Dazzling manor

Dazzle at Waddesdon Manor, Christmas 2016. Photo: Derek Pelling Photography, copyright National Trust, Waddesdon PNL-161114-144425001
Dazzle at Waddesdon Manor, Christmas 2016. Photo: Derek Pelling Photography, copyright National Trust, Waddesdon PNL-161114-144425001

Waddesdon Manor is always a delight, but at Christmas it takes on a really special atmosphere.

I wrote just a couple of weeks ago about the opening day for the winter season, but after having visited and seen for myself the treats in store, I’d like to tell you more.

From dusk the new sound and light show, Dazzle@Waddesdon which animates the ornate facade of the house with rainbow colours at 15 minute intervals creates a really lovely ambience in the gardens, where the trees are also lit up.

Inside the house, the theme this year is magical materials inspired by the rare, exotic and beautiful materials in Waddesdon’s collections. Twelve enormous Christmas trees are also dotted about the rooms dressed in specific themes including books and wood.

In the White Drawing Room the tree is dressed with gingerbread decorations created by the Biscuiteers with patterns relating to the Sevres porcelain in the house.

In the ante room to the White Drawing Room I spotted a huge photograph of Nicole Kidman (see inset above). She is apparently a friend of Lord Rothschild and was at Waddesdon several years ago to do a photographic shoot with Mario Testino for Vogue magazine. The image shows her next to the 1770 fall-front desk in the morning room and is displayed in the space where a Reynolds painting usually hangs, and which is currently on loan to an exhibition in Greenwich until April next year.

Gingerbread men are hidden throughout the house in a special trail for children to follow. And the biggest gingerbread surprise of all is reserved for The Stables where a magnificent two metre reproduction of some of the Waddesdon rooms can be seen in a massive gingerbread house created by the Biscuiteers.

Near to The Stables and located near the top of the woodland playground is the Wigwam Cafe decorated inside with twinkling Christmas lights and benches covered with pure white skins. Mulled wine, hot chocolate, homemade cakes and seasonal street food is served there.

In the grounds, light artist Bruce Munro has made a return visit with one of his most popular light installations.

Nine thousand spheres make up Field of Light near the aviary glade. The installation took more than a week to set up and involved the help of many volunteers. But one word of warning, there is little additional light to guide your way as you walk through the grounds. A torch might be a very handy thing to have with you.

Waddesdon is open now until January 2 from 11am-6pm Wednesdays to Sundays (except December 24 - 26 when it is closed).

The main image above, showing Dazzle@Waddesdon was taken by Derek Pelling Photography, copyright National Trust Waddesdon.