To be put off visiting National Trust properties because they are National Trust properties

(155 Posts)
Growlithe Sat 03-Aug-13 18:55:47

I can see that the National Trust have some great places, but it puts years on me whenever I visit one.

They always try to flog you the annual membership. When you suggest you may not get the value out of it (because believe it or not you have other things to do and places to visit of a weekend than just National Trust places) they look at you like you are stark raving mad. And people with National Trust memberships do the same. It's like a cult.

They have complicated pricing systems based on which bits of the place you want to visit. How do I know which bits I want to see, I've never been there before. confused

The cafes are always expensive.

Whilst you often go for days out to entertain/educate the DCs, and they often have activities/packs aimed at children, they seem to tolerate children rather than welcome them.

They must also think the children of today are some sort of alien species, judging from their '50 things to do before you are 11 3/4'. I mean, do we have to be told the DCs would enjoy making a daisy chain, climb a tree or run about in the rain? I know kids like to play computer games these days but do they think we are so so removed from doing this kind of thing with our DCS? It's condescending.

They are full of performance parents with massive great big picnic baskets (which is probably understandable given the prices in the cafes I suppose).

Although they are knowledgeable, they often just seem to sap the life out of the very things they want to show you, and could do with taking a leaf out of places like the Black Country Living Museum, which has amazingly enthusiastic staff.

So go on, National Trust members, do your worst. AIBU?

whatshallwedo Sat 03-Aug-13 18:58:42

I have to say I agree with you. I think they are all pretty much the same in that they all have a chinese room etc so once I've seen one I have seen them all.

<dons hard hat and awaits flaming>

soverylucky Sat 03-Aug-13 19:00:51

I have never had them try to flog me membership - I had to ask them about it.
The cafes are too expensive.
You do get a certain type of people at many places.
BUT if you have a number of properties local to you it is worth paying for membership. It is about 30 quid for a family to get in and do everything at a place so three visits a year and you have got your money back. I also find that with the membership and local places we just go for an afternoon or morning rather than the whole day thing.

Anthracite Sat 03-Aug-13 19:05:13

I bought membership this year so that I could take my dog for a walk while my DD was at a weekly activity nearby.

The cost of parking for non-members there is £6, so I easily get my money's worth with membership.

I have been perusing the guide book to decide where to go during this fine weather.

toobreathless Sat 03-Aug-13 19:05:41

We are members & LOVE our local one (Belton House, Lincolnshire)

It has:

- amazing wooden adventure playground, huge with 2 zip wires, fort, huge slides, toddler area & much more.
- mini train rides (£1)
- indoor cafe just for kids & soft play (free)

As well as usual house/formal gardens.

Beningborough Hall near York also had a selection if ride on toys/trikes for children to borrow.

They also loan out (free) child hip seat thingies to go round the house with.

Personally I think that's pretty child friendly!

<off to buy a massive picnic hamper smile >

Sirzy Sat 03-Aug-13 19:05:42

Most tourist places have expensive cafes.

They try to sell memberships because they want the guaranteed money. Say no thank you and walk off if you don't want it.

They have some spectacular buildings and gardens which are lovely to visit.

mmmuffins Sat 03-Aug-13 19:06:07

YABU. I have been a NT member through my twenties and gone on lots of romantic outings to NT properties over the years smile (I don't have kids yet so only go with boyfriends). Lots of wonderful ambles through unspoilt countryside as well.

I started volunteering for the trust which has helped me get a leg up in my new career field as well.

Food is overpriced but that is why you take a picnic!

HerculePoirotsTache Sat 03-Aug-13 19:07:28

I suppose you could say that if you've seen one stately home you've seen them all BUT the NT are trying to shake off their stuffy image. Gone are the rope partitions, you can go up to all the exhibits now and you can take photographs. Also there are more activities on offer. I have a friend who manages one of their properties and he introduced things like miniature versions of the rooms for children to play with and dressing up boxes. I've also been to murder mysteries in the grounds of one house before now which was great fun.

I guess it depends on the house/garden/lands and who caretakes them too.

Eyesunderarock Sat 03-Aug-13 19:08:01

We like the 'Certain kind of people' because they seem to be our sort of people. grin
We live very near a number of the properties and visit several of them on a regular basis, but partly because we love gardens and social history. We have also elevated picnicking to an art form worthy of Ratty.
Some of the evening events have been fascinating and the stuff of happy memories.
When DS got too old to be on a family membership, he requested a YP's one for his 18th birthday.
But YANBU OP, I'm quite prepared for us to toddle happily along without needing to convert anyone else.

GoEasyPudding Sat 03-Aug-13 19:08:55

We have quite a few locally and I really enjoy the gardens the most. No dogs allowed so we can have a nice long walk without random dog attacks and poo shoes.

Our membership has lapsed now but during the preschool years recently we were there a lot. Having 5 places locally made it very worthwhile.

I do agree with you though, overpriced café and shops. All the shops are the same where ever you go, selling the same things. I am always disappointed at the lack of information on display, it's all in the guide book which is a bit costly.

Performance parents? Not sure they are trying to upset you with picnic apparatus.

SunnyIntervals Sat 03-Aug-13 19:09:06

I agree about the irritating attempts to sell memberships and I am actually a member smile yes cafes are too pricey, but the food is now actually pretty good.

Belton House is our nearest, too.

We have family annual membership, and as we prefer t have holidays in Britain, we frequently get back more than the cost of our membership when on holiday.

But, OP, regardless of whatever I write, or others write, you seem determined to dislike it anyway so I'm not bothering any further.

VestandKnickers Sat 03-Aug-13 19:09:50

I am a National Trust member and we easily get our money's worth. My children love the gardens at NT properties - we never bother with the houses. I am also happy to support a charity that preserves some of our most beautiful properties for future generations. If you don't enjoy them, don't go. If you don't want to be a member say no thank you. Easy enough!

YANZbU. We have NT membership. We bought it as we like the grounds of our local property for walking in. We certainly don't get our money's worth. The nearest property has a farm that costs extra and is the most interesting bit for DD and for us. I find the houses quite dull, I think I have seen enough dead posh people's houses as I ever want to and the really interesting ones like Castle Howard aren't NT properties. We will probably cancel it this year. The only significant benefit for us is that having annual membership means you don't have the hard sell for annual membership when you go there.

I'm also puzzled about how they get so many volunteers. It is amazing to me that so many people want to spend their weekends wearing high vis jackets and directing traffic in a car park. I'm all for volunteering and have done some, but I just don't get the appeal.

Nottalotta Sat 03-Aug-13 19:12:38

YABU. Just say no to the membership and take a picnic! Although the membership IS good value (i'm not a member)

jacks365 Sat 03-Aug-13 19:13:10

For me it's worth it for the car parking alone. I have a few countryside sites near me and a couple of sites that have really brought history alive for my dc. The cafes are expensive but they offer a good range including gluten free bread so worth it as far as I'm concerned.

CokeFan Sat 03-Aug-13 19:14:19

We're members. There's lots of places near us that have events on for children, which is perfect for DD (age 4). We've also found that people at NT places, whether volunteers or other visitors, are very welcoming of small children.

However, my mum has only 1 NT place within 25 miles so it's certainly not great for everyone. I agree that the cafes and shops are very expensive. We don't tend to use them.

We're doing the 11 3/4 thing. Obviously you're going to pretty patronised by rolling down a hill or making a daisy chain if you're already 10 but there's also "go on a nature walk at night, camp out in the wild, try rock climbing and hunt for fossils and bones", which might be more appropriate for older children.

