I can't show you, unfortunately, any of the Woolavington collection of sporting art, which lives at Cottesbrooke House. In common with most country houses, the camera is banned.  In addition, you are escorted round the house on a tour, and cannot therefore plonk yourself in front of the Marshalls/Edwards/Munnings and gawp for hours. The tour is frustrating when you are on a mission to cram as much equine art into your brain as you can manage, more so because it is actually very well done, and you are therefore trying not to get distracted by  fascinating FACTS but concentrate on the horses.  (Did you know one room in Cottesbrooke has had the same paint colour for over three centuries? Puts us repainting the kitchen the same colour over the last 12 years into perspective).

Still, by dint of only looking very quickly at the porcelain and furniture, I did manage to enlarge my experience of sporting art, which has so far been concentrated on the 20th century, as that's what I've needed to write about.  Ben Marshall in particular was a revelation.  There are some lovely Lionel Edwards studies of a Woolavington racehorse, which I preferred to his hunting scenes, of which Cottesbrooke has several.  Cecil Aldin is relegated to the small entrance hall, but at least you can look at those at your leisure.

The gardens are also open.  As my experience of those has been just when having my annual garden spend at the Cottesbrooke Plant Finders' Fair, when the gardens can get a tad full, it was lovely to see the structure of the gardens with a little less humanity about it.  And yes, I did find a horse. And coffee cake afterwards.  In our coffee cake holiday sweepstake, Cottesbrooke I'm afraid comes second to Boughton House.



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