Today I woke up feeling very excited as I had been invited to have a look around the shops in the beautiful Stable Yard at Hatfield House. Having lived in Hertfordshire all my life I have always felt an affinity with Hatfield House and I have many happy memories of school trips and family days out there. Now I enjoy repeating the traditions with my own children and there have been some fantastic improvements too. There is a farm and a play area and best of all the Stable Yard has been converted into a fantastic courtyard of unique, independent shops and a cafe that sells what must be the most divine shortbread ever!
So, when I dropped my son off at pre-school I was really looking forward to a sophisticated morning of shopping. However my little boy had other ideas and threw a full on puce faced, foot stamping tantrum and refused to go in (I think he knew there was somewhere more exciting to go) so I gave up and took him with me hoping that he wouldn't tarnish my glamorous image too much!!
Well, of course he did tarnish my image by running straight up to the fountain and shouting "wee wee" very loudly but after checking in with Nikki from the Oak Room who was really lovely and welcoming to him I started not to feel too bad about having him with me.
We decided to begin by having a look around the shops. I was really interested to see that a butchers had opened up as we don't have a butcher in Welwyn Garden City. I've always been passionate about buying good quality meat and after the whole horsemeat scandal I think it's even more important than ever to know exactly where your food comes from. It was great to see a real butchers there and I will definitely be going back later this week to buy some of the rather delicious looking sausages.
I then went to look at Fiona Rae's shop. Fiona makes fabulous jewelry and has taken commissions for the Royal Family and her pieces are truly fabulous. I fell in love with an amazing pink sapphire ring that was sadly a few zero's out of my budget but luckily she also does some beautiful and very affordable pieces too. Every one has it's own unique story and would make a fantastic gift (or a treat for yourself).
We then had a look around the Oak Room which is a real treasure trove of goodies and because of all the wonderful soaps they sell smells absolutely heavenly. I love this shop because there is always something interesting or unusual to buy and it's not the kind of things you can find on the high street. My son fell in love with a wooden toy and actually played happily with it for ages which meant that I could have a look round.
We then had a wonder around the other shops which include a toyshop, sweetshop, gem shop, gift shop and music shop. What I love about the Stable Yard is that it really has a very vibrant community feel to it. The shops are not just shops but also offer other things to visitors. The music shop for example provides music lessons and in the Summer the Oak Room runs some great craft sessions for kids.
We finished off with a cup of tea and some rather tasty food in the cafe where I had a chat with Janis the retail manager. I actually felt that as I write to help other mums it had worked out really well bringing my son with me as it brought home how child friendly the Stable Yard is. Everyone was really warm and welcoming, the shop owners were friendly towards him and most importantly perhaps there was a very nice, large and clean baby changing room - which is always good to know when you have kids in tow.
I was really impressed with the Stable Yards. It could be the perfect end to a day visiting the house and gardens but it's also a destination in itself and is open all year round. They run a number of events throughout the year and you can keep up to date on their website, twitter or facebook - it's definitely worth a visit.