The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Interblog day out at Audley End

view of kitchen garden and glasshouses at Audley End“Lets have an interblog garden visit.” Magic Cochin from the superb Purple Podded Peas blog suggested a couple of weeks ago.

Danny was alarmed.
“Does that mean that we’ve got to weed the herbaceous borders?”
“No it’s an outing to a great garden. It’s going to be the kitchen garden at Audley End. And we’re going to look at the service wing.”
“That sounds wonderful.”

And it was. I left D happily tucked away in the Rat Room and spent a few hours soaking up the atmosphere of this superb house and grounds.

We examined the newly refurbished service wing. This fascinating restoration focuses on life in the kitchen and service areas of the house in the Victorian 1880’s – when the fifth Lord Braybrooke and his family lived at Audley End. Up to 20 staff worked in this large area where whole rooms were dedicated to one task such as ironing, or washing.

We examined a large outdoor meat safe and a walk in game room. The restoration was beautifully executed (even the drainpipes looked authentic) so it was easy to imagine the bustle of servants absorbed in their daily tasks. The attention to detail was stunning, there was even a little stove with a flat metal top dedicated to heating up the heavy irons.

We walked passed some beautiful old stone ponds on the way to the immense walled kitchen gardens and glass houses. Espalier fruit trees, huge tobacco plants (the variety that would have been dried for tobacco) and loads of heritage varieties of vegetables were growing amongst ‘picking flowers’ for the house and borders of herbs.

tomato string tightening deviceThe glass houses were stunning and even included a potting shed in the small rooms beside the old boiler room that had heated the glass houses. It would need more than a day to take it all in. But I did take a note of the nifty way tomatoes were grown on string. The string is attached to the base of the stem, curled around the stem and attached to wires running along the roof. There is a small wooden device for loosening and tightening the string. Magic Cochin has made these out of cardboard in her own greenhouse and they work really well.

Magic Cochin was just the sort of companion that one needs for this sort of day out. She had done her homework as well as making all her picnic from scratch (a moorish courgette and sausage frittata and some superb olive and herb focaccia).

We picnicked beside the falconry demonstration that was so good that I forgot to eat for a while. For the first time in my life I understood some of the history of falconry. Before the invention of gunpowder this was the main method of hunting. To get a decent bag you needed a handful of birds as once they were rewarded for killing a quarry they were “dead” for the day. The birds had to be trained like athletes to perform well, needing at least an hour’s exercise a day.

Audley End would have been a joy even without my sparkling companion. I was hugely impressed by English Heritage today. I couldn’t fault a thing and left planning to return.

Thank you Magic Cochin.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kay

    I totally agree. The engine room of a house is the heart of the house to me – forget the drawing room.

    Wonderful that you met the man who had lit the fire for one of my heros. Poor soul, he must have got up at least an hour earlier.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    I loved our day out! And want to see the pre Christmas events too.

    The pair of falcons were incredible. Canny and stunning.

    Hello The Organic Viking

    Put down your pen, switch off the computer and go! Take a picnic!

    Magic Cochin pointed out that the entrance is the same whether there are events going on or not so it™s worth checking out the diary on the website. It™s £10.50 per adult to get in but worth every penny and more.

    Hi Pamela

    I agree about the kitchen. Although I was surprised to see authentic kitchen equipment that I remember being used when I was a child!

    The falconry demonstration was incredible but they did say that the birds are dressed with bells so that if they do fly off they can be easily tracked.

    Hello S.O.L.,

    We did email English Heritage!

    Audley End was an eye opener “ what you can do to promote a country house without spoiling it.

    Hi Debbie

    The vegetables will be a bit mushy if you freeze them but will retain the rich flavours.

    We often freeze oven roasted veg “ perfect stirred into a risotto or pie!

  2. I’ve just discovered your site quite accidentally. I was searching to see if I could freeze oven roast veg as I had a load of stuff in the fridge that needed using up. Anyway I’m glad I found your site, however I still don’t know if you can freeze aubergines, courgette and butternut squash it has been oven roasted? I’m going to give it a go but imagine it will probably turn to mush. I’ll definately be a regular visitor here.

  3. You should email English Heritage and praise them. Let them know they are doing great deeds.

  4. I love the downstairs part of stately homes and if money were no object I would definitely design my kitchen around that kind of style with all the modern noisy appliances hidden away (but still there – I’m not that mad) somewhere out of sight and hearing. I like the idea of working at a big table in the middle of the room, mostly because I’m only 5’1″ and standard height work surfaces are hard on my sore shoulder. What a shame Audley End is so far from where I live. Sounds like you had a fantastic day out, the kind of visit that should always be made with someone of like mind and with whom you can savour every detail. I love those falconery displays. I have some seriously scary photos of very large birds flying extremely close taken at a park in Cantabria when I took 41 kids on a school trip to Spain. However at the Omega Park in Quebec at a Hawk display (as they call them in Canada) a young bird, born in captivity, suddenly dropped to the ground from a perch right behind us and began to eat a mouse it had just caught! They really weren’t sure they were going to get it back after it had eaten as they usually fly the birds hungry to ensure they will come back for food.

  5. The Organic Viking

    Glad you both had such a great day! We have been meaning to visit Audley End for some time, I hope this post might finally inspire me to actually do it!

  6. magic cochin

    You’ve summed up the day beautifully! I think the Service Wing is a great addition to a visit to Audley End, I’m looking forward to going back. I see that they are having some special open days with the servants and gardeners preparing the house to Christmas – a date for my diary.

    …and the falcons. Weren’t they fabulous! especially the two that hunted as a pair. I wonder if the falconers have their own web site? Haven’t tracked it down yet.


  7. Wonderful – I always find the garden and servant bits of ‘great’ houses much more interesting than the ‘posh’ rooms.

    I knew an elderly man on the Isle of Wight who used to light the charcoal stove that warmed the glass-house at Farringford House when Tennyson lived there – he was seven years old and used to light the stove at five in the morning!

    • Dear Kay,

      I hope that you get this message, so long after your original post. I am researching the gardens at farringford and wondered if you could contact me with any stories of the garden you may recall.

      Perhaps it may shed light on the gardens during Tennyson’s time,

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