Just south of Church Stretton, on the A49, is a turn into a lane which winds up through a tunnel of green, through an overarching canopy of broadleaf woodland with occasional glimpses of quiet pools below.
It is only a four minute drive to Acton Scott but one which feels to have taken you a lot further away in distance and time from the busy road in the valley below.
Cresting Castle Hill, the trees thin out to reveal deep hedgerows, an open sky and views across grazing pastures to the wooded escarpment of Wenlock Edge beyond.
A defining feature of the landscape, the Edge shifts in appearance, sometimes lost in cloud, at other times part-shrouded in mist or bathed amber sunlight.
The entrance to the museum is a few hundred yards on your right; the posts of the white painted entrance gates topped with their distinctive pointy finials, a feature found all over the Acton Scott Estate even on the corners of some farm buildings.
We know, from archaeological investigations, that people have lived in the area fairly continuously since the Iron Age. The site of a villa of the Roman period has been found in a nearby field, first excavated in the mid 19th century with further work carried out 4 years ago.
Today, Acton Scott Historic Working Farm harks back to the turn of the 20th century, the very end of the Victorian period, offering visitors a chance to get involved with ‘living’ history and lots of family fun.
The ‘engines’ of the farm are the museum’s working heavy horses. Every day, whenever possible, the horses are out working the land or carrying out necessary tasks across the farm, including driving the barn machinery in the horse ‘gin’ (engine) or carting muck out into the fields.
Acton Scott follows the farming year and hence what you see, on any day, is dependent on the day of the week, the time of year and the activities of the season. Sometimes it is frantically busy, ploughing, harvesting or steam threshing, at other times the day may be more mellow and steady with time for feeding cade lambs or doing the many hand repairs required about the place.
The farm yard is the heart of the museum with the Bailiff’s cottage tucked away in a corner. This is where the Bailiff, who ran the ‘home’ farm on behalf of the estate, lived. The food he produced, together with the produce from the walled garden and fish from the pools provided much of the food for the family in the Hall.
Here you will always find the fire lit, a kettle on the range and a great welcome. The life of the farm is also the life of the families who lived and worked here and hence, the cottage demonstrates the day to day chores and activities of the Bailiff’s wife and family.
The Great British Bake off and the Great British Sewing Bee have recently revived interest and enthusiasm for home baking and home making, this was all part of life on the farm and is reflected in the life of the cottage with activities from baking to lace making, quilting to making dyestuffs from hedgerow plants. Butter is also made in the diary.
The museum’s wheelwright cares for the working vehicles and visiting craftsmen help to look after other tasks on the farm. The farrier visits ever week, looking after our own horses and sometimes others brought onto the farm. There is a lot of knowledge which has to be passed on. The museum has helped to preserve skills which otherwise would be lost. This is vital for the future.
Visitors have often asked if they can have a go or where they can learn more. We have set up a programme of day courses for people to have a taste, to see if learning a particular skill is for them or just to have fun. This year we are offering over 40 courses.
We stock a range of rare breeds and spring and summer sees the farm bursting with young animals Tamworth and Gloucester Old Spot piglets, shorthorn calves, lambs from our flock of Shropshire Sheep, together with goslings, poults, chicks and ducklings.
There is lots to learn and lots to enjoy, at the moment there are opportunities to handle chicks, feed the lambs and get up close to the horses.
Instead of having lots of information panels, the museum relies on its knowledgeable staff to explain things to the public. If you visit, please feel free to ask questions, our staff will be the people w ho ’look the part’.
Where possible, the farm has been kept as it was in the 19th century, with lots of work carried out to restore buildings and to maintain the museum in good order. At the same time, the museum is definitely family friendly and we have listened carefully to our visitors. There is a new small play area for little ones, an improved cafe with new toilets and baby change.
The School House cafe
In the cafe there are child-sized portions of adult meals and bottle warming facilities. There is an undercover picnic facility and shepherd’s huts out in the fields as sheltering points should they be needed.
The new children’s ‘living van’ play facility.
There are usually trails and quizzes for kids to enjoy. There are a number of great walks from the farm, one of which is short and child friendly taking you around the village. Butter making takes place in the Dairy on Fridays and Sundays Each day on the farm is rounded off with the hand milking of the cows. The farm can also arrange birthday parties, including food and activities.
We have linked up with the Shropshire Hills Shuttles scheme this means that, at weekends, you can now get to the farm by bus, the ‘Wenlock Wanderer’, from Much Wenlock or Church Stretton. You could even come to Church Stretton by train and then connect with a shuttle.
We have listened to people’s comments about value for money and this year, every ticket sold, gives the purchaser the right to come back as many times as they would like during the visitor season. One purchase can support many days out with the family or a chance to meet up with friends.
Opening times are 10am to 4.30pm Tuesdays to Fridays and 10.30am to 5.00pm at weekends (closed Mondays except bank holidays). We are open until the end of October.
For further information call 01694 781307 or visit the web site http://www.shropshire.gov.uk/actonscott.nsf