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Explorers taking part will be joined by some wildlife friends, who will be offering helpful clues along the way.
Henry’s story highlights the important nature conservation work that the National Trust does at Speke Hall. “We work hard to make the garden and estate a safe haven for wildlife, especially small animals like hedgehogs who are looking for somewhere to hibernate at this time of year. To do this, we’re introducing more homes across the estate for wildlife such as bats, birds and insects, to give them the best possible chance to thrive. In the past we’ve also worked closely with local animal rescue charities to offer hedgehogs a safe and secure place to live as part of their rehabilitation back to the wild,” says lead ranger, Ian Ford.
The Henry the hedgehog trail is a free event to join in as part of a visit between 23 and 31 October, 10.30am-5pm. No booking is required, just pick up a trail map from reception and start exploring.
“October is always a magical time of year to visit the estate. Seeing families enjoying time in nature is what makes Speke Hall so special, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone to enjoy an autumn adventure with Henry the hedgehog,” says Lorraine Lett, programming and partnerships officer.
On entrance, visitors are welcomed inside the grounds by the long line of lime trees, which frame the main driveway with bright yellow leaves. Home to many ancient beech and oak trees, the Clough woodland and Stockton’s Wood walking paths are transformed into the full autumn colour spectrum of warm greens, golden yellows, orangey reds and golden browns, with plenty of fallen dried leaves to kick about.
Migrating birdlife can be spotted arriving for the winter from the top of Bund path, which also offers fantastic views looking out over the River Mersey and Welsh Hills in the distance. “Keep an eye open for hawthorn and blackthorn fruits to forage as you’re walking around, and be sure to stop by the horse chestnut tree by the Stable Tea Room to find the best conkers,” says lead ranger, Ian Ford.
Speke’s family favourites are open as usual, with hours of play to be had. Visitors can explore the Giant Childe of Hale sculptured woodland trail, which is suitable for all ages and pram-friendly. Families can also solve the mind-boggling hedge maze or run wild in the property’s play areas, including the woodland play area with nature obstacles and den building for the more adventurous types.
Elsewhere, visitors can enter the house until 31 October, when it closes for the annual winter clean. Visitors can explore an exhibition revealing the turmoil of Elizabethan England and the life or death secrets kept hidden inside the walls of Speke Hall by the Catholic Norris family. In the kitchen, discover how the Tudor Norrises of Speke Hall used food to influence, embolden and subvert their guests during Elizabethan times with another fascinating exhibition by researcher Anna Fielding. Not one to be missed for food lovers.
Bookworms may relish in the newly refurbished second-hand bookstore, Speke’s Volumes, which is tucked away in the historic buildings at Home Farm. All books are pre-loved and have been donated by the public, so there will be something for everyone, age and genre. All funds go directly towards the charity’s work to look after Speke Hall’s collections, garden and estate.
While the house will close from 1 November for the winter months, Home Farm restaurant will remain open every day throughout the year, serving hot food and drinks to warm up with. There is also outdoor seating and picnic tables, or visitors can get their food and drinks to take away on a woodland walk.
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