Beatrix Potter and the Lake District

This October we stayed in Cumbria, in the Yorkshire Dales. We booked a lovely AirBnb place which was situated close enough to the Lake District we could get to most places within an hour. While I knew she had lived in the Lake District, I had no idea how much Beatrix Potter and the Lake District were linked.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District are so closely linked, with plenty of places to visit. Around the age of sixteen she visited the Lake District, staying at Wray Castle. As she started to make money from her Peter Rabbit books she bought land. She wanted to make sure the Lake District remained unspoilt and stayed the way she knew it. Often she would buy land with the National Trust, and on her death gave it all to them fully. This is the Lake District as we know it today.

Around Windermere are several National Trust car parks. We made our first stop at Fell Foot Park; situated at the bottom of the lake going towards Windermere itself. Windermere is so long you can’t see from end to end and Fell Foot Park is a good place to stop and wander around. There’s also an outdoor children’s play area which H enjoyed.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - Hill Top from the outside

Mid-way up Windermere is Hill Top, the first house Beatrix Potter bought. She lived here before she married, afterwards as a writing retreat. She had bought farmland up the road and eventually lived with her husband there.

Hill Top is decorated in the style it would have been when Beatrix lived there. Changes have been made to the house, but in a good way. There is still a lot there from her time living there – it’s somewhere that comes alive in her books. Window ledges appear in some illustrations, and you can picture Beatrix sitting creating in that very room.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - Hill Top

The dolls house on show within the house dates back to the 1800s though isn’t the one featured in The Tale of Two Bad Mice. Inside you can see wonderful decorations and furnishings if you have a peep through the windows. Now I’m curious, do those furnishings date back to the time of the book?

The National Trust describe Hill Top as a house for someone who ‘never grew up’ (Beatrix’s own words). Brought up in isolation with her brother Bertram, Beatrix sought solace in art and nature.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - Hill Top

Around the grounds of Hill Top are Beatrix’s gardens – it feels like a house you would hide away from the world, yet still be very close to. You can see her vegetable garden as well as the rhubarb patch where Jemima Puddleduck tried to hide her eggs.

Outside Hill Top in Near Sawrey itself are houses which feature in the books, and indeed the area around the Stones Lane junction has several shops which feature in her books. Peter Rabbit by the red post box? It’s just around the corner from Hill Top.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - red post box by Hill Top

Entry is free for National Trust members. On arrival you get a map of the grounds with a timed entry slot for the house, where you’re free to wander around.

Up the road is Hawkshead which is worth a wander in its own right. You need to park up (paid, think it was about £4ish for two hours) and walk to the centre of the town. You will arrive at an office where you get your tickets for a few doors down where there’s a Beatrix Potter exhibition and more interactive things to do.

The office in question used to house the solicitor’s office where William Heelis, her future husband, worked. Low wooden ceilings and a really interesting exhibition ‘The Right Sort Of Woman‘ were yet another fascinating insight. There was also an original Peter Rabbit letter that she had written on show.

The exhibition features contributions from workers – for example, Beatrix never paid the men for their work, always their wives.

Beatrix set up local health care, making sure there was a doctor in the area, fully paid for by her so that locals had access to medical care. She sounded like a great employer and one who seemed in touch with what her workers needed.

The exhibition is coming to an end, so don’t miss out.

Wray Castle
Moving away slightly from Beatrix Potter, up the road is Wray Castle. It’s not a traditional castle, more a Victorian gothic mansion, but nonetheless it’s a great place to visit with lots of child-friendly things to do inside. There’s also a Beatrix Potter exhibition, ‘The Women of Wray Castle‘ which also features Margaret Dawson.

Beatrix and her family came to stay at Wray Castle one summer when she was sixteen. Maybe this is what made her love for the Lake District grow?

While at Wray, Beatrix drew lots of images of mushrooms growing there, making a name for herself in the mycology field. As she was female, her views and opinions were rejected. These days her work has been revisited and has been acknowledged as having great value.

Wray Castle Outdoor Play Area

If you’re looking for somewhere for your child to burn off some energy, Wray Castle is that place. As well as the inside of the castle, there is a big natural play area outside.

Close to Hawkshead and Hill Top is Esthwaite Water, another inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s books. It’s an unspoilt area where yet more of the books featured.

Tarn Hows is also nearby, a large man-made Tarn which has wonderful views, though was somewhere we didn’t have the time to visit.

View from Wray Castle looking towards Windermere

I think we need to go back – three days wasn’t long enough to do everything we wanted to!

Country Kids

Clandon Park is Open Again after the Fire

It was the 29th April 2015 and news started to come in – Clandon Park near Guildford was on fire. Beautiful Clandon Park – a Grade I listed mansion. But there’s good news – Clandon is being rebuilt.

Clandon House 2013

Clandon Park is a mansion near West Clandon, near Guildford. On the 29th April 2015 a fire gutted the mansion, all bar one room. The fire started in the basement and spread to the upper floors.

