Wrest Park is an English Heritage property half way between Luton and Bedford. Only part of the house is open (just the ground floor) but the gardens are so lovely. I’d forgotten to bring the carrier so I didn’t risk taking smallest child into the house this time. We will be back to have a look around properly though.
Before you even get to the visitor centre you have to go past the cafe and, more importantly, past the really good playground area. It’s suitable for a range of ages; there’s toddler swings and a climbing frame/slide combo. There are also a couple of those rocking thingys that are perfect for walloping a small child in the face! Which she did a couple of times. For someone her size the ears of the dragon were exactly at eye height.
The rest of the park includes swings, a nice and long zip-wire, climbing frame and play frame. There are benches dotted around park as well and there’s plenty of space to run around. The kids could quite happily have spent well over and hour in here. There’s also a grass “maze” which seemed a bit odd as it’s just made out of cut grass!
The grounds themselves are fairly compact but full of things to do. It’s smaller than some of the local landscape gardens such as the one at Stowe but that’s a real plus. You don’t have to walk for ages to get anywhere interesting so it’s great for little legs.
We visited at Easter and so there was a trail going on which took us around much of the gardens. The trail was only £1 each and at the end they got a bag of mini eggs (or jelly beans for non-dairy). Some of the questions were actually quite hard – we ended up googling the answers to make sure. Do you know the difference between a Wyvern and a Dragon? I just thought it was a chain of garden centres. It was quite a good trail though.
The gardens themselves are really beautiful. We didn’t get chance to explore everything but there are two lakes, a large orangery (distinctly lacking in oranges but it did have some limes), a dairy (which includes some fragile sculptures), fountain, the bowling green house, woodlands and a little secret house. There’s also tons of open spaces which are perfect for letting the kids run around whilst you set up camp. There are also lots of sculptures all over the place in various states of undress (much to the amusement of the boys).
The landscaping of the gardens is also great for playing hide and seek (particularly if you’re only 18 months old and so not very tall!) We did lose a couple of the older kids when they were playing in the woods though which wasn’t much fun. Despite being a small copse the bit the kids were playing in was actually quite dense in places. There are a couple of fantastic trees for climbing and scrambling around in/under and these were very popular with lots of kids. There are lots of animals, mainly birds, wondering around the gardens. Generally it’s just a really good space for families to spend the day, particularly if the sun is shining. Lots of people take games to play on the lawn, fly a kite etc. We sat down near one of the trees and the kids spent ages just playing around a tree, building “nests” and digging in the dirt. They loved it.
We also had a look around the Dairy Sculpture gallery. It’s got some of the more fragile sculptures, including some that are supposed to represent the four seasons. TBH it wasn’t remotely interesting for either me or the kids.
There was a lot of the gardens that we weren’t able to explore this time because we had only a limited amount of time and the smallest kids wanted to walk. Slowly. That includes the wider woodland, pavilion, Chinese temple and bridge. N.B. there is lots of open water on the site so you’ll need to keep an eye on small children around those areas.
Dogs are allowed on-site, but they must be kept on leads in the grounds. Water bowls are available at the visitor centre and there are waste bins dotted around.
£33 for a family ticket. Entry is FREE for English Heritage or CSSC members. If you’re interested in finding out more about membership or Wrest Park click here – affiliate link
parking / how to get there
Parking – plenty on-site, free. Address – Silsoe, Bedfordshire MK45 4HR
Cafe on-site. Picnics very welcome and it’s a lovely spot for a picnic
4 / 5. I definitely want to come back and explore the rest of the site. I couldn’t give it 5/5 yet because I haven’t actually seen everything.
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