The Vyne is a stunning stately home near Basingstoke in Hampshire, offering dog friendly woods and fields and ticketed entry into the manor home.
Unfortunately the one thing visitors can't help but notice about The Vyne currently, is the vast spiderweb of scaffolding that covers the building - due to the huge restoration project taking place. Only a couple of months ago, visitors could ascend to the ceiling for incredible views across the estate - but in order to let workers continue in their restoration process it's since been closed until the work is completed.
The efforts involved in fundraising for this project are promoted at every opportunity, and the ingenious ways the team at They Vyne are raising money has to be admired - not only can you purchase second hand books and raffle tickets from the shops, visitors are also invited to pick up historic roof tile spared during the renovation for a gold coin donation!
Despite not being able to see the outside of The Vyne underneath the construction work, I'd still say it's well worth visiting for its interior alone. The first few rooms contain meticulously catalogued pieces of furniture like chairs, tables, lamps and curiosities collected by the various owners of the house since Tudor times. These first few rooms were the most recent additions of the house, having been built by the Chute family after purchasing the property in the 17th century.
These additional areas are small in comparison to the area of land once covered by rooms and halls attached to The Vyne that stands today, much of the original building had to be demolished as it had gone into disrepair before it was bought by the Chute family.
Connecting these more modern areas of the house with the original building is an immersive audio visual installation of chamber music, changing medieval tapestry scenes and tantalisingly facts about the visits of King Henry VIII. The Vyne was built for Lord Sandys, Henry VIII's Lord Chamberlain and right hand man, and in the year 1535 Henry visited with his then wife Anne Boleyn. The immense preparations required for hosting the king were well documented and presented in the captivating display.
As visitors progress further into the home it becomes less museum like and is laid out more as a representation of how the house would have been lived in. The dining home again has creative audio visuals but is more stripped back, giving indication of what an average meal with the Chute family would have entailed with views out to the lake and fields beyond.
As well as the the incredible curation of historical items and presentation of complex events and historical context of the property in modern formats, a unique factor of The Vyne was it's tour guides. In every room a beaming individual greeted guests, each eager to share their own personal favourite subject about the beautiful house they worked in.
For example, I learned that the senior tour guide once owned 14 ballet schools and had just turned 80. But most importantly, he was a huge fan of the ancient roman ring hidden in the stores of the house that sometimes came out on display - having been attributed as the inspiration of Tolkien's Lord of The Rings. Supposedly, Tolkien had been asked to view the ring in an attempt to decipher the writing it featured, and shortly after he wrote the incredible Lord of the Rings trilogy.
In the next room, a lady explained that during renovations a colony of 4 different bat species had been discovered and re homed in the woods of the property. However, the new homes built for the bats in nearby trees are only temporary. After being investigated by experts, it was decided that renovations of the building should take into account the bats - and plans have included areas for the bats to be re introduced as residents.
It's these little glimpses of curiosity and passion from volunteers that make me love visiting National Trust sites.
After enjoying every aspect the open areas available at The Vyne, I have to say I'm desperate to get back as soon as the scaffolding comes down.