Fortunately several things were saved and retrieved before the fire took hold. However, a lot was lost – including the inside of the house. Clandon Park is just a shell.

Clandon Park fireplaces that survived after the fire

As National Trust members, we’ve combined Clandon Park and nearby Hatchlands Park in a single visit. When H was a baby Clandon was the better of the two for little legs. It has now reopened, and things are changing.

From January 2019 work will begin on restoring Clandon. The ground floor will be as close as possible to how it was, with the upper floors having an exhibition area which will continually change. On the top floor there’s talk of a dining area with spectacular views across the Surrey Hills.

Hi vis and hard hats to see inside Clandon Park

We were given hard hats and hi-vis vests and had a look inside the house.

There is a walkway through a section of the house, and it’s fascinating. Obviously it goes without saying it would be better the fire never happened, though because it did, the people who volunteer at Clandon have learned so much about how the house was built.

Clandon Park after the fire Royal Bedroom and doorway

For example, in the Royal Chamber; a room which was always ready for any passing Kings or Queens to stay, should they need to; it was discovered the walls had several layers. Initially wood was nailed into the walls which were then covered in hessian. Wallpaper was placed over that, leaving what everyone saw up to 2015. But now you can see the layers underneath.

Clandon Park after the fire - 1930s fireproof solution and looking up to the roof
How about some 1930s fireproofing? There is a tiny section which hangs across the upper floor. Sadly ironic, it’s the only part which still stands up there.

Incredibly, the marble fireplaces remain intact. The staff at Clandon Park found that pillars thought to be marble were in fact painted to look that way – and were just plaster. On the first floor statues (again, marble) are intact. You can see smaller fireplaces which survived as well.

What H thought would be a boring hour or two ended up being a really fascinating hour or two. Seeing the structure of the house, how thick the walls are and seeing where wood and stone staircases once were is really interesting.

If you visit Hatchlands Park, I’d recommend a trip to Clandon Park as well. It’s just up the road, the grounds are open too. I wish it wasn’t interesting and that we were visiting as normal (the cafe in the basement was always one of our favourite National Trust ones), but love that H came away asking different questions about the build of the house.

Clandon Park Dutch Garden and Newt

In the gardens we spotted loads of newts in the pond in the Dutch Garden – with the glorious sunshine it was a lovely day to get out and enjoy being outdoors. Looking across the bulb meadow to the house there was a hint of sadness, though knowing things will change in the coming years means this view will happen again.

To visit Clandon Park, please check their opening times. You can turn up to visit the house, you don’t need to pre-book. Spending money at Clandon Park also helps vital funds needed for this rebuilding project.

Clandon Park after the fire. Before and after

Country Kids
 

Osterley Park and House – and Our First Time in a Canoe

It was a sunny day so I suggested we travel to West London to try Osterley Park and House – our National Trust membership has just renewed for an eighth year so I wanted to use it as quickly as possible.

Osterley Park and House is over in West London, around an hour for us in the car. You arrive and you wouldn’t feel like you’re in London at all, apart from being underneath the Heathrow flight path, so you see a plane every minute or so.

Osterley Park and House

Osterley House dates back to Tudor times – we ran out of time to investigate so we’ll have to go back. We were going to combine a trip with Syon House but ran out of time – there was way more to do than we thought.

The National Trust website mentions sports activities in Osterley Park, so we headed there as it sounded like something fun to do. Little did we know it would be a LOT of fun. H has played badminton twice now, so any excuse to find some space to have a proper game, right? (and they provide racquets too)

Osterley Park and House badminton

 

In conjunction with the National Trust, a local canoeing club offer you a 30-45 minute canoe around the pond there. At £6 per person we thought it was pretty reasonable – the main issue for me was how deep was the lake?

It isn’t that deep at all, probably up to H’s shoulders, so we could have stood comfortably in there had we fallen out. Nonetheless, we wore life jackets and I instantly wondered what on earth I was getting myself into.

Canoeing at Osterley Park and House

The canoe sessions are running until October, and are definitely worth doing! For the more experienced canoeist you could take one on your own. If there are just the two of you, there are plenty of two man canoes. Ours holds three people so we didn’t get wet (you do in the canoes for two). My feet still ended up soaked but oh my, it was GREAT fun! We went around the lake twice, and ended up exhausted – it took a short while to get our rhythm as well as making sure none of us shuffled around too much.

But that’s not all, because Osterley Park has a trail – a natural play trail. How cool is that? If you head for the long walk around the grounds you’ll find it. There are plenty of bits of wood marked like this

Osterley Park and House arrow

You come across wooden features like this

Osterley Park and House wooden climbing natural play

and this

Osterley Park and House natural play 2

or this

Osterley Park rope swing

and even this

Osterley Park and House Rope Swing 2

until you reach the really big natural play area with this

Osterley Park and House giant swing

and a tree you can climb which is a really good tree for climbing, with a ‘climb chime’ half way up.

