How absolutely wonderful it is that we have the National Trust. Founded in 1895 by three people that saw the importance of preserving our Nation’s open spaces and Heritage, for us all to enjoy such as; Coastlines, forests, historic houses, farmland and much much more. Today the same values are upheld, 120 years later. They rely solely on income through memberships, donations, legacies and revenue raised from their commercial properties.
Raising two very active children in a small flat in central London certainly brings its challenges. Probably the biggest challenge we face daily is not having enough space to let the boys lose in a garden let alone swing a cat!! We are privileged to live in such a beautiful area in London but what Notting hill can’t offer is ample outside space which is very much needed when you have two highly-strung-full-of testosterone-energetic boys that need a good RUN like a dog every day!
Tye and I have always been pretty good at loading into the car on a weekend and driving out to places unknown to us. I’ve written in the past about us all being such avid explorers and aspire to discover new places and experiences: not just for us but for the boys too. I have many childhood memories where my mum and dad did just the same with us when we were growing up. Near or far, nothing would ever stop us.
We recently visited a couple of National Trust parks and it’s spurred us on to explore more and subsequently we’ve decided to try and get to at least one every month. As the weather gets better too, I’m sure the trips will get further afield! We’re always keen to hear about others’ experiences and favourite National Trust spots, so please feel free to share and advise! For now, here’s a round up of some of our favourites;
The appeal for Box Hill (Surrey) was their ‘Stepping Stones’ walk. Where you begin at the top, then walk down 275 steps to get down to the River Mole where there are large stepping stones to help you cross the river. The day we visited, the weather has been wet and the hills were scattered with snow. The boys loved it!! However what we hadn’t quite anticipated was that the steps were quite slippery and squelchy and the river itself had risen hiding the stones all together! Just shortly up from there was a small wooden bridge which we used to get across to the other side. After, of course, throwing ‘poo sticks’ downstream (a MUST!)! Once you’re at the bottom and meander across a pretty field alongside the river, you then make your way back UP on the other side. Warning: this is Steep! Probably more of a challenge too because there was ice everywhere hahaha! It’s was hilarious all the same, well the joke was actually on me because I have no balance and was literally clasping on to ‘strands’ of reeds for dear life!! The views were amazing and the walk was exciting. There are many more walks at Box Hill which we are yet to discover.
In Bedfordshire part of the Whipsnade Estate. Vast open space, where you can see for miles and very easy to walk with the children along the chalky path. Nothing too challenging for little ones, and perfect for Kite flying! There were plenty of gliders to see too, which the boys LOVED! The sunset was truly beautiful here.
Hands down my favourite. Just a few miles from Brighton in the South Downs. From the moment we drove into the car park we were in awe of the breathtaking panoramic beauty all around us. Sloping hills and a giant valley with some rugged terrain.
We started at the top and made our way down into the valley, walking through and passing horses then we made our way back up to the top to walk along the ledge. This is where we gave Harry is nickname of the ‘mountain goat’! His enthusiasm and stamina is impressive. He always finds a nice large stick to help him along the way. One thing we forgot to carry with us on this trip was plenty of water. Climbing hills really is thirsty work and takes it out of you! The cows were all grazing on the hill tops and once we had passed them we then crossed over to the other side of the South Downs where everything ‘opens up’. You really do feel as though you’re on top of the world! By the time we had reached this side, the sun was going down, so if we go back we would definitely like to explore more.
This is in Surrey so from Notting hill only took about an hour to get there. We only went here last weekend so the weather has begun to pick up a bit more. We did the family trail walk, which is very leisurely. You begin on a paved path, great for bikes, scooters and pushchairs, then you pass a Nature playground which was the perfect setting for the boys to have a play and set up our picnic. Once we had re-fuelled and the boys had exerted some energy, we set off again and the trail takes you past a large pond and around. Once you’re on this half of the walk, you’re pretty much walking through the Forest- which I prefer! We discovered someone’s Den building skills and had a go ourselves at creating one, which its fair to say didn’t stay erect for too long before Stanley (wielding a giant stick) knocked it down! The walk was squelchy and muddy (just how we like it) and took us back past the pond on the other side where we found a Bird Hide. Unfortunately Stan didn’t quite get the ‘quiet please’ memo, so the birds all scarpered! Bookham Commons has a lot of blackberry bushes which I’m sure would be wonderful further into spring. Lots of holly bushes and masses of stinging nettles. So make sure your kids have their legs well covered to save from nettle stings/ rashes!
First and foremost WATER: We made the error of forgetting to carry water with us on one of the walks and by the time we had finished we were totally parched. You forget how much energy you’re exuberayting, but many of these places have endless hills so you don’t want to be caught short.
SNACKS: It’s not just the kids that need refuelling.
RUCKSACK: Leave the handbags at home and take a rucksack. We used my Cath Kidston rucksack to keep everything in; it was the perfect size to hold the picnic, wet wipes and bottles of water. This Peony printed one is from their Adventure range, is perfectly wipeable and Tye didn’t even mind carrying it either!
CHILD CARRIER: Obviously only for littles. We’ve had our Kathmandu one since Harry was small (they don’t have them anymore), but you can find similar ones here. They’re amazingly light to carry and Stanley loves riding in his when his little legs get tired. A good solid purchase that will see you get lots of use from it.
SENSIBLE FOOTWEAR: Admittedly Tye is the only one of us that has walking boots! Neither the boys or myself have them as yet. We’ve been wearing wellies. Wellies are great for muddy and wet terrain, but we did have lots of snow and ice on a couple of trips which needed a much better grip. This will probably be our next investment.
OUTERWEAR: For our last walk at Bookham Commons, we put the boys in sensible rain macs, which would not only protect them from the rain but MUD too! These are from Muddy Puddles. Harrys is a hooded jacket and Stanleys is an all in one in the cool ‘raindrop’ print. As well as the fact that they are waterproof, they are also super practical for rolling up and putting away because they are so lightweight and versatile! Harry’s always been a fusser of ‘layering’, so lightweight jackets are totally the way forward for him…especially with the amount of exploring and running he does! I highly recommend them. Check out Muddy Puddles for plenty more waterproof options, wellies and much more.
WET WIPES: Obviously.
CAMERA: A MUST!
I think our next challenge will be getting Harry (and gradually Stan) to begin ticking off a ’50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4′. To find out more and how you can get the kids involved in some exciting National Trust adventures and explorations, click here.
by Laura xx