Petworth National Trust – In the last week or so we have been lucky enough to have a couple of glorious winter days. Although its cold the sun is out and low in the sky so it gives off that low bright light, the sort that makes you want to go out. Determined to make the most of the good weather and the last of my maternity leave Kipper and I headed out to Petworth House, National Trust.
Its somewhere I have wanted to visit for a while as I often drive past its South Side entrance. However I have always been slightly put off by the apparent lack of parking. Also taking a rather large buggy around a stately pile did not fill me with with optimisim. So feeling a little braver than usual I decided to investigate, after all whats the worse that could happen. I could end up turning around and going home….. All I can say is I am so glad I did, and we are already planning another trip.
I didn’t realise that the South Side is still occupied hence the reason for the apparent lack of parking at the gates. Its also not the main entrance! Following the National Trust parking signs I came across a large pay and display carpark. Its costs £4 for the day unless you are a member. It also feels like its a long way from the centre of the village and I was wondering about the reasonable walk back. However I need not have worried as the entrance to the grounds is right next to the car park.
Currently they are housing a Turner Water colour exhibition until the 7th March so my first job was to book into that and a tour of the house. You can book onto a tour of the house in the house itself, it is not prebook the tours and they differ depending on the time of year. Being Winter a lot of the house and paintings are being cleaned so the tour is shortened and only lasts 45 minutes. Yet is is still worth doing without doubt even with certain statutes covered in dust sheets. The day I visited they had tours running at 11am, 12pm, 12.30pm, 1pm, 1.30pm and 2pm. The house and grounds shut at 3.30pm (open later in the Summer months). They are very flexible no the tours as I had orginally booked us into the 11am one but decided to visit the Turner Exhibition since Kipper was in a good mood and then missed the start of the tour. I was lucky enough just to swap over. However since they get very popular I am guessing this would not necessarily be possible in busy periods.
The Turner watercolours run half hourly throughout the day and you can pre book these. You can only enter once and not change your time slot. There is an additional charge of £12 for NT members or it costs £15.60 for non NT members. There are six Turner paintings in total and a good range of other water colour artists in the exhibition hall across from the main house (near the kitchens). There is a cloakroom set up next to it where I left the buggy although you could have taken the buggy in if you wanted. Kipper was a hit with all the other visitors thankfully as he wasn’t exactly quiet since Monkey has taught him how to roar.
The exhibition continues in the main house too, I left the buggy as I need to go up a large staircase up to the artists studios. Here the work of Charlie Cobb who made the oil paintings in the film Mr Turner. The space is amazing and currently houses the current Duke of Norfolks library. You are instantly hit by the light created by a a wall of oval windows at one end and the smell of old books. Its the sort of room that I would happily reside in. There wasn’t the option to sit and take it all in but the views were pretty good in the morning light. It also gave me a chance to see the architecture of the main house, I loved this little staircase!
I decided to get a early lunch and feed Kipper before visiting the rest of the house since he was still in a good mood and I wanted to keep him that way. The only gripe I have is that the restaurant does not open until midday. Although you can get tea and cake we had to wait for a hot meal. There are plenty of high chairs and it is a reasonable size. Yet in the Summer I can see if being extremely busy, it was full by the time we left at 12.30. There is a coffee shop next to the Kitchens as well but this was shut when we visited.
We caught a little fresh air around the house itself which is not that easily accessible before going on the tour. I would have loved to have time to explore the parkland and the pathways in the pleasure garden. We did not see any of the outside points of interest which is why we will be returning. I can imagine picnicking down by the lake in the Spring with Monkey. In the map there are several suggested walks from 30minutes to 2 hours.
Again I could take the buggy round if I wanted but since Kipper was ready to fall asleep I popped him in the sling. The tour guide was very knowledgeable pointing out important paintings and answering questions all the way round. There are some notable works of art and during the Summer months they have games to keep the kids interested. Although it was all fascinating the bit that blew me away was the staircase. I can only describe it as reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatigan. Okay so its not where near the same size but the painting on the walls and ceiling in brilliant. At every glance you see something different and totally not what I was expecting at all. Suddenly I could see why they get between 120,000 and 150,000 people through the doors each year.
We will definitely be returning and I am annoyed with myself for not realising this was right on our doorstep and easily accessible for children. Its the perfect place to tick off some of your 50 things to do and they also have Art Adventurer Backpacks!
Things you need to know
- The biggest baby change is at the entrance, the one next to the restaurant is also the only female toilet near by so can get busy.
- The Pleasure Gardens are open 10am-3.30pm this time of year you can get daily opening times here on their website. The house tours run every half an hour from 11am-2.30pm.
- Entrance is free for National Trust members if not, the prices vary throughout the year depending on the time you visit. Adults cost between £8 and £15 with gift aid, a child £7.50 and £4.
- Address – Petworth House and Park, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 9LR
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