Osterley Park and House Chime Climb

and this – but of course who needs an invitation when it comes to building dens?

Osterley Park and House den arena

We could have spent far longer at Osterley Park and House, which means we’ll just have to go back. Next time we’ll combine it with that trip to Syon Park we didn’t manage to get to.

Here’s their website.

Country Kids

Easter Egg Hunts – Where to Go?

It’s almost that time of the year again, Easter. Every year without fail we find ourselves at a National Trust Easter Egg hunt which are all brilliant, and well organised. This year we fancied a change. But where to go?

Easter Egg hunts are starting around now, the start of April. Most run for a few weeks, but please check the links provided for more information.

National Trust and Cadbury Easter Egg Hunts logo

The National Trust Easter Egg hunt are great. They work with Cadbury’s, and usually have some kind of trail around the place you’re visiting. I’ve spotted easy ones for younger children and slightly more complicated ones for the slightly cockier over 7’s (read : H). They’re suitable for all and perfect for glorious sunny days. The eggs are pretty good too!

You can find more information here. There is usually a cost involved on top of your National Trust membership.

[We pay for National Trust membership every year]

hampton court magic garden h on dragon

Historic Royal Palaces have some trails on as well. We’re probably going to do Hampton Court Palace this year, who are doing their trail in conjunction with Lindt. I’m actually wondering if adults can do it too… It is Hampton Court’s first ever Easter trail. I love Hampton Court, and the Magic Garden has reopened for the season as of yesterday (1st April). I can’t think of a better reason to go! The Easter Egg trail is included in your admission price.

[We get free entry to Hampton Court as it is part of the CSSC scheme]

hever castle

Hever Castle has an easter egg hunt, another Lindt one. I don’t think we’ll have time to do this one this year, but having had a day at Hever recently, it would be a wonderful place to wander around in the sun, especially knowing there is Lindt chocolate involved at the end. The Lindt Gold Bunny hunt is free, and they have additional activities available at a cost. Worth looking into anyway!

[We have Historic Houses Association Membership so can enter Hever Castle for free]

Our Summer - Tintagel

English Heritage also have some Easter Activities on – with all sorts of activities. They look pretty awesome, and don’t mention chocolate… Not all English Heritage places are doing it, so please check this link for more information. They also fall around the Easter weekend, rather than the start of April.

[We are English Heritage members via CSSC and the above link is an affiliate link]

Our 2016 Memberships and Passes

We’re pretty organised when it comes to having memberships and passes for various places. It makes life easier when you can turn up somewhere having already paid. So I thought I’d go through our current ones.

National Trust, Scotney Castle, membership and passes

National Trust. We’re still National Trust members. As far as membership and passes go, this is the one we’ve had the longest at six years now. We make our money back each year and there’s a neverending supply of places to visit. It costs us about £100 a year.

Our Summer - Tintagel, membership and passes

English Heritage. We’ve had this for over a year now as part of Shaun’s CSSC membership. The Civil Service has corporate membership which gives you a discount in the gift shops. We’ve used this a lot and visited some fantastic places. We enjoyed Tintagel in Cornwall when we stayed nearby. This costs us £4 a month.

Legoland Windsor Taylor Swift Legoland Windsor

Merlin Passes. We’re coming to the end of our second year of Merlin Passes. We were planning on going to Chessington or Legoland for Christmas this year. But Merlin have doubled the price making it and it’s expensive. It’s not worth it. We have enjoyed visiting places like the London Dungeon, London Eye, Chessington and Thorpe Park as well as SeaLife in Weymouth. With the price hikes and paying extra we won’t be renewing these ones next year. They were fun but we can get discounts via Shaun’s CSSC membership if we choose to visit a Merlin attraction. We still have one last trip to Alton Towers to go this year, another surprise for H! This costs us £360 a year.

Hampton Court, H on dragon, Hampton Court Magic Garden, membership and passes

Historic Royal Palaces. We took out this one on a whim and it has been brilliant. We’ve visited Hampton Court so many times this year. The best part is that you can visit the majority of the palaces in any weather, and there’s plenty to do. We’ve loved the Magic Garden at Hampton Court. I want to go back to Kensington Palace now I’ve been watching ‘Victoria’ on ITV every Sunday! Having this membership has made history so interesting for us. This cost us £90.

NUS Extra. I’ve signed up to do a course in writing a children’s book which is going slowly. I have my idea and it’s written, but I need to make the time to complete the course. The course means I’m eligible for NUS Extra membership, and it has been brilliant so far. I get 10% off in Superdrug and the Co-Op, and some excellent discounts at Pizza Express too. There is an option to add Gourmet Society membership to it but I didn’t. Then again, Shaun gets it with his CSSC membership so we’re covered if we ever need it. This cost £12.

