Days Out | National Trust

A Moment in History: The Vyne

By on February 23, 2018

If you're a regular reader you may have worked out that I like to do activities and outings on a budget. Mainly because there are 5 of us, sometimes 6 if Daddy comes too, which quite often means a hefty price tag. Therefore during school holidays I like to make the most of any annual memberships that we have. One of which being the National Trust and this time I am here to tell you about The Vyne and how you and the kids can make a mark in history.

We have visited a few National Trust locations and I have written a couple of posts reviewing our visits. Firstly I wrote about Bluebells in the Woods and the English Countryside which you can visit at Hinton Amper, as well as A family day out at Mottisfont. Both of which are in Hampshire.

17th century summer house

I particularly love this membership because it give us a chance to leave the city and become submerged in some of the most beautiful countryside the UK has to offer, it gets the children outside in nature instead of glued to a screen and we get to soak up some amazing history.

This time round, not only did we get to soak up some history but we got to leave our mark in the history book too! And the good news is there is still time for you to do the same!

The Vyne

I had decided before the half term that I wanted to spend some time with the children in a forest / woodland type place but the beginning of the week we had so much planned in the way of dance festivals, dentist appointments and a play date with our bestie who lives miles away from us, that the woodland walk had to wait until the end of the week.

I was originally drawn to The Vyne because of the woodland walks it has to offer but after a quick google search (what we would we do without google these days?) I soon realised our day here could be much more special.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. The air was fresh but not cold. It really felt like spring was on its way.

On arrival we were asked if we wanted to take part in the 'lost tapestry trail' which was fab for the kids. A picture of a tapestry which is in the house has been printed and laminated then cut into 12 puzzle pieces. The pieces were placed in bird boxes around the grounds and we were given a map of their location. Not only was this treasure hunt type activity fun but it was brilliant for developing the kids map reading skills. Plus we get to go home with a puzzle!

Two of the bird boxes were empty but at the end of our day when we were heading back towards the carpark, we checked the boxes again and found they had been refilled. Allowing us to collect up all the pieces . Or so we thought... we ended up with 12 pieces but two of them are the same! Hey ho; you win some and lose some. It was fun nevertheless and we laughed a lot when we realised.

Tapestry Trail - The box was empty! Luckily on our way back round as we headed home the box had been refilled allowing us to collect all the pieces.

On the way round the trail we came to the house. The National trust are in the process of restoring The Vyne's roof due to extensive storm damages in 2013. The job is huge. And this is where you get to leave your mark in history.

The Roof

We saw people forming an orderly queue so me with my typical British ways joined the queue! We were queuing to go up on the roof and see first hand the restoration works going on. The children and I were given high vis jackets given a short safety briefing and were directed to the lift or stairs. The children were also given a task to look out for the Lego Workman pieces that had been placed around the roof - a great task to keep the younger children occupied on a building site.

Amazing to see all the work going on - we really felt like part of the action.

Both the works going on and the views from the roof were breath-taking. You get to walk round the whole roof and there are Perspex openings that are eye level for children so they can see what is happening without parents lifting them up and over the edge! The re-building of one of the chimneys has stuck with me. It was leaning like the Tower of Pisa but has totally restored. It has been rebuilt with new materials and reinforced to prevent future storm damage yet looks exactly the same as the original.  It really is a must see.

Leaving your mark in history

On the way back out you are able to Tag-a-Tile. There is a recommended donation of £5 to do this but any donation is welcomed and appreciated. This is where you can draw on, write on or a sign a tile that will be going up onto the roof.

Master E and Little P decided to share a tile, while Master A and Miss O wanted a tile of their own. Donations can be put in the jar or can be paid on the front desk.

Putting our mark on Great British history.

Once our tiles were completed we put them into a wheelbarrow with other signed tiles and were told they would be on the roof the very next day!

Last Chance

There is still time for you to see the marvellous works going on and the views from the roof, as well as tag-a-tile of your own. BUT you only have until 28th February 2018.


To find out opening times, prices and the location of either The Vyne or any other National Trust place I have mentioned please visit The National Trust website.

NB: I am NOT paid to write for the National Trust. I am just a member who is very pleased with what I have seen so far and therefore want to share the love by writing honest reviews.

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Days Out | Family Fun | Seasonal

Pumpkin Picking at Pickwell Farm

By on October 28, 2017

I often drive pass strawberry fields in the summer and think we'll go strawberry picking this year and then never get round to it. So this year after realising I had missed strawberry picking again I decided we should have a family day out pumpkin picking later in the year.


