As a child, my family were National Trust members. Living in South East London, our trips out to Knole and Ightham Mote gave us the opportunity to escape the hubbub of the city. I remember my brother and I diligently collecting stamps in our NT passports, keeping a record of the sites we visited close to home and in other parts of the country, when visiting family or on camping trips. I used to love the houses and imagining what it must have been like to live such a grand lifestyle and my brother would love to explore the gardens like a mini David Attenborough. We explored, took part in the trails and quizzes and listened to my parents (well my mum at least) tell us about the history of the estate and the names of the different plants growing in the magical gardens. It felt as though we walked for miles down winding paths.Fond memories indeed and certainly something I have been keen to relive with my own children. I was chuffed to bits when ‘my children’ bought me family membership for Mother’s Day back in 2015- what better gift than a promise to spend time together.We have, in the last two years, used our membership lots. We have two estates – Tyntesfield and Dyrham Park- close to where we live, which we have visited multiple times and we always look up local properties, parks and coastline when on our camping trips. We have certainly enjoyed our visits but with the buggy or baby strapped to your back and a whinging toddler, the exploration has been limited. But I think we have turned a corner! Suddenly our two, approaching three year old, Heidi, seems happy walking and our son, Dougie, is keen to take part in the trails meaning we are sure to cover good ground and of course they are both excited to present their passports for stamping at the shop.
This Easter, while I was away taking part in the London Landmarks half marathon, my husband took the children to Dryham Park to take part in the egg hunt. We then had our second dose of NT (and our second egg hunt) when my parents came to visit, making the most of the only sunny day we had at Tyntesfield. We love both estates but seem to visit them by default and ignore the fact that we are surrounded by other NT options. So, on the eve of the last day of the holidays, I set to work investigating the other options. We finally settled on Tredegar House in Newport, South Wales. I was a little dubious at first as its not one that comes up on the NT search when you filter for ‘family friendly’ days out it but it looked nice so we thought we would take the risk and I’m certainly glad we did.The estate is made up of the house and stables, the walled gardens and parklands. The latter free to explore. On entering the walled garden, we were greeted by a lady in a hut decorated in the ‘Things to do before you’re 11 3/4’ bunting – a good sign. We were invited to take part in two different trails, one exploring habitats in the garden and another investigating the house. Despite the realisation that there would not, on this occasion, be a chocolate egg at the end of the trail, Dougie was keen to take part and Heidi, well she just follows her brother.
The gardens were not extensive but well organised and the trail took us through the meandering paths of the ‘jungle’, to the ‘meadow’, into the ‘avery’, around the ‘sands’, through the ‘stables’ and to visit the ‘bugs’. The fact that there wasn’t a lot of ground to cover made it perfect for our younger children but the way in which the trail was organised through the different areas of the garden, kept them interested and racing to find the next information tag.
After a quick pit stop at the cafe, we were ready to take on the house. The children are interested in the NT houses but don’t, at this stage, have the patience to look at anything in much detail and Tony and I certainly don’t have time to read any of the information boards. I do try to scan the odd bit of text, so I can impart a little bit of knowledge of our eldest child, whilst he whizzes past the exhibits but this is limited! It makes me wonder how my own mum knew so much! Perhaps some pre-visit research may be the way forward or maybe I just need to accept that this is just a season of our lives. Gentle exposure now-deeper understating later?
By the time we had explored the gardens, visited the cafe and shop and whizzed around the house, I think Tony and I were exhausted and pretty much ready to return home. But Dougie had remembered some reference to a play park and was keen to check it out so off to the parkland we we went. Our visit here was fleeting. The park looked nice with a large lake that you can walk or cycle around, a cafe kiosk (only open in peak season) and, of-course, a playground. I also took a mental note of the neighbouring campsite that would be an easy weekend destination.
Needless to say, Tony and I were exhausted and ready for home and after some persuading we managed to get the children back to the car. I used the journey home to good effect, planning our next National Trust day out, ignoring the ‘family friendly’ filter.
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