By Vicky Harlock who set up Free Time with the Kids to find and review free, cheap and cheaper than they should be places to visit with the family.
We’re very lucky that we have lots of fantastic National Trust properties in our local area and we’re spoilt for choice. I wanted to share with you my top five for kids to visit with the family. Every Easter weekend it appears, if my Facebook feed is to be believed, that every person in Bucks goes to Waddesdon Manor for the Easter egg hunt so I’m deliberately leaving that one off the list.
No. 5 – Boarstall Duck Decoy, Buckinghamshire
This one is on the list because it’s kind of quirky. Have you ever heard of a duck decoy? It’s basically a giant “fishing rod” for ducks. It’s not actually used for catching them anymore, so what is left behind is a lovely lakeside walk and nature trail. There are cool things to see like the scar left on a tree that’s been struck by lightning. They’ve recently installed some new equipment in the woodland to play on as well. Because it’s been left in a fairly natural state it is abundant with Bluebells from April and dogs on leads are welcome on site. Opening times are fairly limited, mainly to weekends, so make sure you check the website before you go.
No. 4 – Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire
If you’re a Harry Potter fan then this place should absolutely be on your list. The cloisters part of the Abbey was used as Hogwarts in the first two films and also the Crimes of Grindelwald. Movies aside, the Abbey has a long and varied history. It was built in the 1200’s and since then it has housed a copy of the Magna Carta and it’s where modern photography was invented. The village itself is also owned by the National Trust and it’s worth an explore. There’s a tea shop, playground area, “drunk tank”, picture postcard houses and lovely independent shops. There are also more film locations based in the village – you can get a map from the visitor centre. You can read the full review here.
No. 3 – Packwood House, Warwickshire
This makes the top five because it is my favourite place to play hide and seek with the kids. The Yew Garden is full of, unsurprisingly, huge Yew trees which my boys loved running in and out of. There’s also a spiral path that looks like you’re walking up a massive tree and it has some incredible views from the top. In the kitchen garden they have a life-sized teddy bear’s picnic, something you don’t see everyday. You can go into the bear’s house and can have a seat at the table if you want to. As well as this there’s an exciting Welly Walk nature trail. Along the way there are loads of bits of equipment and stations for the kids (and adults!) to have a go on. You can get all the details by clicking here.
No. 2 – Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire
There are lots of unique things to do here; there’s a stumpery, the yellow drawing room has an impressive secret, it has the biggest bath you’ll ever see and there’s even a decent sized farm. If you go to the pig’s barn at feeding time make sure you cover your ears. Despite having three kids it’s the noisiest mealtime I’ve ever witnessed. There are a couple of different play areas as well as the house, kitchen garden and grounds to explore. What I love about this place is that it has one of the widest range of things to do of all the National Trust properties. You can see my full review here
No. 1 – Avebury Manor and Stone Circle
Choosing just one site has been surprisingly hard. I could have gone for somewhere like Cliveden or Stowe because they’re so local, but that also means you’re more likely to have already heard of them. I decided to go for Avebury for a couple of reasons. 1) it has a stone circle that’s so large it has a village in the middle of it. The stones themselves are vast and, unlike Stonehenge, you can even touch them. 2) The house itself is 100% hands-on. There is nothing in this place that you cannot pick up and even use; you can play a game of snooker, grind coffee, sit and have a read in front of the fire, you can even lie on the beds if you want to. In the world of NT properties this is unheard of – this place is is your best opportunity to get up close to history, helping to bring it to life. Find out more about Avebury here.
I’m going to sneak one more onto my list, but it’s not local. Kynance Cove in Cornwall is, in my opinion, the most beautiful beach in England. It does get very busy and at high tide the beach itself is minuscule but, at low tide a whole other beach opens up around the corner and to say it’s breath taking is an understatement. If you happen to find yourself in the area it’s an absolute must.
Vicky Harlock lives in Aylesbury with her husband and three children. She set-up in 2018 Free Time with the Kids to find and review free, cheap and cheaper than they should be places to visit with the family. Why not follow her on Facebook to keep up to date with their latest adventures https://www.