The light is finally appearing at the end of the lockdown tunnel. After months of being confined to our homes and local areas, the National Trust announced that they are opening over 200 car parks in England, as well as parklands and gardens from the 3rd June. Freedom awaits! Or a semblance of it at least. We should all be mindful that the pandemic isn’t over, but that visiting beautiful open spaces is probably the best and safest way to explore the world post-Corona. Especially if you’re climbing the walls to get beyond a mile radius of your living room. Drive to your preferred escape spot with your Brompton stored away ready, or if you’re lucky enough to live near to one of these gems, cut out the middle man and avoid Car Park Stress.
You can see the full list of opened sites on the National Trust site, but we’ve rounded up our favourites from each region, we hope you get to enjoy a few before normal life makes time a luxury again. Due to the current situation, you must book ahead of time, and a lot of these are booked up at the moment, but keep checking back to see when time slots become available. All of the below were
London, East & South East
Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire
Bought by Rudyard Kipling’s daughter Elsie Bambridge and her husband in 1938 and donated to the National Trust after her death in the 70s, the Wimpole estate features a working farm, beautiful grounds, and an exquisitely decorated house. Any attraction with the phrase ‘noisy modern piggery’ in its description is bound to be interesting. A great one to take the kids to.
Sissinghurst Castle, Kent
The writer and poet Vita Sackville-West and her husband, diplomat and diarist Harold Nicholson famously fell in love with Sissinghurst and transformed the house and the gardens in the 1930s into the beautiful grounds that the National Trust work to keep up today. It also counts a prison in it’s list of illustrious functions, as well as some years as a base of the women’s land army. Whether you’re interested in the history, or just want to switch off and enjoy the surroundings, Sissinghurst isn’t just a pretty face.
Fell Foot, Cumbria
If you’re a water person, Fell Foot is the perfect escape to nature. Situated on the southern tip of Lake Windermere, the park is full of lakes for boating and swimming, punctuated by Gothic Victorian boat houses along the shores, and vast lawns in between for games. Flats for cycling with views of the mountains, perfect.
Sizergh, Kendal, Cumbria
The Strickland family still live in Sizergh castle, so as well as the building being steeped in history, it’s still alive with the current residents’ portraits on the walls. The estate boasts orchards, woodland, and a limestone rock garden, if that’s your thing. Situated at the ‘gateway’ to the Lake District, this is the perfect place to relax amongst history. It’s said that Catherine Parr (sixth wife of Henry VIII) retreated here after the death of her first husband. Don’t worry – she outlived Henry.
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Despite the original house being demolished in 1938 after fires, the palatial gardens (all 3,800 acres) of Clumber Park make up for it. Wildlife lovers will love a cycle round the gardens aiming to spot the inhabitants, and if you yearn for architecture, the Gothic chapel can satiate you. The four acre Walled Kitchen Garden is a patch of nostalgia too. Well worth the journey.
Croft Castle, Herefordshire
Just looking at Croft Castle is enough to make you feel like you’re on a medieval film set, surrounded by quintessentially English country gardens. 1500 acres of them, to be precise. Drop the kids off at one of the mini castle play areas and explore the woodland trails, cycle up to the Iron Age hill fort for views of the Brecon Beacons, and wave to the Croft family, who continue to live in the property and have done since before the Domesday book.
This Tudor house with stunning grounds sits on the banks of the river Tamar just of Dartmoor National Park and features a working mill and quarry amidst it’s vast, beautiful estate. Two orchards of apples and cherries sit within the grounds, as well as the idyllic Upper Garden, walled garden, and woodland to get lost in. The historic house itself also tells the story of the Edgcumbe family who have lived there for hundreds of years. Lock up your Bromton and take a look inside.
The Georgian house on the Killerton estate looks almost Mediterranean, with terracotta walls dipped in lilac wisteria. The estate in the heart of Devon will further transport you away from the perils of 2020 with a chapel on the grounds, working farm and mill, and something you weren’t expecting to read in this round up, an extinct volcano. Who knew? Take a stroll or a cycle around the grounds and visit the orchard, get grounded in the woods, and be transported to a different time.
Article By Alexandra Haddow