In Pictures: Waddesdon Manor at Christmas – 30 November 2014

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As we enter the final four weeks before Christmas, so begins the nightmare of how to fit everything in. From now until the big day – and, really, until we’ve safely seen the New Year in – oft will be uttered the words: “I’d love to… but it’s just so busy at this time of year”.

I’ve come to realise why — the reason that every year, without fail, we find ourselves somehow even busier than in the manic Advent of the year before. It’s because, put simply, we create new traditions. And, Christmas being a festival steeped richly in tradition, we do something once and then do it again every year until we die. Here’s another phrase you’d better get used to hearing: “It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.”.

Last December, my parents invited their friends, Carol and Kevin Baughan, to Waddesdon Manor in Aylesbury. It looked extremely festive: the rooms in the Neo-Renaissance house were festooned with Christmas trees and Victorian decorations; its gardens featured sculptural installations by British artist Bruce Munro. Mum and Dad were so impressed by it all, that they took me and my siblings to see it for ourselves later that month. The Baughans were so impressed, they suggested we all go again to see this year’s display, entitled Winter Light, tonight.

Parking in the now-completed £4.4 million car-park at the bottom of the hill, we were bussed up to the house which, after briefly visiting the frankly uninspiring selection of stalls at the Christmas Fair (new for this year, but only open until next Sunday, 7 December), we entered. Touring the house took around 45 minutes, and although large parts of it were inaccessible, those that were open were well worth seeing. This year, the theme indoors was Lights and Legends, reflecting stories and rituals from around the world. As such, there was plenty to see that was new – and the accompanying section labels were surprisingly informative. Father and I were most amused when we overheard a Waddesdon room guide, overseeing the corridor by the bathroom, explaining to a foreign visitor: “Oh no, madam. I’m sorry, you can’t use that lavatory. The public facilities are downstairs.”

MOON HARVEST, BRUCE MUNRO

This new site-specific installation is inspired by the term ‘Harvest Moon’ which refers both to the traditional timing of harvest (coinciding with a full moon to lengthen the working day), and to the golden appearance of the moon at harvest time. His visual pun yields a bumper crop of full moons.
[PHOTO: © Andrew Burdett 2014]

After leaving via the gift-shop (which touts Rothschild wines, under a unique arrangement between the National Trust and The Rothschild Foundation), we enjoyed a cup of tea before heading over to the Winter Light trail. Just like the decorations inside the house, the Munro display outside was similar but distinctly different to last year’s. I was particularly impressed by Good Seed, a structure comprised of nineteen lampposts jutting out at myriad angles which is said to be inspired by “the eternally burning Victorian lamppost in CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia“. The final work is named Beacon, a warm and attractive installation that marks the end of the trail.

After getting back to Maidenhead, we headed to the Baughans’ for a lasagne supper, picking up my brother Matthew en-route. A splendid end to a wonderful evening, this annual Waddesdon outing is one Christmas tradition that I will gladly repeat in 2015.

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a 20-year-old from Maidenhead in Berkshire. A self-professed "lover of life", he enjoys a busy calendar of activities and engagements. With regular involvement in the Scout Association and his church, he was made Head Boy in his final year at school. After a gap-year spent as a Teaching Assistant at a local junior school, he is now half-way through his Journalism Studies degree at the University of Sheffield. In his spare time, he swims, reads, and enjoys writing about himself in the third-person.