I love the National Trust any time of the year but the best time to experience the true delight of these historic houses and country estates, in my opinion, is autumn.
Autumn is when the fires start to be lit, the trees turn a beautiful colour and change the landscape but best of all are the Harvest festivals!
Last weekend I went to Attingham Park’s Harvest festival (26th-27th September).
Now normally we visit Attingham at their annual Frost Fair in December however, this year it is not on so whilst that is disappointing it meant I was forced to look into the other festivals that Attingham holds each year, and there are plenty!
This time the partners in crime were replaced with my parents and gran.
We were granted a wonderfully hot Autumn day with clear skies which helped with my grans access. Being in a wheelchair it could have proved difficult but the paths I felt were quite smooth (as smooth as a NT can get them without tarmacking the place) so gran was able to have a great day out too.
We started off in the old courtyard where you can find an indoor café, seating outside too and an undercover seating section for dog owners. If I had known I would have brought Seymour with me as the grounds are vast and there were plenty of dogs (on leads) enjoying the day.
We visited the NT shop and second hand book shop first and straight away was able to bag a harvest bargain in the way of their home grown damsons and runner beans. I later made the damsons into a delicious crumble using a Hairy Bikers recipe.
Then, instead of turning right to the grand house, which I have visited on a previous occasion but not today, we turned left and headed to the walled garden where it was all happening.
On our way down the path we saw in the field they had some of the farming equipment, tractors and plows lined up to show the children. They also had some animals from the farm on the estate and I was surprised to see just how small a baby mini Shetland pony is…very!
Also in the field was a traditional wood worker, a crate of freshly dug potatoes for purchasing at 50p a bag and an employee talking about the different crops being produced.
I was intrigued to learn that the fields of corn on the cob that I have seen lots of recently are in fact maize! They are related, but they are different and you wouldn’t want to eat maize like a sweet corn. Maize is ground down and used as cornflour in tacos, tortillas and Polenta. It is also used in the energy sector.
We carried on down towards the walled garden and found a Bee house, 1 of only 2 still like it in the country.
It was very interesting speaking to the keeper who explained that the Queen bee keeps all the other female worker bees from reproducing by sending out a hormone. As the Queen and hormone weaken she can be cast out or even killed to allow for a new Queen to take her place. Up to 9 Queens can be laid but once the first Queen has hatched she often goes around killing the others to ensure her success. Wow…Sounds like Game of Thrones!
The walled garden had a cooking demonstration but we were happy just wondering around looking at the interesting vegetables that were growing there.
Then threw the door to the orchard and what an orchard with many different varieties of apple trees, damsons and walnut trees too. With plenty of food stalls we indulged in some freshly pressed apple juice, homemade cakes and of course it wouldn’t be complete without a hog roast!
Of course being a harvest festival and all I was able to get some apples too, which I am sure will go into making my Apple cake.
Some live entertainment and informative employees talking about the different varieties of Apples meant we didn’t want to leave but we headed home with an empty purse, full belly and slightly sun burnt cheeks.
There were plenty of other things to do though that we didn’t even get to see. A children’s play area kept the kids entertained, the rest of the estate has lovely walks and the house itself is open via guided tours.
Attingham is a great place to bring the whole family and the dog, festival or not, so see what upcoming events they have and make a day out of it.
Next weekend I am visiting Hanbury Hall’s Apple Weekend (3rd-4th October) so stay tuned!