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Kentwell has been nominated for the Countryfile 'Britain's Best Heritage Attraction' award - the nomination is for our Historical Re-Creations. Their citation reads "Kentwell Hall, Suffolk. For selected weeks of the year, this fine Elizabethan house is home to hundreds of re-enactors and experts, delivering an exceptional hands-on experience."

We know Kentwell is exceptional, you know Kentwell is exceptional, and now we have the opportunity to let the whole nation know. So please vote for us under Category 4 at: http://www.countryfile.com/webform/countryfile-magazine-awards-2012-voti... by the end of May! Thank you!

New (porcine) arrivals at Kentwell

We are very excited to have nine new arrivals at Kentwell: a new litter of piglets, born to our sow Gingerbread on Friday evening. Here you can see them having their first feed, just a few hours old.

Visiting the piglets

You can see them in the piggery on your visit to the farmland. They will stay in our "nursing pen" initially, so to have protection from the cold, where they have a big heat lamp. Then when they are older you will see them exploring round the farmyard.

Colour and breed

Gingerbread (mother) is ginger with black spots. She is a cross between the Tamworth and Berkshire breeds. Their father Black Tam is Tamworth cross Large Black, which actually produces a black looking pig. It is this combination that has produced the litter of black and spotty piglets that you see!

We have had Tamworths at Kentwell for a long time now but have only recently introduced other breeds as we were unable to find a Tamworth boar in our area so are now producing cross breeds. Black Tam came to us about 3 years ago and has doubled in size since his arrival!

Tamworth pigs

One of the oldest breeds in England, the Tamworth is listed as vulnerable by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, with less than 300 registered breeding sows left in this country. Tamworths have a very distinctive ginger/red coat, long legs and prick up ears and are said to be descended from forest pigs. They are generally incredibly characterful and boisterous.

Berkshire pigs

Berkshire pigs are another rare breed listed as 'vulnerable'. They are the oldest pig breed recorded in Great Britain, rumoured to have been discovered by Oliver Cromwell's army. They are almost entirely black and incredibly good natured and make excellent mothers.

Large Black pigs

Large Blacks are the only pig breed to be entirely black. They are native to Essex and are again on the 'vulnerable' list. It is a very hardy and docile breed and sows have large litters. For docile you might read lazy in Black Tam's case!

Litter size

Gingerbread originally gave birth to 10 piglets, but one didn't make the second 24 hours, so there are now nine. The litter is quite uneven in size and it literally is a Darwinian survival of the fittest for access to milk and heat. Unfortunately there is not much we can do to counter this. Our attempts at bottle-feeding piglets have failed horribly.

Character

All the pigs we have here are very good natured partly because of the way we offer them respect and partly the breed.

We have winners!

The winners with their eggs

Easter weekend passed in a flurry of sun, showers and egg-related activities. It was great to open the house again to our Tudors and the visitors and to see the place alive with activity.

Is there anything better than seeing lambs racing around in a gang on the lawns; smelling bread being freshly baked in the bakery; sweetmeats from the kitchen; hearing the soft sounds of lute and pipe and teams racing round clutching their yellow quiz sheets with a big smile on their face (or frown of consternation!?) I think not...

Who will beat the Wilsons?

The Great Easter quiz proved as testing as ever. But we had some high scores from those that persevered.

Congratulations to our winners the Wilson Family who beat second placed Team Wadsworth by just 11 points with a winning score of 257. In third place were Felicity and Martin Gore, with 232 points, and fourth equal with 200 were Richard Hines and Carrie Ross. Here is a picture of the winners with their eggs.

The question now is can anyone stop the Wilson's winning streak?

Children's Easter Egg Hunt and colouring competition

We had plenty of entries for the children's easter egg hunt, scouring the grounds to find our large wooden eggs. However only one ten year-old managed to solve the code that they provided, but as she is the grand-daughter of owner Patrick Phillips we think she must have had a genetic advantage to the crafty workings of his mind! We've decided to award the egg to a local children's hospice.

Our egg colouring competition, for designs to be painted onto the large wooden eggs for next year's egg hunt, was a huge success. We've had such great designs that we're going to use 10 of them to decorate the eggs. We'll post some of the winning designs to facebook soon.

Lambing live

One of our cross-breed ewes decided to give birth on Sunday infront of a huge crowd of visitors. We decided she must be having triplets as her belly looked to huge, but in the end, after much struggling from the mother, just one mammouth lamb came out. See photos on facebook showing how much bigger he is than week-old counterparts.

