Mrs Hudson is amazed

Shouldn’t every child have a chance to get lost in a maze?  Not totally lost, of course, mazes provide just enough confusion for a thrill but you do always get out in the end (well, except in Harry Potter).  And they have a long history, starting out as Elizabethan labyrinths, just a twisting spiral one way path contained in hedges, and developing into puzzle mazes with lots of dead ends in the late 17th century. Walpole the dog doesn’t really get it and always tries to cut through the hedges at the bottom but that spoils the fun!

So where to find a maze to play in this summer?

Hampton Court Maze

Hampton Court, London

Hampton Court Maze is perhaps the daddy of them all, commissioned by William III in 1700.  It used to be one of a pair, made of hornbeam but was replaced with yew, providing a thick impenetrable series of sinuous hedges over a third of an acre.  If you keep walking with hedge on your right you will make it to the middle, but a couple of confusing corners have been added recently and a rather charming soundscape to tempt you further in. The maze had a lucky escape from Capability Brown’s itch to clear and landscape everything when he was Royal Gardener here in the 1770s.


Hever Castle Water Maze, Kent

Hever Castle has no less than three different types of maze:  a thoroughly traditional Edwardian yew hedge maze; a wooden tower maze for kids in the playground; and, my favourite, a splashy water maze on Sixteen Acre island.  The water maze is really fun, with unexpected water jets and stones that tip you into the pool if you don’t pay attention. Take a towel and take on the challenge to reach the stone grotto in the centre.

Traquaire maze

Traquair House

The largest hedge maze in Scotland is at Traquair House in the Borders. Planted in 1981, it echoes a formal parterre garden which was once behind the house. This cypress and beech maze is particularly complex, but you can direct your children from the terrace which overlooks it.

scone palace maze

Scone Palace

The star shaped maze at Scone Palace in Perthshire also has a high vantage point from a bridge built into the design but you have to find the steps to the bridge first.  The shape comes from the Earl of Mansfield’s family emblem and the colours of the 2000 copper and green beeches from the family tartan.  In the centre, if you can find it, is a statue of the water nymph Arethusa by David Williams-Ellis.


somerleyton_mazeVictorians loved a puzzle and you can find another fine yew maze at Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk.  The curved edges are marked out by topiary sentinels in contrasting golden Irish yew.  In the centre is a little pagoda on a knoll allowing you to look back on the path you have followed.  The maze was designed in 1846 by the great 19th century garden designer W A Nesfield for Lord Somerleyton.

leeds castle maze

Leeds Castle, Kent

The maze at Leeds Castle has a real surprise in the centre.  Enter through the square hedge walls and hey presto, the paths are circular and draw you in towards a curving stone wall at the centre.  Wend your way up the slope of the central tower and down into a magical shell grotto that traces the tales of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  And so through the lighted passages of the grotto back to the perimeter.

Blenheim Palace the Marlborough Maze.jpg

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

The Marlborough Maze at Blenheim Palace has a 25th birthday this year.  This is the second largest hedge maze in the world – you have to go to Hawaii to find a rival.  It takes 6 gardeners a whole week to trim the 3 kilometres of yew hedges.  The design incorporates cannons, banners, flags and trumpets in celebration of the 1st Duke of Marlborough’s military victories plus a V sign as a nod to Blenheim’s other hero, Sir Winston Churchill.

Arley Hall and Gardens in Cheshire planted a hornbeam maze in the Arboretum in 2009 and it is looking grand.  You can catch the views over the tops of the hedges to the countryside beyond and admire the pattern from the wooden fort at the centre.

