Friday, 26 August 2016

Quirky Audley End

There were so many photos of Audley End, I wasn't sure which to share, so I thought an additional post of the few things that just caught my eye, and sum up the progress that they are making each year in Audley End. 

These were all taken in and near the walled kitchen garden, with their magnificent greenhouses:

Banana Tomatoes

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Audley End House & Gardens

I have been to Audley End quite a few times and it has gradually changed and improved over the years, if the weather is good, you can spend quite a few relaxing hours there...we took deckchairs and a picnic.

Once you have past the entrance gate you follow the signs to the car park.  Try and park near the duck pond because if you are planning to have a picnic, this is the best area and you can set up close to your car but still enjoy the peaceful setting of the pond. It is also only a short walk from the rear of the house and the parterre, so a good place to start your visit.

It's probably best  to begin your tour by taking the path from the car park to the parterre, where you can wander around for awhile and admire the symmetry of the rear of the house and the colourful gardens. If you walk round the left side of the House, as you look at it, you will pass under the impressive cedar of Lebanon tree, which was planted in the 18th. century. When you reach the front of the house, pause and admire the view across the River Cam and  up to the folly on the hill opposite.

Audley End was one of the greatest houses of early 17th-century England. In about 1605–14 Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk, took an earlier house created by his grandfather Lord Audley on the site of Walden Abbey, and rebuilt it on the scale of a royal palace. It was alledgedly built to impress King James I, who visited on two separate occasions. It is claimed that the cost of building the house was more than ten times that of the renowned Hatfield House, which was also built around the same time. Over the years, the house was altered substantially and unfortunately made smaller, with its interior being remodelled a few times. Robert Adam transformed this house for Sir John Griffin Griffin in the 1760s, while Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown remodelled the grounds, to create one of England's finest landscape gardens.

Along with many other technological advancements, the House was one of the first country houses in England to have flushing toilets. The first of Joseph Bramah’s new hinged-valve water closets was purchased in 1775, and a further 4 were bought in 1785 at a cost equivalent to the wages of two servants for a whole year! Although none of the Bramah toilets survive, there are two other early loos from the 1870s, one next to the chapel and another in the Coal Gallery.
In more recent times, Audley End was used during the Second World War as a training base for the Polish Special Operations Executive. It was known as Station 43. There’s a memorial urn near the parterre, which serves as a memorial to the many agents, trained at Audley End, who lost their lives trying to free their homeland.

Inside the House
Although it is a relatively short self-guided tour, there are a number of  staff and volunteers to help you admire the interiors of what was once one of the largest and most opulent houses in Jacobean England. You begin in the impressive great hall,  and then visit state apartments, intimate dressing rooms, libraries and 18th century gothic-style chapel. Highlights include the state bed, one of the most important surviving late 18th-century beds in the country, commissioned in anticipation of a royal visit in 1794.  There is a unique natural history collection of stuffed animals and birds. Also a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the family's children who lived in this nursery suite with their governess, nursemaids and tutors. The suite has been restored to how it would have been in the 1830s, and you can see the toys the children would have played with and the nursery furniture they used, as well as a short film.  Another interesting room is the Coal gallery, where you learn about the harsh life of  Victorian servants in the coal gallery.  Bunkers are filled with coal, cupboards stocked with soap and candles, and soundscapes are used to create the hustle and bustle of the servants' daily routine.

The house tour ends with an insight into life in the service quarters, which have been carefully restored to its former heyday you can wander through an interesting world 'below stairs' including a kitchen, scullery, laundry, dairy and larders.

The Gardens
When you wander around the gardens, you are looking at  the work of two of the most famous and influential designers of the 18th century. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown swept away the remnants of a declining formal garden to create extensive views, a serpentine lake and more natural planting. Towards the end of the 18th century, Sir John Griffin, commissioned Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to remodel the gardens.  In addition, the kitchen  garden was extended and greenhouses were built to supply the household with fruit, veg, and flowers. The elegant garden buildings, such as the bridge over the River Cam, are the work of Robert Adam. The neoclassical designer who also designed a suite of rooms in the mansion.

