This review is by Hayley who writes a fantastic blog, with wonderful photos, Hayley from Home. Like us here at Mini Travellers, Hayley has three children including twins., although hers are all boys. She visited Rufford Old Hall with her husband and three children and it is a great review which makes me want to visit very soon. If you haven’t yet visited Hayley’s blog I can highly recommend it. Hayley can also be found on Twitter Facebook Pinterest and Instagram.
This half term I was determined to get on a few days out so clutching our shiny, new National Trust membership cards we headed out to one of our nearest properties, Rufford Old Hall. As much as me and my husband would have loved to go around the house that just isn’t going to be possible with three small children. They have obviously realised this so have set up lots of outdoor activities for you to do with your family. As it is the school holiday most of the properties are holding events for 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4 and they were making mud pies in the courtyard! They also provide free bug hunting and wild art kits for you to loan as you explore the outdoors. Lucas was thrilled to see a basket full of binoculars to borrow and we grabbed a bird spotting checklist too; I just love these little extras which mean you can make more of the outdoor experience without having to bring everything along with you.
We set off into the woodland first, walking along the canal, spotting bluebells and listening to the birds. It was quiet so we took our time, the woods aren’t too big so perfect for little legs but there are still lots to see on the circular route. We headed over wooden bridges and looked out for the trolls underneath and checked out the dens that had been built in the woods.
Part of the woods have been transformed into the Woollen Woods, an outdoor art installation supporting The Campaign For Wool, which made the walk extra special. At this time of year all the bluebells are sprouting up and the forest seems super green so to see little woollen fairies, flowers and creatures hidden in the undergrowth is really quite enchanting. Lucas ran eagerly from tree to tree to see what animals were hiding and we kept finding new critters every few steps. Our bird spotting went a little astray as we were caught up in spotting the woollen creations but it was so much fun and a really different walk through the woodland. It is on until the end of August 2015 and I would really recommend going while it is on, especially with young children.
Once we had explored the woods we bravely returned the pushchair to the car and let the twins loose to have a wander round the gardens…there are no pictures from this part of our day because it was total chaos! However, from what we saw they would be ideal for older children. These are more structured, formal gardens alongside a meadow and picnic area next to the canal with footpaths through more wooded areas. A croquet game set up on the lawn for families to use and I believe they also have a giant chess set although it wasn’t out on our visit. They also have free guided tours for the garden from the courtyard.
After a walk in the garden we decided cake and tea was needed. The lady in the tea rooms was so helpful finding us high chairs and lovely with the children even though she was obviously busy. They also had crayons and colouring sheets which Lucas loved. I do find the National Trust cafes can be quite expensive but I did notice that the children’s packed lunch was very good value and the cake we had was homemade and delicious, well worth a little treat if you are visiting.
All the staff we came across were friendly and helpful and happily told us what was on that day and where to find it. I would recommend taking a picnic and just treat yourself to cake in the tea rooms or ice cream from the shop as it is quite pricey. Make sure you head to the reception before you go off exploring to pick up a bird spotting checklist or wildlife kit. It isn’t the biggest National Trust property but they have put a lot of effort in to keep it engaging and the Woollen Woods certainly made our visit extra special. I would say if it isn’t on your doorstep I would think about going when an event is on just to make the most of your day, especially if you’re like us and can’t go round the house or on the tours. We had such a fun afternoon there, all the boys enjoyed it and we would certainly return.