Having cruised past some sumptuous houses over the past few weeks, we dropped by to say hello at Cliveden House. Only to find that the nice little cottage on the bank, was the summerhouse where Queen Victoria used to take afternoon tea. Undeterred we duly paid our £10 mooring fee to the National Trust, (not sure why, when as members we can park for free) and climbed up the hill to the big house,

Cliveden NT (NT photo)

only to find one or two other guests had arrived first, not being our usual choice of holiday destination, we hadn’t realised not only is Cliveden a NT property but a 5 star hotel as well.

Arriving in style

Not wanting to spark further scandal, political or otherwise, photography wasn’t permitted (Cliveden is where the Profumo affair took place) and the tour of the house was very limited. (Which I suppose if you are paying a starting price of £450 for a room is fair enough) but it is worth having a look on the hotel website for some impressive internal features. Whilst we enjoyed the view from the terrace. ( remember this view for later)

I guess this is technically a house with a river view at the end of the garden

To be truthful I was a bit disappointed that we couldn’t see more of the house, but at £90, we didn’t think we were suitably dressed to enjoy afternoon tea, even if Victoria was no longer around. (£124 for the champagne tea). It was time to see the gardens.

If you need a clock in the garden, it might as well be a smart one

especially the rose garden

Just a few

and the fabulous borders


The mooring was wild and we struggled to get a rope around a tree to secure the bow,

Very wild mooring

but in the intense heat, we were quite glad of the shade and it made an excellent location for me to swim safely, it was cool clean and shallow, so much so that Eric handed me the scraper and I was able to clean off some of the growth under the waterline. But you’ll have to take my word for that.

Low cost spa

Whilst I was enjoying my natural spa day, Eric set to washing the side of the boat

Its a myth that Braidbar are self cleaning

Refreshing though this mooring was, it was also quite shallow and everytime a fast boat went past we could hear us scraping on a rock underneath us, so said goodbye to the Mandarin ducks

Mandarin duck

and only stayed one night. As we continued our cruise downstream I chanced to look and oh boy did we get a treat. Remember the river view from the terrace? I guess this is what you’d call a terrace view.

Looking back up to the house

Gawthorpe Hall and the Shuttleworth Textile collection

Whilst we were travelling through the abandoned industrial heritage of the Lancashire mills, we came across a National Trust Property within walking distance of the canal. Gawthorpe Hall at Hapton.

Gawthorpe Hall
Gawthorpe Hall

Never one to miss an opportunity I set off to indulge in a bit of house fantasy. The Hall’s origins were in the 14th century when the pele tower was build to fend off the marauding Scots. As with most old buildings like this, it’s been added to to and renovated many times over as fortunes waxed and wained.  What we see now is basically a 16th century Elizabethan country house that’s had a Victorian makeover. The guides were keen to point out that a lot of the internal structure was designed by Pugin, who had a hand in the Houses of Parliament. It was intended to be, and is, all very grand and ornate. My house fantasy prefers something with a few less nooks and crannies that need dusting.

What an Artex ceiling could look like

I was however bowled over by the Rachel Shuttleworth textile collection. Rachel was the last of the “family” to live in the hall, she was a great needlewoman, educator and philanthropist. In fact my Aunty spent a lot of time studying lace making in the hall. It was all very inspirational.

Now that’s my idea of an office

The other artifact inside the Hall that caught my eye was the Davy Automatic Fire escape.

The Davy Automatic Safety Fire Escape

It’s gears and braking system ensure a controlled descent. And it reassuringly says “do not hesitate, it is perfectly safe” and that these mechanisms are still for sale today.

Safer than jumping from the top floor

I always like to look out of the window and the Gawthorpe Hall garden is bordered by the Lancashire River Calder. The course of this river has been altered several times to enhance to view and to allow opencast coal mining in the fields behind the tree line. There are several Calder Rivers in the UK. The word Calder derives from celtic origins, meaning hard rapid water.

Looking out towards the River Calder and the now landscaped opencast coal field

On the other side of the hall, in a drought year, you can look down onto a ghost garden. As the outlines of the old Elizabethan garden emerge through the grass. I’m not sure whether to say luckily or unluckily I didn’t get to see this phenomenon, suffice to say that the Leeds and Liverpool canal has not suffered from water shortages this summer.

The ghost garden ( photo from google)

We didn’t linger long, as we’d got a break in the weather and set off cruising south towards Blackburn with the Forest of Bowland to our north west.

Looking back over Blackburn