It was a sunny Sunday morning and the kids and I were trying to decide what to do with our day. We remembered that on the way to our recent day out to Burton Agnes, near Driffield, we drove past the sign for Sledmere house so we got onto Google to see what was there. After using their easy booking system we headed straight over and arrived at the spacious car park. Met by the friendly human on the entrance, we were given a map and headed in to begin our adventure.
Built on a hill with outstanding views of natural beauty, construction of this Georgian house was begun in 1751. A lot of the house was destroyed by a fire in 1911 but with meticulous conservation and restoration work, only an expert eye or historical buildings archaeologist perhaps would be able to tell that this wasn’t a fully original 18th-century house.
Set against a dark sky on the day of our visit, standing at the bottom of the hill and looking back at the house was reminiscent of an Austen novel and it was easy to imagine the house in all of its glory, visitors in Georgian clothing promenading through the walled gardens, the corridors lined with ostentatious Chippendale furniture and it’s large reception rooms hosting grand parties and events.
We first came to the little farmyard where there was a piece of play equipment shaped like a tractor. The boys spent some time climbing and sliding and then we continued around the farm.
We stopped to stroke the friendly Guernsey goats who were stretching their heads through the fences to nibble the grass and then stopped to watch a Shire horse foal and her mother. Sledmere has been home to stables since 1780 and is one of eight recognised Shire Horse Society centres in the UK. We managed to get up close to the horses but I soon discovered how much it hurts to be bitten by a foal! Also on the farm are a flock of Leicester Longwool sheep and a selection of rare chicken breeds who displayed their impressive plumage.
Another interesting section of the farm is a small museum which is the only memorial to the Wolds Wagoners Reserves, a volunteer corps of around 1000 local men who were amongst some of the first to travel from the UK to the frontline, driving the horse-drawn wagons and delivering supplies to the troops who were fighting. The museum houses photographs, memorabilia and the uniform of Sir Mark Sykes, 6th Baronet of Sledmeres’ uniform.
We continued on and had half an hour playing on the wooden adventure playground which is situated next to the farm. Exiting the farm, we took a moment to take in the views across the Sledmere grounds around which there is a 2.5-mile circular walk which takes visitors through the deer park so it is important to remember to keep dogs on leads so as not to startle the wildlife. We didn’t take on the circular walk as little legs were tired from playing, but we did have some fun rolling down hills and stopping off for a sandwich in the courtyard cafe that is open currently for take away food and drinks.
The Walled Garden
We concluded our visit with a wander around the walled garden and we certainly saved the best attraction until last! We entered the walled garden and we were instantly taken aback by the size and diversity of the gardens which has been a feature on BBC’s Gardeners World. I completely lost track of how long we were in there, weaving in and out of the intricate pathways and exploring the unusual plant species which thrive within the walled gardens. We spotted huge banana plants, towering palm trees, luscious dahlias of all colours and sizes, tall purple coneflowers which seemed to be a popular hangout for many bees and a rare collection of succulents.
In the middle of the walled garden was a beautiful pond where backswimmers could be seen using their oar-like hind legs to propel themselves along the surface of the water and pond snails who were calmly resting amongst the aquatic plants which they call home.
Sledmere House and Gardens is an absolutely breathtaking day out suitable for all ages, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. We will be purchasing memberships so we can go back as much as possible to explore the extensive grounds and the wonderful walled gardens.