Saturday 14 September 2013

Butter making at Blaise Dairy

Blaise Castle Dairy
"Would you like to make some butter?"

Why, yes.  Yes, we would.

Today is Bristol Doors Open Day.  All over the city doors were flung open so that the public could explore "significant contempoary and historic buildings".

I had thought that we wouldn't have a chance to go exploring as Saturday was shaping up to be a busy day--life with a school-aged child is one endless parade of birthday parties--but after I saw a tweet in passing from the council, I realised we'd have just enough time to visit Blaise Dairy for butter-making before a swimming party at noon.

Because I am occasionally a little bit daft--no laughing at the back, please--I brought us to Blaise Hamlet rather than to Blaise House for our butter-making extravaganza.  In my defence, it did say that it was in a picturesque cottage, and you can't get much more picturesque and cottage-y than Blaise Hamlet!  So, before we get to the butter-making, enjoy the sheer, unbridled gorgeousness of Blaise Hamlet...
Blaise Hamlet
What, you may ask, is a hamlet of nine picturesque cottages doing in the middle of Bristol?  That's a jolly good question!

Blaise Hamlet was built as a group of nine retirement cottages for the elderly estate workers to live in after giving almost a lifetime's service to the Blaise Castle house and grounds.  Each cottage is different--one even has its own dovecote--and they're all gorgeously thatched.   They're all maintained by the National Trust now, and each one is privately occupied so don't go peeking in any windows!

When you step into Blaise Hamlet you really do step back in time.  Dave's Nan says that it hasn't changed since she was a girl, so I think its "preserved in time" feeling is totally authentic.  It's so tranquil and it epitomises Ye Olde England, what I call "chocolate box England".

There were also three apple trees on the village green, each absolutely dripping with apples.  I desperately wanted to scrump the windfalls, but thought that might be a tad cheeky!  I'm thinking that I should show the picture to my little apple tree in our garden--applespo?

So...back to the butter-making!
The rear aspect of Blaise Mansion House
I've been to Blaise Castle Estate many times, but I had no idea that there was an orangery, much less a dairy, tucked away behind the Mansion House!
Curved Orangery, designed by John Nash
We followed the curving path past the curved Orangery--stuffed full of beautiful sub-tropical plants--and through a garden gate, whereupon we were treated to this gorgeous view.
Blaise Dairy
Blaise Dairy
Isn't it gorgeous?

The Dairy was designed and built in 1804 by John Nash, the chap who designed the Orangery on the house, and also the houses in Blaise Hamlet.  Apparently he also designed a lot of the classic Georgian buildings in Bath--a very versatile architect!  He wanted to design a working dairy which looked like a charmingly picturesque cottage.  I'd say he achieved his goal, wouldn't you?

We were given a plastic bottle of cream and warned that it would take at least 20 minutes of shaking to produce butter.  Yikes!

While we shake-shake-shake'd, we walked through the Dairy Gardens which were rather lovely, even though the sun kept hiding behind the clouds.
Water drops sparkling on leaves and a view of the pond
After about 20 minutes of shaking, we made our way back to the dairy, only to be told to shake some more!
Views of the Blaise Dairy
Sadly, our butter wasn't quite ready to be patted but we went for it anyway as we had a birthday party to dash off to.  (I was quite surprised as it looked pretty damn buttery to me when we peeked in the jar.)  Lucas patted the butter for us--splatted might be a better term--and thought that was much better fun than shaking it up.

We ended up with the world's tiniest butter pat, but it was made even more delicious by all of our hard work in making it.  We split it three ways and spread it on crackers.  It was very creamy, but very good.
A tiny pat of butter
The world's tiniest but most delicious butter
Big thanks to the ladies and gents at Blaise Dairy (and Bristol Doors Open Day) for such a fun morning!

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  1. Looks like fun! For a change of pace next year (if you're feeling brave) I'd recommend the sewerage work at Avonmouth - really interesting, and very educational! We went last year and coincidentally my youngest was doing the water cycle in school - she spent half an hour explaining the what's why's and wherefore's to her class the following week!
    Lucas (a girl's name too!)

    1. Thanks, Lucas!

      I'm not sure that I'm brave enough to tackle the sewerage works! Glad you enjoyed it, though!

  2. I visited Blaise Castle for the first time recently - well, we tried to find the castle and actually ended up walking miles in a circle around it, I think. We'll have to go back and check out the hamlet too.

    1. Yeah, the trails can be a bit tricky, but if you keen heading uphill you should eventually be able to find it. There are trail maps you go!

  3. Yum! I could practically eat butter without anything else. (which is gross, isn't it?) I love the photos and descriptions and history of Blaise Hamlet. Makes me want to visit on such a beautiful day.

    1. I've been known to sample really good butter on its own before! Proper butter is one of life's pleasures and is way better for you than something out of a tub, IMO!

      So pleased that you liked my photos, Tamara!!

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