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More Great Days Out in the Midlands

Updated on March 6, 2013

Charlecote Park

The impressive house was originally built in the 16th century by the Lucy family.
The impressive house was originally built in the 16th century by the Lucy family. | Source

The Gatehouse

Source

Charlecote Park

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

A fallow deer buck grazing alongside some Jacob's sheep.
A fallow deer buck grazing alongside some Jacob's sheep. | Source
The golden eagle- easily the most impressive bird on display.
The golden eagle- easily the most impressive bird on display. | Source
The barn owl- easily the most adorable.
The barn owl- easily the most adorable. | Source

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 Capability Brown, 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.

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

Fallow deer bucks relaxing in the sun.
Fallow deer bucks relaxing in the sun. | Source

Bradgate, As I Saw It

Fallow deer enjoying the summer sun at a Bradgate.
Fallow deer enjoying the summer sun at a Bradgate. | Source
This red deer stag got spooked out by my rather noisy Jack Russell; so I was lucky to get this shot of him.
This red deer stag got spooked out by my rather noisy Jack Russell; so I was lucky to get this shot of him. | Source

Bradgate Park

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.

Ancient Ruins

The ruins of Bradgate House- the home of Lady Jane Grey.
The ruins of Bradgate House- the home of Lady Jane Grey. | Source

The Red Deer Rut At Bradgate Park

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    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 5 years ago

      You are welcome, and i will look forward to seeing them.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Claire, I know what you mean, I try and stay away from big cities as well. But you can still visit the Midlands without having to go near places like Birmingham and Coventry, we still have some wonderful stately homes. I'll write some hubs on them for you. Thanks for dropping by.

    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 5 years ago

      I actually did not know there was so much of our great heritage still intact in the Midlands, and I so love the stately homes. Maybe next time I am in England I will have to travel up that way. My trouble is I am not keen on the big cities, anywhere or the fact that so many old structures have disappeared to be replaced by steel and glass.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi again Trish. I know a little about Birmingham's history, mostly through my grandparents. But I tend to stay away from it nowadays, due to the crowds and the fact that I don't really like the new Bullring. I'm quite surprised that it's still popular with tourists, as it seems that most of Birmingham's old buildings have disappeared in recent times. Guess its just knowing where to look. Thanks for dropping by. Take care.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Trish, isn't that just typical of Britain, all ready for a lovely day out, and then it rains, but I'm glad you had a good time in any case. I was lucky enough to go during a spell of really fine weather, wasn't a cloud in the sky.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 5 years ago from The English Midlands

      PS. Re Birmingham, it has a long and fascinating history and has become quite the tourist centre.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 5 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      Really interesting!

      I always found the story of Lady Jane Grey appealing, but so tragic. I knew about her Midland connections, but not about Bradgate. I have never been there, so that's a place for my wish list.

      I have been to Charlecote. It was when my eldest was a toddler. I drove there with a friend and her little one. It was a lovely day, so we decided to have a picnic. Just as we had set everything up, it started to pour with rain! We did manage to see the deer, between the raindrops, and we enjoyed it in spite of getting a bit wet :)

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Wow, CASE1WORKER, it must be great to live so close to it. I loved driving through the Leicestershire countryside and through the small villages. Glad to hear that Bradgate will never be developed, at least there'll be one green space in the future for people to enjoy. Thanks for dropping by.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 5 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      Not been to Charlecote but Bradgate Park is literally 10 minutes drive! The beauty about Bradgate is that it belongs to the City council but in a trust bequeathed by the Bennion family which means that it cannot be developed- so no housing!

      GREAT HUB, VOTED UP

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hahahah! Thanks for that Jama :)

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I've heard Marmite (or Vegemite) is actually super-nutritious and good for you, but so are a few other foods that taste and/or smell disgusting!

      lol! I figured you didn't realize you typed that twice, but I couldn't resist bringing it to your attention in a humorous way. ;D

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I've just looked up Vegemite on Google, and it is basically Marmite, so I'm not surprised you hated it hahaha! Personally, I just prefer a little bit of butter or margarine, so much better :)

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Eh! I don't remember typing that twice, weird! hahaha! Can't say I ever tried Vegemite, but if its anything like Marmite then I'll give it a miss, its the most disgusting thing I've ever tasted hahaha!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Will do!!

