We found ourselves with nothing to do on a bank holiday Monday afternoon, E was out with his friend and would be gone all day but the rest of us were bored and as it was a beautiful sunny day we decided to had to get out the house, so we set off in search for Bluebells. Not just a few that spring up here and there, we wanted to see them in all their glory. To the Bluebell Woods it was.
The children hadn't witnessed Bluebells is their masses before and it had been years since we, mum & dad, had seen the beauty of a bluebell blanket on the forest floor.
What happened next I was not prepared for…
I was left feeling like I'd dusted the cobwebs from my mind. I felt refreshed and happy.
So we arrived at Hinton Ampner, an estate previously owned by Ralph Dutton and now exquisitely looked after by the National Trust, where we knew we would find what we were looking for.
Upon arrival we opted to become members of the National Trust – for a mere £5 odd a month the children and I can visit any National Trust location throughout the year with the added benefit of free parking. We chose a one-parent family ticket as it is me who spends more time with the children due to the hubsters work commitments. However, that aside we were advised that if the Mr comes with us more than we thought he would we can just simply upgrade our membership; still only costing around £9 a month!
So now I have the option to do and experience more with the children during the school holidays without worrying about cost - a no brainer; especially with four munchkins in tow.
Membership organised we made our way to the house. Well, the huge country manor. It was stunning and grand; just as we expected.
On entry to the property the children were handed laminated booklets in which every page had an item they were to search for in the house.
This allowed us grown-ups to read the guide we had been handed and a pay closer attention to the house.
The booklets, which were laid out in the order that you came across the rooms to keep the people traffic going in one direction, were a lovely & thoughtful touch. They kept the children well entertained in what could have been quite a boring experience for them. It also encouraged them to actually take notice of their surroundings and the beauty the house had to offer.
The grounds which this country manor is set in, at a quick glance had just as much going for them as the house did but didn’t stop to fully appreciate its glory as we had already decided we were going to follow the Dutton Estate Walk.
And this is where the magic happened.
Not even five minutes into our walk I had rediscovered the English countryside and it was breath-taking. The views were remarkable.
I was transported back to many a time in my childhood, where I had been on country and forest walks with my Dad. I have fond memories of picking dandelions and blowing away their fluffy heads; I would make out that the amount of puffs it took to fully blow it away would determine what time it was…I also remember getting stuck in the mud once, I got out just fine but my shoe was left behind. Dad had to rescue it for me!
Our children were having fun running, playing, jumping in puddles and so on but I had to get them to stop.
They had to discover this properly, to capture it and fully take it in... We were at the top of a hill, with views out for miles. The rape seed fields were an eye-catchingly bright shade of yellow where the sunlight spectacularly enhanced the its colour. The rolling clouds were atmospheric, going from a dark grey colour over head to fluffy white in the distance and the only noise was that of birds tweeting, trees and bushes rustling and the wind occasionally whirling past your ear and rushing through your hair.
He did his own bit of orienteering…with the wrong map…which he held upside down, but nevertheless he gave it a good go!
At time it was hilly which was a struggle, especially with a bog standard, city stick buggy in tow.
And then, a small bit of history inevitably repeated itself; Master A got stuck in the mud! He had found tractor tracks with a big puddle in the middle of it. He was so excited he shot over but before he stood in the puddle his little foot squelched in the mud, he stepped down his other foot and the same happened again! He was stuck…much like his mummy some 20 something years ago.
He didn’t lose his wellies like I lost my shoe but it did take almost all my strength to yank him out from the huge suction cup that be the mud, while making sure I don’t get stuck myself.
There was the occasional moan and groan coming from Noo's about how far we were walking but there were tractor tracks, horse shoe prints, fields of sheep and plenty more nature around to keep us entertained. There was even a gigantic tree that looked like it had fallen over - except it hadn't snapped, the massive roots had pulled out the ground. When they kids asked what had happened the best I could come up with was to say that the wind did it...bloody big gust of wind that must have been!!
Eventually we came to the bluebell woods and well... I don't think I have the words. The pictures say it all! Simply enchanting!
By now there were a few more people around, some walking their dogs, some taking pictures and others just quietly taking it in much like us.
The children believe that Bluebells is where fairies live! How romantic is that?!
They were mesmerised by what they saw, just as Sparks and I were…"I can see the whole forest floor is covered in bluebells mummy", “look at all these fairy homes” – this is stuff tears are made of.
Finally after a run down a steep hill, you know the type, where you watch your littluns' legs run away with themselves leaving them unable to slow down or stop so you run to help and find yourself in the same situation, we were back at the fields full of sheep and lambs where we had started.
4 miles and 2.5 hours later we felt refreshed, invigorated and happy. Smiles were beaming.
The children slept well in the car on the way home!! The fresh air did them some good. Did us all some good.
You see on the whole, us Brits' tend to love a good holiday abroad to swap our predictably unpredictable weather for more predictable extremes, such as bright white beaches, hot climates or on the contrary blankets of thick fluffy snow in colder climates; in search for experiences of different cultures, iconic landmarks, the northern lights and so on; and don't get me wrong I DO love a holiday abroad for all those reasons and more but in doing this we often miss what is right here in front of us.
The beauty of our own land, culture and all things that make us who we are goes almost unnoticed, taken for granted, unappreciated.
Again all of which I am guilty of.
But what we experienced, my husband, children and I, was truly special and we created some amazing lasting memories right here on our doorstep.
I can't wait for our next visit to a different National Trust location to see what other hidden treasures we can find here at home.
Want to reply or share your similar experiences? I’d love to hear from you 🙂