Trees and turrets – Eastnor Castle, Ledbury

Yesterday I decided we needed to get out somewhere different. The days and weeks have been rolling into one recently and I can’t even put my finger on what’s kept us so busy. Trying to juggle a job, a child, a house, a hobby and the tattered remains of a social life usually does it. I was feeling weary and physically achey from it all, so out the door we went.

We arrived to two cricket matches being played in the fields opposite the castle grounds, so parking was trickier than usual, though who can oppose a leisurely game of Cricket on a sunny weekday? We paid for admission to the castle grounds – just for me mind you, under 3s go free (even better) and made a beeline for the maze and obstacle course that were just around the corner.

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This is a great little area for chilling out and having some playtime. A few picnic tables are set out along the one side so that parents can take a pew, while the maze lies ahead in the centre of the lawn. As it’s actually quite small, I was a-maze-d to find myself completely lost inside it. Rupert had never been in one before but cottoned onto the idea straight away and ran ahead round every corner he could, without a second’s thought for where he was going. After five minutes of this erratic behaviour he’d had enough and wanted me to carry him, so it was up to me to heroically find the way out, which I eventually did after being thwarted several times by dead ends. A small castle is at the centre of the maze and though I did spot this through the hedges once or twice, we never actually conquered it! I’ll leave that achievement for another day.

I didn’t want to Rupert to get tired too early on so we swiftly moved along and followed the path to the real castle. At the risk of sounding older than my years here, there were some magnificent trees around us. It’s not something I used to take notice of when I came to these places as a kid – a tree is a tree, surely – but the magnanimous structure of some of these enormous firs really do add to the place’s aristocratic splendour. Standing so tall and proud, they mimic the castle’s wealth just as much as the grand coats of armour and ornate furnishings within.

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Now the grounds of this place are so expansive that I still have only covered roughly half of it. We came to a big green in front of the castle where families were either chilling on the grass or running about some more. Rupert and I ran down the hill into the middle of the green and then started exploring a shady corner of the green. A particularly large and triumphant-looking tree – a veteran of the tree clan – stood here, hiding an underground room of the castle. Not much could be seen through the bars but it still felt like a little hidden treasure.

We made our way up the hill on the other side and were finally met with a good view of the castle. One day I will actually get to go inside here and have a proper look around, though it might have to be when Rupert’s a little older. The dense heritage of the castle deserves at least a couple of hours of your undivided attention.

We wondered round the battlements for a short time and took in some of the views of the woodland and lake over the back. On the map I’d spotted a small wooden play area about a quarter of the way round the lake, which was only about a 10 minute from where we were, so I thought this a reasonable goal for Rupert’s little legs.

I needn’t have worried about his legs as I inevitably ended up carrying him. Luckily I was enjoying the views and the lake so much that I didn’t really mind. Perhaps it was my overly keen imagination but the lake and it’s surrounding foliage reminded me a little of Canada – or at least the photos I’ve seen of Canada – with the still water providing beautiful reflections of the soaring trees and cloud-speckled sky. In the end, the wooden play area wasn’t as much as I’d hoped. There was indeed an area of wood in various arrangements, though whether it constitutes a play area is a bit of a moot point. Still, there was a weir, some bewildered sheep in the next field and even a little deserted digger Rupert found, to provide some interest. I for one was hypnotised by the water and view of the castle from across the lake. I’m one of those people who feels at home near water, its stillness and vastness just relaxes me.
We made our way back to the car after that, stopping by the green once more with an ice cream from the gift shop. The tea room looked inviting and extended out into a small courtyard. Given a little more time, we definitely would have made a pit-stop.

I’m sure there’s more for us to explore of this place, and who can tire of these views? We’ll be back for sure.

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