Canons Ashby

Once again I’ve left it an age between blog posts, please pretend that I haven’t left it so long because there were only really two days between us going to Kingston Lacey and then to Canons Ashby.

Thank you to everyone who has said kind things to me about my Grandma, and who has shared memories about their grandparents with me. It really means a lot. It’s still so bizarre that she isn’t here now but I suppose it gets more real all the time. Memories are so important and I’m happy to have so many.

Canons Ashby is really close to where my mum lives and we have been there a good few times in the past. It’s great because you don’t have to be an NT member to enjoy the cafe, and they do amazing cake. It’s also somewhere that we went to with Grandma a lot and it really holds a lot of “Grandma” association and memories. We (that’s me, my mum, and the children) decided to go this time partly because we wanted to do the Easter Egg trail, and it’s great for the children to run about in, and partly because it made going there for the first time since Grandma died a bit easier than leaving it for a long time before going. When we went into the shop (to get my passport stamped!) they asked if I wanted to join the National Trust and you know what, I just seized the moment and joined there and then. I found out afterwards that if you join at a property, that property gets all of the money from your membership so it felt really good to have done it at a relatively small place that was local to us. As soon as I had joined I felt so much better and more positive about the sad feelings I’d been having about Grandma while we were at Kingston Lacey. She was so passionate about the NT and I felt good to continue that.

Then we went to eat cake, which was delicious as usual.

The gardens are always so beautifully planted at Canons Ashby. I love the vibrant colours in the formal gardens at the top, but the part that is most pleasing to my soul is the orchard part. In the summer the beds are planted with a rainbow array of flowers on one side, and a variety of vegetables on the other side. Just look at these Snake’s Head Fritillaries under the apple trees! Subtly beautiful.

We came back to Canons Ashby House the next day as well, to do the Easter Egg trail (it hadn’t started prior to this). It was colder and windier and much more full of people but we still had a good time (anything that ends in chocolate!). TTG found a hold next to a tree stump that occupied her for quite a long time, as if she was looking to follow Alice down to Wonderland. Our real life Alice (my sister) was with us too and she did a great job of helping TTB to find the clues. The parkland where the clues were turned out to be much bigger than I was expecting and the children got a bit fed up with it so as soon as I’d worked out what the phrase was from the letters we had collected, we skipped the rest and just went back. Then we went home and made Hot Cross Buns.

Spending time with my family is my favourite thing.

 

National Trust Kingston Lacy, an Easter egg hunt, and a lot of dandelions.

It took AGES for TTB to go to sleep after Swanage. If he falls asleep at any point in the day it typically takes a couple of hours to finally get him to sleep at bedtime, even if I put his bedtime back a bit he seems to lose the ability to actually drop off. I was idly reading Twitter while I waited for him to fall asleep and I saw that “My Two Mums” had been to National Trust Kingston Lacy to do the Easter egg hunt there. I’d seen signs for that earlier in the day and since we were fairly close by I thought it would be a good thing for us to do as well. My mother in law agreed and the next morning we headed off into the sunshine again – really, we were SO lucky with the weather – to explore Kingston Lacy. The road approaching it is an avenue of the most wonderful mature beech trees, it’s really an impressive sight.

After we’d parked and paid, we sat on a bench while the children ran around the enormous lawns outside the house, delighting in the wide open space and the freedom that they had. I don’t think they’ve been somewhere while so open as that, even our local park doesn’t feel that expansive. Imagine having this as your actual garden! I live in a little terraced house with a tiny little concrete yard and it feels incredible that this used to be someone’s front garden.

The lawns were speckled with dandelions, many of which were picked and brought over to me and Granny for inspection, well, for us to keep and take home forever and ever I suspect but as you know, dandelions do not survive for long once they’ve been picked. TTB is learning this lesson too; slowly and heartbreakingly.

Dandelion clocks in particular cause him upset. He really, really, really wants to keep them pristine and beautiful like this until he can get them home to plant all the seeds in Granny’s garden, but they just insist on floating away. I’ll let you guess how Granny feels about the thought of him planting the dandelions in her garden.

It’s not just the lawns outside the house that have dandelions. Kingston Lacy has an entire meadow FULL of dandelions! It’s the most warm and buttery yellow amongst the grass, don’t you think? Not so sharp and citrusy as the oilseed rape that colours big patches of the landscape at the moment.

It didn’t take long to find the start of the Easter egg hunt. Well I say egg, but really we hunted for answers to questions in our little booklets, and were rewarded with Cadbury chocolate rabbits. It was rather good fun actually, with questions like “how many people does it take to hug this tree?” which, depending on the size of the people doing the hugging ranged from 6 (adults) to 10 (a mix of adults and children).

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Ahh, TTG. While TTB was having a whale of a time picking all the dandelions and hugging all the trees, she was not in such a good mood and everything was just Plain Wrong. She joined in with the tree hugging and did a bit of running about and some tree climbing, but then she kept running off into the undergrowth, careening towards patches of nettles and trying to join in with other families. Then she refused to move, she didn’t want to walk and she didn’t want to be carried, and she just kept wailing “Chocolate RABBITTTTTTT” in frustration that she didn’t have one yet. Eventually she fell asleep out of protest and we made much better and more peaceful progress around the trail!

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This part was lovely; I think they’re young hazel trees and they’re being gently managed to make a living archway. They’ve been coppiced at the bases and some of the new growth has been arched over sideways along the path, and joined with their neighbours who are also being arched over. I learned how to do hedge laying (Midland style bullock hedge, no less) when I was in secondary school and I always like to see trees being managed like that. This isn’t quite hedge laying as such but it’s a similar way of making a living structure out of growing trees.

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Spring is all around now and there are fresh leaves growing to form the canopy, and bluebells are beginning to flower. I love spring!

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Towards the end of the trail was a great big clearing full of enormous pieces of tree trunk for climbing on. It was a super play area but I didn’t get any photos. TTB had a lot of fun running about and climbing on things. The photo above was one of the last clues on the trail, “What word would you use to describe how these logs feel?”

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There’s the dandelion meadow again, we must be close to the finish:

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Chocolate! Hurrah.

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TTG woke up not long after that and we sat on the grass for a bit while they ate some of their chocolate. I’d heard from some friends that you can buy National Trust “passports” and that different properties have their own stamps that you can collect in the passports. I’m a sucker for things like that so I went and found one in the gift shop and had it stamped.

 

It was a really good day and I was so pleased that we went. What I hadn’t been prepared for though was how emotional it made me feel about my Grandma, who was a huge fan of the National Trust and had been a member for most of her life. She had visited so many of their properties and it was one of her favourite things to do, and something that I associate very strongly with her. When she went on holiday it always involved a trip to a National Trust property and she was still a member when she died. I really wanted to tell her about our day, because I knew she would’ve really loved to hear about it, but I couldn’t tell her. I hadn’t been prepared for how sad I would feel about it after visiting Kingston Lacy. I felt so close to her there and yet a million miles away as well and that was a bit upsetting and heartbreaking. I shed more than a few tears that night while I was putting the children to bed (which took a long time again as they both slept in the car again!). I know there are always going to be things that set me off and I just have to work through them as they come. I wish we could’ve known each other when I am this age and she was still in her fifties or something. I know that’s not possible but you know what I mean!

Have you visited any National Trust properties lately? What’s your favourite?