Daddy and Munchkin Blog
Our National Trust Top Four

While we only started our membership during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have managed to visit a good handful of National Trust properties. While Oxburgh Hall and the Dunstable downs and a few others didn’t quite make the list, here are our top four of the National Trust properties so far. (This post will get updated over time as we visit more locations).

4. Clumber Park, Worksop

Clumber park is a huge expanse of woodland and park land situated off the A1, south of Worksop. It has many a peaceful walk surrounded completely by nature, letting you feel totally disconnected. This is the property we first saw Munchkin’s love for nature grow. His little nine-month old eyes lit up when he first saw the trees towering above him and his love for nature hasn’t changed since.


3. Belton House, Grantham

Belton House is a one of the properties I visited as a child, and we have revisited many a time with Munchkin. It has a giant wooden park which, for a little one, stretches for miles, is the National Trusts biggest play area, and is topped off with a woodland train to give you a swift ride through the trees. Belton House hosts fantastic Christmas light displays (which we will certainly be visiting this winter) and has a fantastic property (which you can visit again now).


2. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge

Just pipped by Cliveden for the top spot, Anglesey Abbey was the first property to fuel my passion for visiting National Trust properties. Set in 114 acres, north-east of Cambridge, Anglesey abbey features a fantastic woodland park (which is sadly currently closed due to Covid-19) and fabulous seasonal gardens which surprise us on every visit. We love a stroll or toddler-run up and down the tree -lined grass walkways and an amble alongside the river which leads up to a working water mill.


1. Cliveden, Maidenhead

Set on a stretch of the Thames, north-west of London, this property has miles and miles of woodland and riverbank to wonder. It boasts a fantastic property (albeit one we’ve only seen from the outside as we visited during Covid times, during our October getaway). There’s a fantastic wooden storybook themed play area, a wooden play trail, options for boating trips and absolutely stunning gardens.

We learned a lesson at this one which we found out the hard way. If you walk the many miles up to the southern car park and then down the Thames, this may be a beautiful walk but there is a chance your toddler will get tired, go in the pushchair and fall asleep. But that’s fine right? Well not when the return up the hill is many many steep steps, which is a challenge with all the day’s bags, a pushchair and a toddler sleeping inside!

That said, it is such a fantastic and beautiful property. The view of the Thames is spectacular, and there’s plenty for the kids to do when not wondering through the woodland. That’s why its made the top spot.

National Trust Membership

As mentioned in the intro, we have a National Trust membership which grants us access to the houses and gardens, free parking (at most properties) and a handy dandy guidebook. For two adults its only £10/month and for a family of two adults plus children its only £10.50. To compare, a visit to Cliveden costs £15 per adult and £7.50 per child aged 5 – 17, with children under 5 go free, so membership was a no brainer for us.


Which is your favourite National Trust? Let me know in the comments.

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A Dive from the Sky – Daddy did a skydive

In April 2019 I thought it would be great getting a group from work together to do a skydive. I had a gift voucher from 2011 and just hadn’t found a group of determined individuals to go with (or maybe I was actually procrastinating a little). So I popped the email out and got nine colleagues, past and present to join me, little did any of know then though that it would take until September 2020 to actually jump…

The faint hearted may call us crazy jumping from 10,000 ft, and maybe I would have agreed a little. But now, post-jump I think you are actually maybe crazy for not wanting to give it a go!

Why it took so long? You know, that 17 months it took from booking to actually jumping. Well that’s firstly the struggles of getting 10 people to agree on a date to book, with everyone’s weekend plans. Then add the typical British weather, slap on a vital plane part stuck in customs for weeks and then top it off with a sprinkling of a viral pandemic. It’s mad thinking it actually went ahead, for seven of us at least, still amongst the Covid-19 madness.

We made it on site once before, in November 2019. We jumped into jumpsuits and slipped on our harnesses in preparation. The first group boarded the plane, with us in second position. The plane set off, down the run way, then the fog dropped. We waited until 1:30pm, saw no relief and went home disappointed.

The group before us, on the plane that never flew

Then on Saturday 5th September, a coffee, was a welcome sight as seven of us nervously arrived. The nerves then grew as we got closer to flying, but were then suddenly dashed as wind speeds increased and the plane was grounded, over and over, again and again. We waited it out like before and at around 3:45 pm our names were called across the tannoy. ‘It’s actually happening!’ (though we got this far last time). We got fastened up in harnesses, took one last anxious looking masked covered face photo (see below) and climbed into the plane.

Sky diving is probably the closest you’ll get to another human who’s not from your household during lockdown. It is awfully cosy on those planes.