Painshill Park, membership and passes

Historic Houses Association. This is one of the memberships and passes I’m considering for next year. It would cost around £100 for the three of us but has a lot of properties around the country. We’re staying in Cornwall, we visit York too, and of course nearby there is Painshill Park.

So this is all at the moment. I think it’s a pretty good variety of places to visit and things to do. On the horizon I’m looking at Disneyland Paris passes. They make it worth it if you visit for five days and also offer some good perks and discounts. I also like their FastPass system as everyone can use it.

Do you have any memberships or passes you use that we haven’t covered? Come and suggest them in the comments below.

Picture-perfect picnic spots with the National Trust

There’s no better way to celebrate summer than packing a picnic and catching up with friends and family. With miles of coastline and acres of countryside, the National Trust cares for some of the best spots in the country for eating al fresco and enjoying stunning views.

For those whose picnic preparation isn’t quite up to scratch, there are also plenty of ways to make it extra-special with the delicious seasonal food on offer at National Trust cafés and shops.

Here are some of the top picnic spots and places to stop for a tasty treat:

South West
Avebury, Wiltshire
If you’re looking to picnic in historical surroundings then Avebury is the perfect spot. The pretty village is partially encompassed by the world’s largest prehistoric stone circle, now a World Heritage Site. There’s plenty of green space to throw your rug down and little ones will love rolling down the surrounding hills and banks. On the edge of the village stands Avebury Manor, which was recently transformed in a partnership between the National Trust and the BBC. The Manor creates a hands-on experience that celebrates and reflects the lives of the people who once lived in Avebury; the perfect educational accompaniment to a glorious picnic.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury

Lanhydrock, Cornwall
Lanhydrock estate covers 1,000 acres, with parkland, ancient woodland and riverside paths. Pack a rucksack and go on a family adventure to find your perfect spot. The estate has lots of cycle trails and even has bikes to hire, so you can plan a day full of exploration. Once you’ve had your fill of sandwiches and adventures, why not relax in the gardens and take in the beautiful scents of blooming herbaceous borders.
For information on bicycle hire, please call: 01208 265975
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lanhydrock

Studland Beach, Dorset
Take the children for a good old fashioned day out on this golden sandy beach that stretches four miles from South Haven Point to Old Harry Rocks. It’s an ideal place to enjoy the simple pleasures of beach picnics and tumbling sandcastles. And with shallow bathing water it’s perfect for paddling with the little ones. You can also visit the nearby ruins of Corfe Castle to discover over 1,000 years of history and relive childhood memories by seeing the inspiration behind Enid Blyton’s Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/studland-bay

A family enjoys a picnic on the lawn at Polesden Lacey, Surrey ©National Trust Images Stuart Cox
A family enjoys a picnic on the lawn at Polesden Lacey, Surrey ©National Trust Images Stuart Cox

South East
Polesden Lacey, Surrey
Lazy Jazz Sundays, every Sunday June – September & Bank Holiday Monday 29 August, 2pm – 4pm
Unwind on the lush green grass of Polesden Lacey’s South Lawn to the melodious tones of live jazz music. You can fill up your hamper with treats at the café which will be offering pick-up-and-go food for impromptu picnics. Every penny you spend in the café helps the National Trust care for special places like Polesden Lacey for summers to come. Afterwards take a stroll through the gardens and estate where stunning displays of climbing roses and double herbaceous borders will be in full bloom.
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
For more information, please call: 01372 452048
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/polesden-lacey

Morden Hall Park, London
Jazzy June Evenings, 17 & 24 June, 8pm – 10pm
Morden Hall Park is green oasis, giving you a taste of the country at the end of the Northern Line. Every Friday throughout June, Morden will be staying open late and playing host to an evening of jazz in the historic stable yard. A different group will be performing each week, so bring a picnic, grab a glass of Pimm’s and take the chance to dance the night away.
Price: £8 in advance, £10 on the gate (booking essential)
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/morden-hall-park

Woman relaxing beside the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park, London. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Woman relaxing beside the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park, London. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Stowe is a place of such scale and beauty that it has attracted visitors for over 300 years. This timeless landscape, created by the celebrated gardener ‘Capability’ Brown, is full of picture-perfect viewpoints, winding paths, lakeside walks and classical temples. Drop by the café to add an extra homemade treat to your hamper. There’s everything from mouth-watering cheese scones and sausage rolls to indulgent slices of cake, so all you need to do is bring a rug and choose a spot to enjoy the view.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stowe

East
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
With a shimmering lake, shady woodland, colourful garden and rolling green parkland, you’re never far from an idyllic picnic spot at Blickling. Take a stroll around the grounds to find your picture-perfect setting. After tucking in, set the kids loose in the secret garden and ancient temple, and smell the wonderful citrus trees in the orangery. The whole family can also hire bikes and segways to explore the park, with every penny going towards conserving the beautiful landscape.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate

