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NOW CLOSED Did you visit a National Trust place on their free weekend? Add your review, or tell NT what you think about their places in general to be in with a chance of winning £100 of NT vouchers

(198 Posts)
TheOtherHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 17-Apr-12 17:07:37

The National Trust have asked us to tell you about their free weekend, happening this weekend at selected properties (21st and 22nd Apr) and find out what you think about visiting National Trust houses and gardens in general. Here's what they say about the free weekend: "Our free weekend gives you the opportunity to explore over 200 houses, castles and gardens for free, as well as all the countryside spaces we care for. What better excuse to visit your local place?"

Download your voucher here to take part in the free weekend.

Whether or not you can go to the free weekend, The National Trust would like to know what you think about family days out - here are a few questions to start you off but please add any other comments you have. Everyone who adds their comments will be entered into a prize draw to win £100 of National Trust vouchers.

What sorts of places do you like to go for family days out? Are you 'outdoorsy' as a family or do you prefer indoor activities? What's the best place you've visited as part of a day out in recent years? Did you discover any new family day out destinations over the Easter hols?

Have you ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family? If so, which ones? What do you/your DC like about the one(s) you've visited? Is there a certain time of year that you think it's best to go?

If you haven't ever visited any National Trust houses or gardens with your family, why is that? Is there anything that you think would make you more likely to go?

If you're planning to go along to a National Trust house or garden as part of the free weekend on 21st and 22nd April, you can also be entered into the prize draw if you add your feedback on the free weekend to this thread (once you've been of course!). Let us know which National Trust place house or garden your family visited, and your general opinions on the day - highlights, any lowlights(!) etc.

Thanks and good luck with the prize draw!

Kveta Tue 17-Apr-12 17:55:45

this looks really tempting if the weather is ok - but I can't find Essex on the list, or Hatfield Forest, which I'd like to visit - do you know if it's exempt from the free weekend?

frankie4 Tue 17-Apr-12 17:57:31

Don't think I have visited a national trust property. I have been to some stately homes such as waddeston manor, but I don't think that is a national trust property, and also Hampton court. Lots of these type of attractions are quite expensive so I would probably only visit on a nice day in the summer where you can properly explore all the gardens. Some of these types of attractions have a cheaper price when you just use the gardens, as my dc's can sometimes get a bit bored inside stately homes. If the gardens have a maze or play area I would be more likely to visit. I have also been to the ashridge estate which is lovely, and it is free to visit.

Mama1980 Tue 17-Apr-12 18:18:17

I have a dd14 and ds4 we are members of the national trust and have been to more properties than I can count. They both really enjoy visiting the houses more than the gardens, I am a archaeologist so they are very into history grin we particularly enjoy the events some properties have eg the easter egg hunt which we attended last week. This weekend we won't be going as we have membership anyway and other plans. One improvement I might suggest is that my dd would often like something aimed more at her age group, it is often assumed (her words) that she isn't interested so the guidebooks etc aren't really for her. But she would like more information, likewise she sometimes finds the usually excellent guides somewhat patronising.

CalicoCathy Tue 17-Apr-12 18:24:44

We used to live near a NT property, so we joined for a year and went a lot.
It was nice when DD was just learning to toddle to have a safe place for her to walk with nice things to look at (the ducks and swans on the lake were a favourite). It had a kitchen garden too, which was interesting to look at, and the cafe was nice. And actually the house was nice to walk round too, and the staff were usually welcoming.
Because we had joined the NT we went to lots of properties that year (mainly stately homes, one working farm - Wimpole Hall), but we wouldn't have gone otherwise because they are expensive.

However the thing that really, really puts me off in the summer months is all the wasps everywhere. I think the NT have a policy about not disposing of wasps nests, but it really makes trying to have a picnic or even eat at the cafes usually a totally miserable experience.

Anyway, in general on days out, I like nice things to look at, places for the children to run around, or go for a walk, nice place to eat or have a picnic. And in my experience NT often make you picnic only in the car park, which I don't like (in addition to wasp problem mentioned above)

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 17-Apr-12 18:36:06

kveta - looks like it's free anyway hatfield forest - you just pay to park and for the cakes in the cafe

FairyPenguin Tue 17-Apr-12 19:16:09

We have NT membership and quite a few gardens local to us. My children (5 and 2) love being able to wander around, seeing the wildlife, trying to read the information signs, feeding ducks, jumping in puddles, spotting the big trees, playing hide and seek. Some properties have wooden or natural play areas which are a big hit. They also love the nature trails, especially the ones with pictures to spot the plants as even my 2 year old can join in and tick things off. There was an excellent quiz inside the house at Clandon Park which my 5 year old could read and do by herself. Top marks!

