If your idea of this part of the world is formed from the likes of ‘From Hell and Hull and Halifax good Lord defend us’ think again. Even on the M62 Hull is a good way off, and whatever road leads to the other place it isn’t found here, just a mile from Halifax.
There are primrose paths, also bluebells, ransoms and ladysmock, as well as the splendid planting in the grounds. A lake in the valley bottom has space for boats and, when we were there, an almost tame grey heron with the ducks and Canada geese. A small-scale ferris wheel and any amount of space for running around or playing games will keep most children busy and child-minding grandparents more than happy.
Add a good tea room and, to exercise the mind, Shibden Hall itself, to create a day to remember fondly. We were not child-minding so had time to consider how we would manage if required. No problem, as may have already been made clear. The detail is where the devil will be finally expelled.
It may be prudent to park at the upper space, with a view and then walk down to the hall. Fail safe arrangements would be for one to drive round to the lower car park, adjacent to the tea room and lake, saving a toilsome walk back uphill. It is a stiff climb, especially for East Anglians, and children are always likely to find a problem.
We had trouble initially finding where to pay for parking, then discovered the meter had been stolen. At the house they said parking was therefore free. The way down reveals the formal garden below a terraced area. Off to the west is a woodland walk where the bluebells and ransoms grow. We also found a family of moorhen on a pond.
The hall was built in 1420, and successive families added to it until late Georgian times. Volunteer guides, who really care for the place, will reveal hidden details behind panels in the up-dated areas.
How does this keep children busy? Well, it doesn’t, until you ask them to look for the kind of secrets they enjoy. These are the kitchen utensils, the animals and birds in stained glass windows, the fantastic beasts on bedheads and chair backs and the toys in the nursery. Climbing the stairs is another challenge. There are children’s trails if you don’t want to do it yourself, and in one room there are crayons and ideas for pictures.
Outside are stables, a coach house, a tiny pub interior and, almost as small, an estate worker’s cottage. From time to time there are craft fairs and, in October, a ‘Spooktacular’. If by this time the children are flagging, point to the cafe and let them run downhill while the volunteer goes back up for the car.
The driver will have earned a generous Yorkshire tea, perhaps, and the children may have been diverted by the ferris wheel or swings. As in most places now, there are children’s packs of food and drinks at a set price. The adults have a good range of choice from savoury to sweet or, if the weather permits, ice cream.