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 been, so I was excited to see what a visit to the Vyne would be like. Since then we’ve been back to see inside the house too, so we’ve update the post to include that. Read on to discover what all the best things to see and do at the Vyne.
Updated in March 2023
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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. It started as a medieval manor house, but was expanded extensively by Sandys. The Vyne grew in grandiosity and became a vast mansion, where the family could entertain royals and courtiers. Lord Sandys was a close companion of the king, who visited him at the Vyne three times (with two different wives).
After a decline in the Sandy family’s fortunes, Chaloner Chute, a barrister, bought the Vyne in 1653 and lived there with his family. Chute undertook some major restoration work at the Vyne, which included extensive demolition work.
The Chute family still own the Vyne, but it’s now 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
We started our visit to the Vyne with a walk in the woods. Rather than heading to the house, follow the path straight ahead towards Morgaston Woods.
You have a choice of three woodland trails, all of which are fairly short and very family-friendly. We chose the longest, the brown trail, a circular walk of about 2.3 miles.
This flat 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 wellies or walking shoes. It can also be uneven underfoot, as there are a lot of roots on the pathway.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t wearing mud-friendly shoes, so struggled in the mud. However, the latter part of the route is paved, so I completed the walk without slipping over!
The woodland walk at the Vyne is perfect for children. Along the way there’s plenty of areas to explore, logs to climb and a den-building area. If you remember some paper and crayons, you can do woodland animal brass rubbings. You’ll also find plenty of wildlife for a nature hunt.
History-lovers can look out for the remains of a medieval fish pond and the remnants of a WWII storage site.
The brown trail takes about 40 minutes at a leisurely pace, but you could extend this if you want a longer walk. It’s also an ideal place for dog walking.
If you don’t want a walk in the woods, head straight for the gardens or house.
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.
The wetlands at the Vyne attract a wide diversity of wildlife, including birds and some water voles. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot anything other than the swans and ducks on the lake in front of the house.
In front of the house is the manicured North Lawn, which is ideal for picnics in the summer. Before going into the house, we walked down to the ornamental lake to meet some very friendly swans. From here you can get the best view of the whole house.
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.
Exploring the Vyne House
As we’d been unable to go inside the house on our first visit to the Vyne, I was keen to see what it was like.
The Vyne was a family home to the Chutes for over 350 years, and today you can still see many of the family’s furnishings and personal items. This includes fine ceramic ware, tapestries, and many paintings.
You’ll pass through an elegant drawing room, laid out as it would have been in the days of the Chutes.
You can also look at the Tudor chapel room with its stained-glass windows and marble monument to Chaloner Chute.
There are National Trust volunteers on hand to explain the complicated family history of Chute.
You can only visit downstairs, so the visit inside the Vyne house doesn’t take long. You can exit via the gift shop and go out to the gardens.
Exploring the formal gardens at the Vyne
Set over 9 hectares, the gardens are not enormous, but are neat, with well-kept flower beds. You can explore the walled garden with its vegetables, orchard, and dahlia beds.
One of the highlights of the gardens at the Vyne is the domed summer house. The summer house was originally one of a pair and was possibly the earliest domed garden building in the UK. It was built to provide a focal point in the garden and was used to provide a sheltered viewing point.
The Summer House had several uses over the years. In the 1600s it was used as a Banqueting House, where guests would retire for dessert. Later, in the 1800s, it was used as a Tea House and then a pigeon house.
The Hundred Guinea Oak Tree
One special tree to look out for in the Vyne gardens is the Hundred Guinea Oak. This ancient tree is thought to be 650 years old, thanks to John Chute.
Diary entries reveal that during the Battle of Trafalgar a naval officer made Chute an offer of £100 for the tree. The officer was so desperate for timber that when Chute declined, he returned the next day with a new offer of 100 guineas. This just led Chute to hold his ground, stating that “Any tree that increases in value by £5 overnight is too valuable an investment to lose”.
It’s amazing to look up at the tree today, imagining that King Henry VIII would have stood in the very same spot.
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, but it’s best to pre-book, even if you are a member. (On our most recent visit, we didn’t get a place, but did find a space on a nearby country road.)
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 17:00. (Last entry is at 16:00)
The house is open from 11:00 to 15:00.
Eating at the Vyne
You’ll find a cosy tea room, The Brewhouse, which serves a selection of light meals, cakes and drinks. We had soup and some tasty cake. There is also an outside refreshment area.
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Have you been on a visit to the Vyne? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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