“ Clumber Park, Worksop, Nottinghamshire. S80 3AZ. Tel: 01909 476592. „
Whilst over at our 'local' National Trust property Belton House on Easter Sunday, I spotted a poster advertising the extra Easter events going on at Clumber Park. With an as ever uncertain weather forecast, I figured a quick 30 mile jaunt up the A1 on Easter Monday was well worth the risk, given that as paid up "Trusties" it wouldn't cost us a penny to try. ~~~~Getting there~~~~ As I said, it's very handily positioned off the A1 at the A57 intersection with the road to Sheffield. There's a big brown sign at the A1 exit and when you reach the roundabout take the A614 to Nottingham. Within a half a mile, you'll see a right turn, and there you are. Well on the borders of the park at least. There's a gateway, followed by a huge long straight road along all lined with gigantic trees. Slightly further along there's an entry point, and even for non-members the good news is it's only £5.20 per car, which I think is pretty reasonable. It's mostly one way, very straight forward, and basically you should follow the signs marked "Visitor Facilities". There you'll find ample parking including over flows in various grassed areas. ~~~~The main courtyard~~~ Once you've parked up, (we parked over by the cricket pitch area) it's a fairly short walk down to the central courtyard feature. Depending on the day you are there, you might just see tractor and trailer rides just before you enter the main square. On your right as you walk through there's a leaflet area and most likely a representative from the Trust to greet you. To the left there are a couple of shops and some plants on display, and there's a small takeaway café on the right hand side serving hot and cold snacks including real dairy ice cream. (If you shuffle around in the bottom long enough past the ridiculous flavours like Elderberry and Honey , you may just unearth a plain chocolate one!) Walkthrough the arch (past a rather clever dragonfly shaped bench) and here you'll find the main buildings on your left. There's another shop where you may just find a Robin Hood outfit, complete with bow and arrow set should any little merry men in your party be interested. Daddies like me on the other hand are far more likely to be struck by the delightful indoor and outdoor seating of the restaurant area. Probably best to get a visit to the facilities in for any little ones at this point, especially as the Woodland play area through the small doors on the right is bound to be spotted fairly sharpish. ~~~~The dining area~~~~ Funnily enough, one of the few let downs of Belton House is the catering, for some reason, the small facilities there just don't seem to come up to normal NT standards. No such worries here at Clumber Park I'm happy to say. There's 3 or 4 quality hot dishes of the day, choices for kids with options like spaghetti and meatballs or the convenience of a choose any 5 cold items selection. There are plenty of spacious wooden tables in 3 or 4 separate annexes, so even on a busy day like Easter Monday, with a bit of patience we were still able to get a decent table, and particularly on warmer days the outdoor seating offers a good alternative. ~~~~The play area~~~~ So after lunch, we delivered a revived and refreshed little man to a wooden kingdom of play. According to the staff member who welcomed us to the park, it's a play area designed by children, for children, and you can certainly see the appeal. In one corner there are 3 separate miniature tree houses on different levels. Moving towards the centre piece, there's a set of fairly challenging ropes and wooden frames to negotiate, including rope ladders and a spider man style web - probably better suited for those aged 6 and over, but our little man was certainly prepared to get as far as he could before rescue daddy had to be deployed. The whole play area is thick with wood chippings, so hopefully the worst of any mini fall would quickly be absorbed. There's also a classic double kid sized tyre swing, an obligatory wobbly bridge or two plus those bell ringing style see saw ropes to give them a quick taste of life without gravity. All in all it's a very well thought out play area , the only slight criticism would be it's not quite big enough, especially on busy days like this one. Funny as well, that with all these cleverly crafted play areas, the old tree on it's side in the corner was probably drawing the most visitors of all - kids and trees - what is it about them! ~~~~A Ferry nice bonus~~~~ Once we'd managed to prise him away from the play area, we were intrigued to spot signs advertising a ferry service. We walked out of the courtyard, and there before us was a very impressive rolling panorama of open space, with a great big Lake at it's heart. As we'd done the Easter egg hunt thing the day before (and as our little man really didn't need any additions to his already burgeoning collection!) we skipped past the extra marquee on the right and headed to the waters edge. It took a moment or two to locate said ferry, as in all fairness it bears a rather closer family resemblance to a large pedalo. Still it was an easy sell to our little fella, who quickly took it to be the "Paddle Steamer" that he'd wanted to visit today (having see Granddad Dogs boat on Peppa Pig that morning. So with that smug satisfaction of being those lucky parents who can actually deliver