Eyesunderarock Sat 03-Aug-13 19:14:41

I wish that the '50 things' initiative was obvious to all parents and that they did try and let their children experience most of them, but many don't.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodiam-castle/
Still a favourite}
But spend your money on things that you and your family will enjoy OP, and if the NT isn't one of them, that's your choice.
We're also members of English Heritage. grin

Sleepyhead33 Sat 03-Aug-13 19:17:04

I love our nearest NT property-Cliveden and have been to many more. Think it is a great value family membership and agree with a previous poster who mentioned many happy memories made there.
loads of evening/family events and the seasonal stuff is great. obviously if you aren't particularly near a property then it would be of limited use but I wouldn't be without our family membership.

oh yes and the food is pricey-and yes that is why we all take picnics in large baskets!

Morgause Sat 03-Aug-13 19:18:13

I loathe the Black Country Museum.

Historically inaccurate and the guides make it up as they go along. I'm so glad I'm semi retired and no longer have to take school trips there. It's awful. I much prefer Blists Hill, A Victorian Town with the best guides ever.

www.artfund.org/what-to-see/museums-and-galleries/blists-hill-victorian-town

I'm in the NT and have usually found them really good with children. When our DCs were young they used to love going to NT places. They are both still members (as are their partners). You get performance parents everywhere these days, with or without picnic baskets. I encountered one today in Tescos today encouraging dear Ermintrude (name changed as it's one I see a lot on here) to select the best fruit for tomorrow's picnic.

NT places I've been to lately had costumes for children to try on which I think it a lovely idea. The restaurants are a bit pricey but the big places usually have a cheaper café as well.

So you being very unreasonable.

Voodika Sat 03-Aug-13 19:20:02

I've often thought that the houses feel quite sad. Family had to leave and hand it all over to the National Trust.
The grounds are usually lovely but the houses are full of guides who frown at my children and tell us we are going the wrong way round their one way system.

I see your point (well most of them) and I think it perhaps depends where you live but for us membership is good. Individual entrance prices are expensive and so you feel you have to go for the whole day to make worthwhile which isn't ideal with young kids. I didn't very much before and I wouldn't now visit properties without the membership.

We live within a 30 minute drive of 2 or 3 properties with really lovely grounds. We often go just for a picnic, explore the woods type trip and don't actually go in the houses. Family membership means you can take any kids (there is probably a limit on numbers!) but that means I can take DD and a friend. Grounds tend to be much quieter than theme parks but they usually have some kind of trial/activity for the kids or they just like exploring anyway.

IcedTeaOneSugar Sat 03-Aug-13 19:23:22

We're members and get our money's worth every year, we visit NT properties at home and on holiday so we've seem a wide variety of different types of property (they're not all stately homes).

The food is expensive (hence picnic basket) but national trust blend tea is lovely so we always use the café for hot drinks.

Not sure what the purpose of the thread is though, you don't have to go and you certainly don't have to join, free country.

Itsnotahoover Sat 03-Aug-13 19:23:49

I've been considering membership as I finally have some weekends free and membership for me and ds is about £45 - it costs £20 for us to get into one place near us, so membership seems worthwhile!

Viviennemary Sat 03-Aug-13 19:24:45

The cafes are mostly dire unless you go at a quiet time when there's nobody in them. We are members but probably don't get our money's worth.

PeppermintPasty Sat 03-Aug-13 19:27:54

YA so NBU.

We live in a place awash with NT properties and I was previously ok-ish about them.

BUT THEN....I had to apply to them for an easement to cross their land with a water pipe to get mains water to our home (long long story). This piece of land is farmed by my incredibly supportive old-school-farmer neighbour, and the land in question (the piece we needed to cross) is about 300 yards long.

We knew we'd have to pay some £££ for the privilege, plus costs of their surveyor and lawyer, and we know their argument is that they are a charity so must be seen to be whiter than white blah blah.

Anyhoo, we are not daft, neither is our neighbour. We knew that the market value for this operation (they had to consider the value added to OUR home by a mains water supply, plus the inconvenience (zero) to the tenant, our farmer friend) is around the 2-3k mark.

The grasping bastards wanted TEN GRAND from us plus all legals/surveying costs!!!!

Even my neighbour, who is their tenant, attended a meeting with their regional plonker representative at our house, and told them what he thought of them.

This man, to be fair, was pretty terrified of both of us.But this "negotiation" went on for over a year, during which time our well ran dry (huh, literally and figuratively), and as my farmer pointed out several times, we have very young children.

We eventually batted them down to 4k, it was a struggle,(but I was over the moon) plus costs.

To add insult to injury, once the agreement was there in theory, they took weeks of pushing to get it sorted.

Once it was completed, that same week I settled all the due invoices from them, only to receive a red letter from them the following month claiming I hadn't paid!!

As you might guess, I wish I had recorded the phone call that I made to their office after that smile

Sorry, just realised I might need therapy to properly get over this blush

wigglesrock Sat 03-Aug-13 19:27:58

We have a family membership, my Mum bought it for us when we had dd3 smile

We've really got our money's worth. The places we go to have great outdoor playgrounds, we don't do houses. Their cafes are terrible, expensive and not really what we are looking for. Our favourite beach is NT owned so saves us money parking.

I'm in NI, so to be honest not tripping over NT hotspots but the free entry into the Giants Causeway centre really works for us. I'm not overly fussed on National Trust as an organisation, but it is nice going to places the kids like without worrying about the entrance fee.

Bowlersarm Sat 03-Aug-13 19:28:05

YABU

We have made our money back time after time on our membership. Fantastic value for money. If you have small children they have space to run around. There is normally somewhere to picnic if you can't afford the cafe.

They need to make money or they won't survive. But what excellent value.

Yabvvvvvu.

pussinwellyboots Sat 03-Aug-13 19:28:21

Today we've been to Arlington court in Devon. Our favourite part of the property is the wilderness area with stream - perfect for paddling and building dams - and mud slides down the steep banks! I wouldn't really know about the food prices as we take a picnic but from a quick glance they seem pretty similar to other touristy places with locally sourced nice food.
Earlier this week we visited a property near Birmingham where they had a visiting mini beasts roadshow - the ds's got to hold snakes, spiders etc all for free.
If its not your thing fair enough but for us membership is great value.

hiddenhome Sat 03-Aug-13 19:28:48

We go to the odd place when we're feeling posh, but prefer English Heritage because their places are more historic and interesting.

We visited Cragside Hall a few weeks ago and were quite bored blush

PeppermintPasty Sat 03-Aug-13 19:29:29

And English Heritage is miles better anyway so ner.

Caster8 Sat 03-Aug-13 19:30:06

I like them. They are nice and helpful too round here. My children are not so young now, so no problem that way! Like Eyesunderarock, if I wasnt a NT person when younger, I think I am turning into one now. smile

Caster8 Sat 03-Aug-13 19:31:16

I feel a NT clique coming on!

Caster8 Sat 03-Aug-13 19:31:44

Sorry quiche blush

Eyesunderarock Sat 03-Aug-13 19:32:27

I also like the way that we used to drop in for an hour's visit and then go.
No needing to do an entire day if we didn't feel like it, or if there was a specific thing we wanted to see or do.

pianodoodle Sat 03-Aug-13 19:32:45

We were always members growing up in N.Ireland as a lot of good places are NT also the beach we went to quite a lot.

In Gloucestershire now we got a membership this year as there was a deal on so we've got the money's worth already from not that many outings.

Don't go into the cafes either it's always a picnic.

A few of the stately homes I've been to round here weren't that great (I really just like nice gardens etc...) and it all felt a bit crusty but plenty of places have events for kids and Easter egg hunts etc...

We went to Warwick Castle (bloody expensive!) last year and it was the complete opposite. A happy medium between too crusty and too tacky would be nice smile

I did like the jousting though! And DD (then 1) bashed Dh's head in with a plastic mace.

