We visited Gilbert White House and Gardens to see what there was to do with kids, and we were pleasantly surprised at how well the house was geared up for both families, and older children. The house is set in the lovely village of Selborne. Be careful when you are trying to find it though; park next to the pub, the Selborne Arms, following the signs in the car to the car park for the house.
You can walk through a pleasant pathway from the back car park to the house. Easy to find when you KNOW it’s there, less so when you are new to the area. 😂
Before exploring the house and how it is a great place for families to visit, let’s take a little look at the house and garden’s and understand what makes the location tick.
What is Gilbert White House and Gardens?
This house was the home of the 18th century naturalist Gilbert White. The naturalist kept a diary about his garden from 1751 – 1793, so the history of planting within the garden is known well. The grounds are extensive, with a number of different locations including:
- Six Quarters, which is an area surrounded by walls and hedges,
- Naturalist’s Garden, which includes a gorgeous pond,
- Meadow, which is managed as a habitat for wildflowers,
- Kitchen Garden, where Gilbert White grew for the house. The varieties in the garden are those that would have been grown in his time
- Fruit Trees, which include some gorgeous varieties that are perfect for teaching kids about orchards and produce,
- Hotbeds, which were used to grow melons and cucumbers and use the ancient method of heating using straw and manure, and the
- Haha, which is the ditch that runs around the garden.
Below we have outlined our ideas of what to do with the kids.
Inside the house is a museum dedicated to the main owners of the house, including:
- Gilbert White’s exploration of the natural world, including his many specimens and ideas about the natural world,
- Frank Oates, which was a naturalist that sadly died reaching Victoria Fall s in 1875, and
- Captain Oates from the doomed mission to the Antarctic with Scott on the Terra Nova in June 1910.
The sign outside the house shows the historical locations that are featured within its walls.
Without understanding the residents from the house – you might think that it was a little out of place….
We have come up with 10 reasons why the house and gardens are a great place to visit with your kids. What else worked for you while you were there? Do let us know.
1. Plenty of space to get rid of that pent up energy: Gilbert White House and Gardens is set on a vast estate, and the gardens, particularly the meadow, are an excellent place for kids to explore. There are three guided walks, ranging from 15mins to 45mins in length, so for little and big legs.
2. Learning to read follow way paths: We know this might sound like something so simple, it isn’t worth calling out, but little ones, and old ones love to use way markers to find their own way. It gives them a great feeling of being in control of the other adults they are out and about with. You will be surprised how your toddler, and even older children, will love to follow the waymarks for the three levels of walk and order you around! 😂
When you are smaller, lots of adults control what you are and aren’t allowed to do, so it’s nice to give the kids back a little control, and help them to lead on the walks.
3. Lots of ways to explore photography: Photography is incredibly accessible for children these days, from Kidizoom cameras, to their Smart Phones. There is loads to explore. As the house and gardens are varied, it is fun for kids to use their imagination with their photos in the grounds and keep even the oldest of them entertained. From taking slightly more arty shots, to exploring the gardens and the house, there is plenty to keep them busy.
4. Learning about the natural world: Gilbert White was one of the foremost naturalists from the 18th Century, and some of the specimens that he gathered are fascinating to the young and old. The stuffed animals will peak their interest, particularly if you relate some of the animals to the current day. The penguins in particular will be interesting to the younger children – which penguin does their height match to?
5. Exploring the flowers in the garden: Depending on the time of year you visit, there should be a range of flowers and plants within the garden, to both photograph, appreciate and explore. The colours are likely to be most vibrant within the spring, and summer, but even the autumn brings the turning leaves, and the fruit on the trees.
6. Checking out the wine pipe seat: This is located within the meadow, and makes for a spot of fun for young and old alike. Have a go at taking a picture through the hole in the barrel. Even your teens might find this fun…and the younger ones may have a few creative ideas as well.
7. Making a wish in the well: Why not drop in a coin into the well in the Naturalist’s Garden? This is an original well, and kids will love to close their eyes, and drop their coin in and wish with their eyes tightly shut.
8. Pond exploring: The pond in the naturalist garden has a number of newts within it; Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris), Palmate newt ( Lissotriton helveticus) and Great Crested newt (Triturus cristatus). It is used for organised educational activities, but kids can be careful here and see what they can spot too if they aren’t in an organised pond dipping session.
9. Exploring the Antarctic with Oates: The exhibition about Oates within the house is poignant, and impressive at the same time. The materials, and equipment used at that time are a stark reminder of how hard it was for the men in 1910. And the results of the exhibition show how brave, and desperate Oakes must have been when he left his tent. For older children interested in both conversation and history, the museum provides a space to learn in an interactive and meaningful way.
10. Getting a cake or a cookie in the cafe: Always a bonus when the cafe has lovely cakes and cookies, and everyone in the family is bound to like these.
We hope that you like these ideas, we certainly enjoyed exploring some of them, as you can see with the photographs that we have shared with you today. All of these were taken by my teenage son, so you know we are using our own advice.
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We hope to see you again.