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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swanage

We had such great weather last week, really hot and fairly unusual for April. As we were staying with my mother in law in Dorset, we decided to make the most of it and spend the day on the beach in Swanage. It wasn’t the children’s first time at the sea, but Swanage is a different kind of beach from Calshot where we spent a couple of hours last summer, and with them being older this time it really felt like their first time.

TTG is very attached to her coat, it wasn’t really as cold as she’s making out! She wasn’t entirely sure about the feel of the sand on her feet or the way the waves ebb and flow, but after a bit of hand holding and reassurance she quickly gained her confidence and spent the day running in and out of the water, grabbing handfuls of sand and then throwing them in the water. Neither of them sat down until lunchtime, they were just so busy playing and exploring. Finding exciting things to show me and Granny.

TTB found some Slipper Limpets; these were the most common type of shell on the beach at Pevensey Bay where I used to go on holiday as a child and so I always used to discard them in favour of more exciting specimens. He was very pleased with these and we had to bring them home with us. It’s exciting to start his beach education: a little bit of biology and geology. We found flints and chalks, stones with holes all the way through and others eroded in funny shapes and some pieces of seaglass to add to our small collection too.

Nobody really wanted to leave at the end of the day! I find that you have to time leaving just right, because if you leave it too late they very quickly become too tired and grumpy and JUST CAN’T HANDLE IT and everything is JUST WRONG. Leaving on a high point is the best way. They both slept on the way home and were awake for hours past their normal bedtimes, but that’s what holidays are for, isn’t it? Even though I fervently wished that they would just go to sleep at 7pm so that I could go to bed too!

I feel so happy that we went to Swanage. It was a plan made only the night before in a fit of seizing the good weather, and I think it was all the better for that. We had chips on the beach and ice creams for pudding and everyone was happy and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I think the children will remember the trip for a long time, and Granny was happy to have taken them as she doesn’t get to see them very often.

I’ve just been reading back through my blog post that I wrote last year when we went to Calshot beach and this paragraph made me pause:

We have lots of adventures, me and my two little ones, and I have a great many photos that I have enjoyed taking and love to look at. Every now and again, we do something that is just so brilliant and special that I feel like I want to dance a little jig of happiness when I think about it, and I know that I will treasure these photos for always.

It’s funny because I was thinking the exact same thing about this day in Swanage, and all of the photos I took. I’ll look through them in the future and remember the uncertain toes on the squishy sand as the water pulls away from it, the way TTB filled his scoop with water and went back and forth to his bucket, filling it up like that and then returning the water to the sea. TTG crawling through the sand declaring “I crawl like a baby!”, or when she ate the cone of her ice cream first and then returned to us clutching a ball of drippy ice cream, saying “oh no, ice cream cold!”. When she realised that she could throw stones into the sea, and seeing her in her little fish patterned swimming costume so confidently running about and playing with her brother. TTB introducing himself to children of a similar age and wanting to make friends. How busy he was, digging a hole in the sand, and how fascinated he was by the different types of stones that he found on the beach – the realisation that they have different names and properties: you can draw on the pavement with a piece of chalk stone, but not with a flint. And chalk stone comes from the cliffs over there! TTG’s little shorts that I made her by chopping the legs off her leggings (the hot weather surprised me and I had brought no summer clothes from home). Just how busy the children were all day long and the beaming smiles on their faces. Happy, sun kissed, sandy-footed children sleeping in the car on the way home.

Happy.