A few weeks ago I suggested to The Cottage Smallholder that we should give ourselves a well deserved 'day off' and visit a garden or country house for lunch. We selected Audley End, a large country estate owned by English Heritage; recently the Victorian Service Wing of the house has been opened up to show the 'real life below stairs' as it would have been in 1880.
We looked around the kitchens, actors play the part of the kitchen maids and cooks making elaborate pies and pastries. The shelves are stacked high with gleaming copper pots and pans, we loved reading the handwitten recipes and menus. Next door was the scullery and the laundry, where a clever projected film of two laundry maids chatting as they worked set the scene as we looked at wash boards, dollies, irons and mangles.
Outside in the back yard the authenticity continued, wooded crates from deliveries of produce were stacked by the door, mops were propped up to dry, a huge meat safe complete with amazingly realistic pig carcasses has been reconstructed as has the game larder . . .
We then walked through landscaped gardens to the Walled Kitchen Garden, a showcase for Garden Organic's heritage vegetables. We both loved the Vinehouse built along the length of one side of the walled garden, it dates from 1804 and is one of the oldest in the country. It is divided into sections, this one contained dozens of different varieties of tomatoes . . .
And further along in the Vinehouse are vines which are over 200 years old! Meticulously trained inside the roof the bunches of grapes hang down among the sunlit leaves . . .
We had packed a picnic to share and we timed our lunch to coincide with a falconry display in the park – smoked salmon sandwiches, courgette frittata, olive and herb focaccia and strawberries and cream – yummy! We hadn't expected to be completely captivated by the falconry demonstration showing some different styles of hunting game birds, but the 'Master of Falcons' and 'His Lady' were engaging speakers and the stunning birds put on fantastic aerial displays – this was an unexpected treat.
Thank you Cottage Smallholder for joining me for a day away from the studio and garden, with so many inspiring things to see I think Audley End was a great choice for our 'Bloggers Day Out'.