Arley Gardens Maze

Arley Hall & Gardens, Cheshire

Look out for modern mazes which are great fun for children. The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland, abounds with mazes, The Bamboo Labyrinth encloses you totally in quiet rustling that cuts you off from the outside world while the Serpent Garden uses a hedge maze to guide you through a sparkling series of water sculptures.  Ragley Hall, Warwickshire,  has a 3-D playground maze with wooden walkways, bridges and blocks of passages and the ambitious maze at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Kent, based on the patterns found in Tibetan wood carvings has a few years to go to reach full height but lines of post and rails make running through it lots of fun – and you just might spot the famous yeti that lurks here! Newest of all is the maze at Sudeley Castle, built in partnership with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.  The willow boughs hiding willow sculpted characters from the Wind in the Willows.

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens - maze

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens


Mrs Hudson Recommends……..talks and walks

Walpole and I

Walpole and I

I adore Spring, but with unpredictably changeable weather, we must always have a range of indoor and outdoor activities on hand to keep ourselves occupied! This month, I am recommending a whole series of Talks and Walks. So there’s plenty to keep you busy, whether the sun is shining or we’re experiencing more of those April showers! Bluebell Watch has begun. Bluebells are a sure sign of the arrival of spring and there are opportunities to see gorgeous displays from now until mid May. Two of my favourite viewing spots are Basildon Park in Berkshire and Hartland Abbey in Devon.

Bluebell Walk at Hartland Abbey, Devon

Bluebell Walk at Hartland Abbey, Devon

If you’re after something exciting and new, treat yourself to an guided tour of Westonbirt House in Gloucestershire, followed by a leisurely stroll through 28 acres of formal and pleasure gardens. This will be the first season that the house and gardens open for tours, book your tour now! Bookish types looking for a unique experience should head for the Bodleian Library in Oxford to one of their extended ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ guided tours. The tour takes you to parts of the buildings only very recently opened to the public. You will also see the vaulted ceiling of the Divinity School and the famous Radcliffe Camera. A day out at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, is so much more than just a visit to an historic house. The estate encompasses acres of parkland, a beach and a nature reserve. Join the team at Holkham for a guided walk around the nature reserve and spot the many species of wildlife living on the landscape.

Spring at Compton Verney

Spring at Compton Verney

Compton Verney in Warwickshire is famous for its incredible art collection but also features stunning ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped Parkland. Join in with this trail of the grounds and search for birds, insects and animals in the beautiful grounds. Worcester Cathedral are celebrating and commemorating the 800th anniversary of King John sealing the magna carta in June 1215 with a series of events and talks. Book quickly to reserve your place on one of these historic talks. For Mums and Dads looking to enjoy the outdoors with little ones, Nostell Priory in Yorkshire is the place to be! Take the buggy through the Tranquil Gardens on even paths and finish your relaxed day with a cup of tea in the café. Pontefract Castle in West Yorkshire recently secured Heritage Lottery Fund investment to open up never-before-seen parts of the castle to the public. If you’re interested in the fascinating history of the castle, pop along to this evening talk for an introduction to its history and conservation. Abbot Hall Art Gallery is one of Kendal’s most important buildings containing a wonderful permanent collection plus an imaginative temporary exhibition programme. Join a member of the curatorial team for an informal look at the gallery or take a guided walk around the exhibitions.

Abbot Hall Art Gallery in the sunshine

Abbot Hall Art Gallery in the sunshine

Abbotsford in Roxburghshire is the home of Sir Walter Scott and much of the stunning gardens and landscape remain as they were when Sir Walter created them between 1811 and 1825. Explore this landscape on a late spring bird song and binoculars walk. If you have ever fancied a different view of Chirk Castle, join one of their monthly rambles around the castle’s parkland with one of the rangers. Each month the walk will take a different route and all are different lengths and difficulties. Phew! I do hope you find a Talk or Walk here to inspire you! Remember to let me know if you attend any, and tweet me your pictures, I do so love receiving them!

Something a little bit different (Mrs Hudson is having a half term break, so someone else at Hudson’s wrote this for her)

Hudsons2015covershopHere at Hudson’s we love historic buildings, of any kind.  We all know that our beautiful country is full to bursting with beautiful stately homes, open to the public for visiting days but what about the hidden treasures? The stunning buildings housing our nation’s museums, town halls and shopping markets often get forgotten while we concentrate on their new purpose instead of enjoying the history of the actual bricks and mortar (or stone and wood in some cases!)

