Sunday we took the train for 18 minutes and got to Audley End. Actually, we got to the train station and then had to walk along a rather busy road for a mile or so, and then we got to the big old house called Audley End. We went on Sunday because we wanted to go on the little train, which runs on steam on Sundays, but it didn't start until 2 pm. So we had our little picnic on the extensive lawn and toured the house and gardens.
You can't take pictures in the house, unfortunately. It is fantastic! There were libraries and drawing rooms and bedrooms and dining rooms. A nineteenth-century collection of seashells and stuffed birds, with the odd mammoth tooth or ammonite thrown in. A doll house the size of... well, really big, for a doll house! Views of the park (by Capability Brown) from the windows. Rooms decorated by Robert Adam, which looked like a green Wedgewood pot!
In October, the servants' rooms will be open, and if you're in the neighbourhood, you must go! We asked why they hadn't opened them before (they just did it for a weekend in March this year) and were told that the wallpaper was Georgian and the walls were Jacobean wood, so that along with the health and safety issues for the public, there are treasures up there that must be preserved from grubby fingers and so on. Apparently the coal for the house was kept up there, as it was easier to carry it down to the fireplaces bit by bit. The large quantity was hoisted up through the windows! There are no back stairs, so when the servants were carrying down coal, or taking out the lords' and ladies' chamber pots, they had to go down the main stairs and just hope they didn't meet some visiting poobah.
The gardens are also impressive. When the house was in full swing, perhaps mid-1800s, there were about 20 indoor servants, a dozen odd-jobbers, and FIFTY gardeners! Five-zero. They did cut the lawn with scythes, and not John Deeres, but still, that's a lot of gardeners.
This is called the Cloud Hedge, and it is the strangest looking thing. All very carefully shorn and moulded-looking! It hides the laundry and kitchen wing from the lawn.
There is a formal parterre garden and an organic kitchen garden, with greenhouses for the fruit trees, and a stream/pond/bit of water with ducks and geese and moorhens. Look, baby Canada Geese!
This was found in the kitchen garden.
There was an alley of them, all different colours and sizes. Wowee wow wow. (Perhaps just here I should say that Stephen took these pictures.) There were also trees growing along wire fences, which I think is called espaliering them. Just long flat trees!
And poppies with frilly edges -- the weird colour here is not Stephen's fault, but the poor camera just couldn't really handle all that colour!
Finally, it was time for the little train. Ah, the train people are not English Heritage, but private, and not very high tech... That is, they need cash! Cash, people. Well, we didn't have cash, so Stephen and Arthur had to walk into Saffron Walden to find a bank machine. Elaine and I sat on the grass again, went to the cafe where we bought very very very excellent ice cream with the debit card, watched the ducks, and got the full show-off treatment from a peacock! (Um, and we were camera-less.) Mostly we sat in the shade, since it was very warm.
We'd been told there was a surprise on the train ride. In fact, the woods were full of creatures! (We have many pictures which are just a teeny bit blurry as we chuggachugged past all these guys.) There was a tree full of pandas, one with little cats, bears everywhere, a cluster of Garfields.
Elaine was charmed to heck!
At last, after inspection of the engine and a visit to the ice-lolly fridge, we trudged back to the station, back to Cambridge, back to our house for a quick supper and bedtime.
Wait, one more picture! This is holding up the roof at the train station. The big train station, that is. Nice, eh?