I would like the guidebook/website/iPad app to have information on whether there are play areas at each location, whether there are indoor activities/place to shelter in case of bad weather, whether picnicking is allowed within the gardens or just in the car pack. I know this is tricky to do, but there have been a couple of times that we have turned up somewhere and it is a lot smaller than expected, and not enough to entertain the children - we then are disappointed as we've made quite a car journey to get there. Would it be possible to state whether a place is more house-focused or gardens-focused please?

One thing we have found with quite a few of the restaurants/tearooms is that the service is often very slow and hugely inefficient. This is at numerous locations so I am not basing this on just a couple of experiences. This is even more frustrating sometimes when you can see that there are plenty of staff there, just not working effectively as the system they have employed for taking food orders/ serving food / making hot drinks is inefficient. Saying that, the food is more often than not delicious!

We have recently upgraded to family membership now we have a 5 year old, and it is well worth it for us, having 3 gardens within 20 mins drive to us!

Lilyloo Tue 17-Apr-12 19:16:40

Looks good think we may try this if the weather is nice, a couple of places we would like to visit. Shame they only see a family as 4 people though!

FairyPenguin Tue 17-Apr-12 19:18:57

Oh, and quite a few places have woodland walks near us. It would be really helpful to know whether the walks are pushchair-friendly, and to be able to view the walks online. We haven't tried one yet as we need the pushchair and also don't know what the terrain is (to assess with the weather and mud!), or how long the routes are.

Firawla Tue 17-Apr-12 19:20:23

I don't think we have been to any national trust places, i have heard it mentioned on here a lot but not really sure whether or not my dc would like it, or if they are too young - oldest is 3. they would like gardens but inside houses i am not sure, also worried if it contains breakable items then wont be good for toddlers? but if it is more like play area, maze etc which someone mentioned up the thread, then may be interested.
we have just got a car in the last couple of weeks so we are starting to look what days out we can do that are a bit further out, before that we used to go either only local or what can be easily reached on the tube, nothing really out of london
Not sure what we are doing on the weekend so possibly might go will have a look and see if any of the places look good for little ones

HJMP Tue 17-Apr-12 19:27:33

We've been to quite a lot & members since dd1/2 were little. We use the book when on holiday to look for any nearby and because we are members we are more likely to visit smaller/more random properties than if we had to pay.

ShatnersBassoon Tue 17-Apr-12 19:30:57

We have a family NT membership, which was given as a gift. We have been to perhaps a dozen properties since we've been members, but we definitely wouldn't have visited them had we not been given the membership.

With the exception of one property we've visited (The Museum of Childhood at Sudbury) they've been boring days out for our children. The only part they like is running around the grounds and they can do that for free all over the place.

We're not a very outdoorsy family, but the kids are definitely more outdoorsy children than 'Indoorsy, keep your hands in your pockets, don't sigh so loudly and don't laugh at the pictures of naked people. No, not even the mini willies on the cherubs' children.

I have an average interest in history and all the things the NT promotes and maintains, but I'm reaching saturation point now. I think the only thing that would encourage us to visit NT properties once our membership has run out would be for our children to develop an interest in history/art/antiques/architecture. It's not likely to happen, and I'm quite looking forward to a break from feeling obliged to get our relative's money's worth from the membership by visiting attractions I have only a passing interest in.

This is not a criticism of anything the NT does. I realise they do great things. We're just not a very culturable bunch I fear. Give my children a whacking stick and some long grass and they're set for a great couple of hours. Present them with a National Trust quiz sheet at the entrance to a stately home ("Is this the one I did last week?") and they're looking for the cafe before we've got the sheet on the clipboard.

Indith Tue 17-Apr-12 19:33:45

Cool! We'll probably go to Gibside this weekend then. I'vr often thought about joining, I'm just not sure if we would use membership enough. Then of course we don't go places because they cost money! Rock, Hard place.

In general we like places that are free or cheap, we love running around outdoors and of course the dcs love parks. We live near Beamish open air museum so we have a pass for there and I have a pass for the botanic gardens as that is cheap and always good fun to explore and see what flowers have changed.

