We’ve been venturing out towards Kent a lot on our last few family outings because there are quite a number of National Trust properties in the area to visit – and Knole Park was the next in line, having already explored nearby properties Ightham Mote and Chartwell House.
Driving in via the grand iron gates, we were stunned to see how busy the car park was, it seemed everyone else had the same idea – to enjoy the great outdoors in this vast, 1,000 acre medieval deer park.
Knole Park is home to a 350 wild deer herd made up of both Fallow and Sika species. Interestingly, they’re descendants of those hunted by Henry VIII, and roam the parkland all-year round. We came across them on several occasions on our circuit and Monkey was able to get quite close to them. Even though the deer were more afraid of him…We didn’t walk too far, but managed to do a sizeable loop that took us off the beaten track on to the unmanaged rugged landscape where we came across fallen trees and bracken. We also headed towards the valley pointing towards Weald Road and the tallest lime trees in Kent. A few years ago they blew down in opposite directions and Monkey enjoyed climbing on top of them.
We also meandered off track on to the golf course, which forms part of the park. We were a little worried about getting hit on the head from oncoming tee shots, particularly when Monkey took a liking to a bunker! After finally getting out of harm’s way we then walked around the main route past Knole House.
It was a lovely path, encompassing the great walled gardens with wrought iron gates that gave us a glimpse into the stunning house gardens. We found plenty of sticks along the way…We traced out names and squiggles along the sandy banks, banged on the gates with our sticks and let him wander off into the distance. We also found a make-shift den and had to endure a tantrum when we made to continue on our walk.We knew Monkey was getting a little tired and hungry when he kept asking where the cafe* was. But we still hadn’t seen inside the great house. And it was the perfect timing, when the clouds began to loom and spots of rain began to fall.
Originally an Archbishop’s palace, Knole House passed through royal hands to the Sackville family – Knole’s inhabitants from 1603 to today. Inside there is plenty of artwork to peruse from great painters including Reynolds, Gainsborough and Van Dyck. Meanwhile, visitors can marvel at the 17th-century tapestries and furniture. However, even though we saw lots of older children completing work sheets, Monkey wasn’t too interested – far too young to be enthralled by ancient relics and the showrooms, including the Gallery Corridors and the Great Hall. He was too intent on getting a hot chocolate. So unfortunately, we weren’t able to spend too long inside, and unable to take any photographs – you’re not allowed you see.
Seeing the deer grazing on the wide-open spaces and discovering plenty of nooks and crannies occupied a while of our time – and before we knew it, we had spent several hours just wandering around a small section of parkland. And, even though we came across ramblers, families and dog walkers enjoying the extensive landscape, we often found ourselves alone. Knole Park’s open meadows and beautiful woodland provides a rich, natural environment for visitors all-year round. Good walking shoes are highly recommended!
If you come to Knole on Mondays during school holidays, a wide range of family-friendly activities are on offer including arts and crafts suitable for ages five to 12. All these events are free.* There are ongoing building and conservation renovations going on at Knole which will not be completed until early 2016 – so refreshments can only be brought and enjoyed outside.
Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 0RP; Open 10.30am-17.00pm daily; Adult: £10.80; Child: £5.40; Family £26.50