The kitchen gardens and greenhouses are lovely and they produce fruit and veg for the restaurant and local businesses, and have some for sale.  They have planted fruit trees that using the methods introduced by Thomas Rivers (a local nurseryman in Sawbridgeworth sadly now closed).

For some visitors, the most striking part of the gardens is when you first drive in and when you look at the house from the front. There’s the block of cloud hedging, which is very impressive and consists of mature yew and box. Don't miss the ha-ha at the back of the house. The reason for doing this rather than using a fence is to preserve the uninterrupted view of the landscape and to stop animals getting into the planted garden areas.

The gardens are really worth the visit, so if it’s a pleasant day, definitely take the time to wander around, so you can enjoy the beautiful flowers, and all the other areas that make up the gardens. Don't miss the bit down by the River Cam, which runs through the grounds. Here you will find ducks, geese and fish and some wonderful neo-classical architectural examples including bridges and a waterfall.
In some ways Audley End is unique in terms of English country houses, because in the 19th. Century the focus moved from beautiful landscaped gardens to agriculture. The gardens became a lot more practical and useful rather than just being something nice to look at. A visit to the walled garden and the greenhouses will really give you an understanding of this development.

The Stable Block
A short walk from the House you'll find the stable block and the walled gardens. The stables don’t look like stables at all – they are very grand buildings. There are currently a couple of horses stabled in the very impressive stable block, originally built  to accommodate a royal entourage, but soon converted to stables.  Be sure to pay a visit to the resident horses in the stables and check the timetable of daily events to see what the horses get up to.  There were also a couple of the estate's old fire engines on display on the other side of the stable yard from the stables.

we sat by this 'pond' and had our picnic lunch
How to get there:  Leave Ampthill on A507 heading east towards the A1. Drive through Baldock and follow the A505 in the direction of Royston. Stay on the A505 by-pass Royston and after about 5 miles you will need to turn right onto B1383 in the direction of Saffron Walden. This is very much a country road (Sat Nav postcode is CB11 4JF) but you will soon see the brown signs to Audley End if you don't have a sat nav. It takes about an hour (39 miles) depending on traffic conditions.
Busy tending the garden, a particularly dry summer.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Recipe - Date Crumblies

My friend Clare gave me this recipe many years ago, and I used to bake them regularly for the stall and I have no idea what to call them. They are a bit like a flapjack - but not as oaty!

I make them in a 11 X 7 tray

Date Crumblies
200g of dates chopped and simmer with water – just keep adding a little water until it is a thick paste if that makes sense
225g Plain flour (wholemeal is good)
100g Rolled Oats
75g Soft Brown Sugar
150g Margarine or butter

Melt margarine (or butter) and sugar add flour and oats.

Put half into the tin and squash it down - I just do it with my fist, I did try it with a wooden mallet thing but it stuck! Spread dates evenly, and then sprinkle remainder of the mixture over the top as a crumble. Squash it a little bit so it sticks when cooked

I think you could use between 150 and 250 g of dates - really depending on taste.  Clare also said you can use apricots.

Bake 200c – 20 mins cut into 16 or thereabaouts I do 5 X 3 portions so 15. It tastes fab - but I must admit doesn't look as attractive as somethings.  If I have time to start baking again, this will be back on :)  In the meantime you can have a go at making it yourself.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Re-use and Re-purpose - pots

We have plants for sale throughout spring to autumn, the pots are sometimes purchased, but more often than not they are re-used.  All the pots are washed and then refilled with new compost and then cuttings, seeds and plug plants.

I will be honest and at the moment we don't need any, but will post on facebook when we have run out.

It got me thinking what else can you do with a plant pot, so here are a few of my favourite ideas from around the internet

and on the flip side you don't always need a plant pot to pot a plant!  Loads of ideas out there, I have used colanders, and love to see old boots and is a good link:

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Re-use and re-purpose - jars

The Country Markets are 'known' for their preserves, we make jam, pickles and marmalades.  Most of the jars that we use are re-used.  We soak the labels off, and put them in the dishwasher, and then ensure they are fully sterilised before we add our homemade produce.  We top off with brand new lids and they are sealed so they will last a long time until opened.

So you can always pop your jars back to the stall, unfortunately we can't take those jars that have brand names in the glass, any we can't use we drop off at the glass recycling.  And we love it if you have taken the time to remove the labels and given them a wash.

