We’re big fans of Erddig – we especially love the brilliant natural play area, Wolf’s Den, but have also spent many happy times roaming around the gardens, exploring the house, celebrating the apple harvest, and meeting the shire horses and donkeys. The current event is an Alice in Wonderland themed trail around the gardens, and, always keen for an excuse to get the kids outdoors, we headed over last weekend to check it out.
The trail has around a dozen or so different areas to explore, several featuring huge wooden sculptures. We loved the attention to detail, including lots of exciting bottles of potions labelled “Drink me!” tucked away in the upstairs restaurant.
The trail kicks off immediately beyond the entrance, with a hollowed out tree trunk complete with wooden bunny inviting you to go down the rabbit hole – all three of my children enjoyed running through the tunnel. From there we followed a trail of cardboard pocket watches fluttering in the wind to a little room where you could put on your own shadow show of the Alice story to your enthralled audience lying underneath. I’m never one to give up the opportunity for a lie down, but sadly the kids were too excited about the rest of the trail so we moved smartly along.
The baby and I stopped off for a nappy change at the lovely, newly refurbished baby change room, while my older two headed for the dressing up room, where they made a lovely Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Next they got to pose as the King and Queen of Hearts before we headed off through lines of neatly clipped yews to a hidden house with colouring in to do – a calm spot for a rather chilly winter afternoon.
Next the path took us through a forest of mirrors and a field of wooden mushrooms along with the hookah-smoking caterpillar. Beyond here we found an excellent tree for a spot of climbing, and then spent some time searching for fish and feeding the ducks in the fish pond, overlooked by a rather terrifying Cheshire cat.
We couldn’t resist a visit to Wolf’s Den, of course, where we whiled away some time climbing, balancing, running and swinging – the promise of completing the trail was the only thing which could eventually persuade the older kids to leave.
We worked our way up the main avenue to the house, past flamingos and playing cards, to a huge table laid out with a rather wonderful Mad Hatter’s tea party, complete with a (very damp) hat and lots of cakes and biscuits which my one year old was very disappointed to discover weren’t real.
The final part of the trail took us back through the yard, past painted trees, to discover Alice herself, fending off the playing cards, which we helped her to do with some well-thrown beanbags.
My children regularly claim to hate walks, but they love following a trail, and this was a particularly fun one to do, with much to divert and entertain along the way. It runs until 29th January and is free to do, although there is a suggested £1 donation for the booklet which includes the trail guide (pro tip: don’t let your child jokingly dangle it inside a big perspex box meant for donations, because they will inevitably drop it in, and then you have to go back to the start and buy another one).
Erddig is at Wrexham LL13 0YT and winter opening hours are 11 am to 4 pm; please note that the Wolf’s Den play area may be closed during the week. Entrance to the gardens, trail and Wolf’s Den is free to National Trust members, with a winter entrance price of £4.40 for adults/£2.00 for children for non-members. Parking is free and dogs are allowed on the parkland but not in the gardens. There is a restaurant which does kids’ lunchboxes and other meals plus drinks, cakes, etc, plus a cafe selling ice cream, and baby change facilities. See the website here for more information.