Tag Archives: chiltern open air museum

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Gertrude Jekyll and Astleham Garden: Inspiring Arts & Crafts Design

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“I hold that the best purpose of a garden is to give delight and to give refreshment of mind, to soothe, to refine, and to lift up the heart in a spirit of praise and thankfulness.” Gertrude Jekyll

The formal garden of Astleham Manor Cottage was inspired by the designs of Gertrude Jekyll, who was influential in shaping garden design during the early 20th Century. The geometric layout of the garden is softened by the planting style reminiscent of old English cottage gardens. Gertrude Jekyll pioneered this approach to garden design and it came to characterise many Arts and Crafts gardens.

Gertrude Jekyll and Astleham Garden have been intricately linked by our team of volunteer gardeners, through both the layout and the plants used. The garden has heritage varieties used by Jekyll such as Iris Germanica, Lavandula Angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and Rosa ‘The Garland’.

The planting plan of Astleham Manor Cottage at Chiltern Open Air Museum.

“I rejoice when I see any one, and especially children, inquiring about flowers, and wanting gardens of their own, and carefully working in them.” Gertrude Jekyll

The garden contains plaques with quotes from Jekyll and is a perfect place to relax on a summer’s day.

Being a dedicated flower garden, it was based on Gertrude Jekyll’s principles of providing somewhere that is just a beautiful place to be, somewhere to be aware of beauty, scent and calm.  It was designed and developed in 2008/9 by Conway Rowland, the previous Estate Manager at COAM who took considerable care to adhere to Jekyll’s ideas. Typical Jekyll features include the use of low walls, rope swags and some of her favourite plants such as bergenia (elephant’s ears) and roses. 

Historic buildings Astleham Manor Cottage garden during building works at Chiltern Open Air Museum

The formal garden at Astleham Cottage is accompanied by an orchard garden containing heritage apple varieties surrounded by roses, ferns and hydrangeas.

A plan of the planting in the Astleham Orchard at Chiltern Open Air Museum
A list of the plants in the heritage garden of Astleham Manor Cottage at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Find out more about Gertrude Jekyll

Explore the other gardens at the museum.

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Help Restore the Victorian Toll House at Chiltern Open Air Museum

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Donate towards the restoration of our Victorian Toll House

This Giving Tuesday we hope you will continue to support our vital conservation work by making a donation, no matter how small or large, towards the restoration of our Victorian Toll House that originally stood in High Wycombe.  Why not take a look around the Toll House.

Each year 50,000 buildings are demolished in the UK. Many of these are of great historic and cultural importance to their communities.

Chiltern Open Air Museum is a charity that rescues historic buildings from your community that would otherwise be demolished to make way for new developments. They are rebuilt at the Museum to secure their future and preserve them for the enjoyment of all.

Every building in our unique collection was once the home or workplace of ordinary people – a history rarely preserved.  

As a self-funding Museum, we receive no regular government or council grants. Instead, we rely on donations and admission fees to fund the maintenance of our historic buildings and continue our vital conservation work.

Giving Tuesday Logo

Created in 2012, Giving Tuesday was a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the last decade, it has grown into a global movement that inspires millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

Every penny counts so do please consider donating.

Giving Tuesday Nov 28, 2023

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Tips for Your School Visit

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Tips for teachers

A teacher’s top tips for planning a school visit to COAM

Before your visit

  1. Do a pre-visit: The office staff are very supportive, take a map with you and physically walk the distances – it’s further than you think.
  1. Use the Museum risk assessment it makes life a lot easier. There is a lot of content, but you can cut and paste the bits most relevant to you.
  1. Check through your paperwork: We all know that mistakes can be made so check in advance that your timetable matches with what you think you have booked. Mistakes can be put right in advance but it is much harder to adapt on the actual day of your visit.
  1. Relax: The site is secure and peaceful, it’s lovely to sit outside with your kids on the Village Green and eat lunch together. The Museum encourages the children to play and enjoy the spaces – though too much screeching does feel out of place. I always anticipate that the day will run smoothly and the quality of learning will be great.

