Miranda Rock’s Stamford
A Personal Tour Of Stamford
By Miranda Rock House Director Of Burghley House
How long have you been in Stamford and how did you arrive here?
Stamford has always been part of my life. Burghley was my grandfather’s house before he set up the charitable trust that now owns and oversees it. I lived here as a child whilst my mother was custodian before coming back with my family in 2007 to work as the House Director, looking after the house and collections for the Burghley House Preservation Trust.
Tell us about your career?
Growing up in this extraordinary building and surrounded by beautiful works of art had a profound effect on me. I studied History of Art at University and after a post-grad decorative arts course and two years working whilst studying Spanish in Madrid, I was lucky enough to get a job at the Royal Collection Trust. This was probably the position that gave me the best insight into the role I have now; overseeing the challenges of managing the conservation, inventory and display of works of art. After a spell in New York working for an art dealer, I returned to London and did an MA in Arts Policy and Administration before returning to Burghley with my family to take up the position of House Director.
What makes Stamford unique and what do you miss when you’ve been away?
Stamford is such an exceptional town, something about the way the town sprawls elegantly around the river, the colour of the stone, the layers of history and the proud Georgian architecture makes it hard to beat. History here is so tangible and visually there is so much to enjoy. There is never a dull moment when you are walking or stuck at traffic lights in Stamford, the roof-lines, the spires, the little quirks in the masonry and the clues of what has gone before, we all get to enjoy that.
Who inspires you around Stamford?
There are some exceptional voluntary groups in Stamford supporting and improving the lives of those of us who live here and I am constantly reminded of the incredible work they do – I find this truly inspirational. The Evergreen Care Trust, the Stamford Foodbank, the work done through the Hub of St George’s, The Friends of Stamford Hospital, Alternatives include the Kiwanis, our wonderful Scout and Guides groups, the list could go on! I admire everyone who works to keep Stamford looking so beautiful, the local litter picking groups, the Civic Society, we all have a responsibility to care for and preserve the place where we live. It’s almost time for our annual Burghley staff litter pick and over 100 of us will be heading out, clearing the verges and roads into Stamford. It’s immensely rewarding and we all take pride in the mountain of rubbish bags that we fill in a day.
What’s Stamford like in spring and where should we visit?
Spring is time to get outdoors and we are lucky to have so much accessible green space. Of course I will recommend that everyone comes to Burghley! The park is really an exceptional place at all times of the year, but the gardens in the spring, with thousands of spring bulbs are a sight to behold. The Meadows and the bird life along the river is all at its best, and the Stamford Rec, where I was honoured to be asked to open the play area a few years ago, is looking wonderful.
Where would you take friends and family to dine or have a drink?
There are so many places to eat and drink in Stamford and the range of restaurants is there to suit all tastes. But the place with the best view has to be the Rose Garden in our Orangery Restaurant looking out over the gardens and lake. When the weather is balmy there is nowhere more beautiful. The George has the best atmosphere and the William Cecil has a wonderful terrace. We have always enjoyed Café Black, a great spot for a bacon sandwich while reading the papers or watching the world go by.
Which shops and businesses would you recommend to visitors?
The shopping in Stamford is remarkable because we have such a range. We have many unusual independent shops as well as some more high-end brands, but the independents are the most interesting. I have an absolute weakness for Arch Label Agency, the family-run Anand Shoes is great and the Antiques Centre is a treasure trove. The great pleasure of shopping in Stamford is the exploration of the streets and lanes and the discovery of a hidden gem. My father always said that ‘you can buy anything you need in Stamford.’ It’s changed over the last 20 years, but mostly that’s still true.
What are the best views by day and the best by night?
The view down High Street St Martins as you come into Stamford is still the most iconic view of Stamford, but it’s also nice to stand on the Meadows and look back at the town. Like many historic towns, the ground floors of many buildings in the town centre have been adapted over time so you should always be looking up to remind yourself how the buildings are layered in history. The views in the park at Burghley mustn’t be missed. The effect of the house in the landscape was carefully choreographed by Capability Brown, he sculpted the land so that the House is seen best as you move through the parkland and is revealed by degrees. If you walk from Bottle Lodges or Station Gate towards the House you get this wonderful view throughout the seasons.
