Part of the National Trust since 1941, Morden Hall Park is 'an oasis in the heart of suburbia'. With 125 acres, there is a lot to explore. From the meadows to the garden centre, the park is a place full of beauty, and provides a number of activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Morden Hall was first built in 1770 by Richard Garth, who let it out as a boys' school in the 1830s. By the 1870s, the land was bought by Gilliat Hatfield who ran a tobacco mill with his family to create snuff. Milling ended in 1922, but the old Snuff Mill is still there today. It no longer runs, but one of the grindstones is on display outside.
In recent times, Morden Hall has been a restaurant; it was a fantastic place to have Christmas lunch, with Father Christmas coming round to every table giving out gifts. The restaurant switched hands many times before closing down, and now the building is abandoned. The land surrounding it, however, is still open for public use, and makes a great picnic area.
In his will, Hatfield left the estate to the National Trust and asked it to be used 'as an open space and public park to benefit primarily those living in its neighbourhood'.
The park is incredibly beautiful. When I walk down its many lanes, the tranquil sounds and scenery makes me forget all my troubles. I love hearing the crickets in the meadow, or just looking on at the wetlands (which admittedly, in summer, are pretty dry).
There are many paths to explore, and between the 27th October and the 4th November 2012, Morden Hall is offering a number of walks and tours, exploring the park.
If you are really enthusiastic, you can follow the Wandle Trail; it is a 14 mile route along the River Wandle from Croydon to Wandsworth. Covering the heritage of the area and giving you the chance to experience nature, it is a relaxing way to spend the day, and keep fit.
If you prefer to stay within the grounds of the estate, why not enjoy a stroll through the rose garden? Open from May till September, it has 25 varieties of roses across 38 flowerbeds.
You can get all you need at the secondhand book shop. 50p will get you an 'I-Spy' sheet; there are list of things to look out for in the park such as wildlife and attractions. Tick each one off as you go.
Test the family's navigation skills with the orienteering challenge. For a £1 you can buy a map and start your scouting mission. Make it a friend and family gathering and see which group can reach all the check points first. Or for a small deposit, you can borrow an explorer pack, giving the kids all they need to learn about the history and wildlife of the estate.
There is a new Family Ranger Club that takes place the first Sunday of every month at 10am. It is specifically designed to get families working together by taking part is conservation tasks and learning new skills.
For £20, you can book a tour for between 6-20 people. You will be taken round all the sites of interest and learn not only about the history of the park, but also the current development projects. For example, The National Trust is dedicated to living green, and over the past year or so have completed a number of renovations to the park for sustainable living. This includes the renovation of the watermill, and a hydroelectric turbine.
There are also youth groups in the evening, a fishing club, community groups if you want to volunteer, and a group for the over fifties, where people will get the chance to socialise (and drink lots of tea).
In the recently renovated Stable Yard, there is now an arts and crafts stall, small cafe, and a picnic area. It opened on the 5th November 2011, and is all about sustainable living. The Stable Yard itself is very energy efficient, with solar panels, wall insulation, a heating pump, and wood burning stove. Although it is using modern technology, the Stable Yards retains its period setting.
The most modern building on the estate is the garden centre, which was built over what used to be the kitchen garden. Inside you will find garden furniture, pet supplies, and even candles and decor for home living. Outside has a beautiful display of plants, and garden ornaments.
Next to the garden centre is another cafe that makes delicious cakes and hearty sandwiches using locally grown ingredients. After lunch you can then pop into the National Trust gift shop, where they sell a number of quirky (and terribly British) mementos, books, and preserves.