Visiting Clumber Park is one of those days out where the minute you arrive, you just know it’s going to be brilliant. We’ve been meaning to visit for such a long time and we finally managed it over the bank holiday weekend.
Covering over 3,800 acres of parkland, heath and woods in North Nottinghamshire, Clumber Park was once the country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle. The original house is no longer there but there are lots of other historical features on the park to explore, such as a Gothic-style chapel, a pleasure ground, a lake and a Discovery Centre which tells the story of the park.
It sounds ridiculous but we really weren’t prepared for the scale of this place; it’s huge. It’s a couple of miles in the car from the entrance to the main visitor area, passing a beautiful bridge and riverbank along the way – perfect for a nature walk with the kids.
We spent most of our time exploring the beautiful walled kitchen garden with the super-knowledgeable Jane. Occupying 4 acres, the garden would have originally provided fresh fruit, veg and cut flowers for the house on the estate. It’s positioned rather cleverly too, facing south-east rather than south. This creates more variety of temperatures on the heat-retaining walls, increasing the scope to influence what you can grow and how fast.
While the garden would have been primarily a working garden, designed to provide the house with food, areas of it would still have been enjoyed by the nobility. The main path from the glasshouse to the Cedar Avenue beyond boasts a beautiful 400ft herbaceous border and there is also a separate rose garden.
Nowadays the garden is focused on re-discovering and growing the varieties of vegetables and fruit originally grown here – using resources like records kept by previous head gardeners and even old labels found in the borders. Produce from the garden is sold in the on-site shops and at special events hosted throughout the year. It’s hard to believe that the whole garden is cared for by just three full-time staff plus seasonal and volunteer help.
The garden’s glasshouse is nothing less than enormous – the longest cared for by the National Trust in fact. This would have originally been heated by hot water pipes under the floor, but is now mostly unheated and home to an impressive variety of tomatoes, peppers, soft fruit and grapevines.
For me there’s something very special about walled gardens. I think it’s all that lovely old brickwork, the sense of a self-contained, private outdoor space, and the whispers of the past that you find everywhere you look. Clumber Park’s walled garden definitely has a real atmosphere about it, it’s wonderfully calm and manages to feel both grand and welcoming at the same time.
In a day’s visit we only just scratched the surface of what Clumber Park has to offer and we’ll definitely be returning to explore it more. It’s a great place for a family bike ride or woodland walk, it’s worth knowing that you can hire bikes on-site too. There’s also a Discovery Centre focusing on the local wildlife, which would be a big hit with the children. We’re already planning our next visit, I suspect it might coincide with the halloween celebrations as the kids were completely enthralled by the size of the pumpkins there!
Visit the Clumber Park website for more information on opening times, facilities and events.
Thanks to the staff at Clumber Park for hosting us on our visit.