Christmas at Burton Agnes Hall
One of my favourite stately homes to visit at any time of year is Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire. This lovely Elizabethan manor house has been described as 'the perfect English house' and as one of England's twenty finest houses alongside Chatsworth House, Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. Despite these illustrious comparisons, to me Burton Agnes Hall always feels like a real lived-in family home with a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
And at Christmas time, it looks stunning with hundreds of original and creative decorations - both traditional and contemporary in style. Many of them are natural, using flowers, foliage and branches from the hall's extensive gardens as well as handmade pieces crafted in a massive joint effort by the Cunliffe-Lister family and their staff.
This year, my mum and I tied in a visit with taking my youngest son to see Father Christmas. After being met by Mrs Claus in the Great Hall, we went on a tour of the house to meet Jingles the Magic Elf for some festive fun. We found Jingles in a room off the Long Gallery which looked wonderful with young walnut trees festooned with tissue paper pom poms made by the guides and pearlised card decorations, and of course, a letter box for those important letters to Santa...
After some magic tricks, stories and songs it was time to meet the man in red. Watching the look on the children's faces always reminds me what a special and magical time of year this is for little ones.
The really nice thing about Burton Agnes is that you never feel rushed by staff or crowded out as you wander from room to room. There was plenty of time to enjoy all the creativity that has gone into making the decorations which are all personal to the house rather than mass-produced and shipped in for the season.
In the Chinese Room there was a colourful tribute to this year's 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK - a willow branch with rainbow coloured origami butterflies and sprayed hydrangea heads.
In the White Drawing Room the pale colour-scheme is echoed with a papercut village and huge pearlised paper flowers on the floor. I loved the book balls and paper snowflakes and the paperback book Christmas trees. All these decorations are so inspiring and the sort of thing you could try out at home - although I think I would still be folding paper on Christmas Day for some of the origami projects as they must have been such a labour of love.
Other rooms, like the King's Bedroom are decorated in a more opulent style with an oak tree adorned with crowns, birds and baubles and golden gourds from the Walled Garden.
No Christmas would be complete without the nativity, or in this case, the knitivity scene with charming hand-knitted characters.
One of the activities my son really enjoyed was the spot the snowman trail throughout the house where children have to find all the snowmen (made from merino wool by one of the young daughters and wearing hats and scarves made from the family's recycled jumpers) hiding in each room. I admit it took some searching by the adults to spot some of them!
I hope you enjoy your visit if you get time to go along. It really is a favourite place of mine and will definitely get you into the festive spirit - Oh, and don't forget to keep a look out for those elusive little snowmen!