Blenheim Palace's new adventure playground 'The Lost Garden' is tucked away in the Walled Garden area, just beyond the garden maze and the butterfly house. It's been thoughtfully and lavishly designed, and the whole feels very fresh, all clean wood and rope, in a carefully curated natural setting. There are walkways, tunnels, zip wires, a giant allotment play area, and plenty of climbing and sliding opportunities. The central water feature is terrific and captures everyone's imagination - expect the kids to get wet. The source is a large golden orb, which feeds a little network of rivulets, boulders and bridges. Smaller ones get absorbed in paddling and damming channels, while older children leap across stepping stones as they incorporate the river into imaginative exploration. There's a good under-fives section with a baby swing-style zip wire, which will surely be appreciated by tired parents long forced to run alongside insistent toddlers half-falling off the regular version. The playground's webpage explains the provisions which have been made to promote accessibility, and dedicated SEND sessions can be booked.
The Lost Garden feels like a very comfortable place to be, and a lot of thought has clearly gone in to making it that way. There's a snack bar, a water refill station, shaded seating, and, on busy days, a separate little ice cream stall. The staff are well primed and ready to answer questions, and a first-aid box was promptly produced for a bad graze. One eventual improvement might be a handful more loos.
The playground is aimed at ages 3-12, we were told. We found that while our ten-year-old was just as delighted as our seven-year-old with the space and features, she exhausted its possibilities more quickly. For older children who may need an additional challenge, the park maze is just around the corner, and the wristband system means you can pop out to try your luck among the hedges, or head to the pizzeria for a break. Sessions are three hours long with staggered entry times throughout the day, so families can take their time and enjoy the different attractions.
Entry costs £7 each for adults and children (you must already have a ticket to the park and gardens, from £66 for a family of 4). We really enjoyed our trip, and made an afternoon of it with lunch at the café and a walk round the grounds. Tickets for the palace, park and gardens can be converted into an annual pass, which works out as good value for regular visitors. For a one-off visit it would be a good idea to spend the whole day on site, making the most of everything the palace and its beautiful park have to offer.