BoffinMum Sat 03-Aug-13 19:33:54

If you dislike the NT just go to a stately home abroad to remind yourself how bloody boring and anti-child the whole experience used to be before our glorious UK heritage industry made it palatable. We visited the Residenz in Munich this summer, and despite the fact that I have lectured in history (briefly), and also run a stately home at one point, even I was bored to death and blinged out after half an hour, not to mention the rest of the family. And all those sour faced custodians barking at us if we so much as looked like we were going to lay a finger on the display cabinets! And having to surrender handbags even though there was nothing to nick as their room settings were about as basic as it was possible to be! And the absolute lack of context in the displays! And NO TEAS!! Seriously, enjoy the way it's all packaged up for us and the way we can saunter around these lovely places like we own them.

JollyHolidayGiant Sat 03-Aug-13 19:35:38

Scottish National Trust is definitely a bit different round here. The places are often pretty quiet. The grounds are amazing for walks and rarely charge entry, just parking. We have membership and it covers itself from parking alone.

We went to one today about 30 minutes away. There's another a 10 minute drive away that we go to at least monthly. We don't go in the houses often at the moment as we have a toddler and that's not really a good combination.

We went to a great property with amazing gardens in the Cotswolds when we were there on holiday. The fact that we get free entry to English national trust properties with our membership is lovely.

YANBU.

Local and County museums have much more enthusiastic staff wrt childrens' activities.

We had a family membership but just didn't get the use out of it. I'm going to get an individual membership for the parking though.

capercaillie Sat 03-Aug-13 19:36:28

Membership is good value. We use them like service stations - some are v close to motorways and so much nicer to stop at for a run round and cup of coffee. I've been impressed recently with how welcoming some of the houses were for children and had things to keep them interested and amused.

The main reason I'm a member though is as a keen walker - they look after some really important and beautiful areas of thr country that I like to visit and walk round. Yes I could do that for free as many people do but I think it's important work that they're doing there.

Growlithe Sat 03-Aug-13 19:36:50

I suppose the point of the thread is more to gauge whether they are the same in terms of the attitudes of the staff/volunteers throughout the organisation, or have I just touched unlucky.

There aren't that many properties in our area, but when we pointed this out to one lady trying to sell us the membership she just wouldn't listen. She had such a hard sell I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up on The Apprentice, even though she could clearly see we had two DCs literally trying to drag us out to start exploring. Today's wasn't that bad, but the membership was still mentioned, even though we were using free tickets we got with our bank account.

guiltyconscience Sat 03-Aug-13 19:40:38

We went to Agatha Christie's house in Devon and had the misfortune to be
spoken 'at' by one horribly stuck up arsy woman who thought we were beneath her, she treated us like shit. So bad that I will never go back there and it's a real shame as we really liked the house and gardens and would have liked to become members, it has put us right off. Made me think the reputation the NT has for elitism is well deserved!

They've really brightened up Wray Castle after fannying about saying they were going to sell it to a hotel developer.

Lovely benches for those Performance Picnics, croquet to have a go at etc. Still wouldn't pay £17.50 to go in though - there's nothing original there!

BadRoly Sat 03-Aug-13 19:42:09

Ok, I can't comment on the membership flogging and crazy pricing as my Dad bought us life family membership before he threw a 7. Flashing that little plastic card gets them curtsying and everything wink

Cafes - awful. Overpriced and the least child friendly lunch boxes I have ever found. But they do sell coffee and ice cream which is never a bad thing.

Picnics - well there are 6 of us so our picnics are always enormous and they are generally essential at NT because of the cafes...

Child friendliness - I cannot remember the last time I went into the actual house at a NT property, certainly with children. Mainly because I suspect they aren't ideal for children. We go to NT for a naice walk or a playground or parking (much of the coast here is NT carparking so free to members).

I'm on the phone so can't remember if there is anything else I need to answer from the op grin

Oh and I have English Heritage too (but not life sadly) because we live very near one of their castles and its good to go up there after school to blow the cobwebs away...

Caster8 Sat 03-Aug-13 19:43:57

Unlucky re staff.
The spread of properties is uneven. Where I live, we are inundated.
Hard sell - a bit mixed imo.
Membership does get mentioned a lot.

Procrastinating Sat 03-Aug-13 19:49:08

I just got back from Belton House. We are members but I still think YANBU.

I have three children and feel they are tolerated rather than welcomed in the houses. As we went in the gate today a volunteer person gave the middle aged couple in front of us a full range of choices of tours they could do, the volunteer then just gave me five stickers - no tours offered. I find this to be the general attitude of volunteers, who also wince when my children walk into a room, waiting for them to misbehave or touch something.

I don't like the activities they give children in the houses either, they stop children actually looking at things and talking about them. And yes OP, that their '50 things' is patronising rubbish, assuming that modern children just sit in front of screens.

I think membership is great though, we use the beach car parks & get practically free days out to different properties - we take our own food. The houses get me furious about inequality so I get the chance to rant on to the children, thus teaching them something(!) and we get to bond as a family because it is us against the miserable volunteers. Although some volunteers are actually nice I think we have more fun when they are not!

ShoeJunkie Sat 03-Aug-13 19:49:35

We're NT members and have been for many years. Now that DS is walking its great to take him to one of our local ones (we're lucky to have several nearby) as they have fantastic open spaces for him to charge around in. A couple of them also put out bats, balls etc too. We usually whizz round the house too.
As we're not paying for entry per se it doesn't matter if we only stay for an hour or so. And hopefully DS will come to appreciate the historical side in a few years too.

sweetestcup Sat 03-Aug-13 19:58:41

Well we don't do Stately homes or anything like that but are members of the NT Scotland and its worth it for Culzean country park alone, lovely park plus its right on the west coast Scotland so has a stunning small beach that we often picnic or BBQ on in the summer, never overcrowded like the main tourist beaches in Ayrshire because you obviously have to be a NT member or pay a lot of money to get into the park. Its so worth it and gorgeous. Plus we always take the boys at Easter to an Easter egg hunt.

specialsubject Sat 03-Aug-13 20:12:47

take a picnic.

most of the NT 'staff' are VOLUNTEERS. No excuse for rudeness but I think you may be being just a teeny-weeny bit oversensitive.

Membership usually worth it for five visits in a year. You don't go to a property with a garden just once - you visit regularly to see the seasonal changes. Obviously not much use to you if you don't have places nearby or have kids who aren't into any of the things you do at NT places.

happily it is a free country. Aren't we lucky?

Sparklingbrook Sat 03-Aug-13 20:16:41

I just think NT places are a bit 'crusty' for my two DC to be interested in. There's a lovely English heritage place locally, but the DC were more interested in the cake.

Eyesunderarock Sat 03-Aug-13 20:19:35

I obviously have crusty children. grin
They hate theme parks, fast food and Disneyland.
Good job that there are resources and places that cater for all sorts then.
DS even takes.....


a sketchbook. shock
A camera.
And a collecting bag.

I'm in charge of the food.

JassyRadlett Sat 03-Aug-13 20:21:32

Definitely get our money's worth, we go at least once a month and more when on holiday.

We must be going to different properties as those I've been to are great with kids - dressing up boxes, discovery trails, enthusiastic and knowledgable guides and at Polesden Lacey the lovely bloke who drives the 'train' who always waves at DS and offers him a short ride if it's not busy.

I am unclear on why owning a large picnic blanket might be perceived as performance parenting, though. Is it only performance parents who don't like getting itchy legs?

Openyourheart Sat 03-Aug-13 20:21:48

LOL!!!!

"Performance parents" I love that expression. Am I a performance parent if I take a picnic or am I just too poor to afford the cafe. I think I actually want to be a performance parent. It sounds such fun.

But specialsubject, the Council owned museums round here are staffed by volunteers in the main and they are vibrant and lively places, with plenty of activities for children.

One privately owned house used to be so stuffy and Hands Off that DH and I were intimidated by the atmosphere of suspicion we would leave sticky fingermarks on the panelling and knock vases over with flailing arms.
They've revamped their image now and realise that you need accessible entry pricing and a range of activities.
Costs us (DH, me, DS) £8 to get in, as opposed to £17.50+ for a NT property and it's far more interesting.

