|Grateful thanks are extended to Wilma van Stratum (daughter of Else Grootenhuis) for the text of this letter.|
It is tastefully furnished and the bedroom suites are all very luxurious - and there are more of them but there is no building-on and extra suites have been made out of some of the servants' bedrooms etc.
The main living rooms are as always. The Winter Garden is a lovely dining room and Grampy's study has been thrown into it. The drawing room has a bar in it which spoils the room a bit. The Hall, which to my mind was always a feature of the house, is just the same. The old billiard room at the end of the Winter Garden has been made into a very well-appointed suite, which we had, with a balcony looking over the lake.
It is owned by a German naturalised American. He is an international hotelier with two or three big hotels in Bermuda etc., but only Springs in England, which he calls his "pet". He has installed a highly-trained manager with wide experience with whom I was much impressed. He wants to make the most of the place in the right way and is very interested in the history of the house.
Outside, the grounds consist of the lawn down to the beech trees, which is the same apart from a rather ugly banjo-shaped swimming pool at the top of the lawn under the old dining room window. This was put in by the pop-star who owned the house for some years and restored it.
Below the beech trees, towards the village, everything is a jungle. They call it the "wood". I found the wild (protected species) growing between the bottom of the lawn and the bridge (now derelict) in full bloom. They are very rare in England. Where the old herbacious borders used to be is a wood now. All the land from the bottom of the lawn towards ... belongs to someone else. They also own the land down the backwater to the river Thames.
The mill ... has been converted to a house in which the owner of this land lives. All the old cottages in the village have been made into 'bijou' houses; but without spoiling them. We met quite a few of the people but it is more a dormitory for London now than a real village.
Grandfather's grave, next to Clara Butts', is being kept in good shape, I am glad to say, by a retired gardener whom I contacted years ago ... A nice rector - an Irishman - entertained us and we met the principal residents of North Stoke who all remember the family. The picture of my father (Leslie Wormald) with the Prince of Wales (Duke of Windsor) on Boat Race day is still hanging in the Village Hall.
It was a nostalgic two days for me. It was also the most comfortable stay in a country hotel for us both that I can ever remember. And the two nights for us both in great luxury cost ... all in, including V.A.T., service etc. Very reasonable indeed for what we got, including high-class food. You should try it. You would enjoy it!
... Ruth and I hope to go again for a couple of nights when life becomes less hectic, as it has lately. The lake is a paradise for wild birds. They keep it tidy and weeded and duck, swans and other birds wander about as in a nature reserve.
It did my heart much good to live for a little while at the centre of my childhood memories in such a peaceful place. And to see the old house so beautifully kept and running smoothly, with so little change. The service was excellent and all the staff so nice. The manager's wife does the flowers herself every day. She and her husband, I think, enjoyed meeting a member of the Wormald family and hearing the many anecdotes of the past.