IT’S BEEN a busy few months for the staff and volunteers at East Riddlesden Hall.

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been busy sprucing up the hall ready for the spring reopening.

The kitchen has been given special attention with a new coat of paint. This room was last painted in 1997 just after Sharpe, starring Sean Bean, was filmed here.

Due to the uneven wall surfaces, the paint has to be applied by brush and specialist organic paint has to be used to allow the walls to breathe.

We’ve also made some changes to the Green Chamber that will allow visitors to wander around the room more freely.

Many people may think that the gardening team down tools and seek refuge from the bad weather in November, December and January. The truth is that they are busier than ever during these months.

There’s lots to do to get ready for a new season including winter pruning of the apple trees, repairing and oiling the garden benches, repairing pot holes and gravel paths, removing any diseased trees and inspecting the rest following periods of high winds, tree planting, coppicing the hazel, willow and dogwood - the list goes on.

Jill Saunders, head gardener, and her team of ten volunteers brave the gardens whatever the weather in order to get jobs done.

The closed season is a great time to make a head start on new projects, such as the Hobbit House which was built last year and enjoyed throughout the summer.

This year Jill has been focussing on creating a gardeners shed. This will house interpretation to show the greener gardening messages that we work by, and will hopefully encourage our visitors to try some of these techniques at home.

The team have also been weaving their own fencing panels from the coppiced hazel, willow and dogwood shrubs.

In addition to all the physical tasks that we’ve completed, we’ve been busy planning things for our visitors to do when we re-open and there’s a packed schedule ahead as we move into a new season.

During February half-term children will be able to show off their den-building and mud pie-making skills in the Discovery Garden. There’s plenty of wildlife to be spotted from the Bird Hide too.

There’ll be plenty going on indoors, with archived images on display throughout the house, dressing up and family activities. Visitors will also be invited to use replica toys to discover how children played here 400 years ago.

The property will be open Saturdays to Wednesdays from February 14 to 22, between 10.30am and 4.30pm.

After half-term, East Riddlesden Hall will be open on Saturdays and Sundays between 10.30am to 4.30pm until March 22. The main season starts on March 23 when the property will be open Saturdays to Wednesdays between 10.30am to 4.30pm until November.

We look forward to welcoming visitors back to the property this year and if you’ve never been before then you can be assured of a very warm reception.