Bookish Discussions · Creative Pieces · national trust



On the outskirts of Lancashire sits Rufford Old Hall, a home of ‘romance, wealth and five-hundred years of family history’. I’ve been aching to visit here for the best part of a year now, and I’m finally within touching distance. The gravel crunches under my feet as I wander slowly up the pathway, taking in the natural beauty that surrounds me. The heavy, sweet scent of the blossoming rhododendrons wraps around me, blanketing me from the sweltering heat. It calms me as the white and black timber-framed hall comes into view. The wooden doors have endured for centuries but they are still willing to invite me in, desperate for me to amble along the Hall’s corridors and soak in its history.

Despite the wide windows, I am shrouded in darkness. The north hall is blocking the sunlight, and I carefully scrutinise the furniture. As I bend lower, the smell of old wood suddenly hits me, reassuring me of its authenticity. It knocks me back, and I turn to leave. I weave in and out of rooms, breathing in the Hall’s history. Dotted around each room sits rotting sofas and tables; they were once vibrant with colour but now have faded to a dull mess of grey, black and green. From the corner of my eye, I peep the Hesketh’s coat of arms. It sits proudly craved into the Great Hall’s wall, and has been since the mid-1500s. This was, undoubtedly, a hall built to impress. It’s said that the Bard himself visited here during his teens. I wonder what Shakespeare thought whilst wandering these very hallways? I am, you might say, following in his footsteps.

I follow the trail of people around the Hall, breathing in history as if its oxygen. Victorian clothing and Edwardian artefacts are on display for my perusal. If only I were born earlier, these could have been my playthings and my shoes. It makes me wonder, will my possessions be locked behind glass for future generations to study? What will they say about the way I dress, or the way I live, or the way I spend my free time? It’s an intimidating thought. I am destined to be a part of history, but who says whether I’ll be displayed for hundreds to see? Not likely, I will fade into the background. I don’t have a coat of arms, weaponry, or an ancient piano to exhibit. The Hesketh family is different; they have a wealth of history, and it’s all at our fingertips. I leave the room and follow the winding staircase down to the exit. From the darkness, I step into light.

The blazing sun is no longer hidden, and I deeply regret wearing black. The smell of brewed tea and freshly baked scones envelops me, distracting me from the torturous rays. A swaying host of colours catch my attention. Pink, white, purple, and yellow. I am drawn towards them like a bee, looking to bury myself within its bed of pollen. The floral perfume fills my very existence, and I feel complete. Daffodils, rhododendrons, wood anemones, dandelions, and hawthorns decorate the Victorian and Edwardian gardens out back. The odd flower blossoms whilst I wander the pathway, bringing with it a new colour or scent. I am aching to touch it, but the delicacy of it warns me not to. I resist. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of nature, and it is no stranger to this Lancastrian garden.

I carry on my tread until I hear the soft flow of water. A canal, decorated with weeds and dragonflies, runs alongside the garden. Rufford Old Hall is located only a few feet above sea level, making it one of the ‘lowest lying National Trust gardens in England’. I sit to watch the water lap around the rocks that disrupt the river’s linear free fall. It talks to me, doing so through the odd gurgling sound. There is tranquillity to be found in nature. I stand, embarking on my journey once again. The path takes me along the canal to the front of the Hall, and, before long, I am shrouded by trees. It’s barren, just greenery coating the scene until suddenly a host of swaying bluebells break the monotony. I am struck still for a moment. I have never seen a cluster of bluebells before. It’s hard to find green in this sea of purple. I cross several wooden bridges, but never take my eyes of the bulbous plant.

After a while, I break from my enchantment. I’m back to reality, but the soft purple still clouds my vision. Nature has such a power over me; how can something be so perfect? The balance between blue and green, the pink and yellow, the crunching of branches and the whistling of wind – it’s the perfect harmony. I retreat, feeling full of life and love. I take one last look at the Hall through a break in the branches of a common beech tree, and there it stands in all its glory. The faded white and black timber-frame stands out in contrast to the vibrant colours of the nature that surrounds it. It had stood there for centuries, and, no doubt, will stand there for several more. I am just one person passing through those hallways, admiring those family heirlooms, and wandering over those pathways.

It might not remember me, but I’ll certainly remember it.

 …thanks for reading, Lauren X

NOTE: I have blended my own creative recollection of my previous trip to Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire, with the facts and history found on the National Trust page. If you’re ever in the vicinity, I would definitely consider visiting this lovely little place. The cream tea is delicious!


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