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Get active and connect with the great outdoors at Hylands Estate

Hylands House exterior by Aaron Crowe
Cyclists pass in front of Hylands House. Photo by Aaron Crowe.

With ancient woodlands, grassland, ponds, lakes, and formal gardens, Hylands Estate provides a stunning and peaceful setting for a walk with the family. But the estate’s 574 acres of parkland doesn’t just offer those Insta-worthy views, it also hosts varied activities, perfect for a full day out to enjoy with the family throughout the year.

Hylands House Manager, Lorraine Thorne highlights how the estate’s many activities are crucial to encouraging people to connect with the great outdoors:

“Looking back on the last few years, we’re really proud of the increased visitor offer at Hylands, with more to enjoy at the estate than ever before. We want to encourage young people and families across Chelmsford to become more active, connect with nature and enjoy Chelmsford’s beautiful green spaces. With so many varied activities now available at Hylands, it’s the perfect place to do that in a fun and engaging way. And with most of these activities also completely free to enjoy, it provides a vital low-cost day out for many families who need it during these challenging times.”

Lorraine Thorne, Hylands House Manager

Here’s our roundup of the varied outdoor pursuits available at Hylands Estate to help you breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the sumptuous landscapes, and improve your physical fitness – especially useful if you’ve made any exercise-based resolutions for 2024!

Explore the history of the house and gardens through a multimedia tour

Mutimedia Tour 1
The Hylands House and Gardens Multimedia Tour.

If you’re interested in history, then consider picking up a Hylands History and Gardens Multimedia Tour. It's perfect for history buffs who want to explore the estate’s fascinating past and legacy, but also for families who can complete fun activities while learning together along the route.

Designed by ATS Heritage, the tour navigates an extensive trip around the estate’s most prominent landmarks, including the Pleasure Gardens, Flint Cottage, and the One World Garden.

It explores the estate’s rich history, from the changes made by past owners, to the lives of those who worked there over the centuries.

The tour offers plenty for younger visitors to enjoy too. Interactive features include a fast-paced stable-themed game, and a quiz to identify fruits and vegetables.

Hylands House and Gardens Multimedia Tour is free to explore seven days a week. You can borrow one of the estate’s official handheld devices with a £10 deposit (refunded on return of the device), or alternatively use your smartphone to scan and listen to each stop of the tour.

Swing through the trees with Go Ape high ropes

Go Ape CCC (1)
Go Ape Chelmsford at Hylands Estate.

For an elevated view of the woodlands in Hylands Park, try the Go Ape high ropes courses. Go Ape Chelmsford opened in July 2023 and has quickly become a firm favourite among families, with almost 18,000 adventurous visitors taking to the ropes so far.

The site has three adrenaline-filled high ropes activities that are designed to push participants physically and mentally: Treetop Adventure, Treetop Adventure Plus, and Treetop Challenge. The three courses have a combined total of 100 aerial crossings and eight ziplines, and the Treetop Challenge even features an incredible ‘Tarzan Swing’ with a great drop for the bravest of thrill-seekers to tackle!

Activities at Go Ape Chelmsford are suitable for people aged 4 to 94, so it’s something the whole family can enjoy – if they’re all brave enough! Find out more and make your booking on the Go Ape website.

Take part in communal treasure hunting with geocaching!

Though the treasure may not be the shiny gold we all want to find someday, geocaching is still thrilling work!

A team discover a geocache at Hylands Estate
A team take a selfie with a Hylands Estate geocache.

Geocaching is enjoyed globally by millions of people and is a great bonding activity for families, friends, or co-workers! And the best part is that it’s completely free to take part in.

This treasure hunt for the digital age sees participants search for boxes or ‘caches’ hidden outdoors. There are many caches hidden around Hylands Estate. These might be found around trees, under bushes, or on fences, but you never need to dig for them. You can find caches by downloading the official Geocaching app and switching on your GPS. The app will identify caches near you and help you navigate towards them.

Once you locate a box, you’ll find a logbook inside that you can add your own message to. Sometimes you might also discover that other finders have left trinkets inside the box which you can swap with something else of similar or higher value – so make sure you come prepared. You can also log your find on the Geocaching app to keep a record and compare your progress with others.

Geocaching at Hylands Estate
You'll find caches hidden around trees, bushes or fences at Hylands Estate.

After finding and signing the logbook, you must make sure you return the cache to the location you found it so that others can continue to enjoy the hunt.

Improve your fitness levels through orienteering

Try your hand at orienteering at Hylands Estate.

Orienteering is a relatively unknown but exciting outdoor sport that sees participants use a map and compass to navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint. Part of the fun is that there’s no set route for the checkpoints, so participants get to decide which way is best to go in the quickest time.

The activity can be undertaken anywhere in the world, and thanks to recent funding from Active Essex, the Essex Stragglers Orienteering Society has established a new orienteering course at Hylands Park.

Hylands orienteering marker on wooden post
An orienteering checkpoint at Hylands Estate.

The park has short, medium, and long courses available, all of which are free to access. You can download maps via the Essex Stragglers Orienteering Society, or access them via the Maprun app. The app also monitors your progress and compares your results to others who have taken part.

Orienteering is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Walkers can enjoy the scenery as they navigate; families can work together to find the best route; or runners can challenge themselves to make their quickest time.

So, why not give orienteering a go if you haven’t tried it yet? If you do take part, always be careful and safe with the routes you take and ensure you have an emergency contact available.

Let little ones roam free at the Adventure Castle

Adventure Castle by Eye Shine Photography
Children running to the Adventure Castle at Hylands Estate.

Hylands Park is also home to an award-winning accessible castle-themed adventure playground. The free playground boasts four-meter-high castle battlements with a cool drawbridge and portcullis entrance and dedicated play areas for children above and below the age of six. Perfect for imaginative play and exhausting little ones!

The Adventure Castle is inclusive and accessible for wheelchair users, with official accreditation from PiPA (Planning Inclusive Play Areas). There are just 18 sites nationally with PiPA accreditation and the play area in Hylands Park is one of only nine awarded top-level ‘Destination’ status.

Adventure Playground by Eye Shine Photography
The Adventure Playground at Hylands Estate.

Refuel your energy at The Deli

Don’t forget, when you need to take a break from these busy activities and top up your energy The Deli Hylands and The Deli Express provide the perfect stops for some delicious meals, snacks and hot or cold drinks. Choose from fresh, made-to-order sandwiches, seasonal salads, or their famous homemade sausage rolls, cakes, and pastries. They also have plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options to cater to all diets.

To find out more about events and activities available to enjoy across Hylands Estate visit their website.

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.