As a large family it is always difficult to find things to do at holiday time and weekends. It needs to be affordable, satisfy the big range of ages, and the boy/girl mix of our children. Every time we visit a National Trust property using our family membership I remind myself of the money that we have saved over the years. Somehow the National Trust visits work for us - the boys run around manically looking for monsters in the woods; the girls search for fairies and rabbits in old tree trunks, and we, hubby and I, sit exhausted on a seat, planning the amazing changes we are going to make to the garden just as soon as the kids have flown the nest.
Last weekend we went to Knightshayes again, a gothic Victorian mansion set in the heart of the rolling mid Devon countryside. There’s plenty to see from looming gargoyles, imaginative carvings including the ‘seven deadly sins’ and the medieval great hall complete with minstrel’s gallery. We love the walled garden, which has been restored and has free range chickens - although free range to me is chickens running free and these are kept in an enclosed area to protect the veg and flowers. Ours, on the other hand, are truly free range, spending their days digging merrily in my newly planted veg patch!
Last year when we visited Knightshayes, the children won a fertilised egg for being able to answer a question about chickens - not really fair on the other kids, with us being mad chicken keepers. We carried the egg carefully home and slipped it under our broody Light Sussex called Peaches...three weeks later she stood up, shook and walked away in disgust, to scratch around in her favourite patch of dry earth under the Sycamore trees, leaving the sad neglected egg in the nest.
Last weekend when we visited the gardens and parkland at Knighthayes they were alive with bluebells. We did have rain, but we dodged the showers, and somehow the smell of soaked earth and the droplets falling from the trees added to the magical feel of the day and took away the misery of the journey, with the kids moaning 'are we nearly home' from the back seat.
Photos: Susan Penny and Walled Garden Picture National Trust
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