Inside a ‘charming’ Cotswolds estate that offers workshops in flower arranging, foraging and more

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Want to take a step closer to being a domestic goddess? Inside the Cotswolds estate that offers classes in foraging and ‘tablescaping’ – creating floral displays for dinner parties

  • Miserden lies in a ‘tranquil part’ of Gloucestershire that’s popular with walkers
  • It’s a Jacobean manor house designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens 
  • Tablescaping is just one of the courses launching this summer   
  • Deirdre Fernand signs up and during her stay she gulps in ‘lungfuls of fresh air’ 
  • ‘I plan to return for forest bathing and lose myself in the lush woodland,’ she says

Ouch! The chicken wire has drawn blood and I am wrestling with a recalcitrant rose. This flower-arranging lark is much harder than it looks. Sorry, I meant tablescaping.

I am in the refined setting of Miserden, a country estate in the Cotswolds, learning how to create floral displays for dinner parties.

Long ago, I spent a month at the Cordon Bleu cookery school on what was once quaintly known as the ‘bride’s course’. 

Charming: Deirdre Fernand tries out a flower-arranging workshop at the Cotswolds' Miserden estate (above) in the hopes that it will bring her 'one step nearer to being a domestic goddess'

Charming: Deirdre Fernand tries out a flower-arranging workshop at the Cotswolds’ Miserden estate (above) in the hopes that it will bring her ‘one step nearer to being a domestic goddess’

Deirdre (far left) during her flower-arranging class

Deirdre (far left) during her flower-arranging class

Now, as I wield secateurs and bend wires, I am hoping today’s workshop will take me one step nearer to being a domestic goddess. At least that’s the idea.

Tablescaping is just one of the courses launching this summer at Miserden, a Jacobean manor house designed by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, which gives its name to the surrounding hamlet.

It’s a tranquil part of Gloucestershire, popular with walkers who come to explore its forest trails. 

With a handful of limestone cottages, church, shop and school, Miserden (population 100) is considered one of the most handsome villages in the county. And all of it, apart from the pub, is owned by the Wills family.

Nicholas Wills is a convivial 38-year-old former Guards officer, who took over the 850-acre estate five years ago from his father.

Growing up here, he enjoyed a free-range childhood. ‘I’d roam about all day,’ he says. ‘My father used a school bell to summon me for meals; I didn’t always hear it.’ 

Herbaceous borders at Miserden are ‘crammed with roses, delphiniums and poppies’

New for this season at Miserden are an estate shop (pictured) and a refurbished cafe

New for this season at Miserden are an estate shop (pictured) and a refurbished cafe

TRAVEL FACTS

Workshops at Miserden include floristry, wood carving, foraging and cookery, forest bathing and jewellery-making. Prices from £55 per person. See miserden.org for more information.

The formal gardens here are horticultural heaven, vying with those at nearby Barnsley House and the Prince of Wales’s Highgrove.

Herbaceous borders are crammed with roses, delphiniums and poppies, there’s a yew walk and an arboretum.

No wonder more than 6,000 visit a year. The gardens are open during spring and summer from Wednesday to Sunday, with reduced hours in the winter. Nicholas has plans to swell those numbers: ‘I want to make Miserden more of a destination. I see it as a little-known secret.’

New for this season are an estate shop, a refurbished cafe and an array of classes, including wood carving and forest bathing.

Wills hopes visitors attracted by the courses will be charmed by Miserden — and I am. I stay in a wing of the house — arranged via Airbnb and dine at The Bell at Sapperton, a country pub ten minutes’ drive away, where my portion of haddock and chips is generous and delicious.

Back at Miserden, I take a stroll before bed and find a meditative quality in the silence and blackness of the night.

Next morning, following a forest trail around the estate’s lake, I gulp lungfuls of fresh air. After two days of these simple rhythms, I feel as though I have been on a spiritual retreat.

I even get to grips with the unforgiving chicken wire and my centrepiece takes shape. I plan to return for forest bathing and lose myself in the lush woodland — but not totally. I wouldn’t want to miss out on tea in the cafe. Anyway, I can be summoned. Just ring the school bell.



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