For that first glimpse of spring, there’s nothing better than getting out and seeing snowdrops pushing up through the rock-hard winter ground.
I discovered that the National Trust’s Newark Park property in Gloucestershire is renowned for its snowdrop display, so in early February we wrapped ourselves up ready to venture out into the, shall we say, inclement British weather.
Driving into the misty Gloucestershire countryside, we set off to check out Newark Park’s spectacular snowdrop weekend, which also coincided with the opening of its 2018 visitor season.
The Best Snowdrop Display in Gloucestershire?
The weather may not have been on our side, but even through the mist, drizzle and eventual deluge, the snowdrops were beautiful to see, joined by little bursts of colourful crocuses. We only took a short walk outside the house due to the bad weather sadly, but with both short and long trails available around the grounds we’ve already promised to come back in spring or summer for some further exploration.
But even during our short stroll we were lucky enough to bump into one of the Park’s five resident peacocks, which made both the kids’ day and my own. Obviously used to people, this little guy was happy to come over and say hello, even posing for some close-ups! One of the volunteers came over and said we were lucky to see him, as in bad weather the birds usually roost out of the way in the trees.
Exploring Newark House Hunting Lodge
After our outdoors adventure it was time to head indoors and begin to explore the hunting lodge itself. Originally built as a Tudor hunting lodge in 1550, it was lived in right up to 2011. For a long time it was home to the Clutterbuck family (I love that name!) who began remodelling the hose in the 1790s and also worked on landscaping the park and gardens. A quirky building, over the centuries new rooms, staircases and sections have been added to the building, reminding me of the story of the Winchester Mystery House. It even has its own ghost stories too – and there’s a special spooky event that takes place every Halloween. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to go along!
Visitors are free to wander around the house, but there’s also the chance to go along to one of two free basement tours held every day. These give you a chance to learn a lot more about the people that built the lodge, lived there over the years and also the one man that helped restore the building when it fell into a bad state of disrepair.
“That there New Worke”
The tour was a great chance to see the older Tudor parts of the house including the original kitchen and wine cellar. However, throughout the house you’ll find informative signs telling you more about the house and its inhabitants, plus lovely helpful volunteers are around every corner eager to share their knowledge and students. For example, one lovely lady explained the name of the house. The locals, in their thick Gloucestershire accents began asking about the ‘New worke up there on the hill’, eventually leading to the hunting lodge becoming known as Newark.
I also learnt about the Garden Hall built by the Clutterbucks specifically to show off the lodge’s amazing views over the grounds and had a chuckle exploring the original Tudor bedroom with its then ‘state of the art’ garderobe. This is also considered the most haunted room in the house, but I wasn’t eager to hang around to prove this to you.
After exploring drawing rooms, dining areas and the like, we finished our visit with a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire in the Tudor sitting room. We can’t wait to return to see how it’s changed when Spring is in full bloom!