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.