The magical world of The Wind in the Willows comes to Nymans

Wind in the Willows
Wind in the Willows

This summer visitors to Nymans can enjoy the original, captivating illustrations of those well known and much loved characters from the classic children’s book The Wind in the Willows.

E H Shepard’s rarely seen illustrations of Badger, Ratty, Mole and Toad will be on show in the Gallery of the house throughout the summer, together with a selection of letters from Shepard to the Messel family, who lived at Nymans during this time.

Wind in the Willows

Wind in the Willows

Over 30 hand coloured illustrations, as well as pen and ink drawings and an original sketch will be on view. E H Shepard stayed at the house during the summer of 1929 and was a friend of the Messel family.

The Messels were great hosts and loved to entertain guests in their dream house in the country.

Guests picnicked, played in the woods and garden, and went boating on the lake. Today’s visitors can enjoy much the same experience and, this summer, families are invited to follow a fantastic Wind in the Willows trail around the garden and woodland, which takes them on their own adventures, with plenty of activities to enjoy along the way.

Nikki Caxton, House Steward at Nymans, said: “It is highly likely that Shepard’s friendship with the Messels began when he met Linley Sambourne, the Punch illustrator, at the Royal Academy School. Linley was Maud Messel’s father, and Maud (also a talented artist) and her husband Leonard lived at Nymans until the mid 1940s.”

Shepard became an illustrator at Punch, and his friendship with the family grew.

In the summer of 1929 Maud and Leonard invited him to stay with them. They were keen to commission some sketches of the house and garden as well as having a sketch made of their granddaughter Susan. Shepard wrote: ‘I hear your garden is looking lovely and I am very much looking forward to sketching your granddaughter in so delightful a setting.’

A sketch of the house and garden, evidence of Shepard’s visit that summer, hangs in the Library to this day.

This summer, families might also like to pick up a brand new ’50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ scrapbook when they arrive at Nymans.

Over 20 of the ’50 things’ activities listed in the scrapbook can be done at Nymans, from making a home for a wild animal and geocaching, to building a den and making a daisy chain – natural fun for all ages.

For more information visit

The Wind in the Willows: 13 July to 1 November, 10am to 4.30pm every day, normal garden admission charge only. Family trails £1 per trail.

For further information, visit or call 01444 405250.