Many of you who may have visited the Weald and Downland open air museum at Singleton, or watched 'The Tudor Monastery Farm' on TV will understand our curiosity; what would it be like to actually live in one of these timber framed houses, the most luxurious of which might still have been a challenge to our 21st century sensibilities?
What would it be like to wake up to no heating, the need to swathe oneself in a fleece or light a fire to achieve some warmth before making breakfast? But also - what would it be like to hear the flock of sheep rubbing against the walls of the house at night, to see the white tail of a rabbit bob from a few feet away as you look out through the window in the morning - to pick apples and damsons from the trees in the cottage garden?
I had the good fortune to experience just a glimpse of Medieval life last week, when we stayed for just five days at Hacton Cruck, a restored early 15th century Hall house in the depths of the Herefordshire countryside. Of course, as we were well aware, we were only 'playing at it' - it was *just* a mere glimpse, a tiny glance through the mists of time, giving only an inkling of what it might have been like to live that life. We were also aware of the luxury of both access to the comfortable 'mod cons' of running hot water and working 21st century kitchen facilities which the medieval housewife could not even imagine, and the knowledge that we were able to return to our own, familiar way of life at the end of the week.
We gasped when we walked into the house, and spent the first two days just sitting back in the velvety quiet, absorbing the abundant textural beauty of wood, stone and rough lime plaster everywhere, not infrequently muttering 'wow' as we noticed another piece of spliced repair, a smoke-blackened beam, the nuances of the hand-carved staircase or a glint of warm autumn light on the honey-coloured oak. I spent several moments on one afternoon actually nuzzling up to and inhaling the staircase, which had clearly been recently beeswaxed and was emanating the most wonderful odour in the heat of the sun. We did indeed feel as if we had been given permission for a 'lock-in' at the Museum and revelled in the hours of peace and sense of time-travel that we experienced there.
It was a sensual as well as a historical experience - here are some images to give just a little idea of the pleasures that Hacton Cruck held in store for us in the balmy golden days of late September here in England.
(The cottage is situated in Preston-on-Wye, about 10 miles west of Hereford on the Hereford to Hay on Wye road)
Down a little country track...
...past the log store
Surrounded by apple trees, we glimpsed the the cruck frame...
...of Hacton Cruck, the restored, early 15th century hall house that was our home for five days
The log fire was blazing when we arrived - part of the warmest of welcomes from Dilys, the kindly house-keeper
I parked my suitcase in the cosiest of bedrooms...
...from where I could hear the munching of the sheep outside the window
The delicious atmosphere was enhanced by the tapestries adorning the walls
The hand-cut 'scented staircase' led up to...
...the 'Reading Gallery' - late afternoon sun streaming through the window - a box-bed in the background
...an enchanting place for children to sleep!
...and for adults to drink tea, read and chat
A panoramic view of the hall - food prep mod-cons all set in one bank at the back, in a 'high-table' position
Also from the gallery, a close-up view of the beautiful ancient beams...
...and already, some charity-shop Blue and White treasures acquired on the way!