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

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

  • Miserden is in a ‘quiet part’ of Gloucestershire which is popular with walkers
  • It is a Jacobean mansion designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens
  • Tablescaping is just one of the courses launched this summer
  • Deirdre Fernand signs up and during her stay, she drinks “breaths of fresh air”
  • “I plan to come back for forest bathing and get lost in the lush forest,” she says.

Ouch! The fence has drawn blood and I am struggling with a recalcitrant rose. This flower lark is much tougher than it looks. Sorry, I meant tablecaping.

I’m in the refined setting of Miserden, a country estate in the Cotswolds, learning how to create flower arrangements for dinner parties.

A long time ago, I spent a month at the Cordon Bleu cooking school on what used to be called the “bridal course”.

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

Deirdre (far left) during her flower arranging class

Deirdre (far left) during her flower arranging class

Now that I’m wielding secateurs and bending wires, I hope today’s workshop will bring me one step closer to household goddess status. At least that’s the idea.

Tablescaping is just one of the courses launched this summer at Miserden, a Jacobean mansion designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, after which the surrounding hamlet is named.

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

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

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

Growing up here, he enjoyed an outdoor childhood. “I was wandering around all day,” he says. “My father used a school bell to summon me for meals; I haven’t always heard it.

Miserden’s herbaceous borders are ‘filled with roses, delphiniums and poppies’

New this season in Miserden are a real estate shop (pictured) and a renovated café

New this season in Miserden are a real estate shop (pictured) and a renovated café

TRAVEL INFORMATION

Miserden’s workshops include floristry, woodcarving, foraging and cooking, forest bathing, and jewelry making. Rates from £55 per person. See miserden.org for more information.

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

The herbaceous borders are teeming with roses, delphiniums and poppies, there is a yew promenade and an arboretum.

No wonder more than 6,000 visits per year. The gardens are open in spring and summer from Wednesday to Sunday, with reduced hours in winter. Nicholas intends to increase these numbers: “I want to make Miserden a more popular destination. I see it as a little-known secret.

New this season are an estate shop, a refurbished café and a range of courses including woodcarving 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, following a forest path around the estate’s lake, I take in deep breaths of fresh air. After two days of these simple rhythms, I feel like I have gone on a spiritual retreat.

I even tackle the ruthless wire netting and my centerpiece takes shape. I plan to return for a forest bath and get lost in the lush forest – but not totally. I wouldn’t want to miss the coffee tea. Anyway, I can be summoned. Just ring the school bell.

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Rosalie M. Dehner