After coming across a great deal for a hotel room at Malmaison Birmingham, we decided to turn our night away into a little historical road trip, and began looking for interesting places to visit near Birmingham.
We discovered that in the countryside around the city there are lots of wonderful stately homes and gardens to explore, and so decided to tick two new National Trust historical sites off our “visited” list.
On the drive up to Birmingham, close to Worcester, we discovered Croome. Perfectly placed for a day trip from Birmingham, you can easily while away a whole day here, exploring the dog-friendly grounds, the wartime visitor centre and Croome Court mansion house.
Steeped in centuries of history, Croome is a history lover’s dream, and not just because of the tales it tells. It’s a unique National Trust property in that it gives you a chance to snoop like never before!
Croome Court restoration project
At the moment Croome Court is in the middle of a restoration project, but instead of shutting down for the work, the National Trust has thrown the doors open, allowing you a unique insight into the work they’re undertaking.
With several owners, including the well-known “Croome Court Hare Krishna”, the manor fell into a state of disrepair – even the National Trust itself talks about Croome Court’s “faded beauty”.
When the National Trust first took on Croome Park in 1996, the lake and river were filled with silt, statues were found broken and follies were partly buried underground. In 2007 it also took on the mansion and since then has been working on restoring the building to its original beauty.
It’s fair to say your first glimpse of Croome Court will be rather unusual, as the house is hidden under massive sheets and scaffolding. But the National Trust has used art to bring it alive in its current form, and I loved the giant eyes that greeted me as I came over the hill and saw the building for the first time.
When you venture inside you’re met by super friendly staff who are more than happy to talk you through the work underway. Plus as you move from room to room you’re able to get up close to the action, even watching the restorers at work and discussing with them some of the unusual challenges they’ve had to face.
It was a really fun experience to see a National Trust historical site like never before. Staff would point out the crumbling plaster and decaying woodwork, explaining that it’s been eaten up by pesky beetles! I also loved venturing through the basement corridors that would have been home to the servants, and seeing one of the house’s special tapestries rolled up and protected while they fix up its home.
There’s also another unique experience on offer while the work is underway. Visitors are able to climb up the scaffolding to reach Croome’s “Sky Cafe” where you can look over the grounds whilst having a nice cup of tea and a scone!
Capability Brown’s first work
Getting to Croome Court itself involves a lovely walk through just a small part of the grounds. These also have a tale of their own, as Croome was where the renowned landscape architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown undertook his first landscape design project.
Croome Court activities
Lovers of National Trust walks will enjoy Croome, as if you choose to explore, you’ll be able to come across everything from follies and statues through to a temple, church, ice house and rotunda. And at the moment a number of bird sculptures have been planted in trees across the grounds -will you be able to find them all?
Croome also appears to be a top spot for local dog owners, as we met many people enjoying the countryside air with their pets during our wanderings.
You may be eager to explore the stately house in its current state of disrepair but I do recommend that you don’t miss out on some of the other interesting stories Croome has to share.
RAF Defford, Worcestershire
For example, the entrance to Croome’s grounds is actually on old secret wartime base, which now lives on as a visitor centre and museum.
In the 1940s thousands of people lived and worked at what was then known as RAF Defford, and these restored RAF buildings now tell the stories of the people who lived and died here. The base was home to some of the early research into radar, which went on to revolutionise the capabilities of the Allied aircraft and we spent a good hour learning all about the scientists, engineers and pilots that worked tirelessly to support the war effort.
A unique day out
If you’re planning a day trip from Birmingham and you’re looking for a stately home to visit you can’t get better than Croome. There’s enough there to keep you busy for a whole day and how often do you get the opportunity to see a National Trust property in mid-restoration?
I loved soaking in the history, the wonderful countryside air and, of course, stopping in the Tapestry Room cafe for a scone! Now I’m planning a second Birmingham road trip, as I hope to return next year to see how different Croome will look!
Are you a history lover? Would you enjoy a day out poking around a stately home mid-restoration? Let us know in the comments below!