On Tuesday night after a satisfying day’s run of more than seventeen miles from Runcorn, we moored the two little ships on the wide towpath opposite the National Trust Property called Dunham Massey Hall. It is the ancestral home of the Earls of Stafford and this year is an important one in its long history. For one hundred years ago the house was changed into a military hospital for the benefit of a total of nearly three hundred wounded soldiers, sent home on ‘Blighty leave’ from the Western Front.
The Front Aspect of Dunham Massey Hall
Each concrete block represents a patient at the hospital
Though these men were well looked after for the whole period of the war by the nursing staff, medical conditions were still quite primitive, infection from wounds being the most difficult challenge in those pre-antibiotic days. Plenty of fresh air and massage of the limbs was the best advice offered then to recovering soldiers.
The scooter park in the garden
Blue Wood Anemone
Our mooring was barely half a mile from the Georgian house so we decided to pay it a visit expecting the run of the place to be very much to ourselves this early in the year.
When we arrived however, the large car park was already full and the booking hall absolutely heaving with people. What we had forgotten of course is that it was half term week and what a wonderful place Dunham Massey would be to take the children.
It was most instructional as well, as the house had been re-laid out as a war hospital very much as it was in 1914 including the operating theatre with all its primitive instruments and a fine group of excellent young actors, who, behaving like ghosts and quite oblivious to the vast amounts of visitors getting in the way all the time, re-enacted very harrowing scenes of what would have gone on then. I was moved enormously and each time that I found myself in one of these scenes, I had to surreptitiously reach for my handkerchief to blow my nose.
Quite unperturbed by my close proximity
The weather was fine and the vast deer park and gardens were ideal for families and children to let off steam outside. Janis and I had lunch and then joined a conducted tour of the extensive Summer and Winter gardens abundant still with Spring blooms at this time of the year as well as many other flowers and trees that were completely new to me.
Six hours later we returned to the ships tired but wonderfully happy with the day.