Flatford, Suffolk
Flatford Mill is right in the middle of Dedham Vale, part of the rolling Essex landscapes that inspired Constable’s idyllic rural paintings. This is great walking countryside, so why not pack a rucksack full of treats and head out onto the trails for a day of family fun. There are plenty of spots along the way to relax by the water’s edge and enjoy your feast. Or you can even hire a boat from the nearby boathouse and row down river to see the beautiful surroundings from a new perspective.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/flatford

Wimpole, Cambridgeshire
Admire the views of the recently restored Gothic Tower at Wimpole Estate with a picnic in the north park. The 18th-century tower, designed to look like a picturesque medieval ruin, makes a picture-perfect backdrop for any picnic. You’ll be able to see right across the estate as you enjoy the peace and tranquillity of your surroundings. Afterwards, take a stroll around the gardens and woodland and find out how Wimpole’s gardeners are using greener gardening techniques to safeguard the future of this glorious estate.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wimpole-estate

Visitors at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Visitors at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Midlands
Berrington Hall, Herefordshire
Enjoy the splendour of Berrington Hall’s ‘Capability’ Brown parkland from the comfort of your picnic rug this summer. The lake at the centre of the park is a haven for wildlife, carefully cared for by Berrington’s gardeners and rangers. Herons, mute swans, great-crested grebes and much more live there so there’s always something to see. Afterwards take a stroll around the walled garden to see the flourishing orchard, flower borders and vegetable patch.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/berrington-hall

Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and take the time to get closer to nature at Clumber Park. Whether it’s cycling, orienteering or a gentle stroll you’re after, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun with all the family. Afterwards you can enjoy a shady picnic in the woodlands or overlooking the glittering lake. The kids can climb, swing and run around in the play park, try out some of the ‘50 things’ activities or pick up a family tracker pack to see what they can find.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clumber-park

Croome, Worcestershire
Croome was Capability Brown’s first landscape garden and it’s the ideal place to relax with some tasty treats. When it comes to picnicking you’ll be spoilt for choice with tranquil spots overlooking lakes and rivers, next to statues, bridges, follies or classical temples. There are plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained too, including a natural play area with den building and an exciting programme of walking trails to explore.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome

Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey, Wales. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey, Wales. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Wales
Chirk Castle
Chirk Castle is packed full of fantastic places to picnic, each with their own charm. Relax in the Kitchen Garden with far-reaching views along Offa’s Dyke and into the Ceiriog Valley below, or up at the castle you can picnic and play in the meadow with views for miles across the Cheshire plain. Why not spread a blanket on the grass in the courtyard, or if it’s tranquillity you’re after then head to the terrace at the bottom of the gardens for beautiful views across Shropshire from the ha-ha.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chirk-castle

Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire
Settle down for sandwiches at Dinefwr Park and keep an eye out for the resident fallow deer that have been roaming the land for 1000 years. What better place to lay down your picnic blanket than the only parkland National Nature Reserve in Wales. Stop beneath an old oak tree or next to a flower-rich hay meadow cared for by National Trust rangers and watch the world go by. There are some designated picnic benches on the estate too.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dinefwr

Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey
With atmospheric views across the Menai Strait and to Snowdonia’s mountains, and beautiful blooming gardens throughout the summer, it’s never hard to find a perfect picnic spot at Plas Newydd. Settle down with a hamper on the lawns to the north of the mansion and you’ll be rewarded with views of the Italianate Terrace, where hot borders are a virtual furnace of reds and oranges, including canna, rudbeckia and dahlia.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/plas-newydd

Fountains Abbey,  ©NT Images Andrew Butler
Fountains Abbey, ©National Trust Images Andrew Butler

North West
Borrowdale and Derwent Water, Cumbria
Just five minutes’ walk from the quaint market town of Keswick, the Borrowdale Valley is a great place to get an introduction to walking in the Lake District. There are plenty of trails up onto the fells, or you can stick to exploring the pebbly shores around Derwent Water. Brandelhow on the western edge of the lake makes the perfect picnic location, with far-reaching views across the water and loads of space for the kids to run around in.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/borrowdale-and-derwent-water

Quarry Bank, Cheshire
Picnic on the Mill Meadow at Quarry Bank, set against the backdrop of the 18th-century Georgian cotton mill in the valley of the River Bollin. With scenic panoramic views and plenty of space to play in, it’s the ideal place for a day of fun in the sun. Quarry Bank even welcomes four-legged furry friends to its woodlands and gardens, so you can explore the estate as a whole family.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarry-bank

Wray Castle, Cumbria
Perched on the shores of Lake Windermere, this mock-Gothic castle with turrets and towers provides a great backdrop for a family day out. Settle down with a feast at the picnic tables just outside the castle and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views in all directions. Little visitors will be excited to know that there’s now a mini ‘treecastle’ in the outdoors play area, so after you’ve had your fill of feast why not head out for an adventure?
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wray-castle