      Will do!! (lol!)

      I think a London cab is something a "foreigner" has to try at least once. Same for Vegemite (sp?), which I did try one morning at breakfast at the hotel across from Windsor Castle and decided I wouldn't live long enough to aquire a taste for it. ;D

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hahaha! So you've already experienced a taxi ride in England, the black cabs are worse than the normal cars, because you can't negotiate with the drivers, as they have a meter. All in all, they're not worth the money.

      If you ever decide to take a trip to Charlecote then let me know.

      If you ever decide to take a trip to Charlecote then let me know.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      JK, I wouldn't dream of taking a taxi (again) in England. I did splurge on one my first morning in London, from Paddington to my hotel, just to say I'd ridden in one, but that was the first, last, and only time. Everywhere else I took trains or buses or walked, although I must've been daft to walk from the center of Carisbrooke all the way up the hill to the castle! (Was MUCH easier coming down! lol!)

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Jama, thank you for your kind words, as far as I know Bradgate house fell into ruin when the Grey family left the estate in the early 18th century, a shame really.

      Hahaha! 'Wrong side' I remember driving on the right in Spain and to call it traumatic is an understatement. You can get trains from London that stop off in Stratford, although you can get off at either Warwick or Leamington Spa as well.

      After that, you can catch either the X18 or 18A that takes you right up to the front door. Whatever you do, do not get a taxi, as they are notoriously expensive.

      Thanks for dropping by and the vote. Hope you can take a trip to see it one day.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      JKenny, what a beautifully-written piece about two gems in the Midlands! Charlecote, however, would have to be a two-time trip for me...once to tour the house and another to wander around the park. Also, having driven on what Brits consider the "wrong" side all my life, I'd have to travel as close to Charlecote as possible on public transportation. I'm guessing by train from London.

      But how sad Bradgate House was allowed to fall into ruin. Or was it destroyed on purpose?

      Voted up, useful, awesome and beautiful! ;D

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Debbie, if you can, try and get a flight into Birmingham International Airport, as that's right slap bang in the Midlands. If you can't, don't worry, it's a fairly simple route from Heathrow. First you need to get on the M4 and head westbound away from London. Then you need to get on the M25 at junction 15, heading north. Finally, get on the M40 at junction 1A and again head northwards. The M40 will take you all the way into the heart of the Midlands. The distance you have to travel is roughly 100 miles, so its not that bad. One important thing to remember, avoid travelling during peak time or rush hour. The M25 is known in Britain as the world's biggest car park. So if you can, start out before 7 am, to avoid the congestion. Hope that helps.

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      JKenny,

      What is the best way to get from Heathrow to the Midlands?

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks hush, no problem at all. I appreciate you taking the time to drop by.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi debbie, as with most places there are certainly some very lovely places in the Midlands, but there also places to avoid, mostly the big cities like Birmingham and Coventry (except if you like that sort of thing). But I would definitely recommend visiting any of the stately homes and also the castles. Thanks for dropping by.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Katrine, nice to hear off you again. It was my pleasure to share these places with you, as I really enjoyed visiting them. I've got more places lined up for future hubs.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks christopher, its certainly worth a visit, especially the National Trust properties, if you like somewhere quiet and peaceful.

    • hush4444 profile image

      hush4444 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Beautiful hub - I'd love to be able to visit the Midlands. Sigh. I agree, watching falconry is mesmerizing. Thank you for this glimpse into English pastoral life.

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      Thanks, England is lovely and I hope to visit the Midlands someday!

    • profile image

      KatrineDalMonte 5 years ago

      James, a beautiful hub. Many parts of England are awesome, and Midlands do have their own breathtaking beauty. You have chosen a few very wonderful places, accompanied by stunning photos. Thank you for sharing.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      There certainly seem to be a lot of interesting things to see in the midlands. I might take a trip out to see some of them this year.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hey jchevalier, they are. If you decide to visit, you won't forget them in a hurry. Thanks for dropping by.

    • jchevalier profile image

      Julie 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Looks awesome! Wish I could visit there!