Audley End House and Gardens in Essex has undergone a big transformation over the past six months, following a £1.1million project to restore the original identity of the home. Members’ Panellist Natalie Payne tells us what she thinks of the changes, where she goes for some R&R and why it pays to be nice to the gardeners.
What was your first impression of Audley End?
Audley End is by far one of England's real gems. When you drive into the grounds of Audley you are immediately taken aback to the grandeur of a time of pure decadence.
What would you recommend people do when they arrive?
The exterior of the house captivates visitors before they even enter; you can have a fun day out simply exploring outside! There are plenty of lovely walks for all the family (and pets) to enjoy, beautifully landscaped by Capability Brown. Not only that a wonderful garden where if you smile sweetly enough the gardener may give you a fallen apple to enjoy! To this day the best apple I have ever had was from Audley End…
What else can you get up to in the grounds?
The wooded area is home to lots of wildlife, and there are stunning gardens to sit, take in the beautiful aromas and relax in. The children’s play area is also fantastic (with its own castle!) and there are plenty of interactive displays for both children and adults in the Stables. Of particular note for me was the life of the stable hand. It makes you realise just what little adults the children of 18th-century England were, and how in truth there really was no childhood at all for the working classes.
So, once you’ve explored outside…
Even if you have not already filled your day enjoying the gardens then the house is a must to explore. You firstly enter the grand hall, which is a marvel itself! However, times have changed from those when all you could do is point and stare at beautiful objects… Now there are plenty of seats for you to relax and take in the surroundings.
And what do you feel is the best thing about Audley?
The icing on the cake has to be the newly renovated nursery, complete with a dolls house, rocking horse and many toys for children to enjoy. For the adults and the children there are fancy dress clothes too, which are of fantastic quality and immense fun!
When I visited last it was lovely to see the children enjoying all the toys and learning in a fun way what a Victorian nursery was like. One little boy was aghast at the long school days – so if anything your children will go home exhausted and happy with their lot!
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