Staunton Country Park
Just a 10 minute drive from us is Staunton Country Park, a 1,000-acre Regency landscaped parkland and forest to the north of Havant town centre, in Hampshire.
Sir George Staunton, a politician who made his fortune with the East India Company in China, bought then Leigh Park in the early 1800s and created a landscape, partly modelled on the Chinese Imperial Park, Jehol. It contained an ornamental farm, a garden with a lake, and 19 stunning follies, or ornamental buildings. Staunton died in 1859 and a few years later the estate was bought by William Stone MP who demolished the original Regency house and built a new Gothic mansion. The estate went into decline in the mid 20th century and Stone’s mansion was demolished in 1959.
Fortunately, the core of the historic estate, now owned by Hampshire County Council, has survived mostly intact. The parkland is Grade II listed and 10 of the park’s buildings are Grade I or II listed. Look out for the fully-restored Victorian Coach House, once part of the demolished Gothic Mansion, and the Beacon, a small Ionic temple built in 1830 from materials from the demolished Purbrook House.
Entry to the parkland itself is free and there is much to explore including an ornamental farm, an ornamental lake, a maze and a walled garden. There are also Victorian glasshouses – the largest glasshouses on the South coast – containing exotic tropical flowers and plants from around the world. George Staunton, who was a knowledgeable botanist, had displayed his collection of exotic plants, including the giant Victoria amazonica waterlily, in the glasshouses. The famous waterlily makes an appearance during the summer months and blooms in late June till August. It is well worth a visit.
The park is a great setting for walkers, cyclists, anglers and orienteering groups. It is also a great place to take the kids to keep them entertained. The 1830s style ornamental farm, which is home to pigs, sheep, Shetland ponies, a shire horse and chickens as well as llamas, a Poitou donkey, alpacas and a herd of Longhorn cattle, is especially popular with children. There is also George’s Play Barn, which contains a soft play area and a climbing frame with slides, rope bridges and cargo nets. The visitor centre can also recommend a selection of trails suitable for children of all ages.
After an enjoyable visit to this fabulous attraction, why not make a day of it with lunch, dinner and a warm welcome at our pub.