may day a Sulgrave Manor - Bubbablueandme

May day celebrations at Sulgrave Manor

It’s not often we ever really see May Day celebrations anymore, but I’d spotted the event at Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire, and decided it would probably a good place to take N for the day.

may day a Sulgrave Manor - Bubbablueandme

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I didn’t know anything about Sulgrave Manor before going apart from there being links to the US and George Washington.  It turned out to be a lovely Tudor and Georgian manor house, built and lived in by ancesters of the first US president George Washington.  It’s also on the endangered historic buildings list so worth a visit.

It wasn’t expensive for the entry to the May Day celebrations and gardens (free for under 5s) but it is another £5 for a tour round the house.  I’d have liked to have gone round, but a formal tour wouldn’t really be good for a preschooler in my view, so decided against it.

There was plenty else to do for children though.  Firstly N insisted on sitting to have a snack.  He’d taken his paddlepak grab bag* with him having packed it with snacks of his choosing, and he did manage to carry it round all day which was good.  It’s so cute seeing him with his ‘boy-bag’.

snack time on a bench

Then we started on the children’s trail, to spot and mark off the sheep we spotted on his answer sheet.

sulgrave manor gardens

The gardens were lovely with the flowers that were in bloom looking quite brilliant in the sunshine.  You wouldn’t believe how warm it was with N in his wellies!

walking in wellies

There were plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and ask about.  This mini hedge had N asking why it was there, and he recognised the lovely little blacksmith’s hut for what it was.

checking the hedge

I love tulips, and these one were beautiful with the sun streaming down.

red tulips

There were a lot of these bell type flowers lining the paths with bees buzzing all around them.  It was really too sunny to see what I was photographing so I had to resort to snapping vaguely in the right direction with my phone, in the hope of getting a bee shot. This was the best I managed.

flora and fauna flowers and bees at Sulgrave Manor

I really like how lots of historic places do trails for children.  It keeps them interested and makes me spot a lot more than I might have done.  I loved this old water pump and it prompted a discussion on having to pump water for the animals.

water pump

For the May day event there was also a tent of tudor games for children to have a go at playing.  Of course N refused to take part, even when the ‘tudor’ woman tried to persuade him.  Instead he was quite happy to continue looking for sheep and finding all the different routes around the edge of the house.

doorway at Sulgrave Manor

Although I didn’t get to hear or see the house tour, there were still some displays in this walk way to read and discover a bit more about the history.

display at Sulgrave Manor

The next event at Sulgrave Manor is Independence Day which I quite fancy going to – I’m all for special events because tourist places do put so much effort into them.

US flag at Sulgrave Manor

There are touches of the Washingtons all over the grounds, this bust of George is quite a surprise to see as you round the corner.

George washington bust

I managed to persuade N to join me at the sundial so we could tell the time using it.  Nearly lunch time, so off he marched. N loved the grass pathways through the middle of the flower beds.  Anything that’s a bit different or unexpected he does enjoy.

sundial in the garden at Sulgrave Manor

The only downside about Sulgrave Manor is that there isn’t a restaurant. There’s a place selling refreshments and snack type meals.  For the event, drinks were being sold in the room used for the craft activities, and there was a room with crafts and gift stalls where you could buy pasties, sausage rolls, sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks.  Seating was fairly limited but we managed to grab a picnic table in the courtyard where the music and dancing was happening.  Unfortunately the music slot was cut shot from an hour to under 30 minutes due to broken guitar strings and setting up.  but we did get to hear the guy play and sing while we ate.

singer and guitar player at May Day celebrations

Several of our NCT friends had also gone to the event so some of them joined us to eat lunch.  It’s always nice to catch up.  Then it was time for the morris dancing.  I’m not a huge morris dancing fan, but it’s a lovely English tradition, and N really enjoyed watching it and listening to the musicians.

morris dance english folk musicians

Any opportunity to watch different styles of dancing and listen to different music genres is what my #MusicExploration monthly link is about, trying to broaden childrens understanding and appreciation of different styles.  So we can tick off old english folk music as a success with N.

Oxfordshire morris dancers

Before we left we headed over to watch the fun dog show.  For quite a small attraction, Sulgrave’s events are obviously popular because it was really busy.  N and his friend were intrigued by the number of different types of dogs. Chihuahuas raised his eyebrows (I’m not surprised!), and he seemed quite taken by the basset hounds with their tummies virtually on the ground.  He’s used to bigger dogs like labradors, collies, alsations and spaniels so all the smaller dogs were a bit of a mystery to him.

