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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.