Days out - ideas for all the family
That's right everyone, Mike is taking over blogging duties this week from Jo(!) so I'm afraid no party planning or plate painting :p After another busy week though I thought I'd share some recent days out we've had at some National Trust locations which I'd definitely recommend for a family day out, particularly now that some form of summer has arrived :)
First recommendation is at Cliveden, where you can find a large country retreat (now actually a hotel so unfortunately no looking around) surrounded by an impressive array of gardens and woodland. There really is plenty to do here and the gardens (see a few pictures we took below) are some of the most impressive I've been to of all the National Trust locations we visited so far. However the real treat here are the woodlands. One word of warning is that be prepared for a fairly lengthy walk - there are a few routes you can choose though so if you're not feeling up to it there are some shorter options (or you can even just stay within the main grounds). If you are up for it however I would definitely recommend the walk along the river where you can do a bit of yacht spotting and join the red route into the woodland area. This walk took a few hours to complete and half way through you also reach a great viewing spot of the valley. I reckon we walked around 12km all in all so you'll definitely be feeling it by the end (the paths are all gravel so would be fine for a buggy however the path down to the riverside is quite steep so you may want to choose one of the many other routes through the woodland). A great day out however, particularly when the sun is shining.
Second spot is over at Ashridge Estate just west of Hemel Hempstead. This is really a great place to go with a family and with over 5,000 acres of woodland and commons you'll do well to get bored. There's a central visitor centre where you can pick up maps for the wide variety of set woodland walks, or you can pick up an Ordnance Survey map and make up your own (or take a leaf out of my book and not take any kind of map and rely on a very dodgy phone signal to rescue you when you get lost). If you have young children though it's a great way to explore the woodland and spot some local wildlife, also the bluebells are out in force at the moment.
Most of the mains paths are gravel so if you fancy getting out on the bike (mountain bikes only though - you'd struggle on a road bike!) that would be a great way to see more of the woodland I think. Again, see below for a few pictures.
For those who aren't familiar with the National Trust, there are literally hundreds of sites to visit across the UK. The most economical way to visit these sites is through their annual membership scheme, as you can make up your membership fee for just a handful of visits. Best thing is that children under 5 go free and I've been assured by Jo that the baby facilities are excellent. She also highly recommended their cafes albeit given I find it almost obligatory to grab a cream tea or chocolate cake (sometimes both) whilst I'm visiting I can support this recommendation!
Anyway, enjoy your exploring and feel free to comment if there's any other National Trust sites that you'd recommend!