The National Trust Free Day Out – Uppark House and Garden
Some of you may have seen a bit in the media recently about the National Trust’s latest campaign of 50 Things to do before you are 113/4. I saw a piece shared by the lovely Fivegoblogging and that is how we came to be at Uppark House last Sunday.
The idea is a kind of bucket list for kids of great things to do outdoors (before they turn into tired teenagers – not necessarily kick the bucket). To promote all this the National Trust opened the doors of over 200 of their properties last weekend absolutely free to families who had downloaded a voucher off the t’internet. Now I can’t resist a free day out so I had a look at where we could go that wasn’t too far from us and we decided to go to Uppark House and Garden which is only about 10 miles away from us and which seemed to have lots for the kids. There were plenty of other places we could have gone but this was about the closest.
Voucher downloaded, we set off on Sunday after lunch.(This was to keep it as cheap as possible – no buying lunch out!) Daddy Rollercoaster was suffering from man flu so it was just me and the girls. The clouds did look quite ominous as we arrived but we handed over our voucher and the girls got a booklet to fill in of the 50 things they should do before they hit 113/4 as well as the Uppark garden quiz sheet, helpfully on a clipboard with a pencil.
Uppark House is a grand Georgian house surrounded by a lovely garden and extensive grounds with amazing views over the South Downs. It is steeped in history and stories including scandals such as the Lord marrying the dairymaid, lavish parties that entertained people such as the Prince Regent and Lady Hamilton (Lord Nelson’s mistress) and is said to have inspired H.G.Wells whose mother was housekeeper here. There was also a massive fire in 1989 after which much of the house was destroyed and it took years for it all to be carefully rebuilt.
Now this is all very well but what to do with the kids. We decided we would do the garden first as it wasn’t raining and Little Miss Star did the quiz whilst Little Miss Sunshine ran around. Helpfully, the quiz is well designed to take you on a tour round the gardens so you see all the best bits and end up back at the house. We went via the old stables to the Dairy which is a pretty little building across the lawn from the house (where Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh proposed to his dairy maid!). We ran along a grassy bank to get there and then out on to the huge lawn in front of the house. It was pretty windy by this time and on a fine day it would be a great place to fly a kite (they even sell kites in the shop in case you haven’t brought your own!). Even on a windy wet day the girls enjoyed running around and enjoyed the space and freedom.
|The girls in the Old Dairy|
|Doing the quiz on the grassy bank|
We made our way into the garden proper and spotted a hill perfect for rolling down (one of the 50 things!) There are actually two good rolling hills in the gardens. One has a gothic seat at the top and the larger one a huge urn. The girls had a few practice rolls on the smaller one then we moved through the pretty gardens dotted with white benches to the big hill. I think they rolled down it at least three times accompanied by much shrieking and giggling. We then made our way to the house via the old game larder which provided some shelter from the drizzle which indicated the imminent arrival of a massive rainstorm.
|We found a big hill to roll down – one of our 50 things..|
Just in time we got into the house. As we entered we were given a little children’s guidebook written as if from the point of a young H.G. Wells. Now, to be honest, I only took the girls into the house because of the rain as I was a bit nervous about taking them into a big old house with lots of valuable things. However with the help of the little guidebook which provided nuggets of interesting information for each room it was actually quite enjoyable and even Little Miss Sunshine didn’t get too restless until very near the end. Upstairs, although very impressive, was probably not as interesting as the servants quarters downstairs (probably easier for kids to identify with these days!)
The best bits of the house for the kids though are undoubtedly the enormous and very old dolls house (they even provide a smaller more modern dolls house for children to play with) and absolutely best of all are the underground tunnels. Perfect for running around in on what was now a very rainy day! They were built so that the servants could go around under the ground without disturbing the family and they will lead you all the way to the stables, the Dairy and the shop and restaurant (which are where the old kitchens were). The tunnels even have bats and shrews in them (though we didn’t see any). The girls had lots of fun running up and down and testing the echoes.
|Running through the tunnels|
On a nice day we would probably have then headed back to the gardens, where they provide a toy box for kids to play with on the meadow, and had a picnic and a run around but instead we headed up to the restaurant for a piece of rather yummy cake and some hot chocolate. The restaurant has an amazing view and is very family friendly with colouring stuff for the kids and free jugs of water.
|warming up with a hot chocolate in the restaurant|
Finally the rain seemed to be stopping again so we went for one last run around the gardens, stopping at the seat outside the dairy and admiring all the pheasants running around – we had to resist hill rolling now though as the ground was a bit wet.
|Sheltering from the rain outside the Dairy|
|running around the wet meadow in front of the house|
|A pheasant by one of the many white benches in the gardens|
We had had a lovely afternoon, we’d learnt a bit, rolled down hills, ran through tunnels, looked for bats and admired massive dolls houses. I have to say I was quite surprised as I had previously thought NT properties might be a bit trying with two children (along the lines of nagging them not to touch etc and claims of being bored.) Nothing could have been further from the truth and the girls didn’t want to go home! Oh and when we did get home we signed up to the National Trust 50things.org website so we can keep a record of the girls adventures outside. Well done the National Trust and especially Uppark for making the little people feel welcome.
|Finally leaving – we didn’t want to go home!|
For more information visit here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/uppark/