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“Well worth a visit”
Review of Wrest Park

Wrest Park
Ranked #2 of 34 things to do in Luton
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Biggleswade, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
199 reviews
66 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 80 helpful votes
“Well worth a visit”
Reviewed 18 June 2014

As members of English Heritage we thought we would give it a visit, even though we had been told not to bother. We are so glad we did as it is an eye opener with the vast and exceptionaly well kept gardens as well as the house. We will be going back soon as we ran out of time to see it all. Explore through the trees following the guide map and the is always something just around the corner. There is a good restaurant with seating both inside and out. There is also a play area for the kids and also free parking. If you fancy, why not bring a picnic.

Visited June 2014
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Thank Lambo66
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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London
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Magnificent English Heritage Site”
Reviewed 12 June 2014

Large Manor house with extensive gardens,lakes,gazebo plus good restaurant and children's play area. There is also a special electric vehicle for those less able to walk.
English Heritage members have free entry.

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
Thank Trryhly1971
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
165 reviews
92 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 171 helpful votes
“A surprise around every corner”
Reviewed 10 June 2014

When I told people that I proposed to go to Wrest Park it was met with a puzzled look usually followed by “What is it?”, “Where is it?” and finally “Why?”. Come to think of it I hadn’t heard of Wrest Park until recently. It doesn’t possess any real historical importance, as far as I am aware its not known as the backdrop for some movie on the shenanigans of the English aristocracy.

Well, its a stately home with great garden owned and managed by English Heritage. Its in Bedfordshire and I saw a picture recently of the ‘Archer Pavilion’ which is located within the grounds and I thought to myself ‘I must go and see that’. The Pavilion is situated at the far east of the estate away from the manor house. It is the ‘pin up’ of English Heritage - its a visually striking building and very photogenic. So its hardly surprising that images of the Wrest Park Pavilion are used to promote and advertise English Heritage on numerous books, posters and other paraphernalia. Despite this high level of publicity Wrest Park is not the name which springs to mind if you were asked to name an English stately home. Personally for me the choice to visit Wrest Park was based upon the desire to walk around and photograph the Pavilion building.

I came by car and passed through the village of Silsoe and through a grand gateway into a vast expanse of park. There was an English Heritage ‘Welcome to Wrest Park’ sign so you expect you’ve arrived directly on site - however, the road continued on quite a distance before you get to the entrance to the Wrest Park English Heritage site. The site is within a walled enclosure off the Park Avenue and it is rather uninspiring at first glance. There is a small parking area within the walls but it must be filled up rather quickly. I was there mid week so I managed to find a space. One would assume there is an overspill car park somewhere.

It was lunchtime when I arrived and a growling stomach hinted that I should take advantage of the cafe/restaurant next door to the ticket office and gift shop. A coach group was visiting so the restaurant was full and it was difficult to find a space to sit before ordering food. The coach party was a Women’s Institute (WI) outing and while waiting for my food to be delivered I sat and eavesdropped into conversations of internal politics within the WI and how they tried to outdo each other with tales of their various ailments. The food was somewhat pricey - I had a pulled pork dish with vegetables washed down with a rather nippy ginger beer.

Armed with my map of the site I ventured forth into the Italian garden towards the house. There was one of the four garden areas devoid of any plants. According to the sign it was set aside for planting a display based on poppies for commemorating the centenary of the First World War. From the artist impression it looks like an interesting feature. I did notice a flower with purple star burst petals which grew in a ball shape (see photo ‘Purple ball flower’) which I’d never seen before. I’m not really a garden person but seeing beautiful plants like this could get me interested.

In the manor house itself there was a welcome from an English Heritage employee who gave an enthusiastic overview of what was in the house and in what order to see it in - and a reminder not to go without returning to the entrance of the house at the end to see the conservatory. Only the ground floor of the house is open to visitors. The first part deals with the original owners of the house and how the house and gardens developed over the last few centuries. There is in the middle of the house a fairly grand staircase with paintings adorning the walls. There is no information on why these pictures were here or there relationship or connection with the property. For example there was a painting of Queen Caroline (the wife of King George 2nd) - did she visit? Did she work closely with the owner of Wrest Park at the time? Who knows? There are paintings on the ceiling in some of the rooms of topless (or near enough topless) women on clouds attended by cherubs and such like. Which made up for the last few rooms being unfurnished and essentially bare.

Exiting the house and heading back to the location where I originally entered the house brought me to the conservatory. You could access it from the house but the door to it was locked. It contained a number of exotic plants and well worth the visit as suggested by the enthusiastic English Heritage attendant.

The day was warm and sunny and it was good to get out into the expanse of the gardens. It was a busy time with a team of English Heritage volunteers working on putting new plants and flowers into the French Parterre garden. Each section has a centre piece of a classical statue which is surrounded by a swirling pattern of flower beds. The volunteers were very friendly and keen to discuss with visitors about the design and type of flowers used.