At Wray Castle there was a bored looking woman doing an activity in the summerhouse, with two membership recruiters stood in the doorway. Yes, the activity was free, but who wants to navigate the hard sell?

We'd paid £7 for parking 4 miles away btw, so we were already supporting the NT land ownership.

Mrsrobertduvall Sat 03-Aug-13 20:22:43

We had membership when dcs were small...our nearest is Ham House, which has a very nice cafe grin
and we would always stop in Powis Castle on the way to our holiday.

I am not interested in gardens or stately homes, but it was a nice thing to do if all else failed.

Chartwell is my fave.

Sparklingbrook Sat 03-Aug-13 20:23:20

Eyes. DS1 won't even be seen with me. Anywhere. sad

VivaLeBeaver Sat 03-Aug-13 20:24:03

I used to be a member when dd was younger. Hardly ever went in any of the houses but gardens, etc were all good. We lived near fab Belton House with the amazing adventure playground and also close to Clumber which is great for walking/bike rides. That and beach car parks, Lake District carparks, somewhere to go on a rainy day on holiday made it good value.

Growlithe Sat 03-Aug-13 20:25:48

Looks to me like many NT members use it for the grounds and car parking then.

I think it's such a shame to have the actual houses not being used. How much history is getting bypassed if the places are only being used as open spaces, gardens and adventure playgrounds?

Is there no way they could bring these houses alive to children, to spark an interest in history? Otherwise, who is going to be motivated to volunteer in future generations?

bringonyourwreckingball Sat 03-Aug-13 20:26:54

Belton House is fab, we joined there thinking if we went to one/two more we'd make our money back but actually where we live there are very few NT places so it was a v expensive day trip. Most NT places really aren't that child friendly.

Eyesunderarock Sat 03-Aug-13 20:27:53

That's sad Sparkling, DS prefers my company to most because we have similar interests. Took him and his friendwhoisagirlnotagirlfriend to a local NT house a couple of days ago. Serious fun and picnicking was had.
She's a botanist.
DD is a technonerd, but we have the sea in common, a shared sense of humour and certain forms of shopping. She likes the NT bat nights and stargazing.
Luck of the draw really.

plantsitter Sat 03-Aug-13 20:29:03

My Dh has life membership bought by his parents when he was little. He is quite scoffing at that fact but it is ace because a) it admits me and the two (under 5) kids too, b) we can stop on the way to holidays etc for free, c) my kids inexplicably love dusty old houses with paintings of ladies in lovely dresses in and best of all d)when he shows his membership card the staff go all grovelly and sycophantic as if he were a member of the landed gentry coming to a weekend shooting party. So I say thanks in-laws for that.

Sparklingbrook Sat 03-Aug-13 20:30:29

I am hoping it's a phase Eyes. DS2 is still fairly amenable at 11 but family trips are a bit like hard work at the moment.

DS1 hates theme parks too-what a grump.

Eyesunderarock Sat 03-Aug-13 20:30:39

You ain't gonna be satisfied are you Growlith? grin
I bring the houses alive with storytelling, details and facts and letting them explore and ask questions about what they see and observe.
All the properties have wonderful things just waiting to be found out, and children look at old stuff with new eyes. Then you learn from them.

VelmaDaceDinkley Sat 03-Aug-13 20:36:13

We got an annual membership on holiday last year but won't be renewing it this year.

Where I live there aren't actually that many NT properties nearby that we haven't already been to 100 times and 2 of the closest ones actually charge you to get in EVEN if you're a member.

I live in a city with loads of free museums, galleries, parks and historical buildings so for me it's not worth it.

Growlithe Sat 03-Aug-13 20:41:50

Eyes we couldn't even speak. Each room had a volunteer following us round.

DH was told off twice. Once because he mistakenly said a pot on the floor was a chamber pot, it apparently wasn't. Another time because he was joking with DD that a pot plant was 400 years old, and was told that it could well be 100 years old.

We've obviously had a couple of bad experiences lately. They could do with watching a couple of episodes of Horrible Histories IMO.

Catsize Sat 03-Aug-13 20:48:13

Got joint life membership when given some money by a big NT fan.
Seemed apt.
Love NT membership, and nice to feel we are visiting somewhere for free, especially when in new places.
Two best things...
Can bob in for a short time with no regrets.
Kids can run all over the lawns without fear of dog poo.

Catsize Sat 03-Aug-13 20:48:43

Oh, and I have never been pestered to buy membership.

Never mind, Growlithe. I'll never forget the look of withering disdain the lady at Hill Top gave me when she thrust a Peter Rabbit book into DS's hands and said You'll have read this, won't you?"

To which he piped up "No. I don't like any of them"

YoToast Sat 03-Aug-13 20:53:12

It seems to depend on the property, some are absolutely great for kids and the volunteers bend over backwards to engage them. At other places, kids' every move is viewed with suspicious, lemon-sucking faces in case they break something just be breathing.

I assumed that the 50 things list was written to cover a range of ages. There probably aren't many 11 year olds who haven't done things like roll down a hill or play poohsticks, but it means that there are achievable goals for much younger children to join in.

Growlithe Sat 03-Aug-13 20:54:09

Ironic given your NN BeerTricks grin

OrganixAddict Sat 03-Aug-13 20:56:23

YmayNBU but having recently discovered the NT has a property called Windy Horse Pump, I feel it definitely has some positives as an organisation grin

Sparklingbrook Sat 03-Aug-13 20:56:45

Dss were unimpressed at one where you could buy a football in the gift shop but no football allowed in the grounds. hmm

Caster8 Sat 03-Aug-13 20:56:48

Cant remember if these places have suggestions box.
Personally I would write[they might appreciate a letter!wink] to the house concerned, and suggest ways of improvement/mention hard sell and rude staff.

Oh how I've tried, Growlithe, but he just looks at me like hmm

We were there because I wanted to go. Ended up Loud Parenting about holes in the bloody floorboards Look! Look darling! This is where this exact scene is taken from! blush

Growlithe Sat 03-Aug-13 21:05:23

Caster8 I actually emailed after the hard sell incident. They replied saying 'sorry you had this experience, we will look into it'. So we did try.

Growlithe Sat 03-Aug-13 21:07:32

Then I'm sorry to all the parents I did the hmm face to today BeerTricks. What I thought was Loud Parenting may well have been desperation. grin

We got membership a couple of months ago, and have just broken even, although we have just been away, so use is likely to slow down now. Locally we've been to Croome, which I had terrible memories of from a year's membership the year DD was born - February, heavily pregnant, bleak grounds and no facilities. The house is open now, it has a genuinely lovely tea room with a brilliant kids' lunch, and we visited on a lovely day. DD and I have to go back because while she finished the trail in the gardens the house shut before she could finish the house trail. Then we went to Dunham Massey while visiting the in-laws, which was brilliant just by virtue that we never DO anything while visiting them (and was genuinely good, although I got bitten by a horsefly), and to Wray Castle and Fell Foot Park (just saved on parking there) in the Lake District on holiday. Volunteers at the three actual houses were lovely. DD likes trails, and if she's got one is slightly more likely to listen to me pontificating about something historic (they make DH happier too, tbh). She likes the 50 things, as she likes ticking off lists, although her definition of some of the activities is 'interesting' - "camp in the wild" is either Camp Bestival or a big Outwell tent on a nice site. hmm

ohforfoxsake Sat 03-Aug-13 21:14:33

Buy your membership through Quidco for decent cash back, get 12 months for the price of 9 by paying by direct debit and you are quids in. Cancel your membership so you don't pay full price next year.

Depending on where you live depends on how good value for money it is. We have beaches, country houses, gardens, playgrounds, all very accessible. We get our money's worth. And we take a picnic (and probably lower the tone).

We live in what looks like a NT black hole on the map. Perhaps that is why we won't want to renew our membership. Actually where we live seems to be a black hole on lots of maps. No ice skating rink, no splash parks no High and Mighty for DH's clothes, just a whole lot of nothing.

