The much awaited, “The Lost Garden” has finally opened at Blenheim Palace. I have already done a long, kids/ family focussed, post on Blenheim Palace (which you can access here). This review covers ONLY The Lost Garden Adventure Play.
The Lost Garden covers a site larger than a football pitch inside the palace’s historic Walled Gardens, behind the Marlborough Maze. The “old” adventure play area and the sand pit still remain in its place but the toddler play area (chequered squares, swings and wooden climbing frame) is gone. The back wall has a door now which leads to the “lost garden”. It is hidden behind the wall, so you won’t see it if you just used the maze and went back. However, if you go to the other climbing frame (the original adventure playground), then the new play area will be visible from there. So, in reality, there is no hiding away from it.
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I will write the review in two sections. First part will cover the playground itself and the second part dedicated to the “price”.
The playground is Awesome. There is no doubt about that! I expected nothing less from Blenheim Palace and it does not disappoint. It comes with a £3.6million price tag and you can see where the money has all gone.
You arrive through a steel-framed tunnel, which is planted with climbers (which have not grown yet). The first view is that of a golden ball fountain, which is the start of a long water play area. It runs like a spine through the centre of the garden and winds towards the feature bridge, ending in a wider pool there. There are lots of rocks to clamber, bridges to cross, stepping stones to hop over, pools/ dams to be built (or released), log flumes to play with, and fountain/ water jets to dodge. It is quite long and interesting. I personally don’t like rocks around the water, as I fear someone will fall and crack their chin open (to say the least) but children were absolutely loving it and getting soaked. Do take a change of clothes with you!
The other main attraction is the Grand Bridge and the Embankment, suitable for older children. The construction here echoes various architectural aspects of the Palace including its boathouse, gateways and a replica of Vanbrugh’s Grand Bridge – incorporating features from his original design which were never built. It is a climbers delight, featuring tree-top walkways, towers, wobbly and rope bridges, climbing nets, tunnels, tube slides, hidden chambers and more. You can also play the pairs game or try out the talking tubes as you clamber up the towers.
On the other side is the Allotment or the Kitchen Garden. There are giant carrots and super-sized sunflowers to clamber, a spider’s web to climb and the asparagus to balance on. There are also themed percussive play equipment and sensory features. I think this section can be used by children 3-4+.
Next to it is the seating area for parents. There are some chairs under a gazebo but all were taken up when we arrived. There is also an uncovered auditorium style large seating area with astroturf on top. We sat there because the rain was light and it did not matter, but there will not be many places to hide if the rain was heavier. If they are charging parents for “observing and supervising”, then the least they can do is make sure there is enough seating for everyone suitable for all weathers.
Behind it is the Wilderness Play area, featuring, yet more, aerial walkways, rope bridges and tunnels. You can also speed along triple racing zip lines (though they were not very fast). The old adventure playground climbing frame is visible from the top here.
The Walled Garden opens at 10am each day, with The Lost Garden opening 15 minutes later. Admission is for a three-hour session, with new explorers admitted at 10.15am, 11.15am, 12.15pm, 1.15pm, 2.15pm and 3.15pm. At peak times, they will be running extra sessions from 3.15pm to 6.15pm.
Children will always need to be supervised. Parents can not ‘drop off’ their children and leave them on their own. Lone children will not be allowed to enter no matter what the age.
As you all know by now, Entrance to The Lost Garden adventure playground at Blenheim Palace is not included with Annual or Privilege Passes. Admission is £7 for both adults and children and these tickets MUST be purchased in advance. The NHS, Blue light, CSSC etc discount codes are not valid on these tickets.
You will ALSO need a valid Annual Pass, Privilege Pass or Park & Gardens ticket to book the adventure playground. The price of the individual ticket has been increased (Adult 35£ and child 20£) AND children more than 3 years now have to pay for entry too (Under 5s were free before). There is no playground ONLY option, so you have to buy atleast one separate ADULT and quite likely a CHILD ticket if you want to enter.
Now doing one or the other (e.g. increasing price of ticket or lowering the age at which kids have to pay) may have been ok but doing both in one go and topping it with additional entry fee for the playground just does not sit well. It would take 28£ for a family of four JUST to enter the play area (on top of the Blenheim entry for ADULT AND CHILD and any money spent in the restaurant).
We live not far away and generally visit Blenheim once every one or two months. So will I be paying that extra amount every time I visit? Sorry but that won’t happen! Shall we keep it as a special treat for an odd occasion and tell them that they can visit the playground on some visits and not on others, when going to the same place. I doubt they will even understand that concept. So, my solution will be to come without children to avoid the tantrums. That means, Blenheim Palace is no longer the family destination for us! OR another option would be to NOT renew the pass and avoid the visit altogether, which is the stance a lot of people I know are taking.
And, why do adults have to pay anyway? and as much as the children?? Its not as they will be playing in the water or climbing the tree house. I know many business models do that, but they are standalone venues (even then don’t charge adults the same as children) or have better pricing arrangements for their annual pass holders. I would definitely want better seating areas, if not more, for this price.
What about the families with three adults and one child. Will they pay 28£ just to watch one child play. You may argue that one parent can go inside with the children (and not others) to SAVE money, but, again, that sort of defeats the purpose of a “Family Day out”, doesn’t it? I can easily use 28£ to visit a new venue; why would I want to come back to Blenheim again and again.
I doubt many parents with young children visit the inside of palace itself. At least we don’t (apart from the Christmas trail which is separately ticketed anyway) but if one goes for the lower value option (palace not included), there is no conversion to annual pass. I just can not find any way around keeping the price down! It looks like the locals will have to bear the brunt of the £3.6million price used on the playground, as they are the ones who visit the palace grounds more regularly than others.
There is no denying that the play area is AMAZING and will appeal to children of all ages. I will begrudgingly pay additional price for it. However, the pricing structure as it is, just does not make much sense to me and I know I am not the only one perplexed by all this.
I have been a regular supporter of Blenheim for years, and it pains my heart to say this, that, despite a great playground (which we have all been waiting for), once my annual pass runs out (which I have had for 4+ years), I may not renew it. Regardless of household income and cost of living crisis, the current pricing structure is just not good value for money and I really hope the team listens to the feedback and revisit the arrangements.
🚘 Free Parking on site, though they charge for their Christmas and Halloween events. They have also started the “Travel the greener way” initiative. If you can get here by train, bus or bike, you can receive 30% discount by using the code GREEN30 for discount during online checkout and show proof of travel on arrival. Visit Good Journey page to learn more.
🚻 There are male, female, and accessible/baby changing toilets located next to the Snack Shack.
🍕The Walled Garden Pizzeria offers delicious freshly made woodfired pizza, cooked to order, as well as hot and cold drinks. The Snack Shack serves light snacks and takeaway drinks.
🦽 The pathways have been specially designed to accommodate buggies, wheelchairs and pushchairs, but, if you prefer, you can leave them in the dedicated area just after you come through the entrance. There will also be ‘Quiet/ SEN Days’ on every final Sunday of the month, running from 10.15am to 12.15pm. Mobiloo will be available for these sessions. You can book this session HERE
🐕 Only guide dogs and registered assistance dogs are allowed.
🚲 Cycling is not permitted by adults or children in the Blenheim Palace courtyard, Walled Garden or Formal Gardens. Children are permitted to ride push-bikes, balance bikes and tricycles in the Park only (but not in any other area) and must be supervised at all times.. The use of skateboards, rollerskates and ‘hoverboards’ by adults or children is not permitted anywhere in the Palace grounds or wider Park area.