The door opened and closed throughout the climb, as per the new Covid rules. Then we hit 10,000 ft. The door opened for the final time and the first jumper disappeared outside. Four of my friends later, it was my turn. We shuffled to the door, legs back, fingers in our harnesses, head back and moments later we were speeding down towards the ground.

30 seconds of freefall seemed only like a moment. Then the parachute opened and the full view could be fully absorbed. It was the most mind-blowingly beautiful sight but also topped with the extreme thrill as my instructor asked if I wanted calm or exhilarating (a silly question for me). We spun in circles, dipped and dropped, before we finally drifted to the ground.

It left us all speechless, but elated beyond words. It wasn’t long after we were saying what we should do next…

Munchkin, I’ll take you one day, if you like. Just don’t tell Nanny.

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Munchkin’ing around at Hobbledown

On the final day of our UK break away we visited Hobbledown, a farm and activity park a stones throw from Chessington World of Adventure, north of Epsom.

For starters let’s talk Covid as this visit was in October 2020 just before wave 2. Hobbledown had it totally right. They had bookable arrival times so it was quiet on arrival, an app to book and order food and activities, a limited time at the park for busy days and bookable soft play time. We felt safe from the off.

For everyone here, there is a decent number of animals from the recognizable tortoise, lemur, pig and goat to the more unusual Rhea, Nilgai (Mighty Bloo) and Gibblegook parrot. It was a learning experience for Mummy and Daddy too! There’s also exciting ways to get up close with the animals such as the new Lemur walk-through.

Hobbledown

There is then the soft play for the little ones (perfect for Munchkin who has recently realised that soft play is the play of dreams) with bookable slots. This is split into a large soft play for the tiny humans, a bigger one for the older kiddies and a hard play zone.

Back in the farm, for the older adventurers, there’s also the added experiences of zorbing and a small high ropes course which can be added for a tiny supplement (high ropes was just an extra £2).

During the day they have an itinerary of events. On our visit was a fire show and bug eating try outs. On other days there are also bird of prey events and many more…

There’s also the best play park I’ve seen in my time as a parent. It’s huge, with a bouncy pillow, role play stations, a water play area and numerous slides and climbing frames, all designed around the quirky Hobbledown theme.

One of the amazing park areas.

When you need some munch, the onsite Hobnosh restaurant provides delicious street food in eco-friendly packaging. I had a chicken katsu curry and chips which was divine!

The best part for us adults is that it doesn’t break the bank. At £16 for adults and children (£18 at weekends) and free for under 2’s. Its an affordable fun-filled day out.

Hobbledown was the perfect end to our little breakaway, well suited to a 20 month year old. It’s already on the ‘visit again when Munchkin is older’ list!

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A Howl-oween at Chessington

Sadly, Chessington came up with the Howl-oween pun, but I just had to use it for the title.

Chessington World of Adventures was our second day activity for our trip away. We thought it was a perfect choice with Julia Donaldson themed rides, zoo animals and a sea life centre all covered in the entry price. The entry price also can easily be lowered by using a Carex bottle too with £38.50 per adult knocked down to £24.

Lets start with Covid. I felt Chessington was the least prepared of our four spots we visited over our break. The website said numbers had been reduced, however cars absolutely packed the car park on arrival. Everyone also arrived simultaneously, and only the temperatures of adults were checked. That was a little disappointing.

The park opens at 10 am, which in hindsight is a little late for a toddler who woke at 6 am that morning and naps in the afternoon. That said, we had a good day. Although, we managed a grand total of three rides (queues were still up to an hour).

We quickly found out Munchkin wasn’t a fan of a the dark, starting on an indoor Mummified shooting ride, as he clutched to Mummy. It was a better, but similar experience for the Gruffalo ride too, but there was a mix of excitement and fear on that one. We won with the third choice though, a car ride where Munchkin got to ride and point out the animals. He loved that.

Beep beep

When it came to lunch, with a lot of the takeaway eateries closed, to help with Covid restrictions, and with a constant drizzle of rain, everyone was forced to eat indoors. This resulted in huge queues from 11:30, the worst time to try and get Munchkin to wait.

In the afternoon, it wasn’t long before Munchkin nodded off in his pushchair. Sadly, by napping he missed the zoo and sea life centre too which I rated highly. We must have tired him out at Cliveden National Trust. You can read about day one, with a double helping of National Trust by clicking here.

In hindsight it wasn’t the best location for a toddler, even with the 13 rides he could go on, there simply wasn’t the time with the late entry and his afternoon nap. It would be much better for us if it opened early for parents with toddlers, to make the most of that morning energy. This would also space out guests in light of the pandemic.

That said, the park is a perfect attraction for children of all ages, with gentle rides up to the slightly more thrilling (nothing upside down here). It’s a great park and on our revisit list!