LessMissAbs Sat 03-Aug-13 21:44:25

NT does a good job with most of its properties and is often tied by the terms of legacies, etc in what it can do with them. But in these days of historic properties actually being lived in as converted flats, their aims seem increasingly outmoded with some of the smaller properties. There are a couple near me owned by the NT which have been allowed to deteriorate and closed to the public because it does not have the funds to maintain them. The figures mentioned are always tens of millions, yet developers seem to be able to take on such properties, convert them into flats and sell them for a profit. So I'm not sure I entirely agree with its ethos.

I easily get my moneys worth out of my NT membership. £5.75 a month gets my parking paid at my nearest property where there are lovely picnic areas, an outdoor playground and a soft play. I take DS every week and parking would normally be £6.

fuzzpig Sat 03-Aug-13 21:49:32

I would probably be tempted to join if we had a car. A lot of the places I've looked at are by nature rather too out of the way for public transport.

There is lots of woodland round here though and some huge parks so plenty of space for the DCs to have adventures for free!

Morgause Sat 03-Aug-13 21:52:22

We're in Cadw (Welsh Heritage) as well which gives free entry to English Heritage places.

We always go into the houses, that's the best part.

Permanentlyexhausted Sat 03-Aug-13 21:53:39

Happily we have family life membership so never think about the cost. It's worth it just for the free parking at the beach. As a PP said, I wave my little gold card and get very deferential treatment. Fab!

greenishfingers Sat 03-Aug-13 21:53:52

Always find it curious how NT membership figures are quoted as evidence that so many people care about heritage in this country. A lot of people in Devon and Cornwall are mainly members for the parking!

lovesmellingthecoffee Sun 04-Aug-13 01:06:30

Actually its nice to go places which aren't totally infantalised. Adults and older children want to go to places which will interest them as as well.

I took my kids to the science museum and it was appalling. it was totally dumbed down nothing of interest for anyone over 8 and the kids activities would have been available anywhere eg sand and water play.
the place is full of a valuable learning resources which arent being utilised to the full. Teenagers, older childreadults like learning just as much as children do .
If you want a variety of experiences for your children take them to different places, don't expect one type of place to cater for everyone.
Our kids enjoyed going to NT places and they also enjoyed, farms and Alton Towers. but i wouldnt expect to find a roller coaster at a NT property but that is why we go there.

BoffinMum Sun 04-Aug-13 08:54:23

There's another point about the houses, which means we shouldn't be too reverential.

The way people are using them, by dropping in, having something to eat and mucking about in the gardens, is one of the things they were meant for. While they are indeed 'historic' and part of our national pageantry, ultimately they were designed to:

Display wealth and status
Employ masses of local people and craftsmen
Act as playgrounds for the upper classes and nobility and people they wanted to impress.

If we want to hang on to such heritage, and indeed it is amazing we are in a collective position to do this, we should continue in the same vein. That means letting people get married in bits of them, or hire them for events, keeping up with maintenance and using local people to help, and developing facilities there that allow people to enjoy their leisure time whilst appreciating the beauty around them.

It is irrelevant whether the National Trust or English Heritage or established families are acting as guardians to these properties, they all need loads and loads of interested people engaged in keeping the properties alive, and part of that is, in my view, allowing (some) visitors and enthusing them as well. Only the worst kind of historical snob would say that they should be kept in a kind of intellectual aspic, as though time had never moved on. Nobody ever intended the life of such houses to remain static.

I don't think tiptoeing around lots of gilding and marble is much use in this regard, or barking at visitors. Obviously it's a problem if 5000 people a season all feel the need to touch some fragile bit of something, and that needs to be carefully screened off. And things like dust and daylight are also problematic, which means in some cases you need to control visitor numbers a bit indoors, as well as the timing. However it's a very sad house indeed that doesn't hear the sound of laughter and parties and merriment, and instead is reduced to the awed hush of people being overawed by the nation's past. It's perfectly possible to let a house live a modern life, with largely reversible additions or adaptations, whilst acting as good custodians for future generations.

And yes, I speak as one who has shagged completely surrounded by priceless paintings and vaulted ceilings, who has partied like the Georgians never knew how, and who has teased paying visitors with 'find the BBQ' treasure hunts. I did it for Britain grin

Flirt with these houses, help with these houses, play around these houses, but always, always, always have fun.

soverylucky Sun 04-Aug-13 09:05:44

I am surprised by how many posters don't go in the houses. I thought that was what everyone did. My two love them and are always deciding which bedroom they will have when they move in etc

MrButtercat Sun 04-Aug-13 09:10:35

Dp and I have family membership for our bday every year and think it's bloody fantastic.

We live in Devon so visit the Devon and Cornwall properties a lot.I love the fact that as a strapped for cash family we can go anywhere in the UK and have a free day out.My dc imagine the gardens are theirs.Considering Salcombe beach car park is £7 it's good to have.

All the properties we visit have a picnic area,nice pocket money toys in the shop and are lovely and encouraging to kids even letting them play the pianos,handle artefacts etc.

The only one I have a quibble with is Knightshayes which never has activities for kids in the holidays. Saltram does the best imaginative activities for older kids,done some nice things at Drogo too. Killerton just repeats the same old thing(could do with a change). Fab adventure playground at Llanhydrock and super slide/ play room at Anthony.

Would like to see more activities for older children drawing on the history of each house( they are an amazing resource just sitting there) and the plants in the gardens and more outdoor play equipment for older kids.

I think the NT has worked hard in recent years(I've noticed changes)to encourage families/ children but shouldn't stand still.

I think the volunteers should be applauded often v patient and knowledgable.

MrButtercat Sun 04-Aug-13 09:12:40

A La Ronde does fab activities for such a small property too.

Eyesunderarock Sun 04-Aug-13 09:14:06

I definitely agree with lovesmellingthecoffee about the sheer number of buttons and flashing lights and computer screens and dumbing down in so many of the more popular museums now.
We need the variety, and the breadth. One of the fascinating discoveries when visiting somewhere that isn't filled with simplified IT and indistinguishable activities is the level of thinking, exploration, speculation and theorising it engenders in the visitors.
I also agree that the Science museum in London is one we've been less than keen on since the children hit 11.

PeoplesRepublicOfBerkshire Sun 04-Aug-13 09:14:46

We're NT members but my DC are 3 & 5 so we don't bother with the properties (and they bore me anyway!) but we definitely get our money's worth. Wide open spaces and fewer crowds in the summer are a godsend.

I don't think the 50 things to do is patronising at all and you'd be amazed by how many kids won't have experienced that stuff sadly.

LadyFlumpalot Sun 04-Aug-13 09:17:37

Stourhead double admission prices when the Rhododendrons are in flower. This used to really bug me, until I discovered the not so secret, secret way in.

I live 10 minutes away so it's handy to entertain visiting relatives.

Growlithe Sun 04-Aug-13 10:14:51

I'm not suggesting they should be putting buttons and computer screens everywhere.

Someone upthread said the Black Country Living Museum was historically inaccurate. That may be, bit at least it had my DDs thinking about how families lived in those days. The differences between the rich and the poor and the moderately well off. What the children did, how they played, if they went to school and what they did there if they did etc.

I'd suggest a bit of research on what kind of times you families attend the grounds of these houses. Then I'd clear the house of the browsers for an hour during that time and do a tour based on things children would be interested in - stories of the families who owned them, which children lived (or worked) there, any gory stories, how they got washed and went to the toilet. All that stuff. If there is dressing up, get them all dressed up for it.

That would bring the places alive more than buttons and computer screens. And wouldn't make them Alton Towers either.

vjg13 Sun 04-Aug-13 10:30:04

English Heritage also do a really bad hard sell on the membership. I emailed a complaint after a man ran after us at Osborne House ranting "listen to me" after I had politely said no thanks several times.

