Newest Review: ... it would be hard to get one on a nice day (mind you, if it was nice you could sit on the ground - in the extensive grounds). As far as ... more
Marymoose sees some Geese at Audley End...
Audley End House and Gardens (Saffron Walden, Essex)
Member Name: marymoose
Audley End House and Gardens (Saffron Walden, Essex)
Advantages: A good day out for all the family
Disadvantages: Expensive if not a member of English Heritage, weather
I remember the last time (well, prior to this time!) that I visited Audley End. It was with my mum, and her friend and son. It was at a time that I was preparing for my 'Collectors' badge at Brownies - I was collecting badges (how funny to get a badge for collecting badges) and I remember buying a badge in the gift shop. This must've been 1990/1991.
Fast-forward to 2011 and being down in Essex for the weekend, and with my sister and her two children (aged 7 and 4) also over she had decided that Audley End would be a nice place for them, me and my parents to visit.
My sister drove us there (and back) as she has a car big enough for the 6 of us, and it took about an hour in the car. It was a nice journey from Brentwood with lots of picturesque villages and the like on the way. Audley End is a mile away from Saffron Waldon - address as follows - Off London Road, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 4JF
Although we found signs for Audley End as we approached, finding where to enter wasn't so easy. We ended up in the car park for the Audley End Miniature Railway. Although we were intending to visit this (and we did - another review perhaps? We'll see...), we did want to be parked in the main Audley End car park, so had to get back on the road, following the wall of Audley End until we found the entrance (this was a very sudden an unexpected turning off the road). There followed a very bumpy track up to the field in which we parked!
Current prices are as follows:
Adults - £12.50
Children - £7.50
Concessions - £11.30
EH Member Cost - Free
Family Ticket - £32.50 (2 adults and 2 children)
We got a family ticket and 2 concessions (my parents). We (I say, we, I mean my parents!) also paid £1 each for the children who were participating in some Time Travellers thing which meant that they got a stamp on their Time Travellers passports. I should possibly add here that when we visited there were some activities laid on for the children (my sister and nephew went to look and participate), but I didn't investigate myself!
The cost does sound excessive (well, to me anyway since I'm poor), but if you're a member of English Heritage it's free to get in. Currently it costs £46 per year for an adult, £80 for a couple (visit English website - www.english-heritage.org.uk - for other rates). So it's well worth it if you go out and about (and it's a good cause to support anyway). My ex and I did join and were members for several years, but really I couldn't justify renewing the membership for myself if I only visit one or possibly two attractions in a year.
---A picnic in the rain/food in general---
When we arrived it was getting close to midday, and the rain clouds were looming, so we thought we'd have our picnic there and then. There were quite a few picnic benches, but I imagine it would be hard to get one on a nice day (mind you, if it was nice you could sit on the ground - in the extensive grounds). As far as I can tell, the grounds are generally open from 10am with the House opening at 11am, but you'd do better checking the website before you go rather than relying on me!
There are also two cafés "serving locally produced food to eat in or take away. The Cart Yard Café is close to the children's play area or you can relax in The Housekeeper's Room with its views across the park." We did sit out in the Court Yard Café later on in the day - it was closed (but we had our own refreshments)
As we munched on our ham, salmon, and tuna mayo sandwiches (how sophisticated) it did start to rain, but in true British spirit we soldiered on, and I chased paper napkins in the wind and rain - as one does! Following our picnic we went across the road for the miniature railway experience which took a good chunk out of the day, but then it was back to Audley End.
When we arrived there were a load of portaloos which were not in use - probably because it wasn't that busy. But there was a unisex one available. There were also toilets round the side of the house (near the laundry).
---Details about Audley End---
The blurb, which I've taken from the English Heritage Handbook (from when I used to be a member) - "Audley End takes its name from Sir Thomas Audley, Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor, who adapted the extensive buildings of suppressed Walden Abbey as his mansion. His grandson Thomas Howard, first Earl of Suffolk, rebuilt the house on a massive scale between 1603 and 1614, This 'Palace of Audley End' was three times its present size, and one of the largest mansions in England. But in 1618 Suffolk fell from favour into massive debt, and his great house went into decline."
The house as it is today inside "represents the taste of the third Baron Braybrooke, who during the 1820s redecorated many of its rooms in the Jacobean style. He installed his extensive picture collection, and filled the rooms with inherited furnishings."
---Our experience in the house---
On entering the house it's made clear that you're not allowed to take any pictures (stiletto heels are also not allowed - mind you, if you'd made it over from the car park in them I think you'd deserve a prize!).
We were offered the use of a guidebook to aide us through the house (different from a guidebook that could be bought), which gave details of every artefact in the house. My dad snapped this up...but I think he possibly came to regret it since my 4 year old niece asked him "who's that" every time we came across a painting (and there are lots!) and he then explained to her who everyone was!
