When we were staying at Chicheley Hall a few weeks ago, I was keen to make the most of our time there, so when I saw Canons Ashby was just down the road we made a beeline for it on our route home on the Sunday. It’s a National Trust property that I’ve seen photos of in people’s instagram feeds, but when I’d researched it, it didn’t seem to have a lot there, so we’ve never made the trip as it’s a fair drive for us. This was the perfect opportunity for us to see what it had to offer.
We were some of the first visitors to arrive, so it was lovely and quiet, and we were greeted at the visitors centre and given a tick box trail for Max to follow. There were different trails available, depending on your age, and the under 6’s trail was perfect for Max. He loved looking out for different things to spot – all with pictures on his sheet to help him out.
Canons Ashby was the home of the Dryden family and in 1710, Edward Dryden undertook a huge project in developing the gardens. Sadly, in the 20th Century, they became neglected and became a wildnerness. The National Trust undertook a huge restoration project, transforming the gardens to reflect Edward’s original vision.
When we visited it was early summer and the gardens were looking beautiful. The borders were crammed full of foxgloves and poppies and had that slightly wild look that I love. The fruit and vegetable terrace was a great place to explore with Max, as we’re growing our own potatoes, carrots, and beetroot this year, so it was interesting to see if he could spot them growing here.
The house itself is only open later in the day, but since we never venture into a National Trust house with our children, that didn’t bother us! Instead we made our way through the archway into the Green Court, full of topiary trees and roses in the borders, that made the perfect spot for our monthly family photo and a game of hide and seek.
As well as interesting doors to knock on…
The Shepherd Boy statue was created in 1713, and was commissioned in honour of the actions of a shepherd during a Civil War skirmish. And he was one of Max’s checklist items, so he was pleased to find him!
Max was thrilled that he managed to spot all but one of the things on his checklist – I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite so engaged in exploring a new place before. Usually he’s far more of a whirlwind, moving through it all at high speed!
After all that exploring it was time to grab a quick bite to eat in the tea room. A special mention too for the tea room, because it really was one of the loveliest settings for a National Trust tea room I’ve come across. A little courtyard, edged with stone walls, and with a little greenhouse and vegetable patch tucked behind it. As we sat and ate, it was lovely to watch the little robins dart around the empty tables.
I’m so glad we managed to visit Canons Ashby – it was such a lovely spot, and we could easily have spent more time there if we hadn’t had to make a move to get home. A return visit is definitely on the cards.
Canons Ashby, Daventry, Northamptonshire, NN11 3SD