Exploring with the National Trust

There are certain milestones in life that make you feel that you really are a ‘proper grown up’. Becoming a home owner. Getting married. Having a baby. Realising that 40 is your next big birthday. (Just a few short years ago, I would have said 30. How time flies.)

I have reached another of those milestones this year. Not pregnancy with a second child, although that does strike me as being very responsible adult, having felt a bit like I was just pretending with ToddlerGirl. No, I’m talking about joining the National Trust.

Exploring with the National Trust

In fact, given that ten years ago I would have probably laughed at the idea and dismissed the National Trust as something for the, ahem, more mature person, my new membership may just feel like the most adult thing I have done.

To be fair, the National Trust has actually been doing a very good job of marketing itself more widely in recent times, including targeting families. (The 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 and Three Quarters challenge being a good example.) This impression has been borne out by my visits to National Trust properties over the last couple of years with ToddlerGirl, where we have found amazing spaces to explore, crafts and other activities aimed at children, trails suitable for the whole family to enjoy, and, in general, a very welcoming attitude towards those with little ones.

Exploring with the National Trust

My previous attitude, stereotyping membership as being the preserve of the retired with plenty of time on their hands to stroll around admiring pristine gardens, has been well and truly revised since I became a mum and actually spent some time visiting these places. There are, of course, some properties that I would consider to be less suitable for us at the moment. There is a (fascinating) place nearby, for example, which I would never take ToddlerGirl to: there is very little in the way of outside space and the inside is crammed with all sorts of interesting curios, just crying out for toddlers to pick up, lick, drop on the floor, attempt to pocket. Well, my toddler, at least. I can imagine a trip there would be hugely stressful right now with my little girl whose little fingers are always into everything!

Exploring with the National Trust

When she has the freedom of the outdoors, however, it is a different matter. The National Trust places we have enjoyed visiting have been firmly focused on outdoor adventure. We’ve found trees to hide behind, huge rhododendron bushes to ‘make camp’ in and logs to climb on. We’ve discovered secret houses, hidden nooks and crannies, and even fairy dwellings. There have been ducks to feed, puddles to splash in, sticks to pick up, space to run around in and imaginative play areas inspired by the natural landscape.

Of course, many of these elements can be found in plenty of non National Trust places – and probably for free! But I have to admit to finding something special about the properties we have been to so far. The sense of history wrapped around many of the locations; the splendour of the gardens, whether ornamental or wild; the beauty of the surrounding landscape. I love the fact that one of the properties is somewhere I used to visit with my family when I was a child and I am now taking my own child there.

Exploring with the National Trust

We’re lucky that these locations are being preserved for future generations – and opened up for all to access, rather than being kept hidden away for only the most privileged landowning families.

I must confess I often have a moment of imagining myself in Jane Austen-style dress, roaming the grounds with notebook in hand to find a quiet spot with a glorious view to sit and scribble a while… Hmm, I guess being a ‘proper grown up’ is still a little while off, milestones notwithstanding. Or perhaps the idea that I will ever feel like a responsible adult is just an illusion and I’ll be 70 and still wondering when it will happen!

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8 Comments on “Exploring with the National Trust”

  1. Having a National Trust membership opens up a world of adventure and fun for families at their wonderful sites. It’s amazing how giving the children the space to explore and freedom to play is beneficial for everyone. Thanks for linking up and sharing with Country Kids.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I remember our family having a National Trust membership when I was little and us children were less than impressed, but over the last year or so we’ve visited a couple of properties with our children and been pleasantly surprised by how much there is to do for little ones. One stately home we visited had teddies hidden about for the children to find and each room had a big box of activities related to what was in that room, it was wonderful. I think that we may end up with a membership before long!

    • Yes, I think my memories were teenage and that impression persisted through my twenties! Either I was completely misremembering or the National Trust have really started to think about what works for families, as we’ve found lots of fun things for children, both indoors and out. One property nearby had a brilliant fairy trail at Easter, with hidden fairy houses and a place to leave messages for them, that ToddlerGirl absolutely loved. Our membership was a gift and we’ll definitely be making the most of it :)

  3. Alison says:

    I love going to National Trust and English Heritage properties, there are so many and they all have something unique. Lovely photos

  4. That is mywish to be a member of NT. But their prices are a bit steep for our budget. Thanks for sharing photos as these ones. I esp love the colorful mix of trees! I wouldve never see this beautiful things if not for you =) #countrykids

    • Thanks for commenting :) NT can be expensive – our membership was an amazing Christmas present, which I think is a great idea! Also, some NT properties have some good free bits, so it’s worth checking out – e.g. there is sometimes parkland belonging to the property with good walks and trails which you can access for free. Or one place near us has tiered pricing for entry, where you can pay a bit less to access some parts and a bit more to access the building and the main gardens. It’s definitely worth having a look at the ones near to you to see if they have anything like that :)


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