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In a ‘charming’ Cotswolds estate offering workshops on flower arranging, foraging and more

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Want to be one step closer to being a household goddess? On the Cotswolds estate teaching foraging and ‘tablescaping’ classes – creating floral displays for dinner parties

  • Miserden is in a ‘quiet part’ of Gloucestershire that is popular with walkers
  • It is a Jacobean mansion designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens
  • Tablescaping is just one of the courses starting this summer
  • Deirdre Fernand signs up and during her stay she swallows ‘lungful of fresh air’
  • “I plan to return to bathe in the forest and lose myself in the lush forest,” she says

Ouch! The chicken wire has drawn blood and I am struggling with an unruly dandruff. This flower arranging lark is much harder than it looks. Sorry, I meant tablescape.

I’m in the sophisticated setting of Miserden, a Cotswolds estate, learning how to create floral displays for dinner parties.

Long ago I spent a month at Cordon Bleu cooking school on what was once old-fashioned known as the ‘bridal course’.

Charming: Deirdre Fernand tries a flower arranging workshop at the Miserden estate in the Cotswolds (above) in hopes it will bring her “one step closer to being a household goddess”

Deirdre (far left) during her flower arranging course

Deirdre (far left) during her flower arranging course

Now that I’m wielding pruning shears and bending wires, I hope today’s workshop will take me one step closer to being a household goddess. At least that’s the idea.

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

It is a quiet part of Gloucestershire, popular with walkers who come to explore the woodland trails.

With a handful of limestone cottages, church, shop and school, Miserden (population 100) is considered one of the prettiest villages in the province. And everything, apart from the pub, is owned by the Wills family.

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

He grew up here and enjoyed a free-range childhood. “I’d wander around all day,” he says. ‘My father used a school bell to make me eat; I haven’t always heard it.’

Herbal borders at Miserden are ‘full of roses, delphiniums and poppies’

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

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

TRAVEL FACTS

Workshops in Miserden include floral arrangements, wood carving, foraging and cooking, forest bathing, and jewelry making. Prices from € 55 per person. To see miserden.org For more information.

The formal gardens here are a horticultural paradise, rivaling those of nearby Barnsley House and the Prince of Wales’s Highgrove.

Herbaceous borders are full of roses, delphiniums and poppies, there is a yew walk and an arboretum.

No wonder there are more than 6000 visitors a year. The gardens are open from Wednesday to Sunday in spring and summer, with limited opening hours in winter. Nicholas has plans to increase 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 renovated cafe and a range of classes including wood carving and forest bathing.

Wills hopes visitors drawn to the courses will be charmed by Miserden—and I am. I stay in a wing of the house – arranged through 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 in Miserden I take a walk before bed and find a meditative quality in the silence and darkness of the night.

The next morning, along a forest trail around the estate’s lake, I swallow my lungs full of fresh air. After two days of these simple rhythms, I feel like I’ve been on a spiritual retreat.

I even get to grips with the relentless chicken wire and my centerpiece takes shape. I plan to return to bathe in the forest and lose myself in the lush forest – but not quite. I wouldn’t miss the tea in the cafe. Anyway, I can be summoned. Just ring the school bell.

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