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A Gertrude Jekyll Garden

As soon as you walk out through the double doors of the Blythe Road Ticket Office, you are welcomed by a beautiful garden surrounding Astleham Manor Cottage. This garden was inspired by the work of Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), garden designer and horticulturalist.




An array of pinks- Astleham Manor Garden in June 2015.



Astleham Manor Garden in June 2015.


It’s at this time of year that the garden really comes to life and this is what largely inspired me to visit a garden created by Jekyll in 1908 at The Manor House in the village of Upton Grey, Hampshire. At the time it was home to Charles Holme who was a well-known figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement. Restored by the current owners of the Manor House, it is open to visitors for a couple of months each year (http://www.gertrudejekyllgarden.co.uk/).




The Manor House, Upton Grey, Hampshire.


The gardens at Chiltern Open Air Museum are predominantly managed by a dedicated team of volunteers, although part of my role as Farm and Site Assistant (an 18-month traineeship funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund) involves some garden-based activities and I’m learning as I go along. The point I want to make is, you don’t have to know anything about flowers and gardening to enjoy them, you can just appreciate these gardens for what they are- masterpieces of living beauty.



A rose pergola and sunken garden bordered by hedgerows- The Manor House Upton Grey, Hampshire, July 2015. Designed by Gertrude Jekyll in 1908 and restored by the current owners, Rosamund and John Wallinger since 1984.




I think my favourite part of Jekyll’s garden is the use of dry stone walls because I love the freedom that the plants have to grow through the gaps in the stone and it just has a very warm and natural feel to it.



Hemerocallis fulva. The Manor House Garden, Upton Grey, July 2015.



Eryngium sp. The Manor House Garden, Upton Grey. July 2015.



The pond in the Wild Garden, The Manor House, Upton Grey, July 2015.


Writing and all photos by Rachael Maytum.













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Spring and a bounce



This year has been my first experience of lambing and what a truly amazing experience it has been. To prepare for lambing time at the museum, I attended a two day Introduction to Lambing course at BCA College in Berkshire. This proved very helpful in providing me with some background knowledge and some hands-on practical experience including basic sheep handling; foot trimming and dagging ewes; ear tagging and tail docking lambs and expressing colostrum from a ewe. I also got to feel inside a ewe that was lambing to determine the lamb’s presentation and watch a caesarean being performed. I was truly enthralled!

For the first week of lambing at the museum, I managed to miss every lamb being born and was beginning to wonder if I’d have to station myself in our 1915 shepherds van twenty-four hours a day until I saw one. Then, on 17th April, just as I was about to go home for the evening, I made my last check on the ewes in the fold. One ewe was exhibiting typical characteristics of a ewe about to lamb. She was pawing the ground, would sit down, look uncomfortable and stand back up again. Lo and behold, five minutes after watching, her water bag emerged. I was going to see my first lamb being born this evening!

Over the course of the next hour, I kept watch on her progress, seeing first a nose and then one hoof emerge. After some time though, her progress halted and it became evident that we would have to step in and examine inside the ewe. We thought that one leg was probably back and in this case preventing the ewe from being able to push the lamb out any further (the most ideal presentation being a nose and hooves pointing forward). So I rolled up my sleeves, scrubbed my hands and arms clean and under the watchful eye of the Farm Manager, felt inside the ewe and tried to determine the presentation of the lamb. After some feeling around, I worked out that one leg was indeed bent back. A slight movement of the lambs shoulder was enough to enable us to work with the ewe’s contractions to deliver the lamb.

At 7.25pm, I delivered my first lamb, to an attentive, caring ewe who took 1 hour 20 minutes to give birth to a boy whom I named Edward. He was already standing up 15 minutes after birth and was suckling from his mother within 40 minutes. It was a very special experience I will never forget.



Edward the lamb, my first delivery.