Next bank-holiday

Our next big weekend event is over the May Day bank holiday which is one of the liveliest, noisiest and most popular weekends of the year. We'll bring you more about that in another post.

Does Kentwell have the world's most testing quiz?

You may polish off The Times Crossword puzzle in three minutes, answer all the questions easily in TV quizzes and find the wall and other challenges in Only Connect a doddle. But have you ever tried the Kentwell Hall Easter Quiz?

The Quiz has been going for more than 20 years and attracts regular quizzers each year. Competing, usually in teams, to win a giant Easter Egg. It claims to be among the most testing quizzes anywhere.

So whatʼs it like and why is it so testing?

“Its a trial of observation and wit,” says Patrick Phillips who sets the quizzes.”The observation part of it is to answer the questions relevant to Kentwell. “That may not be as easy as it seems as part of the challenge is to understand the question. Until you have done that you are in no position to find the answer.”

The answers to the questions that relate to Kentwell are not only to be found in the House but also in its extensive Gardens & Grounds too. “Some teams maintain contact by cell- phone to advise when they have found an answer. Some teams are very high tech,” says Patrick Phillips.

Many other questions are collected together under the heading ʻRiddles & Teasersʼ. What are they?

“Anything not necessarily connected with Kentwell,” answers Patrick Phillips, “including rather poor riddles of my own devising.”

Some visitors come back year after year and spend all four days of the Easter Holiday pummeling their brains (and maybe consulting encyclopedia).

“Its a challenge between me and the competitors,” claims Patrick Phillips. “No-one has ever got close to full marks but a winning score is usually about 80% or a little more.”

Are competitors told the answers?

“Oh no. I use some questions year, after year until enough people have found the answer. Then I retire it for a few years.”

So after struggling for days do competitors go away unsatisfied?

“Its taking part that counts,” remarks Patrick Phillips unhelpfully.

Would he give a sample of his questions?

Reluctantly he gives two.

  • A Kentwell question: What are 18 holes entirely surrounded by wood ?

  • A teaser: Who ran the first four minute mile?

The answers?

For that you need to visit Kentwell!

The house and grounds are open over Easter from Good Friday until Easter Monday, as well as this quiz we have one for children and 120 Tudors celebrating Easter Tudor-style.

Lambing live-over 75 lambs already!

Lambs infront of the side of the house

Spring is a time of rebirth, when the countryside wakes up from its winter slumber and new growth leaves our gardens verdant and green. And there is nothing to symbolise spring like lambs!

We have the pleasure at Kentwell of having a large herd of Norfollk Horn sheep so our period of lambing lasts for a good few weeks with a few lambs born every day. Then for the next few months we watch them race around the fields in gangs, climbing on anything they can find and jumping off, their tails twitching with excitement.

Numbers of lambs

We have 80 ewes to lamb this year and over 50 have lambed already, producing 75 lambs between them. We even had a set of triplets which is quite rare for our breed of sheep, Norfolk Horns.

Seeing the lambs

Visitors throughout April will be able to enjoy the lambs frolicking around in the fields. If you are lucky you might even see one being born. Due to the warm weather we haven't had to bring them into the stables this year so the sheep have been giving birth in the fields, just as nature intended.

Feeding the animals

On certain days visitors are able to help with our feed round of the animals. This normally starts at 3pm in the stableyard.

House opening for first time in 2012

The House opens for the first time in 2012 on Saturday 31st March. Come enjoy our rare tapestries on display for a few weeks only as well as the final weeks of the daffodils and our newborn lambs.

View 16th Century tapestries for a few weeks only

For a few weeks at the beginning of the opening year you'll be able to enjoy our fabulous tapestries which are so delicate that we can hang them for only a short time in order to preserve them from light damage. These tapestries are over 400 years old. The reds, pinks and yellow tend to fade with light exposure so that many early tapestries end up with almost only green and blue. Ours however are still in their full multi-colour glory.

New screens

In addition we have recently acquired a pair of incredible screens which show the coronation procession of Edward VI. They are copies of an original Tudor mural, long since lost. We believe our screens are the only ones outside the Royal collection.

Hosts of daffodils

Then, of course, we have our marvellous drifts of daffodils which delayed by the earlier cold are now in danger of fading under the current heatwave to have an all too short season, so catch them soon.