Visitors in the grounds to the south front of Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Visitors in the grounds to the south front of Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Yorkshire and North East
Beningbrough Hall, York
Beningbrough’s gardens are full of secret nooks where you can picnic surrounded by flowers and wildlife. Or if you prefer a bit more space, why not throw the rug down on the south facing lawns and soak up some summer sun? If you’re hoping to build an appetite first you can borrow a bike for the day. There’s a selection of bikes and trikes on offer, and even one with a picnic-carrying carriage so you can tow along your lunch to your perfect destination.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall-gallery-and-gardens

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire
On a glorious sunny day you can’t beat packing a picnic and heading for the abbey green. With acres of lush green grass and the stunning 800 year old abbey ruins as a backdrop, it’s not hard to find a picture-perfect spot. Afterwards, take a stroll among the trees on the edge of Studley Royal deer park or along the banks of the river Skell and see if you can spot some of the 500 wild red, fallow and Sika deer.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden

Wallington
A family day at Wallington isn’t complete without the chance to play games in the outdoors. Bring your Frisbee or football or set off towards the West Woods for a wild adventure. If you’re looking for a quieter spot to relax then why not set out a blanket and tuck into a picnic on the lawn at the end of the walled garden. Overlooking the little pond, it’s the perfect hide away for a tranquil afternoon.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wallington

Northern Ireland
Rowallane Garden, County Down
Just a short drive from Belfast, Rowallane is a beautiful setting for a walk and picnic. During the summer the walled garden is brimming with colour, from egg-yolk yellow hypericum to bright pink shrub roses. There are plenty of picnic benches around the grounds, or you can take a blanket and find your own hidden corner among the blooms. Head to the garden café for extra treats, where every penny you spend goes towards conserving places like Rowallane for summers to come.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/rowallane-garden

The Argory, County Armagh
Deep in the green County Armagh countryside is a place where the mist rolls down to the River Blackwater and time stands still. Enjoy peaceful views of the river, running wild in the woods and adventure playground, and mulling over the sun dial. The Courtyard Coffee Shop is full of fresh, home-baked scones, sandwiches and cakes so you can grab an impromptu picnic while you’re there.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/argory

Florence Court, County Fermanagh
Build up an appetite for a picnic with a day of adventures at Florence Court. There are miles of glorious walks and cycle trails through the forest, a playground for little explorers and the opportunity to discover more about nature with adventure tracker packs. Take a stroll to visit the blacksmith’s forge and carpenters workshop, then relax with a picnic in the peaceful gardens and enjoy the mountain views.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/florence-court

Every single visit supports the National Trust’s conservation work, looking after special places for people to enjoy for years to come.

Our Easter Weekend

Good Friday was a trip to Emmett’s Gardens and Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home.  We did the National Trust Easter Egg hunt at Emmett’s Gardens, somewhere we haven’t been before. It was a gloriously sunny day too, and the perfect weather for being outside and relaxing. I felt like my break had started! We’ve been to Chartwell before, so just wandered around the grounds. H was three when we last went so didn’t remember anything about it, whereas I remembered a lot more than Shaun!

Emmetts Gardens and Chartwell

I did stare at the house, wondering how people with so much money could justify living in such gigantic houses, but reading the Chartwell Wikipedia page, Winston Churchill couldn’t afford to live there as it was too big, so a friend bought it, he lived there for a nominal rent until his death when it was given to the National Trust. It’s a huge house…

Ebb and Flow Sutton Afternoon Tea

Saturday was a trip to the cinema to see the excellent Zootropolis in 3D – and it didn’t disappoint. Shaun spotted the Breaking Bad reference (these things always go over my head), and we all enjoyed it a lot. H enjoyed it so much she went to see it again today with Holiday Club! We popped to Ebb and Flow in Sutton afterwards for Afternoon Tea – at £10 each (and we only needed two for the three of us) it was a bargain, although I was high on sugar for ages afterwards!

H Easter Eggs 2016

Easter Sunday came, and H got WAY too many Easter Eggs – the lucky girl won one at school, and got two from her childminders! The day itself was a bit wet, and in fact, there were hailstones, so what better an idea than to go to Legoland? It’s just over an hour for us to get there, and we always seem to time it on a rainy day that brightens up, making the most of the short queues. We did loads! H got on rides she wouldn’t have dared go on a year ago – and we ended up on Mia’s Riding Adventure three times (I couldn’t do it any more after that – it is amazing though!). When we’d parked up and got into the park the sun came out – and we got a decent day of sun, with some rainy patches. We were dressed for a cold, wet day so ended up having plenty of fun!

Legoland Easter 2016

Easter Monday was a horrible weather day. H decided she was going to be sick (she wasn’t), and it was so rotten, and we had been so busy that we stayed at home and had a lazy day. I think we deserve it!

Bluebell Railway and Sheffield Park

We’ve wanted to go on the Bluebell Railway for a long time now, but never seemed to time it right. We finally went on New Year’s Eve, driving down to Sheffield Park where it starts, making it with minutes to spare.

