Charles Waterton (1782 – 1865) was a pioneering Victorian explorer and naturalist from Yorkshire who travelled the world seeking out new experiences.
His father, Thomas, whose family had owned Waterton Park on the outskirts of Wakefield in West Yorkshire since 1435, demolished the building which stood on an island in the middle of the 26 acre lake there, replacing it with a magnificent Georgian Mansion in 1790.
Thus, the 8 year old Charles was surrounded by wildlife and nature from a very early age, which inspired his later travels. He became an expert taxidermist whose collection may still be seen in Wakefield Museum.
He is credited with bringing back the anaesthetic agent curare from South America to Europe.
The first ever nature reserve in Europe was created by him at Walton Hall and he was also the inventor of the bird nesting box. A busy chap.
Nowadays the family home is in private hands and has been transformed into the upmarket Waterton Park Hotel. It still sits on the island in the middle of the lake and can only be approached by a foot bridge.
It is a stunning location and is very popular as a wedding venue.
The surrounding estate parkland was converted into a classy championship golf course in 1995. The 6781 yard, par 72 course is spacious and was built to USGA specifications.
To cater for hungry golfers and guests, the on-site Park Grill restaurant is rapidly gaining enthusiastic reviews for the quality of it’s food.
Both chefs here have been at the helm for 10 years, whilst 20 years experience at Hilton Hotels and the Q.E.2 have not been wasted.
Only open to the general public for Sunday lunches, monthly theme nights and special events, my party and I managed to get a table for one of their Christmas Party Night evenings.
The restaurant can cater for 120 covers and the on approach to the main building it could be one of any of the hundreds of modern club-house golf course buildings in the country. There is a reasonable sized car park.
The restaurant is on the first floor (disabled lift) and at the top of the steps is a small bar and comfortable lounge to the left. No real ale on offer but the Caffrey’s was very acceptable as a keg beer. Lager is available too.
After taking drinks here we were led to a large function room. It has dark wood floors and a modern, airy feel. There are views over the golf course in the day-time.
The Christmas menu at £22.95 for three courses with coffee and mince pies turned out to be exceptional value for the quality provided.
Fresh rolls and butter accompanied the choice of five starters, six mains and five desserts. I could have chosen several of each, so mouth wateringly were they described.
The crispy fried Somerset brie won and came with spiced fruit compote with a herby salad. Ooozingly good cheese. The remainder of my guests went for a thick slice of home cured Scotch salmon with sweet dill and mustard crème fraiche and an endive and rocket salad. Fresh and tasty were the bywords.
For main, I opted for locally reared Devonshire Abbey lamb rump – thick, just pink slices of tender lamb with battered onion rings, roast vine tomato, home made fat chips and a jug of big-flavoured caramelised red onion and mint jus. Just perfect.
An even thicker slice of roast beef rump with forest mushroom and madeira jus, dauphinoise potatoes and red onion marmalade across the table had me almost regretting my choice. Other choices were Kelly Bronze turkey, rare breed port cutlet, sea bass fillet or vegetable and chestnut crumble.
My pick of pear and almond tart with a creamy vanilla crème anglaise and black treacle ice-cream for dessert was the ultimate ending for a great meal.
The boozy Christmas Pudding with brandy sauce and old English toffee ice-cream was also a huge success.
Filter coffee, tea and mince pies just about finished us off.
The chefs did a fantastic job at an unbelievably bargain price. You can pay this much and more for a vastly inferior meal at many places, but this was true quality and artistry.
Well done chaps.
Service was friendly and efficient and the evening was memorable.
Shame it is such a trek to get there out in the wilds outside of Wakefield.
For further information go to www.parkgrill.co.uk and for directions, follow the sat-nav to WF2 6QL. Keep an eye out for the very small signpost for the Golf Club when the sat-nav says you have arrived. It is a hundred yards further down this lane. Ignore signs for the Waterton Park Hotel.
To commemorate the inventor of the bird nesting box, why not tweet about it?