Nope, not a car park! This was a classic car rally held in the grounds of Hutton-in-the-Forest, a stately home to the north east of Penrith.
We’d read about the event in the local press but almost decided not to go given the poor weather yesterday morning – mist, low cloud, and frequent heavy showers. However, we thought ‘oh, it can’t be that bad all day’ and breezed up the M6, arriving at Hutton just before eleven.
Of course, the minute we got out of the car it started to throw it down, and we spent a soggy half hour or so wandering up and down a field full of sheep poo in the pouring rain! However, the old cars – everything from Austin 7s from the 1920s to surprisingly modern ‘cult cars’ via the usual assemblage of Rover 2000s, Triumph Stags and Ford Capris – were interesting enough to take our mind off wet or sheepy feet.
After a coffee in the ‘Cloisters’ tea room the rain seemed to have eased off so we pottered round the beautiful gardens – wild meadow, streams, a lake, and a fabulous walled garden which is one of the best I’ve ever seen – then bought a ticket for a tour of the house. This was fascinating. The earliest part dates back to around 1250, when the Houghton family were made rangers of Ingleby forest, an area of ‘wild wood’ stretching from Penrith right across to the west coast. They built a peel tower to keep off the “marauding Scots”, and the building has been added to steadily over the centuries – Tudor wing, Carolean hall, Victorian gothick portion – to create a wonderful jumble of styles and dates, but all with the same wealth of history and homely atmosphere.
By this stage the rain had stopped, the clouds blown away and the sky turned an unusual shade – blue – so we had another wander round the cars before getting back in our own and heading for home. All in all a very enjoyable day out, and one we’re glad we persevered with!