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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.