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Summer event keeps pupils sweet

Nothing could be more delightful than a summer day spent collecting herbs and making pot-pourri - unless you were living in the 16th century.

Back then, the air was so foul you needed all the help you could get to keep the stench at bay, and collecting herbs and scented plants served a serious purpose, according to Suzanne Allen, general manager of Llancaiach Fawr manor, Caerphilly. The semi-fortified Tudor manor has been running a series of summer holiday events for youngsters, including gathering and drying herbs, lavender and roses and making sachets and pot-pourri.

"Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, people were very aware there were lots of bad smells around," says Ms Allen.

"They believed diseases like the plague arose from the foul and noxious air that surrounded them. So they were aware of keeping themselves and their houses smelling fresh, sweet and clean.

"In houses like Lancaiach Fawr, which could afford herbal gardens, they would use herbs not just for cooking but for keeping the house smelling sweet."

The manor, managed by Caerphilly borough council, has just won the Sandford award for heritage education - its third. Recipients of the Heritage Education Trust award are reassessed every five years and have to demonstrate their "excellent" education provision has improved further.

The "haunted" manor house has been refurbished to reflect the period around 1645. Costumed servants act as guides and talk about their lives in the Civil War years.

Next week a visiting alchemist will be doing experiments - possibly with urine. But this week the servants have been relaxing by showing visitors how to play their favourite games, including quoits and barley-break (a running and catching game).

For more information, tel:01443 412248

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