When we stayed at Chicheley Hall last month I was looking for somewhere we could visit before heading home. After a family discussion we decided to spend a few hours exploring nearby Castle Ashby Gardens in Northamptonshire.
Whilst Castle Ashby House remains the private home of the Marquess of Northampton it is possible to spend time exploring Castle Ashby Gardens all year round. Situated between Northampton and Bedford we found that Castle Ashby Gardens has something for everyone. It’s a real little gem and one we will visit again when we’re in the area.
We started our visit by admiring Castle Ashby House from afar, and imagined how grand it must be inside. It has rather unique lettered balustrading around the roof and garden walls.
The gardens include an Orangery, formal Italian gardens, a woodland, Arboretum as well as a play area and Menagerie.
My son was eager to pick up sticks so we decided to walk around the perimeter of the gardens first and explore the arboretum. We passed the estate church just as the Sunday service was in full swing, it was all rather atmospheric.
Whilst exploring Castle Ashby Gardens we came across this rather impressive fountain, which resembled more of a vast doorway.
There is a nature trail which winds its way around the arboretum but my eight year old wanted to have his own adventure and I’m finding more and more that he strides out ahead of me, stick in hand, leading the way.
The gardens were full of daffodils when we visited and I can imagine a riot of colour would be found as summer approaches.
He’s also developed a fascination for tree stumps over the winter and whenever he finds one, he just has to stop to examine it, and normally ends up turning it into a drum.
As well as admiring the yew, weeping willows and pines, I could look on at my son, listening to his running commentary for some imaginative adventure. He’s growing up so much and is so much more at ease without being constantly looking for me for reassurance. It’s lovely to witness.
Whilst he may not be a dare-devil, he is an adventurer, eager to explore and discover what lies along the next path.
He does sometimes need to be called back though, to really see what lies in front of him. The Park Lake stretches out into the private estate, so we had to admire it from behind the fences.
But the pathways do take you around the Warren Ponds and the terracotta and bathstone bridges.
Throughout the grounds there are loads of picnic benches but it’s worth noting that the only toilet facilities are back at the main entrance next to the coffee shop and play area.
The formal gardens are lovely to wander around, there was quite a bit of work being carried out when we were in preparation for the busier summer months. I can imagine the gardens being full of colour and butterflies in the months ahead.
We all loved exploring the various parts of the gardens.
The Orangery is particularly impressive and my son and his Dad were soon to be found counting fish in the pond.
It was a really beautiful setting and so tranquil.
There’s a large Walled Garden which unfortunately you can’t access, but you can get a good view of the Victorian Beehives which would be so interesting to see up close.
When you spend time exploring Castle Ashby Gardens you soon discover that there’s more there than meets the eye as you head into the Menagerie.
Entrance is included with your ticket, and there are farm-yard animals such as ducks, rabbits, goats and pigs, as well as budgies, parrots and marmosets.
But the main attraction has to be the meerkats.
There are loads of them at Castle Ashby Gardens and my son spent ages running around their home looking at the various characters.
The Menagerie certainly added to the appeal of our trip for my son. There’s also a large wooden play area at the main entrance, which looked great, with plenty of seating for parents and easy access to the cafe and toilets.
We thoroughly enjoyed exploring Castle Ashby Gardens for a few hours, and you can find pricing and opening time information on their website.