The Best National Trust Days out for Little Ones.

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With the summer holidays fast approaching and being a teacher, I get to delight in the company of my children for six whole weeks. Hooray! Besides the occasional day camp (to give mother some respite) I am planning a host of trips and excursions to keep my little ones busy, in the vain hope that they will be too engaged and exhausted to trash the house and wrestle every five minutes.

We have been National Trust members for a few years now. Initially I think we signed up as my OH liked the way the sticker looked on the car windscreen- and to preserve our historical and cultural heritage obvs- but we have actually used the membership loads and have had some really wonderful days out.

My Little Londoners are 3 and 5 so a top day out for us includes lots of space to run wild, a natural play area, somewhere to have a picnic and a cafe for afternoon tea. At this stage we are less interested in the house, it’s all about the gardens and the grounds. Regrettably, I rarely make it into the house, as my son can not keep his hands off the priceless artefacts, but I live in hope that this will change as they get older.

I would recommend NT membership as parking and entry is included and, if you take a picnic, it is a free day out. There are wonderful places all over the country so we often arrange to meet friends and let the kids hang out and roam free.
These are our top National Trust days out for little kids:

1) Ightam Mote in Sevenoaks, Kent is a 14th Century manor house in the middle of a mote. It is an enchanting house so take your camera and get some stunning pics of the kids outside the house. There is a natural play area and a little stream that the kids paddle in (remember to bring a change of clothes. I didn’t, so my kids went home wrapped in old blankets we found in the car!) In holiday time you can find traditional games on the lawn and kids rolling down the fairly steep bank as parents relax in deckchairs. The garden area is not too enormous (unlike some of the other NT properties) so if, like me, you have children who like to wander off and frighten the bejesus out of you, there is only so far they can go. For me, this is reassuring and means that I can relax and catch up with friends.

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2) Emmetts Garden is also in Sevenoaks, Kent. It was tricky to find – with my friend and I driving up and down a country lane and ignoring the satnav as it was useless, both with a car full of kids asking, ‘Are we there yet?’ But we found it eventually. The guidebook undersells just how great this place is for kids. It has a huge natural play area with lots of equipment and a fabulous tepee housing dressing up stuff. It is very natural so beware the mud if you go in wet weather and take a change of clothes. My daughter slipped in the mud and was VERY unimpressed about having to wear her little brother’s spare shorts! The loos and a cute cafe in converted stables are very close to the play area. There are picnic tables if you want to bring a picnic but in good weather you could plot up on the grass. Have a walk around Emmetts Garden and you’ll find a lovely little wooden cabin that has toys and sports equipment that you can borrow to play with . On wet days, take shelter in the cabin (as we did) and indulge in some reading and colouring-in. Bliss!

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3) Hatchlands Park in Guildford, Surrey is another great find. About a 50-minute drive from SW London, it is a great place for an easy day out. We found this place by accident and have been back a few times as my little two love the playground. A short walk from the house and into the woods you’ll find Wizard Wix’s Willow Warren, complete with an imposing tree house. I would venture to suggest that Hatchlands Park is one of the best play spaces for little kids. Walk back towards the house, via the cows in the neighbouring fields, and have a seat on the lawn. Mums can soak up the views with a cup of something from the cafe while the little ones bounce around on space hoppers and ‘fish’ with a stick in the fountain.

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4) Polesden Lacey in Dorking, Surrey has 400 acres of parkland and woodland. Borrow some kid-friendly binoculars on the way in and go hunting for mini beasts in the woods. There is a small natural play area and some steep hills to roll down. It’s a lovely walk with spectacular views, finish with tea and cake in the cafe!

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5) Morden Hall Park in London is a stones throw from me so we go there a lot. There’s plenty to do and we always end up staying twice as long as we planned. Wander through to the gardens and check out the waterwheel on the way to the white bridge. Look out for good twigs and challenge the kids to Pooh Sticks on the bridge- my son is always on the hunt for Stick Man so this keeps him amused for ages! Spend some time in the natural play area then have a picnic and games on the grass. If you have time (and room) try some of the delicious cake in the cafe before home time.

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6) Cliveden House in Maidenhead, Berkshire is a day out for all the family and absolutely wonderful for kids. The Story Book Play Den is a themed play space that ignites imagination and keeps the little ones amused all afternoon. With wonderful facilities, woodland walks, a water garden and a yew tree maze to get lost in, pack a picnic and spend the day exploring.

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Enjoy! Amy x

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