What about nature or a quiet place to escape to in the area?
Like many other people who live in the area, I enjoy the park and every day is a little bit different. If you want to go for a run, walk the dogs, ride a bike, take the children out, take photographs or just sit and soak it up, I really don’t think there is anywhere better. Nature brings a tranquillity and peace and a feeling of escape that our busy lives need.
Would you change anything about Stamford?
Stamford will continue to evolve. It must to survive. The way we live our lives – where and how we get to school, work and shop and the pressures on our infrastructure – continues to be a concern. The number of cars moving through town, over the bridge and needing to park is a challenge. It will be most important that in the future we are mindful of preserving what is so special about this place, valuing our history, our heritage and our tremendous community above all.
And finally, what’s happening at Burghley House in 2019?
Plans are underway for 2020 to mark the anniversary of the birth of William Cecil – Elizabeth I’s most trusted minister who designed the house as a grand tribute to his Queen – which will include a high-profile lecture series, new exhibition and education programme. A record-breaking season last year attracted more than 120 000 visitors to the House and Gardens. Burghley has a host of events lined up for 2019.
The House and Gardens re-open on Saturday 16th March with this year’s exhibition ‘Treasures from the East’ focusing on beautiful treasures from the Far East from the Burghley House collections. Spring also sees the annual opening of the South Gardens, with magnificent seasonal displays of Narcissi and spring bulbs while the Burghley Easter Egg Treasure Hunt returns on 21st April. This year no-one should miss the opportunity to enjoy the dramatic improvements in the Sculpture Garden including new planting schemes, many new beds, thousands of new plants and areas previously lost that have been restored over the winter.
If you’re feeling energetic don’t miss the Rat Race, quite simply the world’s biggest assault course followed by epic after-party of festival proportions. Other 2019 highlights will be a summer concert by Billy Ocean on 8th June when the parkland will echo to the sound of ‘Caribbean Queen’ alongside special guest Heather Small. And for more summer celebrations, the Battle Proms Concert in July will bring music, Spitfire displays, cannons, cavalry and fireworks to the park. In July we have the now well-established Burghley Film Festival with five days and nights of fabulous films.
Later in the summer we all prepare for the excitement that the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials brings. It’s a really hectic time, but it’s an event that is world-class and has put Stamford on the map since it came here in 1961.
MIRANDA’S PERSONAL TOUR of STAMFORD
Best Place for Food
Miranda and the family love a bacon sandwich at Café Black by morning, and enjoy lunch at the estate’s Orangery Restaurant with its views over the Rose Garden. For evening dining, Miranda says that The William Cecil and The George of Stamford are to be recommended.
Miranda declares a love for Arch Label Agency and Anand Shoes, which offers traditional, handmade English shoes from a family business dating back to the 1950s.
Best Place for a Glass of Wine
The terrace at The William Cecil is a favourite when the sun’s out and you’ve the weekend newspapers to look through.
“I love the iconic view of the town as you come into it from High Street St Martins, and we all love the Meadows. But as with all historic towns, the ground floors of many buildings have been adapted over time so you should always look up to see how the buildings are layered in history.
Favourite place to see at night
Twilight over the Burghley House parkland is really lovely. The best times of the year to enjoy sunset over the house are at the music concerts the house hosts each year – this year will see Billy Ocean and Heather Small perform – and at the Battle Proms in July.
Favourite way to spend a weekend?
“One of my favourite weekends of the year is the Horse Trials. There’s a reallyhard-working team who each year managed to transform the parkland into the equivalent of a small town. Liz Inman and her team host a world-class sporting event and manage to cope with the influx of 150 000 visitors. It’s a really fun, enjoyable event every single year.”
01780 752451, www.burghley.co.uk.