I think the National Trust is a brilliant organisation. It owns properties and gardens all over the UK and opens them for visitors to enjoy. For people who appreciate historic houses with stories and memories, it has lots to investigate. And for those of us who enjoy the fresh air, natural landscapes and colourful flowers, there are plenty of both of to be seen.
Top of my list will always be Cliveden, as I grew up in the Maidenhead area and visited it regularly when I was a child. Now when I visit, I see children (and parents!) rolling down the little slopes between the house and the Parterre garden, and I remember when I used to do that myself. Being a member of the National Trust I can pop to Cliveden for a quick wander any time I like, and do something different on each occasion. Following my husband round the maze, admiring the Water Garden, walking in the woods with my sister and her dog, strolling by the river, checking out the rainbow of flowers throughout the different gardens…..
I visited Brownsea Island, near Poole, a couple of years ago and enjoyed the peace and quiet it offered. A boat ride to get there, then a map and a whole island to explore. I managed to capture a couple of perky red squirrels on camera in the woods, scurrying around in the trees. I came across a peacock on a beach. Yes, that did say peacock! I was as surprised as it was, but it stayed around and showed me its display of feathers for a while. Corfe Castle, Old Harry Rocks and the ferry crossing from Sandbanks to Swanage can also be combined with Brownsea Island for a weekend.
I enjoy visiting stately homes and gardens, and in recent years have come across Polesden Lacey, near Dorking and The Vyne, near Basingstoke. I went to Polesden Lacey in tulip season and saw a huge array of colours and types of tulip – lots of garden inspiration there. And the Vyne I visited a few weeks ago having only been there briefly before. The Vyne has a woodland area and a long lake in front of the house. I was fascinated by a collection of spiky plants that I spotted by the water.
And finally, it wouldn’t be right to extol the virtues of these National Trust places without mentioning a couple of walking spots. For woodland walks within easy reach of Maidenhead, there is Maidenhead Thicket. It’s great for walking a dog, with lots of wooded paths and clearings. If you take part in the Maidenhead Boundary Walk, which takes place at the start of October each year, one part of the route takes you past the Thicket area.
For a slightly hillier walk, I have been known to head to Box Hill, another National Trust place in the Dorking area. When a group of us trained for a Three Peaks Mountain Challenge (Britain’s 3 highest mountains in 24 hours!), we could often be found at the bottom of Box Hill looking upwards in a concerned manner, or at the top looking relieved! Box Hill is very steep – but it’s not compulsory to start at the bottom – there is a car park at the top!
For more information on any of these places, visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ and see what inspires you…..