We have NT membership but probably don't get value from it. I do lend it to ILs sometimes too!

MrButtercat Sun 04-Aug-13 10:30:08

Grow they do all that but could extend it further imvho.

Jenijena Sun 04-Aug-13 10:55:58

Anyone down in Hampshire this summer - visiting Paultons Park for example - could go to Mottisfont Abbey. Which isn't an abbey, but does have a lovely Winnie the Pooh trail this summer, with pictures in the main house. And an ice cream parlour.

LaGuardia Sun 04-Aug-13 11:48:39

A very working class attitude, OP. Stick to indoor soft play.

BadRoly Sun 04-Aug-13 12:01:50

The pp who asked why so many of us don't take the children into the houses - I would happily take the older 3dc but dc4 (just 4) is the one who would slip under the rope and jump on the 390yr old bed! Give it 12mths and we might start taking them all inside wink

Fwiw, if my mum is with us, she will slope off with dc1 and they will go for a sneaky peak around without the rest of us.

We are in Cornwall but had membership before we came down - each dc's first 'day out' after being released from hospital was a walk (well push) round Stowe Gardens.

My most favourite NT place at the moment though is near Cambridge - Wimpole Hall. I love going there when we are in that part of the world.

Bea Sun 04-Aug-13 12:26:21

We love the NT!!! So much so we got ourselves life memberships...

Agree with a lot here! No need for a full blown day... and ALWAYS! take a picnic... finish off the visit with a coffee/cake or ice cream!

Quick 10 minite mooch in the shop whilst kids and dh play in the play area...

Wherever we are... if stuck and in need of a breather on long journeys or hols... pop into a NT!

JakeBullet Sun 04-Aug-13 12:29:18

When I lived in the West Country I always had membership...always somewhere to go so it more than paid for itself.

DameDeepRedBetty Sun 04-Aug-13 12:48:14

Like many others I've recently given up NT membership as dtds are now too old for the free seaside carparking that was the main value of it.

Each house/property has its own characteristics, some do seem to be stuck in a 50's timewarp, others seem to be trying to join the 21st century, with mixed results. The atmosphere of the whole organisation though feels to me like it's a bit up its own arse.

I've found English Heritage generally does a much better job of engaging the children with the history than NT.

Wishihadabs Sun 04-Aug-13 13:01:51

The only reason I have membership is my bf does so we always meet in NT properties with our dcs. Also my parents so meet up there for a picnic. Agree if you've visited one you've visited them all. Late Georgian/early Victorian house, grounds and over priced tea shop +/ lawn games.

Billwoody Sun 04-Aug-13 13:08:02

We have a membership and I view it as an annual donation to UK heritage with the free visits a bonus on top.

Tubemole1 Sun 04-Aug-13 13:11:36

YANBU I fell out with them years ago when I was a student and they offered concessions to everyone, but students. 15 years is a long time to boycott an organization, but I have and no regrets.

We prefer EH too. Their properties are usually dog friendly and a lot more hands on for children. We must be a family who prefers the no furniture and probably no roof approach!

We took out membership in late may and have already had entrances worth double the joint fee. It helps that we are in south yorks but have visited Northumberland and Kent. We have been to Lindisfarne Priory (our least favourite) all the way to Dover Castle!

Some of the childrens events we have been to such as Gladiator School and a Knights Melee have been fantastic and have really engaged ds.

Though I do worry we are setting him up for geek central at age 7. The other day we were discussing where we'd go if we ever won the lottery. I said to ds maybe we could go to Florida and Disney...ds said he'd rather go to Italy and see some roman ruins!

Eyesunderarock Sun 04-Aug-13 13:33:57

Wish: '. Agree if you've visited one you've visited them all. Late Georgian/early Victorian house, grounds...'

Not in Sussex.
We have Bodiam Castle (Magnificent 14th century, moat and battlements),
Wakehurst Place (Outpost of Kew gardens, tallest Christmas tree in the coiuntry),
Birling Gap (Fossils and rock pools and chalk cliffs),
Standen (Arts and Crafts, lovely gardens),
Bateman's (Kipling's home, interesting events),
Nyman's with its amazing gardens and dragonfly summers,
Sheffield Park which is wonderful for all four seasons and has batwalks and stargazing sessions, and Uppark and Petworth which do fit the criteria of large mansions with fantastic art collections and grounds.
Variety for 12 months of the year.
Without leaving our home county.

GoshAnneGorilla Sun 04-Aug-13 13:53:27

LaGardia - what patronising rubbish.

crazyspaniel Sun 04-Aug-13 14:27:28

Yes, the lack of student discounts, and the general attitude to students is very poor. I teach an undergraduate course on a topic which meant that a visit to Kedleston Hall seemed like a good idea. The staff could not have made my small group of students feel more unwelcome and acted as if they thought they would trash the house. The students, I should point out, were extremely well-behaved, and were well-informed about, and genuinely interested in, the house and its history. To top it off, I was told that I wasn't able to conduct any teaching in the house, and that the volunteers would be able to tell the students about the rooms. In fact, the volunteers were hopeless, and unable to point out the most obvious features of the room that were relevant to our interests. It was a complete waste of a day, and I haven't taken students back since. Needless to say, they tried to sell us all membership, but no one took them up on it.

PrincessScrumpy Sun 04-Aug-13 14:39:31

we went to one yesterday and plan to go to one this afternoon when dc wake up from nap time. Lots of stuff for children - yesterday my 2 2yos were hunting for Teddies in the rooms of a house in dorset and loving the forest walk - todays house has pairings from national gallery with puzzle versions in the rooms for dc. Great family day out but we live near lots. Sometimes we just go there for a picnic.

BakeOLiteGirl Sun 04-Aug-13 14:46:58

I despise the National Trust and their attitudes. I have plenty of experience of their work and the way they acquired one particular property and ripped the heart of it. They made it look like what they thought people would want it to look like rather than what it actually was. And the way some properties treat their staff is abysmal.

Timeforabiscuit Sun 04-Aug-13 15:01:35

YANBU our nearest is Lacock Abbey, grounds are great for walking around BUT while I appreciate the staff were volunteers, they were mostly guarding the exhibits from any child wandering too closely, didn't attempt to talk to anyone below their eye level and made the entire experience so uncomfortable that I doubt i'll bother again.

My DH gets National Trust hives. Especially in NT cafes behind queues of old ladies waiting for their Yorkshire Tea.

But we are members because we live in Cornwall and like to visit Cotehele, Lanhydrock and Godrevy.

Horsemad Sun 04-Aug-13 15:24:50

I love the NT, I have a life membership and it's great for hols, although there aren't too many near where currently live sad

The DC aren't that bothered about the properties tbh, they'd rather be outside than trawling round old houses. I'll never forget one of the DC 'accidentally' setting off some snaps he'd just bought in the NT shop, whilst still in the shop - thought several wobbly old lades were going to have a heart attack!

We always stay in NT holiday cottages too.

LadyBeagleEyes Sun 04-Aug-13 15:30:31

I despise the Scottish National Trust.
They own a huge tract of a beautiful part of the Highlands up here, and they don't give a shit about the people here who want to make a living, a friend who has just applied to build a house on her croft has been turned down.
I shan't say any more as I will be outed but it is par for the course up here.

Bearleigh Sun 04-Aug-13 15:49:43

We have been happy NT members for years. It helps we are near lots of lovely NT gardens, which we visit very often. We had one unpleasant experience at Standen but have generally found the volunteers OK. We also use the NT map for identifying stop-offs on long journeys. BabyBearleigh is now 14 and is so used to walks in NT gardens he still quite enjoys them, and likes walking in general.

I think the management of the Trust in general take their charity "looking after the money" responsibities too seriously though. A number of people jave mentioned this upthread. We talked to a car park warden in Cornwall last year who said he was to be made redundant but could reapply for his job, at a lower salary.

