East Witton, Thursday 28 October 1943
[…] I’ve been to [Castle] Bolton, but did not paint. I went with Fred & Muriel to Wood Hall, nr Askrigg, where a Mrs Bloomer (!) owns the snuggest little estate possible, almost like one of those out of Tchehov [Chekhov] or Turgenev. And as old. You go down a steep lane under high arching elms & beeches, through a stone arch of which only the two sides remain, past a crumbling coachman’s lodge, over crisp fallen beech leaves on the drive to the edge of a lake. It was so still – the dead leaves spun idly on the water and clustered at one end. At the far end, waterhens traced ripples of light across the dark water, and plunged into the reeds as we approached. Then we turned uphill and through the trees we could see a quaint house of many gables, with walls that were once white but now have become streaked with a rust colour, the same as the dead beech leaves. It had a big stone porch, a white door surrounded by traced lintels, a brass knocker. Mrs Bloomer was quite in time with the house – no more modern, no older & we entered an old musty hall, dark under the shuttered windows. We stepped between elegant old chairs, & sofas little enough to hold only two people. Old portraits, prints & curios cluttered the walls. The whole house was like that, but so interesting, full of things to touch & examine – paper knives, lamps & shades, fire-screens, bronze & ebonite figures, miniatures and all sorts of antiques & curios. But one room was lighter than the others, and I could examine with delight water-colours by Fred, [William] Lyons-Wilson [arlunydd o Swydd Efrog, 1892–1981] & herself [Mrs Bloomer yn ôl pob tebyg] and [George] Baxter [arlunydd yn Llundain, 1804–67] prints.
We had tea on a tiny old coffee table before a long fire, sat in low, comfortable old chairs of red velvet upholstery, and talked about trivialities. Mrs Bloomer was charming, a fluent & witty conversationalist, which made her seem wistful, strange & altogether from the past. The house & its owner were both interesting & delightful anachronisms. The estate is a little backwater off the main road of Wensleydale, & I found further along the little lane a hamlet of a few houses, almost all under one great beech. Two men swept up the dead leaves which lay in drifts. And at the top of the little hill, for the hall & the hamlet occupy the same hill, there was a lovely glimpse of the far side of the dale with down below a gleaming stretch of the Yore [River Ure].
So you see I’ve had a grand English day, visiting. Oh, Mrs Bloomer showed her first editions (the complete set 1 of Thomas Hardy) with an etching of Hardy by Wm Strang [arlunydd Albanaidd, 1859–1921] in Tess & Hardy’s signature, it being a limited edition (perhaps it wasn’t the first but a rare one). It was big, readable & beautifully bound in green cloth & gold lettering[…]