Review written July 2013
The first time we visited Erddig was actually because we’d heard they had a paddle-able stream and thought it might be a nice place to spend a sunny day. In actual fact we didn’t find the stream during our visit, but drove over it on our way home, so we’ll definitely have to head back, particularly if the gorgeous sunny weather sticks around. The stream is in the parkland which surrounds the house and gardens, whereas on our first trip we only visited the immediate environs of the house.
Parking is in a shady walled apple orchard, with a short walk to the entrance and a clutch of outbuildings with various artefacts of life at the big house to look at; also tucked away here is a rather splendid cottage where you can try on all sorts of different outfits which would have been worn by the family and staff of the big house – great fun for kids, though the day we visited was rather hot so we didn’t have a go on this visit. Next time!
A short walk through the gardens took us to the lawn in front of the house, which is furnished with a gazebo, deckchairs with tartan blankets, and a large trailer full of traditional and outdoor toys and games such as skipping ropes, skittles, giant Jenga and noughts and crosses. This was a lovely and very civilised spot to kill some time, so we happily settled down on the grass while the children had great fun rummaging through all the toys and trying their hand at things like diabolo throwing and quoits. There were several families enjoying picnics in the sunshine.
After we’d finished playing, we strolled down the lawn to the woods, passing a couple of formal ponds on the way. One had nesting moorhen couple among the pondweed, with mummy hen sitting on the nest while daddy hen (moorcock?) rather self-importantly rummaged about in the greenery looking for more twigs to add to their pile. I’d never seen a nest actually being constructed before, so felt very excited not only to see it but also to share it with my children.
Heading into the woods, we came first to an area for building dens and other foresty pursuits. We had a great time building ourselves a den, despite some artistic differences, a disagreement about where the door should go, and me somehow doing most of the gruntwork. We also made some mud pies, ticking off another activity in our 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 book, and visited the bright red Citroen van serving tea and cakes which parks in the woods.
Finally we arrived at our intended destination for the day, the wonderful Wolf’s Den natural play area. We’d described this to our five year old as a playground, so she was initially very disappointed to find that it didn’t include a slide, roundabout or swings or any of the things she felt that a real playground should contain. Instead, the play area has areas for climbing constructed out of huge fallen branches, a balance trail through the woods, and a wonderful rope swing … Our daughter was quickly entranced despite her initial reservations – I think this photo says it all!
It was fantastic to visit a play area that was so different from the norm, as well as being deliciously cool and shady. As a parent, one of the highlights of my day was watching our daughter psych herself up to jump off a very tall tree trunk and then enjoying her sense of achievement once she’d made the leap.
It took quite a while to persuade the kids to leave the woods and head back to the car, but there was just time for an ice cream in the tea garden before heading home.
All in all we thoroughly enjoyed our day, and with lots of shady areas to keep out of the sun and frequent (and mostly free) events and activities, we’re sure to be spending lots of time here.
Erddig is at Wrexham LL13 0YT. Opening hours vary according to the season but are usually daily from 11 am to 5 pm in summer and from 11 am to 4 pm in winter – check the website for details. There are baby change facilities, various places to eat or grab a snack, and facilities for families including various children’s trails through the house and gardens, an explorer map and the option to borrow binoculars etc. Entry is free to National Trust members; a charge applies for non-members.