I decided to do a tour of the grounds in a big U shape - starting off at the left hand side to visit the Chinese Pavilion and bridge, and the Pet Cemetery. There was nothing to tell me of the history of the pet cemetery but I suppose that’s why you are encouraged to add to the cost of the day out with a guide book. All of this is enclosed within or situated just outside of a dense wooded area. But the best thing I saw would not be listed in the guide book - walking through the forest path I chanced upon a muntjac deer which stepped into a small clearing. I stood as still as I could for what was no more than a minute and a half and gazed upon this beautiful creature.

You would think the pièce de résistance of Wrest Park is the Archer Pavilion. It is visually striking when seen across the expanse of the ‘Long Water’ from the manor house or when seen through a gap in the trees at that end of the estate. However there is not much else to it other than a dusty inner shell. It was grandly decorated at one time but that has now faded but still interesting to look at. I read that it was used as a place to offer refreshments to guests when hunting parties were out and about around the estate.

Taking the right hand side of the U shape tour of the grounds are more themed gardens and an Orangey (sadly just an empty room). I was thinking I was done with the gardens and was walking back to the cafe area when I realised that I had omitted to visit the Bath House. I was almost tempted not to double back from the direction that I came from but thankfully I did. The Bath House is like a fairytale grotty in a clearing in the woods and more startling because I wasn’t expecting it to look like it did. It is a little off the beaten track and I think many people go straight from the Orangey back to the manor house or the gift shop rather than go to it. The WI were out and about in manageable groups around the entire estate but I spent 15 minutes at the Bath House and didn’t see another soul. The bathing area is filled with dark brown mucky water. Still, it must have been a great place to chill out when it was in full use.

The park is big with lots to see and it can take a good amount of time to get around all the little attractions listed on the map. Thankfully I had allocated all day for this visit. Had the weather not been so good its likely I would have skipped around, probably missing out on odd items here and there. I headed back to the cafe and ordered a cream tea and sat outside and watched the flock of jackdaws which were playing in the bushes around the seating area. Jackdaws are quite beautiful birds. This particular gathering were well used to humans and came quite close to see if they could steal a piece of food or two. I watched with interest a group of them lift half a scone off the tray trolley and take it to a more comfortable place to feast upon it. Due to the hierarchy within the group the top birds keep the scone to themselves and the others went without. It was almost as if the social division and pecking order of Wrest Park is being maintained.

I can honestly say I enjoyed my day at Wrest Park, especially the grounds. There was a surprise around every corner. Although there are many paths some features require you to walk on grass or soft ground so maybe think about suitable footwear.

Visited June 2014
Helpful?
2 Thank bill_a_graham
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Chesterfield, United Kingdom
Level 5 Contributor
55 reviews
25 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“A lovely day out in glorious grounds”
Reviewed 7 June 2014

Our visit began with entry to a smart car park within an archway and enclosing walls. A short walk away to an excellent café, with friendly staff, within the walled garden. Non members can get this far so it is delightful to see people enjoying the outdoor space and the play area.

The magnificent vista of the Pavilion greeted us and the stroll to this lovely building with
trompe l'oeuil pillars, alongside the Long Water accompanied by birdsong was so relaxing. .
The Orangery and the Bowling Green House were equally impressive. A veritable army of volunteers was poised to plant 12000 annuals in the Par Terre garden so we look forward to another visit to see what promises to be an impressive display.

Although there are few rooms open in the house they are beautifully presented and the stair case hall is alone worth a visit!

Very helpful and knowledgeable staff made this a day out not to be missed

Visited June 2014
Helpful?
Thank philip_brindle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Guildford, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
201 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 102 helpful votes
“Great day out”
Reviewed 2 June 2014 via mobile

This was a full day which was very enjoyable. We arrived and had coffee, sitting outside in a pleasant area where we could have stayed for far longer a nice environment and a fun play area for kids that is very tastefully designed. After coffee we went on a garden tour, we were taken around by Sue, no doubt one of many knowledgeable and helpful volunteers at Wrest working for English Heritage. The work done so far in the 20 year project, 8 years in, is fantastic the gardens already have a very magical feel and there's much more yet to do; for anybody with mobility issues there is a buggy service to ferry them around. Lunch followed back at the cafe, excellent food and good service. In the afternoon we took the Hidden Treasures tour, thus was the first day these treasures were open for viewings so I can forgive the semi slow start but what they have stored was au is fascinating and maybe time and exposure to more groups will give them a better idea of what is good to show groups. Last on our day was a visit to the house fantastic library and he decoration in the rooms is a wow. All in all a good day out helped by pleasant weather.

Visited June 2014
Helpful?
Thank Juls3456
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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