The Wisbech and Fenland museum is one of the oldest purpose built museums in the United Kingdom. Opened in 1847, the building’s exterior is a grand Victorian facade. Inside, features include the original 19th century showcases, which line the walls, and tell the history of this fascinating part of the world. The main exhibition room has the splendid Upper Gallery, reached by two beautiful curved wooden staircases. Home to many curios, scientific specimens and local antiques, the museum displays a wonderfully comprehensive local history.

Chester has been offering double the retail therapy to its visitors for 700 years! The facade of the two tiered shopping gallery the Rows was built in the medieval period to house the flourishing markets of the Middle Ages. Much restoration has been done to the Rows over time, and alterations have been made to make way for newer buildings. There are, however, some wonderfully preserved examples of the original medieval buildings, the most famous of which is known as Three Old Arches and is designated as a Grade 1 listed building by English Heritage.

The Theatre Royal at Bury St Edmunds is one of the last surviving examples of a working Regency Playhouse in the country. Built in 1819 and designed by renowned architect William Wilkins, whose other work includes the National Gallery in London, the Theatre Royal still has many original features intact, and is now Grade 1 listed. It is also included in National Trust’s portfolio. There are several ways to experience this intimate and historic building; guided tours are available and free flow self explore is also a possibility. During the Summer months, an interactive exhibition ‘Backstage Past’, featuring live actors, tells the 200 year history of the building.

Manchester Town Hall is an iconic landmark and one of the most important Grade 1 listed buildings in England. One of the country’s finest examples of Neo-Gothic architecture, the building was completed in 1877 and contains many grand and intricately decorated ceremonial rooms. The Great Hall features the famous Manchester Murals by Ford Madox Brown; a series of 12 paintings depicting Manchester’s history, and the Sculpture Hall contains statues of people who made significant contributions to the city. The clock tower which rises to 280 feet and houses Great Abel, the clock bell, is now open for tours during which you will enter the dial room behind the clock face and have the chance to take in the wonderful panoramic city views from the summit of the tower.

Lady Waterford Hall Interior2 cr

Lady Waterford Hall

What comes to mind when you think ‘village hall’? Lady Waterford Hall in North Northumberland breaks every preconception! The building was commissioned as a village school in 1860 by keen artist Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford, who was associated with John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Lady Waterford spent 21 years decorating the inside of the hall with stunning Biblical scenes to act as a teaching aid for the school’s pupils. The history of these paintings is astounding; many of the villagers and schoolchildren were used as models and can be seen clearly depicted on the walls to this day.  Lady Waterford Hall is now used as the village hall in Ford and visitors can see many more of Lady Waterford’s artworks on display, as well as pages from her original sketchbooks.

Britain’s heritage is a diverse, rich, cultural tapestry. We love the unexpected history behind some of our more practical buildings. Are there any historic buildings near you with surprising or interesting stories? Tweet us @HudsonsHeritage

Mrs Hudson visits the Fens

Walpole and I

Walpole and I

These are the most beautiful days, chilly sunshine, frosty grass, blue skies, and gorgeous sunsets. Walpole and I have been visiting some friends in the Fens, now there’s the place to experience the most stunning sunsets. It is said you can still see the sun after it has gone down in this part of the country, it being so far below sea level and so incredibly flat. Wicken Fen is one of my favourite parts of the East of England; inhabited by Konik ponies and roe deer, it is the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve and home to more than 8,500 species of wildlife.

