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Sudeley Castle Gardens in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire reopened today with some rather special guests. A herd of life-sized elephant sculptures are roaming the grounds. Visitors can follow the one-way, covid-safe trail around the grounds with the help of a map at the entrance signposting where the elephants are. We were advised to take a photo of the map on arrival but you really can’t miss the elephants. The castle itself isn’t yet open, but the beautiful gardens, café and adventure playground are all open making it a fun family day out.
About Sudeley Castle Gardens
A total of ten award-winning gardens surround Sudeley Castle. Within those gardens, backdrops vary between the current castle, St Mary’s Church, ruins of the former castle building and the rolling Cotswold countryside. Whichever way you look, the view is spectacular. A fascinating fact about Sudeley Castle is that the last of Henry VIII’s wives, Katherine Parr is buried within St Mary’s Church in the castle grounds.
In addition to the stunning floral displays, each of Sudeley Castle’s gardens has its own historical significance. You can read more about each of them on the Sudeley website. The centrepiece is the Queens’ Garden, named after four English queens, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I. My girls were delighted to spot a living statue of Elizabeth I and another living statue on a bench in the herb garden. The huge carp in the Tithe Barn Garden were another highlight and just the name of the Secret Garden caused a lot of excitement.
There are benches around the gardens and we sat down on one to have our picnic. We felt very lucky that the sun came out for us while we did. Especially since we’d woken up to snow on the ground that morning! There is another picnic area by the entrance as well some benches with the adventure playground.
Sudeley’s elephant herd
The elephant family currently visiting Sudeley Castle Gardens consists of over 30 life-sized sculptures created from natural materials. The elephants won’t be there forever though, this is just the start of their global tour. They will remain at Sudeley until 31st May when they head off for the next stop on their tour. Interestingly, there was one less elephant than there was supposed to be when we visited. The missing one had got delayed on the Suez Canal.
The elephant herd has a special connection to Sudeley Castle. The current owner’s late husband Lord Ashcombe had a nephew, Mark Shand, who set up the Elephant Family conservation project. Its aim is to protect Asian elephants from harm and design landscapes that allow humans and elephants to coexist. The life-sized herd is modelled on the Indian elephants that Shand dedicated 27 years of his life to saving.
Seeing the elephant sculptures in Sudeley Castle’s beautiful gardens felt like a real treat. They are distributed around the grounds as individuals, pairs and groups. Each sculpture has a story or elephant fact on the sign next to it. Visitors can have their photo taken with some of them whilst others are roped off. For children, spotting the elephants made the walk around the gardens great fun.
The adventure playground
As well as the elephants, the other highlight of our visit was the impressive adventure playground. An obstacle course leads to the castle play area with slides, a rock climbing wall and a fireman’s pole. Next to that is a long zip wire that the girls absolutely loved. From there, you can head over to the rest of the obstacle course as well as swings and a little roundabout.
We spent a good hour in the play area if not more after we’d been around the castle. The girls would have happily stayed much longer. The adventure playground was the only part that felt quite busy. Nevertheless, there was plenty of equipment and the girls didn’t have to wait long to play on anything.
What you need to know about visiting Sudeley Castle Gardens
- What is open? From April 12th 2021, Sudeley Castle Gardens including the elephant family and the adventure playground are open. The Castle Pantry café is serving lunch outdoors and the gift shop is open. Indoor areas including the castle rooms, exhibitions and church will open from 12th May at the earliest in accordance with government guidance at the time.
- Is Sudeley Castle Gardens dog friendly? No. Only assistance dogs only are allowed in the castle grounds, gardens and children’s play area. However, dogs are welcome at the visitor centre and café.
- How long are the elephants at Sudeley Castle? The elephant family will be at Sudeley Castle from 12th April to 31st May. Then, they’re off to London to form part of a bigger herd on display in London’s Royal parks. After that they’ll be off to America to continue on their world tour.
- Can you take a picnic to Sudeley Castle? Yes. There are picnic areas available both in the grounds and by the adventure play area.
- Is there anywhere undercover in Sudeley Castle Gardens? At present, there is a covered outdoor area by the Castle Pantry café where visitors can eat.
- How can I book tickets for Sudeley Castle? Tickets need to be pre-booked online and can be purchased from the Sudeley Castle website.
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