Caster8 Sun 04-Aug-13 16:02:44

Growlithe, does your school organise subsidised, child centred trips to any NT properties near you?

SurfsNotUp Sun 04-Aug-13 16:37:15

grin at BoffinMum,

My parents took me to National Trust stuff and sneaked me into 5* hotels to use the loo, despite being pathetically poor, I've grown up confident in these environments. DH had never experienced that until I tutored him in the ways of righteousness by shagging in dark corners of some of our Grade 1 architectural gems.

Party in them, enjoy them, make your kids confident in alien landscapes and always write in the guide book. 'A beautiful place, so we made love'. It amuses the staff no end.

Growlithe Sun 04-Aug-13 16:52:14

Surfs I'll write that next time. grin

Caster8 DD1 is due to go on 2 school trips to NT properties over the next couple of years. I went on the same trips when I was in school. One is to the place we went to yesterday and I can remember the tour being very geared towards children. I went there with my DCs thinking we'd get similar. Do they only do this stuff for school trips?

lovesmellingthecoffee Sun 04-Aug-13 16:52:26

The trouble is if you make the NT too young child focused as the science museum has become. you run the risk of alienating the other age and lifestyle groups of visitors. And lets face it as other posters have said it is the older people spending money in cafes not the families.
The solution would probably to designate some properties in each area as child friendly and totally go for it

grovel Sun 04-Aug-13 17:19:21

The tweeness of it all is heave-inducing.

Caster8 Sun 04-Aug-13 17:26:19

Not sure Growlithe. Possibly yes. I dont know enough of other areas to say, one way or another. And I dont think you live in the same area as me.

Wabbitty Sun 04-Aug-13 17:39:11

Mr Buttercat - you forgot about Buckland Abbey

Procrastinating Sun 04-Aug-13 17:41:07

If you look at the adverts in the NT magazine they are not aimed at families. The NT knows which age group has the money and most of the volunteers are retired people too. Whatever they might say about trying to interest children the NT is aimed at the over 50s.

I don't want it to be child focused though, just more relaxed. I hate being talked at by the guides and I would like to have a conversation with my children without a volunteer following us about and interrupting.

I would also like a left-wing approach, some history from below that isn't about happy servants doing as they are told. All the guides go on about 'the family' and their wonderful achievements, this is not what we do in history these days (I'm a historian). We went to the Treasurer's House in York last week and there were quotes on the wall by the man who owned the house, he was an absolute shit to his servants and this was presented as some kind of charming eccentricity. He made them wrap each piece of coal in paper so it didn't make a noise. What a shit.

BramblyHedge Sun 04-Aug-13 17:59:17

We have just had a great day out at Cliveden...rowed on the Thames with our three DC, went to the kids storybook play area, ran around the gardens, had an ice cream. We enjoyed it but if we didn't we wouldn't go...as someone else said NT does attract certain types of people...just like us.

HugAMoo Sun 04-Aug-13 18:10:45

Wow, OP! You have a huge NT house-sized bag of chips on your shoulder.

They are what you make of them. Grab a picnic and have a lovely day out with your kids. You shouldn't even notice the 'performance parenting' if you're engrossed in having a wonderful time with your own family.

IAmTheTwelfthDoctor Sun 04-Aug-13 18:14:02

Morgause, what's so inaccurate at the Black Country Museum?

alwaysinamuckingfuddle Sun 04-Aug-13 18:15:44

I love the National Trust. We are so lucky to have it. DH comes from a beautiful part of the world but apart from mountains there is sod all else to look at.

We normally let our membership lapse then take it out when we have a UK cottage holiday. You only need to go to a few properties to make it pay.

I do love a good castle...

Growlithe Sun 04-Aug-13 22:08:49

Procrastinating I know what you mean about a left wing slant. Or maybe just a balanced view.

I'm conscious that I am banging on about the Black Country Museum on this thread. I'm not from that area, but have recently visited for the second time. We wandered into one of the 'back to back' houses, set up to be as in 1891 I think the guide said.

The guide talked to my DDs (9 and 5) about how the family who lived there at that time had 6 children in a one up one down house. How the babies would have slept in drawers or boxes, and the rest shared a bed in the same room as their parents.

She talked about the fact that those children went to school, just to learn the basics, but their mother hadn't. They know that because she signed the birth certificates with an 'X'.

She talked about the father being a miner, not always getting work if the coal they mined wasn't so great. About how the children would have always been hungry. How the parents were powerless to change their lives.

But then she asked what we thought had changed to allow us to change our lives today, to give us that power. She got ideas from DD1 and gave them some more suggestions too.

It was great stuff, and I was proud of my DDs for both 'getting it' - in that they understood and were interested.

MrsMook Sun 04-Aug-13 22:35:26

I get decent value out of my membership most years. We have several properties near by and often use it for parking when hiking or visit other properties when going on holiday. We're off to Cornwall soon, and our cards get well used in the gardens, properties and parking at scenic spots.

We went to a local property yesterday. There was a Home Front reinactment display on in the grounds which was rather entertaining, and meant we didn't get chance to go into the house.

There's many worse overpriced cafes in the world. At least that price range, has some justification with the produce being locally sourced, and normally tastes good.

If I have a year that I use my card less, at least I know the money is used well on maintaining landscapes and history. Beats the likes of theme parks for young families.

bearleftmonkeyright Sun 04-Aug-13 22:52:51

Sudbury Hall and Museum of Childhood has a Victorian classroom which is great fun, the volunteers act out the role of teachers. There is also a model of a chimney which the children can climb through. I live very near to it, its a great day and I have spent many a happy afternoon there with my dcs.

BoffinMum Sun 04-Aug-13 22:54:40

Took on of our APa out to see the Exhibition farm at Wimpole, looked at da cute newborn piglets, and then we went in the caff afterwards, where she ordered a bacon roll.

I mentioned the rare breed bacon was - ahem - very locally reared. wink

It rather put her off her roll grin. I don't think she had made the connection at all. gringrin

Growlithe Sun 04-Aug-13 23:08:09

Yes bearleft you are right there. smile We've been to the Museum of Childhood to break up a long journey and loved it. We didn't go into the Hall though. The Museum was great, and I remembered a fair few of the toy exhibits. blush

hamab Sun 04-Aug-13 23:20:55

Sort of know what you mean. The two NT properties near us don't have playgrounds, animals, childrens' activities at all. The cafe doesn't have much choice. So no, we don't use them much.

But I can see why people do have membership. Some of the properties have a lot more going on for dc. But also with all the beaches, coast paths, woodlands the NT keeps going, it's a really worthwhile charity to support. My dc loved the tractor ride at Mortehoe museum.

bedhaven Mon 05-Aug-13 06:25:38

I'm in my first year of membership and am a total convert, 3 visits and some parking covered the membership fees. We are pretty well placed for places to visit in Sussex and with a 2.5 year old and 11 month old we've just enjoyed the gardens and not even entered a house yet. Membership allows us days out without spending any more money.
I sit and write on my calendar interesting events that we'll try and go to from their newsletter, all of which are geared towards children. Teddy bears picnics, celebrating medieval festivals, first flowers. There are eye spies and games on the lawns, coyts, badminton and bowls lately. Even dog days my Mum will enjoy!
I've always found the staff helpful and nicely unobservant letting my Mum or friend enter using DH's card.
I always take a picnic and flask of coffee so only ever use the cafe for ice cream.
I like the idea that when we are holidaying in the UK i will investigate NT places to visit nearby. I am surprised how diverse the properties are and look forward to seeing more. I'm also liking the look of thir campsites but disappointed there is no discount for members.

flowery Mon 05-Aug-13 06:58:36

We were going to join until we realised that our nearest property still charges members to get in, just a bit less than non members. Very few properties anywhere near us so not good value.

CokeFan Mon 05-Aug-13 07:32:38

Where are these places that still charge members? I've never seen any. I'd be seriously cross if I still had to pay.