The history of the Fens is fascinating, and still so very tangible. One passes roads and tracks called First Cut or Second Drove, all names hailing back to the draining of the land in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. Before they were drained the Fens were fields of dark water, with habitable islands poking out of the murky mist. Inhabited by water-people; eel catchers, husbandmen, duck shooters, who travelled in punts and used

St John's Church in Peterborough

St John’s Church in Peterborough

phenomenally large punt guns to fell their prey. A quiet people, they kept themselves to themselves, adding a layer of mystery to the area. Fen people adapted their style of life easily to the marshland upon which they lived. Fen Tigers used stilts to propel themselves across the boggy ground, leading to tales of tall terrifying monsters inhabiting the murky fields. Mists rose regularly as on moorland, losing your way was easily done. One 18th Century Captain of the Peterborough Volunteer Corps, Matthew Wyldbore, told the story of how he lost his bearings in the marshlands, and was only able to retrace his steps home by following the sound of the bells of St John’s Church in the town’s marketplace.

Another famous Fen figure is St Guthlac of Croyland. Guthlac chose to live the life of a hermit at the age of 26 after fighting in the army of Æthelred of Mercia and subsequently becoming a monk. He lived in a barrow on the island of Croyland and suffered, quite horribly from ague and marsh fever. Famous for his holy and pious life he became a source of spiritual guidance to many. He gave sanctuary to a fleeing  Æthelbald, future king of Mercia, and Guthlac predicted his rise to the throne. Æthelbald promised to build him an abbey if his prophecy came true, and upon his ascension Æthelbald commissioned the construction of Crowland Abbey in memoriam to Guthlac, who had died two years previously. Crowland Abbey is well worth a visit; although some of the original nave has been destroyed a large part of the original structure remains and is a breathtaking sight.


Elton Hall near Oundle

The towns of the Fens have some wonderful offerings. The fen bordering town of Oundle boasts three treasures nearby; Elton Hall is a grand building with an eclectic mix of styles ranging from the 15th Century tower and chapel on the South Front to the Victorian revival of a mid-18th Century style Marble Hall and main staircase, designed by Henry Ashton. Southwick Hall comprising architecture from the 14th, 16th, 18th and 19th centuries boasts a crypt and a gothic room and a courtyard dominated by a circular turret which dates from part of the medieval house built about 1300. Finally the Church of St Mary and All Saints in Fotheringhay is an awe inspiring addition to the landscape, the distinctive tower dominates the skyline and can be seen from afar, towering majestically over the village and river. Godmanchester is home to the mid 18th Century mansion Island Hall, another treasure in the crown of the flatlands, featuring formal gardens and an ornamental island. Further towards the Wash and the mouth of the River Nene, Wisbech is home to both the childhood home of Octavia Hill, founder of the National Trust and also the grand Peckover House, a beautiful Georgian merchant’s townhouse. Peckover House which stands proudly on the bank of the river Nene, was lived in by the Quaker Peckover family for over 150 years and is open over three floors, also boasting two acres of outstanding gardens.

Castle Rising Castle

Castle Rising Castle

Eastwards again the Fens stretch beautifully into Norfolk bringing us to Oxburgh Hall in Kings Lynn, a moated manor house built in the 15th Century and proudly displaying needlework by Mary Queen of Scots. Houghton Hall, one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in England, was built by Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, and offers something for all the family from a model soldier museum, to a contemporary sculpture park and five acre garden. Castle Rising Castle is one of the finest and best preserved mid-12th Century Keeps in England, surrounded by an incredible 20 acres of earthworks, this was a favourite with Walpole! Rising is a castle of national importance with a fascinating history; it has been a hunting lodge, royal residence and even once housed a mental patient. This fabulous history is clear to see as soon as you enter the keep. The final stop on our journey is Holkham Hall, a wonderful Palladian House on the North Norfolk coast. The hall commands incredible views and boasts ownership of possibly the best beach in the country. The state rooms at Holkham are some my favourite, the house is lived in by the Coke family and retains a lovely family feel despite the gorgeous grandeur. A real must-see!

Holkham beach and nature reserve

Holkham beach and nature reserve

I love the East of England, and I do hope you will too!

