Waddesdon Manor is a French Renaissance style house built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild from 1874 to 1883 to house his art collection and to host fashionable society weekend parties. It was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957 and is managed by a Rothschild family charitable trust.
We’d visited Waddeson Manor once before, several years ago, and wanting somewhere to spend an afternoon north west of London, we decided that a revisit was in order. Unfortunately it was a rainy day which, combined with the less than impressive temporary visitor reception, was not a good start to our visit.
A new reception is under construction but in the meantime access involves queueing (in the rain for us) to buy a ticket, use of portaloos (after a long drive) and a bus journey, albeit very scenic, through the estate. Grumpy as this made me and no doubt several others (overheard on exiting the portaloos ‘not quite the normal National Trust experience’) our view soon turned from this:
Any grumpiness soon melted away. There is even a 7 seater mini shuttle bus or ‘Mobility Assistance Vehicle’ that will take anyone requiring assistance down the drive to the front door.
We had decided to head straight for the house as it was still raining. We had been given timed tickets for 12.30pm, but didn’t realise quite how long we would be in there for. There are currently several exhibitions in the house with fascinating archive material.
We spent about 90 mins inside and could easily have stayed longer had hunger not driven us out! An audio guide can be hired for a small charge or it can be downloaded in advance. Each room has laminated A4 sheets that highlight significant items and room guides are also present who will answer questions. The interior of Waddesdon is something else…..
Photography is allowed, although understandably use of flash is not. Most rooms are quite dark to protect items from light deterioration.
Dinner was quite clearly a very lavish affair.
There is a choice of places for the rest of us to eat including the table service Manor Restaurant, various outdoor coffee bars and the informal Stables Cafe.
We elected for the latter which is a little trek from the house, through the children’s Woodland Playground and perhaps not ideal on a wet day. It does also involve a steep slope on the return walk – be warned if slopes are not for you! You can, however, plan to end your visit there and avoid the slope by being collected at the Stables by the shuttle bus to return to the car park.
This area also houses a gift shop with children’s toys and rather nice fudge. After lunch it was time to explore the gardens. A visit to the Power House to watch the 25 min film on the history of the Rothschild family and Waddesdon is a must You can take a stroll down the Baron’s walk for views of the estate and the South Front of the house.
Closer to the house the fountains and colourful Parterre with 190,000 bedding plants come into view. These are changed every May and October.
The stylish Aviary dates from 1889 and should not be missed. It is well stocked with an exotic collection of colourful birds, many of which are part of a conservation programme.
The Rose Garden was created in 2000 in tribute to the original by Alice de Rothschild. The garden contains 600 beautiful roses, many scented. Wonderful even on a wet day – how can raindrops on roses ever fail to please?
We spent about 4 hours in total at Waddesdon, which could easily have stretched to a whole day had the weather been better. There are several free walks and talks during the day which we didn’t get chance to do, including the wine cellar talk. Always good to leave something for next time! You can find out more about Waddesdon Manor at www.waddesdon.org.uk