The cottage in the oak wood – the National Trust’s Oakhurst Cottage is nestled in the edge of the woodland known as The Hurst just off the cricket green. The word ‘hurst’ meaning a woodland grove or wooded hillock.
During the 2019 season, from April to October, 838 people have visited the little cottage. On Heritage Open Day in September we had over 50 people in one day come to Oakhurst, which was a higher number than last year.
This year thanks to the piece in the February edition of the Hambledon Parish Magazine, the local website and the inspiring Oakhurst Cottage volunteer guides, three new volunteer guides have been recruited. There are currently 19 volunteers, who contributed over 600 hours during this year’s season. We hope to recruit some more in 2020 – do get in touch if you may have an interest (email email@example.com or call 01428 687820).
Volunteering is fun and rewarding, with an opportunity to meet all sorts of people, plus you get to work in an amazing historic building, telling people all about its extraordinary history. The visitors really appreciate how the volunteers bring the house to life with the stories of those who used to live there. One recent visitor took the time to write to the National Trust to say
“I just want to write and say what a great visit the four of us had when the guide showed us around and explained the fascinating history of the place last Saturday afternoon. She was really excellent. Two of us followed the walk from the Arboretum, which was very good too, and the Merry Harriers provided an excellent stop along the way for lunch with our wives.”
There is some conservation work being carried out this year to the floorboards in one of the bedrooms. One of the National Trust’s conservators, who specialises in furniture/floorboards etc, is carrying out major repairs to one large floorboard and some smaller repairs to a couple of others. The floorboards have become weak due to old woodworm damage and there were obvious areas of rot, with holes appearing in some of the boards. This necessitated a temporary board being overlaid while we had visitors during the season.
Over the winter one of the National Trust’s textile conservators will be carrying out the quilt repairs work and it should be back with us in time for the Cottage re-opening next spring. This beautiful, colourful quilt dates from about 1850 and comprises 6700 pieces! Quilting was popular with the rural classes as it enabled something beautiful to be made from very small, inexpensive scraps of fabric.
The garden continues to be developed as a mid 19th century workers cottage garden. This has meant that some planting not generally available in those times or circumstances has been removed and is being replaced with more traditional planting with three distinct sections – flowers, herbs and vegetables.
The volunteer gardeners report that this has to be done over the seasons, however there is now a significant amount of shade from the surrounding trees which creates many challenges. They also report that they have had a great deal of trouble from the visiting deer population, plus the odd badger or two! They are experimenting with different types of planting and plant protection in order to combat these problems.
About a year ago, the Trust decided to enlarge the rear garden, adding a new fence which was then planted with mixed hedging. They have also created a working area which has been screened with hawthorn hedging, which will enable them to manage the garden more efficiently in time, but not be obvious to the visitor.
The second stage of development of the rear garden will be to remove much of the old apple tree overhang and create a new seating area with additional planting. The remainder of this section will then be grassed. There are plans to renovate the recently uncovered well at the rear of the cottage to further enhance the visitor experience and they are also hoping to renovate the front path as soon as the correct materials can be sourced.
So, if you have not visited this little Hambledon gem, Oakhurst Cottage will open again in April 2020 by appointment. For more information see https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/oakhurst-cottage.
Photo credit: Simon Rankin (National Trust Photography Volunteer)