Belton House is one of Littlelish and my favourite hangouts. I’m not sure that we’ve even been in the house which is stunning because with a 2 year old it is always the gorgeous gardens and giant wooden adventure playground that have a magnetic pull. So far it has always been a fair weather kind of destination. But the clever folks at Belton House have noticed we seem to get rather a large amount of rain in this country (hmmm hadn’t noticed!) and have decided to convert one of the many outbuildings of the main house into an indoor play area. Seen as the sun has still not decided to make an appearance we went to see what it was like and loved it!
Despite being located in the grounds of the stately home the look and feel of the play area is very modern. My kind of modern, the kind of design that I miss from Holland. It is located in a lofty barn which has been kitted out with a lovely warm yet industrial style cafe where they serve lush coffee and cake as well as warm meals. They have made one half of the barn the cafe and the other the play area. It is not big enough to lose any children which is fab as you can generally always spot them from the comfort of your seat (with said coffee and cake) unless of course they are hiding in a tunnel. Littlelish is not the kind of child to toddle off and play sans mummy in a play area. Who would play crawling in the goblins cave or sleeping in the rabbits warren with her? So off I went to explore, but I have to say I was more than happy to, it looked fun!
They have kept the play area natural, no garish colours normally found in soft play. The construction is built from wood with faux grass and water on the floor area. There are hills, mushrooms, bee hives and a giant toadstool in and among the slides and climbing apparatus. The walls are papered with forest, it was lovely and relaxing which can not often be said about a play area! I found this really stimulated the imagination, much, much more than a normal soft play place. You felt like you were climbing to the tree tops, scampering through rabbits warrens or making honey in a bee hive… honestly you did! Littlelish loved exploring all the areas and I was dragged along for the ride which I have to state was rather necessary as it was near on impossible for her to climb up onto most of the apparatus, it was just too tall. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose but it seemed we were not the only ones struggling and there were children of 4 that also had to have their mothers lift them up or hold their hand whilst exploring. There are some things to do on ground level but it all seems very geared to climbing up up up which wasn’t easy for the little ones. Luckily she has a very obliging mother ;)
I especially loved the addition of little panels where you could press a button to hear the sound of bees or a waterfall or smell honey, cut grass and wet soil. It all added to the natural feel and gave the play area an extra dimension which I liked. We spent a good few hours playing all kinds of imaginary games and put all the structure to the test – mummy even went down the slides and in the very cramped ‘goblin’s house’.
I’d definitely suggest it is worth a trip if you are in the area and a national trust member (otherwise entrance to the grounds, not including the house, will cost 9.50 for Adults, 6.30 for children including gift aid). Don’t forget to check out the beautiful formal gardens, parkland, adventure playground and secondhand book store located in the stables (where I also managed to pick up some vintage maps and sewing magazines for 50p!). It is a great family destination, now come rain or shine! http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/belton-house/