Lambs

This year we started lambing later than usual and we shall be in the midst of it for the next fortnight or so. So far over 20 ewes have lambed and they are all outside in the fields with your young ones frolicking in the sunshine. Everyone loves lambs. Don't you?

New tearoom

We have a new tea room which during the year will extend into a new tea garden. The Croft tearoom has already opened for the first time during our garden and farm only days, in time we hope to enable those not wishing to visit the site to at least come and enjoy homemade local food and tea!

Paid Events Intern position available from Mid April- December

We are looking for a confident, self-starting intern to help with all aspects of event administration, support, marketing and execution.

For more information please see job opportunities.

Spring 2012

Weather

We had hoped to Open Gardens & Farm for our Snowdrops at the start of schools' half term on Saturday 11 February 2012. We did not do so as the snow lay deep upon the ground and the snowdrops could not be seen. Also the bitter cold was not conducive to garden visiting. We next hoped to open on Monday 11 February in the expectation of a good thaw over the preceding weekend but that did not happen either so we have postponed opening until Wednesday 15 February in the expectation (hope ?) that the snow will have mostly gone by then and temperatures will have risen. Opening is not as straightforward as some may think ! But we are not complaining. Kentwell looks especially beautiful under snow and on some days recently the light has been awesome. We have enjoyed this burst of harsh weather even if we have not been able to offer it to visitors.

New Tearoom

Meanwhile we have not been idle. We are in touching distance of our new Tearoom being Open. This should enable us to give a much improved service in a much better setting. In time we hope to open it and the connected Garden to those who would like to come here for Lunch or Tea but not go round the Gardens.

ClandesDine

We have also created a secret dining club offering surprise evenings for those who want something different. These evenings kick off on 18 February 2012. Its difficult to publicise what we intend for each evening because then there will be no secret but we hope the first evening will set the tone for later ones. Kentwell has such a wide choice of resources for distinct evenings we hope to use different areas to best effect throughout the year. That is if the public take to the 'secret' and unexpected nature of the evenings.

Irish Night - 17 March 2012

In addition we shall be holding occasional themed evenings which will not be so secret. The first of these is an Irish Night to celebrate St Patrick's Day, 17 March 2012. With a tenor to perform some of Count John McCormack's famous songs it should prove an entertaining and lively evening. You don't have to Irish to enjoy it.

More of the Same

We shall have our usual raft of Re-Creations, Tudor, WWII and Victorian, throughout the year. This year we have two challenges. First HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee - how to invest this appropriately ? We plan to add a day to our usual WWII Re-Creation and have a 'street' tea party for children with a Mad Hatter theme - not very regal but the fun of it is. Secondly, we face the Olympics. Will there be any visitors about ? Or will everyone spend their days glued to their TV sets (if they have not got tickets) ? Should we declare ourselves an Olympics-free zone ? Will our concerts and other performances during this period be as well attended as usual ? Who knows part of life's unexpected charm, maybe.

Live as a Tudor!

We are seeking new volunteers to take part in our Re-Creations of Tudor Life. If you have ever wanted to travel in time, now is your chance! We are looking for over 600 people of all ages to spend one or two weeks in the Sixteenth Century. The chosen year is 1556 and the event runs from 17th June to 8th July 2012.
Once you have taken part in this, you are welcome to attend our other special events throughout the year.

If you would like to apply, please send a large SAE to ‘Live as a Tudor’, Kentwell Hall, Long Melford, Suffolk CO10 9BA. We look forward to hearing from you!

Free visit to Michaelmas (24/25 Sept) for all new teachers

Kentwell is on a totally different scale to any other Tudor experience and we find that teachers sometimes need to visit to full appreciate this.

Our next public Tudor weekend is the Michaelmas Re-Creation of Tudor Life held on 24th and 25th September 2011.

All school teachers who have not visited previously, and are thinking of bringing their school to the Great Annual Re-Creation, are invited to attend free of charge. Tickets are valid for 2 adults and 2 children.

Whilst more intimate in scale than our summer Re-Creation (and without the Time Tunnel) at the Michaelmas Re-Creation we will have some 50 Tudors within the house and grounds.

If you would like to take up this offer, please RSVP to enquiries@kentwell.co.uk.

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All images and text © Kentwell Hall, Long Melford, Suffolk CO10 9BA