On the day of your visit

  1. Clothing: Remember it’s an open air site – so dress for the weather! Sunhats when it is hot and waterproofs at all times of the year. Children need to have their legs and arms covered because of possible tics in the long grass – even when it’s hot. School uniform really doesn’t work here with the possible exception of a sweatshirt for identifying which children belong to you.
  1. Footwear: Avoid open toe sandals, even in the Summer, as the ground is uneven (particularly in the woods). Send a letter home stipulating trainers and remind the kids the day before. Wellies are best footwear when it’s wet.
  1. Storing lunches: Ask the children to bring their lunch in a labelled plastic bag it’s much easier than transporting lots of lunch boxes. Sometimes you can leave your lunches in your lunch venue but there is always space to store them whilst your workshops take place if this isn’t possible.
  1. Tea and Coffee: In February, March and November you can get a self-service tea and coffee in Skippings Barn – there is an honesty box so bring small change with you. During the rest of the year you buy tea and coffee from the Tea Room which is right at the far end of the site. We usually buy these after a workshop when we are en-route to our lunch space. It’s called Wood End on the map.
  1. Ask things: They are a really approachable team and love to answer questions. They genuinely want you to have the best possible day.




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Family Learning

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Chiltern Open Air Museum is a fantastic fun and educational day out for the whole family.

Terrific Tuesdays

Our Terrific Tuesdays are fantastic family fun days, where the the Museum puts on lots of additional themed activities, crafts and games, which run on most Tuesdays of the school holidays. Please see our event pages for details of dates, themes and activities.

Living History and Events

The Museum holds over 30 events a year including over 12 special living history events with costumed re-enactors, which provide a fun way to learn about history and can support topics learnt in  school.

Family Guidebooks

Family guidebooks are available for purchase in our Museum shop at a cost of £3.50. The guidebooks contain fun facts for children and help them to enjoy learning about our buildings and the objects we have placed inside them.

Family Activities

Pick up a free ‘I Spy’ sheet from our Ticket Office, make model replicas of our Museum barns, dress up in historic clothes and play with historic toys. There are so many wonderful, family-friendly things to do at our Museum. Why not have a look at our Top 10 Things to do for inspiration?


We have an orienteering course onsite. You can download the course and find out more information here. Orienteering packs are also available to purchase from our ticket office.

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Wildlife and Conservation

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Wildlife and Woodland Management at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Woodland, hedgerows and the hidden meadow

  • The Museum puts a great effort into maintaining the whole of its 45 acre site to support and enhance its value for local wildlife.
  • We manage around fifteen acres of woodland using traditional techniques such as coppicing, which creates a variety of ages of woodland cover encouraging different plant and animal species.
  • The material we extract from the wood is used to support the maintenance of the farm and the buildings on site, being made often in to traditional products, such as sheep hurdles, thatching spars and wattles. You can sometimes see this work going on in the woods, around our woodman’s shelter, exactly as it would have been for hundreds of years.
  • You can enjoy a walk though our woodlands, on our waymarked trails of differing length as part of your visit.
  • Also found on one of our woodland trails is ‘The Hidden Meadow’, an isolated fragment of chalk downland, and designated County Wildlife Site, supporting many interesting species of plants and insects, which also presents a spectacular display of cowslips in the late spring.
  • Over the rest of the site, our use of traditional farming techniques, and management of hedgerows and verges is geared to support many plant, animal and bird species that are in decline. We also aim to conserve important local landscape features, such as the old parkland trees here which date back to the site’s history as a deer park for the adjacent Newland Manor.

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Library Image of Garston Forge Family

Vernacular architecture, rural life and building histories

  • Chiltern Open Air Museum has a small library and archive, looked after by a dedicated team of volunteers.
  • The collection includes books on vernacular architecture, farming and rural life; archived documents for each of the historic buildings; and photographs and slides showing buildings in their original locations.
  • Access to the library for research is currently by appointment.  Please contact the Museum Office on 01494 871117 or enquiries@coam.org.uk  The library may occasionally be open to the public during some events so that visitors can enjoy browsing the collections of books, journals and articles. Volunteers, Friends of the Museum and Chiltern Society members are welcome to borrow books for a deposit.

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Exciting living history events in Buckinghamshire

Chiltern Open Air Museum hosts over 25 special events every year. Become an Annual Pass holder from as little as £20 per year and attend them all!

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Plan Your Visit

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Everything you need to plan a lovely visit

Visit to Chiltern Open Air Museum

From opening times and prices to maps and refreshments, you can use the menu above to plan a great visit to Chiltern Open Air Museum. If you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll do all we can to help.

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