Country Mouse on the Fawley Church Fete

It is the most ludicrous, loopy, lovely estate in Britain. Instead of roses in the flower bed, there are meerkats; the huge pig-like South American tapirs join you for walks (strangely, they are related to horses); the rhodo-dendron wood is filled with wallabies and their joeys; and herds of assorted deer, antelope and emus provide a friendly guard of honour as you drive round the estate feeling like Dr Doolittle on safari.

And then there’s the train set: not Hornby-sized (although there’s one of those in the wonderful museum), but a working, life-size steam train plus carriages, including some used by the Royal Family, and real stations reclaimed from beautiful bits and bobs from Waterloo and other places around the country.

It is extraordinary. Sir William and Lady McAlpine’s home is like no other. It’s a proper giggle. The good news is that this Sunday, Father’s Day, it is all being opened to the public to raise money for the local church. If you want to put a smile on everyone’s faces, head for Henley and the ‘Fawley Church Fete on Steroids’. Tickets are £5 per car in advance, plus £2 per person on the gate. Telephone 01491 571373 or email You will be in for an unforgettable treat.