on an outlandish promise, we headed to the boarding point. Double bonus, only 50p per person each way, so we were gladly helped aboard and found our positions on the metal squares in the middle. Capacity of about 16 on the good ship "Lincolnshire II" and life jackets are provided for the little ones if required. Our very own captain Dog-beard was far too preoccupied with the treasure Island we were heading towards to worry about such things, although the little jolt at the far end that we were warned about , did add to the excitement. ~~~~Miles and Miles to explore~~~~ Just a glance across the horizon at the other side, gave an instant impression of just how huge the park land actually is. No surprise then, that bike hire is extremely popular round here. Apparently there are over 20 miles of bike trails available. The other thing that strikes you is just how many dogs people bring along with them. Unless there was some kind of dog show going on that I wasn't party to, I can't recall seeing so many mutts in one place for a long time. Anyway, even the distraction of various setters and spaniels , plunging into the icy lake waters couldn't distract our man from his next mission. Armed with welly boots and after all the showery weather, it was perfect conditions for jumping up and down in muddy puddles. ~~~~A final flourish~~~~ So suitably soaked through at the trouser legs, we persuaded him to hop back on the ferry, and return to the lake area. As I said at the outset, there were a few extra activities laid on, including face painting, drawing, hula hoops, space hoppers, mini trampolines, Frisbees and football. By this point in the afternoon most of the crowds were gone, so he was in his element flinging himself wildly on and off a rather squishy looking hopper. 10 minutes later, he'd reached his official point of exhaustion, and in just 4 and a half hours, Clumber had officially sent him to slumber land. Really can't wait to come back in the summer months and have a further explore round. Will definitely try and hire one of those trailer bikes next time around - carrying 45 pounds of sleepy baba all the way back to the car is no restful task!
Clumber Park must be one of the biggest parks in Britain. It simply is huge. Contrary to other parks in its neighbourhood (Nottinghamshire) such as Sherwood Forest, it is not just another woodland park. You will find Clumber Park easily by following the brown signs around the Ollerton-Worksop area (you will have to find Worksop or Ollerton yourself though !). There are several entries to the park, but I guess they are all built on the same pattern. The entry we use is straight off the very busy A1. It is marked by a gate of imposing stature, although two cars can not go through it side by side. It is open everyday from dusk till dawn. Once you have passed the gate, you are in the park itself. ‘Clumber’,as the locals fondly call it, is a word of its own, the threshold of which is clearly marked by those big gates. You can park anywhere along Lime Tree Avenue, the longest of its kind in Europe, or so I read. Many small paths branch away from the avenue, plunging into woods or snaking across fields. If you choose to drive along down the avenue, you will come across several junctions, at which points you can choose, among other directions, to go towards Hardwick village, a very pretty place. We always go straight on for a while (did I say that Lime Tree Avenue is 2-mile long ?), then park the car somewhere on the grass under some lime tree, just off the avenue. Although there is a £3 fee for cars, you do not have to pay anything as long as you do not drive past one of these small wooden booths by which two members of the park’s staff stand and stop cars to ask for these £3, in exchange of which you will be given a pack full of brochures. Note that if you are a National Trust member, you can go in for free. I did not know about the fee until I read about it on the internet. I think what happens is, staff tolerate people parking their cars without paying, although everybody should pay whether they go past the said booths or not, but obviously it would be hard, if not impossible, to implement such a scheme. I was told that, years and years ago (more than 10 years ago), some members of staff used to patrol and ask for the fee. We have been to Clumber 3 or 4 times now, and nobody ever asked us for anything. I would advise paying the fee just the once at least though, as it can be difficult to find one’s way within the park without a map, as it is so big, and this is not the kind of park where you find a map waiting for you at every corner, in fact I have never seen even the shadow of one. Plus it would give you some idea of what to see as well as some historical background. Anyway, back to more interesting stuff, the heart or centre of the park, that is where cars are not allowed anymore, is the busiest. There are loads and loads of paths to choose from, paths which lead you through different ecosystems and landscapes: a traditional park and pleasure gardens, woods, heaths, fields. This diversity is what still attracts me most to Clumber. On top of that there is a gothic chapel, a very pretty classical bridge, kitchen gardens (next to where Clumber house – once home of the Dukes of Newcastle – used to stand), and a classical Roman imitation temple (I have heard that there are several of those in the park, but