As we live in the other corner of Essex to Audley End, it’s always been on my list of places to visit at some point, though not one we’ve had the chance to actually get to. So when we were given the chance to visit and review the place for Visit Essex, we were very keen.
Well I say we… when I mentioned it to the kids, I was not met by overwhelming enthusiasm. “A stately home? I was hoping to go to Lakeside… said one”… “oh, I was thinking of…”, followed by a pause as the eldest realised what he actually had planned was playing on the Switch all afternoon. Still, they are good kids who still love a family day out and are always happy to try something new, so off we trotted.
We were very lucky to visit on an absolutely beautiful day, which made the house even more impressive. First stop was the kitchens, which I always love. They always make me really want a big Victoria kitchen, with a huge wooden table in the middle. Lots of the rooms had video projections on the wall with actors playing the part of the staff, which was a lovely touch and brought it to life. On some weekends they have events that bring Audley End to life and I think these would be well worth a visit as there is a lot there even without anything on!
The main house is beautiful and in amazing condition, and has knowledgeable and friendly English Heritage staff on hand to answer any queries (and in my case, return your coat when you drop it half way round the house). Highlights for us were the impressive main hall, the playroom and bizarrely the taxidermy galleries, which the kids found fascinating! The rooms are smattered with information and stories about the Braybrooke family which brings it all to life, and in the playroom we had a lot of fun mucking about with the old fashioned toys.
We didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked exploring outside as it was getting late, but what we did see of the gardens looked lovely. We had a nice walk round the river and over the bridge, and the kids enjoyed a good run around. It would be nice to come back in spring when things are in full bloom and properly explore.
Oh, we also made the most of the cafe and I can highly recommend the cakes!
The kids all commented that despite their reservations, they’d had a great time and that it was a really nice way to spend an afternoon – we all came home eager to return on one of the special events days to bring Audley End to life a bit more!
To find out more about Audley End and to see what’s on, visit https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/audley-end-house-and-gardens/