Elsham Hall Gardens and Country Park

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In the depths of rural North Lincolnshire, reached along a driveway from the B road through farmland with sheep, this is a popular afternoon out for local families with young children. We took our 20 month old grandson.

The ticket office is in the large courtyard round the stables and other outbuildings. There is a cafe serving soup, sandwiches and not very inspiring cakes, art gallery, craft shop, blacksmith (Sundays only) and a small shop selling ice creams, sweets and children’s pocket money gifts where the tickets are sold.

The gardens are through the shop. The house isn't open although it can be seen from the gardens.

The highlight of the gardens is a long narrow lake with fish and lots of ducks. Food for both is available in the shop. The fish were huge, 12-15". There are a couple of feeding stations with wooden planks where you can feed ducks and fish. Jacob loved the ducks but wasn’t too sure what to make of the fish who did have very big mouths. He much preferred the stone steps leading down to the feeding station. We eventually managed to move him away and onto the bridge across the stream into the lake which he enjoyed, especially catching hold of the cobwebs on it. At the far side there was a small patch of woodland with plenty of dead leaves to shuff though.

On the far side of the lake there is a wide grass path with herbaceous borders and seats. A low wall separates it from the lake so small children do need to be kept under close control. The water is quite deep and probably smelly.

The walled garden is behind this. Apart from a few fruit trees, there are short stretches of clipped beech hedges as an architectural feature and also good for hide a seek as well as clipped bay trees, although many of these had died after the winter. In one corner of the garden is a small walled enclosure called the guinea pig village which had several 'houses' for the guinea pigs. We saw four different ones. Jacob sat on the wall, watching and squeaking.

There are aviaries along one wall although these weren't very interesting with doves, love birds, parakeets, budgerigars and a (silent) minah bird.

Most of the garden is taken up with pens containing sheep and goats. Jacob went to have a look at the sheep but backed off quickly when one approached him. He preferred the goats.

There are grassy mounds which are great to run up and down and also give an aerial view of the animals.

Beyond the walled garden is a wild garden to attract butterflies and a small duck pond.

The near side of the lake is grass and woodland. There is a small adventure playground which had a couple of big Wendy Houses, sand pit and climbing frames with slides, but no swings. There are hens running around and also a turkey.

There is a small animal farm in what may have been the old cowsheds. This has rabbits, guinea pigs and a pig with piglets. In another pen are two curly haired pigs. Apparently these were common as cottagers pigs in Lincolnshire. They were very hardy and the curly coat helped protect them from the elements. Jacob took one look at them and decided he didn't like them.

Opening hours are 11-5 daily during school holidays otherwise Saturdays and Sundays from Ester to beginning of September. Last entry is 5pm and there is an 'after hours' gate so you can enjoy the park as long as you want once inside.

There were a lot of families with small kids. It is a great place for them to run and enjoy themselves (as long as you watch they don't go into the lake). There is probably less for adults.


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