Build a den
‘It's great to be able to use natural things to make you den from. Moss makes a great welcome carpet for the den.’
- Tilly, aged 8
'Build a den' is number 4 on our 50 things to do before you're 11 ¾ challenge and branches, twigs and leaves make surprisingly cosy shelters, especially when it’s cold and wet. Our places have lots of natural materials to help you get creative with your den building and hide out in our huge woodlands.
You could even turn your den into a pirate ship, a small fort or a farmyard, all made out of a pile of sticks. Now that’s cool.
‘Lyme Park is one of the best National Trust places to build a den. I like using lots of different coloured things you can find on the floor there to make my den really cool.’
- Mia McDade, aged 8
Next to the brilliant Crow Wood playscape at Lyme Park is a big wood with beech trees and lots of materials to make the most extravagant dens imaginable. You can build your own or add to one of the other dens in the den village.
‘There's so much space there and it's nice to be able to sit inside your own den.’
- Bronwen, aged 9.
The woodland at Anglesey Abbey has lots of natural materials to make the biggest and best dens. You can find lots of dead wood nearby the wildlife watch hut to help make your den, and later discover the mossy eco-piles, which are the special dens for lots of wildlife. Just remember not to disturb them, they might be sleeping.
Penrhyn Castle has its own special ‘Wild in the Woods’ site with plenty of den building material so you just need to bring your imagination. There’s plenty of space for you to get creative.
Top tip from Peter Walton at Wild in the Woods: Remember the wobble test. As you build your den, step outside and give it a wobble every now and again to make sure nothing heavy is going to fall off it if gets a bit windy.
‘It’s a cool place where we can pretend to be soldiers after we’ve have built our dens and sometimes we can build dens around a tree that we can climb in as well.’
- Rory and Nat Kellas, aged 12 and 9
With 125 acres of parkland, Morden Hall Park is perfect for young explorers. The natural play area is a great place for kids of all ages to let their imaginations run wild with stepping stones, trees to climb and zip wires. Next to that is a perfect clearing where adventurers can rummage for sticks and branches to create their own retreat.
'To build a great den all you need is your hands, good woodland and some imagination.'
- Ross Wingfield, senior ranger
Scotney Castle has a wilderness camp set up specifically for den building all year round. It is on the buggy-friendly nature trail, where you can also have a go at balancing on a fallen tree and jumping through tyres. You can also find your way with a map and compass (number 45 on the 50 things challenge) by picking up a kit at visitor reception.
‘As well as being able to build a den on our own, Clumber also has den building activities. A really great ranger runs them, and she tells us to imagine we are in a big forest, and we have to build them well to keep the rain out and also to stop wild animals from getting in.'
- Simon, aged 9
The best place to build a den at Clumber Park is in Leaping Bar wood, where you’ll find plenty of sticks to get you started. After all that excitement, there's also the woodland play park and quiz trails to explore with and under 3s will love the Burrow play centre.
‘Visitors of all ages love building dens in the parkland at Packwood. It’s not just our younger visitors who end up having a go, you’d be amazed how many adults end up building their own woodland hideaway.’
George Leroy, Front of House Manager.
The woodland welly walk is the best place to build a den at Packwood House. Full of sticks and natural materials, you can add to someone else's or build a brand new den of your own. Once you’ve made a cosy hideaway, there’s log hoopla to carry on your woodland adventure.
‘We got to go out in the wilderness and collect all our own stuff to make our den.’
- family visitor
Joiner’s wood at Nostell Priory is a great place for to make your natural mansion, tucked away on the estate so that even on a really busy day it feels peaceful and secret.
The wood was planted to provide timber for the Winn family’s coal mines, so full of strong stuff for building. The ranger leaves plenty of fallen branches and there’s bark, bracken and greenery.
Top tip from Mike Dudding, park ranger at Nostell: Use an existing tree, stump or hollow to start your den and give it strength.
Tyntesfield has parkland filled with hundreds of trees collected by the family who lived here. For young adventurers, the highlight is the den village that keeps on growing in the plantation wood. There are lots of branches to use and trees to build against and the natural woodland shelter is great if it rains.
The new natural play areas by the lake has all the material and space you need to create a brilliant den in the great outdoors. It’s great for hiding out in, tucked away in the woodland and has willow wands for weaving dens together.
The area is beside the tea garden so mums and dads can enjoy a cuppa while the children play.