With a long, long journey ahead of us for our holiday we decided to break things up bit. When we looked at what was half way between home and our destination Stratford-Upon-Avon really jumped out at me. Its in the ideal spot, 2.5 hours from home and from Minehead, and has loads of amazing places to visit. Of course high on my list of possible places to visit was the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust buildings.
My love of Shakespeare
Me being the massive literature nerd that I am, I really wanted to walk the streets of Stratford-Upon-Avon. I wanted to see what had become of the place where the amazing Shakespeare was born. I have loved Shakespeare since college when I discovered that Macbeth wasn’t the only thing he wrote!
Those of you who know me when I started out as a book blogger may remember a dream bookish destination post. Those posts were a series where I highlights bucket list destinations of mine, relating to literature. It was one of my first posts of the series, and highlighted Shakespeare’s Birthplace as my ideal destination. I wanted to visit so badly! So it was amazing to be able to go, and share the experience with my little girl!
Mary Arden’s Farm
We managed to secure a pass which allowed access to all five locations owned by the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust. I knew that Spike wouldn’t be as enamoured with the town houses as I was so we decided to visit Mary Arden’s Farm on the way into Stratford first.
The farm is magical. The village its situated is the prettiest place ever and is firmly rooted as a place I’d want to live. We arrived later than we wanted, at around 1pm. The farm was bustling but not so much that we couldn’t get around. We went though the reception into the beautiful Rickyard. Here there was a lady doing tudor crafts and a cafe with locally sourced food which I thought was a brilliant touch. We sat down for lunch then headed off to find the cow that was making so much noise while we ate!
We found her and a calf round the corner, in a barn next to a room where they showed you how cider was made in tudor times. I really enjoyed seeing all the old ‘machinery’ in action throughout the farm and it was amazing to just watch people walking around doing day-to-day farming jobs in their tudor gear.
From the farmyard, where we met geese, chickens, ducks, pigs and Ellie the Horse, we went into Palmer’s farmhouse to have a nosey. In there we met a family around a table eating their Tudor Dinner. This is a daily performance around lunchtime that was fantastic. They were happy to tell us all about their way of life and a memorable part of the information they shared was about how pisspots weren’t thrown from windows as people may believe. They were kept and disposed of properly because they were actually a source of income. Waste was used to make other things in those days apparently, which is fascinating to know – especially as it means it wasn’t actually considered waste!
Had we had more time we would have spent a lot of time in the Falconry field. There were beautiful gardens right by the birds which I could easily sit and read in. And a display was expected to happen around the time we were at the farm by the Falconry Master. However we chose to move on after we met the birds – which were really impressive. The Great Eagle was by far the most exciting but Spike was a little scared of him! I loved how they have the birds in order of size. You are wowed by the gorgeous tiny barn owl then as you move round you meet a kestrel. Then a few more owls and birds and suddenly are eye-to-eye with the Eagle Owl and the Giant Eagle. I would recommend going and visiting these magical creatures for sure!
Feret Hall and Mary Arden’s House
We walked through the Ferry Hall, which wasn’t too eventful as the ferets were all napping! To the Wise Woman’s hut and the Horse Doctor’s hut, which I loved. The magical touch was another tiny owl in the Horse Doctor’s hut. We met chickens and played a game of Quills and Ladders on the giant game board. Then I took in the beauty of Mary Arden’s house, from the outside as Spike was not for letting me go in once she’d noticed the goats.
We fed the toast for a while and took off through past the archery range, round the lake, said hello to the Donkey’s and took off into the orchards and woods.
Quite possibly my favourite part of all of Mary Arden’s Farm was the Willow Walk. We spend far too much time in here though and got caught up in the magic of the fairies that could live in those woods. Spike loved the Willow Tunnel and at one point I thought I was going to lose her as she ran off to explore – something she rarely does without one of us near. The woods were magical too with dens and bridges and all kinds of things inside and you could easily spend an hour exploring them. We went up to an information board about all the birds that could be spotted out in the open away from the woods and were greeted by some horses casually roaming around the land too.
Wild Meadow and a Rasta Sheep
From the woods we took to the Pastures and met the pretty, muddy, stinky pigs who love the apples from the orchard, lots of goats and a rats sheep that I made friends with! He was awesome. We took to the meadow but unfortunately the dismal weather of late has made it die off a bit too soon and it wasn’t the magical colourful experience I had hoped. It was still amazing to hear all the crickets and listen out for bunnies and other animals in the tall grass and flowers though. Spike saw butterflies too which made her afternoon!
With a short stop off at the bunny rabbits next to the impressive adventure play area, we took to the car for our journey into Stratford and our next destination – Shakespeare’s Birthplace!
In the heart of Stratford-Upon-Avon stands a beautiful, amazing property. That is the property which once housed Shakepeare and his family. Where he will have got the ideas for his first stories and where his mother gave birth to him. And you can walk into the room where these things happened!
You enter through the Shakespeare Centre which has an exhibition called Famous Beyond Words, about the man himself. The walls made me giddy because there were so many quotes on them from his plays and poems. There was a first folio on show which made me miss reading the amazing plays as much as I used to as soon as I saw it. Once you’ve walked through the centre you enter the Birthplace Gardens.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace Gardens
Gardens like this rarely exist in city centres anymore. It was pristine and the backdrop of the Birthplace was amazing. It took my breath away instantly. The whole place inspired me and I couldn’t wait to get inside. We decided to go straight to the building, but I came back to take in the Giant Wallbook, which Spike loved because it was all colourful and full of people! And the gardens themselves with the beautiful flowers and statues.
Inside the Birthplace, we hurried the bottom floor a bit because it was packed. We walked through and I looked at a couple of bits but didn’t really take much in. The top floor however I spent a lot of time in. The room that William Shakespeare and his brothers would have shared is the one you enter into. It was amazing to think that in those days everyone walked through each others rooms and shared small rooms between multiple people. I can’t imagine trying to tell my nephews they had to all share! The girls were in the next room, which now holds the Birthplace window which many people, including some famous people, have signed. I loved to read about how Charles Dickens’ helped preserve the building. Also seeing the birthplace with furniture that would have been just like what Shakepeare would have had in it.
After we’d wandered through the Birthplace some amazing actors greeted us. While they were happy to chat about the building and shakespeare and everything else. They performed the Witches’ scene from Macbeth for us and Spike was in awe. She wasn’t really sure what was going on but I loved it and the actors did it with so much passion! They did other scenes for other people when we were around the gardens too. It impressed me how much they could remember off by heart!
Shakepeare’s New Place
We tried to also get to the New Place but didn’t make it unfortunately. It’s our own fault because of how long it took us to get there. I was really looking forward to taking a wander around the New Place gardens. Seeing all the artwork inspired by the work of Shakespeare would be amazing. Even the gateway to the Gardens, and the first tiny bit that you can see from the gate, looks amazing so I would receommend it just from that to be honest!
I adored every second we spend in Stratford-Upon-Avon taking a look at everything from Shakespeare’s past. For a geek like me it was a perfect day out! As far as Spike is concerned, she got to feed sheep, goats and see owls so she was happy too! I’d love to go back one day and see the inside of New Place, Hall Croft and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. I have no doubt I will, in fact I’ll probably visit the Birthplace again too!!
The “Full Story” tickets for all attractions last a year. Which is fantastic value for money if you are close enough to visit often! I would say for the full impact it would be worth visiting the attractions over a couple of days. There’s lots to fit into one day, so that’s what I’ll be doing next time!
If you’d like more info on Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust and the activities they have on throughout the year for families and Shakespeare lovers, take a look at the website here. A press pass was sent to us by the Trust in exchange for a review.