History of the Farmyard & adventure playground

Our visitors have always expressed an interest in learning about the land immediately surrounding Chatsworth and the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was aware that teachers wanted their pupils to see working farms and forests, learn how the animals are kept and how food is produced. The vision was therefore to create an educational exhibition by gathering a cross section of our farming and forestry activities to explain how the land is used.


The farmyard opened in July 1973 as the Farming and Forestry Exhibition or 'Model Farm' with a variety of animals including dairy cows, beef cows, and calves, sheep and lamps, pigs, horses, goats and poultry, with a milking parlour for demonstrations.


The adventure playground opened with scramble nets, rope walks, firemen's poles, commando slides, tree houses and a secret tunnel to test the physical skill and daring of all ages.


In 1998 the adventure playground was completely demolished and rebuilt to the highest standards with sand and water play areas, a spiral slide, mini diggers, a trampoline and much more. The new adventure playground was opened in March 1998 by Declan Morrison, grandson of the 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.


The foot-and-mouth epidemic had a severe effect on both agriculture and the tourism industry in the UK. We had no cloven hooved farm animals on show in the farmyard, and we closed for two weeks with the rest of the countryside. To compensate the house and garden remained open for Christmas.


We welcomed Father Christmas to the farmyard as we opened for Christmas for the first time. Christmas at Chatsworth was so well received that we continue to decorate the house every year.


2003 saw the celebrations of the farmyard's 30th anniversary which coincided with the 3 millionth visitor as well as the launch of a 28-seater trailer ride to educate visitors on the history of the estate and the living landscape around Chatsworth.


The Oak Barn was opened by Alan Titchmarsh on 5 April 2005, and is used to provide cover for education talks and demonstrations including rural skills, spinning and bee keeping.


Young farmers' days were added to educational activities in the farmyard and are a great way for children of all ages to muck in.


The new climbing forest in the adventure playground was added in time for Easter holidays and proved to be very popular with visitors of all ages.


Celebrated 40 years of the farmyard, the farmyard and adventure playground is as popular as ever and continues to evolve and educate all ages fulfilling the vision of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire all those years ago.