As a child I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV, I had my regular cartoons and Worzel Gummidge which I loved. My mum was not a big TV watcher, but what we always, without fail, sat down to enjoy was a good Agatha Christie. Be it Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, we were hooked. I loved the books too and over the years gathered the entire collection. Although I have to confess to not actually having read all of them yet – its on my to do list along with about a thousand other delightful books.
I love going to writer’s homes. Standing in the very place they wrote and trying to absorb some of their thoughts and talents. Thomas Hardy has been a particular favourite (Have a read of my blog about his Dorset life) but I’ve been saving Greenway, Agatha Christie’s home for a while.
This summer, it was on the agenda for the last day of a two-week holiday to the West Country. I’d saved it to the very last moment for the day we returned to London knowing that we’d have a wonderful last day of the holiday and I might not feel so bad about returning to the smog of West London living.
Greenway is nestled in a wooded valley which runs down to the River dart. From the lawn outside the house you have wonderful, far reaching views across the valley to the river and the house couldn’t be more perfect as a holiday home for this notorious writer.
Agatha Christie and her family spent summers and Christmases here, playing croquet out on the lawns, strolling down to the boat house on the banks of the river, wandering through the woodlands and gardens and enjoying family Christmases snuggled around the fireplace. The house is currently ‘set’ in the 1950’s and what really struck me from the moment I walked through the front door, was that this was and is a family home. It’s warm, it’s snug, it’s inviting and it’s as if Agatha herself has merely stepped out for a walk in the woods.
The house is adorned with her treasures and collections of ceramics, wooden boxes, dolls, walking sticks and umbrellas, paintings, botanical china, silver, Tunbridgeware, books, nic nacs…my sort of house. Everywhere you go there is something wonderful and new to see. So many interesting collections it all adds to the fascination of this incredibly interesting writer and woman.
There are a number of rooms open both downstairs and upstairs and every room has so many wonderful treasures in it that you will want to take your time exploring everything. My first favourite was the drawing room with its grand piano. I love playing the piano and I love an opportunity to play someone else’s piano. Not every National Trust house will let you as many are so old and delicate that it would damage them, but to my absolute delight I was allowed. I have been very fortunate recently to play a number of pianos in heritage properties and each one is different and each one fills me with delight. I recently also played in Jane Austens house.
I slowly sat down and played some Bach and Tchaikovsky. What an absolute treat and something I will never forget. How incredible to sit at the very same piano that Agatha Christie did and hear the same echoes of music as her and her family would have enjoyed. She loved music and one can imagine the musical entertainment that must have happened here during parties and Christmases with the family.
The study upstairs on the first floor was also very special with copies of her books and scripts from TV and Film in glass cabinets, as well as her typewriter. A compact and intimate little study with a lovely view to inspire.
Beside her bed is a large mirror that hasn’t moved since she lived there. As I stood there looking at the mirror and my reflection, I wondered how many times Christie had stood on that exact same spot staring at her own reflection and how many pictures that mirror has seen over the years.
After exploring the house you can wander around the extensive grounds. William and I first went down the valley path to go and see the boathouse and the battery which also has its own cannon.
The smell of damp woodland was glorious after that mornings rain and William was in his element as a three year old with woods, mud and sticks to find! We had a lovely walk down the valley through the woods. And although it is predominantly trees, there are some wonderful flowers which suddenly leap out at you, providing a splash of colour amongst the greenery.
The boathouse at the bottom of the valley is famous as it is the setting for Dead Man’s Folly, in which the house also features. I’m currently making my way through the audio CD read by David Suchet on my way to work in the mornings which I bought in the shop.
Walking up another path, back up the valley you head to the more formal gardens at the top, and you find The Walled Gardens. There is a peach house which has been completely renovated, a vinery, vegetable plots and an allotment which is looked after by Galmpton Primary School.
In the south walled gardens there are beautiful borders filled with hydrangeas which flower throughout the summer.
There are also beautiful borders filled with one of my favourites, Dahlias.
A great secret little discovery was the recently restored fernery, which you can find behind the walled gardens and close to the dahlia borders. The damp smell of ferns and mosses with a water fountain creates a wonderful place of tranquillity and harmony. A great place for children to play hide and seek and as I stood listening to the splash of water in the fountain, while William laughed at his reflection I was transported back to a time when life was so much calmer and the pace of everyday life slower.
After our big walk around the estate we went to the shop and the cafe for a well earned lunch. As usual with National trust cafes they have a good selection of hot and cold food, some lovely baked potatoes and a good selection of cakes and afternoon teas. The shop was stocked with a good array of national Trust products as well as plenty of books and things to satisfy every Agatha Christie fan!
This was a truly magical trip and I am so glad that I have finally managed to visit. I loved it – I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. I have been so intrigued by Agatha Christie and her life for so long, that it was really special to finally step into her shoes just for a brief moment in time.
Greenway is tucked away and be warned if you intend on driving there, then you will need to book your parking space in advance. Parking spaces are timed so you only have a limited time at the property. I completely understand this is needed as parking is limited and they want to allow as many people as possible to visit. It’s just a shame as we had no option but to drive and we didn’t get to see everything as we just ran out of time. It also meant we were literally throwing jam scones down ourselves to make sure we got back to the car in time! Better planning needed next time. But you can get a bus there or the ferry over from the village of Dittisham using the Greenway Quay services. These options would allow you loads of time to explore and soak up the woodland walks and have more time to just potter around.
National Trust Website
All Parking spaces must be booked in advance of visit. You can book by visiting: http://www.nter.org.uk/ or calling 01803 842382. Same day booking is possible by telephone depending on how busy they are and phone lines open 9am-4pm. When you arrive you are greeted by a car park attendant who shows you where to go. Parking charges for non-National Trust members: £3 session.