Before I start this post, I should probably point out one thing: I’ve not been asked/paid to write this piece. I decided to write it this afternoon (while visiting Nuffield Place) after realising many people I know have probably written-off the National Trust as a collection of boring, stuffy houses which kids would hate.
As anybody who knows me (or follows me on social channels like Twitter) will attest, I’m a big NT fan – Sara and I have been annual members for over a decade, though I must admit we’ve been WAY more active members for the past 2 or 3. In fact, we now visit NT properties so often that we’ve probably made up for the 6 or 7 years when we’d only visit a couple of properties a year. Yep, I’m pretty sure we’re now ‘in credit’ when it comes to the membership costs versus how much we’ve saved over the years.
Anyway, for those of you who haven’t been to a NT property for a while, and who haven’t been hooked-in by their excellent ad campaign of the past few years, I wanted to summarise a few reasons why I think parents would actually find a National Trust membership (or even just a visit) to be a fun family activity…
1. There are bloody hundreds of them
Unless you live up in Scotland, mid-Wales or (strangely enough) around the Hull area, one of the Trust’s 550+ properties will be on your doorstep. Take a look at their map (or download their handy iPhone app) and find something nearby. Here in Reading we’ve got about a dozen within 20 miles, a couple of which we go to at least once a year.
2. They’re not all houses
As Robert regularly says when we’re on our way to our chosen venue, “Do we HAVE to look around the house? Some of them can be BOR-RING!” – I can’t say I always agree, but if your little one isn’t a fan of traipsing round an old house then don’t panic, there’s plenty more than just houses to see. Take Claremont Landscape Gardens for instance (where we visited last weekend) – there’s not a house in sight, but there is a beautiful lake, a grotto, an amphitheatre, woods, a cafe and a LOAD of space to run around. Or Waddesdon Manor – where they have an amazing adventure playground, a nature trail, an aviary, regular art exhibitions and a none-too-shabby sweet shop to boot!
3. They’re becoming way more child-friendly
Whilst there are definitely a few places where the staff can still get a little agitated around little ones (Clandon Park, I’m looking at you here!), the majority are definitely getting a lot better when it comes to the kids. They regularly have quizzes or “spot the stuffed toy” trails around the houses and grounds, and the “50 Things to do…” booklet is another favourite.
4. They’re great for collectors
Since I last wrote about the NT (something I completely forgot I’d done by the way – hence why I’m writing this now, despite the repetition!) we’ve started collecting the famous Passport stamps. We’ve got 22 so far (possibly helped by the competitive sport in me – my brother and sister both have them too, and we’re all secretly trying to get to the 50 mark before the others!) and they also serve as a nice little reminder of where you’ve been. I’ve been badgering the NT to add a FourSquare-style ‘check in’ functionality to their app for ages (mainly via Twitter, but I’ve even resorted to emails once in a while!) but for the time being, this’ll do nicely.
5. They make for some great Kodak moments
As you can see from the pictures I’ve peppered around this post (and previous posts too – lots of my recent posts have included photos taken at NT properties), most of them are obscenely picturesque – which makes for some great Kodak moments, especially with the kids.
6. You might even learn something
Whilst most properties are far from museums when it comes to literature, if you want to learn about how they came to be, there’s a lot you can learn. Today we learnt about the man who created the Morris motorcars; Last week we learnt about ‘Capability’ Brown and other writers who shaped Claremont gardens. But don’t worry if you don’t want to be bothered by pesky information or enlightenment – it’s all completely unobtrusive, so if you’re just after a fun day out in the nice weather, you can completely ignore it all and run in the long grass instead!
Right, enough persuasion for me – why not give it a try? I reckon you’ll thank me…