Autumn foraging event held at Parham House & Gardens

Martin Noble's ferrets at Parham SUS-141027-160156001
Martin Noble's ferrets at Parham SUS-141027-160156001

Parham House & Gardens recently concluded its 2014 Events Season with the final event of the year, ‘Autumn Foraging and Estate Life Day’.

For the 8th year running, visitors to the event had much to see, taste and learn as Parham welcomed a wide array of exhibitors and local producers and put on display many estate treasures which are not usually available to see.

Set in the heart of its own ancient deer park, whose herd of dark fallow deer was first recorded in 1628, the guided deer walks to see the stags rutting in the park were the most popular attraction of the day.

Being the height of the deer rutting season, when the magnificent male stags fight it out to be the leader of the pack, the chance to see two stags locked in combat, antler with antler, is always a fascinating sight and so the walks were quickly booked up.

Melissa Waddingham, a local Sussex truffle and mushroom hunter, also proved very popular with visitors as she explained and demonstrated, with the help of her two canine accomplices, how to seek out fungi and what to beware of when finding them.

Other animal attractions included The South Downs Gundog Display Team who gave demonstrations with working gundogs, simulating a day in the shooting field and retrieving canvas dummies from the lake.

The Working Horse Trust brought their heavy horses to show the size and power of the horses that would have pulled the carts and wagons on the estate farms and Margaret Noble brought her ferrets – traditionally kept to flush rabbits out of their burrows - and ferreting equipment which proved particularly popular amongst the younger visitors.

In the Pleasure Grounds next to the 4-acre Walled Garden, a wide collection of local food producers displayed their wonderful products including cheeses, jams, seasonings, local bread and mushrooms and the Parham gardening team, led by Head Gardener, Tom Brown, showcased its home-grown produce including large squashes, pumpkins, runner beans and onions, as did the Storrington Allotment Society.

Additionally there was a Talks Marquee where the Petworth-based Hungry Guest shop and delicatessen demonstrated to visitors how to make the perfect risotto and warm salads using a variety of garden and foraged foods.

In terms of the ‘Estate Life’ theme, traditional equipment and machinery previously used on the estate, including Parham’s own fire brigade, were brought out and put on show.

The Dovecote and Ice House, which has recently been restored, were also both open to so that visitors could see inside them. Both buildings were historically an integral part of providing food for the household and its guests. Inside the house, old toys and travel items not usually seen by visitors were out on display to further illustrate Parham’s history as a family home.

Commented Lady Emma Barnard, chatelaine of Parham: “The household at Parham would once have been self-sufficient from produce grown and reared on the estate, and this event aims each year to give our visitors a rare glimpse into Estate Life both past and present.

“Anyone wanting to keep in touch with what is going on at Parham during our closed winter months can sign up to receive our e-newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We re-open again next Easter with a new season of events!”

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Report and pictures contributed by Zanny Gilchrist.