Not sure what the best place is, children would probably say the local park! Over the holidays we went to Seven Stories which was great. The children loved reading books, listening to stories, finding the gruffalo, dressing up, drawing in cave baby's cave, sitting in the squash and a squeeze house and doing crafts smile

RugbyWidow7 Tue 17-Apr-12 19:41:43

We'd love to go this weekend, so hope to find time. I am keen to get National Trust membership for us over the next few years.

Our son is only a baby so not up to many activities yet, but we are introducing him to animals and he loves walks, so days out are becoming more fun for us as a family!

Fillybuster Tue 17-Apr-12 19:48:17

We'll definitely go somewhere, probably Wimpole Hall (cos it's brilliant!) if the weather is good.

We were members of the NT for 5 years, but only used our membership on about 4 occasions in total, so reluctantly (as we liked the idea of supporting the institution) we cancelled our membership over a year ago, as it was costing far far too much for something we just didn't use. I think there was one 12-month period when the only thing we used was a NT car park, once, for 30 mins....

Overall, we love 'outdoorsy' family days out, and in theory NT membership should be really useful for us. In practise, we have 3 dcs under 6, and found most of the sites we visited were not terribly buggy friendly (outside) or child-friendly inside. Although a number of the cafes and menus have been redesigned over the last few years, and look really smart, the prices were utterly shocking (around £8-10 for a queue-up to be served-style main course, plus extra for veg, and no childrens portions). As there were no covered/indoor areas to eat food we took with us, we also felt limited to mid-summer for picnic-style excursions.

Finally, there was a real shortage of child-friendly washing facilities, changing rooms etc. Almost all of the sites we went too had combined the changing facilities with the disabled toilets, and they were insufficiently cleaned, which meant that I would emerge, frazzled, from the changing unit, to a queue of tut-tutting people in wheelchairs....hmm

Whilst the introduction of children's activities, searches etc at some sites has been great (we loved the 'how many of x can you find' list at Greenaway, in Devon), overall the sites would need to be a lot more family/young child friendly for us to renew our membership in the very near future. But I do think we will join again when our dcs are older - there is an amazing array of NT sites, with so much to offer, and both dh and I would love to be able to spend more time exploring them (with our teenage children grumbling along behind us....!)

Ingles2 Tue 17-Apr-12 19:53:50

We have NT membership as there are numerous places to visit near us in Kent.
We use it for all sorts of days out. I tend to go to Bodiam Castle to walk the dog, we go to Sissinghurst for special events and Small Hythe is just around the corner for a cup of tea. We won 't go to a NT property this weekend as we did an Easter Egg trail at Small Hythe Easter weekend.
I totally agree with the poster who said you need to look at information and activities for older children. My sons are now 11 and 12 and have just about outgrown "have a go archery" and dragon story telling yet need more to capture their interest than some of the very staid information you find at NT properties.

ouryve Tue 17-Apr-12 19:54:26

I can't say we've been to any NT places with the kids. We do love outdoorsy places, but all the closest boy friendly NT properties aren't that close and are a bit pricey. In contrast, we can go to a local country park or two for free, a local botanic garden for a few quid or a local bird sanctuary for the price of parking and a lot less fuel used to get there.

Ragwort Tue 17-Apr-12 20:09:08

We have life membership of the NT (a very generous gift) and tend to use it quite a lot although there aren't that many places near us at the moment - we move around a lot grin. I love them and enjoy visiting the grounds and houses but sometimes the aggressive fund raising has been a bit off-putting, ie: trying to sell you endless raffle tickets and actually tut-tutting when you say (truthfully) that you have already purchased some from their direct mailing - having said that it has not been too obvious recently. Some of their catering staff need training in customer relations (and speed !).

My DS was also told off once for climbing trees, a bit ironic when this week there was an article in the DT stating how the NT is encouraging children to enjoy the outdoors and be more adventurous !!!

CherylCoalbunker Tue 17-Apr-12 20:28:01

We were NT members for several years until dd decided that we had been to so many that they all blurred into one and she'd had enough grin .

We often used an NT property as a stop-off on a long car journey - nice place to stretch our legs, have a very naice home-cooked meal and use the loos Nice to try traditional recipes sometimes.

We loved the history themed days with actors dressed up in character doing little set pieces and the chance to join in dancing and play garden games. We've seen some great children's entertainers over the years and two excellent theatre productions outside. The best moments for me have been the guided tours where the person has really brought the house to life with tales of the families who've lived there.

