This blog post is a combination of two recent trips to Wimpole Estate, near Royston in Cambridgeshire. The first was in mid-April where myself, Aidan and 3 friends went there for the day for my birthday! Having arrived in overcast conditions and got sorted with tickets etc, we decided to take our picnic up to the folly on the top of the hill. This meant walking through the parkland where the herds of White Park and Longhorn cattle were grazing, making a pretty picture in the Capability Brown landscape.
Having crossed the edge of the lake, we made our way to the folly just as a rain shower passed over. Taking shelter in the small amount of ruined walls, it passed over within minutes and we were able to enjoy our picnic with commanding views over the parkland back towards the house, and also with an aerial display from a fighter jet from one of the nearby air bases.
After lunch we headed back down towards the house seeing the ominous looking black cloud following behind us. We decided now would be the best time to head to the tea rooms. Three of us made it there in time to beat the almighty hailstorm that followed but unfortunately, the two who opted to take the picnic bags back to the car weren’t so lucky and had to shelter in the car park until it passed! Much like other National Trust ones, the tea rooms were nice although busy and loud but the drinks were ok.
Our next stop was the main reason for visiting Wimpole, the farm. The working farm is still run in a fairly traditional style and has a range of rare breed animals including the White Park cattle and an array of rare breed sheep and pigs. There were also donkeys, shire horses, miniature Shetland ponies, rabbits and chickens to see.
Overall, the farm space is well organised and thought out, although there isn’t as much signage as I would have hoped, especially for saying how much they could highlight about their work to preserve rare breeds. We enjoyed watching the sheep and especially meeting the gentle giants that were the shire horses. We then had the pleasure of seeing some very teeny-tiny baby Bagot goats before heading round to the piggery.
There were quite a few sows with piglets from as young as a few days old up to a couple of months and some sows that were still expecting. As well as these pens, there were a range of pens with piglets old enough to have been weaned, separated into relevant boy and girl age groups. As feeding time approached, the noise level in the piggery rose and in the end it was just a cacophony as the staff came in and started dishing out food.
Although I understand the noise would make it difficult and the pigs needed to be fed, I felt it was a shame that there was no interaction between the staff and the public. A short, informative talk about pigs and what they eat etc, would have made the experience more worthwhile, especially in the age where people now more than ever have a huge disconnect between the land and their lives and more children than ever are clueless as to how their food goes from field to fork.
Having enjoyed our visit, we headed back to the complex that houses the shop, ticket office etc. There are in fact a range of shops here including a bookshop, a garden shop, a toy and fudge shop and the main shop and between us we picked up some new books, some fudge and my friend Becca bought both of us a gorgeous new beanie hat each. As well as the main shops, there were also some stalls selling a range of produce from the farm including a lady who was spinning the wool from the farm’s sheep and knitting them into a range of beautiful products!
On our way out, we saw a banner about the upcoming lambing season and it was this that brought my friend Becca and I back again a couple of weeks later. Again, the weather wasn’t the best so we headed straight to the farm.
The lambing set up was great for the space they had and there was lots of opportunities to get close to see the ewes and their new lambs. There were a few great staff and volunteers on hand to answer questions and they were really knowledgeable about the different breeds of sheep. Again, there could have been a bit more static information about the rare breeds but overall we were really happy to see what we did.
Becca and I were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time as two Oxford Down lambs, having been born about 10 minutes before, got to their feet for the first time. All legs and lack of co-ordination, it was beautiful to see a new life finding it’s way in the big wide world, one teetering step at a time!
We rounded off this visit once again with a stop at the tea rooms and having missed the last entry to the house by 5 minutes, cut our losses with another peek in the shops before heading home. It’s really nice to have a property with the range of things to do as Wimpole close to home and I’ll definitely be going back again in the future. Hopefully this time I’ll be able to make it into the house!
I was not paid/asked by National Trust to write about them. I just had a nice day…