Nigel had journeyed up to Yorkshire in high spirits.
With the hood down, he’d driven the Alvis flat out along the A1 until he’d reached Selby, and from there, had taken the meandering B roads that were to bring him to his final destination, that unspoilt area of chalk downland known as the Yorkshire Wolds.......
He passed hills and valleys white with sheep, and red bricked farm buildings.
Deeper and deeper into the estate he drove until he left the farms behind him and the road dipped gently downward into a wide valley of lush parkland where clusters of cattle and even small groups of people were sheltering in the shade of capacious chestnut trees.
The presence of the people surprised him and then he remembered that in summer the grounds of the estate were open to visitors.
He had visited Budeholme only once before, in the previous January, to conduct a long series of tape recorded interviews with Lady Brearley on the subject of her late husband’s life and career.
Her testimony was the only reliable biographical resource available to him.
Unfortunately, he had discovered, rather late in the day, that Sir Maurice had burnt all his papers a week before his death; that very few of his friends and colleagues remained alive and that those who did were reluctant to be interviewed….......
He drove on.
The car sped over an eighteenth century bridge spanning a wide, sluggish river which flowed into a lake the size of a small sea.
The road ran on beside the lake for about half a mile and then veered away from it, eventually widening into a broad avenue lined with copper beeches.
Now, straight ahead, he could see the magnificent Elizabethan architecture of Budeholme House, standing on rising ground with Sir Maurice Brearley’s numerous, variegated gardens spread out on terraces below it……...
As he neared the house he was forced to join the long queue of cars waiting to enter the visitor’s car park.
Only one vehicle at a time was being allowed into the car park and for the next twenty minutes Nigel sat fuming, impatiently clasping and unclasping his fingers around the steering wheel while the Alvis crawled along in first gear.
At last he arrived at the metal barrier which had been lowered across the car park’s entrance.
The uniformed attendant operating the barrier listened suspiciously as Nigel introduced himself, gave the reason for his visit and explained why he expected to be able to park in front of the house and not in the car park……...
The attendant waved Nigel on and the Alvis continued up the drive towards Budeholme House.
But Nigel had travelled barely fifty yards when he was forced to reduce his speed to a crawl yet again because the road ahead was crowded with visitors ambling leisurely in search of Budeholme’s delights.
A cluster of signs pointed to The Rose Garden, The Orchid House, Beech Walk, The Blue Garden, The Orchard, The Walled Garden, The Arboretum, The Well Garden, and many, many more.
Consoling himself with the knowledge that visitors were still denied access to the house, Nigel drove on slowly and cautiously until the gravelled drive terminated in a vast oval turning area before Budeholme’s north front…....
From Magnificent Britain by Michael Murray.
Five Years On
I explained on Saturday that it's the fifth anniversary of the publication of Magnificent Britain by Michael Murray. If you'd like to read more of the novel you can download a free sample from the Amazon Kindle Store.
If you want to read Kindle books but don't want the expense of buying a Kindle, just go to this page on the Amazon site and download the free app for your preferred device.
When I bought an iPad mini I downloaded the Kindle App so now I read ebooks on the iPad if my Kindle needs re-charging.
As well as iPad there's an app for laptop, P.C., phone, tablet etc. Just follow this link to the Kindle Store and then you can start reading Magnificent Britain today!
Of course, you need an Amazon account as well....
If you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read Magnificent Britain "free".
If you've already read Magnificent Britain then you're probably not reading this blogpost although one Amazon reviewer paid the novel the greatest compliment by reading it twice.
From the very first page I was well and truly hooked.
Intrigue began immediately, and continued throughout both eras.
Mystery piled upon mystery and it was difficult to imagine how all would be resolved.
Important issues of the 60s and 70s were also addressed in graphic and in depth subjects.
I couldn't leave the book alone, reading instead of doing vital tasks.
Once I had finished it, as it had been so complicated and involved, I immediately began reading it again.
Just, the same result in that I couldn't leave it alone.
Many things I had forgotten throughout the book I was reminded of and by the end of the 2nd reading I fully understood everything.
