A grand day out at Clumber Park
The National Trust and I.
As members of the National Trust, we’ve explored some unforgettable places over the years.
As some of you will know, we Taylors love our ‘holidays at home’ and have travelled all over the UK in the last five or six years in Penny the caravan. Whatever our UK holiday destination, leafing through our National Trust Handbook to find places of places to visit in the local area has become a family tradition. We’ve discovered some National Trust treasures on our travels too, like Cragside in Northumberland and Stourhead in Wiltshire.
Closer to home in the East Midlands, we’ve enjoyed regular trips to Hardwick Hall, Rufford Park and Calke Abbey. In fact, only last week we returned to Belton House near Grantham, to sample the delights of the recently redeveloped adventure playground.
Clumber Park.Clumber Park, near Worksop, north Nottinghamshire, is another of our local National Trust favourites. The journey from the main entrance to the visitor facilities, along the longest avenue of lime trees in Europe, is stunning: especially in the autumn when the trees are on fire with russet and gold.
Clumber Park is huge. The beautiful expanse of parkland, heath and woods cover a massive 3,800 acres. The park was once the country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle. Although the main house was demolished in 1938, you can still experience a taste of the past by visiting the Gothic-style St Mary’s Chapel and the Walled Kitchen Garden.
We’ve sampled some wonderful seasonal events at Clumber Park over the years, ‘Christmas at Clumber’ being one of our favourites. During one particular Christmas event, the girls visited Father Christmas and his reindeer in the stables. Then, as darkness fell, they collected oil lamps and joined the glittering procession of twinkling lights that wound its way around the beautiful chapel. Upon their return, a brass band played Christmas carols beneath the canopy of a warm and welcoming marquee. Year’s later, our girls still remember their magical lantern walk.
Naturally, when I was invited to kick off the summer holidays with a trip to Clumber Park with my friend and fellow blogger, Alex Muir (mylifelongholiday.com), and our kids, I jumped at the chance.
Our grand day out at Clumber Park.
As there’s so much to see at Clumber park, we organised an itinerary to make the most of our day. We decided to start our day with a bike ride, followed by a visit to the Walled Kitchen Garden. After lunch, the kids were keen to visit the Woodland Play Park and the Discovery Centre.
Cycling at Clumber Park
Clumber Park is perfect for cycling, with miles of routes through beautiful parkland and a fully equipped bike hire centre offering bikes, trailers, trikes and tandems. Whether you decide to bring your own bike or hire one, you can choose between four signposted cycle routes of differing lengths and levels of difficulty, or simply explore the estate for yourself.
As Alex’s youngest daughter had only recently learned how to ride, we were advised to try the shortest route. This 5-mile bike ride takes about 50 minutes to complete, (depending on how often you stop to take photos or have a rest!)
After we spotted the signpost marking the beginning of our chosen route, we set off, with a responsible adult (Alex) reading the map. It wasn’t long before the older kids left us in the dust, whilst we adopted the slower pace of our 7-year-old fledgeling cyclist. To be honest, though, with so many points of interest, it wasn’t a bike ride to be rushed.
It’s worth mentioning that there were occasions when our route joined some of the roads on the estate. The roads aren’t busy, but it means you need to be vigilant if you have young children with you.
The route was the perfect choice for us: interesting enough for the teenagers and not too challenging for our youngest cyclist. The views were stunning and the miles flew past as we absorbed the sights and sounds along our circular route around the lake. Cycling in the park is lovely in the warmer summer months, but early autumn remains my favourite time of year to visit. That’s when the whole estate appears to be on fire with reds, golds and russets, creating a vision of colour and beauty.
If you aren’t in the mood for cycling, there’s plenty more you can do to keep active at Clumber Park, including:
- a weekly 5 km scenic Parkrun through the estate.
- picturesque led and self-led walks.
- fishing (if that counts as being active!)
The day we visited the park, the ‘Summer of Sport’ was in full swing. This programme of organised activities gives children of all ages the opportunity to try archery, badminton, table tennis, volleyball and football. The activities are free and there’s no need to book. However, normal Clumber Park admission charges still apply.
The Walled Kitchen Garden.
Tucked away in woodland and off the beaten track is the wonderful Walled Kitchen Garden. This turned out to be the highlight of our day at Clumber Park. I’ve visited Clumber many times over the years, and although I vaguely knew there was a garden somewhere, I’d never actually seen it! I can’t believe I missed such a hidden gem (especially when it covers 4 acres of land). I confessed this to Tina, the lovely lady who welcomed us at the entrance of the walled garden. She reassured me I wasn’t the only one who’d missed it. She’d spoken to a couple who’d been coming to the park for twenty years and they’d only just discovered it, (Phew! Not just me then!).
We were in for an extra treat when we visited the Walled Kitchen Garden because the National Trust had organised for Sarah Elton, one of the assistant gardeners, to give us a guided tour. Sarah started working in the gardens as a volunteer, but recently landed ‘the job of her dreams’ as a full-time member of staff at Clumber Park. Her enthusiasm and passion for her job proved infectious, as she told us all about this beautiful Victorian garden and magnificent glass house.