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Hello from the Museum’s Site and Farm Assistant

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Well, I have now been a trainee here at the Chiltern Open Air Museum for 9 months. In fact, I am already half way through my traineeship. It was reflecting upon this that I realised just how fast my time here is flying by and I’m yet to share with you any of the wonderful and interesting things I have seen, learnt and been lucky enough to be involved with during my time here so far.

If we haven’t met before, my name is Rachael Maytum and I am the Site and Farm Assistant which is an 18 month training position funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum has a heritage farm, woodland, gardens, meadow and arable fields so my job is to assist with managing these areas and the farm and site as a whole whilst learning a whole range of heritage and life skills along the way.

In future blog entries, I will share my experiences and keep you posted on what is going on in and around the farm so please keep a look out.



Rachael Maytum, Site and Farm Assistant with (L-R) Samuel, Harvey and Joshua, the museum’s three heavy horses.

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Kirsty Bone our Heritage Lottery Funded Buildings Trainee tells us about her latest project



I’m Kirsty, the Buildings trainee my placement is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and it is the first time it has been run here at The Chiltern Open Air Museum. My role is to assist the Buildings Manager with the maintenance and conservation of the historic buildings here at the museum, while gaining an insight into traditional skills such as Lime plastering and traditional thatching.




The Toll House here at the museum has been in need of some attention. During the winter of 2013/14 it suffered badly from wet weather and it was discovered that the brickwork was in real need of re-pointing. So before the winter rains descended again, myself and the buildings team carried out some repair to the outer walls. We re-pointed several upper courses of brickwork and carried out a bit of brick-replacement where damaged areas required it.



The repair work ensured the building stayed dry during this winter and enabled us to address the task of re-decorating the interior of the building.



We are tickled pink with the results!

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Thame Vicarage Room

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The very striking pink building in the Village Green at Chiltern Open Air Museum is a Vicarage Room, which has the distinction of being moved twice in its life time! Originally from Lashlake Road, Thame, Oxfordshire, this building was in the grounds of the Vicarage and later moved to Bierton Road in Aylesbury.



The museum was asked to rescue the building when developers took over the site in the late 80s. During the dismantling stage in 1989 the team found a mummified cat under the floor!


The Vicarage Room is a wooden framed pre-fabricated building with a corrugated iron roof painted in contrasting pink and cream colours, although the pink was originally Fenton Red and has now faded! All the small panes of glass, except one, are original. The interior of the building is just as striking with a pink painted brown paper finish on the upper walls and vertical dark wooden panelling on the lower walls.


Records show that the room was officially opened on Thursday, December 13th, 1894 by the Rural Dean, the Reverend E. J. Howman. The Thame Gazette tells us that lots of community events were held in this building over the years including Church Lads Brigade parades, lectures, bible class socials, monthly meetings of the Church of England and their Men’s Society.


The building was put up for Auction in 1913 when the church moved to another location and it was bought by the Auctioneer who moved it to his own premises in Aylesbury. His Grandson, John Milburn, donated it to the Museum.


Now one of the most popular buildings at the Museum the Vicarage Room has starred in comedy programmes such as Mitchell and Webb or Harry and Paul and is the scene of many Victorian School workshops for schools, craft activities and exhibitions enjoyed by our visitors today.

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Christmas Fundraising Appeal

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An invite to act like landed gentry…

Have you ever wondered why carol singers go house-to-house or where the expression ‘umble pie’ comes from?

This year, we’d like to invite you to act like the landed gentry.
Turkey wasn’t around in medieval times and the choice of the rich was goose or, in the country, deer. Lords and Ladies would eat the best parts of the deer and might pass what was left to the poor. The deer’s heart, liver, tongue, feet, ears and brains were known as the  ‘umbles’ and  made into a pie, hence the origin of our modern day expression ‘eating humble pie’.

So this year, please will you consider leaving your ‘umbles’ to the Museum and making a small donation to help us keep history alive.

This year the average amount each household is expected to spend on Christmas is £822. It costs us around £1000 a day to run the museum.

You can give online easily here or drop a Cheque into the office.

