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Clumber Park - National Trust Country Park (Worksop)
Member Name: tingrid
Clumber Park - National Trust Country Park (Worksop)
Date: 18/08/02, updated on 18/08/02 (7063 review reads)
Advantages: loads of things to do, free (or not very expensive), a good breath of fresh air
Disadvantages: very busy in the summer
You will find Clumber Park easily by following the brown signs around the Ollerton-Worksop area (you will have to find Worksop or Ollerton yourself though !). There are several entries to the park, but I guess they are all built on the same pattern. The entry we use is straight off the very busy A1. It is marked by a gate of imposing stature, although two cars can not go through it side by side. It is open everyday from dusk till dawn.
Once you have passed the gate, you are in the park itself. ‘Clumber’,as the locals fondly call it, is a word of its own, the threshold of which is clearly marked by those big gates.
You can park anywhere along Lime Tree Avenue, the longest of its kind in Europe, or so I read. Many small paths branch away from the avenue, plunging into woods or snaking across fields.
If you choose to drive along down the avenue, you will come across several junctions, at which points you can choose, among other directions, to go towards Hardwick village, a very pretty place. We always go straight on for a while (did I say that Lime Tree Avenue is 2-mile long ?), then park the car somewhere on the grass under some lime tree, just off the avenue.
Although there is a £3 fee for cars, you do not have to pay anything as long as you do not drive past one of these small wooden booths by which two members of the park’s staff stand and stop cars to ask for these £3, in exchange of which you will be given a pack full of brochures. Note that if you are a National Trust member, you can go in for free.
I did not know about the fee until I read about it on the internet. I think what happens is, staff tolerate people parking their cars without paying, although everybody should pay whether they
go past the said booths or not, but obviously it would be hard, if not impossible, to implement such a scheme. I was told that, years and years ago (more than 10 years ago), some members of staff used to patrol and ask for the fee. We have been to Clumber 3 or 4 times now, and nobody ever asked us for anything. I would advise paying the fee just the once at least though, as it can be difficult to find one’s way within the park without a map, as it is so big, and this is not the kind of park where you find a map waiting for you at every corner, in fact I have never seen even the shadow of one. Plus it would give you some idea of what to see as well as some historical background.
Anyway, back to more interesting stuff, the heart or centre of the park, that is where cars are not allowed anymore, is the busiest. There are loads and loads of paths to choose from, paths which lead you through different ecosystems and landscapes: a traditional park and pleasure gardens, woods, heaths, fields. This diversity is what still attracts me most to Clumber. On top of that there is a gothic chapel, a very pretty classical bridge, kitchen gardens (next to where Clumber house – once home of the Dukes of Newcastle – used to stand), and a classical Roman imitation temple (I have heard that there are several of those in the park, but they must be scattered here and there because I have only ever come across one).
The admission to the kitchen gardens costs 70p. These gardens pride themselves on the fact that, among other things, they have the longest glass house of all National Trust properties. In addition, its gardeners grow flowers, fruits, organic vegetables, rare and original vegetables, ‘old’ vegetables (19th century style), vegetables that may disappear etc, and there is also an exhibition of gardening tools, as well as a kind of garden centre where people can buy plants. Now I will be completely honest with you: I cannot recommend a
ny of these, and for one good reason : plants not being my cup of tea (I would not be able to tell a broccoli from a forget-me-not, it is that bad), and my being more of the sportswoman type, I have never set foot in the kitchen gardens. Yes, I am ashamed, but I am determined to go in a very near future. It does not matter though, my point is that there is in Clumber Park something for pretty much everybody. The fact that there is somewhere you can go when the weather is not exceptionally nice is a bonus.
I am afraid I have never entered the National Trust shop or the restaurant either, but may those who are interested in these rest assured: you will not starve and you will be able to buy souvenirs in Clumber as well.
The heart of the park is not, in my opinion, the Victorian gardens or the gothic chapel, the steeple of which is truly stunning when seen towering above and among trees, but quite ordinary if not a bit ugly when seen in its entirety and from up close (the inside is said to be beautiful though). No, the centre of Clumber Park is its serpentine lake. The lake is in keeping with the park (surely one of the biggest in Britain with its 3,800 acres), not forgetting the glasshouse (and its 400 odd feet), in other words, it is huge. Lots and lots of birds live on it and around it (there are some very nice bits where the lake is so narrow it looks more like a stream, and there are kinds of little falls as well): swans, moorhens, barnacle geese, ducks… Of course these birds love being fed, and the bit of lawn spreading between the gothic chapel and the lake being the most popular area with families in the summer, I would advise against sitting there, as there are more bird droppings than there is grass. I would advise staying there full stop, bird droppings or not, as there are so many other, nicer places to discover, so many lovely spots for a picnic with kids or alone with your other half for example.
One nice thing to do if y
ou have time and do not mind walking is to walk around the serpentine lake. ‘serpentine’ is the key word here, it took us almost 3 hours and 2 bridges, but we made it in the end, and it was well worth it.
It is possible to hire all kinds of cycles in the bike centre not far from the shop, restaurant etc, but you can also bring your own along with you. The centre is open daily in the summer, at week ends only the rest of the year. It will cost you £4 for 2 hours. They have bikes for hire, but also tandems and bikes equipped with a kind of little trailer-like thing in which one child can sit. There are two ‘tours’ of the park, a short, 5-mile one, and a longer, 9-mile one if I remember well. Note that bikes are not allowed in some places, e.g. in the pleasure gardens and on the promenade along the lake just before the chapel (it is lovely with its benches tucked away on each side). One big inconvenient though : on busy days, riding a bike can turn into a slalom, a dodge-the-dog (I forgot to mention that Clumber is of course a great place to walk your dog or dogs), dodge-the-push-chair and dodge-the-strollers, which is why I prefer walking.
You can fish as well! You will have to buy a permit though, it will cost you £4 for a day. As for bathing, I saw some kids swimming in the lake, but it does not appeal to me at all, and I don’t even know whether it is allowed or not. Finally, horse-riding fans can ride in Clumber as well, but they will also need a permit.
Clumber Park is home to a cricket team which bears its name, so you can park not too far from the cricket grounds and enjoy a good match.
Watch out for special exhibitions and events throughout the year (check the National Trust’s web site), you may end up feeding baby hedgehogs, learning about the different species of spiders that live in the park, or watching a concert or a play.
One last thing about Clumber : it is very clean, which
is more than a bit surprising considering the number of people who visit it every day. The only rubbish I remember seeing was floating on still water near the very busy centre of the park, plus a couple of empty cigarettes packets, but nothing too obvious or too alarming. Either people are being very respectful of the site, or the park staff are doing a great job, must be a little bit of both.
In brief, and to conclude with, Clumber Park has got something in store for everybody, be they young or not so young anymore, sport fanatics or just strollers, plant-lovers or bird-watchers, families, couples, bachelors, e.v.e.r.y.b.o.d.y. It makes for a lovely Saturday or Sunday out (but you can go during the week as well of course, it is not as busy), especially on a nice summer day, but there is something to do all year round. As for me, I will go back in autumn, for the colours and yet another, different Clumber Park!
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