It was a quiet sunny day in the village of Hemingford Grey. There were no signs to the Manor that we could see but I knew from the books that the house was by the river. We walked through the drowsy streets following signs for the river and the church, meeting only a cat sunning itself on a wall. There: a sign. An empty road with large modern houses, another sign and a long shaded drive and suddenly we came out into sunlight and there it was. The garden exploded in colour around it. A man was working in the borders but it was sunny and silent. We had been told to come to the front door at half past two for our tour of the house so we had a few minutes to wander around. Everywhere there were sights that jolted the memory: the statue of St Christopher who carried Tolly over the flood; the topiary crowns, the huge yew tree and the hidden garden.
We assemble by the front step, three couples, together with a man and his seven year old daughter who prove to be part of the wider family of Lucy Boston. Diana is Lucy's daughter in law and it is she who takes us round the house. In through the front door, over the threshold which Tolly had approached by boat when the house sat surrounded by flood water.
Like Lucy, Diana is a storyteller, weaving the story of the house with the story of Lucy, her son Peter and with the story of the books which sprang from Lucy's deep connection with the house. Diana has been sharing her house with people in this generous and informal way for twenty years. How many people has she invited into her house? How many times has she told the story of Lucy's musical evenings in the second world war when the oldest room in the house was packed with airmen from the local RAF base? It all feels fresh and funny and new. That is a true artistry.
Every spot in the music room was used for seating on those wartime evenings, two lucky people sitting right in the fireplace.
Everywhere you look there are things of beauty and interest. The light streams in.
I love the idea that this nine hundred year old room was crowded with young servicemen listening to records before they launched themselves into the skies of World War 2.
But it is the room at the top of the house that makes you feel that you have fallen into the books.
Here is the rocking horse which Tolly heard riding away into the night.
In the toybox are Toby's sword, Linnet's doll and Alexander's flute.
It is an extraordinary house and an extraordinary family have lived in it since Lucy Boston bought it in 1939. You don't need to know the Green Knowe books to spend a fascinating hour or two here. Ian hasn't yet read them but he too loved the house, the complexity of its story and the layers of history which surrounded you as you walked through. One room is full of the stunning patchwork quilts which Lucy made by hand right into her nineties. On the walls hang many beautiful pictures, some by the artist Elisabeth Vellacott who lodged with Lucy during the war years, some the illustrations for the Green Knowe books by Lucy's son, Peter.
Spending some time in Green Knowe is like listening to music, reading a poem or watching a play. I felt as though I had looked into another world, the light was brighter, sound was little keener. It was a privilege to share it for a short time. Go if you can.