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A National Trust Double Down

Sadly, this is nothing to do with KFC, though I can confirm the double down is superb!


The last time we took Munchkin on a long journey (3 hours) was to see some family in Eastbourne in 2019. It was hell, with tears for the whole journey. With that in mind, we planned to break our journey down to Surrey into a few stops, putting our National Trust membership to good use.

Dunstable Downs

I think Natalie could have killed me when we stepped out the car into the fierce freezing winds of Dunstable downs, the highest spot in Bedfordshire, just off the M1, north of Luton. But the view was amazing with a sky that didn’t seem to end in any direction.

We had a short walk (there are several routes from 2 to over 6 miles) but as Munchkin wants to walk whenever he can, we only managed a short stroll down the hill and back.

On the amble, Munchkin pointed out all the people flying kits, with yells of ‘kite, kite, KITE!’. So we popped up to the cafe for some warmth, a coffee and a snack, and bought a kite.

We popped outside and got the kite into the air. We thought the amazement would reach sky heights however….there were some wooden posts nearby and well, Munchkin was more interested in them. Oh well, at least we have the kite for future fun.

Slide left to see our lovely kite, right to see what Munchkin was interested in

Dunstable downs NT is free for everyone to explore, however there is a charge for parking, but it is free with membership.

Cliveden

We popped back in the car for a short 50 minute journey to Cliveden, the main event for day one of our trip. This National Trust had a bookable slot system, with half an hour arrival times. Luckily due to Daddy’s impeccable planning (hehe), we arrived just 1 minute into our slot.

Cliveden is a huge estate, with a storybook play park, a woodland play trail, all set in beautiful woodland, high above a route along the Thames. We loved the park, pointing out all the storybook additions, as well as the wooden tractor and train (‘choo choo!).

There’s several routes along the woodland above the Thames. We took one of these then a slope down to the river. It is such a beautiful place for a woodland walk.

However when we got the few miles back down the Thames, we found the only was back up to the top, was many steep steps. To top that, Munchkin was asleep in the pushchair. It added a tough exercise to our otherwise relaxing day.

This has now probably topped our previous favourite National Trust property which was Belton House (Grantham).

Cliveden is £10 for adults and £5 for Children and free for NT members.

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Munchkin’s Love of Nature

We discovered Munchkin’s love of nature young on a trip to a Natural Trust garden when he was just months old. His faced glowed as he admired the trees towering above him, the plants floating on the lake, the birds flying above and the beauty of the flowerbeds. Now at 17 months, on stormy days he crawls to the window of his playroom, stands, and tries to reach the handle to get outside.

Our first National Trust visit.

Writing this in lockdown, the situation has been slightly different with being limited to our garden and the local area. At home, we make sure we get into the garden whenever we can. We take some toys, but he soon gets distracted by the bugs that crawl across his mat. He has learnt how while he can stoke a cat, he shouldn’t stoke a delicate bug, and this makes for a proud Daddy. We planted some sunflower seeds and so are watching them grow day by day and learning what they need to grow. We will soon see them flowering too which is very exciting.

Planting his first seed was a messy affair

We are mid – garden development currently (although we may be mid-development for a while). Lucky for Munchkin, the future plans now include a mud kitchen, bug hotel and bird feeding station 😊.  We have chillies and tomatoes growing this year but will set up a planter so he can grow and learn about all different kinds of vegetables this time next year.

It’s fascinating to let Munchkin roam free in the garden, see where he goes and what interests him. If its not a bit of mud to squelch, he always admiring a new plant, or weed intruder on our new grass. He also often can just sit there and watch the birds overhead, pointing them out to us or having little conversations with them.

When we walk, which we do daily, we often try to escape the paths and roads and find ourselves powering down farm tracks or into fields. We admire the trees and we ‘talk’ about the farm fields and the crops, the wind turbines providing natural energy and the beauty of natural spots away from the hustle and bustle of the town.

A walk into the fields rocking the lockdown hairstyle

We recently found a huge field, just a short walk away which is the perfect spot for spontaneous picnics to explore the outdoors during lockdown. Its also been a perfect spot to count and wave at the numerous dogs, and more recently we also met a lovely little man of a similar age.

We recently took Munchkin back to the original National trust property which fuelled his love of the outdoors. We had opportunity to spot a rabbit and a frog, admired the plants and trees and enjoyed the fresh air.

When we are outdoors I’m always explaining what we can see, whether that be the plants and animals, or how wind turbines utilise natural energy. While we have these conversations with him, I know he’d rather hear about ‘Incy wincy spider’ or the ‘Five Little Ducks’, however I feel by talking to him about everything, including the natural world so young, he will learn to fully appreciate it.

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