The one where I visited a bear house

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I love bears. Bet you hadn’t noticed that! I was very excited, therefore, to hear that a bear house had been created at North Yorkshire’s Newby Hall (near Ripon) following the extremely generous donation by Gyles Brandreth and his wife, Michele, of their bear collection.

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Attempts to visit it were thwarted twice. We planned to visit one Saturday only to discover online that it was closed for the winter. Our next attempt was summer last year when we turned up … only to discover that there was a massive traction engine rally in the grounds and the house was closed. So it was third time lucky last week.

This visit was a day out with my husband, Mark, to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. We had a slow 2-hour journey stuck behind tractor after tractor but it was worth the trek because Newby Hall is a fabulous place and I’d highly recommend a visit (but next year because it’s now closed for the winter).

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We went on a lovely walk through the woods first following a sculpture trail. Some of the sculptures were very recognisable like a gorgeous pair of pigs and others were more abstract. All were available for sale. My absolute favourite was Remington the dog (top right). He’s bronze and comes with a hefty price tag (forgot to take a photo but it was in the region of £5k!)

There was one that looked like a cracked paving slab resting against a stone. I’m sure this was very meaningful for those in the know and I’m sure there was a lot of planning and talent involved but… Yep, I clearly know nothing about art. At £820 it was one of the less expensive exhibits. Needless to say, I came home with photos and memories rather than purchases!

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A guided tour around the house was fascinating. Newby Hall is a private residence so visitors can’t wander freely but the three tour guides were superb; very engaging and also funny. There were small collectible bears hiding in each room but, every time I pointed one out to Mark, the tour guides said, ‘They’re for the children’s tour.’ I beg to differ. It’s not only children who like bears!

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The Bear House itself was calling but so were the scones and cakes so we stopped for lunch first. My scone was still warm from the oven. Mmmm.

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Then it was finally onto the bears. I loved The Bear House. There were some original famous bears in there including Fozzie Bear from The Muppet Show, Paddington, Sooty, and Super Ted. Apparently there are more than a thousand bears in Gyles and Michele’s collection and there’s no way they can display anywhere near that many so the display keeps changing … a fabulous excuse to keep visiting again!

IMG_7102As well as the famous bear sections, there were several themed displays including a wedding, a picnic and a royal balcony scene. I was curious as to whether the collection included any bears I have and was thrilled to spot one in the church scene. See that little fella with the lovely black jacket in the wedding scene? He’s a Hermann Teddy Original and I’ve got him! He was actually one of the first collectible bears I added to my hug.

There’s so much more to do at Newby Hall. With a miniature railway, boat rides and adventure playground, it’s a great day out for kids. The grounds are extensive and lovely to explore with a rock garden and a statue walk. There’s also an extensive dolls house collection which is fascinating but we were struggling for time by this point so didn’t linger for long in there. We did, however, rescue a bumble bee who’d got trapped inside. which made me very happy.

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Some of the bears have been donated by famous people. There was one from Dame Judi Dench and another from Tony Blair. As an author, I particularly enjoyed meeting Barbara Cartland’s teddy bear, ‘The Prince of Love’. Well, what else would you call him?

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Newby Hall has featured in TV and films extensively too. Many scenes in Victoria have been filmed there, a 2007 BBC adaptation of Mansfield Park was exclusively filmed there as was much of season one of Peaky Blinders. How exciting!

If you’d like to find out more about Newby Hall, you can find their website here.

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Hope you enjoyed the pictures and that you have a fabulous October.

Jessica xx

4 thoughts on “The one where I visited a bear house

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