I love the county of Suffolk for its relaxed atmosphere and informality. It is rural England without the airs and graces of other more pretentious counties, full of history and adorned with brightly coloured villages with buildings of all shapes and sizes, like no other I know. A perfect place to head for on a Bank Holiday Monday, with heavy rain predicted as usual, but we were lucky with the weather, and ‘Through the Ages’ at Kentwell Hall turned out to be a real treat.
Sitting at the top of Long Melford, an historic village as so many are in the area, this stately home, not grand or pompous, humbly beckons you up an understated driveway, flanked by meadows of grazing cattle. Everything about Kentwell is warm and welcoming, no roped off areas and ‘do not touch’ signs, this is where you can touch history, really get up close and feel a part of it.
My seven year old daughter is currently learning about evacuation and ‘dig for victory’ in WWII at school and she was thrilled to see the era come to life at Kentwell, especially in the kitchen of the main house where the cooks were preparing a stew and moaning about the flour that they had to make jam tarts with. This wasn’t just a static display of memorabilia, all the people were in character and we seemed to jump through time, quite seamlessly as we meandered through the grounds. Stopping to chat with a medieval lady boiling up animal fat to make tallow for soap and candles, learning about photography in victorian times and admiring the beautiful dresses of the ladies in the house.
The walled garden was a real winner too. The air heavy with the scent of roses in full bloom and positively brimming with produce, gorgeous gooseberries and vegetables of every description, a feast for the senses, freedom to roam and more than a pinch of humour thrown in. We all loved the topiaries of people secretly dancing and playing behind the hall on the bank of the inner moat.
Plenty to entertain the younger ones, from Frizzie Peking Bantam chicks to authentic games on the lawn and for those seeking a little nostalgia – the Home Guard marching to the sound of ‘forties’ music resonating through the courtyard. My husband couldn’t stop himself, as no ‘Dad’s Army’ fan could, saying out loud as they passed us by, “Don’t panic Mr Mannering!” and I couldn’t help but smile.
A very enjoyable living, breathing insight into times gone by and a truly English day.