Dyrham Park is the National Trust of my dreams.
I say this because I dream of pottering around in a Jane Austen novel. I’d made a really good Jane Austen heroine, what with my cross-stitching and my….erm…yeah. That’s about it.
Anyway, the point here is that Dyrham is a house that would fit right into Jane Austen’s world – not a Pemberley, sure, but a pretty good Netherfield Park. Mr Bingley would have a lovely time wandering about the gardens being a bit hopeless and uncertain about whether or not he should commit his life to Jane Bennett or listen to his friend Mr Darcy, who is wildly overrated as leading men go. But this post isn’t about why Mr Darcy is actually a bit rubbish and Captain Wentworth is the true hero of Jane Austen – it’s about whether Billy enjoyed his visit.
Billy has in fact had two visits to Dyrham Park; one when he was fairly little, and one this past weekend. He’s not made it into the house either time, because Dyrham has excellent grounds and it seemed more important to wander around them – especially as he was asleep at the time, and you know what they say about sleeping babies.
And you get a good choice of walking options at Dyrham; there are the formal gardens round the back of the house, with fancy ponds and pretty flowers, which we visited in the spring, and the great big sweeping deer park as you enter, with excellent views and lots of deer and cows to point at. And quite a few cowpats. So many cowpats.
But more on them later.
Very good. Dyrham has a very reasonably sized courtyard cafe which serves the all important gluten free brownie. And if it’s a nice day, you can wander out into the little tea garden and enjoy yourselves there. Sure, you have to make it all the way down to the main house from the car park to get there, but this is more of an issue on the return journey.
You’ve schlepped it all the way back up the hill, and the least you deserve is a lovely cup of tea. But alas, there is no tea at the car park. I mentioned this to a friend, who pointed out that it’s not a real complaint but just an indication of my deserve to have tea available at all places, all the time. They may be correct.
Generally excellent, although you do have to be aware of the old favourite West Country hills. The house is down in a little valley, and although there’s a paved road going all the way there, pushing back up the hill can be a bit of an effort. But as that’s a failure of geography, not the National Trust, I can’t really complain.
The park itself is surprisingly buggy-friendly; we wandered all around there on a not un-soggy day without any problems whatsoever. You’ve got to be on the watch for cowpats, which unfortunately my husband wasn’t, but if you can get that one under control then you can push your way pretty much anywhere. And even if you do end up with a buggy and husband who have a strange magnetic draw towards all cowpats, then it’s still enjoyable. You just have a bit of a stinky journey home until you can properly wash the wheels.
The paths in the formal gardens, meanwhile, are wide enough even for the beast that is the Uppababy Vista. It’s nice to not worry about running over any flowers for once.
There’s not a high concentration of dogs at Dyrham, possibly because local owners are slightly wary of recreating a “Fenton!” moment with the copious deer (you weren’t expecting anyone to reference that ancient meme, were you?). But that said, we did meet an excellent cockapoo called Popcorn on our most recent visit, who Billy very nearly stroked. So although they aren’t many, the dogs are good.
An all-round excellent Trust. Extra points would be added if they could convince some handsome men to wander around in Regency clothing, but I realise this may be a niche request. Still, can’t hurt to ask, can it?