Earlier in the week, this arrived through our door. Which was a happy coincidence really, because my next post was always going to be about the joys of National Trust membership. And no, this is not a sponsored post, nor do I work for the National Trust’s marketing team (although that does sound like a nice job); but as we were enjoying a spontaneous, albeit slightly drizzly, Sunday stroll around the grounds of Hughenden Manor earlier this month, I decided that the brilliance of the National Trust really deserved a post of its own.
Our spontaneous trip to Hughenden happened on a wet and gloomy Sunday – we were all suffering from a bit of cabin fever following the festive season and desperately needed to blow off the cobwebs. I knew straight away that this was the best thing we could have done. I watched as my boys raced around the gardens and delighted in finding a dog made out of wellies, a bug hotel and a man made out of ceramic pots all within a few metres of each other. When we announced it was time to go home, they immediately asked when we would be coming back. And that, really, is our experience at every National Trust we go to – it is one of the few things we do as a family that I feel reasonably confident will result in a good day.
We were much later to the National Trust party than we should have been. For years we would rock up at the gates – ‘would you like to join?‘, asked the lovely gatekeepers. ‘Well, we do keep thinking about it‘, we would say, ‘but maybe next time’. I don’t know why we kept putting it off – I think us Brits just tend to find it easier to say maybe next time.
But one day I decided I’d had enough of ‘maybe next time‘, plus on that particular day the queue for non-members would have taken longer to get through than filling in the forms and joining; so we finally said yes. And now…..well, who wouldn’t agree that for a family with young children, National Trust membership is surely up there as one of the best things you could possibly have? Because it isn’t just access to one attraction – it gives you amazing day out options right across the country. We use ours at home and we use it on holiday. We use it as a convenient place to meet up with friends or family; or as a vastly more appealing option than a service station to break up a long car journey home. And because it isn’t just aimed at the children, everyone goes home feeling like it’s been a good day; rather than parents simply grinning and bearing it for the sake of the kids.
When it comes to days out with children it turns out that what I’ve long suspected is actually true……or it is for us anyway – more stuff often equals more stress. If you’ve paid a hefty entrance fee to get in somewhere that has a myriad of attractions, then you want to get your money’s worth; but getting your money’s worth with small children in tow isn’t always easy. They have little legs, they need plenty of toilet and refreshment stops, and they are easily over-stimulated. And, as we know, days out with youngsters are necessarily short. But a National Trust outing doesn’t need to involve racing round a host of attractions – that’s not to say that there aren’t things to do, but you can take it all at a more relaxed pace. It is a reminder of the simple things that children love – hide and seek around the hedgerows, scrambling up an old tree, running down hills, collecting up sticks for a pretend fire, getting lost in a maze, crossing bridges, spotting bugs; and the simple joy of being outside. It can be a whole day or a couple of hours; which when you have little ones, is just the way you need it to be. It reminds you of the joy to be found in all the seasons – giant puddles, frosty lawns, spring blossom and autumn leaves. It gives you options for those days over the weekend or school holidays when you have no plans but you fancy a little adventure. For children, it is space to run and freedom to explore. It is something which, once you have, you will wonder why you took so long to get.
Basically, it is for those who enjoy open space, but with coffee, cake and toilets within easy reach. And what’s not to love about that?
If you’re not yet a member but have been persuaded, here is the link you need!