We were all in need of a walk to blow off the cobwebs and force us to move away from the chocolates, cake, meat, cheese and other Christmas excesses. A National Trust property and gardens was our go to place.
National Trust membership
I’ve written before about ways I entertain the kids without formal activities such as ballet classes, swimming lessons and football practices and I mentioned that, amongst other things, National Trust gardens and properties featured heavily in our yearly itinerary. We’ve been to a lot of National Trust places in Surrey and London and yesterday wanted to visit somewhere new, so on the advice of fellow National Trust member @DanFaulksCNN, we headed off for Wakehurst Place (the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) in West Sussex.
We were not disappointed. It was a really varied landscape with lots of nice walks (easily accessible with a buggy) and, amongst other things, a water garden, a walled garden and house to explore. There were plenty of opportunities for nature spotting, pooh stick playing and hide and seek. It was all good wholesome fun and kept the children (and adults) well entertained. We then went for a spot of lunch at the on site restaurant and also sampled some of the delights at the artisan bakers there. We did feel like we’d only scratched the surface at Wakehurst Place, but nap times beckoned and we’d had a lovely time.
My husband Matt and I became members of the National Trust when Sofia (now five) was a few months old. At the time I thought the £97 joint membership (children under five are free) was quite a large initial outlay, but it very quickly became apparent what a great investment it was. Our membership gave us free access to over 300 historic houses, gardens and countryside and coastline spaces and meant that we had the all-important free parking every time. Over a very short period – and during the Winter months I hasten to add – it quickly paid for itself.
In comparison, for the five of us to all go on a one-off visit to our local farm/soft play venue it costs just over £40 in Winter and £60 in Summer. I’d never thought of myself as an NT-type person, but I absolutely love it and more importantly so do the children. This year alone, we must have visited in excess of 20 times, and just as frequently in the Autumn and Winter as in the Spring and Summer.
I can only speak for the places that we’ve visited, but they all have good facilities and are really geared up for children, with plenty of activities. My younger ones are happy to have big spaces to run around in, but are already taking an interest in the things that they see outside. They can also take part in many of the arts and craft activities that are set up at many venues.
Sofia, being older, is far more engaged. She loves looking around the houses and doing some of the activities such as dressing up and eye spy. She has also been doing their 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4.
When we stay with friends and family in different parts of the country we often go and visit NT properties and gardens in the area. It’s a really good option for a family of five as local attractions can be expensive.
I’ve also found that an increasing number of my friends with children are also members, so even midweek I can throw us into the car and head out for a meet up with a friend and have a coffee and a walk.
If you are trying to keep costs down, I would advise you to take a picnic whenever the weather permits as the cafes and restaurants are pretty pricy. Matt and I had a modest hot meal and the girls had a standard lunchbox each and it came to £41. Granted, I did have a crafty miniature bottle of Merlot (it is still Christmas), but even so, I thought that this was very expensive. Wakehurst Place isn’t an exception; I find all NT eateries are pricey.