I like the fact that the NT resist theme-parking their properties to make them more popular like Warwick Castle

Now dd is older she likes things like Go Ape. Would there be some mileage in the NT providing similar tree-top courses - tastefully blending into the landscape of course? Would love to be able to take a row boat out on some of the NT lakes. Hampton court had a FAB Tudor cookery open day - how about a day-long cookery experience in one of the kitchens? Or an hour or two shadowing a butler or groom seeing how they did the job?

Now dd is 14 we need more adrenaline-focussed hands-on activities to do when we go out.

Jux Tue 17-Apr-12 20:28:42

Are the "places near to ..." when you do the search included in the offer?

gazzalw Tue 17-Apr-12 20:30:47

We have a lovely NT property (and it's free!) not so far away...Morden Hall Park. It's a lovely oasis of calm, Nature and wide open spaces in which we can all let off some steam. A new eco-sustainable centre has been opened up in what used to be the stables block - all very worthy and fun for adults and children a like. A lovely NT teashop provides teas/coffee and scrummy home-made cakes for nibbles when the fresh air gives us the munchies! Also, a lovely garden centre (and a fab Aquarium selling fish) within the grounds, so a very peaceful and happy place to spend a day come rain or shine! They also do fab Nature-driven family focused activities on the Thursdays of school holidays.

It's one of our favourite places to go when we haven't made plans to do anything in particular.

DW and the children, together with grandparents etc... spent a fab day on Brownsea Island last summer. It was all very Famous Five, from the getting across on smallish boat to the exploration of the island which felt a bit like the land that time forgot - as they were tramping through the bracken, admiring all the flora and fauna, DW commented that she wouldn't have been surprised to see a dinosaur or two roaming across the landscape!

We are considering joining the NT but as we are not particularly in an area with a high density of NT properties and are a carless household we are not entirely convinced we would get good value for money...on the other hand, if we took the plunge we might just find that we actually ventured further afield and did get our money's worth!

Just love the whole ethos of the NT really - DW had a friend who worked at HQ in the 1990s - they used to have afternoon tea and cakes for the staff on a Friday afternoon - so quaint and yet so caring at the same time!

Not sure if we will take advantage of this weekend's freebie although DW had already got it on her radar - she never misses a trick ;-0

littleducks Tue 17-Apr-12 20:56:02

Have emailed dh the link and hope to twist his arm into going this weekend.
Thought I would post now incase anyone was thinking of visiting any of the places I have been to. There are several places in Devon that I loved as a child and returned to visit as an adult in the last few years, Castle Drogo, Lydford Gorge and Tintagel Old Post (i know thats Cornwall) being my favourites. If you go to any of those order the Homity Pie.

We used to live near Cliveden, I have never been inside the house, but used to take the children for walks there. It was great in autumn time, much fun was had rolling around in leaves. They built a new playpark, not a trafitional swing and climbing frames thing, but carved animals and twig tipee things. The kids really enjoyed that. The restaurant prices were extortinate though, I wish I could afford a coffee and a cake. The kids menu was total junk food too, which was disapointing, not the locally sourced homemade food I would expect. They do offer half portions of adult mains, but the only veggie option was a pre-sliced pie and so that wasn't possible. So a great place to go but take a packed lunch and a thermos of tea wink

northender Tue 17-Apr-12 21:14:50

We have NT membership and do visit properties quite often. We are an outdoorsy family I would say and so make the most of gardens and grounds. We don't go into the houses very often but a recent good experience was a place near Wolverhampton where the dc were encouraged to touch things and play with Victorian toys etc. The worst experience was (can't remember where) a property where the children were frowned at at every turn and not allowed to touch anything. As an overall experience (property and gardens/grounds) the Wolverhampton place (Wightwick Hall) was probably the best recent visit.

LineRunner Tue 17-Apr-12 21:24:59

I love Hadrian's Wall. Around Housesteads Fort there are also some great pubs!

I've always been amazed at this central section of the Wall built on the crags. Walk it if you can.

It is very accessible for families btw.

CMOTDibbler Tue 17-Apr-12 21:33:15

I think, to my shame, we have only been to a couple of NT properties with ds(5). Generally though, thats as theres lots of great places round here to run madly about for free, and if we are to go somewhere inside, he prefers plenty of hands on experience, rather than frantic 'don't touch' experiences.
We did very much enjoy the NT carriage collection - lots to try doing, but it did have random games not linked to any actual information, or things with a lack of information available

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