This summer the National Trust are doing more and more to offer visitors of all ages perfect places to play, whatever your age, whether you’re looking for family fun or a relaxing day out.
You’ll find natural play areas, picnic spots and quiz trails, as well as activities, shows and events unique to National Trust locations.
Don’t forget to try the phenomenally successful children’s challenge 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ – simple pleasures such as climbing a tree to creating a den and making a daisy chain. Pick up a scrapbook at your local property or download a planner to help you decide where to go – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/london-and-south-east. You can also sign up for 50 things tips and rewards at www.50things.org.uk.
The beautiful gardens, parkland and countryside offer plenty of fun for grown-ups too. Many National Trust gardens are at their colourful best in summer with enticing lawns, deckchairs and ice cream kiosks – perfect for picnics and chilling out, so check out:
Spitfire Sisters concert…
10 & 11 July, 7 – 10pm, adults £20, children £10, book on 0844 2491895
Enjoy a vintage summer evening, as we welcome back the fabulous Spitfire Sisters, a classic ’40s style, close harmony vocal trio, backed by a six piece swing band. They will be filling the air with some swing classics and an old take on some new tunes. Bring a picnic and relax on the lawns as the sun sets over Hinton Ampner.
The Big Dig and scaffold tours…
Big Dig 15 – 19 July, 10am – 4pm / Scaffold tours 15 July – 31 August, 10am – 4pm
Be part of an exciting moment in history as archaeologists excavate the foundations of Hinton Ampner’s original Tudor house. Chat with the team as they work, have a go at excavating yourself, and take in the Big Dig site – plus amazing views over the South Downs – from a scaffold platform (minimum height 1m 20cm).
Explorer trail and giant straw bale maze…
15 July – 31 August, 10am – 5pm
In celebration of Hinton’s Big Dig summer excavation project, the property has laid on an Indiana Jones-style trail that takes kids on an adventure around the gardens.
Can you beat the maze? Run around Hinton’s giant straw bale maze in the ancient parkland and see if you can find what’s hidden in the middle.
2 August, 2 – 4pm (gates open 10am)
Relax on the lawns and listen to vintage jazz from the FB Pocket Orchestra, as they take you back to the hot jazz, blues, ragtime & popular dances of the 1920s and ‘30s.
Climb a tree…
9 August, 11am – 4pm, £5, pay on the day
Join professional tree climbers and have a mini climbing adventure. Scale the heights of one of Hinton’s magnificent oak trees and get a bird’s eye view of this pretty country estate.
Falconry sports day…
16 August, 11am – 4pm
This isn’t any old falconry demonstration! Local bird of prey experts, Hawking About, present this show as a Medieval falconry sports day. Dressed in authentic costume, they will involve the audience every step of the way, culminating in a human tunnel through which he’ll fly his birds.
Make wild art…
30 August, 11am – 4pm
Tick no. 18 off your 50 things list, as you create some ‘wild art’. Collect a bag and pick up leaves, twigs, petals – anything lying on the floor of the garden. Bring your goodies back to base to create a masterpiece, using a selection of photo frames, crowns and other decorative bits and bobs.
Summer theatre – Much Ado About Nothing…
10 July, 7– 9.30pm (gates open 6pm), adults £16, children £8, book on 0844 249 1895
Join critically-acclaimed theatre company the Pantaloons for their hilarious version of Shakespeare’s timeless summer comedy. The boys are back from war and it’s time for celebration, but villainous Don John decides to spoil everyone’s fun with his devious plots. Will young Claudio and his love Hero fall foul of these machinations? Will Beatrice and Benedick stop bickering and fall in love? Find out in this fast-paced, physical and funny new production. With a cast of just three, expect plenty of quick-changes, larger-than-life characters and dubious wigs.
Don’t forget – The Art of Lauren Child…
18 July – 6 September, 11am – 5pm
This summer Mottisfont hosts the first retrospective for world-famous children’s author and illustrator Lauren Child – the creator of Charlie and Lola, and many other popular characters. Enjoy 50 original art works including a sneak preview of her next book. A family trail designed with Lauren takes children on an action-packed adventure around the grounds.
Adventures with Charlie and Lola and Friends – themed activities
18 and 19 July, 9, 22 and 23 August, 10am – 5pm
In conjunction with Mottisfont’s Charlie and Lola and Friends exhibition and adventure trail, families can also enjoy weekend activities inspired by these characters, from storytelling sessions to making a giant book – all designed to inspire creativity and fire young imaginations!
26 July, 4–6.30pm (gates open 3pm), adults £16, children £8, book on 0844 249 1895
Ahoy there landlubbers! Join the Pantaloons for a fun-filled adventure in this tale of treasure and treachery on the high seas. Jim Hawkins spins his yarn of plotting pirates and potty parrots as he is whisked away from his home on a voyage to an island where danger lurks around every corner and revenge comes with a capital ‘arr’! Featuring a cast of just three actors playing all 20 characters – including the infamous Long John Silver – this unforgettable show from the critically-acclaimed Pantaloons Theatre Company will thrill adventure-seekers of all ages.
New Forest at Foxbury:
Wild play day…
4 and 18 August, 10.30am – 1pm, children £5, adults £2.50, book on 01794 340757
Come to the ‘wilds’ of the New Forest for a day of outdoor adventures, from bug hunting and fire lighting to loads of ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ challenges. Kids can work on their den-building, mud pie-making and wild art skills, before tucking into toasted marshmallows around the camp fire.
The Vyne, Basingstoke:
The Great Big Tree Climb…
4, 31 July, 1, 14 August, 10am – 4.45pm, £18.50, book on www.bigtreeclimbing.co.uk or 0800 0556760
Join the Great Big Tree Climbing Company in the grounds of this ancient country estate, and you’ll find yourself entering the canopy of a huge oak tree, using ropes, knots and karabiners whilst being securely attached in a harness. Two friendly instructors are on hand to help you, and if you’re feeling brave you can take the zip wire back down! Suitable for ages 6 and upwards.
Mythical creatures trail…
25 July – 30 August, 11am – 4pm
A new I-Spy trail takes children on a hunt for the weird and wonderful animals that can be found in The Vyne’s colourful stained glass, from mythical dragons and winged goats to horses and dogs.
Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails…
25 July – 30 August, 11am – 4pm
This intriguing exhibition, suitable for all ages, tells the story of the boys who were evacuated to The Vyne from Tormore Boys School in Kent during the Second World War. Find out how they lived, discover photographs and memorabilia, plus letters and diaries that reveal more about their personal experiences during this incredible period in British 20th-century history.
Winchester City Mill:
23 July – 31 August, 10am – 4.30pm
Follow trails around this ancient working mill to discover the secrets of the River Itchen which roars beneath the building. A varied summer programme includes arts and crafts fun and the chance to try on costumes to become characters from the Mill’s past.
For more information about places to go and things to do with the National Trust this summer, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southeast
Photo: National Trust