Days Out: The restored ruins of Cowdray Park
Sunday 15 April 2007
A two-year project costing £3.6m has restored the ruins of Cowdray to a semblance of their former glory as a Tudor nobleman's palace. And some 20 years after they closed to the public, the ruins reopened last month.
The gutting of the house by fire in 1793, was also its saviour - the abandonment of the site meant that what remained escaped the modernisation that other buildings of its kind underwent. This left intact some of the most original Tudor features in the country.
Started in 1520 and completed between 1533 and 1542, Cowdray has a special place in history. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I visited and enjoyed hunting in the parkland. The Queen was said to have left her bow and arrow as a souvenir.
The house cook, Robert May, a celebrity chef of the 17th century, brought fame to Cowdray when he wrote one of the first English language cookery books, The Accomplisht Cook, in 1660. These are only ruins, but a little imagination and help from the free audio tours will help bring the house to life.
The children's audio tour is aimed at six-year-olds and above and is narrated in story style by a child. Children can explore the outdoor ruins. Call or check the website for family activities.
Scholars and enthusiasts of the Tudor, Stuart and Georgian periods will revel in the conservation project and it will also appeal to culinary historians.
Water and soft drinks are available in the on-site shop. Otherwise, head back along the Causeway across the river Rother into Midhurst for more choices.
The site is flat and negotiable in a wheelchair, although some parts are uneven.
Open from March to October, Wednesday-Sunday and holiday Mondays, 10.30am-4.30pm. Admission: adults £5, children aged over five years £2.50.
How to get there
Cowdray (01730 810781; cowdray.org.uk), Cowdray Park, Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 9AL. The nearest railway station is at Haslemere. From there you can take the number 70 bus to Midhurst bus station, from where it is a 10-minute walk to the ruins (0870 608 2 608; traveline.org.uk).
The National Cycle Network and the South Downs Way run near the ruins.
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