Apple and Quince Day at Norton Priory

Apple and quince day – a celebration of all things autumnal in the grounds of a crumbling monastery set in 38 acres of woodland. That all appealed to us so on a sunny Sunday we headed to Norton Priory in Cheshire. Lots of activities on offer (that appealed to Son), I was intrigued to find out what a quince was and maybe even spot one – my only prior knowledge limited to when a certain owl and pussycat used a runcible spoon to feast on one in Lear’s poem.

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Norton Priory is a gorgeous place. Not at first sight though – driving through a industrial estate close to the motorway I wondered what we would find. Perseverance paid off, just a little further along and we found a peaceful oasis with woodland gardens and a priory, established in 1134 by an Augustinian order of black canons, now ruins destroyed in the 16th century after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

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Apple and quince and activities were what we came for, that’s where we headed first. Everything was happening in the charming walled garden area. We found wood-turning, scarecrow making, apple bobbing and even a little coconut shy. Son got stuck in – not so great with the apples but a crack shot with the coconuts.

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There was food to taste, medieval musicians playing and other crafts like pottery and wood activities to try – definitely something for everyone. We sampled lots of ancient varieties of apple – some more delicious than others – saw owls and birds of prey and completed a trail through the gardens, following clues and learning lots about apples and quince in the process.

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The gardens are gorgeous, we strolled through the orchard, the vegetable garden and the beautiful rose garden. There are even quince trees – twenty four varieties in fact and we discovered they are believed to have originated before the apple. Some say this was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

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Next stop was the museum and the ruins – apparently this is the most excavated monastic site in Europe. It is fascinating. The museum tells the story of the priory from its days as a monastery to when it became a manor house. There are so many impressive finds and the whole place is a bit quirky and eclectic. Just my kind of place. We went our separate ways picking out what interested us. Son got dressed up as a monk and did lots of hands-on puzzles. Husband was intrigued by the history and story of the priory while I loved the collection of medieval floor tiles. I was also enthralled by the sandstone coffin lids.

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They have an ancient coffin which normally has a skeleton inside. Today, apparently the skeleton had gone off to have “work” done! Son was intrigued by all the bones on display and information on how they figured out which ailments these people had. Normally a bit squeamish around stuff like this, he was fine here.

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Just outside the main museum is the undercroft – fabulous, impressive and where the food and drink for the priory was stored. More ruins outside and beautiful woodland walks, but we were pushed for time so couldn’t linger here.

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Son “did” the gift shop, Husband and I made sure to take a quick look at the St Christopher statue before we left. This is huge, made around 1391 and what Tate Britain says is “the largest and most impressive example of sculpture surviving from the fourteenth century.” A great way to end our visit I think after a great day out. It’s amazing what you can find tucked away at the edge of an industrial estate.

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27 thoughts on “Apple and Quince Day at Norton Priory

  1. Can’t help but think of “…I’m a dingle dangle scarecrow with a flippy floppy hat…” seeing the pictures of the scarecrow 🙂

    Seems like an other amazing experience. Your son will have such great memories from his childhood!

    • Unfortunately not – apparently this place is home to the national collection of quince and has 24 varieties growing there so that was a bit disappointing. I’ve since seen quince jelly too but not tried it – is it good?

      • Well that is a pity and a bit of a letdown given their quince credentials. Honestly, the quince jelly was not that memorable. It was somewhat appleish, not as sweet though, probably more tart and citric. I have been told that quince un-jellied tastes quite exotic, like pineapple I think they said, but I have never had the opportunity to eat it any other way than in jelly and that was over a decade ago.

  2. Have enjoyed reading this post very much Joy it’s a part of England I don’t know very well even though we have family links there in the past on my mum’s side of the family! I love quince paste and jelly! Over here in Australia there is a well known cook called Maggie Beer who has a farm in the Barossa Valley in South Australia (which we have been to) and she is well known for growing quinces amongst other things – her quince paste which you can certainly buy all round Australia is delicious! If you can get it in the Uk I would heartily recommend it! Looks like you all had a great day out and plenty to do for the whole family! 🙂

    • I’ll have to look out for that quince paste Rosemary – we are all keen to find out what quince tastes like now! Cheshire is a beautiful county – lots to see and do, you’ll have to put some time aside to explore your family links as well sometime on a trip to England!

      • It’s delicious Joy a sort of sweet plummy taste if that makes any sense! It’s served usually as an accompaniment to cheese platters or pates. Hopefully sometime down the track I’ll have more time to explore places such as Cheshire on trips back to England – the time just races by when I’m over!

  3. Quince paste is wonderful and especially delicious with havarti cheese. Hope you get to try it soon. Everyone hangs out for the fruit to ripen on my quince tree, which won’t be until March–April in Australia.

    • Have never tried havarti cheese either – just googled it and it sounds delicious!! Will be trying that with or without quince. Quince trees are rare in England now so how wonderful that you have your own tree!

  4. At my most recent job in a Tasmania resort restaurant, quince was a common ingredient; Chef said everyone used to have a quince tree, a lingering aspect of the islands English residents. But now, the planting of fruit trees has become a habit for elderly woman . . . makes me want to plant my own!

    • That’s interesting – we don’t seem to use quince at all much here but I have had other comments from people in Tasmania and Australia about quince being often used in dishes. Shame the planting of quince trees is only for the elderly!!!

    • It’s really interesting – not quite what you’d expect to find there. The museum is a bit quirky, loads of woodland walks and if you visit when something is on the atmosphere is great.

  5. I love quince! Did you try it? You can’t actually eat it raw, it’s not nice at all, but quince jam and jelly are very nice, as is candied quince eating with some hard cheese. The apple, pear and quince crumble is to die for!
    That visit sounds like a lot fun!

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