Knebworth House has been in the news recently, it’s been 20 years since the historic Oasis gigs and I was lucky enough to be there… ironically I unwittingly returned pretty much 20 years to the day with my family for a very different experience!
We arrived for opening time at 11 and headed into the grounds. There is quite a lot of deep gravel at the entrance, so hard work (but doable) for a buggy and gravel paths throughout, some of which were easier to push on than others. That aside the grounds are lovely with lots of different styled gardens to walk through and explore, without being overly large so little legs can cope with the distances. There is a great little maze which is tall enough to perplex the kids, but low enough for adults to see over the top, a picturesque pond, beautifully well kempt rose gardens, a lovely fountain in the sunken garden, fantastic sculptures dotted throughout and a lovely wilderness walk.
By far the highlight of the gardens is the Dinosaur Trail. Dozens and dozens of dinosaurs from various stages of the Jurassic periods (I could be completely factually incorrect with that statement, I had 2 kids with me, I didn’t get to read too much !?! ) dotted around in swamps, trees, fighting each other, eating, nursing their young or just mostly standing around. They come in many shapes, sizes and colours, there are some interactive displays of sounds and there are quite a few descriptive sign posts (if you get a chance to read them). Both my 4 year old daughter and 17 month old son were fascinated with them and could have spent all day looking at them.
Herein lies the biggest issue that we had with Knebworth House. There is no eating in the grounds, despite the large open grassy spaces absolutely calling out to be picnicked in, despite the fact that it doesn’t open until 11am and therefore by the time you reach the dinosaurs (the furthest point from the entrance) it is lunchtime and the kids are having a melt down but are torn between looking at the dinosaurs and eating. We had thought that the ban on picnics related to the formal grounds and dinosaur park and so set up camp in a big open space just outside the dinosaur park as Harrison was screaming and Isla stropping at the thought of going any further without sustenance. About 5 minutes after we sat down a volunteer appeared and explained that the picnic ban applied to everywhere past the gated entrance to the house. To be fair she was very nice and understood that kids demand to be fed at certain times, so she did ask us to go back out to the hills outside for the picnic, but did say not to rush the kids with what they were currently eating. So we headed out to the fields and had a lovely time eating under a tree and running around the fields. Afterwards I attempted to rally the troops, they managed to get back into the grounds, but no one wanted to come into the house with me (and you can’t take buggies in so the only just walking toddler would have required a lot of carrying) and focus was waning, so we gave up on the house and headed (in the car as it’s a little way from the house) to the adventure playground.
The adventure play ground is a-mazing! Unsurprisingly Isla perked up immediately when she saw the bouncy castle and fantastic slides, after 45 minutes we gave up trying to get Harrison to sleep and just let him run riot too. They both loved exploring the wooden fort and when the heat got too much for all of us we headed over to the water play, where adults see-saw to get the water to spurt out over everyone, or you can use the hand pump to cause water to flow down the tables.
There are slides, see-saws, zip lines, maypoles (hazard warning, only use this with 2 people of equal weight!), mushroom houses, balance beams and numerous other park toys, all spread out over a large area. It is a fantastic space for children to run and explore. There are great shaded picnic areas and a food kiosk, the toilets are a port-a-cabin but kept clean so very useable. We left at 5, completely shattered, but with some great memories of a truly enjoyable family day out.
NB: Suzanne and her family paid for their own entry into Knebworth House