I take in a breath of clean country air and look up at the abundant wisteria dressing the red brick arch. Before we enter the courtyard, on our right is a boutique packed with luxury home accessories. I enter the shop and have to look twice at the lush hydrangeas and deep pink roses to make sure they’re actually artificial! The retail assistant smiles as I tell her about the dreadful ones my aunt used to have in the middle of her dining table in the late seventies! I buy a few stems of silk pink peonies before leaving.
We walk along the avenue leading to the stable yard; the Tudor buildings feature mullioned windows and red tiled roofs. In the middle is a running fountain with a stone Obelisk towering at its centre and at the very top is a golden pineapple, historically a symbol of wealth and hospitality in architecture.
I stand by the fountain with some tourists. To my left are wooden gates leading to the house and gardens, and in front of me is the Hatfield House Gift Shop. To my immediate right is The Coach House restaurant with an entirely glass façade. As it’s gone three o’clock, we pop in for a pot of Earl Grey and a huge slice of Victoria sponge.
We sip tea and it’s a pleasure to linger and take in the view. Although we’re sitting in a contemporary glass structure, it somehow works with the Tudor surroundings; we feel as if we’re still outside in the spacious courtyard as the light floods in.
Afterwards, we walk passed an old cart brimming with freshly watered flowers to the gift shop. The place is bursting with merchandise! I walk down the narrow path between chests and shelves brimming with colourful stock like soaps, scented candles, packets of fudge and wooden puzzles. At the far end, is a tall cabinet displaying a sizeable collection of tin soldiers from various eras. Their shiny uniforms painted and varnished with care.
It’s my husband’s turn next, and I find myself in a country gentleman’s outfitters. Inside, glass cabinets are filled with binoculars, torches and telescopes. I feel as though I’ve entered Bear Grylls’s territory! Being an urban girl, I’m fascinated by all of this country attire like flat caps, checked waistcoats, socks and garters; they even sell a colorful feather for your cap! I imagine Prince Charles shopping here with his valet before setting off for Balmoral! I make my husband try on a tweed jacket and a cap. He agrees that he looks hilarious! Even the shop assistant can’t suppress a smile!
We head back towards the archway and leave this tranquil yard. We’ve had fun and look forward to coming back later in the year to do some Christmas shopping and eat more cake!