In a previous life (ie: the one before children) I was an avid gardener and I even worked as a garden writer on Garden Answers magazine. So I know of Anglesey Abbey as a great garden and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit.
I wasn’t entirely sure how child-friendly the garden would be, so beforehand I looked at the Anglesey Abbey website and discovered that there is a whole woodland area complete with a treehouse and den building. I told Little Miss about the treehouse and she got very excited, asking the whole way down in the car if every tree we passed was the treehouse.
What can you do at Anglesey Abbey?
Anglesey Abbey is a National Trust property and as such it’s a very slick operation. It was busy the day we went, very busy, which was to be expected on an unseasonably glorious Sunday in early March. But you could tell this was just a typical weekend day. Car park attendants were on duty pointing out car park spaces and there was someone ‘meeting and greeting’ at the entrance, showing members and non-members which counters to use. We got through in no time at all.
The first thing that struck me was the number of families. I think every second group was a family – and there were lots of young families, so lots of people with buggies. So, yes, Anglesey Abbey is buggy-friendly. And while I’m on the subject of buggies – if you’ve got a toddler or pre-schooler who likes to walk, but sometimes still likes the buggy, err on the side of caution and take the buggy. Little Miss hardly ever goes in the buggy, so I nearly didn’t take it, but I’m glad I did, as this is a big garden, and the woodland area (with the treehouse!) is right down the bottom of the garden, about a 20 – 25 minute walk from the entrance.
Family-friendly Anglesey Abbey
This is a garden that welcomes families with open arms. Once we went through the entrance, the first thing I saw was the ‘inspiration station’ which is a stand where you can pick up magnifying glasses, crayons, paper, activity packs and all sorts of other things for kids to use to explore the garden. We opt for paper and crayons, with me thinking about doing some bark rubbings, and Little Miss thinking about colouring in her snack box.
Hoe Fen – woodland and wildlife area
The first place we have to go is the woodland area (also known as Hoe Fen on the garden map) with aforementioned treehouse. We go via the woodland walk, where I see that although I am a week or so too late to see any snowdrops, I am also a week or so early to see any daffodils. There are a few in flower, but not that many yet. Still, it is a beautiful walk along a meandering path and Little Miss enjoys picking up sticks and leaves.
The first thing we see when we get to Hoe Fen are kids running along a massive ‘sail’ of sticks and jumping across tree stumps. Further into the woodlands is a willow tunnel and then around another corner, the treehouse. Little Miss says ‘wow’ and does her happy dance shouting out ‘the treehouse, the treehouse.’ I think she’s pretty impressed.
And to be fair, it is quite impressive. The treehouse consists of two platforms built around a huge lime tree. I enjoy the view from the top and Little Miss enjoys playing peekaboo with some other kids around the tree trunk at the top.
We could’ve spent the whole day in the woodland area. Little Miss loved walking along the log wall and playing in all the dens that other children had built. And there were lots and lots of sticks for her to collect.
The rest of the garden
This is a big garden and we didn’t have time to explore it all. There are huge open spaces, and you are allowed to bring balls, so we saw quite a few families kicking around a ball and having a picnic. We had a walk up to Lode Mill, which is a working watermill. And then we walked back through the winter garden, which was looking beautiful with all the spring bulbs coming out.
The house itself is also said to be quite impressive. We didn’t have time to go through the house, and I’m not sure Little Miss would’ve been overly interested, but perhaps next time we will.
We will definitely come again in summer when the garden will look totally different. I’d love to see the formal garden and rose garden in full flower. And I know Little Miss would welcome another chance to play in the woodland area.
All the important bits
Anglesey Abbey is on the B1102 (Quy Road) just off the A14 (junction 35) north of Cambridge. The postcode is CB25 9EJ.
Car parking is free and there seems to be plenty of it. We arrived about 11am and were already in the overflow car park, but there looked to be plenty more space.
Tickets and prices
Ticket prices start at £7.30 for an adult for just the gardens. Children are £3.90 (under 5s are free). A family ticket (2 adults + as many children you have!) is £19.60 for the gardens only. National Trust members go free. See the Anglesey Abbey website for more information on prices, including prices for the gardens + house.
Eating and drinking
There is a large restaurant at the entrance to the garden. Just note that it is the only place to buy food in the garden. We had lunch as soon as we arrived, then went off exploring. There is a lot of choice; from sandwiches and paninis to cooked meals. The prices were not bad, my sandwich was £3.25 and Little Miss had a children’s pack – £4.25 and was able to choose five things including a drink. There were plenty of tables as well. We weren’t quite organised enough in the morning, but next time I think we’ll take a picnic and have it in the garden.
There are toilets at the entrance and a baby changing room. Little Miss was quite happy that the ladies’ toilets had a little plastic step so that she could reach up to the sink to wash her hands! There are also toilets at the house with baby changing facilities. And an eco-toilet down in the woodland area (Hoe Fen). This is a unisex toilet, and is basically a big hole in the ground, with a toilet built on top. Be prepared for that – when we were waiting to go, the little girl in front of us refused to use it!