Elsham Hall Gardens and Country Park is a great outdoorsy place in North Lincolnshire just off the M180 motorway.
We visited on a glorious bank holiday Monday, and it seemed that plenty of other people thought it was a good idea too. It opened at 11 o clock, just as we were arriving and the cars were cramming in, and there was already a queue (not too long though) at the entrance desk.
Elsham Hall Gardens is all outdoors and probably wouldn’t be as pleasant in inclement weather, but today, on a sunny spring day, it was absolutely gorgeous.
First of all, we walked up to the lake and fed the fish (you can buy fish food from the shop – 3 bags for £2). The fish are huge and you could clearly see them coming to the surface. A lot of the paths you need to follow are close to water, so it’s not entirely toddler friendly – especially with the twins who just love running in opposite directions.
Then we had some snacks in one of the estate’s many picnic areas. (There is a cafe in the main courtyard but we didn’t try it out apart from the cups of tea). There are loads of places to sit and eat throughout the park.
Then we had a look round the old cottage which was built as part of a heritage project. The girls were fascinated with the yellow daub and the spinning wheel.
The walled garden is simply beautiful and contains lots of flowerbeds, sculptures, peacocks, a row of aviaries, and enclosures containing goats and sheep.
The guinea pig pen was empty, which was disappointing, but there was a great big hill (when you’re two) to climb up and roll down. Win!
A short walk through to the lake-side where we had our main picnic, then on to the butterfly walk, which didn’t contain too many butterflies but had some excellent insect sculptures.
A short walk later and we were at the children’s playground. It truly is a fantastic playground with something to suit all ages and abilities. Again though, some of it could be a little too challenging for toddlers but with supervision, it’s all good fun. Chickens and turkeys run free here, and you can have a little break and watch the sheep if it all gets a bit too much effort.
This was my children’s favourite park of the grounds. We played for about an hour in here, and then came back a bit later too.
Then on to the animals. There are guinea pigs (hurrah!), rabbits, chickens, and some very hairy, noisy pigs called Ant and Dec. We were allowed in to the rabbit enclosure (under keeper Rachel’s supervision) to stroke a very friendly rabbit called Honey.
As we went on Bank Holiday Monday, we went back to the main courtyard, where there was a children’s entertainer. He was pretty good and kept the children occupied for a good half hour. We had some ice lollies from the nearby gift shop while we watched. Then a quick look round the forge shop, and the craft shop, and we went back to the playground and the animals again.
Overall we spent five hours here, from 11am to 4pm, which is about as long as it opens daily. There are toilets all over the place, with basic but adequate baby changing facilities. The paths through the park were a bit narrow in places for our double buggy but we got everywhere we needed to be. Would be fine for single buggies. There were lots of people with babies in prams (under 2s are free) on the day of our visit.
The walks round the lake, through the arboretum, and the woods are gorgeous. This would be a great place to go without children too. There really is something for everyone here.
The only bad point was that you enter and exit the park through the gift shop. Having to battle a double buggy through the already narrow shop and past the ever-growing queue for the ice-cream counter was not fun. We did find a passage slightly further back we could have used, but it was not signposted. This was really our only sticky point, and it certainly didn’t spoil our enjoyment of the day.
Entry £5.50 per adult with concessions, £4.50 per child. Children under 2 are free.
For more information please visit their website at www.elshamhall.co.uk
Disclosure – we were given complimentary entry in order to do this review
Written by Joanne Brady