Our National Trust membership cards have been gathering dust for much of this year. It was nice to finally be able to use them and venture out for a day out at Cliveden at the start of the summer holidays. We pre-booked our timed-entry tickets online the week before. We had to arrive within our 30-minute time slot but could then stay until closing time.
It was fairly busy when we arrived at the start of our time-slot, but we moved through the queue to check our tickets fairly quickly. We parked on the grass near the entrance and headed up the hill towards the Water Garden. The area around the Water Garden was busy although people were staying distanced on the whole.
Normally we would head for the playground. I wasn’t sure if it would be open though and suspected it would be busy if it was. Sophie is old enough to understand having to hold back from playing on things if they are being used, but Thomas is too little to do so. I knew he would get quite upset if he saw the playground and couldn’t go on things so we gave it a miss. It turned out it was closed anyway, as was the maze.
Instead, we headed for the Long Garden which I thought might be quieter. We’ve not been that way for a while, not since Jessica died. Being there again brought back a lot of memories. Seeing Sophie and Thomas walking along hand-in-hand always makes me think of my girls together; of so many days out with them walking on ahead of me, chattering away to each other. And now those moments are being repeated with Sophie and Thomas. Such beautiful, bittersweet moments.
There was a one-way system in place in the Long Garden, with the entrance at the end near the fountain. As I’d suspected, it was much quieter here, with plenty of space for the children to explore. The flower beds were beautiful, such a mass of colour. Thomas likes to pull leaves and petals off plants at home; thankfully he was more interested in having space to run about and left the flowers alone!
On the other side of the Long Garden, our walk took us past the Blenheim Pavilion and the amphitheatre. We would have liked to head down towards the river for our picnic, but the path didn’t look buggy-friendly. Instead, we found a nice spot, just off the path, under a big tree.
With everyone refreshed and ready to get walking again, we headed towards the house. Thomas walked with Sophie most of the time, with a couple of brief rides in the buggy when he started to get tired or wanted to veer too much off the path! It was a good walk for little legs. He liked stopping every now and then to pick up a stone he’d spotted on the path. We had quite a collection in the buggy by the end of the walk!
We headed past the war memorial garden and came out on the wide steps of the Yew Tree Walk. There are 172 steps on this walk – thankfully we were partway along and only had some of them to climb!
After stopping at the top to admire the view, we made our way towards the parterre. This was one of Jessica’s favourite places. She loved rolling down the hill there. Sophie doesn’t share the same love of rolling down hills, but she recreated that moment in memory of her sister.
I thought Sophie might decide she’d had enough of walking as we headed back down the hill towards the car, but she was keen to keep going on to the Round Fruit Garden. It was a lovely place to finish off our day out. We were the only ones there and Sophie and Thomas loved running around there, under the arches laden with apples and pear. Thomas was tempted a few times by the fruit growing lower down, but chasing Sophie mostly kept him distracted from it!
It was good to get out together in the sunshine for a walk and have so much space to explore. I suspect our summer adventures this year will stay much closer to home than usual. I’m glad we have places like this nearby to visit.
Visiting Cliveden – what you need to know:
Entrance to Cliveden is currently through pre-booked timed tickets. For more information and to book tickets, click here.