We all find a place that is just right for us. A happy haven, the very definition of escapism. A friend or family member may go there themselves and simply not see the appeal. But that’s OK, it’s OK because it’s all yours, and to you it’s a place where your mind can wander off to and loiter a while as you complete your monotonous reports and spreadsheets on autopilot, as your sock bunches up around your toes in your wellies when your chasing after your dog, when you forget to buy the ingredients you needed for the dinner you said you’d be cooking tonight. And yes, those are the things that have happened to me today and during every one of those moments it has crossed my mind that I want nothing more than to be packing my weekend bag, throwing it into the car whilst warming up my vocal chords for an hour of pretending I am every musical artist the radio offers me the chance to be.
Because I have such a place, and that place is Eynsham Hall in Witney, Oxfordshire. I am daydreaming about being there again right now.
A little introduction to the place…
Eynsham Hall was built because in the early 1700s a wealthy land owner wanted to use a huge section of his land to develop an area that would be used for entertaining guests and taking part in outdoor sports. Yes, well, we’d all like to be able to do that really. Anyway, this chap did, however he sold it and it was passed about a bit until 1866, when the current freeholder’s grandfather bought it, leaving it to his son and son’s wife when he died.
Now this wife was a bit of a socialite, visionary and philanthropist and was apparently influential in demolishing the Georgian house in 1904 because it looked ‘old-fashioned’ (I’m a big fan of Georgian architecture personally, but then I’m not a loaded socialite with a country house to play with… and I’ll let her off for this one). Two further floors were added, because space must have obviously been very tight… and the architect who designed the second can even be thanked for the interior panelling that is still present.
But, alas, Eynsham Hall was rebuilt in 1908 by an architect who liked to specialise in Elizabethan-style buildings. His design for the inside of Eynsham Hall was Jacobean style, with oak panelling (I do love a bit of oak panelling) and stone fireplaces (yep, those too).
I love the feeling that sweeps over me as I make my way up the wonderfully clichéd perpendicular driveway. The hall sprouting out of the ground, growing and growing, knocking back the worries and weights that sit upon my shoulders from the working week I’m unceremoniously abandoning behind me.
It’s a fantastically theatrical sight, architecturally. The stereotypical picture of a fine country house and all the grandeur that that encourages.
I’ve been here twice now, but it feels even more familiar than just somewhere I’ve taken two trips to. Perhaps it’s because it was the first (and most well deserved) mini break I’d had in so long, or perhaps places are simply like people and sometimes you just really hit it off from the first meeting. And now I’m devoted to the large and looming staircase, and I really do hanker for the perfect burger and to-die-for cocktails served by friendly staff in both the gun room and the restaurant.
The views are stunning, and I could stare out of those great, stone windows for hours whilst imagining myself as Emma Woodhouse (from Jane Austen fame for those of you who don’t share that same fantasy), if it weren’t for the need to actually get out and have a wonder around the grounds – I’m not the best at sitting still, even in such a fine place.
There’s a gym for if I were to have a sudden and very unexpected urge to take the fun away for my body, and a pool which I do actually choose to use before hitting the sauna (it’s… compact and bijou so you should hope you don’t hit the peak sweat time). To be honest I’d rather be soaking myself in the relaxed atmosphere of the gun room bar.
Enjoy it, or don’t, the importance of having a familiar and welcoming place is immense. I’m glad I’ve found mine, and I’m already counting down until my next visit. To rejuvenate and recharge my batteries, of course, so it’s pretty necessary really.