The Duke of Marlborough has a very fine house with very fine grounds, which are open to the public and we are so very lucky to live so close! Our weekend guests wanted a walk, and as Sunday was crystal clear we drove to nearby Woodstock.
The Duke of Marlborough’s house is in fact Blenheim Palace: it is set in more than 2000 acres of parklands, which were landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, between 1764 and 1784. The grounds lie mainly to the west of Woodstock and are a mix of formal parkland, grazed grassland, rich woodland populated by pheasant and deer, plus there’s a large artificial lake to provide beautiful vistas, boating and fishing – which was formed by damming the river Glyme.
Here you can see the wonderful bridge spanning the lake
Visitors can see all of this by paying at the official entrances which are signposted in Woodstock: you have to pay whether you are on foot, or in the car. There’s so much to see and do: various tours, gardens and exhibitions plus there are frequently additional events laid on. Various ticket combinations are available, depending on whether you want to see all of it, including the house and formal gardens, or some of it, as we did…. but all we wanted was a walk in the park. (Maybe if it had been wet we should have taken our guests in to see the exhibition on Winston Churchill, since he was born there in 1874?)
A little local knowledge can help in these matters. I often walk in the park with a friend, by-passing the tourist gates…. as it is possible to enter the park on foot for free either via several public footpaths which go through the estate or via one of the private gates… (These gates can be found on each of the four sides of the estate. Each gate has information about the rules and regulations for access on it and these regulations should be followed.)
The gate we used is well-known to the locals and their children on small bikes or scooters. It gives access to a circular tour of the lake, or a more extended circuit, going via Combe Gate, taking in the areas which are used for the Blenheim Horse trials and pheasant shooting, around the back of the Pleasure Gardens, Butterfly House and the little train ride laid on for the children. As long as you don’t try then to get into an area where a ticket is needed a blind eye is turned to walking visitors just taking in the view.
Once off the regularly beaten track we met fewer walkers and just enjoyed the lovely October sunshine before stopping off for a pub lunch at The Black Prince in Old Woodstock.