Stockwood Park Golf Club, London Rd, Luton LU1 4LX
This is somewhere that I’ve heard about many times but it was the first time that I’ve managed to get there. The weather was fairly crappy that day so please bear with the photos, I fear the good old British weather is doing the place a disservice! Particularly bearing in mind that this place is completely FREE to visit there is so much to do!!
First of all there is the Discovery hall. In here there are loads of carriages dotted around and stacked up on the walls. There are also other vehicles; cars, steam engine, caravans and even a stunning truck! There are also lots of the quirky little exhibits that you only ever seem to find in local museums but that tell the stories of the real people who lived locally.
The next part of your visit will take you through the grounds, which are the real highlight of the centre. The gardens are broken into lots of different subsections. There are tropical gardens, fern gardens, Danish gardens, miniature period gardens and even an Anderson shelter. There are various greenhouses, but these were all closed when we visited. There are so many little places for hiding (and so there were multiple parents constantly calling out for their kids, including me). The gardens are so much fun to run around and explore, if the weather had been better I think we would have stayed all day. I also think they would be a fantastic place to have a picnic and set up camp for the day.
If you’re a plane spotter, or like planes in any way, then this is the place for you! I hadn’t realised exactly how close Stockwood is to the airport or how busy the airport is now. There were planes flying overhead every few minutes and they were so loud you couldn’t talk over them.
The only part of the gardens that was disappointing was the “sculpture garden.” Unless I missed something then it’s actually pretty crap; one “ruin”, a bust, a stepping stone installation, a wall and a little thing at the base of a tree. I’m just not sure that qualifies as a scultpure garden!
The Discovery Galleries were really good as well. They’re based in the original stables of the old house and cover the history of Luton and Bedfordshire. Again, there’s the wide range of exhibits that you only get in local museums. They have an old Forge, models of Romany caravans, a Medieval market, loads of agricultural tools, a Saxon skeleton, a Roman hoard of coins and a Bronze Age round house. There are also decent sized galleries dedicated to local archaeology and palaeontology. They have a couple of hands-on sections that were very shabby and past their best which was a bit of a shame. It would almost have been better to not have anything at all.
They’ve got a nice little playground area. There’s a large play frame for the older kids but the slide is currently roped off because it’s damaged. There is also a little play area for smaller children that’s got a slide, little house and a few other things. It’s right next to the cafe outdoors seating so you can have a coffee whilst the kids play. There are also a couple of climbing walls. TBH these were REALLY hard. Middle child really struggled but oldest child could just about reach. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be that tough or if there were a couple of handholds missing.
I wouldn’t quite say that this is an all-weather attraction but there is plenty to do indoors if the weather isn’t great. It would be much much better in the dry. On a lovely sunny day I imagine you can spend many, many hours here enjoying the gardens. There is also a wider parkland to explore with lots of interesting features. We were there for about 4 hours, including lunch.
Dotted around (near the playground and near the greenhouses) there are a couple of covered benches for picnics and there are plenty of other benches and seating areas all over the gardens for you to use. The cafe is for customers only and it sounds like they’re quite strict about the don’t bring your own food policy, even if you’re buying something as well. We ended up having lunch in the car because all of the dry benches were taken. I completely understand why they have that policy but in our case it actually cost them revenue. I would have quite happily brought a drink and cake for all of us if we could have eaten our sandwiches in the cafe as well but we ended up just eating what we’d brought with us.
Because it’s Easter they have got a trail going on at the moment. It’s only 50p per child and you have to find the letters hidden around the exhibitions (both the discovery hall and the discovery galleries). The letters were actually placed really well – they were neither too easy nor too hard to find. For 50p I wasn’t really expecting much as a prize but they got a little bag of pick n mix at the end. It’s definitely worth doing the trail.
Entry – Free
Parking – Free, on-site
Toilets – on-site including baby change
Food – picnics welcome, cafe on-site
Rating – 4/5. It’s a good day out, with a wonderfully weird collection of exhibits. The grounds are extensive and really interesting. There’s a lot of things to do here.