Burnby Hall Gardens and Museum

Where: The Balk, Pocklington. Follow brown signs from the A1079 or for Sat Nav use postcode YO42 2QF.
Open: 10am to 5.30pm (closes at 4pm during the winter)
Prices: Adults £5, Seniors £4.30, Children £2.80, under 5s go free
Website: http://www.burnbyhallgardens.com

Coming up with days out that will keep two boisterous kids amused can be tough. Finding something that does not cost the price of a package holiday to the Maldives can be even more so. Which is why I was both pleased and surprised by a recent visit to Burnby Hall Gardens and Museum in Pocklington, near York.

I say surprised because there is very little on the Burnby Hall website to suggest it is little more than acres of picturesque gardens and lakes. The website includes details of Yorkshire in Bloom Awards, a National collection of more than 100 water lilies, rockeries, shrubberies and the like – all of which are great if you are a keen gardener, but would this keep me entertained, let alone my partner and two children?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Burnby Hall was recommended to us by one of my dad’s clients, who assured us there was a playpark there. We had to take her word for it, because again I couldn’t see any details on the website. But we took a punt, because as far as our kids are concerned, anywhere with a playpark is fair game. And we were really glad we did.

The sprawling gardens are indeed as beautiful as the website makes out, but the highlight of the trip was without doubt feeding the Koi Carp. Fish food can be bought from the entrance or the café, and I challenge any child, big or small, not to enjoy throwing a load of food into the water and being rewarded by swarms of giant fish splashing up to the surface. These bad boys are huge. Anyone who is acquainted with Big Bad Barry from Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom will get the idea.

We whiled away a good 40 minutes feeding the fish from one end of the main lake before touring around the extensive grounds. I never had myself down as a flora enthusiast, but the gardens really are something else, and there are lots of bridges, meandering paths and woodland areas to explore.

There are plenty of picnic areas and places to enjoy your own food,. If like me you find making food in advance too much of a chore there is an onsite café serving hot and cold snacks, drinks and ice-cream. The prices are reasonable and the food is very good. We ordered a tuna mayo sandwich, a hot bacon sandwich, a cheese butty for the kids and two hot drinks, all of which came in at just over £15. I explained to the staff we wanted our food and drinks to takeaway, so they packed them up for us, including wrapping the hot sandwiches in foil to keep warm, which was a nice touch. Special mention has to go to the bacon, which was really good quality, and there was plenty of it.

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Armed with our impromptu picnic, we led Eric and Arthur to the playpark. We had left this until late in the day, because we knew once they saw some swings and a slide it would be nigh on impossible to drag them back out again, and we were right.

The playpark is not huge, but it was more than adequate for our kids. There is a climbing frame with slides and rope walkways, swings, a roundabout, a seesaw and a funky-looking contraption called a viper swing (basically a swing which goes from side to side, accommodating up to four people at once). Eric and Arthur loved it, and would have stayed there for hours had we not bribed them to leave using the promise of an ice-cream.

Unfortunately for Eric, the ice-cream contained egg, so he had to make do with an ice lolly. The staff did let him sample some of the sorbet, which is both egg and dairy-free, but by that point he had his heart set on a mini milk.

Adjacent to the café is The Stewart Museum, which includes artefacts collected by Major Percy Stewart on the 8 World Tours he undertook between 1906 and 1926. Major Stewart was a philanthropist who bought the estate in 1904 and set about creating its gardens. According to the website, he was prompted into world exploration after declaring to his wife: “we’re terribly dull people, let’s travel around the world and then we shall have something to talk about”. The interactive displays were a hit with both of our sons, and it was nice to see exhibits buried into glass display cabinets in the floor and at lower levels meaning Arthur, who is 15 months old, could see them.

Burnby Hall and Gardens kept us entertained for almost five hours. We would have stayed longer, however if our three-year-old naps after 3pm we cannot get him to bed before 9pm.So, knowing he always naps in the car we made a getaway at 2.30pm.

Our enjoyment of the day was very dependent on the weather. Had it been chucking it down with rain instead of glorious sunshine, our visit would probably have been less of a success. But if the weather is being kind and you fancy somewhere different that the kids will enjoy as much as the adults, I suggest you Give Burnby Hall a try – we have already been back twice since our first visit!

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