We are big National Trust fans. The first Christmas after Monkey was born, my parents kindly brought us an annual pass and it was one of the best presents we had ever been given. After excitedly flicking through the accompanying guide, we were pleasantly surprised to discover how many stunning estates, parkland and sites were so close to us – and as the weather brightened up, armed with our membership, we set off to explore.
We went on several outings while Monkey was still a baby, strolling around bluebell fields, grand estates beautifully tended gardens and historical grounds. It was a great chance for us to get out of the house, to get some fresh air and get the excuse to tuck into the obligatory cream teas. I don’t know how anyone can walk past an NT cafe and not get a little sweet treat…We do have several NT favourites in our go-to repertoire, especially when the local park just gets a tad bit tedious. Polesdon Lacey in Great Bookham, Surrey, is one of them. This Edwardian estate is particularly close to us and we have had the good fortune of going many times over the years from just a general wander, to lovely summer picnics on Polesdon’s main lawn which has breathtaking views across the Surrey Hills.
Apparently, this is one of the Trust’s most popular properties – and I can see why. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, spent her honeymoon here, and back in the day, Polesdon Lacey was seen as somewhat of a party house, where aristocrats would go and have an equivalent of a rave-up, which was mainly down to Margaret Greville, who bought Polesden Lacey in 1906. Margaret inherited a fortune from her father and she was renowned for being a wonderful hostess, mixing in grand circles of royalty and politicians, as well as being generous to those less fortunate than her.
There are 1,400 acres to explore around the main house including woodland trails, four sign-posted walks and several gardens including the walled rose garden – and you all know how much I love a secret garden – walking through the large iron gates always gets me a bit giddy; the lawn gardens, the orchards, while the estate even houses chickens.
There’s also plenty of things and activities for children. From following the 50 Things programme, which we try to tick off – from making a trail with sticks to rolling down a big hill. We also always love using Polesdon’s bright yellow kid binoculars for a little bird spotting or for checking out the view.
Now that Monkey is older, he loves visiting the Squirrel’s Corner Adventure Play Area, which has a mini assault course with nets, stumps, tyres and climbing frames. And around the orchards, there is a large chess board, plenty of picnic tables and best of all, plenty of places to get ice-cream. And, for me, a fabulous farm shop that sells delicious delights. Why can’t I walk past a farm shop without buying something? It’s impossible!
Polesdon also puts on theatrical and musical performances, workshops and fun seasonal events for children. Last time we were there, they were organising a Donkey Derby! Check out their website for their event programme – there’s always something going on.
For us, though, we just like walking around the grounds and letting Monkey run loose, hiding behinds trees, foraging for sticks and feeling like we’re the only people there – because amazingly even though it’s always busy, it never feels like there are crowds of people there. Polesdon Lacey has plenty of nooks and crannies to claim as our own and we’re lucky that we can enjoy it again and again…