We got a little side-tracked round the back of the garden centre and ended up here:
Well, this was just the appetiser: the old stable block. Yes this was a stable block!
Still when you see the house (although I'm not sure 'house' does the place justice?) round the corner, you can see why it's just the stables:
This is Wentworth Woodhouse, reportedly the largest privately owned house in the world? It has the longest facade in Europe, with 365 rooms inside there. And given the size of it, very few people have ever heard of it. I have to confess it's become a bit of an obsession since reading Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of a Great English Dynasty a few years back, but this is the first time we've actually made it to see the house.
Unfortunately, being privately owned, it's not opened to the public in any way, as the many notices pointed out. But there is a nice public footpath that runs next to it! It's no longer in the hands of the landed gentry as you might expect, their Earldom having died out a few years back - although most of the land around here is still owned by the remaining family. Having been neglected for a while it is currently being renovated by the current owner and featured in Country Life last year. Yes I do have this copy, my only copy of Country Life I'd like to add. Did I mention it's a bit of an obsession?!
So what's this all got to do with the Garden Centre trip? Well the Garden Centre is in the old walled garden (another obsession, but let's not go there this time!) round the back. I can't remember the last time I actually bought anything garden related there, but they've got a great cafe (now actually a huge restaurant), a selection of shops to keep us all happy, a park for the kids and various bits of restored gardens from the original estate - including the newly restored maze we spent an amusing half an hour getting the children lost in!
So, after first refuelling with a coffee and a huge piece of cake, we then bought new toys for the cats in the pet and aquatic centre (aka free aquarium), a new walking stick for Mrs D, a bag of sweets each for the kids and a book for me. About the old walled garden there. Did I mention obsessed...