Much of the Easter holidays were spent in wellies, boots and waterproofs but the weather certainly wasn’t going to stop us having fun and spending time with friends. We’d had a date in the diary for some time to spend a day with my friend L and her son C and we were determined to get outdoors. The boys had Easter Egg Hunting on their minds and L and I were eager to visit somewhere new. So to please everyone we spent a day exploring Boarstall Duck Decoy and Claydon as the properties are actually quite close to each other.
We started at Boarstall Duck Decoy which is close to Bicester but actually in Buckinghamshire. It’s somewhere that none of us had been to before, even though it’s literally on our doorstep. It’s not open all year round and only on certain days when it is. It’s also worth noting that there are toilets on site, but no cafe facilities. You reach the Boarstall Duck Decoy through a farm and parking is in a field. At this time of year I really recommend wearing wellies or walking boots. It was pig in mud heaven when we were there. The boys didn’t mind a bit.
The Boarstall Duck Decoy is one of only a handful left in the country. Back in the heyday of country estates they would have been widespread across the country, as a way for gamekeepers to capture ducks for the squires dinner table.
The boys were soon off along the paths on the hunt for animals hiding along the trail.
It did make me giggle that they decided to do the trail in reverse order, clearly they both share their mothers’ sense of direction. But they didn’t care, they were outdoors and set for a new adventure. There was uncharted territory to be conquered and chocolate to be won.
On a dull damp day there were still pockets of wild flowers dotted around to add some colour. My friend and I both agreed that we should revisit when the bluebells are out, and bring a picnic with us.
We discovered a bird hide along the walk, but there wasn’t much chance of our two eight year olds staying quiet for long.
I’ll need to return by myself to admire the bird life on the lake I think.
The boys were soon back on the trail, looking for clues.
Before too long the boys had completed the hunt and we’d walked around Boarstall Duck Decoy. There is a den building area and natural play area and we will definitely be back again in the future.
It was getting on for lunchtime and we decided that rather than heading to Waddesdon Manor or Stowe, we’d see what Claydon had to offer. I’d been years before but couldn’t really remember what was there, but I’d seen there was a cafe, so it seemed like a good place to start.
Claydon is close to Buckingham and part of the house is open and run by the National Trust. You can also visit the gardens but there is a separate charge to this area so we decided to leave that for another time. The Stables area includes toilets, an independent cafe and a number of artist’s studios which you can walk around.
We were all hungry so we made a beeline for the cafe which offers a range of hot and cold meals, the boys both had toasted sandwiches and my gammon and avocado sandwich was devine.
After lunch we decided to have a look around the various studios and the boys were as interested as we were to see the artists at work. They could ask questions and we were all intrigued to see such a diverse range of artwork on display.
We decided we’d explore the house while the weather was looking a little undecided. You can’t take photographs inside the property, but it’s well worth a visit and the volunteers were full of interesting facts. The boys even got to try playing Chess for the first time. I tried to remember the rules from when my brother used to beat me when we were kids. The boys loved it and it held their attention for ages.
Of course it wasn’t long before they wanted to be back outside, running around and exploring the grounds in front of the house. Spot the red coat dashing off to look at the church.
We got to look around the inside of the church and could enjoy listening to the organist practicing.
I’ve always found gravestones fascinating and the boys clearly do too, as they looked at the dates and names.
The parkland in front of the house was somewhat water-logged when we visited before Easter, so we didn’t venture too far but I believe you can walk around the three lakes within the grounds.
My son had soon found a stick or two and the boys were off.
I’ve no idea where they get their energy from but they were having lots of fun.
Whilst we got to enjoy the view back to the house.
Exploring Boarstall Duck Decoy and Claydon were a great combination to enjoy together. I don’t think either property would offer us a full day out, but they certainly worked well for us as a double visit and the boys had lots of fresh air. I believe that the artists in the studios change too, so that would keep our ongoing interest as well. It’s what I love most about our National Trust membership really, in that we can just pop into places for a few hours and it needn’t cost us a penny.