We're just getting over our trip to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne over the weekend. I have to say, in normal circumstances we would never have driven so far in so few days. We would have no doubt had a holiday after our work shifting Daniel's belongings from flat-to-flat, much as we did when we went down to Devon for Chloe and Steve's wedding two years ago (incidentally, exactly two years to the day.) so that we had around a week between the journey there and back. We've had a couple of days just resting up. So we decided to have a trip out, even though it wasn't going to be far, to Woburn Abbey, no more than a fifteen-minute car ride away down the A5. We haven't been to the Abbey for quite a while, three or four years at the least, although we do occasionally drive through the park to see the deer.
Statue of horse "Mrs Moss"
Fallow deer in the park
Carol in the Hornbeam Maze
Cockerel which followed us around the gardens
Having parked the car we went into the gardens, through the gift shop (how is it that so many stately homes and in particular those run and operated by the National Trust and English Heritage, always insist on you having to go through their gift shops or at least having to make a detour which has you ending up in the shop? Very crafty ploy to get you to spend your hard-earned money.) We spent around an hour and a half wandering around the magnificent gardens and saw some enormous fish in the fish-pond. Presumably carp. It was difficult to get any really decent photographs due to the reflection of the water. There seem to be quite a few alterations since we last visited, particularly several Chinese-style follies which I'm sure we haven't seen before and a new garden section. We heard a cockerel crowing and then saw it and then it came to find us and insisted on following us across the lawns towards a caged area which contained some extremely colourful birds which I presume are pheasants of some sort. Then the cockerel wandered away, fortunately, as it was beginning to get quite aggressive and who knows what a cockerel is going to get up to. No doubt it was after food.
The place was virtually deserted, no doubt because it was mid-week, but there were quite a few cars in the carpark.
Then we went to the restaurant and had coffee and cake, although to be honest it was somewhat over-priced for what it was and the coffee wasn't very warm. We did look at the sandwiches but they were really over-priced at nearly £4 which seems somewhat excessive. Not impressed, I'm afraid, considering how many visitors they are likely to get and the fact that Woburn Abbey is supposed to be perhaps the leading visitor attraction in Britain, or would be on a tourist's list of places to visit when in Britain. No doubt many American tourists would visit the place when in Britain amongst others. Then into the gift shop on our way out and, frankly, that wasn't exactly brilliant as it hasn't got a very exciting range of products when I compare it with other places we've visited recently, particularly National Trust properties such as Waddesdon Manor, Basildon Park and Packwood House which we've been to in the past few months or even Whipsnade Zoo which has a smart new shop and visitor centre. It seems that Woburn haven't made a lot of effort. The toilet block you come to from the carpark doesn't look very inviting either although the toilet I used within the grounds, I think it was intended for disabled visitors (although, in all honesty, how anyone in a wheelchair would manage, particularly one of those electric self-drive wheelchairs, how would they manage the narrow doorway, I have no idea.
One area we discovered which we were not aware of when we last visited was the Hornbeam Maze. Though, to be honest, it may have been restored and had perhaps been left to get somewhat over-grown.
The visit overall was pleasant as the place is very quiet and relaxing and no doubt we'll be visiting again soon. We came last time when they had a sculpture exhibition in the garden but this time this wasn't on. As it's so close to home it is certainly a pleasant place to visit but next time we'll forgo visiting the restaurant and take our own picnic and eat it in the car in the carpark or perhaps sitting at one of the many picnic tables dotted around the grounds.