For me Llanerchaeron is the ideal sized property to visit. Big enough to be grand but, unlike many a stately home, not so large that it is difficult to imagine yourself living there.
Incorporating parts of an earlier house, it was built around 1795 for Major (later Colonel) William Lewis to a design by a little known young architect from London by the name of John Nash. Nash, of course, later went on to be responsible for, among other things, Regent Street, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and Buckingham Palace.
Since then the house along with its walled gardens, lake and farm, has survived virtually unaltered for over 200 years. It was bequeathed to the National Trust by J P Ponsonby Lewes in 1989.
Llanerchaeron is also home to the Geller Jones Collection of vehicles and agricultural implements, and the Pamela Ward Collection of 'little things she liked'.
For opening times, admission prices, etc. please see the National Trust's official site.
Interestingly, at the time of my visit, visitors to the house enter through the servants quarters.
This works very well as, whilst in most houses a visit to the service areas is tacked on to the end and can feel like a bit of an anti-climax, here the grand rooms at the front of the house make a fitting finale to the visit. I felt very grand leaving the house through the front door rather than sneaking out the back way.
The house is unusual in that the Service Courtyard has survived intact. This houses the Dairy, Dairy Scullery, Cheese Press Room, Bake-house, Smoke-house, Salting Room and Brew-house,
together with the Dry Laundry Room with its separate accommodation for the laundry maids. They were ostracised by the rest of the servants as they had to deal with the soiled linen.
From the courtyard we pass into the Servants' Wing of the main house. This houses the Kitchen, Scullery, Butler's Pantry, and all the other more familiar rooms. A passage past the Butler's Pantry leads to the Cellars which are under the main part of the house and were part of the pre-Nash earlier house.
The rooms in the main house are arranged around a central staircase and largely furnished with nineteenth and early twentieth century pieces. It reminded me a lot of my grandparents' house, albeit on a much grander scale.
Over the years the pleasure grounds have become over-grown and dominated by the dreaded rhododendron ponticum. The National Trust has recently embarked on a project to restore this area to its former Georgian glory,
but at present I found this the least interesting part of the estate. The walk around the lake is pleasant enough though.
The walled Kitchen Gardens on the other-hand are restored, and produce home-grown fruit and vegetables that are sold locally.
In times past Llanerchaeron would have aimed to be self-sufficient, and you only have to spend a little while in the area to realise why.
Even today the nearest supermarket of any size is ten miles away in Lampeter, and shopping for anything out of the ordinary means a trip into Aberystwyth.
If Llanerchaeron had a motto it would surely be, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".
When the farm buildings were built two hundred or so years ago they were cutting edge technology. These days it is still a working organic farm with many of the original buildings fulfilling their original purposes.
I found the circular Rick Stands particularly interesting. Five in all; three were used for stacking hay, whilst the other two provided temporary storage for wheat and barley sheaves as they were waiting to taken into the nearby Threshing Barn. The cross-shaped gaps provided ventilation, and prevented the stacks from overheating.
The Geler Jones Collection
The Geler Jones Collection is housed in a purpose built building at the bottom end of the estate, just off the farmyard. In the 1960s Geler Jones, a local saddler, and his wife Mair
purchased a large garden at the back of their house in Cardigan to house a steam roller named Glenys. From there the collection grew and grew.
It was bought by the National Heritage Memorial Fund for the National Trust in 1993.
Although an important collection of items most of which were manufactured or used in the local Cardigan area, I have to be say that the accommodation is very cramped.
The lack of information boards doesn't help, although the volunteers are helpful and always willing to talk about the collection.
At the time of writing (2017) the collection is open only on Wednesdays and Fridays. Please check the National Trust's official site for current information.
Llanerch-Ayron Halt is tucked down a little side road off the A482 that leads to a couple of houses, one of which is a NT holiday cottage I can personally recommend.
It was repaired and fitted with a reproduction GWR Pagoda shelter and a name board in 2011 to commemorate the centenary of the opening of the railway line between Lampeter and Aberayron (as it was then spelt).
Loss making from the start, the branch limped along until nationalisation, finally closing to passengers in 1951, long before Beeching.
The old track bed between here and Aberaeron is now a cycle path.