The forecast was cold with bright sunshine but dry on Saturday, so I suggested we head down to Sussex to the Weald and Download Open Air Museum. The museum is a collection of beautifully restored medieval buildings including cottages, farmhouses and rural artefacts, which have been discovered laying dormant and decaying around the Sussex area. The buildings are taken apart, brought back to the museum, carefully restored and erected on the beautiful Downland Museum site. The buildings are furnished according to the time of occupation and even the gardens are lovingly recreated as per the original site plans, as far as they are known. Plus, each building has information on its history, how it was built and even the families that lived there.
I first visited when I was a child, and have always known it as Singleton, which is actually the name of the village close by. I remember two things very clearly from my first visit; the amazing hall in the Bayleaf Farmstead, with its central hearth, and the toilet. Those of you who have been, will know what I am talking about! It’s such a great place to bring the family, buildings to explore, plenty of green space for running around and picnics, animals to see and learn about, and in the busier months they have demonstrations of typical rural occupations such as milling, blacksmithing, cooking etc. You can even bring your dog (on a lead) so its a great day out for everyone!
For me it was fantastic to see the gardens, even though it is winter – the chard and leeks are still looking amazing and it gives me greater incentive to make sure my garden works properly next year. The people that lived in these houses 300 years ago really depended on the produce from their gardens. The very small number of possessions they had, and the sparse simplicity of their furnishings brings home how much excess we have these days. There is definitely something to be said for our increased comfort levels but our throwaway lifestyle is just creating so much waste. That’s partly why The Old Wash House website and blog was created – to showcase the ways in which we can re-use instead of throwaway, which, in turn will save money – sadly all too important in the present climate. We are learning as we go – so please be patient (and in the meantime, go and visit the Weald and Downland Museum – we’re already planning a return trip with friends next summer!)