“When I was growing up, kids would go outside and play all day and invent things. And my brothers and I pretended our picnic table was a ship one summer. Our bikes were horses, and our trees were forts. We turned everything in the world into make-believe.” — Mary Pope Osborne
It’s that time of year again when we have to roll out the picnic blanket amongst the fields of buttercups and wild daisies, filled the wicker baskets with snacks, wrapped sandwiches or a cheese platter and drinks (or a nice bottle of wine), quality time spent basking in the glow of the midsummer sun in the company of our love ones.
Summertime is the best time to explore the great outdoors. But what I love most of this season is that I get to enjoy visiting some of the National trust houses and well-tended gardens where the children can freely run and wander while I enjoyed snapping photos of the astounding surrounding landscape.
National Trust is Europe’s largest conservation charity that looks after nature, beauty and history for the nation to enjoy. Although pricey for an annual family membership, members can visit as many houses and gardens as often as they want within that year. Just have to make sure to book in advance particularly if you planned to visit on weekends and holidays.
Since becoming a member of the trust, my family and I have visited a few of these places. Some of them are not far from London and can easily be reached which will be a great day out for the entire family.
The lists of places:
1. Cliveden House
This place has to be number one on my list because of its very close proximity to London. It can be located just outside M25 in the county of Berkshire. The property has great selection of formal gardens for all seasons, different activities for everyone to enjoy like a quiet walk in the woodlands, boating on the lake, and a maze for children to wander, or just sit under the shade and marvel at the garden sculptures located at the main drive or the sculptures found at The Long garden.
I recommend spending time at the beautiful landscape garden at the Parterre which has 16 triangular beds filled with summer flowers- a perfect place to just sit and relax on the grass and relish the moment. The elegant façade of the house can be a perfect backdrop for a photo-shoot pictorial if you are a keen photographer.
The place is so vast and great for children to play and run. Although they have a very cool children’s play area, I think the maze was the place where the children spent most of the time because they found it a very enjoyable activity, they went in so many times!
And I also love how convenient and close The Water Garden is to the maze area. I remembered lying down on the grass while waiting for the children to come out from the maze.
They also have good selection of hot and cold meal in the restaurant and café areas, although a nice picnic would be ideal if you can plan your visit.
The only disappointment we had on that day was that we didn’t have the opportunity to see the interior of the house because of a wedding held that day. But apart from that it was a perfect day.
2. Waddeston Manor
This country house is located in Waddeston in Buckinghamshire. The house was built in the style of a French Chateau. According to the manor’s history, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild wanted an estate where he could escape London in the summer months to entertain family and friends for the weekend house parties.
This is the only National trust we visited (apart from the Giant Causeway in N. Ireland) that offers a bus ride to take tourists to the estate. We saw some people walking instead of catching the bus but we thought the long walk might tire the children before we even started exploring so we decided to get on the bus that took us to the manor.
Unlike Cliveden House we decided to book in advance to see the interior of the manor and we’re very glad we did it because the children enjoyed seeing all the rooms. I think seeing the interior was the highlight of our day. We were in awe of how beautifully each rooms were decorated especially the banquet hall with their huge chandeliers and table setups; we felt like entering into one of Disney’s movies (like Beauty and the Beast). The children’s imagination ran wild that day especially when they noticed that there was a wall that looks like a secret door!
As with all National trust places Waddeston also have many selections of beautiful gardens and quiet places. I love the landscape garden at the south front of the manor which I almost missed if not for my husband who decided to explore that part.
3. Stourhead Parks and Garden
This property might be a bit farther from London but I will still include it as one of my lists because this place is really very beautiful. We visited Stourhead around late October when the autumn leaves are its best with their riots of autumnal colour display. It took us whole afternoon exploring the place, making sure we’re not rushing as we enjoyed taking loads of photos. The way the garden was set up was really well-planned, with the lake in the middle of the park glistening in the autumn sun. It has a hidden grotto which the children had fun exploring, a classical temples overlooking the lake and the five-arch stone bridge.
If this garden would have been closer to where we live, I would have loved to visit it as often as I want.
4. Scotney Castle
This is an English country house with formal gardens located in the county of Kent which is known for its name as ‘The Garden of England’.
There is a mixture of romance and fairytale vibe to this place especially when you visit during the months of June to August when summer flowers are in bloom at the front of the castle, beautiful roses on the sides of the bridge, moat with water lilies, the rich purple hue of wisteria climbing into sandstone walls, and a wooden bench to sit in the front garden. Such a great place to visit especially if you love gardens.
5. Sisinghurst Castle Garden
This property is also located in Kent. It was the month of April when we visited this place and the garden was bursting with spring colours. There was an abundant display of tulips in the garden and pink peonies at the front of the house during our visit and the place looks so gorgeous. This place is also worth visiting especially if you love flowers.
We climbed up into the towers which offer a spectacular view of the garden below and the vast Kentish countryside. The tower has 78 steps that lead past Vita-Sackville’s writing room.
National trust has so many great places to visit and the places I mentioned above are a few of my favourites; being a member definitely has brought loads of benefits and one of those is that it has given my family and I wonderful opportunities to explore the great outdoors and at the same time the children get to appreciate and learn the history of these places.