We didn’t stay long, and had to go before the maypole dancing and crowning of the May king and queen.  But it was a lovely day out, and there’s more to see for another visit.

Were you involved with, or visit any May day celebrations?


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  1. Hi Bubbablue,
    So glad that you and N enjoyed your day here at Sulgrave. We try very hard to make all our event days fun and interesting for all ages. Please do try our Independence Day Celebrations on Saturday 4th July, Harvest Fayre, Sunday 27th September and Christmas Market, the weekend of 28th & 29th November. Then it’s back to May Day fun again next year on 2nd May 2016. Entrance prices to these days are kept affordable and although there are things that you can spend some extra money on, you can still come along, spend no more than your entrance fee and have a great day.

    In answer to some of the above comments.

    Re opening times.

    I agree that our opening times are limited but unfortunately weekday opening didn’t work for us. We are a small independent charity and obviously there is a cost associated with opening and I’m afraid that not enough people were visiting during the week. I would love to be open more, especially during the summer months and we are actively seeking ways that we can do that without it having a negative financial impact on the Trust.
    Currently we are open at weekends between April 1st and October 31st and on weekdays during August, excepting Mondays – it IS far too complicated!

    We are open all year round for pre-booked groups and schools. Last year 189 schools, mostly primary, came and enjoyed one of our Education Days. One school came back for its 21st consecutive, annual visit! We are more than happy to taylor a group tour for families and children.

    With regard to childrens’ tours, we stopped doing these in 2013 for the same reason. It was a shame because both our visitors and guides loved them. However whenever children are present during one of our normal house tours we include the youngsters and invariably get them to be the kitchen maid or spit boy. Which always goes down well with the adults present. However given Sarah’s comment above I will re-look at this – keep an eye on our website .

    Sorry, very long winded!
    Please do visit, there’s nothing we love more than sharing our very special, historically significant site and the stories of the manor and the Washington family with our visitors.

    Cymon Snow
    General Manager
    Sulgrave Manor

    1. Thanks for popping by and commenting. Unfortunately we’re already somewhere else on the 4th July although I have it down as a back up. I love where there are special events on.

  2. What a beautiful building and the grounds look lovely – your photos of the flowers are just gorgeous. Love the sound of the May Day celebrations and sounds like they were interesting. I can’t remember the last time I saw any traditional May Day celebrations but think I might try and find something next year as would be an interesting thing for my girls to experience.

  3. Gorgeous photos, the flowers are stunning. Looks like a lovely day out.

  4. What a lovely place to visit and it’s nice to see some may day celebrations and morris dancing is essential for that 🙂
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids

    1. Yes, it feels like morris dancers should be there. Just wish I’d stayed to see the maypole dancing, although I might have wanted to join in.

    1. I know I’ve been meaning to go for years, but whenever I’ve looked it’s not been open etc. Definitely check out opening times before going though, because they’re fairly limited outside summer weekends.

  5. Really? I thought most primary schools would celebrate it. The ones round here certainly do, with Maypole dancing, and sometimes may day parades. Lovely English tradition

  6. We went to Sulgrave Manor a few years ago and really enjoyed it. We did a special children’s tour – I wonder if they still do them – and the kids really enjoyed it. It was a lovely place to visit, but you were luckier than us with the weather (it poured the whole time!) #countrykids

    1. They still do a lot of school tours, so they must have some kind of children’s tour. Makes sense to mix them up to cater for families.

  7. I’ve heard about Sulgrave Manor before and have thought about visiting but I’ve never quite got around to it so good to read your review.

    My kids always stop to watch Morris Dancers too. We were in Oxford recently when the Folk Festival was on and they insisted on watching them for ages (I wasn’t so keen). #countrykids

  8. No May Day celebrations would be complete without some Morris dancers! Sounds like a success and a lovely day to visit. It made me laugh N in his wellies, Guy has only just stopped wearing his everywhere he goes. thank you for sharing Sulgrave Manor on Country Kids.

  9. That looks totally like my kind of place to visit. I love old houses and the gardens look beautiful x

    1. Same. I think it’s a sign of being settled in a family, and trying to get the history in. I would never have been interested before. Especially in gardens. Can’t stand doing it myself, but love taking photos of them, and appreciating them more.

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