I do love a Christmas display and I seem to be winning N around. When I told him I’d booked a Waddesdon Manor Christmas visit again, he wasn’t keen. But I suggested we’d revisit our timings, going later in the day, so he’d have some time beforehand and we’d hopefully be able to see the light display at the end of the day as well. I was keen to see what the art installation was as well – this year the theme was enchanted menagerie.
This year I booked house tickets for 2.20pm. Assuming an hour round the house, we’d have time to mooch round the Christmas market, looking at the installation around the aviary, and then see the lights and music display before catching the shuttle bus back. Most of the timings worked really well for us.
Arriving at 11 rather than 10 as usual, worked well. Much better than I expected – we had a fairly close parking space, and the queue to get to the visitor reception to check our passes moved quickly. We did wait a while for the bus, but no more than we would have done arriving earlier. It was cold standing waiting for the bus – I really do need to just take a hat and gloves out for N whether he wants them or not! I wasn’t too bad, but he was suffering. Although he did put up the hood on his new Trespass 3 in 1 coat so he was out of the wind after that.
Waddesdon Manor looked beautiful in the sun as we arrived, and it was a great idea to have the Christmas market stalls along the front walk rather than in the small area at the side and back. There was a lot more room for visitors to walk around the hall, although the stalls were still insanely busy and we didn’t get more than a look at them.
First stop was at the WigWam Café for hot chocolate and a sit down before we decided what to do. N was fairly relaxed at this point and it was lovely to sit down and have a nice relaxed chat (trying to take photos with some bokeh in) with him. The wigwam is great for a bit of Hygge relaxation and chill out, although did laugh at me sitting with a blanket over my legs.
We had time for a quick stop at the playground on the way down to lunch at The Stables. N loves the seesaw and net swing, so there was lots of laughter while he enjoyed that.
Our previous experience of The Stables restaurant is that it gets full really quickly, and it was too cold to sit and eat in the outdoor area. So we headed to the Stables for 11.50. Amazingly, there were still plenty of seats so it was perfect timing. The queues came about 20 minutes after we arrived.
All we wanted was a sandwich. But it seems that while N was easily catered for with a children’s lunch box (other alternatives were tomato pasta or sausage sandwich), non-fussy, non-seasonal food was hard to come by for adults unless you wanted a burger. The 3 sandwiches on offer involved a lot of apricots, or other random ingredients, the soup was mushroom, and there were no longer jacket potatoes on the menu. So I ended up with a kids sausage sandwich with came with 3 soggy potato wedges. The sausage sandwich was on a brioche bun and was delicious, but the choice was disappointing. I don’t know if the outdoor kiosk had plainer sandwiches but we weren’t given the option to see and then eat that inside.
After a speedy lunch, it was time to investigate the Stables further and see what seasonal activities were going on. Usually there’s quite a bit going on for children, but this time the arts and crafts room was for writing to Father Christmas. It’s a cramped room, and once you’ve 4 families in there it’s hard to move around, and nowhere near as special as the old room they’ve had previously. There’s another ice cream/café area in the Stables which we didn’t notice until we walked around. It’s good to have that extra refreshments option, but sad that now takes up room from other activities.
N did write his letter to Father Christmas – I did remind him that there wouldn’t be a reply from this letterbox, only the one if we post one from home. But he didn’t care. The letter was pretty brief too, but I’m pleased how well he worked out his spelling and wrote nice and neatly. He can do it when he wants to.
Then it was time for the playground. Before N was old enough to go on the big slide, he always asked to go on it. But now he’s old enough, he won’t go on it. It was close this time, but still no. Instead it was all about the obstacle courses. It’s great to see children develop and grow in confidence, although N wasn’t impressed when I laughed at him slipping on camera – hopefully he’ll find it funny when he sees the video. Maybe a You’ve Been Framed moment.
We’ve never done Alice’s Walk before, a woodland walk around part of the grounds. This time the lanterns were lit along the path, with displays of animal based creative lanterns ready to be lit once dusk fell. We walked a bit of the way to see some of the creations, before it was time to head back to the house.
Enchanted menagerie house displays
The last 2 years in Waddesdon Manor have been quite spectacular, breath-taking even. This year’s was interesting but not as amazing.
We liked that instead of collecting stickers, children can look out for numbered baubles to open all the doors on their 12 days of Christmas advent calendar. N loved that, and it did mean that we didn’t have to wait for people who were chatting to the volunteers to get his stickers like in previous years.
The animal theme went through the Batchelors’ Wing of the house. The lights were beautiful and the house didn’t seem as crowded as in previous years. So I don’t know if they’d cut down the numbers getting tickets or whether we just timed it well.
It’s always lovely to see a Christmas market, and this year was a lot better having it along the drive. However, it was still just too packed to get near a lot of the stalls. I presume a lot of people just visit Waddesdon for the Christmas market and to stay for the light displays even if they can’t get in the house. We rushed through the stalls not really seeing anything we wanted to push through the crowds for.
The Aviary and lights
N really wanted to see the aviary for the water fountain. Usually when it’s warmer weather, he’ll spend ages there with his fingers in, but this time he just wanted some money to throw in and make some wishes. I’d love to know what he wished for, but afterwards would only tell me that he
‘should have wished that I could have met Father Christmas on Christmas eve’.
Around the aviary there were a few large light sculptures but no trail. So it was a fleeting visit – definitely not warm enough to sit and just relax. With an hour to fill until the house light and music display, we knew we’d not have enough to do to wait. So for the second year running we ended up back on the bus missing the display. Maybe next year, we’ll be there an hour later again in the hope of making it! And hopefully coordinating with friends so there’ll be more entertainment for the children to hang around.
It was a lovely day out with N again, and certainly one in a lot of people’s calendars too. If you want to check out the Waddesdon Manor Christmas events, I’ve been informed that the days inbetween Christmas and New Year are always quieter (there’s no Christmas market after 10th Dec). Previously they released limited house tickets at 10am each day but this year it’s advance tickets only.
As always it was a lovely start to the Christmas period, but next year we’ll have to make sure we are still there for the light an music show.
What Christmas displays do you visit?
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