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  • Gareth Ellis

Our visit to Wimpole Estate

Going out as a four is a military operation.

We often get as much prepared the night before as we can, so we can literally throw it all in the car and then get going. I must admit though that doesn’t always happen.

This weekend Jess, Rupert, Emilia and I visited the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire. It’s the first weekend we’ve had to ourselves in absolute ages and in case anyone was thinking about going I wanted to give you a bit of a review before you do.

Before you even get there though you need to think and plan your day. In these Covid times you have to pre-book, which of course requires a bit of forward thinking (Jess’ forte, not mine.)

And if you’re a National Trust member then it’s free to visit. Happy Days!

Once you’ve booked your tickets you can choose an entry time, which of course helps to stagger the arrivals of visitors. It’s a tiny thing but one that works very well.

So, after packing absolutely everything we could think of, minus the kitchen sink, we set off. From Milton Keynes it was a relatively easy journey, only took us about an hour. As a heads-up, if you search for Wimpole Estates on Google Maps it will take you to a different gate than the one you have to enter. No fear though, keep following the brown signs and you’ll be there a few minutes later.

Once we got unpacked and out of the car we waited for a grand total of about three minutes before donning our masks for a brief moment as we signed in at the visitor’s centre – then we were free to start exploring.

For those who haven’t visited this beautiful place before I’ll start by saying you really should. For those without children it has plenty of beauty from the stunning Wimpole Hall to the gorgeous walled garden. For the kids, they have so much space to run free and burn off some energy plus a farm which is full of animals for them to be intrigued by.

What I was most impressed with though was that everywhere we went we were guided by one way systems. Of course, you could choose to see this as a bad thing and yes you don’t have the freedom to go whichever way you want, but you don’t miss out on anything.

When we arrived we quickly found some shade to feed ourselves (it was 11.30 and apparently Jess was STARVING), where Rupert made friends with two young girls straight away. It’s always intriguing to see him interacting with other children and he was timid at first, but he quickly started running around with the younger of the girls. He then plucked up the courage to start babbling to her before he gave her a little hug. Then in the ultimate act of trust between two children, they both picked up a massive stick together. It was touching to see that the fear around Covid hasn’t filtered down to the younger children.

Once we’d said our goodbyes we made our way through the delightful greenery and on towards the walled garden. It sounds like an area from Game of Thrones but was in fact filled with beautiful flowers and fruit and as the name suggests it was surrounded by a high wall all around.

From there we made our way towards Home Farm (seeing as Rupert was still awake and alert, so he could enjoy the animals.)

After admiring (and hiding in) the trees en-route to the farm Rupert was instantly in awe of a sheep, that he happily followed around the edge of the fencing saying ‘Hiya!’

When we got to the entrance we had to wait about five minutes, owing to the staggered entrance needed to keep people at a safe distance. But even that wasn’t a problem as we stopped and chatted to a lovely man who was telling us exactly what we needed to do in terms of hand washing, one-way systems and keeping a two-metre distance.

The farm itself has everything you’d expect. Plenty of the standard animals you’d hear in any regular version of Old Macdonald, with sheep, pigs and cows with the addition of a ginormous horse. Now for those in the know it was 19 hands, but for those who measure size in words it was absolutely massive, way bigger than a standard horse. We were also reliably informed that in normal circumstances you could stroke it – and I think that was the first time I was glad for the new restrictions.

By this time, we had a tired toddler and a hungry, yet always happy, Emi so we made our way back towards the car. We stopped for a quick snack and Rupert of course made a beeline for the beautifully sculpted gardens which had the Keep off the Grass sign.

As we left I said to Jess that despite the car park being full it didn’t feel busy inside, and maybe that’s the biggest compliment I could have paid them as they’d handled everything so well in terms of managing the visitors.

So, if you’re stuck for something to do, whether with or without kids then take a trip to Wimpole Estates – just make sure you book a space first.

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