Hello ! and belated Easter, Passover or General Spring and Chocolate Eating Festival Greetings from me. I’m sorry for my recent absence but I’m back refreshed and ready to share more Austen related news with you. Let’s get on, shall we….

You may recall that Montacute House near Yeovil in Somerset, above, was used as a location in Ang Lee’s version of Sense and Sensibility. It is a beautiful Elizabethan house, built in the latter part of the 16th century for the rich lawyer, Sir Edward Phelips. It is now in the care of the National Trust. In the 1995 film it was used as the location for Cleveland, the country estate of the Palmers, and was, of course, the place where Marianne Dashwood became dreadfully ill with a putrid fever after catching a cold, wandering around the grounds past the “brain ” hedge,  as Ang Lee described this marvellous yew hedge in the grounds, below.

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Andrew May who writes the lovely Lyme Regis Musuem blog, has just informed me that he is helping out with the new blog for Montacute house., and I thought you would all be interested to see it and perhaps follow it. Go here to see it.

I freely confess, I love to hear ‘back stage’ stories from country houses which are open to the public, so this  blog is a real treat to read. The blog is packed with interesting information about the day to day running of the house, and its grounds and contents.

For example, the blog has recently published  a series of fascinating posts about a portrait of James I by John de Critz. This portrait  has been purchased by the Trust for the house, which is highly appropriate as it was its original home. It was believed to have been given by the King to Edward Phelips. The posts are fascinating, especially those that deal with the respiration which was undertaken after the portraits purchase, and I’m sure that Jane Austen as a fervent supporter of the Stuarts would approve ;)

The National Trust has realised, I think, that visitors to these houses like to glean a lot of information about them and that more informal methods of communicating- via websites or blogs – can not only spread the word but can also foster a community of supporters for individual properties. It is not possible to have backstage tours at  many of their houses, or to allow physical visitors to see everything that goes on. Sharing news and information with virtual visitors via these blogs and the newly-designed web pages for each property is  a low-impact but very effective way of allowing us to feel involved and in touch with the developments at these fascinating places. Monatcute is one of my favourites ( for, as you know, I am rather partial to Elizabethan and Jacobean houses) and I’m so glad I can keep  “in touch”  with it  and its doings in this way. I think it is an initiative that should be applauded and I hope it spreads to my other favourite properties. A blog can be hard work and time consuming but it is a wonderful means of communicating, and allows visitors who cannot always physically be there- for many reasons- the opportunity to feel involved and relevant. Which can only be good news for the Trust and its properties in in the long-term. Bravo.