Weather: ALL THE WEATHERS. We come here all the time, it’s our go to place for wandering and letting off steam. The fact that there’s a cafe and a really lovely indoor space where kids can learn about he history of the estate and indulge in a sport of light arts & crafting makes it perfect for all times of year really.
Logistics: Do NOT follow your sat nav, it will try and take you to the old house which is now a conference centre, whilst pretty, it’s not exactly made for kids. Follow the brown signs and keep an eye out for deer which will occasionally pop out and take over the road, in order to remind us humans that they were here before the cars were. For a National Trust property this one is very reasonably priced - free parking for all and only a couple of quid for the kids’s activities usually.
Activities: There is so much to do in Ashridge. It’s ace. You can climb up the Bridgewater Monument, if you like that kind of thing, there’s a cool ring of carved wood and trees with low hanging branches for the kids to climb on, there’s a whole host of guided walks and activities for kids laid on throughout the year. Our kids have made bat puppets, painted trees, watched artists at work, played with train sets, felt animal skulls and pelts. It is genuinely fantastic without feeling too fancy or his maintenance and the staff are always warm, welcoming and genuinely enthusiastic about the work that they are doing.
If you prefer your fun less directed, there are an abundance of paths to follow through the woods suitable for getting muddy and collecting endless sticks, leaves and other compostable paraphernalia. Some paths are suitable for bikes and some aren’t. For the more intrepid among you, going off the beaten track can lead you to get lost unnervingly quickly. You will find terrifying tree swings that pass over enormous chasms - just right for brave parents and foolhardy children - it’s ok, none of us have sustained a head injury… yet.
Coffee: Meh but still welcome on a cold or wet day.
Food: I’ve only had the BBQ here in the summer and it’s perfect - good meaty burgers and plump sausages and the kids love it. There are tables and chairs should you needs them, though it is a perfect spot to recline on a picnic blanket in the sunshine too (though do beware of low flying dogs looking for a sneaky bite of sausage.)
Grounds: The little of the estate I’ve seen is superb and I know it is somewhere my kids love to come.
Accessibility: There are disabled parking and toilets and the main paths are smooth enough to take a wheelchair. The adaptations that can reasonably be made to a woodland space have been made and. From my experience as a care attendant I know that kids with additional needs bloody love a wide open space to be themselves in and this will allow that without any need to restrict their movements to keep them safe, which should hopefully leave everyone calmer. If you are with someone who is nervous of dogs you might want to pick an off peak kind of time. There are a LOT of dogs at Ashridge.
Overall: This is one of my favourite places to be with or without the kids - usually with, it seems mean to leave them behind when its so perfect for them. It’s a place to meet old friends and make new ones, usually of the canine variety. We always go home with glowing cheeks and that sense of a day well spent.