Wentworth Woodhouse, is one of the largest period houses in England and its 185 metre façade eclipses that of Buckingham palace. It was once home to the Fitzwilliam family, one of the richest aristocratic families in the country. This magnificent venue has housed high flying socialites, politicians and in 1912, King George V and Queen Mary. It is now a great place for a fun day out in South Yorkshire.
History of Wentworth Woodhouse
Before I share why, let me provide a little background to the house. In recent times, the house has served as a wartime military intelligence base, found fortune through open cast mining and more recently, served as a women’s teacher training PE college.
Despite its exuberant history however, it has slowly succumbed to rack and ruin. Many of its dilapidated buildings are in desperate need of renovation. Now owned by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, the trust is attempting to make the property into a tourist destination to provide the finance to renovate the property and its outbuildings. One way they now seek to raise funds is by opening the private estate gardens to paying visitors. One August Sunday we pay a visit and here is why we think you should consider it for your next fun day out in South Yorkshire.
Gardens of Wentworth Woodhouse
The gardens at Wentworth Woodhouse are reminiscent of a summer time Narnia. Accessed via a small doorway in the stable courtyard, you enter a magical pathway. Strewn along its length are quaint signs that invite you to sights in the gardens. Kids can roam to their heart’s content while parents can relax in deckchairs and sip champagne, nibble on pre-ordered picnic boxes or enjoy coffees and snacks from the stalls by the rear of the house. Yes Wentworth Woodhouse truly has plenty to offer for a fun day out in South Yorkshire.
Although there are estate maps scattered throughout the ground, it is more fun to wander and happen upon the various enchanting sights.
The climbing tree
A gnarled tree, which begs to be climbed stands guard at the top of the drive leading away from the back of the house. Braver souls than I might clamber up it’s huge trunk and rest on the elevated platform. There, eyes can roam over the estate which was once home to wallabies, kangaroo, and even a bear. The Georgians apparently had a penchant for the exotic!
The Bewildered Forest
The Bewildered Forest brings back fond memories of the Enid Blyton books I read as a child. As we meander along the shaded trail, I imagine goblins, and fairies peeping from behind trees. Princesses and knights dance the romance of love and armies of ants stoically build an ant hotel. A clearing with tree stumps arranged in a circle conjures up images of songs around a campfire. Another clearing houses a baking area where children can mix sand, mud and twigs to create beautiful cakes and casseroles. What wonderful scenes to captivate your child’s sponge-like imagination.
The Herbaceous Border and Ionic Temple
The herbaceous border is a feast of beautiful blooms. From exotic purples to the vivid yellows of towering sunflowers, it is a riot of colour and an intoxicating blend of wilderness and formality.
Beyond, the Ionic temple pays homage to the Greek god Hercules, who had to overcome 12 challenges to prove his courage. Ten Ionic columns support the dome and from Hercules’s vantage, you can enjoy far reaching views of the local countryside. The villages of Greasbrough and Harley bask in the bottom of the valley
The West Lawns are a reminder of bygone days. Hula hoops, croquet, bowls and other family games dot the grass and are free to enjoy. Plonk yourself in a deckchair, sit back and enjoy the sunshine. Even on a cooler day, you can still linger – just break a blanket to huddle under. You can sip champagne while the kids wear themselves out on ‘roly poly’ hill.
We wander around the walled circular garden of the Mulberry Gardens (which appears on some estate maps as the Rose Gardens) admiring the splash of vivid reds, oranges and yellows against the backdrop of the house. A stunning statue (sans head) is in a ornamental pool. As you wander back to the picnic lawns, watch out for the Hedgehog House hidden away in the bushes. So cute!
In the North West corner of the estate, you can admire the ruins of the Camellia House. Huge shrubs and weeds have reclaimed the interior and shards of glass twinkle in the sunlight. The Trust has plans to develop it into a classic tea room and events venue. I imagine taking afternoon tea with sunlight streaming through a glass panelled ceiling and look forward to the day when this becomes reality.
On a serious note, it is worth touching upon the measures the estate has implemented to keep you safe. They have installed plenty of antibacterial dispensers throughout the gardens and numerous signs encourage social distancing. There’s enough space that this doesn’t prove difficult. Furthermore, visitor entry slots are timed to allow sufficient social distancing and the estate is big enough that we rarely came across more than a few people.
If you book in advance online, tickets cost £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. There is also a family tiket which includes two adults and two children for £10. At the gate the cost rises to £7 per adult and £3.50 per child over 3 years old. That said, you can simply book tickets at the gate on your phone to save. The booking process is quick and you instantly receive a bar code to secure entry. Slots are timed to allow for social distancing.
The gardens are open every Wednesday to Sunday and open at 10am and close at 6 pm.
The development of the gardens for public visits has been done in a fun and family fuelled way. There’s plenty to see for all the family and it is easy to imagine yourself transported to a different era. Wentworth Woodhouse gardens are definitely worthy of a fun day out in South Yorkshire.