WHEN the thunder cracked and rumbled over the Stourhead gardens, we initially thought it was part of the spectacular soundscape that accompanies the Christmas light show at the famous National Trust gardens.
A few minutes later, the storm started – hail like I have never experienced, streaming out of the sky in an impenetrable ice curtain. The three of us gathered the two little children into the middle like penguins in an Antarctic storm, and waited for it to blow over. It did after a few minutes, only to return a short time later. But we all survived unscathed, albeit with rather wet legs. Those penguins know a thing or two about icy blasts!
A few yards further through the beautiful gardens, we found a bench, had a quick break for mugs of hot chocolate and carried on.
Perhaps the hail – which in other areas stopped traffic in city centres and on main roads – helped to make the whole evening even more memorable! And it didn’t spoil our enjoyment – what can you do but laugh at the curve-balls the English climate likes to throw at us when we indulge our peculiar passion for outdoor events in the winter?
Stourhead’s first ever Christmas light spectacular is a triumph, attracting sell-out crowds every night, for a walk through a magical world of ancient trees, ethereal music, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and lighting installations that turn bare grass into fairytale meadows and give a vivid and thrilling new look to the familiar temples and follies.
The trail starts at the car park, where you follow the path, not down to the Spreadeagle yard as usual, but over the bridge to the main house, past the greenhouse, and along the drive, where the Singing Trees installation combines seasonal music with colourful ever-changing lights.
Along the trail, which winds through the gardens behind the house and down to the lake, you pass imaginative and atmospheric lighting installations, such as the Cathedral of Light, the Laser Garden or the scented Fire Garden.
Equally appealing are the lights that illuminate some of the great trees near the house and on the path through the gardens. The beauty of these centuries-old trees is shown to stunning effect by lights that enhance their majestic shapes against the dark background.
The Christmas at Stourhead illuminations continue to 30th January. Booking is essential and there is a charge for car parking, unless you are a National Trust member.