One of the reasons that I started this blog, was to hopefully encourage and inspire people to explore more, add to their memories, travel both near and far and try new experiences. Life is for living fully and enjoying after all isn’t it! One of the things that Nik and I vowed to do a couple of years back, was explore more of the beautiful destinations, (we started with Exploring Finchingfield in Essex, apparently one of the countries most photographed villages) that we have right here on our British doorstep. I think many of us explore the far flung countries of the world, but forget all that we have right in our own back yard. Exploring Britain was very high on our to do list, and recently we had a day in Kent via National Trust!
This quest to see more of the UK was why we were so excited when my parents bought us a membership with the National Trust for Christmas. Yes, we initially felt that we had become 105 years old over night, but stop your sniggering behind your hand, it has opened up a book full of beautiful places in the UK that we would perhaps never have come across if it were not for this membership. I also loved the fact that so many of them were do-able in a day trip from where we live in sunny Essex. We could fit them in around my part time work and Nik’s shift work with ease. Winner!
Our Day in Kent with the National Trust
So, last week we decided to head off for a day in the Kent countryside with our National Trust cards, to a place less than an hour away from London called Ightham Mote. This 14th century manor house appealed to us as it has a wealth of history, beautiful gardens and had undergone a huge, £10million pound restoration over a 15 year period! I think that amount of cash would have covered more than their facias and guttering!
The house itself is tucked away down a lane near Sevenoaks, and you would never know that a house and gardens of its size was there. As you would expect given its name, Ightham Mote is indeed surrounded by a moat. It is an incredibly picturesque house. We probably picked the best time to visit to be fair, as the gardens were in bloom, adding colour and prettiness to every nook and cranny. They love a rose at Ightham Mote and lets face it, pretty pink roses make anywhere look gorgeous!
The gardens are open daily from 10am, and the house from 11am. We were there for 10 so pretended we were Lord and Lady of the manor for an hour, strolling around our grounds. The gardens are set out in “rooms”, very traditionally English, and stunning! I loved the Enclosed Garden, and sat on the sun warmed bench for a while, pretending I was waiting for Mr Darcy…..then Nik walked round the corner…..hahahah! There is a collection of sculptures throughout the grounds at the moment, showcasing original commissions from artists, and you can pick one up for your own garden if you have a few hundred, sometimes thousand, pounds…
I fell in love with this little fella. Mine for a cool couple of grand….
The house itself is stunning! I absolutely love it when you can just feel the history of a place as you walk in its doors. Although the house was built over 700 years ago, it has been added to and enlarged throughout the years by its various owners. Thankfully, these additions were all done very much in keeping with its originality, so the extensions look seamless. The house has been owned by Medieval Knights, Tudor advisors to the King, High Society Victorian’s and finally an American businessman who fell in love with the house many years before. It was this man, Charles Henry Robinson, that left the house and its entire contents to the National Trust in his will. So determined was he that the home should remain for all to enjoy. I mean, I would have taken it off his hands, no problem……
Surprisingly, there is no one room that is huge and grand and dominated the house. The rooms are all fairly uniform in size, but every room has a tale to tell. Secret messages etched into windowpanes, symbols to ward off evil scratched into woodwork and hidden panels still to reveal their secrets are abundant throughout the house. In each room there is a National Trust volunteer, just waiting to tell you tales of the house. I was in my element hearing the stories… I was hoping for a ghost tale, you know my love of all things ghostly, (read about my stay in a haunted hotel in this post, The Mermaid Inn- Rye) I fell in love with the ladies boudoir, with it’s Japanese silk inspired wall covering and original piano. This was the room where the ladies would retire to after dinner to play the piano, no doubt moan about their husbands and of course discuss the latest scandals. Its a woman’s right of passage no matter how high society you are….
The history of the house is plentiful, and needs to be discovered for yourself. You can take a guided tour around the house, or just wander round under your own steam. I love that there are so many things you can do at Ightham Mote, and with its fabulous natural play area for little ones, it really is suitable for all. One of the events that appeals to me, is the House Lates evenings. You have an after hours tour, plus enjoy Pimms in the gardens to enjoy the late summer evenings. Sounds gorgeous! You can also enjoy a picnic in the grounds with the live music nights they do at various dates throughout the summer. These events do have a small additional charge for National Trust members, (around £10) but I thinks its incredibly reasonable.
Of course, entry to the house and gardens, and your parking are all free if you have your National Trust card with you. I love that we are supporting our countries heritage by being members too. That makes me happy. You can find out all the details of becoming a member just here if you fancy it. We flashed our plastic like the ultra-cool-not-old-at-all-National-Trust-members that we so obviously were…
So, what do we think? Have I officially reached that age where I always have an umbrella, emery board and a pack of tissues in my bag? Would you enjoy one of these sorts of memberships? Have you already had a membership like this? Do you think that it would get you out exploring more if you had one? Are you an NT member yourself and can recommend where we should explore next? As ever, let me know your thoughts xx