Gibside explorer trail
Discover the fun side of Gibside with an action-packed walk finding family adventure highlights including the Nature Playscape, den building area, the Low Ropes Course Strawberry Castle Play Area, and mini-Gibside Hall in the Discovery Room at the Stables.
Market Place, grid ref: NZ171583
Find the start of the trail after crossing the road from the raised wooden walkway beside the estate map. Go straight ahead with the Walled Garden wall on your left and the play castle on your right.
Here at Market Place you have a range of facilities to use before you start if needed. This is the place to stop for refreshments from the cafe or shop to take with you. Toilets and baby change are found here too.
At the doorway to the Walled Garden, take a left turn and head through the door. The path leads you straight through the middle of the garden, passing apple trees and allotment plots. The end of the path leads to large wooden gates.
Once used to grow fruit and vegetables for the resident Bowes-Lyon family that lived in the Hall, the Walled Garden is now used by many locals to grow their own in allotment plots. Kids help grow many things here too. If you have time, wander around the plots and see what herbs, veg and fruit you can see growing. You can also look around the pond in the corner which is home to some rather rare great crested newts. there is also an observation bee hive, that during the spring and summer has a resident hive busy making honey. See if you can spot the queen if you have a look behind the doors.
Out of the Walled Garden turn right and head towards the Avenue and when you reach it, turn left. You have a couple of options here, you can walk along the road alongside the Avenue or you can head up the grassy slope, and walk along the Avenue itself. The road will give you a roughly surfaced path while the Avenue is grassy but flat and a nice place for kids to run away from the road. Head along the Avenue, passing on your left the ruin if the Orangery first, followed by some woodland and then Green Close (a large field with a mound in the middle of it). There is usually a sports box here so you could stop for a quick game of football or rounders before continuing on your way. Continue with Green Close on your left which leads to the ruin of the Hall. Head to the end of the Avenue and the road bears to the right.
The Avenue, or long walk as it was historically known, is about half a mile long and was a place the George Bowes exercised his horses. Give your kids a challenge and get them to race like horses as they move along the tree lined route.
Turn right at the end of the Avenue and start to wind your way up the hill between the yew trees. Watch out for any vehicles on this section as it has a few bends in the road. Keep heading up the hill until you emerge out of the trees with a grassed lawn on your right in front of the Stables. At the top of the hill at the junction, turn right and follow the road towards the Stables
Column to Liberty
Before turning right at the end of the Avenue, you will see the Column of Liberty looming up from the trees in Snipes Dene about half a mile in front of you. At a whopping 194 feet, the Column when built was one of the tallest monuments in the country! you could take a diversion and follow the signs to visit the column if you wanted to add a little bit extra to your route.
After climbing that hill, you might need a little rest. As you follow the road towards the Stables, you have the option to head inside the courtyard, stop at the Coffee Shop for a drink, or use the picnic tables to enjoy your lunch. Toilets and baby change facilities are also found here if you need them. There is also a chance to see some horses, but they aren't in all the time. Once you are ready, head back outside and head up the hill away from the building. You do have a another hill to climb but there is an incentive of the Nature Playscape on your right as you head up into the woods. Keep following the road until you get to the top of the hill.
Stables & Nature Playscape
Whether you just need a break or if you are sheltering from the weather (hot or cold) you can get refreshments, visit the loo or have a look around the rooms. Learn a bit about Gibside's in the Wildlife Room which has interactive cameras and displays to help children get to know nature. The mini-Gibside Hall in the Discovery Room is a two-floor play house, where little ones can imagine life centuries ago. Don't forget to try milking Daisy the cow while you are there! Continuing with play, get the kids up that hill by going through the Playscape. its a play area with a difference using nature materials like tree trunks and stumps to clamber across or tunnels to crawl through.
Follow the road which heads along the top of Park Fields on your right. if you look carefully you might spot the Chapel peaking out between the trees on the Avenue but you might also spot a giant wooden bat hanging in the trees. Continue you straight ahead, even when you reach a road junction, keeping on the level. You'll pass Gibside's den building area on your right, have a go building a den if you like. As you head onwards further into West Wood, you may have noticed more wooden carved animals amongst the trees. You may have spotted an owl and a weasel. The track continues straight ahead for about half a mile before a path junction marked my a finger post. If you miss it, you'll see a sign saying Forestry Access - there is no through route, so turn around and find that junction that heads down the hill.
Why not try to build a den. You could imagine that you've been stranded at Gibside and need a home to shelter in to survive! Use the branches on the ground and create your own mini home. You might spot groups dong the same as this spot is used for bushcraft birthday parties and with visiting school or community groups. As part of encouraging people to 'leave no trace' as you experience the outdoors, we do ask you to carefully dismantle your den before heading off.
Head down hill through the woods on this roughly surfaced footpath. less than 1/4 mile down the hill, there is a path on the left hand side. If you have time and are willing to try it, you could head along it to have a go at the Low Ropes Course. Once you have had a go, continue down the hill, crossing the road junction, and take a right up the hill into the woods leading you towards Strawberry Castle Play Area.
Low Ropes Course
This ropes course doesn't take you high off the ground, but it does challenge your strength and skills of balance to take you around each stage. You could time yourselves, or just face your fears and complete the challenge to the best of your ability.
After a short steep climb, following the path that bears left, you can see the play area ahead. Follow the path around the side of the field and enter into Strawberry Castle Play Area. Don't forget to stop for a good play!
Strawberry Castle Play Area
Nestled at the bottom of the field behind the woods, the Play area gives you options of play. You can climb around the Castle, clamber up the ropes, swing across from mound to mound on the rope swings, zoom down the zip wire, or for smaller ones, play at the mini farm, or potter in the new sand and water zone. There seems to be something for everyone. There is also toilets, picnic benches, grassy areas to relax on or on weekends and holidays visit the little cabin cafe which sells drinks, sweets, ice creams and snacks.
Once you've had you enough play, you are on your final stretch to finish. Find the path to the right of the Cafe Cabin, and follow it round along the edge of the field. There could be a range of farm animals in the fields with sheep, cows or sometimes horses making a regular appearance. The path comes out at the end of the Avenue, behind the Chapel and leads you straight ahead back to Market Place. You've finished the walk so reward yourself with ice cream of the shop or lunch and drinks in the cafe, before heading off for your next adventure.
Market Place, behind the Chapel
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