I have to say I completely fell in love with this garden paradise, with its 450ft long glass house (the longest in the National Trust) and borders stuffed full of all kinds of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. One of the things that surprised me during our tour of the gardens was the inventiveness and ingenuity of Victorian gardeners. They learned how to cultivate grapes, squashes, pineapples, bananas and palms in the glass house and installed an underfloor heating system, fired by coal, beneath an ornate metal grate to maintain the warm temperature. No wonder the head gardener, responsible for growing such an amazing harvest, earned the right to live in a grand house overlooking the garden. However, no matter how highly he was regarded, his servant status meant his grand house lacked one thing…A front door!
The Walled Kitchen Garden isn’t just for grown-up gardening enthusiasts either, there’s plenty to entertain the kids. Emily enjoyed searching for the answers to a quiz and we all enjoyed the sensory exhibits. The exhibits involved ‘listening to apples’ in the orchard and listening to sound conducted through sticks of rhubarb! There was certainly plenty of rhubarb for this experiment, as the garden boasts the second largest collection of rhubarb in the world. More than 130 different culinary varieties are represented in the Walled Garden.
Eating at Clumber Park.
Clumber Park is perfect for picnics. When it comes to choosing the spot, you really are spoilt for choice. Over the years we’ve chomped sandwiches at various picturesque locations around the lake, as well shared a crisp or two whilst watching a game of cricket in front of the old wooden cricket pavilion.
If you’d rather dine in, you can try the main restaurant near the stables or the Garden Tea House. The Head Gardener’s Cottage is the grand setting for The Garden Tea House, where you can dine inside or enjoy the views across the walled garden and drink in the smell of the garden’s bounty of flowers and herbs on the terrace. We opted to eat in the dining room, having been lured inside by a glimpse of delicious-looking cakes in the glass display cabinet.
The Garden Tea Room menu seemed more limited than the selection of dishes available at the main restaurant. Personally, I would have liked to see more sandwich fillings and perhaps the option of baked potatoes, as the children were struggling to select something they wanted. However, the sandwiches, soup and Ploughman’s lunch we chose were delicious and they were made using fresh ingredients from the garden. The portions were generous too.
Suitably stuffed after our meals, we were ready to wander back along the gravel paths to the main visitor facilities to explore the Discovery Centre and the Woodland Play Park.
Woodland Play Park.
Woodland Play Park has been updated in recent years. Although it’s a tiddler compared to the huge adventure playground at Belton House, there was enough to keep our four 7-13-year olds entertained for half an hour or so.
The Discovery Centre.
The Discovery Centre is a fairly recent addition to Clumber Park’s facilities and is packed full of exhibits, activities and crafts for children of all ages. The staff at the centre also run workshops throughout the year. No expense has been spared in ‘bringing the outside in’, with a wonderfully decorated interior filled with foliage and models of animals and birds. There are even some real-life pond dwellers in the large fish tank.
Goodbye for now.
Clumber Park is perfect for a family day out, offering something for everyone. We had a wonderful time and our visit was made all the more special by the friendly and enthusiastic staff who welcomed, fed, helped and informed us along the way. It says a lot about the National Trust when employees like Tina and Sarah declare they have the best jobs in the world, evidenced by their enthusiasm and passion for their work.
As our day at Clumber drew to an end, we were reluctant to leave, having sampled only a fraction of the experiences and activities on offer. We didn’t have time to explore the grounds behind the visitor facilities or visit the second-hand bookshop. We didn’t have time to investigate the ‘Imagined Mansion Exhibition’ on the site of the old mansion, or peek inside the beautiful mini Gothic St Mary’s Church. In fact, I didn’t even have time to browse around the National Trust Shop!
Those activities will have to wait for another day and we will be only too happy to return.
Staying at Clumber Park.
If you don’t want to cram all of the fun and activities into one day, why not stay at the Clumber Park campsite where you can wake up to stunning views of the park? You can either pitch your own tent or hire a camping pod or wigwam.
Entry to Clumber park is free for cyclists, pedestrians and coaches (20+ people). Vehicle charge £7 per vehicle, free parking for National Trust members. Horse riding by permit only – £11 day permit or £55 annual permit. Walled Kitchen Garden: £5 per adult, £5.50 per adult (incl. Gift Aid) under 16 and National Trust members free. Bicycle hire (open daily, all year round): £8 two hours, £16 day. Fishing day tickets £9 or £7.50 concessions and season tickets £110 or £90 concessions.
National Trust Membership.
Membership prices start as low as £63 a year for an individual, but if you are a super-scrimper like me, you can always look for deals on cashback websites like Topcashback and Quidco. The National Trust also run promotions from time to time, like their ‘3 months free’ offer and free gifts if you pay by direct debit.
The full price of annual membership for a family without cashback or discounts is £111 for 2016. This is for a two-parent family with up to 5 children, living at the same address. This may sound expensive but it’s only £9.25 per month and it gives you access to over 500 special places and free parking at most National Trust car parks. To put it into perspective, for the cost of a couple of family trips to the cinema with popcorn and drinks or for two-thirds of the price of a family of four visiting Alton Towers for the day, you get unlimited access to hundreds of unforgettable places.
Interested in finding out more about National Trust Membership? Click here.
Over to you.
Have you visited Clumber Park or are you a member of the National Trust? What are your favourite National Trust properties? As always, I’d love to hear from you.
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