. One room in particular stood out because I could imagine myself literally living in that place. It was called the ‘viewing room’ because it had a lot of windows to view the countryside. All I needed was my good book and a cup of tea (there I go again about my book and tea). Yara got to use the junior binoculars on hand to see as far as she could.
We then went to the beautifully maintained back garden (if only mine could look this good) where Yara had a good run around with other kids and Marwan had a cat nap on a deck chair – yes they had deck chairs which made the relaxation in the autumn sun all the more sweet 🙂
Finally, I was dying of thirst at that point and needed my brew so we headed to the cafe, which is in converted stables. While Marwan was ordering, Yara and I had a look at the second-hand bookshop and how quaint that it even exists in such a place?! Lots of very old books were on sale and you can literally smell the musty lofts where they had come from.
The National Trust shop was fantastic…lots of beautiful ales and beer for sale as well cute souvenirs. I ended up buying a mini-puzzle of Hughenden as a souvenir – since I’m a Wycombe resident, I feel I owe it to have something of the area. Plus, Yara loved putting it together.
Behind the cafe is a stunning fruit and vegetable ‘walled garden’ where I managed to pick up some dwarf bean seeds for free -apparently all the produce from that big garden goes to serve the cafe. Talk about being eco-friendly and lowering your carbon footprint.
I must say we are extremely lucky to live so close to such beauty and history. Not only was it a great day out for us adults but I truly believe it was also beneficial for Yara, even though she’s only 3. She got to spot historical objects around the house, she learnt to use binoculars so she could see the views from the top floor ( I actually really wanted those binoculars for her), she played around in the beautiful garden with other kids and she saw all the fruits and vegetables behind the cafe so it’s a learning process.
Now that I’ve taken up National Trust membership, I know what we’ll be doing on Sunday afternoons.
Until next time, I hope you get a chance to visit Hughenden Manor with your little ones. It’s well worth it!