Here’s our guide to a day out at Acton Scott’s Historic Working Farm, including courses to try and where to stay.
Over a generation ago, Acton Scott’s Historic Working Farm was created by Thomas Acton with one main aim – to preserve the rural farming practices that would soon be lost with the advancements of modern technology.
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Today, managed and funded by Shropshire Council, the farm offers visitors of all generations the chance to step back in time and gain an insight what rural life at the turn of the 19th century would have involved.
Situated amongst 18th century grounds and the home of BBC Two’s historical documentary Victorian Farm, the farm operates just as it would have when it was a working country estate. Horses work the land, and visits from the local blacksmith help to paint a picture of what life would have been like in this era.
Although Acton Scott is a museum, it also operates as a real working farm, supplying produce to local cafes and shops.
Crafting courses at Acton Scott
For those who wish to learn more about rural farm life, visitors to the working farm can sign up to a number of courses that teach forgotten crafting, domestic, and working skills of the past.
Families can even attend the farm to find out how their ancestors would have lived and worked, and get started on making their own family tree.
My visit: Acton Scott’s Working Farm at Christmas
Christmas pudding, Christmas crackers, carols, sugarplums and cider punch. It was the good old Victorians who invented the Christmas we all know and love, and I am one of its faithful followers. When I knew I was going to be visiting a working Victorian farm to learn how to make a Christmas angel and stay in the cosiest cottage in the land, my festive cheer was near leaping-about point.
Victorian sights and smells
To wander between Acton Scott’s farm buildings and cobbled courtyards is to step back 130 years. Dedicated workers dressed in 19th-century garb dart about the place operating vintage machinery, milking cows by hand, feeding the pigs and chickens, and baking drop scones on the range in the kitchen. There’s no trill of a mobile phone, no glint of a flashy wristwatch, no whiff of aftershave. All I could smell was the homely tang of buttermilk and carbolic soap.
I’m not the most dextrous person in the world, so I thought attempting something as fiddly as making a corn dolly would bring on the stress sweats. But my tutor Margaret Newsome kept me at ease with her patient instruction and cheeky wit.
Using straw grown on the estate, she showed my friend and I the art of plaiting and twisting and knotting to make a charmingly rustic angel to be placed on top of the Christmas tree. She even taught me a new knot for keeping the angel’s wings and limbs secure, which she called the “fireman’s knot”. I quizzed her about it. “Let’s just say I got to know a fireman pretty well who taught me a few things and leave it at that,” she said with a grin.
Even with my slapdash approach to anything handicraft-related, my angel corn dolly looked pretty (right), especially after Margaret taught me how to lace some festive red ribbon through its skirt.
Where to stay
Acton Scott is home to a glamping site that houses four luxury safari-style tents, known as ‘Frills Tents’. Each ‘Frills Tent’ is located in its own private clearing in Hatton Wood – an ancient 20 acre plantation of native trees and vast wildlife.
Alongside the working farm and glamping sites, Acton Scott is also home to a number of holiday cottages including Henley Cottage, a former 19th century farm labourer’s dwelling that has been restored to its original condition, and The Shooting Lodge, a mid 18th century former farmstead that offers space for up to 11 guests, an oak framed ‘banqueting room’ and an open fire for relaxing and entertaining.
For more information about staying at Acton Scott, visit www.actonscott.com