Meetings with Remarkable Trees: Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post on rainy day ideas, I have been wanting to publish this post for the past 10 days, but have been too sad to put pen to paper because I couldn’t look at the pictures of that sparkling Sunday before last when it’s been so soggy since. It’s not raining today (yet), so forge on we must. There’s a distinctive bite to the air, the heating has gone on this week, and autumn is here. It’ll soon be time to get out my Marimekko dream coat!

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Truth be told, although I am not keen on rain, I am not totally depressed about autumn’s arrival. I love, love, love this season. It is not really something that I ‘had’ as much as a child in the Far East, but such a beautiful moment of change from one season to the next is something to be celebrated. And celebrate it we do, every year, with a trip to Sheffield Park and Garden.

So many Little Lewes readers will have been here, it almost doesn’t really warrant an actual write-up. We could just gorge on the pictures, couldn’t we? And yet I feel I need to give a little backstory to our day (because really, since when do I just shut up already and leave you to look at pictures?).

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Firstly I’ll say that the Autumn Colour ‘event’ each year spans from the end of September until the leaves really start to take their departure of the trees. Our trip this year has been in the early-ish part of the season, so in truth the colour isn’t really in its full glory yet.

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My husband had to work all weekend, so I had marked it in my head that the kids and I would go to Sheffield Park. I hadn’t looked at the weather report, but it turns out it was the best kind of day for visiting (and photographs).

It had rained heavily on Saturday, so it was boots on, but otherwise warm enough for the boys to be in sweats.

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But on Sunday morning, when I told the bigger one what we were doing, a conversation unfolded that went like this:

Him: “Who are we seeing today?”

Me: “No one, it’s just us.”

Him: “What, you, me, Daddy and Baby?”

Me: “No, I mean us three, we have to leave poor Daddy here to work.”

Him: “Where are we going?”

Me: “Sheffield Park, it’s Autumn Colour time.”

Him: “WHAAT? SHEFFIELD PARK? JUST US? BUT THAT’S SO BORING!”

Me: (…actually I won’t tell you what I said as I sort of hit the roof. Sometimes that boy doesn’t know which side his bread’s buttered. Honestly!).

Anyway, onwards. We went to Sheffield Park, arriving at 11am to find a queue of cars up the driveway and men in neon coats ushering us into the overflow parking. Everyone else had had the same idea. Yet it never seemed crowded once we were in.

We took our usual trail – instinctively going right along Aukland (sic) Walk, then on down Conifer Walk in search of the first of several large glassy lakes (or ponds as they’re sometimes called here). Walking along the edge of Lower Woman’s Pond towards the Grand Cascade, once there we went and stood on Cascade Bridge, but rather than going over it to continue along Queen’s Walk, which edges the other side of Upper Woman’s Way Pond, we turned back as from experience that other side is not at all buggy-friendly.

Instead we walked up the west side of Upper Woman’s Way Pond to find the Summer House that marks the boys’ favourite tree-climbing spot (you’ll see it below), before walking some of Big Tree Walk and then crossing back over Pulham Falls, which divides Ten Foot Pond and Middle Lake – spectacular! – and heading back up Aukland Walk to the start.

As we did this route, which it not far but (thanks to a lot of dithering) took three hours, here’s what we got up to:

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Explored little ‘troll houses’ (each marked ‘Summer House’) off the path
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Stopped to climb trees along Conifer Walk (‘So many Christmas trees Mummy!”)
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Observed a branch that looked like a mossy fairy slide that disappeared into the trunk of a tree. What did I think was down there? My guess was an underground dancehall for pixie parties…
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Pondered some formations under a tree that we spotted as we hit Lower Woman’s Way Pond – tree trunks or stone, they looked like a crowd of small people looking out over the water
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Disappeared into a tangle of giant leaves – so this was what it was like to be an elf in a strawberry plant…
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Jumped in muddy puddles. Many, many muddy puddles
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Stood on Cascade Bridge and discussed how Upper Woman’s Way Pond was high on one side of the bridge, and Lower Woman’s Way Pond was low on the other, and how the water had to run down the bank of little steps from one to the other – making the ‘cascade’
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Stopped to climb trees (for aaaaaagesssss) in our favourite mess of gnarly branches, up by the Summer House marked on the map on the west bank of Upper Woman’s Way Pond
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Talked about reflection, and how it means thinking and also mirroring, and how the trees were upside down on the glassy water, and how the ripples created by ducks and fish make them wobble
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Stopped to climb trees along Big Tree Walk
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Analysed how heavy (or light) you would have to be to be able to use lily pads as stepping stones. Answer: as light as a frog (duh)
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Watched some ducks land on the water together and glide in synch towards us at Pulham Falls, while I told the boys the relevance of this to how and when their dad proposed to me (but I’m not telling you!)

So. Fun? Yes. Boring? No. In fact I had to drag them away. Oh how I do like being right (again).

USEFUL SHEFFIELD PARK + GARDEN STUFF FOR FAMILIES TO KNOW:

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  • There is a play trail called Ringwood Toll a 15-minute walk across a field directly opposite the reception. This is free to explore. In in the early days of Little Lewes, I blogged about it here.
  • There are apparently some beautiful unspoilt meadows a 20-minute walk across the parkland that run alongside the Ouse. These make a perfect place for spotting kingfishers, dragonflies and other wildlife.
  • You can borrow child carriers and all-terrain pushchairs from reception (although I’m sure these are in limited supply, so perhaps phone ahead).
  • The Bluebell Railway is a short walk away across the parkland. This adds another dimension to your trip as you can make it a full day: park, garden and woodland trail in the morning, relax on the steam train in the afternoon. It would be a bit much for us at the stage we’re at though!
  • There are bottle and baby food-warming facilities in the tea room.
  • Because Sheffield Park and Garden is Grade I listed, there aren’t any bins in the parkland or garden.
  • I think the tea room here is rubbish (sorry Sheffield Park). The food it so uninspiring and bland, and the cake is good but is £2.50-plus a slice (the ‘cake of the month’ is £3.50!). I would just hang it all and go for a cream tea as this at least will fill you up and is fresh and delicious and I think includes the pot of tea. You get two scones and all the trimmings for about £4.50 (from memory). Also you should note that they stop serving lunch at 2.30pm and the queue when we pitched up at 1.45 was monstrous. If you can’t find somewhere to sit (likely) you will probably find a spot in the dark panelled room at the back. Especially if it’s a nice day.

THE ESSENTIALS

Drive: 20 minutes
Address: Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 3QX
Tel no.: 01825 790 231
Website: nationaltrust.org.uk/sheffield-park-and-garden/
Open: This varies throughout the year, so it’s best to check the park’s own website and pop the month you’re visiting into the drop-down
Price: Adult, £9.90; Child, £4.95; Family, £24.75 (all prices are GiftAid admissions, and include 10% donation on top of the standard admission. This also allows Sheffield Park to claim tax back on the whole amount paid, which amounts to 25%)

Disclosure: No compensation, financial or otherwise, was offered or accepted for the writing of this post. I love autumn and I love a National Trust property. Sheffield Park + Garden is the place to experience both. That is all.

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I’m Kate, a copywriter, brand consultant and editor who creates messages that are clear and clean. I create these for brands and agencies both big and boutique, in areas including design, homes and interiors, travel, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, and kids and families. I believe clear, clean messages bolster brands and businesses. They evoke emotion and ignite inspiration, and when written well, they’re easier to absorb – and respond to. I live in Copenhagen and am half-English, half-Danish. I write as comfortably in American English as in British, and behind the scenes I'm also studying Danish. Need help getting your message out? Contact me.

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