This weekend we made our first visit to the Vyne, a magnificent Tudor house, in Hampshire, South-East England. With the restrictions of the second lockdown lifted, we were keen to get out and continue making the most of our new National Trust membership.
Although it’s only about 30 mins from where we live, we’d never actually been, so I was excited to see what a visit to the Vyne would be like.
As with all National Trust properties, we needed to pre-book our tickets. Tickets are released Fridays, but are booked quickly, so you need to plan ahead, even if you’re a member.
Of course, with current restrictions, Vyne House remains closed to the public, but the gardens and woodland walks are open. And luck was on our side. After a week of grey skies and rain, I’d booked a gorgeous day with blue skies and sunshine.
On arrival we checked in at the Visitor Reception, where a guide explained the covid precautions. We bought a Peter Rabbit winter adventure activity pack and were ready to explore. The pack includes an activity sheet with things to look out for at the Peter Rabbit themed sign posts along the way.
A one-way system is now in place at the Vyne and this took us straight ahead along the park boundary towards Morgaston Wood. Within minutes, we had an impressive view of The Vyne House from across the ornamental lake.
A brief history of the Vyne
The Vyne is a magnificent Tudor house built in 1500-1520 for Lord William Sandys, King Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain. Lord Sandys was a close companion of the king, who visited him at the Vyne three times (with two different wives).
Later, the Vyne estate passed to the Chute family, who still own it today, though it’s under the care of the National Trust.
Other famous visitors to The Vyne include the Chute’s friends Jane Austen and her sister. The Austen girls attended dances in the late 18th century, whilst their brother, James, was vicar in the local village of Sherborne St John.
A woodland walk at the Vyne
Then we headed into the woods. You have a choice of three woodland walks at the Vyne. We chose the longest, the brown trail, a circular walk of about 2.3 miles.
This flat, family-friendly route follows a woodland path next to the bubbling Wey Brook. But, take care! When it’s winter it can get very muddy, so wear some wellies or walking shoes.
Along the way there’s plenty of places to explore, climb logs or make dens. If you remember some paper and crayons, you can do woodland animal brass rubbings.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t wearing mud-friendly shoes, so struggled in the mud. Luckily the latter part of the route is paved, so I completed the walk without slipping over!
The brown trail takes about 40 minutes at a leisurely pace, but you could extend this if you want a longer walk. We saw very few people along the way so it’s ideal for social distancing. It’s also a great place for dog walking.
The Wetlands at the Vyne
Our woodland walk led us back past the park to a lakeside gate which leads to the house. The path follows a zigzag walkway to a bird hide. It continues down to the water meadow, overlooking the wetlands.
Unfortunately, the bird hide remains closed, but the wetlands attract a wide diversity of wildlife. We saw a variety of birds on the lake and in the reeds.
Vyne House & Gardens
Although the house at the Vyne is currently closed to the public, we could walk round the formal gardens. In front of the house is the manicured North Lawn, which would be ideal for picnics in the summer. We went down to the ornamental lake to meet some very friendly swans.
The house is a Grade-1 listed building with impressive architecture and some important historical features. At the front you’ll see the grand neo-classical portico, added in the 17th Century by John Webb. Large wooden doors and stone sculptures also add an air of splendour to this mansion.
Outside you can see the domed summer house, which was originally one of a pair and was possibly the earliest domed garden building. Set over 9 hectares, the gardens are not enormous, but are neat, with well-kept flower beds. As we were there in December, not much was in bloom, but I would imagine they look splendid in summer.
Although the house is closed, the café is open and currently offers a range of tempting winter warmers.
Although it would be good to explore inside the house, there is still plenty to enjoy outside. It was a great venue for a winter walk and I’m sure we’ll make a return visit to the Vyne.
How to get to the Vyne
The Vyne is in the pretty village of Sherborne St John near Basingstoke in Hampshire, UK.
The postcode is RG24 9HL. Once you get close, follow the National Trust brown signs and it is easy to find. Parking is free.
If you are going by public transport, the nearest train station is in Basingstoke. However, it is about a 2-mile walk from here, so it’s probably easier to take a taxi.
Admission is free for National Trust Members. If you’re not a member, admission prices can be found here.
Opening hours at The Vyne
The gardens at The Vyne are currently open from 10:00 to 16:00.
Tickets must be pre-booked in advance here.
Have you been on a visit to the Vyne? We’d love to hear your comments below.
Pin for later: A visit to The Vyne, Hampshire
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