We joined the National Trust this summer. I know, I know, it feels like a hideously middle-aged, middle-class thing to do. But we love the beaches and cliff tops of the Penwith peninsula in Cornwall so much that it seems worth the subscription fee just for their work in maintaing and preserving those, let alone the myriad of other great things they do. Oh yes, and there was a special offer on whereby you got a set of children’s gardening tools when you took out a family membership, and I do love a freebie. I love a freebie when it’s something I have no need of or interest in, but when it’s something I know Anna will absolutely adore then I’m sold.
To be honest I thought that, living in London with no car, we wouldn’t really get much use out of our membership, other than when we’re on holiday in Cornwall. Looking at their handbook of properties, I was wrong! There are quite a few properties around Greater London or a fairly short train journey away, and most of them sound like brilliant family days out, so we’re putting a list together and are determined to make the most of our membership.
An almost six-year age gap between our children can make it tricky to think of activities which would please both of them (let alone that we’d enjoy too!) but a day out at a National Trust property can tick a lot of boxes for all of us. Sophia can watch the world go by from her pushchair or sling, crawl around and eat some grass and gravel or throw modged up banana out of her high chair in the cafe. There’s often an adventure playground or open space for Anna to run round and burn off some energy, and then some kind of child friendly activity we can do to encourage her growing interest in history. And husband and I get to experience a little oasis of tranquility in beautiful surroundings.
Our first trip was to Ham House, near Richmond in West London. Getting there in itself was a pleasure, as after taking the London Overground from Walthamstow to Richmond, we completed the journey with a gentle meander along the river.
The River Thames has such a different character here to in Central London. In Central London, swooping past the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Millenium Dome (or whatever it’s called these days) it speaks of excitement and bustle, but out in West London with the over-hanging trees, rushes and geese it can feel as though you’re in the middle of the countryside. I had lines from The Wind in the Willows running through my head on loop as we strolled along, and in fact the experience was so rural that, to Anna’s enormous delight, the path was totally flooded on the way back when the tide had come in, and we had to paddle ankle-deep for a few metres before scrambling over a stone wall into a (relatively) dry field.
We didn’t *ahem*actually make it round the house itself. You see, after we’d missed our connection at Gospel Oak, and then stopped for (delicious) lunch at Petersham Nurseries, we didn’t actually arrive with a lot of time to spare before we knew we’d have to head back for bedtime. But that is the joy of being members. We got to pop in for a stroll round the beautiful gardens, we’d had the fun of getting there, and we know we can go back anytime we like.
An original purpose of this blog was for me to keep a record for myself of all the little things which make life special, and so I’m going to make a serious attempt to blog about all our National Trust explorations this coming year. Apart from anything else, it might give us the little kick we need to actually go out and get visiting.