It seems that this has become a bit of a “thing”. This is the fifth year of getting out post Christmas to work off some of the chocolate consumed and make the most of our National Trust Membership. You can see the previous entries here, 2014/5, 2015/6, 2016/7 (either didn’t do it or forgot to write about it that year) and 2017/18.
The rules are very simple: get out of the house to a local National Trust property, do a walk, have a cream tea (I know!) and come home. There was a slight twist this year as we also made a visit to RHS Wisley which I have included in the description but not the pricing.
Once again I have included the price for the two of us had we not had annual membership.
Grey’s Court, Oxfordshire
We had family with us on this visit so we couldn’t do the longer walk into the woods but instead started with a tea and then walked to the walled garden by the house.
I met someone recently whose husband had grown up in the grounds of Grey’s Court before it became a National Trust property. It must have been great to grow up with so much land around you to explore.
Thursday 27th December
The Vyne, Hampshire
Seems everyone else in the Hampshire/Berkshire area had the same idea as us as The Vyne was the busiest I have ever seen it. We were later than we would normally have been and this accounted for some of it.
Helen and I did the woodland walk leaving my parents-in-law to hit the tea room and bag us a table. However, it was not to be as there were simply too many people.
As we were driving away we could see that both the main and overflow car parks were rammed and people were parking on the verges and the road outside.
Friday 28th December
Since the last time we were here they have finished the renovation works on the walkway underneath the house which includes a very large set of golden gates leading to a sound chamber. They are pretty impressive in a gaudy kind of way.
Saturday 29th December
Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey
We had been to Winkworth previously but I didn’t really remember it. This time it was very much chosen for its location rather than anything at the site itself. We needed to be in this part of Surrey for reasons that will become clear if you read on.
Unlike the others here there isn’t any house, just the grounds and as we were on our own we were able to do a much longer walk. It’s an attractive place but seemed pretty forgettable which is probably why I didn’t remember it from previous visits.
Sunday 30th December
RHS Wisley, Surrey
So this is a bit of a cheat in a way as it isn’t a National Trust owned place this being part of the Royal Horticultural Society. However, we went on the same day as Winkworth and, in fact, only did Winkworth as a stopping point before Wisley.
Anyway, we were at Wisely for their evening Glow event when the gardens are lit up. Unlike attending on other days it is not free but timed entry and we were due in at 16:30. Perhaps unsurprisingly large areas of the gardens were closed off and everyone was herded along the same route. This meant that it was quite busy and with a large number of feral children roaming the paths you had to watch where you were going.
The lights, however, were worth standing on small children for. All the lower area of the gardens along with the large glasshouse had been adorned with lights and light installations. It was incredibly well done and worth a visit.
Sunday 30th December
Day five of our annual National Trust adventure took us today to Runnymede, somewhere I don’t think we have ever been before. It is where the Magna Carta was signed.
On arrival I went to sort out the parking and Helen went to get a coffee. They guy serving her asked if she had a stamp card to which Helen said that she had a full one in the car. She dashed off to retrieve it only to find that it was only half stamped. The server took pity on her gave her a free coffee and a new card with one stamp on it! She did then have to carry around an empty coffee cup for all the walk though.
The walk was pretty short but did have two art installations around it. The first was a set of 12 chairs with different images in them depicting “key moments in the struggle for freedom, rule of law and equal rights.” I was left pretty cold by it.
The second, called Writ in Water, was much more interesting though. This is housed in a very uninspiring round building built out of rough breeze blocks and you approach it on what was today a very muddy track. Once inside there is an outer walkway which eventually opens out into a room flooded by natural light from the open roof. Beneath which is a small pool enclosed by a foot high silver ring. Inscribed into this, upside-down and in reverse, is wording from Clause 39 of Magna Carta. It was beautifully done and I was impressed.
At the end of the walk we went back to the tea room for a cream tea as an early lunch. I have seen in a number of National Trust places now some nice hand drawn mugs which depict the property you are at. They had them here and although we have vowed not to spend any money bought one of what will undoubtedly become a new mug collection!
Monday 31st December
Basildon Park, Berkshire
Our first day of the new year and the last day of our Christmas break. Given that we are not party animals in any way shape or form and had gone to bed early last night we were able to get to Basildon right at opening time of 10am.
We had left Basildon to last simply because it has the longest walk and we felt that we had been working up to it. When I say long I mean relative to the ones we have done on the previous days. It still felt like Lands End to John O’Groats though! Our reward for completing this mammoth achievement was yet another cream tea and a second mug to add to the collection (see, told you!)
By the time we left both the main and overflow car parks were full and they were operating a strict one in, one out policy and the cars were backed right up almost to the main gate. So it does pay to get an early night.
Tuesday 1st January
And what was the cost?
The most amazing thing about the last six days is that we have had not one drop of rain whatsoever. It has also been very mild and we regretted taking hats and scarfs to Basildon and ended up carrying them round.
So the scores on the doors. Our annual membership to the National Trust costs us £114 and the total entry fee if we’d turned up and paid on the gate for all the above (less Wisley) was £122.30. So we have got back the cost of our membership in the space of a week once again. And, of course, we have got out, breathed some fresh air and got some exercise so that’s a bonus too.
Click on the thumbnails below to see some pictures from all the places we visited.