The Bentley Estate is set, tucked away in a picturesque corner of the Sussex countryside. A place you would never ‘stumble across’ but must seek out. The site incorporates a motor museum, miniature railway, wildfowl reserve, beautiful house, play area, ancient woodlands and a tearoom. Every year, for the past 21 years the estate becomes the place to celebrate anything wood related… craft, forestry, chainsaw sculpting, trug making, forest education, music, food..the list is endless. This is Bentley Woodfair!
We live less than 2 miles away from Bentley so reaching the venue was an easy drive. We were greeted by numerous parking attendants who cheerfully guided us to a spot in a field adjacent to the main entrance. There were short queues to buy tickets but these moved quickly with multiple tills open for ticket purchases.
On entering Bentley Lawn we were greeted with a hive of activity from exhibitors, food sellers and fellow visitors. Our little party (Me, Leon 10, Daisy 7 and Logan 1) were hit with a wave of excitement…me being pulled in 3 different directions of what to see first!
Our first port of call was the Hands on History stand. Our kids are all big fans of Horrible Histories and I saw a lot of similarities with these guys! Leon grabbed the opportunity to fire his mini cross bow at attacking soldiers and Knights whilst Daisy listened to the horrors of Medicine through the ages. She loves gore so was thrilled to hear about the brutal treatments….and hearing that doctors would diagnose their patients by tasting their urine!
Continuing around the Lawn our interests dragged us in different directions. We watched woodland crafts in practise, we spoke to members of the forestry commission and we guessed the number of acorns in the bottle at the English Hertiage stand. I fell in love with the beautifully crafted furniture made by Diego Bernasconi and have added buying a Nightingale Shepherd Hut to my bucket list!
Walking on from the Lawn past the Woodland Arcade we enter the beautiful Glynebourne Woods. Again buzzing with activities, music, food stalls and hands on opportunities. The first thing you really notice as you enter these woods is the amount of action that takes place over your head. These magical woods are home to Branching Out, a high ropes and climbing activity centre. Watching all the brave souls swinging through the trees is a great way to pass half an hour and brings an incredible sense of adventure to the place.
Daisy and Leon both managed to find activities they wanted to get involved in. Leon found Twenty First Century Dugout, a display of dugout canoes and decided he’d like to have a bit of a paddle. Whilst Daisy discovered The Woolly Umbrella, a collective of makers from Brighton. She was invited to have a go at marbling paper using inks, water and cellulose.
Finally we reached The Railway Field, where the main arena is situated aswell as a huge range of pop up eateries and many more exhibitioners. We were lucky enough to watch a fantastic show by the Welsh Axe Team. These strapping fella’s entertained us with their chainsaw races, wowed us with volume of the largest chainsaw in the world, and thoroughly impressed us with their tree scaling.
There were so many wonderful performances and live entertainment all going on at once it was hard to decide where to be when. We were sorry we missed the Stick Drummers perform, as we’ve heard great things about their shows. However we were really please to get front row spots for Spirimawgus Morris Dancers as we took time out to enjoy an ice cream.
Despite all the fantastic goings on sat the Woodfair, one of the highlights to every visit to Bentley has to be the Miniature Railway. Bentley Miniature Railway is a 1 mile long track with trains powered by a variety of forms, steam, petrol, diesel and electric. The railway is operated entirely by a team of extremely enthusiastic and passionate volunteers. The station looks and feels like a traditional vintage railway station and the track is extensive running alongside the beautiful Glyndebourne woods. It’s definitely one of the best miniature railways I’ve been on…and with 4 kids I can compare it to quite a few!
The children loved the way the Bentley grounds offered constant opportunities to play and explore. Not only is there a great designated play area near the entrance to the site but there are trim trails, willow walkways and rope swings sporadically scattered over the entire site.
Bentley Woodfair is a fantastic family day out. There are endless opportunities for hands on experiences and learning new skills. Bentley Estate provides a gorgeous setting with great play facilities and the miniature railways is not to be missed. We had a brilliant day and were only sorry not see more of the live entertainment……there was just too going on much to do everything! The Woodfair is back in 2017 and we will most definitely be there….will you?