I enjoyed just walking around, not paying too much attention to anything in particular...there's little point in me learning historical facts as my memory doesn't retain them. I did like the chapel though...the other tourists in the chapel (it suddenly seemed to get a bit busier - possibly due to the rain) when I was in there didn't seem overly impressed, but I thought it was nice.
---Is that a herd of deer?---
Absolutely classic moment with my mum was when she turned to me as we looked out of a window in Audley End and said "Are they deer over there Mary?" to which I responded "er, no, I think it's a flock of geese!" It was indeed a flock of geese, which was reinforced when they started flying.
---The moose head---
Back in 1997 when I was in the early days of my Moose obsession, my friend Sarah visited Audley End, and took a photo of the moose head (tut tut, no photos are allowed to be taken in the house) to give me. I don't like moose heads. I have my own moose antlers, but moose shed their antlers every year, so that's ok. But moose heads mean that a moose was killed. Mind you, what's done is done, and that moose is never going to come back to life...so if it brings more people to loving moose then I'm all for it.
Towards the beginning of the Audley End house tour there is a huge room dedicated to taxidermy. I'm not a fan myself, but my 7-year old nephew seemed to like it - I probably did too at that age. But now I find it all a bit creepy.
---Debates on Audley End---
It took about an hour to walk round the house. We had a bit of debate as to whether we'd want to live somewhere that big or not. I decided that I wouldn't...primarily I was thinking of heating costs (but then if you can afford that sort of a house then you can probably afford the heating?) and because it wouldn't be easy for me to get to work in Carlisle each day (again, if I could afford such a house would I need to go to work in Carlisle?)..and then the cleaning - Dobby the Dyson really wouldn't like it (but then if I could afford to have servants...) Seriously though, I don't think I'd really want to live somewhere THAT big, there's not enough time in a day! My sister on the other hand had ideas for each room...I suppose it's nice to dream...
After our tour of the house we visited the 'Service Wing' which includes the kitchen, dairy, dry larder and laundries. This was all very well laid out, and there were films projected onto the wall which memorised my 4-year old niece. The adults amongst us debated the woman on the film's lack of skills in chopping carrots.
I can imagine that when they do open days with 'costumed' actors that this would be really good (a bit like Kentwell Hell I imagine - now there's somewhere I need to revisit!)
It seems (from the website) that we missed out by not visiting the Stable Yard - I think it was closed anyway.
We did miss out on quite a bit I think. However, since we had taken up a lot of time doing the railway attraction across the road, we'd have needed another day anyway to see everything, since we had to get back. That said, the plants that we did see were lovely.
---The shop...and more English Heritage Stuff---
The gift shop wasn't much to write home about. There were a variety of overpriced gifts. My nephew settled for a reasonably priced bow and arrow at £5.99, which was a relief to my parents as the other one he'd picked up was £29.99 (for a bit of wood?!!!), and my parents bought me (I'm poor, remember) an overpriced fridge magnet for £2.55 as that seems to be my collection these days (do I get another Brownie badge?)
There were plants outside - herbs and others, which looked reasonably priced. There was also the usual English heritage merchandise which includes 'wine-tasting" in the shop (the Elderflower stuff and Sloe Gin is good - but expensive) but you can do this at any English Heritage site.
Talking of English Heritage, we were accosted by a man doing market research while we were sat outside in the rain eating our Kit Kats and drinking Fruit Shoots (brought from home) , and we undertook some market research into out day at Audley End. It went on for a bit, but I think it was useful to reinforce that yes, we had had a good time, that yes, it was a good family day out (our party ranged from aged 4 to 70), and yes we would recommend it.
My review has primarily focused on our day's outing - the section on the English Heritage website about Audley End is excellent - interactive maps and pictures and lots of stuff:
It would probably be much better to visit this than to read my review (especially if you want up-to-date info)...but since there wasn't a review on Ciao/dooyoo about Audley End I thought I'd rise to the challenge!
I can't imagine disabled access being that great, but they have got info on the website.
On a day with nice weather Audley End would be a lovely place to visit, and I'm sure it would be lovely walking around the grounds and seeing the geese up close (or are they deer?!) Reading the information on the website makes me see just how much we did miss out...
That said, we had a good day out and we missed most of the rain as most of it was while we were inside. We spent a good 5 hours there (but that included the railway),
I'd highly recommend a visit if you're a member of English Heritage. And if you're not, then this would be a good place to start to take out membership (since you get your money back when you join). But it would be better to go when the weather's nice so that you can explore the gardens.
Summary: No deer, but lots of geese...
More reviews in the field of Sightseeing National
- Llanberis Lakeside Railway (Wales)
- Mountains of Mourne (County Down)
- Errigal (County Donegal)
- Torc Mountain & Waterfall (County Kerry)
- Greys Court (Henley)
- Rudyard Lake (Staffordshire)
- Whitby Harbour (North Yorkshire)
- Tresco Abbey Gardens (Scilly)
- Festival Park (Stoke-on-Trent)
- Bristol Wine & Food Fair (Bristol)