We've looked at the lifetime membership and realised that it's such a long time until you're "in profit" that it just isn't worth it. DD is just coming up to 5 years old so we'd have to have the family membership, which costs over £1800. That's over 18 years worth of yearly memberships (at the current price) and the "family" part of it would only cover DD until she was 18, so 13 years. It's something I'd consider as a gift for an 18 year old, but I might not live another 20 years to make it worthwhile (or at least I might not live near NT properties for that length of time).

flowery Mon 05-Aug-13 08:58:55

Our nearest which charges members is Wimpole Hall. It annoys me because on their website and in their marketing stuff and when they're selling membership they make a big thing about getting in free, and although they don't technically say it, the implication is you get in free to all NT properties.

bluebump Mon 05-Aug-13 09:15:36

I live about a mile from one property and here in Devon we have loads to visit so my membership has been really worthwhile. We often pop into our local property for a wander around the grounds and then pop to the cafe, we don't see it as much different to going to the park now that it's free to us as a member.

MrButtercat, Knightshayes does do stuff for the kids in the holidays, I'm not sure how it compares to the other houses and if they do as much but it's the house local to us and we go up most holidays to do things like the Halloween stuff, and the ice skating in the winter. They do have a new kids area but we've actually not tried it yet.

Laquila Mon 05-Aug-13 09:17:19

Funnily enough, husband and I were just talking about this yesterday. We were given joint lifetime membership as a wedding present and were trying to work out what it equated to per year and it came out at something like £25 for the two of us per year (assuming we were I'll visiting NT properties by the age of about 80, which is quite likely!).

Of course, as others have said, where you live and how much you holiday in the UK makes a huge difference to the VfM you get out of a membership, but I'd point out that certainly not all of their places are stately homes (we've recently been really interested to visit La Ronde, nearish Exeter, and the Erno Goldfinger house in Hampstead, for example. I'd also love to go to the Agatha Christie house but v far away from us).

It's been said many times upthread but the obvious way to save on costs is to take a picnic, although I have to say I don't think their cafes are that expensive compared to most high st chains.

I'd be annoyed, though, if I still had to pay to enter my nearest properties as a member! Is that for the farm at Wimpole, flowery, or for the whole site?

mignonette Mon 05-Aug-13 09:22:57

Will not visit because of their support of hunting on their land.

And I am not a 'townie' who knows nothing of the country either in my defence. My Grandparents were farmers and I spent my youth in the deepest countryside. My GP's banned the hunt on their land.

DidoTheDodo Mon 05-Aug-13 09:45:56

I'm a Life Member.

I am flippin' glad the NT exists. It rescues beautiful buildings that would otherwise fall into disrepair, and looks after loads of coastline and countryside, preventing it from getting spoilt,(and open access too) and for me is a sign of a civilised and cultured nation.

I am just thinking about the developers who destroyed an ancient edifice in South America (I think) recently...I would hate similar things to happen here and believe the NT is one way of protecting our history.

If you don't like it, don't use it!

flowery Mon 05-Aug-13 11:54:15

laquila just checked their website and unless I'm misinterpreting, members don't get a discount at all on the hall, only on farm and garden! shock

Wishihadabs Mon 05-Aug-13 12:26:15

Was thinking of Nymans and Batemans when I wrote that also Polsden Lacey. Obviously am an unculltured oik as the properties do seem er similar to me. Obviously there is the odd Norman castle, but not exactly short of them are we ?

VelmaDaceDinkley Mon 05-Aug-13 17:34:45

Cokefan Tatton Park in Cheshire charges members £5 for parking.

And John Lennon's old house in Liverpool costs £8 EACH for members but that's because you have to book on the tour, you can't just turn up confused

quoteunquote Mon 05-Aug-13 17:58:31

lydford gorge is a great walk,

a discount membership pays for itself in one visit to the lizard in cornwall as you get free car parking for the best beaches,

there are lots of NT car parks in our area all in places we visit a lot,

but I would give it to them anyway, just because I love the coastal path so much.

and if you are a member you can do quick visits into places near you, without having to feel you must get your moneys worth,

Laquila Mon 05-Aug-13 19:37:39

I think that's because Tatton Park is only partly owned and run by the NT - it's also Cheshire East Council.

Wishihadabs I guess the variety of properties also totally depends on where you live. For example, within fairly easy driving distance, we have a couple of "standard" stately homes, a fascinating and crazy garden with themed areas (great for kids), a museum of childhood, a former textile mill estate and museum, beautiful and unspoilt moorland, a stately home in decline that's been kept in the same state of decay (absolutely fascinating place), and a 16th C watermill, to name but a few. I guess we're just lucky around here, but I can see how the membership wouldn't seem like good value if the oly properties near you were v homogenous.

Flowery I was so incensed about Wimpole that I emailed them! They said members don't pay for the house or gardens, but pay for the farm. I pointed out their website was misleading! ;)

Catmint Mon 05-Aug-13 19:46:42

I don't see how they can simultaneously be unwelcoming to children and have produced a booklet which gives ideas for children to enjoy their properties.

Yabu.

flowery Mon 05-Aug-13 20:08:48

That's interesting laquila. Website definitely misleading.

Still not worth it for us though as the DC only interested in farm at the moment!

Miniph Mon 05-Aug-13 20:30:01

I got married at an NT site (Fountains Abbey), it's my very favourite place and has been since I visited it as a child - when my parents were making full use of their membership smile .

I found all the staff I met helpful and friendly and there was definitely no hard sell for membership. I've also never had an issue when visiting other NT sites, apart from the over priced cafés but you get those anywhere touristy.

That said - I hate a hard sell on anything and would avoid going back to anywhere that tried it.

JenniBoo Mon 05-Aug-13 20:39:40

Always found the NT very welcoming to small children - and great membership prices for under 25s too. Worth joining for the events programme - our local property does Xmas events, and Easter Egg trails etc., all free to members - it works out much, much cheaper than going to the Easter Disco or whatever at the local softplay

YNBU though - if you don't like it, well, you don't, but I can certainly understand why it appeal to many families.

tallulah Mon 05-Aug-13 21:06:40

I joined last year and have been pleasantly surprised by how good the volunteers always are with my now 6 yo. We've been in EH for decades and always get the impression they'd rather children were seen but not heard; but in every NT property we've visited the guides have always pointed out to DD what there is in the room to look for, and given her "clues" about where the things on her quiz are.

CokeFan Mon 05-Aug-13 21:08:25

I did not know that Velma and flowery. I've just had a look at the "Before you visit" bit of the FAQ on their website and it says…

"If you’re a member of the National Trust you can enjoy free entry to all our special places, so do make sure you have your membership cards with you when you visit. We can only give free entry to valid cardholders, so please remember to carry them."

It mentions that you might be charged for special events or that you might have timed tickets (we did today at Snowshill Manor and Gardens) but doesn't say anything about charging and yet, there it is on the wimpole estate prices page. The parking elsewhere I can kind of understand if someone else owns the car park.

Had a look at the Beatles thing and I can't say it sounds like my idea of fun. It's 2.5 hours looking round a couple of houses with a maximum of 15 people for £8.90 each?!? I guess they regard that as a "special event".

Our local one is Wimpole. There aren't many others in the area. I get a bit angry when I see maps showing all of the NT properties as there are far more properties in the Midlands, South and West. It sort of rubs in the fact that we have to pay to go into the farm. Membership is £99 for a family and entry to the farm is £11 for a family with membership compared to £23.70 without. So we would have to go to the farm about 8 times to really get our money's worth locally. And it isn't the best farm we have visited as an attraction (I suppose that isn't what they are aiming for).

BoffinMum Tue 06-Aug-13 08:33:57

Breathe, I agree. We're not renewing our passes as there just aren't enough places around here, only Ickworth, Wimpole and Anglesey Abbey, and we have been to all of them so many times now.

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