Properties in the care of the National Trust come in all shapes and sizes but many have a common denominator, being the kitchen or walled garden.
Some have the original plantings, particularly the orchards where you can see espaliered pear trees and old fashioned apple varieties on trees that can be well over 100 years old (unbelievable but true!).
Other gardens have been revitalised and re-planted in response to the locavore, credit crunch, organic, ‘plot to plate’ vibe that is permeating Britain and the wider globe at present. Most of the gardens grow traditional or heritage varieties of vegetables and you are encouraged to walk through and talk to the volunteers as they tend the gardens.
Some gardens are very impressive (Attingham Park has been my favourite) and many have unique sidelines such as the mushroom house at Hanbury Hall and apiaries that supply honey.
It makes sense that wherever possible, the produce is used in the tea rooms and restaurant of the properties and in the case of the bigger estates, often supplemented with eggs, pork, bacon and even game such as venison and partridge.
Some shops also sell excess produce to visitors. We had our first ever taste of Damsons from Attingham Park. There were plenty to eat over a series of days and eventually I stewed the rest with sugar. I can see why in the past, damsons were grown in large numbers and supplied to the textiles industry as a dye. The colour was unbelievable. A vibrant ruby red, delicious with ice cream or yoghurt for breakfast.
Of course, there’s always the chance to scrump a few apples from the orchards. There are so many apples on the trees, they are literally falling on the ground as you walk around. Most are small, a few bites only and deliciously crunchy. On the left you can see a few pieces that fell into our lunchbox. As is oft quoted ‘They want you to take them….’