As a result of the current contest on my website, I've had a number of enquiries from readers about the fountain that features in my book, Unmasked. What did it look like, how deep was it and is it really possible to swim in a fountain? Karen B referenced the wonderful water gardens at Alnwick Castle (pictured) and asked me if that was my inspiration. It wasn't, but now that I've seen them I am very keen to re-visit Alnwick. It looks wonderful.
The inspiration for the fountain in Unmasked comes from Stanway, a beautiful Jacobean manor house in the Cotswolds. I visited Stanway a few years ago and fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. Not only is it stunningly beautiful from the outside, all rich yellow stone and extravagant design, but it has a lived in feel to it, packed full of ancient furniture including a wonderful shuffleboard table dating from the reign of Charles I. And it is the only historic house I've visited where they allow you to take your dog inside, presumably because there are so many family dogs lying about the place in the patches of sunshine!
But it was the gardens at Stanway that provided my inspiration for Mari's garden designs in Unmasked, in particular the fountain in which Nick caught her skinny dipping. The original water gardens were created in the 1720s and included a formal canal on a terrace high above the house, the longest cascade in England, eight ponds and a fountain, all set amongst green lawns and avenues of specimen trees. The Stanway fountain was restored in 2004 and is now a spectacular single jet rising to over 300 feet, the tallest fountain in Britain and the tallest gravity fountain in the world. On the day we visited it was very hot and a dip in the water was extremely tempting but I resisted for fear of being thrown out! (I do my "wild swimming" in a Scottish loch each summer instead!)
Stanway is a must-visit if you are ever in the Cotswolds. Not only is it packed with hands-on quirky historical artefacts but it is peaceful and relaxing - and it has a marvellous tearoom! Do you have a favourite historical place off the beaten track? And for that matter, have you ever swum in a fountain, or somewhere other than a swimming pool?