There are lots of ideas on the internet to re-purpose a jar, have you thought about giving it a go?

Here are a few of my favourites:

There are loads of ideas out there like this on the internet:

Friday, 29 July 2016

Gt Barford walk along the river

We had a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon recently so we decided to take a drive over to Gt Barford and take a walk along the river.  We searched around the internet and found a walk:

great barford walk

We parked in the road just by the church in New Road, you will immediately see Barford's fifteenth-century bridge is a popular mooring.  We walked back towards the Anchor Inn, Great Barford crossed the road and walked along the river.    It starts with a cut lawn I guess maintained by the beautiful house just above.  We then followed the river along for a while following the footpath until we reached a bridge.  We crossed the river on to an island and then cross another small bridge and pass a lock-keeper s cottage on the left. The overgrown cottage is really interesting. We were interested to see an old cottage, that looks as though it was recently abandoned, but couldn't find out much about it on the internet. Would love to hear a bit more about the history.

It was a lovely peaceful walk.  And we even saw a goose creche, never noticed this before 2 geese look after all of the little'uns whilst the rest go for a graze!

We turned around and waked back to where we parked and went on the other side of the river to see the lock and weir.  But you can continue and cross the lock and eventually arrive at Willington Lock and then on to the Danish Camp and Bedford or just turn back and return to Great Barford.  

So here are a few pictures of the walk and a bit about Gt Barford that I picked up from the internet:

Great Barford is a village in Bedfordshire,  a few miles north-east of Bedford. It lies on the north bank of the River Great Ouse. Great Barford was mentioned in the Domesday Book as an important site, probably as a means of crossing the river that skirts the village.   Although the area of the original ford was dug up in 1973, the bridge has existed since at least the 15th century. The village is nowadays by-passed by the busy A421 road on the way between Bedford and St Neots, the by-pass opened in 2006 and has improved the quality of village life with much less traffic. The village has two contrasting areas, the more sprawling less attractive newer part that is situated to the north of the more picturesque older and original village, which lies beside the River and has a large variety of buildings some dating to the 17th century.  The older part of the village is known for its All Saints Church, with a 15th-century tower, and its similarly ancient bridge. The surroundings and historic buildings make it a favoured destination for canoeing, angling and picnics.  There is also a popular scout camp by the river in the village near the church, which offers 1.25 acres of camping field together with a slipway and landing stage with access to the River Great Ouse.


The Anchor Inn is situated by the river Great Ouse at the picturesque village of Great Barford, with view of the river and the famous bridge with its 17 arches, first built in 1427.  The pub serves a selection of cask ales, lagers and beers and has a comprehensive wine list. It also has a restaurant that seats 40 guests and does bar meals.  The more informal dining area is in the main bar, that is very popular with a good choice of a snacks, main menu and daily specials boards. All food is prepared on the premises, from locally sourced produce with an aim to provide good, wholesome, traditional fare. There is another pub in the newer part of the village, the Golden Cross Pub & Chinese Restaurant is situated in the centre of the village at the cross roads of  High Street, Roxton Road, Bedford Road & Green End Road. it has an ample parking area, and is adjacent the main east-west X5 bus stop. Not just a Local Pub serving fine cask ales, lagers, wines and spirits, run by the owners in the same building is a first class Chinese Restaurant seating up to 60 people with a full menu take away service.  Moving north up the High street from the bridge, you pass many interesting buildings some of them listed, and will also find the village shop and post office.

Local Area

Starting from the bridge there is a public footpath which follows the banks of the river to Bedford. There are also other footpaths that pass through farmland and pastures to neighbouring villages.  Over the road from The Anchor is the village green, a beautiful spot to sit and watch the many boats that pass through Great Barford during the summer months.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Free from gluten

We have had a new baker join us just before Christmas that specialises in dietary requirements, and has a lovely range of products, savoury and sweet using gluten free flour, and other gluten free ingredients  Needing the special requirements herself is meticulous in choosing her ingredients.  

By order sh can also offer lactose free products, but we have found that there is not enough demand to always supply them on the stall.

Here are some photos of some of the products that she has been baking and now has quite a following of customers: