More Great Days Out in the Midlands
More On Charlecote
- Charlecote Park - Visitor information - National Trust
The National Trust's Charlecote Park homepage.
Charlecote Park is a delightful stately home nestled deep in the heart of Shakespeare’s county, Warwickshire, roughly five miles outside of Stratford. The land that the great house is built on was originally owned by the Lucy’s, an influential family with Norman origins. For well over half a millennium, the land was theirs, but today the family is gone and the upkeep of the house and the 185 acres of parkland that surround the fantastic house is the responsibility of the National Trust- a charity that specialises in conserving historical dwellings and monuments.
I must admit at this juncture, that when I decided to take a trip there a couple of years ago, the main appeal wasn’t the thought of walking slowly around a huge house, examining the architecture and layout of the rooms with a critical eye. Instead it lay with a rather unique attraction at least in the county of Warwickshire that is, the park’s resident fallow deer. As a naturalist the thought of seeing real live deer was too good an opportunity to miss. The fallow deer often seems like such a timeless component of the British fauna, that it’s easy to forget that they were originally brought over from France by the Normans, primarily for their number one pastime, hunting.
Charlecote is relatively easy to find, due to its proximity to Stratford and also due to the fact that the River Avon flows through the grounds. I decided to pay a visit in the height of summer, and it came as no great surprise to find that the car park was full to the brim. Fortunately the National Trust is used to having to deal with a high volume of people, so I was able to find a good spot in an overflow car park.
Before actually entering the park, you have the option to wander around the local garden centre and gawp at the wonderful blooms on display. As a man, who has a day job in a similar environment, I couldn’t help but assess the plants with a critical eye. I have to say that they were all of high quality, and the way they had all been arranged gave the impression that you were wandering through a sublime cottage garden.
As with most attractions, there is an admission fee and Charlecote is no different, except that they give you a choice; either pay £9 for access to the house and grounds or £4.50 for access to the grounds only. After, taking a little to ponder, I chose the latter option; after all I was here to see the deer. The kind, elderly volunteer then asked me if I wanted to become a member of the National Trust. The main perk of membership is free admission to all places and land owned by them, but of course you have to pay them a yearly fee, something like £50. This time I was more decisive and politely declined, I was simply too eager to get in, and had little enthusiasm for filling in forms.
More Of Charlecote Park
Images From My Trip
More On Shakespeare And Charlecote
- English Stately Homes & Country Houses - Charlecote Park
A website that gives detailed information on Charlecote Park and explains Shakespeare's association with it.
Deer, Shakespeare And Falconry
Once in, you walk down a long, gravel driveway towards the impressive gatehouse. In the summer, you can marvel at the swooping house martins who build their nests high up on the corners of the ceiling. I spent the next couple of hours walking through the exquisite parkland that had been conceived and designed by , a famous English landscaper and gardener. As well as deer, the grounds are also grazed by Jacob’s sheep, which are somewhat less skittish than your average sheep. I remember passing by a giant lime tree, and then all of a sudden the fallow deer were there, maybe a dozen bucks lying peacefully in the long grass, seemingly content with all the world. I latched onto a guided tour, and listened keenly to the expert who took great delight in educating everyone about them. He told us that for most of the year the bucks and does live apart, only coming together during the rutting season. It seemed strange to think that in just a few months these peaceful, docile looking creatures would be battling each other for the right to mate. Capability Brown
For anyone who admires Shakespeare, here’s a piece of interesting trivia for you. Apparently, as a young man he was caught poaching deer and rabbits from the estate, nobody knows if it really is true or not, but even so the tale has morphed into a local legend.
By sheer coincidence, on the very same day that I decided to go, the park was playing host to a rather interesting falconry display- one of a series of special events organised by the National Trust throughout the year. What was so interesting about it was that the falconers had all donned medieval garments, and as they flew their spectacular birds, they took the time to explain the importance of falconry to medieval people. Indeed, its importance can be measured by what sort of birds that people were allowed to fly e.g. huge birds like eagles were the sole preserve of the king, as you move through the classes, then the birds get smaller, finally ending with peasants who were only permitted to fly kestrels. I love falconry displays and will gladly watch any demonstration of the extreme aerial ability of raptors and owls.
Charlecote Park is a must for anyone who wishes to avoid the wildness of theme parks and simply enjoy what I would describe as the quintessentially English experience, if you’re ever curious as to what exactly English culture is, then a visit to places like Charlecote will reveal the answer. While I was there, I took the opportunity to sample a nice cup of afternoon tea and a cream cake in their quaint coffee shop. It’s also a wonderful place to enjoy a wonderful picnic, as the grounds are so vast that it’s always possible to find somewhere quiet, away from other people. Despite the fact that I only wandered round the grounds, the sighting of fallow deer was well worth the admission fee, I would recommend this place to anyone.
A Relaxing Summer's Day At Charlecote
Bradgate, As I Saw It
Bradgate Park's Official Website
- Bradgate Park - Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood Country Park
Bradgate Park is a welcoming rural recreational facility giving access, pleasure and enjoyment to visitors to a wide range of open and largely unrestricted beautiful and relatively wild countryside.
Bradgate Park is a vast parkland slap bang in the middle of Leicestershire. For anyone with an interest in nature, specifically deer then a visit to this place is an absolute must. The great thing about it is that there’s no visitor centre or admission fee. You simply park your car and pay the £2 parking fee and your set for three hours of exploring a wonderful piece of countryside, which includes one of the highest points in the county. As you’d expect, the climb is strenuous but the views that you’re rewarded with at the top make every ache and pain well worth it. On a bright clear day you can scan the horizon for nearly twenty miles; to be able to do such a thing is awesome and gives you a sense of insignificance and serves as a reminder of your place in the world.
The park is home not only to fallow deer but also the majestic red deer, the largest land mammal in Britain and one of the largest to be found in Europe. Over time, the deer have become so used to people that you can get amazingly close, although I would avoid doing it if you have a dog with you, and also during the rutting season when the stags can get very aggressive towards anything that ventures too close.
Another interesting piece of trivia is that the only building to be found in the park is the crumbling ruins of Bradgate House, the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey, the woman famous for being the Queen of England for just nine days after the death of Edward VI; her replacement was the scourge of the Protestants, bloody Queen Mary.
Bradgate, like Charlecote is a wonderful and inexpensive way to wile away an afternoon or an entire day. It’s also the perfect place to introduce children to the wonders of the natural world, even as a man in my mid twenties, the sight of a red deer sporting an impressive set of antlers was enough to make me go giddy with delight, so think how a child would react. If you want somewhere to walk the dog, then no problem, just don’t let them off the leash for the deer’s sake more than anything else. Bradgate is another place that I would highly recommend to anybody.