Fast forward to October, and after reading a blog and doing a quick google search I decided Pickwell Farm, on the outskirts of Southampton, was where we were going to go for our first ever pumkpin picking experience.

We decided that we would go on a weekend so daddy could come too. This of course limited us as to when we could go and we happened to choose the windiest day! The weekend we went was the weekend Storm Brian came to visit but if we’d left it until the following weekend we would have run the risk of there being no pumpkins left, so we ventured out determined not to let the storm dampen our spirits.

Although, not all of us were impressed...

It was blowing a gale, the umbrella blew inside out and the kids were loitering around muddy puddles like they had never seen them before. A huge gust of wind came and that was it, screaming "I want to go home", Phoebe was done! We didn't even have any pumpkins yet! It became very clear to those that passed us that we are most definitely city people. Whilst the hubby and I found all this highly amusing at this point the kids just wanted to get the pumpkins and get going.

On arrival we were offered a wheelbarrow which, being the ‘I can manage’ type person that I am, I nearly declined, much to my husbands despair. So we grabbed a wheelbarrow and off we went.

Trust me, you need the wheelbarrow!!

Not only is great fun for the kids to push and sit in but I definitely would not have managed!

Whilst we were able to fill our wheelbarrow with a variety of perfectly imperfect pumpkins the fields weren’t as full as I had imagined or hoped. This is no reflection on the farm just that next time we need to go sooner. Most of the pumpkins we picked were still on the vine so were nice and fresh and they were all priced at £2 regardless of size. So for a family of our size (6) this is a much more cost effective way to purchase our pumpkins.

We laughed so much while pumpkin picking, we slipped and tripped, got blown all over the place, the children were fussing about getting their hands dirty, I struggled with the wheelbarrow and our youngest just didn't want to be there. It is safe to say we were 100% novices!

Once we had picked our pumpkins we had a little walk around the farm and came across corn fields which the children had great fun getting lost in.


The farm also has a lovely farm shop full of fresh produce, it is here where you pay for your pumpkins after you have washed the mud off them in the pails of water provided.

Overall we had a lovely day out and we will definitely be pumpkin picking again next year...Only now I know to go at the beginning of the season before the pumpkin fields are almost empty. Oh, and I will try to avoid going when we are hit with a storm!

Thanks for a lovely family day Pickwell Farm.

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Days Out | National Trust | Reviews

Mud, Water and Picnic’s. My Mottisfont Review!

By on July 4, 2017

Mottisfont is a fantastic National Trust location for you and your kids, I definitely rate it for a family day out. The staff were friendly, polite, helpful and spoke with a smile on their face. Parking is free and whilst I have an annual membership, meaning I do not have to pay to get in, entry fees seem reasonable in my opinion, for how large the estate is and what is on offer, particularly for the children. There are stunning streams that run through the grounds and beautiful bridges to cross them; the main lawn at the front of the house is extremely well maintained, with no ball games being allowed making it the perfect spot to put your picnic blanket.

Our picnic blanket was much like these...

The Manor itself is remarkable – we did walk round it but with young children in tow and being the only adult with them, I wasn’t able to take in too much of its beauty.

Being an inner city family all this open space is a true joy!


Pushchairs are permitted around the grounds at Mottisfont but not in the house due to space restrictions. There is a place where you can leave the pushchairs and lock them to the railings, taking the key with you whilst you walk around the house. I took a stroller similar to the one seen here...

I only take a stroller as a 'just in case' precaution should my youngest decide her legs have given up and actually, it was perfectly fine around the grounds. The paths were very lightly gravelled with tiny stones so the pushing the stroller with its tiny wheels wasn't a struggle like I had imagined it would be. However, it goes without saying that if you have a pushchair such as an Out 'n' about that has wheels that are designed for rougher terrain, you will find it easier to get around.

I used to have an Out 'n' About pushchair until my youngest started walking and I have to say, with my hand on my heart, the Out 'n' About was the best pushchair I have ever owned (and I've owned a few what with four kids)!

The first thing I have too look for after a car journey is the toilets...not for me thank you but for my toddler who isn't long out of nappies. The toilets are to your right as soon you as go through the gates as well as being dotted around the grounds as well. Perfect for us as when a toddler has to go, well, they have to go! 

A game of pooh sticks anyone?
Stunningly clean streams.
Not sure what the kids are looking at here but they loved it!

