Nottinghamshire's Clumber Park provides an undemanding and enjoyable day out for all ages.
Distance 3.7 miles (6km)
Minimum time 2hrs 15min
Ascent/gradient 131ft (40m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Clear, level paths and tracks throughout
Landscape Landscaped parkland surrounding ornamental lake
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 270 Sherwood Forest
Start/finish SK 625745
Dog friendliness Generally good, with off-lead areas
Parking Main car park in Clumber Park near tea rooms (pay)
Public toilets At car park, and half-way round near Hardwick village
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1 From the tea rooms, shop and information point near the main car park, walk across the site of the former mansion and down to reach the lakeside. Turn right here along the clear path that runs along the shore through an area of patchy woodland. Continue to follow the path, which curves left then right, all the way to Clumber Bridge.
2 Cross the bridge and turn left past the car park to resume the route by the shore. If the path by the waters' edge below the trees is a little boggy then switch to the wider and firmer track further back. As you draw opposite the site of the former house, there are paths off across the parkland to your right - a detailed map is available from the National Trust shop. At the far corner of the lake you eventually swing left on the embankment path. To your right is an area of wetland created 20 years ago by mining subsidence, now a popular area for birdwatching. Carry on past the toilet block at Hardwick until you reach the surfaced road beyond the car park.
3 Go left on to the road and in 50yds (46m) turn right, before the causeway begins, for a narrow, sandy path up through dense vegetation. Follow this twisting route through an area known as The Lings. The huge variety of trees here includes beech, sweet chestnut, silver birch, yew and pines. When you drop down and emerge into an open, flat area beyond the end of the lake, walk ahead to turn left on to a wide, curving gravel track.
4 In a few paces, where this narrowing route veers left towards the shore, go straight on along the left of two grassy paths. At the end turn left on to a wide track that crosses the road and continues past a wooden barrier into Ash Tree Hill Wood.
5 Go straight over a crossroads of tracks and on along this popular and direct route through the trees, ignoring an inviting right turn. When you emerge in open ground on the far side, continue ahead to the ornate gateway into the wooded Pleasure Ground ahead.
6 Go through this and veer left on any one of the minor paths through the undergrowth to reach the main lakeside route. Turn right and follow this along Lincoln Terrace back to the start of the walk. A little beyond the lawned terrace a looping track to the right, across the carefully manicured lawns, leads you to the church and car park.
There are few more popular and scenic locations for a family day out in the East Midlands than Clumber Park, with walking and cycling routes aplenty. What is rather bizarre, however, is that the centrepiece of the original estate vanished many years ago.
The building of Clumber House didn't begin until the 18th century but, typical of the age, the Duke of Newcastle, who had been granted the right to enclose what was until then a part of Sherwood Forest, set about it in style. Gatehouses and follies sprang up, and the River Poulter was dammed to form a vast lake complete with boathouses and a classical bridge (mind you, it took 15 years and over £6,000 to build). A small chain ferry was installed to cross the lake, and a full-time sailor was even employed to crew a model naval frigate called The Lincoln, which resided on the water as a floating summer house until it caught fire and sank in the 1940s. The house was filled with rare books and paintings, while the park was planted with thousands of trees, including a 2-mile (3.2km) avenue of limes which, it is claimed, remains the longest in Europe.
However, after the death of the 7th Duke of Newcastle in 1928 the fortune of Clumber took a turn for the worse, and the exorbitant running costs of the huge house and estate forced its closure. The contents of the house were sold off at auction and the redundant building was demolished ten years later. During the Second World War the park was requisitioned for trials of new military equipment, and on one occasion Winston Churchill visited to view a new trench-digging machine known as the 'White Rabbit' (the scars on the land can still be seen).
Happily for Clumber, the National Trust stepped in and negotiated purchase of the 3,800-acre (1,539ha) park as part of its Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1945. The land includes extensive tracts of grassland and heathland, in addition to the formal walkways and avenues. However, almost half of Clumber Park is taken up by woodland, with a wonderful array of mature beech, oak, chestnut and pine, as well as more exotic introductions. A tree nursery is also being developed to grow trees from seed collected in the park, and among the other visitor attractions is a walled kitchen garden, which apart from organically managed vegetable plots also features a palm house, vines and figs.
Although the house is long gone, the original stable blocks now serves as the information point, with adjacent tea rooms, and near by the Church of St Mary the Virgin, begun in 1868 and a wonderful example of extravagant Gothic Revival architecture, is still used three Sundays a month for services.
The National Trust's Clock Tower Shop and Tea Rooms, next to the site of the former house by the lake, are open every day for a wide range of snacks and light refreshments. It also goes without saying that Clumber Park is a great place to bring a picnic, and there is even a designated barbecue area to the north of the park off Limetree Avenue.
Although some of Clumber's oldest woodland dates from the 1500s, most of the mature oak, pines, chestnut and beech you see today were planted two centuries later. The formal avenues of lime, cedar and beech followed afterwards, while most of the larch and pine plantations that dot the perimeter of the park are relatively recent additions.
In contrast to the lavish acres of Clumber Park, the National Trust's 300 historic houses also include smaller properties such as Mr Straw's House, a semi-detached Edwardian house in nearby Worksop almost totally unaltered since the 1930s. Complete with period furniture, costumes and memorabilia, it's located at 7 Blyth Grove and is open Tuesday to Saturday, April to October (advance booking only).