Bluebell Railway

From Carshalton to Sheffield Park on a good day it takes an hour, which isn’t bad at all – we bought tickets for the Fairy Godmother Specials (£17.50 per adult, £9.00 per child – slightly more than a standard all-line return), which gives you third class seats plus you get a mince pie and are served drinks. After a crazy end of year I was more than happy to sit down, watch the world go by and drink a glass of white wine.

For H’s ticket she got a pack of smarties, a balloon character made (Tigger!) and a little bag with a toy lion in it which was lovely.

The journey there and back took around two hours, and it was good to switch off and take in the Sussex countryside.

Sheffield Park National Trust

Afterwards we decided to head up the road to Sheffield Park, a National Trust place we’ve never visited. Our main purpose was to grab some food, and then spend their last hour open of 2015 wandering around the grounds. They had a trail which immediately appealed to H, looking for various wicker sculptures (A Winter’s Trail) around the grounds – so once we had eaten we headed out – and it was fairly easy to do in an hour.

One sculpture had blown away, but otherwise there were eight sculptures of varying designs dotted around the grounds which H loved finding (as well as stopping to splash in a few puddles). Sheffield Park is a landscape garden with much of the layout and design coming from Capability Brown, who worked on a few gardens and houses we’ve been to.

Sheffield Park National Trust

Sheffield Park has many lakes, joined together with interesting bridges, walkways, paths and gardens. You can hear the whistle from the Bluebell Railway from time to time as you walk around, but most of all you can breathe; the fresh, crisp country air is all around you.

We arrived at Sheffield Park train station for the 12.15 train, and left Sheffield Park National Trust at 4pm – and could have stayed for longer too!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

For our latest book review, we were sent Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach, published in September 2015 by Pavilion Books.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

Apple Pigs which is written and illustrated by Ruth Gary Orbach was originally published in 1978, and has a long-overdue reissue by the National Trust via Pavilion Books.

The story of Apple Pigs is a timeless classic, a beautifully illustrated tale of an apple tree which grows too many apples. A little girl finds a withered apple tree surrounded by rubbish. In order to help the tree grow and to not be chopped up for firewood she clears the rubbish around it. When spring arrives the tree bursts into blossom and produces many apples.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

In fact, it produces MANY apples. Too many apples, more than the family needs. They cook and hide the apples but they keep growing – so they have an annual apple feast! Almost everyone I know with apple trees seem to be giving us bags of apples which is wonderful, so I can relate to this, having had some delicious apple crumble recently!

The back of the book also has a guide ‘How to Make Apple Pigs’ – with nice easy to follow instructions – and is something we’ll be having a go at. The National Trust website has some activities too over here.

Did you know that October 21st is the 25th anniversary of Apple Day? It was first initiated by the UK charity Common Ground and is celebrated with Apple Day and weekend events all over the country. Our local National Trust place (Morden Hall Park) had an apple day this weekend with local varieties to try.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

Apple Pigs is a much-loved book – and a classic story told in rhyme. It is based on a true story – Ruth Orbach’s editor listened to the tale over dinner, and said it must be written down – and here it is! Warning – make sure you have plenty of apples at home while reading, as you may well end up dashing into the kitchen afterwards, finding yourself suddenly inspired by the mention of some of the apple-based desserts!

Apple Pigs is available now, with a RRP of £9.99, available from Amazon and all good bookstores.

We were sent the book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own. Post contains affiliate link.

Cornwall on a Budget

So we had a week in Cornwall last week, and had to watch our money – and typically a few things happened which meant we had to be even stricter with our pennies – Shaun broke a tooth (which will cost over £500 to fix). Car insurance was due, and our National Trust membership. Luckily we’d booked our holiday back in February or March and paid in full at the time!

The good thing about Cornwall is how much you can do being a member of an organisation, so you really only end up buying food and mementoes.

On our journey down we stopped at Moto Service Stations – with a Merlin Pass you get a discount at some stores – it all helps!

Kynance Cove National Trust

The National Trust own several beaches and properties – and you can save a lot of money on car parking this way. The two beaches we visited were Kynance Cove and Gunwalloe Church Cove and both were wonderful. Kynance Cove has a busy cafe, and plenty of areas for kids to explore, plus great tides for bodyboarding. Gunwalloe is an open beach, perfect for flying a kite and again great for bodyboarding. There’s a cash-only cafe there.

Cash – now there’s something. I’m used to paying by card and carrying minimal cash with me, but found in Cornwall you need to carry some cash with you, as you will get caught out. Our nearest cashpoint was often in Helston (a good 10 miles away) so I made sure to have some handy, mainly to pay for car parking – as don’t expect an app to work on your phone to pay it, there’s no phone signal around a lot of the beaches!

