'At Waddesdon they're free to play and just be children'

Sebastian and Isaac, Waddesdon Manor

Five-year-old Isaac and his three-year-old brother Sebastian have grown up at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. Their parents have been bringing them to explore the gardens and wild corners of the estate since they were born, and it’s proved to be the perfect place for them to carve out precious family time together.

Two boys and their parents walking in front of Waddesdon Manor
Sebastian and Isaac climbing on a low tree branch
Family exploring the grounds at Waddesdon
Young boy looking at a bug on his hand
Family walking through the park at Waddesdon
Joining in the 50things family activites at Waddesdon Manor
South front of Waddesdon Manor
Family outside the aviary at Waddesdon
Discovering the joys of spring at Waddesdon Manor Play Video
Two boys and their parents walking in front of Waddesdon Manor Sebastian and Isaac climbing on a low tree branch Family exploring the grounds at Waddesdon Young boy looking at a bug on his hand Family walking through the park at Waddesdon Joining in the 50things family activites at Waddesdon Manor South front of Waddesdon Manor Family outside the aviary at Waddesdon

Growing up with Waddesdon

Sebastian and Isaac have been visiting Waddesdon with their parents, Darren and Mary, since they were born. The sprawling parkland and gardens have played a key role in the lives of the whole family ever since. ‘They’re two small, curious boys and it’s an opportunity for them to investigate things and get their hands dirty,’ says Darren.

Becoming young naturalists

The family’s visits have inspired a deep love of the outdoors in the boys, with a thirst to learn all about the natural world around them and experience it in all its muddy, leafy glory. ‘They remember the names of things they’ve learned at Waddesdon,' recounts Darren. 'You’ll be out somewhere and they’ll point out a beech leaf, or they’ll pick up a conker shell and they’ll tell you what type of tree it came from. We come home with pockets full of leaves and seeds and sticks every time we go.’ 

" Wiggly worm... Wow it looks gigantic!"
- Isaac
A Rothschild Mynah bird in the Aviary Manor at Waddesdon Manor

Mimi the mynah bird

Both Sebastian and Isaac are obsessed with Mimi – Waddesdon’s snowy white mascot inspired by the Rothschild's mynah birds who live in the aviary on the estate. To the boys she represents all the adventures they’ve had over the years as part of the ‘Mimi the Mynah Club’: a series of family activities throughout the year which they can complete to earn badges and medals. 'My favourite thing is seeing Mimi.' says Isaac. 'What noise does Mimi make Sebastian?’ ‘Squeak, squeak, squeak!'

Freedom to roam

Far from just being a typical day out, Waddesdon feels more like a home from home where Darren and Mary feel comfortable letting the boys run around and explore. ‘I think they’re happiest when they’re outside burning off energy,’ says Mary. ‘And when we go to Waddesdon, we take their lead: “where do you want to go, what do you want to do?” They get the freedom to play and just be children.’

" 'What have you found Sebastian?'
‘It’s an oak tree – acorns grow on oak trees’ "
- Darren and Sebastian

Taking time together

Their visits also provide the family with a welcome break from the usual busy routine of school and work, so they can spend quality time together making memories. ‘Time is precious: you want to do something with it that’s worthwhile, that the children will remember when they’re older.’

As well as spending time with their parents, the adventures that Sebastian and Isaac have embarked on together at Waddesdon have helped to build a close relationship between the brothers. ‘When they do one of the trails together Isaac will read the clues to Sebastian, and explain things to him or point them out on the map. It’s just lovely to see them sharing things and learning together.'

Video

The adventures of Sebastian and Isaac

Their experiences in the Mimi the Mynah Club at Waddesdon have played a big part in sparking the boys’ love of being outdoors. They carry on their explorations by trying the ’50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities like building a den in the woods, or hunting for bugs. There's always something new to to discover, whatever the season.

Caring for Waddesdon

Waddesdon Manor has been such a significant cornerstone of Sebastian and Isaac’s lives that it’s no surprise Darren and Mary are keen to help care for it, and preserve the memories they’ve created here. ‘We hope that getting the boys out and about while they’re young will encourage a love of nature. If they’ve got a love for it, a sense of ownership of it, then they’ll want to help protect places like this when they’re older.’

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