For the ‘grown-ups’ there are art exhibitions displayed in the house, Rose gardens to walk around and you are able to take your dog, as long as it is kept on a short lead. As we were there having a family day out with my focus on the children upon arrival we set out to find the fun stuff.


Sibling hill race!


We played pooh sticks from the first bridge we came to and we rolled down the hills, enabling us to tick things off our ’50 things to do before you’re 11 and ¾’ app for your phone or tablet, I’ll elaborate in a mo!

Pump Pool and Paddle
Slim pumping the pump while his siblings watch him work...sounds about right!

For children there are two main fantastic activities, the Climbing Bog and the Pump, Pool and Paddle area. The Climbing Bog is a muddy area with various climbing frames, balance beams and huge stepping stones that have been crafted from old trees. We were here for ages. The kids absolutely loved it. The Pump, Pool and Paddle area is where the children are free to play in the water. The streams are kept perfectly clean therefore visitors are asked to keep the playing in the water to this specific area. They can pump the water up from the stream and watch it run back down to the pool where it drains back to the stream. Children are able to use levers to stop the water running and allow it to collect then to let it all go again. I highly recommend taking spare clothes and a towel. Both my girls fell over in the water leaving us to find a sunny spot to dry off in!


On our way to these activities we followed the path and found a secret area where you could stop to take a pew. It was magical, like something from Harry Potter. There was a tiny gap in the bushes and you were unable to see what was beyond it, so as my children disappeared through I hurried behind them. We found a quaint little seating area, it was just big enough for the 5 of us – we could have gone back to this spot to have our picnic, it was a lovely little sun trap, but it was too hot I had to find the kids some shade to sit in.

After all the fun and frolics we went off in search for the perfect picnic spot. It wasn’t hard too find. There was a massive tree on the front lawn, where many a family had already laid out their picnic, so I placed the picnic blanket half in the shade made from the tree, and half in the sun. Those of us that were wet from the Pump, Pool and Paddle were able to dry off and the others could get out of the sun. We dried very quickly and were incredibly warm so we soon shimmied into the shade as well.

I try to do these visits without spending a penny (tight arse I know) but our bottle of water went within minutes of us being there. This was partly due to having to pour half of it over Daisy’s leg after she put her foot in the muddy bog when we were climbing (she had jelly shoes on, it wasn’t pretty)! So we ventured into the shop to buy a drink each. There was a good selection of food and drink and again very reasonably priced. I didn’t go into the seating area indoors as there was a lot of us and the indoor eating area isn’t huge – I didn’t want to take over – having already had our food I didn’t purchase any more or use the outside seating area but this was packed with people, always a good sign.

As the day went on the kids were getting tired, we had done the house, the Climbing Bog, Pump Pool and Paddle, had our picnic so it was almost time to go. I didn’t fancy dragging them round the Rose garden keeping on at them to behave after a long, fun filled, hot day so we went in search for a field where they were allowed to play ball. We took our phlat ball with us to play with. It was new toy the children had not long been given and as its so light it is very easy to transport so that was the must have toy that we took. The children had a good run around and let of the last of their steam before I decided we should make tracks.

We found the spot where ball games are allowed. YAY!

We were at Mottisfont all day; well 10:30 ish until 4pm and we definitely didn’t see all that was on offer. As I say I was there for the children so focussed on keeping them entertained and I did so with no issues whatsoever. There is plenty to keep them busy. I whole heartedly recommend Mottisfont for a fun family day out.

Now, I haven’t forgotten, I mentioned the app for your phone or tablet – 50 things to do before you’re 11 and ¾ …

It is an app by the National Trust with the most amazing list of outdoorsy activities. You set up an account and it gives you a list and you just tick them off when you’re done. Definitely worth getting, it’s great to open up when the kids start getting bored .

Where do you love to go when your after a fun family day out? Have been to Mottisfont or any other National Trust attraction? I'd love to hear from you, please comment below...

Thank you for reading an thanks for using any of the links above, if you did. If you do we earn a few pennies which all help to keep this blog free at no extra cost to you. The products I have recommended are products I have either used myself or would be happy to purchase for myself.

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Days Out | National Trust | Reviews

Bluebell Woods in the English Countryside

By on May 13, 2017

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. 

After a few moments admiring what was right on our doorstep, yet passed by every-day without a second thought, we carried on along the trail, with Slim's help…

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 🙂

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