We have a packed 2015 season with terrific special events for visitors, thatching projects for our historic stables and cottages, new features in our working farm and exciting new literacy workshops for schools so we humbly ask for your support in making these happen. Thank you so much for all your support in making the museum a success.

By the way, in case you were wondering about the carol singers, they were thrown out of churches for disrupting the services, as they took their caroling literally, singing and dancing in circles.

As a thank you for your gift and for all your wonderful support this year, here are the staff of Chiltern Open Air Museum singing just for you….

On behalf of the Chiltern Open Air Museum Team I would like to wish you a very merry Christmas.



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Spooky Halloween Spectacular Attracts Thousands of Visitors!

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Halloween Fancy Dress at Chiltern Open Air Museum


Our Halloween Spectacular on the 31st October 2014, saw over 2000 people visiting the Museum in lots of fantastically creative, and spooky Halloween costumes. Visitors watched in awe as our fire breather entertained the crowds with his fire poi and his heated fiery breath! Herne the Hunter on horseback wowed the crowds and played games with younger visitors. Children decorated their own trick-or-treat bags, made scary masks and puppets and made delicious spiders. Screams could be heard from visitors who were brave enough to take on the ‘Spooky Walk’ as our ‘Scarers’ jumped out at them. The Mad Hatter and his tea party guests, spooked and enchanted visitors as they stoically entered the walk to cries of ‘Off with her head!’ and if we do say so ourselves, the volunteers and staff played their character roles superbly. Bats, spiders and ghosts haunted the site and the Museum’s apple store was simply electrifying!


Fire breather at Chiltern Open Air Museumfire breathingfire poi


This was a hugely fun, scary and successful event, thank you so much to everyone who emailed and messaged with such lovely feedback, and thank you for all the great suggestions for next year’s Halloween. This event could not have been so ‘Spectacular’ without the hard-work and creativity of all of our wonderful volunteers, so a big thank you to all of them. Make sure you put our 2015 Halloween Spectacular in next year’s diary!


Spooky mad hatters tea partyHerne the hunterChildren in Halloween fancy dresshalloween event fancy dressfamily visiting halloween spectacularspooky halloween windowHalloween witch

Lots more images can be found on the Museum’s Flickr stream.



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New 1970s Room at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Red Rum wins the Grand National for the third time; ABBA spend five weeks at number one with ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’; Elvis Presley dies aged just 42; street parties up and down the country celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee.




The year is 1977, and the Kew family of Haddenham in Buckinghamshire have been set the virtually impossible task of raising the ceilings of their wychert earth cottage to comply with modern Building Regulations…


After an appeal to the House of Commons, the Kews were eventually granted permission to demolish their house and build a new home. Luckily for the cottage, the volunteer team at Chiltern Open Air Museum were on hand to help to dismantle and transport it 25 miles away. After thirty years as a pile of earth covered in weeds, reconstruction began in 2007 and the downstairs of Haddenham Croft Cottage recently opened to visitors for the first time.


Although the history of the cottage stretches back to the late 1830s, the Museum is keen to reflect the stories the house can tell right up to the present day. Currently, the most ‘modern’ building at the Museum is Amersham Prefab, built in 1947, but this will change with the creation of a 1977 bedroom in Haddenham Croft Cottage. Set alongside bedrooms from the 1840s and 1910, it will show how life for the house’s inhabitants has changed over time.


Joanne, Debbie and Karla were young girls at the time the cottage was demolished, and the new 1970s room will draw on some of their memories to recreate a child’s bedroom from this period – visitors will be able to travel back in time and immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of 1977. The hope is that this will prove to be very evocative and a great talking point, whether visitors remember the period or not!


The upstairs of Haddenham Croft Cottage still needs to be plastered before decorating and furnishing the bedroom can begin, but Chiltern Open Air Museum is starting the hunt for appropriate items that will bring the room to life. If you think you might have any suitable objects or furniture to donate, please send a description and photographs to Lucy Dowling, Community Learning Officer, at community@coam.org.uk. Your memories could become part of the cottage’s history when it opens fully next season.