But what a disappointment to have finished it. I'll probably read it again in the future.
Pages 7 - 9 of The Visitor's Guide to Budeholme House 2001
Sir Maurice Brearley was born in 1893 at Southfell Hall in the county of Derbyshire.
He was the only son of the industrialist Reginald Brearley and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Brearley.
Maurice was educated at Trafalgar School and Caius College, Cambridge. At Caius he read History and began his lifelong interest in Botany.
Shortly after Maurice's graduation in 1914 the First World War was declared.
He volunteered immediately and obtained a commission in the North Wolds Light Infantry Regiment.
In early 1915 he was sent to the Western Front and saw action at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the 2nd Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Festubert.
For his "conspicuous gallantry, leadership and devotion to duty when under fire" at Festubert he was awarded the Military Cross.
On the 25th September 1915, whilst in action at the Battle of Loos, Maurice received a wound to his leg which disqualified him from further active service.
Nevertheless, he was still determined to do all that he could for the war effort. His father had diversified into munitions and in 1916 Maurice went to work in one of his factories, starting on the shop floor.
After the war Maurice and his father remained in munitions and together established a number of arms factories throughout Europe.
In 1929, in recognition of his status as a horticulturalist, Maurice was invited to become a member of Professor Copeland's celebrated expedition to the Amazonian Rain Forest.
He returned home with many new specimens of Orchid, and, in later years, he became a leading authority on the species.
Maurice's collection of Orchids which is housed at Budeholme remains one of the most extensive and diverse in England.
In 1965 he was awarded the British Horticultural Association's Medal of Honour for his contribution to horticulture.
In 1937, Maurice's uncle, the Eighth Marquis of Elderthorpe, conveyed to him his share of Budeholme; as Maurice had already inherited his mother's half share on her death, the entire Budeholme Estate passed completely into his ownership.
Later that year Maurice married Miss Celia Madden who was also a keen horticulturist.
On their return from honeymoon, Maurice and his young bride embarked on the many years of hard work that would transform Budeholme's neglected gardens into the finest in the country.
They now extend over forty two acres and fan out from the house in a series of descending terraces.
Throughout the nineteen thirties Maurice was active in the campaign to re-arm Britain and ensure that its defences were sufficient to repel Nazi aggression.
When the Second World War came he was immediately co-opted to the Ministry of Supply where his extensive knowledge of the arms industry proved invaluable.
For this service to his country he was knighted in 1953.
The post war austerity greatly depressed Maurice.
His response was to inaugurate, through a trust fund, the Magnificent Britain competition.
The competition was to be held annually and its aim was to determine which communities throughout the United Kingdom had achieved the highest standard of horticulture.
The first Magnificent Britain competition was held in 1946 and it continues to take place every year, attracting thousands of entrants ranging in size from the tiniest rural hamlets to the largest London Boroughs.
The competition is now held in many countries throughout the world.
Although Sir Maurice and Lady Brearley left England in 1946 to reside in the South of France, they always returned annually to judge the finals of Magnificent Britain.
In 1953 they resumed permanent residence at Budeholme House and six years later Sir Maurice allowed the gardens to be opened to visitors during the summer months.
This proved a great success and in 1979 the public were also given limited access to the house.
In 1996 a BBC television documentary was made about the work of the Brearley Trust and the production team spent a whole year following and filming the Magnificent Britain competition.
This led to even greater interest in Budeholme and visitor numbers increased dramatically.
Late in life Sir Maurice taught himself to draw and paint.
Many of his works in oil and water colour are on display in the house.
Sir Maurice Brearley died in 1969 aged seventy six.
Lady Brearley is thankfully still with us and retains an active interest in horticulture. Indeed, she still participates in the judging of the final round of the Magnificent Britain competition.
Those who wish to learn more about Sir Maurice can purchase from the Budeholme House Gift Shop his official biography Magnificent Briton - The Life of Sir Maurice Brearley written by Nigel Lush.
Magnificent Britain by Michael Murray http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007A4F71G