Don’t forget to tweet me your pictures @HudsonsHeritage

Mrs Hudson recommends……..popping onto our events calendar

Walpole and I

Walpole and I

What wonderful weather we are experiencing! Now surely it’s time to get outdoors and find some beautiful places to visit. In fact, I’m doing so much visiting at the moment I’ve had no time to write a proper blog recently!

However, I imagine you’re all missing my recommendations hugely. So here’s one to keep you going; pop onto our events calendar here and have a gander at all the wonderful bits and pieces going on in the heritage world at the moment!

Have fun dears……and do remember to tweet me your pics @HudsonsHeritage

Mrs Hudson recommends…………………………a bank holiday bonanza

Walpole and I

Walpole and I

I’ve been so very busy lately I’m afraid I’ve neglected my recommendations somewhat. So here’s a lovely long quickfire list of suggestions for this bank holiday weekend. No excuses not to get out and about now my lovelies!!

Fancy a tipple? Clovelly are celebrating their local ales and ciders all bank holiday weekend.

Tips and tricks for the green fingered. Visit Helmingham Hall Garden’s Heritage Spring Plant Fair on Sunday.

Keep the kids entertained on a minibeast hunt at Holkham Hall  on Monday.

Crafts, antiques, food, entertainment and displays; something for everyone at Lamport Hall’s  festival of country life on Sunday and Monday.

Have some vintage family fun at Eastnor Castle  on Sunday and Monday with tea, jazz, garden games and Punch and Judy.

Shop for delicious food and crafty gifts at Weston Park’s Spring Food and Craft Fair on Monday.

Farmers market, vintage cars and tractors, finest Yorkshire farm produce- it’s all happening at Duncombe Park’s  Country Fair on Monday.

The Muncaster Festival  starts on Sunday and runs til Thursday. Daily shows, workshops, crafts and giant outdoor games- what more could you want?!

Well there’s my whistlestop tour of bank holiday recommendations. Don’t forget to let us know where you’ve been @HudsonsHeritage


Mrs Hudson Recommends………….more and more to do in May!

Walpole and I

Walpole and I

Gosh, what a wonderful month for heritage activity! There is so much to do and see in the UK’s beautiful castles, country houses and stately homes that I’ve had to write my recommendations over 2 blogposts! Wonderful!

Knebworth House has a plethora of exciting things happening in May, including a ghost tour and bat walk, Dino Day and a Mini and VW Car Show. Quite literally something for everyone!

Oxburgh Hall are running an architecture exhibition starting this month. You can learn all about the architectural history of the hall during your visit.

If you love Chamber Music then book your tickets for Holkham Hall’s concert on 10th May now! The Gould Piano trio will be performing in the Marble Hall and your ticket price includes a glass of wine served in the Saloon in the interval plus the opportunity to view some rooms in the Hall.

Hylands House have a packed programme this month. From creative jewellery making and creating enamel stencils to wedding preview days and the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a horse logger, this really is the place to be for fun, new and eclectic events!

Compton Verney are opening late on 16th May for you to see Moore Rodin. Join the curators tour of the exhibiton, stroll around the grounds and join the campfire fun in the woods.

Kiplin Hall and Fairfax House are also taking part in Museums At Night and opening their doors til late for you to explore and enjoy special and enjoy special candlelit performances.

Foutains Abbey and Studley Royal are offering the chance to travel back in time and unlock the secrets of a hidden herb garden and discover more about their herbal heritage.

Go pond dipping at Hopetoun House. A fun, family session during which children can learn all about frogs and toads and other beasties that live in Hopetoun Pond.

Phew! I need a sit down! Believe it or not, this is only a selection of what the heritage world has to offer this month, if you need more inspiration, go to and choose a region.

We love hearing from you when you’ve attended an event or visited an historic venue, we also love to see your photos. Tweet us @HudsonsHeritage  or find us on Facebook