What makes a really good day out with small children? I discovered the answer on a breezy December day when I visited the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate, in Cambridgeshire.
The stately pile part of the estate was shut (it will re-open in mid-February) but we weren’t there for a history lesson. Wimpole Estate is a particularly good place to get outdoors and we fancied a post-Christmas walk.
We wandered along muddy paths, across the windswept fields, past grazing sheep and rippling lakes, up to the atmospheric 18th century folly. The expansive parkland is the perfect place for a winter’s stroll, indeed the National Trust’s website has a whole section on walking at Wimpole.
Our three year old was so distracted by the various features of the landscape that he forgot to complain about his weary legs until right near the end.
After lunch in the Old Rectory restaurant (eat early as popular menu items sell out fast) we headed over to Home Farm for a quick look at the animals. Then we ventured through to the play area and that’s where the day really took on a whole new muddy dimension. There are a number of ride-on tractors in the play area and a rudimentary trail for them to follow, along with pigsty-like playhouses (how apt…) and a combine harvester climbing apparatus.
This may all sound rather pedestrian to the seasoned parent, but it had been raining very hard in the days preceding our visit. The tractor track had been reduced to some muddy ruts and deep puddles and this is where our boys and other children proceeded to spend a long time getting very dirty.
I’ve seen them having fun with mud before but this episode seemed to create a fresh level of hilarity and enjoyment for all concerned. Perhaps everyone had been stuck indoors with feuding relatives for too long over Christmas and this was a way to let off steam: mud therapy. Whatever the reasons, there was a deep involvement with the mud.
I highly recommend a visit to Wimpole Estate, but for full effect make sure it’s been raining before you go.
There’s a nominal £2 parking charge if you just want to go for a walk to the folly, otherwise entry to the grounds with full mud experience is £12 per adult and £6 for children from age 5.
Membership of the National Trust costs £64.80 per year for an adult or £114.60 for a family (there’s a reduction for single parent families). If you’re heading to the British coast for a holiday, you’ll find National Trust membership will cover the hefty parking charge at many beaches from Cornwall to Northern Ireland.
If you’re driving in the UK, make sure you take a look at my post about family-friendly places to stop just off the motorway. It covers everything from play areas to picnic spots, castles to nature reserves.