Where would you like to go for a day out? A popular choice in England is to visit a National Trust House. The National Trust is a charity which is over one hundred and twenty years old and owns and cares for 59 villages, 775 miles of coastline and vast tracts of hills and fields, all free for everyone to roam. Whatever your political leanings and thoughts on charities, I’m sure many would agree that these lands are safer with the National Trust than with governments, big businesses or greedy billionaires.
Despite all their other conservation work, Big Houses are what people most often associate with the National Trust, donated by landowners come upon hard times, or just moving with the times. Whatever their ancestors would have thought, the common people are now free to roam their estates. Not actually free; you have to pay to go in A Big House, unless you are one of the four million members; a few visits each year will make your membership worthwhile.
One thing is never guaranteed on your day out, the weather, but that would never deter the average member.
Once you have passed through the portal, you will enter a traffic free zone, except for the occasional buggy for those not up to striding round the whole estate. Your children can run around on vast lawns, visit the adventure playground, do school holiday activities or say hello to some pigs. Gardeners can admire walled vegetable gardens and beautiful borders, nature lovers can enjoy very old trees.
If it pours with rain go and look around the house, read about the owners, peep at family photos and ask volunteers questions. There will probably be an interesting exhibition to look at. There will certainly be sweeping staircases to ascend and descend and narrow stairs to climb as you visit downstairs where the servants worked, or upstairs where they lived.
No visit would be complete without tea and cake or a nice lunch. This will be in the stable block, the old kitchen or the orangery, always a restaurant with character. Then you can rummage through the second hand bookshop which could be tucked away in an outbuilding. The Shop is a must; tasteful and expensive souvenirs, tea towels to bone china. Don’t miss the books, there are bound to be real life stories about the lady of the house or the black sheep of the family.
Perhaps you have visited Durlswood, you may or may not find it in the National Trust guide book, but you can read the mysterious happenings of 2014 in the novella Durlswood, part of the Someone Somewhere collection.