5 ways to play outdoors at Sheffield Park and Garden this winter

It might not be great weather outdoors at this time of year but that shouldn't stop you from getting outside and enjoying the garden. There's plenty of things to do here at Sheffield Park, just pick a few from this list and go have some fun!

If you're looking to get outdoors to blow away a few cobwebs and let the kids run wild, then why not try one of our activities below. You can make the most of your membership by trying some of our free activities, or join one of our events over the next few weeks.

Discover Walk Wood

Tucked away on the north side of Sheffield Park and Garden is Walk Wood, an area of woodland steeped in history with abundance of wildlife and natural art sculptures.You can follow the network of paths and boardwalks around the woods, or just dive in and explore the area. There's plenty of wildlife to be discovered; try turning over a few logs to see what you can identify.

Turn over a log to see what creatures are living underneath
Sheffield Park kids hunting for wildlife
Turn over a log to see what creatures are living underneath

Look out for the series of natural art sculptures too as you follow the paths round. These were created by local artist, Keith Pettit, using materials from the woods and provide some great interventions to the landscape. Sculpture trail maps are available at reception if you'd like to hear more about the artist's thoughts behind them.

Sculpture in Walk Wood
Sculpture in Walk Wood in East Sussex
Sculpture in Walk Wood

Access to Walk Wood is from Flint Road and Big Tree Walk. It's sometimes necessary to close it for periods of time for maintenance work to take place, so please check the opening times section of the website for details.

Explore the garden

The garden is full of some exotic and unusual trees, as well as some really old and really tall ones. In total there are 14,500 trees. Make sure you walk down Big Tree Walk to see the giants of the garden, including the Giant Redwood. Whilst most of the trees in the garden are old and need protecting, this one you can climb, although how far will you get?

You can try climbing the giant redwood in the garden
Sheffield Park giant redwood climbing
You can try climbing the giant redwood in the garden

Also head down to Birch Grove where you can find some unusual patterned barks on the trees and see the water tumbling over the cascades into the lake. If you'd like to see the trees that are particularly notable at this time of year, pick up a plants of interest sheet and map from reception as you pass through.

This February half term, we'll have play ambassadors in the garden who will have a variety of fun games and tasks for you to try out whilst you're visiting. Look out for them in the garden and see how many you can try out whilst you're here.

Head to Ringwood  Toll

Opposite the garden, just at the brow of the hill on the parkland is Ringwood Toll, a perfect play area for children. Follow the natural play trail and enjoy the challenges of jumping from tree stump to tree stump, or playing on the see-saw. All the equipment has been made from trees from within Ringwood Toll by our ranger and volunteers, so see what games you can make up incorporating them.

Ringwood Toll playtrail, Sheffield Park, East Sussex
Ringwood Toll playtrail, Sheffield Park, East Sussex
Ringwood Toll playtrail, Sheffield Park, East Sussex

You can also have a go at den building, or just enjoy one of the dens that's already there. Look out for bracken or leaves to make a comfy floor and gather as many branches as you can to build some sturdy walls.

What sort of den can you build in Ringwood Toll?
Sheffield park den building
What sort of den can you build in Ringwood Toll?

If all that activity has left you tired, then take a minute to admire the macro-photography display by volunteer Nigel Higson. All the pictures were taken of wildlife or trees within Ringwood Toll, but can you figure out what they are? 

Macro-photography display in Ringwood Toll by volunteer, Nigel Higson.
Macro-photography display in Ringwood Toll by volunteer, Nigel Higson.
Macro-photography display in Ringwood Toll by volunteer, Nigel Higson.

Admire the open skies in the Skyglade

Head over to the Skyglade to lean against one of the eight 12ft panels of Sussex oak, all taken from the same tree. Placed at compass points, the panels create a viewing circle, perfect for leaning against and enjoying some cloud spotting. Even if you don't know your cumulus from your altostratus, finding shapes in the clouds is something all ages can enjoy, so look up for a dinosaur, fish or face suspended in the air. Take a moment to lean back and enjoy the relaxing sounds of the countryside too.

Sheffield Park Skyglade hidden among the trees
Sheffield park Skyglade among the trees
Sheffield Park Skyglade hidden among the trees

If you'd like to learn more about the stars, why not sign up to our next stargazing evening? It's great for inquisitive minds to learn how to navigate the stars and to see them first hand through the telescopes. Your ticket also includes a jacket potato supper and hot drink in the tearoom.

Venture down to the River Ouse

Further down from Ringwood Toll, you'll discover a little-known area of Sheffield Park next to the River Ouse. It's likely to be a muddy walk at this time of year so make sure you wear your wellies before you set off.

The river has recently undergone a restoration project which has involved removing some of the overgrown trees along the river bank, adding some berms to break the flow of the water, plus the addition of two new bridges so you can cross the river to reach new areas.

The new rope bridge across the historic lock to the island in the River Ouse
Sheffield Park rope bridge on parkland
The new rope bridge across the historic lock to the island in the River Ouse

The rope bridge takes you over Irongates Lock onto the island. The lock is due to undergo restoration but it's the first time visitors have been able to explore the island for many years. The wooden bridge takes you across to the opposite bank where you can join the Ouse Valley Way path network to explore beyond Sheffield Park. The village of Newick is only a short walk away along this path.

The new bridge over the River Ouse on the parkland
Sheffield Park new bridge Ouse Valley Way
The new bridge over the River Ouse on the parkland

Take a break in the tearoom

If after all that activity you're in need of a drink and something tasty to eat, then head to our tearoom where you'll find a selection of hot and cold meals, children's lunch boxes, soups, sandwiches, cakes and biscuits. There are highchairs and colouring sheets to keep young ones amused, plus baby changing facilities in the accessible toilet.

Kids lunch boxes and colouring sheets in the tearoom
Sheffield Park tearoom kids stuff
Kids lunch boxes and colouring sheets in the tearoom

Just next door is the gift shop selling pocket money toys and small items for children, as well as Sheffield Park notepads, pens and pencils. Outside, our second hand book shop has a selection of books for all ages. The shop at Visitor Reception has a wider selection of homeware and food items.

So whatever you end up doing this winter, plan a visit to Sheffield Park and Garden. There's plenty to do whatever the weather.