My family have an odd little game that we play when we visit Greenway near Dartmouth. Greenway was the beloved holiday home of Agatha Christie and, although my children are old enough to have heard of her, they’ve never read any of her stories. So, to keep their interest up on a visit to her property we play a game of... ‘guess the murderer’.
My children, like many children, are slightly macabre so they relish this slightly sinister game. The rules are simple: I choose some random defining characteristic of the murderer, and they are allowed three guesses each to determine who it is. I’ve usually defined who it will be before we even arrive. On our latest visit the murderer was ‘the first person we see who is wearing a hat’ and then, when that was solved, it was ‘the first person wearing Wellington boots’. My children relish the sneaking around atmosphere of this game as they all wonder Whodunnit?
Even for non-fans of Agatha Christie (are there any?) Greenway is well worth a visit. It is a beautiful country house overlooking the River Dart with attractive hillside gardens. We visit Greenway a few times a year but we particularly like it when they organise a trail.
One winter, the theme of the trail was 'The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding'. The organisers had been inspired by one of Hercule Poirot’s short stories in which the detective is advised by a well-wisher, “Don’t eat none of the plum pudding!”. Greenway was decorated with many plum puddings and visitors could count the puddings, do a nature trail or follow a stolen ruby trail. My children did both the nature trail in the gardens and the ruby trail in the house.
For me the most charming part of the day was simply soaking up the atmosphere of the house. The property had been decked out in 1950’s decorations to look like the Christie family had just taken a break from their Christmas festivities to pop out for a short walk in the gardens. Games of cards and domino rallies were set up on the floor and antique Christmas cards were decorating the walls.
My children had soon found all the rubies so, after visiting the house, we took a beautiful wintery walk around the gardens. The walled garden with its Peach House is always a favourite of mine but my children like to scuttle among the narrow paths around the Fernery.
For a slightly longer walk I always like to meander down to the boathouse by the river. This building took a starring role in the well-known story Dead Man’s Folly, when the dead body was found there.
The staff and volunteers at Greenway are the friendliest I’ve come across in any National Trust property I’ve visited. A few of the volunteers gave us dog treats for our dog, Monty, and they could not have been any more accommodating to him, making sure he had water when needed and even letting us take him into the shop.
One of the quirks of Greenway is that you have to ring up and book a parking space before you arrive, but this minor inconvenience is more than made up for by the beauty of the place, the friendliness of the volunteers, and the chance to walk in the footsteps of the queen of crime herself.