Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Published August 27th 2017
Glorious Family Or Romantic Day Out Near Birmingham
Nestling in the scenic countryside outside Birmingham is a hidden historic house that is home to a world of art and parkland adventure.
Glorious Compton Verney.Photo Alison Brinkworth
Compton Verney house as it stands now dates back to the 18th Century but has been restored and transformed into an art museum within 120 acres of parkland designed by famous landscape architect 'Capability' Brown.
Wandering around the beautiful landscape you come across patches of its history. The fantastically preserved and restored ice house, where servants took ice from the pond and stored it over winter.
Then there is the stunning stone Upper Bridge with its sphinx sculptures. The Army used the land and house during the Second World War and left its mark, especially at this bridge. There were bullet holes left in the sphinx figurines from target practice and there are reminders of when an army vehicle also crashed into it.
The ice house you can explore at Compton Verney. Photo Alison Brinkworth
It's at this bridge that you get your first glimpse of the magnificent house. The building has been transformed to house permanent and temporary art exhibitions in a tasteful way.
There are paintings, sculptures, figurines from China and folk art among the attractions in the art permanently housed here. There's also a cafe and shop on the ground floor to spend time in, especially if it is raining outside.
The beauty of the grounds will mean that outside is where you want to be. It has been made family-friendly with the odd playground nestled around the site, one of which includes giant deckchairs to climb into.
There's also the forest trail for picturesque walks, the brief ferry across the water (a kind of makeshift raft) and acres of parkland and meadows to explore or have a picnic in.
The bridge sphinxes are marked by army history. Photo Alison Brinkworth
During your walk, there are also a ha-ha, beehive and willow tunnels to enjoy alongside more modern outdoor sculptures. Swans glide happily on the lake and there's a bird hide if you want to stay for a while and see what other birds you can spot.
There's a genteel calmness and beauty about Compton Verney that makes it a grand day out from the city. It's only a 40-minute drive from south Birmingham and perfect to combine with a trip to nearby Stratford upon Avon.
The art museum at Compton Verney. Photo Alison Brinkworth
Restoration has stepped up a gear in the past few decades and the chapel has been the most recent focus on the estate. Work continues to maintain the high standards of the gardens that Capability Brown created too.
There has been extensive replanting to enhance the grassland, ornamental lake and the Cedars of Lebanon, for which Brown is famous.
But even as a ruin in years gone by, Compton Verney had a romance about it that attracted film companies to shoot in the grounds. Peter Hall's film of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring a young Judi Dench, was shot here in 1968.
A map if everything you can do at Compton Verney
Compton Verney is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, but also opens if it is Bank Holiday Monday. It costs £7.70 per adult for the park and permanent art collection ( or £13.60 including the temporary special art exhibition). There is also a family ticket at £16.30 (or £29 with the exhibition), while tickets for children aged five to 15 cost £3.
The park opens at 10.30am and closes at 6pm, while the house and exhibition is open from 11am to 5pm.