Mottisfont Abbey & Gardens
Our little green cards lay dormant throughout the entirety of Winter, but as soon as Summer rolls around being a member of the National Trust is an absolute godsend. Sans kids, I'd heard others talk about the mysterious NT, how much fun they'd had visiting manor houses & gardens, sometimes travelling miles at a time and honestly, I didn't really get it. Then I had two kids in three years and realised wide open spaces are fantastic for gaining a little peace, sign us up!
But really, we signed up as members last Summer and it's been one of the best investments we've made, especially with the unusually warm weather we've been experiencing. Though the boys and I had visited before, we ended up discovering so many areas that we hadn't previously, such as the water walkway to the left of the house as you enter where you follow the most beautifully clear stream through to a crystal clear pool that's fed by a spring. We also stumbled across a pet graveyard (poor Barney & Mike, they've been gone a long time) and a row of imp-like statues with mischievous expressions (they reminded me of Archie).
There's a natural play area and a water play with a pump by the river for the kids to paddle about in on a warm day, that the boys absolutely loved. Throughout the Summer, the house always seems to hold exhibitions from loved children's books; last year we just missed out on The Gruffalo but this time, we caught The Tiger who Came for Tea. The exhibition is held at the top of the house and it's great to see some of the original illustrations from the books as well as areas the kids can get involved in and play (through Jesse was terrified by the 'tiger'), but also a trail through the grounds where they can find clues before they find Mr. Tiger himself.