I love nothing more than an outdoor adventure, come rain or shine. Whether it’s sunglasses and converse or a wax jacket and wellies, the English countryside is a glorious place to be.
Have you ever noticed how happy and content your children are in nature? They’re fascinated by the simplest, most everyday things – acorns, leaves, fir cones, sticks… the natural world has a calming affect.
Living in Solihull means we’re pretty spoilt for enjoying country adventures. We have two National Trust properties in cycling distance from our home – Packwood House and Baddeslsey Clinton and another two a short car ride away – Charlecote Park and Coughton Court.
I used to visit these regularly with my parents as a child and now visit all year around with my kids and mum friends. So why are National Trust properties a good day out?
A few weeks ago we got on our bikes and headed to Baddeslsey Clinton. I’ve always loved cycling down the long, winding drive (notoriously a sea of yellow petals every spring with hundreds of daffodils in bloom) and past the open fields of friendly baaing sheep.
We planned to just stay for an hour mid bike ride, grab a coffee from the cafe while the kids had an ice cream. However, we ended up staying all afternoon and the children loved it.
We took our coffee and ice creams into the teepee tent in the garden, which is geared up for children of all ages with a naughts and crosses board and a skittle set.
Here you will also find a giant, wooden Connect Four game. Best of all this mellow canvas tent, which is there all year around, always attracts the resident ducks. Who, within minutes, were all flocked around us, letting us get close to them and fuss them.
After showing the ducks some love, we took a stroll down to the vegetable garden to see the Wizard Of Oz themed scarecrows (the theme changes season to season).
We followed the yellow brick road through the vegetable plot and sunflowers.
There are many interesting nooks to explore – a vinery, wildflower meadow, fruit and nut trees, interesting plants, herbs and a walled garden.
The real excitement (for kids) starts as you head back towards the car park. You’ll see a gate with a signpost pointing across open fields. Cast your eyes across and you’ll spot a wooden sculpture of a fox. This is the beginning of the children’s nature trail.
Follow the animal markers across two fields and you’ll arrive at an open forest clearing full of nature fun and games.
I should quickly mention the trail is fine for pushchairs, although you may have to navigate around a little bit of sheep poo.
Pushing back the gate you will be greeted with the final animal, a wooden deer – this is the start of the nature garden.
The highlight is always the musical wall, complete with tubes, pans, bin lids and other metal items kids can bang noisily with sticks.
You will also find a log maze:
A giant jigsaw puzzle:
An insect trail:
And a wooden house to have a quick picnic, pitstop in.
Finally don’t assume National Trust is just a summer thing as it definitely isn’t. To be honest I think I actually prefer visiting in autumn, when the ground is crisp underfoot and in spring when the flowers and wildlife are just beginning.
If you’ve ever been on a National Trust Christmas walk across the frosty fields (usually on the day after Boxing Day), you know it’s just perfect and dreamy.