Blue skies, a blissful country house setting and a virtuoso performance by a world renowned cellist. You can’t get much better than that. And luckily for an audience of around 100 people, that was the treat in store at Encombe House in Dorset on a sunny June morning.
The walk from Kingston to Swyre Head, past Encombe, is one of my all-time favourite walks.
My family did it every Boxing Day when my mother was alive and the walk always reminds me of her.
It’s got everything – pretty woods, grassy moorland, sheep grazing and the sea. I’ve lost count of the picnics we’ve had there over the last 25 years.
As you walk to the sea, Encombe House is clearly visible from the hillside above. But I’d never visited it until today, when as part of the Purbeck Art Weeks Festival owners James and Arabella Gaggero opened their doors for a special performance by cellist Natalie Clein. Born and brought up in Dorset, Natalie used to play in the Encombe grounds as a child, but this was the first time she’d been back in more than 30 years.
As we walked through the glorious wildflower meadow and the house appeared in all its glory I blinked in disbelief. One of the most idyllic settings in the country, Encombe has sea views, a pretty lake and a vast and a newly restored wall garden. It feels like something out of a Mary Wesley novel. Even the estate agent who sold the property back in 2009 was overcome when he first saw it. He said: “Turning into the drive at Encombe and catching a first glimpse of the house nestling in the bowl of land below you makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.”
Natalie Clein’s performance – she played Bach and Britten on a cello that was almost the same age as Encombe itself – was the icing on the cake. I’ve heard her play several times over the years and she is quite remarkable. By turns tender and passionate, her playing entranced me so much that the moment I got home I booked another concert.