Pendennis Castle English Heritage

We also have English Heritage membership via Shaun’s CSSC card, and found we also got a discount in their stores – a good excuse to buy a bit more! This covered Pendennis Castle near Falmouth, which was a good morning out – try to get there for midday as they fire a gun out towards the sea, which H enjoyed. We didn’t make it to Tintagel Castle which I want to visit, so that’ll be one for next time.

The night before we were due to check in to our caravan, we decided to stay in a wooden wigwam near Chepstow – it was well placed for the M5 and an early start. We beat the bad traffic, but be aware there are long-term roadworks near Bodmin, which delayed things by 40 minutes. I got a Wowcher deal, and it was warm, comfortable and quiet – bedding was included too. There was a good cafe there too, very child-friendly. We paid £50.

As well as the beaches, the National Trust have several properties around the area we stayed – we visited Trellisick Garden as we had arrived in Cornwall four hours before our check-in time. It was good to stretch our legs and discover a new area – plus the weather was gloriously sunny! We also visited Glendurgan (which had a fabulous maze and beach you could skim pebbles on), and of course St Michael’s Mount.

St Michael’s Mount is National Trust owned, but your parking costs extra. It’s an easy walk over (as long as the tide is out) – a lot of the causeway was swept away with the bad storms, so is being rebuilt – so they ask that you get back before the tide comes in. They’re obviously not going to stop you walking over it when the sea covers it, but I guess if everyone did there’d be a problem. It was a good 4-5 hours of wandering around the rock, listening to storytellers and H had a special trail to follow which she enjoyed and got a medal at the end for completing. The views too – and the glorious weather! If you don’t make it back before the tide, you can still get back by boat which costs a reasonable amount. There are food places on the rock, but expect queues. We went to the Sail Loft which had good priced food. Be aware, while everywhere takes cards, the boat rides back don’t – so make sure you have cash! The National Trust gift shop offers cashback as long as you spend £5 – there are no cashpoints there.

Seal Sanctuary Gweek

We didn’t just have glorious weather though, the rain really made its presence known. We headed out to the Seal Sanctuary in Gweek on one of those days, assuming there’d be cover – but it’s all outdoors. Fortunately we were wrapped up well so didn’t feel it (it was a warm but wet day), and gained free entry with our Merlin Passes as it’s a Sea Life Attraction. It’s a wonderful day out – a place where all the sick seals go – and they have the freedom to move around in large areas, some of them likely to live the rest of their life there. Each area has a story about its inhabitants and where they came from, and it’s fascinating. H really enjoyed it, and again, they had a trail which she completed and got a medal. There’s a Lego City quiz on at the moment which she enjoyed doing, you get a nice folder with stickers and things inside. There were areas you could shelter from the rain, so when it got really bad we stopped for food, expect to spend a good 3-4 hours there – there’s lots of walking to do!

We popped into Roskilly’s Ice Cream Parlour on more than one occasion. We also stopped by the area where the cows are milked – having read a lot about it lately, it was reassuring to see the cows graze on pastures which are farmed in a sustainable way on their organic farm. While I still feel uncomfortable seeing cows milked (it’s the being taken away from their babies bit I don’t like), it was interesting for H to see.

We visited other beaches too – Poldhu was great, and we found had lost all its sand in one of the severe storms over the last few years. Fortunately it came back after another severe storm, and was a good place to pitch our chairs and relax (and for H to bodyboard of course). The Poldhu Beach Cafe sells lots of t-shirts and essentials – slightly more expensive for the beach essentials but a good cafe nonetheless.

On our first night we went to Praa Sands, unfortunately just as the tide was coming in but it was good to be by the sea again – a place I always feel calm. There’s cafe’s there as well, and shops too. We also visited Gunwalloe – be aware, this is different to Gunwalloe Church Cove. Pebbles! It’s the fishing side of the bay, although I did get a laugh when a giant wave completely soaked H – I probably laughed a bit too much….

A trip to that part of Cornwall (Helston) isn’t complete without a trip to St Ives – at less than ten miles away, we used the shuttle bus service, going into the main village and wandering around the shops before heading towards the Tate and getting the shuttle bus back. It cost £5 to park our car, and a £5 return for the three of us. Wandering around the shops was great, and I finally got into a branch of Seasalt where I treated myself to a new skirt in their sale! I’d been looking for a book of Cornish stories for H after she heard ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ at St Michael’s Mount – and found the perfect book in the St Ives Bookseller – it’s a small independent bookshop and has a great selection in there. We ate at the Seafood Cafe which caters for vegetarians and was really reasonably priced too.

Eden Project

Our journey home involved a stop at the Eden Project, which had so much to do we need to go back to get it done – there’ll be a more in-depth review to follow. We bought tickets heavily discounted with the CSSC membership.

At the very end of our break we made the most of a trip to Stonehenge, the half-way mark on the way home – and free of course as we’re English Heritage AND National Trust members. Phew!

Stonehenge National Trust English Heritage