A list of items that are still required for the 1970s bedroom:




Chest of drawers


Shag pile rug

Long mirror


Personal items


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Museum and Volunteers star in new series of the Suspicions of Mr Whicher!

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Suspicions of Mr Whicher


Fans of the popular ITV series the Suspicions of Mr Whicher may have recognised some of the locations in last Sunday 14 September’s new episode, called The Ties that Bind. The Museum’s Victorian Forge from Garston was the location used for several scenes in the episode featuring the local blacksmith in the story. The actor playing the blacksmith trained in the Museum Forge and learnt basic blacksmithing techniques, which he used in the gripping story lines to add authenticity to the story.


Two of the resident heavy horses at the Museum, Harvey and Joshua, starred in the episode as part of the background scenery outside the Forge and in the farmyard scenes, standing in the shafts of one of the Museum’s traditional farm carts. Several volunteers at the Museum were also “Extras” or Supporting Artists in the episode, carrying out farm tasks to provide a typical Victorian working farm background as Mr Whicher passes through in his horse drawn carriage. To complete the scene, the Museum’s pedigree Oxford Down sheep joined the rest of the cast in the farmyard, along with the Museum’s volunteer shepherd Steve Stone and his working dog Ted.


You can still catch the episode on ITV Player


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Cherry Orchard at Chiltern Open Air Museum

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In 1961, Rita Allen wrote that “... Buckinghamshire … thinks highly of its “chuggies”, as the jet-black cherries are called locally, that the first Sunday in August is observed there as ‘Cherry Pie Sunday’”. This area was once famous for its cherry-growing industry, and this is something that Chiltern Open Air Museum is working to preserve.


Cherry orchards in Buckinghamshire have a long history, with cherry liquors and gins having been made since around 1730. Places such as Flackwell Heath, Prestwood and Holmer Green were known as ‘cherry villages’, although today most orchards exist only in small fragments, totalling about 400 acres. However, traces of these prolific fruit trees still exist in the names of streets, farms and even the odd pub.


The main picking season for cherries is late June to late July, and most local people were involved. Men would take a couple of weeks (un)official leave, as during this time they could earn two to three times the wages of a farm labourer or mill worker. Women would also take part, whilst children could earn a few pence as ‘bird starvers’, scaring away blackbirds and starlings with homemade rattles.


During the nineteenth century, parties of pickers would arrive from Reading and London, and into the early twentieth century both the blossoming trees and sight of the pickers at work sparked a kind of ‘cherry tourism’. The arrival of the railways made this easier, and special trains would take the collected cherries back to towns and cities for sale.


Cherry Picking Ladders


Traditional cherry trees grow up to 70ft (21m) tall, so pickers used specially-designed ladders that flared at the base to reach the very tops. This made the ladders much more stable, but workers still needed good balance and a head for heights. Chiltern Open Air Museum has a ladder on display in Hill Farm Barn, and this stretches 60ft (18m) in length. Made in Prestwood by Frank Geary around 1925, it is so long it has to be stored horizontally across the tie beams in the barn’s roof.


In 2010, the Museum began work on a cherry orchard that would become home to rare varieties, supplied by Bernwode Fruit Trees in Aylesbury. The wild cherry (Prunus avium) is native to Chilterns woodland but has been cultivated since the start of the 1700s to produce a range of varieties that are in danger of being lost. Currently, more than 30 sponsored trees have been planted and surrounded by Victorian-style iron tree guards, allowing chickens and rare-breed Oxford Down sheep to graze beneath them as they grow and mature.


Although most of the cherry-growing industry is now based in continental Europe, there are still many fruit farms in the local area where you can pick-your-own. Thankfully, most new trees are of dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties, meaning you won’t have to climb any cherry picking ladders to enjoy a ‘Cherry Pie Sunday’ of your own.