We’ve been National Trust members for a few years now, but rarely actually make the most of our membership. We tend to just use our cards for car parks in the Lake District and not much else. It probably works out as very expensive car parking, but I don’t mind as they maintain a lot paths we use for walking, and do great conservation work around the UK. However, this year we are determined to use our cards for more than just convenient car parks and actually see some of the amazing places that membership has to offer.
If you don’t know much about the National Trust, it is a charity that relies on membership fees and donations to run. The charity works to preserve the country’s heritage, historic houses, gardens and monuments, as well as looking after forests, moorlands, beaches, and much more. It really is a fantastic cause and costs us just over £100 per year for both of us, which includes use of most of their car parks (some, such as Tatton Park do have an additional charge), entrance to the historic houses and gardens they look after, and helps to preserve bits of history and countryside for all to enjoy; that’s a bargain if you think about it.
So, today the weather was beautiful and we wanted to get out of the house. Our new annual National Trust membership cards had come through the post a couple of days ago so we decided to put our plan of using them more into action and jumped in the car and headed to Dunham Massey, 40 minutes away from where we live.
Dunham Massey has loads to offer; a stunning historic house consisting over 108 rooms, beautifully manicured gardens to wander, and a large deer park covering over 300 acres. Plenty to keep you occupied.
The first thing we saw when we got to the park was the deer grazing right outside the main house. The were so beautiful, and so close! I guess they’re used to people because they didn’t seem bothered by the people (me included) gathering round and taking pictures.
We got our tickets for entry to the house and gardens from the visitor centre (you need to get tickets even if you are a NT member, but there’s not charge for members), and headed straight to the main house. There was a special exhibition on this year, which detailed the life of the 7th Earl of the house and his controversial marriage to a circus performer!! It seemed that it caused quite a scandal at the time! It was great how they tied the story into each room, and we even got to vote on what we thought on the scandal at the end.
After we’d finished looking through the house it was time to find a perfect spot for our picnic! Because the grounds around the house are a deer park there are only a few places where you can have a picnic. The deer don’t have access to the gardens of the house so that seemed like the logical place to go. Once we’d entered we got distracted following the winding paths, exploring the gardens. My favourite bit was probably the Rose Gardens with trellises of climbing roses and beds of multicoloured flowers dotted around. Sadly the roses were a bit past their best, but I imagine when they’re in full bloom that the garden is breathtaking.
There were some more interesting parts of the gardens, like the graveyard for all the family dogs through the ages (a confusing number of which were called Lyon), and I also enjoyed the allotments (being a bit of an allotment geek myself). Having exhausted the gardens, we found a spot on the main lawn to enjoy our picnic and lazed a couple of hours away reading, enjoying the calm of the place.
I can’t wait for my next National Trust day out to discover more that my little National Trust membership card has to offer!!
To finish off, here is my favourite fact I learnt from my tour of the house:
Now I love a good Gin and Tonic as much as the next girl, but did you know it used to be used to wash silk dresses? 1 litre of gin, mixed with salt and some other ingredients was a standard concoction for getting stains out of silk. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be wasting gin on my washing!