I knew we would go back to Hemingford Grey. The name itself has snagged on my imagination for so long now, and the associations it has with the wonderfully evocative children's books about the Children of Green Knowe, written by Lucy Boston and set in this lovely ancient Manor House, were always going to call me back. It's a place that haunts me. Once called The Poltergeist House and much feared by the locals, it was brought back to life by Lucy Boston and is now lived in and loved by her daughter-in-law Diana, its spirit at peace. The story goes that, many years ago, Lucy heard there was an old house for sale in one of the Hemingfords in Cambridgeshire and remembering the neglected old Manor House by the River Ouse she had noticed years earlier, was sure it must be that one, so she turned up on the doorstep one Sunday and announced she would like to buy it. The owners were very surprised as they had only that morning decided to put the house on the market and had not yet told anyone. She did buy the house and never did find out which house it was that was actually for sale. It is that kind of house and exercises a strong pull on the imagination.
This time, we were more organised and joined a tour of the house which is still lived in as Diana Boston's home and it is very much a time warp. Built around 1130 it has thick Norman walls and gorgeous quilts in place of curtains in some of the rooms and is full of colourful paintings some of which were painted by Lucy. She was also a keen quilter and spent the winters writing her books and making a wonderful and varied array of quilts, and the summers creating and working in her garden. The quilts are well worth the visit, as is the bedroom described in the Children of Green Knowe and the 900 year old Music Room where Lucy gave musical evenings for RAF servicemen during the war and which is sometimes used for reading ghost stories in the winter.
But today, the sun was shining and the garden in all its Spring glory drew me out of the house. I can't wait to go back again to see the old roses when they are in flower.
It is well worth the detour so do try and visit if you are ever in the area and I promise you won't come away empty handed as Diana sells an assortment of colourful cards featuring the house, garden and Lucy's quilts as well as scarves, handmade jewellery and plants from the garden. She has copies of all the Green Knowe children's books for sale and a fascinating book she wrote herself about Lucy Boston's amazing quilts and she would love you to visit. But do contact her first if you would like a tour of the house as this is by appointment only. www.greenknowe.co.uk