It has been a long time coming but it appears that Spring has finally sprung in England. One thing I admire about the English is how when the sun is shining they really take advantage of it. Sometimes to the extreme, really there is no need for you to walk around without a shirt on, it's not that hot! There seems to be some unspoken set of rules for how one should take advantage of good weather in England.
- Have a BBQ (Pimm's and Lemonade must be present)
- Drive to the beach
- Go to a garden centre
- Visit the gardens of a stately home
Living in Milton Keynes, we have great access to a number of England's finest houses including Woburn Abbey - home of the Earls and Dukes of Bedford for nearly 400 years.
A Brief History
- Woburn Abbey was built in 1145 as a Cistercian Monastery
- In 1538, Henry VII dissolves the monastery
- Henry VII gives Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, the Abbey in 1547
- In 1619 the 4th Earl moves family into the Abbey
- The 5th Earl's eldest son, William, is executed in 1683 for his alleged role in the Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II
- In 1694 the 5th Earl gained the title Duke of Bedford as means of apology for the wrongful execution
- The 6th Duke commissioned in 1805 the famous landscape gardener Humphry Repton to create designs to enhance the Gardens and Deer Park
- In 1816 ecological experiments in the Abbey Gardens will influence Darwin
- In the 1830's the quintessentially English tradition of Afternoon Tea is said to have been started by Duchess Anna Maria, wife of the 7th Duke
- Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visit Woburn Abbey in 1841
- Woburn Abbey was turned into a military hospital in 1914 by 11th Duke
- 1939-1945 Abbey serves as lodging for Wrens from Bletchley Park
- In 1955 the Abbey opens to public visitors
The Abbey has grown with the times and while many grand houses now serve as little more than museums, Woburn is so much more than that. Not only do the 15th Duke and Duchess still live there but the grounds also hold a Michelin-starred restaurant, antiques centre, and safari park.
As you drive up to the house you will drive through hundreds if not thousands of nine different species of deer. It is quite an impressive sight to watch these beautiful creatures, especially when they are running. There is something so majestic about deer; I can understand why they are used on various coats of arms.
We spent most of our Saturday afternoon in a table outside of Duchess' Tea Room drinking Woburn's special blend of tea, eating scones topped with cream and jam, and talking about our upcoming trip to Pau in July.
Finished with our tea we went for a stroll around the gardens. During the turn of the century, and perhaps even earlier than that, it was considered fashionable to go out for a walk at the weekends. You weren't anybody unless you were seen walking through one of the parks. I think they had the right idea, who wouldn't want to be seen out enjoying the sun and beautiful landscape.
After we soaked up our daily quotient of Vitamin D, we went for a little snoop around Woburn Abbey Antiques Centre. I don't watch the Antiques Road Show or anything, but I do enjoy antiques. Luke and I both agree when we have some more excess cash we would love to get some pieces. This antique centre had pieces for 200 BC that were going for as little as £65! I can't be the only one who finds this amazing.
I also had a bit of a moment when I was in one of the antique rooms. We walked in, and I immediately felt cold like there was a draft. I felt like someone was running their fingers ever so gently up and down my spine and I kept getting a shiver. It was slightly unnerving and I don't know how to explain it other than to say I felt a prescence.
All in all, it was a lovely and perfectly civialised way to spend the afternoon, even with the ghostly prescence. Woburn is approximately an hour from London, Birmingham, Oxford, and Cambridge, it is really worth a look in! For more photos from our trip to Woburn Abbey, check out Quintessentially English's Facebook page.
If you would like to know more about Woburn Abbey, such as opening times, please visit woburn.co.uk