There are many things to do at Longleat, one of which is to explore the home of the 7th Marquess of Bath, Alexander Thynn, who is a rather eccentric and amorous character if media reports about him are to be believed.
But we shan’t talk about the Marquess because I’ve never met him. We shall talk about his house because I just visited it.
One of the reasons Piers wanted to show me Longleat House was because one of the innumerable pieces of priceless antiques furnishing the house was made by his ancestor.
Piers has a very interesting family history dating back to 1066, of which I’m very jealous because the oldest ancestor I know of is my great grandmother, whom I have one single brief memory of being carried out of the house dying of diabetes, which is very sad.
Piers’ ancestors were Italian cooks serving William the conqueror. They came with him to England when he seized the throne in 1066 and became the first Norman King of England.
Through the centuries, his ancestors gained repute as craftsmen, the most famous of them being Edward Cockey, who made astronomical longcase clocks, among other things, for England’s nobility. One of his clocks was given to Queen Anne as a gift.
In 1706, the first of his astronomical clocks was commissioned for the Great Hall in Longleat. It still stands there today.
Astronomical clocks tell other things besides the time, such as the positions of the sun, moon, stars and planets.
Another one of his clocks can be seen at the British Museum.
I don’t think there are anymore clockmakers in the family. I suppose clockmaking isn’t as cool a trade as it used to be.
So, anyway, after finding out all that, I was quite excited to see the clock in the Great Hall.
We had picked a great day to go see it: When we got there, there was no clock in the case.
The longcase was there, but there was no clock inside the case. It had probably removed for cleaning or something.
I can’t show you more photos of the house because we’re not allowed to take photos in there. The one above is a Longleat archive photo.
So, that’s it about the house.
I want to talk about the other attractions at Longleat now.
There’s a new attraction called Monkey Temple where you’re supposed to be hounded by monkeys trying to steal your hat or untie your shoelaces as you walk through the area.
But Piers and I went in there and we saw every animal but a monkey.
That was a bit sad but, fortunately, there were enough interesting sights to keep us happy.
For example, this giant killer bunny.
Okay it’s not a killer.
Not so giant, either.
But it’s HUGE.
It didn’t really like children poking at it so it tried to stay in the middle out of reach from seeking hands on both sides.
I would like to have a giant killer bunny as a pet. But Piers says he prefers a dog.
I told him my bunny will eat his dog.
Unfortunately, this was the point at which my camera ran out of juice and I had to take photos with my Blackberry, which is really sad because, well, it’s just sad.
There were so many awesome things to photograph in this animal planet.
Like this tame guinea pig. Which was just sitting there letting kids touch it.
And iguanas, which I at first thought were fake and just decorative items. I swear they looked fake. They were so still; they never moved.
I’ve loved iguanas since reading the comic Foxtrot when I was younger. Quincy is the cutest iguana ever.
It was a bit disappointing for me to see that real iguanas aren’t really cute like Quincy.
I still do like house lizards very much.
There’s also butterfly kingdom, which I didn’t want to visit at first because I’ve never really fancied butterflies. But then I was glad I did because it’s kind of cool having big, colourful butterflies flutter around your face. Or perched quietly somewhere enjoying a banana, not caring about people shoving camera lenses right into their psychedelic wings.
That was when I really wished I could’ve used my Lumix.
We went into a hedge maze and that was pretty crazy. I’ve done mazes. Like on pen and paper. But never in real life.
It was really disconcerting. A bit claustrophobic because the spaces inside were long and narrow.
It’s apparently one of the most challenging mazes in the world.
The aim is to try and get into that pavillion in the middle where you can stand and look down at the entire maze. And then try and get out from there.
You will come across bridges scattered around the maze where you have a bit of elevation to look about you and try to figure a way to your destination. But it’s a bit impossible to figure out because the hedges are all packed so close together.
Here’s a postcard of the maze. Took a photo of it so you can see what the entire maze looks like.
Piers and I spent about 12 minutes walking around it and ended up right where we started.
I decided to give up because I felt that the sense of satisfaction getting to the middle wasn’t going to be big enough to worth risking a lot of time spent going round and round the stupid maze.
From one of the bridges, I could see how easy it was to go round in circles forever and never get to where you want to get.
We went on a boat cruise, instead.
One of the first things we saw was the little house belonging to Nico the gorilla, who lives on a little island by himself because his mate died last year or something.
If you squint a bit, you can see from the photo that Nico has a satellite dish so that he can get cable TV.
What a good life.
Nico loves children shows and cartoons. His current favourite is Spongebob Squarepants.
I’m not making this up. The boat guide told us this as we cruised past Nico’s little island.
Apparently, he plays computer games, too. (The guide didn’t tell us that; I read that on the Longleat website.)
It was really unfortunate that my Lumix was out of commission. I couldn’t get a clear shot of Nico with my Blackberry. He was hiding at the back of his house, peering out at us from behind a pillar.
We also saw seals and hippopotamuses but that’s a bit boring because they were mostly in the water. We did get to see the seals get fed, which was a bit fun to watch, but hard to photograph because they came in and out of the water so quickly.
The trip was fun, though. Took maybe about 10 minutes and the guide was quite funny.
We ended our day with a “picnic” on the grass.
Well, we had one hotdog each and a bottle of coke to share.
We just sat on the grass, no picnic mat.
But we did have a gorgeous view and the weather was quite pleasant.
I had such a great time, the only real disappointment being that we didn’t get to see Piers’ ancestor’s clock.
I suppose that means we’ll have to go back again.