A Family day out at National Trust site, Box Hill
England is a veritable treasure trove of scenic nature and historic architecture. As a home educating family, we are always on the lookout for new opportunities for our kids to explore the country we live in and squeeze out every last drop of adventure from the local area. The National Trust is one of the most valuable and brilliant ways for families to experience the most beautiful and educational sites that the UK has to offer.
Founded in 1895, the National Trust charity exists to maintain and restore areas and buildings of public interest, as well as providing the public access to them. From swampland to castles, the National Trust owns myriad kinds of property (the first house was purchased in 1896 for just £10!) which turns a simple membership into a golden ticket of wonder and exploration.
There are around 10-15 properties within a 1 hour drive from our house, which is pretty great. Something that I love about the National Trust is that whenever we take a mini break somewhere else in the UK we can just look up what sites are nearby on the website and we have a full, fun and free day out at our fingertips. I wonder if anyone has visited every National Trust property in the UK; if not perhaps we should try and be the first!
Yesterday was a gorgeous hot day; when it’s super sunny we prefer to stay away from the beach as it’s usually packed. We also like to go on a cooler day when we don’t have to lubricate the kids with neon-blue sunscreen every five minutes, which funnily enough never made it onto my personal list of Fun Things To Do On a Day Out With Kids. We decided to head up to Box Hill, a nearby area famed for its cycle route and the native box trees that grow on it. There is a large woodland that we thought would be good to explore with the added benefit of shade; when we arrived we were delighted to discover an incredible play trail for kids, made entirely of trees!
After a quick injection of caffeine (not literally, although LTF Dad would probably accept one if offered) we headed through the trail. It was thoughtfully laid out with numbered stations, providing the kids different opportunities for physical activities at each part.
Along the way the girls also enjoyed playing ‘tree treasure hunt’ with a leaf map that LTF Nana had printed off; we found oak, pine and birch (but forgot to look for the box tree, duh)! This activity was another great reminder of how much kids learn on a day to day basis and how easily they absorb information when they’re relaxed and happy.
Our middle child, who is comparable in size to a hatchling quail, found the long trail a bit much and wanted to be carried towards the end of it.
“Can you walk now?” I asked, clutching her with one hand and bumping the baby’s pram over more tree roots.
How. Very. Dare I. She narrowed her eyes, looked skywards and pointed above my head. “When the Sun turns, behind the clouds, then I will walk,” she announced.
I’m not sure when our three year old got reincarnated as some kind of Mayan-esque prophet (maybe when I lost her at the garden centre that one time?) but apparently it’s happened. Whatever. Of course as soon as we got to the farthest point of the trail, she suddenly and desperately needed a wee, so we did that awkward half-run-with-kids back to the cafe; that thing where you pretend it’s a kind of fun race but inside are cursing yourself for forgetting their change of clothes and pondering on the exact moment that you started running like a chicken being prodded with an electric barb.
(N.B: If there are any parents wondering how to get their kid to hold their wee in for longer, it’s simple- just rush to a toilet. The further away and less convenient it is, the more likely it is that the child’s bladder will simply cease to work when put on a toilet. Just another super-fine parenting tip for you there; don’t say I don’t spoil you).
The toilets were handily right next to the shop and cafe, which was superb. National Trust properties invariably have a great cafe serving home-made cake and meals; this one had the added bonus of an activity area at the back, complete with a live (contained!) bee-hive so visitors could see how their honey was made. It’s really fab, and a lovely way to end the day. I was particularly happy to see that the takeaway coffee cups are completely compostable, even the lids. Yay for trees! Yay for oxygen!
We headed home, tired and happy and enjoying the feeling of having mega-dosed on chlorophyll. We absolutely loved Box Hill and will be back very soon, as well as visiting the other sites that the National Trust has to offer!
A National Trust membership is around £111 for an annual family membership (up to 5 children, which is pretty generous!); this gives you unlimited access to 500 magical places across the UK and free parking to boot. A membership isn’t just for people living in the UK; it is such good value that it is worth getting one even if you’re on holiday and planning 3-4 day trips; you’ll be quids in after just a few visits. For home educating families it is also an absolute gold mine of resources (we don’t divide learning into topics but for those who do it’s particularly great for biology, geography and history) and I would definitely recommend getting a membership.
So what are you waiting for? Become a tourist in your own back yard and see a new and beautiful side of the UK.
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Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.