A bit of a disappointment at Dyrham

So this post I’m afraid might be a bit negative. When planning our Trusty holiday me and mum decided we’d really like to go to Dyrham Park because currently visitors have the opportunity to be able to go on the roof! I was very excited when I heard about this so we planned Dyrham in, instead of another property that I would also very much like to visit. However Dyrham did not live up to the excitement I felt whilst planning our holiday.

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Getting to Dyrham we were told that if we wanted to go on the roof we had better head straight there as the weather was getting worse and they might be closing the roof. So we waited for the minibus to pick us up and take us to the house. While we were waiting I took a #antlerselfie with a very cool hat the Dyrham staff has made.

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I was very glad we got the minibus, it would have been a long walk but not just because of that. There were some calves in the estate, very cute but new to the area and they were rather jumpy. They were all across the path and getting quite close to the minibus so I was glad not to be walking down in the middle of them.

When we did get to the house they were just closing the roof tours. Even though I had seen on the website that it was weather dependent I was very disappointed. While the work to repair the roof is happening only the ground floor is open to the public and the collection from the upper floors has been moved into store. There were collections tours running to show the public how this large-scale operation was being carried out.

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However when we were inquiring about the roof tours they told us that the next collection tour would not be for a while. So we decided to do the tour of the house first thing. The rooms currently open to the public are those of ‘Mr Blathwayt’s Apartments’, set out to transport you back to the 17th Century.

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Now if anyone says Hardwick is dark I invite them to visit Dyrham. The tour was designed to be sensory, touch, taste, sound, smell to compensate for the reduced sight, there was not a curtain open in the whole property! I’m assuming this was because no light would have got in past the scaffolding that was wrapped around the whole building anyway.

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You now enter under the scaffolding, through a tunnel that felt like I might have been unwillingly entering a ‘fun house’, complete with funky blue over shoes. We were also given a booklet which I found very frustrating, full of obscure contemporary 17th Century quotes but not a lot of actual information about the rooms themselves.

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In the first room there was a volunteer playing the piano. To the left there was a further room with a stair case and after that in a room beyond a rope a painting that all the volunteers are very proud of. It was a shame I couldn’t get closer too it, but it is a very unusual life size painting called ‘A view through a house’, making it look as if the house extends further than it actually does.

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After that rooms had herbs to smell and another had a trunk full of fabric that you could handle. In total there are eight rooms still open to the public. One of the rooms has these fantastic tulip vases in it.

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Once we had walked through those rooms and out the other side we were offered a taste of hot chocolate to an authentic 17th Century recipe. It was very bitter and heavily spiced, I think a mouthful would be very warming on a cold night but much more than that would make a modern person feel quite sick.

I thought giving authentic tasters was quite a nice idea, however for very good reason it has to be done outside the house, which means it sorts of looses its flow.

After the tour of the house we went to check if there were any collection store tours, which there weren’t so we went for lunch. After lunch we went back to the area where the tours were, and still there was no tour due. We had a look around the exhibition, which is comprised of two rooms.

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The first room talked about how Dyrham was originally built and the second about the work that was now going on on the roof. I have to admit I was not particularly interested in the first room, but the second brought home the scale of the project Dyrham is undertaking.

The project involves removing the whole of Dyrham’s roof and replacing the lead with new, but don’t worry, all the old materials is being recycled, all 46 tonnes of lead and 8000 slate tiles! The scale of the project is astounding, and trying to keep the property open whilst the work is going on is very ambitious.

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After looking at the exhibitions we went again to see if there was a collections store tour leaving, but there wasn’t one for another 30 mins! We had a long drive to our next hotel, so we decided not to wait. We had done all we could and by this point had been on site for nearly three hours but there hadn’t been a single tour! So we caught the minibus back to the car and headed off, disappointed.

I really do admire Dyrham for trying alternate things to keep the property open while the roof is coming off, and by all account the roof tour is amazing, if you actually get up there, but more need to be done for visitors when they cannot access the roof. For there not to have been one tour of the collections store in nearly three hours is pretty poor.

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They could not help that the tour of the house was not to my taste, and the idea of making it a ‘sensory’ experience of 17th Century Dyrham was a really good one, but I felt the execution was just too little to really make an impact. I feel bad for saying it, but all in all my day at Dyrham was very disappointing, and it’s a shame because I know a lot of though and effort will have gone into planning for this frighteningly large-scale project.

Maybe I will visit again, if I’m in the area but I supposed I shouldn’t really complain as I really enjoyed visiting all the other properties I saw on my Trusty holiday. Good luck to everyone at Dyrham, and hope the new roof is much less leaky that the last!

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