they must be scattered here and there because I have only ever come across one). The admission to the kitchen gardens costs 70p. These gardens pride themselves on the fact that, among other things, they have the longest glass house of all National Trust properties. In addition, its gardeners grow flowers, fruits, organic vegetables, rare and original vegetables, ‘old’ vegetables (19th century style), vegetables that may disappear etc, and there is also an exhibition of gardening tools, as well as a kind of garden centre where people can buy plants. Now I will be completely honest with you: I cannot recommend a ny of these, and for one good reason : plants not being my cup of tea (I would not be able to tell a broccoli from a forget-me-not, it is that bad), and my being more of the sportswoman type, I have never set foot in the kitchen gardens. Yes, I am ashamed, but I am determined to go in a very near future. It does not matter though, my point is that there is in Clumber Park something for pretty much everybody. The fact that there is somewhere you can go when the weather is not exceptionally nice is a bonus. I am afraid I have never entered the National Trust shop or the restaurant either, but may those who are interested in these rest assured: you will not starve and you will be able to buy souvenirs in Clumber as well. The heart of the park is not, in my opinion, the Victorian gardens or the gothic chapel, the steeple of which is truly stunning when seen towering above and among trees, but quite ordinary if not a bit ugly when seen in its entirety and from up close (the inside is said to be beautiful though). No, the centre of Clumber Park is its serpentine lake. The lake is in keeping with the park (surely one of the biggest in Britain with its 3,800 acres), not forgetting the glasshouse (and its 400 odd feet), in other words, it is huge. Lots and lots of birds live on it and around it (there are some very nice bits where the lake is so narrow it looks more like a stream, and there are kinds of little falls as well): swans, moorhens, barnacle geese, ducks… Of course these birds love being fed, and the bit of lawn spreading between the gothic chapel and the lake being the most popular area with families in the summer, I would advise against sitting there, as there are more bird droppings than there is grass. I would advise staying there full stop, bird droppings or not, as there are so many other, nicer places to discover, so many lovely spots for a picnic with kids or alone with your other half for example. One nice thing to do if y ou have time and do not mind walking is to walk around the serpentine lake. ‘serpentine’ is the key word here, it took us almost 3 hours and 2 bridges, but we made it in the end, and it was well worth it. It is possible to hire all kinds of cycles in the bike centre not far from the shop, restaurant etc, but you can also bring your own along with you. The centre is open daily in the summer, at week ends only the rest of the year. It will cost you £4 for 2 hours. They have bikes for hire, but also tandems and bikes equipped with a kind of little trailer-like thing in which one child can sit. There are two ‘tours’ of the park, a short, 5-mile one, and a longer, 9-mile one if I remember well. Note that bikes are not allowed in some places, e.g. in the pleasure gardens and on the promenade along the lake just before the chapel (it is lovely with its benches tucked away on each side). One big inconvenient though : on busy days, riding a bike can turn into a slalom, a dodge-the-dog (I forgot to mention that Clumber is of course a great place to walk your dog or dogs), dodge-the-push-chair and dodge-the-strollers, which is why I prefer walking. You can fish as well! You will have to buy a permit though, it will cost you £4 for a day. As for bathing, I saw some kids swimming in the lake, but it does not appeal to me at all, and I don’t even know whether it is allowed or not. Finally, horse-riding fans can ride in Clumber as well, but they will also need a permit. Clumber Park is home to a cricket team which bears its name, so you can park not too far from the cricket grounds and enjoy a good match. Watch out for special exhibitions and events throughout the year (check the National Trust’s web site), you may end up feeding baby hedgehogs, learning about the different species of spiders that live in the park, or watching a concert or a play. One last thing about Clumber : it is very clean, which is more than a bit surprising considering the number of people who visit it every day. The only rubbish I remember seeing was floating on still water near the very busy centre of the park, plus a couple of empty cigarettes packets, but nothing too obvious or too alarming. Either people are being very respectful of the site, or the park staff are doing a great job, must be a little bit of both. In brief, and to conclude with, Clumber Park has got something in store for everybody, be they young or not so young anymore, sport fanatics or just strollers, plant-lovers or bird-watchers, families, couples, bachelors, e.v.e.r.y.b.o.d.y. It makes for a lovely Saturday or Sunday out (but you can go during the week as well of course, it is not as busy), especially on a nice summer day, but there is something to do all year round. As for me, I will go back in autumn, for the colours and yet another, different Clumber Park!
