Give a boy an old tyre and a piece of rope and he’s happy.

My 12-year-old nephew, Sam, wasn’t thrilled about being prised away from his Xbox on a Saturday afternoon, but once we were in the play area at St Ives he and his brother Jack, ten, could have happily spent hours there.

They had several turns on the zip wire, whizzing down the cable on a giant tyre, then scrambling up climbing frames and along rope bridges.

The tyre swings were a hit too, and we had fun on the ‘musical’ wooden steps that played tunes when you stepped on them.

It’s a great play area, with an assortment of wooden apparatus in keeping with the surroundings of the sprawling estate, nestled between Bingley and Harden.

Jack couldn’t resist a go on the sand pit digger in an adjoining playground for younger children.

Around 300,000 people visit St Ives every year. As well as being a country park, the 550-acre site is used by the Sports Turf Research Institute – which has developed pitches for the Olympics and World Cup tournaments and provided advice for Wimbledon and Royal Ascot – as well as Bingley St Ives Golf Club, Bingley Angling Club and Aire Valley Archers.

The estate has several car parks, making it accessible for young families and people with walking difficulties. With footpaths and bridleways criss-crossing woodland, it’s perfect for dog walking, or just walking, whether you’re seeking a gentle stroll along the edge of Coppice Pond or a trek up to Druid’s Altar, from where you can gaze out at the Aire Valley below.

The St Ives site has been inhabited from the neolithic or Bronze Age. Several artefacts, including stone tools found near Druids Alter, unlocked details of its history. The land was divided between the monks of Rievaulx Abbey and Drax Priory until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540 when it passed to private hands.

In 1636, it was sold to cloth merchant Robert Ferrand, beginning the family’s long association with the estate that ended in 1928 when it was purchased by Bingley Urban District Council for £39,500. Today the site is cared for thanks largely to the tireless efforts of the Friends of St Ives.

I tried to get my bearings by looking at a colourful map and information board, near the play area, showing the locations of attractions and landmarks as well as footpaths.

A sculpture trail includes a wooden hunched crone and a chair and mushroom stools, and the statue of an elegant Victorian lady reading a book – Lady Blantyre, who loved the view from this spot. She was the second wife of William Ferrand, Knaresborough MP in the mid-1800s, and the couple planted 400 acres of woodland.

The estate’s main water feature is Coppice Pond, set against a woodland backdrop with a leafy island and duck pier. Stocked with a variety of fish, it’s a regular haunt for anglers and birdwatchers.

The pond was a water supply for what is thought to have originally been a fulling mill, later landscaped by the Ferrands and used for boating.

The estate is home to a variety of wildlife, including foxes, badgers, weasels and the rarely-spotted roe deer. Horses grazing in the fields include two delightful British Miniature Spotted ponies.

There are great views from Druids’ Altar, said to have been the scene of human sacrifice in ancient times, which appears in Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Sybil as a meeting place for revolutionary trade unionists.

Taking pride of place on the estate is the mansion house, once the Ferrand family home and now a care home for young people with disabilities. We wandered past, following the road to the cluster of old Home Farm buildings. Originally a tenanted farm, it now houses Lady B’s Cafe, stables and private homes.

The old manor house was built in 1636 by Robert Ferrand, and neighbouring buildings include pretty cottages, once home to estate workers; the remains of an old mill, dating back to the 14th century and thought to be the oldest building on the estate; and an equestrian riding centre.

We had a pot of tea and home-baked cakes – the boys enjoyed hot chocolate with marshmallows – in Lady B’s Cafe, a lovely converted barn where young children and dogs seemed very welcome.

After a kick-around with the football it was starting to get dark, so we headed back to the car. It had been a lovely afternoon at St Ives and we’ll be back soon for winter dog walks.


  • St Ives Estate is off Harden Road, Bingley, and lies between Bngley and Harden.
  • Entry is free throughout the year, and there are car parks.