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Help needed with MA dissertation research - country houses and families

(7 Posts)
elsaresearch Mon 19-May-14 10:18:32

Hi there!

My name is Elsa and I'm currently writing my Dissertation for my MA in Public History at the University of York. I am concentrating on "trails" for children in country houses (mainly in Yorkshire). I want to find out how effective these activities are in childrens' and parents' eyes. If you have any opinions on trails, specific houses (National Trust, English Heritage,Private or other) or providing for children at heritage sites then please post on this thread! Any anecdotes/stories are welcome.
Thank you!

MissVanDyke Fri 30-May-14 17:32:06

Fascinating topic for an MA - I am very jealous!

We have been on a few trails at country houses recently with our children (4 & 2). We find that the NT are particularly good at engaging the children which teaches them to love history, and allows us a chance to look at the houses as well.

Recently we have enjoyed the Beatrix Potter trail at Melford Hall. That got the children to look for certain things in each room. They had chosen things that we could talk to the children about, and hopefully get them interested in history.

We did the Winnie the Pooh trail at Mottisfont which involved searching the grounds. They really enjoyed this and it worked well as we got to explore everywhere. I am not sure we could convince the children to look everywhere without the incentive of hunting for things.

I think these trails are important as it means the first introduction that children are getting to history is fun. Hopefully it can encourage a life long love of history!!! Can you tell what my main love is?? wink

QueenAnneofAustriaSpain Fri 30-May-14 17:35:29

That's a fantastic topic. I don't have any experience with Country House trails but my DC (8,6,3) certainly enjoy them when we visit museums. It gives us a purpose and path to follow rather than wandering aimlessly and looking at things out of context. I hope you get lots of responses. Good luck.

TunipTheUnconquerable Mon 02-Jun-14 12:50:07

They work when they encourage the children to look more closely at the things in the house/garden. The ubiquitous Easter Egg hunts where you have to find the fluffy chick or whatever are a pain in the neck and can ruin a good visit to somewhere which might actually engage the children, as all they want to do is to find the Easter Egg thing, rush into the next room to get the next one, and claim their chocolate at the end.

Ultimately, though, the best thing you can do for children at a heritage site is to have a really talented and inspiring guide - a good one (like the retired teacher who does tours at Ripley Castle near Harrogate) can be worth his/her weight in gold. Friendly room stewards who are good with kids and can show the child something special in that room, as if they're sharing a secret with them, are also wonderful.

With 3 kids and a serious country house habit we've done many, many trails, and I'm afraid I can't think of a single one that has inspired them the way a really good human being can. In the absence of that, though, yeah, trails are fine. They're cheap to provide and can give you a focus if you don't know where to start.

elsaresearch Mon 09-Jun-14 10:27:06

Thank you for all these fantastic responses! If you have any other specific examples, don't hesitate to post them.

Tambajam Wed 25-Jun-14 19:22:36

Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk really impressed me. Little boxes and activities in each room that were really practical/ hands-on: polish silver, lay a place setting etc. Really well designed.

elsaresearch Thu 26-Jun-14 12:10:10

Hi everyone!

Here's a few questions for you if you want to help me out:

1/ Should country houses provide for children? Why?

2/ What do you think is more important when visiting a country house with children: having a fun day out or having a learning experience?

3/Do children respond best to simple activities or challenging ones?

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