A couple of weeks ago, I was flicking through some photos of last year’s school summer break – it was a lovely catalogue of brilliant days out and activities, mainly supplied for little or no cost by shops and businesses in the local area. We had £2-per-child sandpit afternoons at a garden centre, free crafting and creating at Hobbycraft, and “Meet the Animals” sessions in Pets at Home – also free of charge. There were big playground meet-ups with friends, and of course our summer holiday as a family.
So much – if not all – of last year’s fun is very likely to be off the cards for us this year. So how to fill the looming six week break before the big plan for everyone to file back into school? Of course, I thought – the National Trust!
We had membership when we lived in North Yorkshire, and when our firstborn was a tiny baby, we were constant visitors to the glorious Fountains Abbey, which was only a couple of miles down the road from us. If you haven’t been, I implore you to visit North Yorks for that sole reason. Almost destroyed by Henry VIII, this monastery was one of the biggest, wealthiest and important religious communities in the country for hundreds of mediaeval years. It sits in a tranquil valley next to a stream, and the scale, beauty and peace of the place is something seriously special. The ornamental lakes and gardens of Studley Royal that were added several centuries after the abbey fell to ruins make it the most stunning day out – and excellent exercise with a pram.
We kept our membership on for a little while on moving south, and often used it on short breaks around the UK, and the occasional day out to nearby Waddesdon Manor, which is a fabulous chateau-style stately home in the equally beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside. But as both the boys went to school full time, it sadly became one of those things that just fell off the radar, and as we had barely used it when the time came to renew, it went on the Cancelled list.
Until now. I was interested to learn from a friend that they were offering strictly-controlled admissions to allow for plenty of safe distancing, and their indoor spaces and playgrounds are also remaining closed for now. All that’s needed to have pick of the tickets for the following Monday onwards: be up and on it, at 7am on a Friday (later for some properties), ready to bag your next adventure.
I was instantly sold. We are lucky enough to have several NT properties local to us, and with their wide open spaces, gorgeous gardens, dog-friendly atmosphere (there’s another new consideration for us!), and full-day-out feel, are the ideal solution for our summer holiday problems. And as we are also planning our family holidays within the UK for the foreseeable, it makes perfect sense to line up some days out on the membership too – so when we come to choose our destinations, the local NT property tally will be a major consideration.
So the decision to sign up again on a family membership was an easy one – and saw me poised and ready, like a stalking cat, at 7am today in the queue for Cliveden tickets. Time to programme a Friday morning alarm into my phone…
I’m not affiliated with or sponsored by NT, by the way – just a genuinely excited fangurl!