Birds of a feather at A la Ronde

Join the flock at A la Ronde © Hilary Burrow

Join the flock at A la Ronde

Feathers mean a lot to us at A la Ronde. One of the defining features of the house is the intricate feather frieze that decorates the drawing room and which was created by Jane and Mary Parminter, spinster cousins and the founders of A la Ronde in 1796. This extraordinary interior decoration is made from the feathers of many species of birds including game birds, domestic fowl, jays and parrots, all of which were laboriously stuck down with isinglass.

Our feathered friends

But that's not all we have in the way of feathers. In 2012 the tradition of poultry keeping at A la Ronde was re-instated with the arrival of four former 'cage enriched' hens (caged birds with marginally better conditions than battery hens) who, having reached the end of their commercial egg laying life (18 months), were destined for the chop. Obtained with the help of donations from local National Trust groups they quickly acclimatised to a super new hen house and a life on grass, and mark the return of poultry keeping to A la Ronde. The four hens who were named after previous owners of A la Ronde, the Tudor sisters Stella and Margaret, and the Hurlock sisters Sophia and Jane, steadily recovered their feathers and lust for life in their new surroundings. Sadly Jane Bluebell died in March 2013 but the good news is that we have since managed to rescue two new hens to bring the A la Ronde total to five. The newcomers have been named after Polly Walrond, mother of Mary Parminter, and Matilda, another of the Hurlock sisters.

Tightly knit group

But the story doesn't quite end there. A group of volunteers has been busy over the winter months creating a knitted flock of rescue hens complete with colourful vests to keep them warm while their feathers grow back. These knitted hens will be for sale in the A la Ronde shop and proceeds will go directly into funding food and bedding for our hens.

So when you come to A la Ronde don't forget to see all our feathered friends including Margaret Rose, Stella Buttercup, Sophia Thyme, Polly Pansy and Matilda Spindleberry.