Oxburgh Hall garden walk, Oxborough, near Swaffham, Norfolk
No one ever forgets their first sight of Oxburgh Hall. A romantic, moated manor house built by the Bedingfield family in the 15th century, where they've lived ever since.
A family-friendly walk suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs
This easy pushchair- and wheelchair-friendly walk takes you around the formal grounds of the Hall, looking for wooden carvings representing animals, birds, insects, and fish.
Ticket office, grid ref: TF742012
Starting at the ticket office, walk towards the archway and turn right into the kitchen garden. Look for the hedgehog carving.
Hedgehogs are quite common around the grounds of Oxburgh Hall, particularly around the newly-built Victorian glasshouse. Gardeners like them because they eat garden pests like insects and snails.
Follow the path towards the cold frames, then look out for the Wasp carving.
The wasp most often seen at Oxburgh is the small common wasp. This builds a cone-shaped nest out of a grey papery material which the wasps make by chewing wood. By late summer, as the wasp colony gets larger, the nest can be as big as a football.
Exit the kitchen garden via the gate, turn right and 1st right into the orchard, look out for the Tomato carving.
During the food shortages of the Second World War, the flower gardens at Oxburgh were dug up and planted with vegetables, with tomatoes being grown in the orchard. If you look carefully, you'll see that the wall in the south-west corner of the orchard was once painted white. The white walls would reflect the sunlight back onto the tomatoes, which had the effect of speeding up the ripening process.
Cut across the orchard on the path by the bee hives, turn right at the end and look out for the Honey Bee carving.
Honey bees often nest in the roof of the chapel. Certain plants in the garden can attract bees, even in winter time, to pollinate them. One example is the Christmas box (sarcococca), which produces fragrant winter flowers in February and can be found growing in the hosta border opposite the ticket office. The flowers are like tiny buttons but it's the honey-sweet scent that's important in attracting the bees.
Continuing along the path, exit the orchard and continue along the path looking out for the Frog carving which will be found by the pond to your left.
The Oxburgh estate and garden is a good environment for frogs because there's plenty of water nearby (the moat, the pond in My Lady's Wood and the River Gadder), cover in the woods and flower borders, and food in the insects, snails, slugs and worms that live in the garden and woods.
Now turn round and look out for the Coronation Tree in front of you. The Coronation Tree carving is underneath.
This large copper beech tree (fagus sylvatica purpurea) was planted in 1953 to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The tree was planted by the young Sir Henry Bedingfeld with the help of Fred Greef who looked after the gardens at Oxburgh for 42 years.
Walk towards the corner of the canal and the point where it enters the moat. Here you will find the Mute Swan carving.
The graceful mute swan may be seen on the moat at Oxburgh or on the nearby River Gadder. In the 15th and 16th centuries, swans were reared at Oxburgh for food. They were served roasted to important guests at banquets. The Swannery was in the area now known as the Oakyard.
Now continue walking ahead on the path around the back of the Hall until reaching the corner of the path, where you will find the Dragonfly carving.
The gardens and woods are an excellent habitat for dragonflies. The moat, the pond in My Lady's Wood and the River Gadder provide perfect places for the dragonflies to hunt for food and lay their eggs.
Retracing your steps, turn left at the corner of the path, cut across the lawn and enter the walk way by the herbacious border. Here you find the Butterfly carving.
The gardens and woods on the Oxburgh Hall estate make a wonderful habitat for butterflies. Many of the common species can be seen here, including Red Admirals, Peacocks, Brimstones and Cabbage Whites. The lovely herbaceous border with its profusion of colourful flowers, is particularly attractive to the butterflies.
Exit the Herbacious Border at the north end. Walk down the grassy bank and look for the Potato carving at the end of the Parterre.
During the Second World War, the beautiful Parterre at Oxburgh was dug up and potatoes were planted instead of flowers. Other vegetables were grown in the main vegetable garden, which was a lot bigger in those days. So much food was produced on the estate that the Hall was self-sufficient in fruit, vegetables, and meat and dairy produce.
Walk up the bank to the gravel path turning towards the Hall. Walk past the bridge to find the Tawny Owl carving.
A tawny owl (strix aluco) may be heard calling at night near the chapel. It likes to perch in the nearby trees and often roosts in the south garden tower. A barn owl (tyto alba) nests in an old ash tree on the estate. Although it is mainly nocturnal, it may sometimes be seen flying in full daylight, especially when it has young to feed.
Take the path towards the chapel to find the Bat carving.
Pipistrelle and daubentons bats are the species most commonly seen at Oxburgh. During the spring, summer and autumn months, after the sun has set, they swoop low over the moat and the fields, hunting for small flying insects like mosquitoes, gnats and moths.
Return along the gravel path towards the Hall and just by the bridge you will see the Carp carving.
Fish have always been kept in the moat, originally for food. In medieval times, when Oxburgh was built, everyone ate fish as part of their diet. After the Reformation in the 16th century, the Bedingfeld family remained Catholic and so have continued the tradition of eating fish on Fridays. About 1,000 common and mirror carp were put into the moat at Oxburgh 14 years ago. They can potentially reach a full-grown weight of 30 to 40lbs (13.5 - 18kg) but they're unlikely to grow that big at Oxburgh because the moat is too shallow.
Continuing along the gravel path close to the archway, look out for the Bird’s Nest carving. This is now the end of the walk, but don't forget to explore the Hall and Chapel and to visit the old kitchen tea-room or open-air kiosk for refreshments. The shop should also be open (check opening times).
Most common British bird species may be found nesting at Oxburgh. Wrens and robins are among those most often seen. Birds' nests are found in the branches of trees, under the eaves of buildings, in tree holes, in hedges and drain pipes, and even in cracks in walls. Pigeons nest in the south-west turret of the Tudor gate tower.
Courtyard, grid ref: TF742012
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