Getting out and about with young children can sometimes seem too much effort.
But you’re craving some fresh air and a bracing walk, possibly a little spoiling by way of a coffee or some cake plus a little human interaction…so why not head for a park.
There are some fabulous parks in the ‘Local View’s’ area and Knole Park in Sevenoaks has to be the most historic. One thousand acres mostly owned by the National Trust, it can be a little lonely if you are looking for ‘people’ but there are plenty of deer and golfers. For slightly older children it’s a clambering paradise and scooter racetrack. The first thing that will strike you is that there is so much SPACE.
One of my best memories of the park from my schooldays are ‘cross country’ runs starting from school grounds. These typically involved five minutes reaching the park (slow jog), twenty minutes sitting in the bracken gossiping and then another ten minutes (even slower jog), back to school. For me, that remains the best kind of cross country run.
Although fast forward many years to a couple of months ago. I missed my daughter running in a proper cross country event at Knole and then found out that David Beckham had made an appearance to watch his son run…the park that keeps on giving.
The storm of ’87 left endless tree trunks to climb over, there are hills (ask the golfers), paths for children’s bikes and scooters, a plethora of bracken (mind out for snakes in season), ancient trees and of course Knole House, bursting with history, fascinating to look around, whilst remaining the Sackville-West’s family home.
Around 600 trees were lost in the storm (it seems unbelievable now). Since Knole’s woodland is a site of Special Scientific Interest most of the fallen trees were left as deadwood, explaining the great clambering facilities. New plantations are now being thinned, some twenty plus years later.
Deer feature in a big way and appear quite tame. It’s their territory though and they shouldn’t be fed. Deer have a way of staring at you from afar in an understanding, almost analytical way…
There is a cafe but it is currently being refurbed, due to open in the middle of next year. Until then there is an outdoor cafe, but this is picnic park, take a spread and enjoy ball games and make the most of the space. You can drive in and park near the house or park out by the roads to the southern side.
The house is definitely worth a visit, it has entertained Archbishops, Tudor monarchs and Jacobean nobles as well as generations of the Sackville West family, including of course, Vita.
A year ago I spent a great morning in the House with a bunch of year 4’s, they dressed in an array of costumes reflecting Tudor royalty, dignitaries and servants, then toured the house to help them imagine life a few hundred years ago.
Have a look at Knole’s National Trust website, they have numerous activities for children in the holidays, Family Mondays, trails through the park and a visitor centre. There is also an orangery that stages exhibitions.
The only other similar park that I know of would be Richmond, but Knole park has the house in the centre and perimeter fencing to manage the deer. Knole really is incredibly special. Worth a visit!
Next post, a completely different kind of park, Dunorlan in Tunbridge Wells…