Nottinghamshire has a great number of parks and other visitor attractions, but one of the very best of these is Clumber Park. Situated in the northern part of the county, Clumber Park is the former home of the Dukes of Newcastle, but now this 3,800 acre park is owned by The National Trust and is a very popular venue for a day out. The park is located about 4.5 miles south east of Worksop and about 1 mile from the A1/A57. The nearest train station is at Worksop, and there are local buses that go to the park. (Details from Traveline on 0870 608 2608) Access to the centre of the park costs £3 per car (free to members of The National Trust), but there are vast areas of the park that have free access where you can stop and take a picnic, play games, fly a kite, walk through the woods or enjoy a barbecue. Even though this is one of the most visited country parks in the UK you can always find plenty of space due the vast areas of the park that are accessible. In the centre of the park is a magnificent 83 acre lake, which was man made, and is fed by the River Poulter. The lake is the home for a vast array of wildfowl, plus also is one of the country’s foremost coarse fisheries. Fishing is open to the public on payment of a daily charge. (£4) However, the main attraction of the lake is to just walk along the lakeside path and enjoy the splendour of this park and the beauty of the trees, plants and wildlife. It is about a four mile walk all the way around the lake and this is normally only undertaken by the most hardy, but there are a number of car parks where you can stop and see different parts of the lake including a classical bridge and an impressive weir. Although this was a ducal estate there is now no ducal home. The house was demolished in 1938 by the Pelham-Clinton family, who planned to build a smaller house on the site, but the outbreak of war in 1939 put a stop to this plan. The vicinity of the mansion house site is where the majority of the visitor attractions are located. These include catering facilities, National Trust shop, public toilets, a cycle hire centre, the chapel and a new visitor centre that has been opened for 2002. The visitor centre gives a lot of information about the estate and it’s history, plus there is a model of the original mansion house that stood on the estate. The tea room is very popular and is very nicely laid out, clean and reasonably priced. There are also normally a number of ice cream vans around this area. The chapel was completed in 1889 for the 7th Duke of Newcastle next to his house for himself and his wife, their friends and the Estate workers to use. The chapel is still used today and is always open for visitors to look around. (There is a short period in the middle of winter when the chapel is closed whilst the inside of the roof is cleaned and the scaffolding may be dangerous to visitors). When you enter the chapel the rows of plastic seats look very out of place and you wonder what has happened to the original pews. But, apparently there never was any pews, as in medieval times the Estate workers were expected to stand or kneel during the services, and only the sick or very old were allowed to sit down on the stone benches which were built into the walls. Cycle riding is very popular in the park and entrance is free to anyone on a bike. (It is popular for people to bring their bikes on their cars to one of the free access areas and then to cycle into the park). Within the park there are 13 miles of cycle routes so there are plenty of places to explore and there is a cycle hire shop for anyone without their own bicycle. The hire shop has over 250 bikes including tandems, child bikes and mountain bikes. Around the chapel area and on some of the lakeside paths, cycles are not permitted, but this is for safety reasons because of the number of people and young children in these areas. A lot of visitors head straigh t for the chapel area because of all the facilities here, but I really do enjoy finding some of the more remote areas of the park and appreciating the open space and peace. There are about 2000 acres of woodland and open heathland, with a lot of places where you can pull off the road and park your car and see nobody else. There is about 1000 acres of the park that is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and of course it is important when using the park to respect the plants and the wild life. There are specific areas of the park that are designated for the use of barbecues and this obviously reduces any risk of fires in the other areas of the park. Within the park there is some tenanted farmland and a number of private dwellings, including the whole of Hardwick Village. You can drive through this village and it just seems like a trip back in time as everything looks like it was frozen about 100 years ago, only the modern vehicles give away that “real” people still live in this village and work the farms of the estate. Throughout the year there are many events held in the park including guided walks and lecture lunches. Also there are open air concerts, plays and even motor rallying. (If you look at the bridge over the lake you can see a new section that has replaced a piece where a rally car went through the bridge into the lake.) On most weekends during the summer there are cricket matches held in the park, which are a popular way to relax and pass a few hours watching leather upon willow. For the more adventurous there are a number of orienteering routes set up in the park and packs for these routes can be obtained from the National Trust shop. There is also a cycle orienteering route. The choice is yours, you can just stroll around the park, relax in the sun, play games on the fields, or enjoy a walk through the woods. We find that our visits to Clumber Park tend to be in two halves. We norma lly take a picnic or a barbecue and find somewhere quiet and enjoy some relaxation for a couple of hours. We will then head for the chapel area and visit the tea room and visitor centre before taking a stroll along the lake. The park is so huge that there is never any shortage of space and you can always park your car. There is a caravan site within the park for people wanting to stay over, but as I have never been to it I cannot comment on this part of the park. I can highly recommend Clumber Park. You can either stop in the Lime Tree Avenue area of the park that has free access, or go into the main area of the park where there are a good variety of places to go and things to see. If you enjoy being with lots of other people walking by the lake, or on your own in a remote area of the park, you can find the right place to suit you. We have been to this park many, many times and I am sure we will continue to go there over and over again in the future. It is a great day out.