One Year with the National Trust, in the South East

At the end of February last year, we went to visit Bodiam Castle for the first time. When we checked how much the entrance fees were, we found them to be quite steep. BUT there was the option of getting a National Trust family membership for 12 months, paying less than £10 per month (in total for the three of us, giving free entrance to all NT properties). After a quick glance at what other National Trust places there are in our corner of the country, we opted for the membership.

One Year with the National Trust in the South East of England, UK. Sensational Learning with Penguin

At the time, we had only recently relocated back to the UK after over 20 years in Sweden, and this seemed like a very good opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the history and cultural heritage of the region, while at the same time offering some great learning experiences for Penguin.

We’ve now enjoyed our National Trust membership for a whole year, and I’d like to celebrate this anniversary with a mainly photo based post, looking back at some of the experiences we’ve had. When we find somewhere we really enjoy (and this could be read as ‘somewhere Penguin really enjoys’) we like to go back there, so despite us having used our membership passes more than 15 times over the past 12 months, we’ve only been to 5 different places.


As I said, Bodiam Castle is where it all started, at the end of Februray. The castle was built in the 14th Century, and sits beautifully in its moat. Although it is a ruin, there are towers and steps to climb and spaces to explore. The green and supposedly deep well in one of the towers quickly became a favourite for Penguin.


In March and April, we visited four more National Trust places: Bateman’s, Sissinghurst, Scotney Castle and Sheffield Park & Garden.


Bateman’s is famous for having been the home of the author Rudyard Kipling, who lived at Bateman’s from 1902 until his death in 1936. The main house was however built a long time before then, in 1632.


One of our favourite features at Bateman’s is the old mill, which is in the dark brown part of the building seen below. There’s a lot of hands-on learning material available there, to explain about how the mill used to work and how grains were ground into flour etc. There’s also a screen showing a film of the mill in use – and Penguin is always happy to watch a screen (so much more contained and controllable compared to the world in general, which can sometimes be percieved as annoyingly unpredictable and even quite chaotic).


Sissinghurst Castle Garden is another former home of a famous author, though I must admit that I heard of her world famous garden first, then her writings. When we went there for the first time (bucket list moment for me, yay!!) in the third week of March, I found the gardens almost overwhelmingly beautiful. The weather might have helped, too.



It all got a bit overwhelming for Penguin as well, but sitting down for a fruit break and a drink, with the sheep grazing peacefully next to us, worked as a kind of ‘reboot’ and he then went on to enjoy exploring more of the surrounding countryside.


Our first visit to Scotney Castle was on a bright and sunny day in early April. There was some scaffolding around parts of the old castle ruin, but it didn’t impair too much on our impression of this place.

A77C7AC4-4595-4196-8E48-6DE716CAD051Scotney is a really versatile place, with many different routes and features to discover. We’ve been back two more times since last spring, and you can find more pictures and a lot more information about Scotney Castle in this post which I wrote after our latest visit, in January: Penguin goes to… Scotney Castle!

Later in April we went to Sheffield Park and Garden, which is the only of the five places we’ve visited that we’ve (as yet) only been to once. That’s not because of anything to do with the actual place, which was stunning, impressive, and great fun to explore, but just down to it being quite far from us, so a longer drive and therefor less convenient, compared to the other four properties. I’m hoping we’ll make it back  there again soon. Penguin sometime’s looks at our photos from that outing, and I’m sure he’d be delighted to revisit it!


In May, we went back to Sissinghurst, and this time we made it up to the terrace at the top of the towers. It was quite blowy up there, and the views streched for miles and miles. Penguin was pretty excited with it!


On the same visit, Penguin also discovered a suprising talent for sheep herding. Not sure quite what to make of that… 🤔☺️


For no particular reason, we ended up not going to any National Trust places in June or July. But in August, we were back at Bodiam, and then to Scotney and Sissinghurst again in September.

Bodiam in August, Penguin enjoying the blackberries and a cattle grid!
Scotney in September. Embracing a light rain, and messing about in the mud kitchen.
Sissinghurst in September. Firey colours of orange, red and yellow.

My birthday, in late October, was spent at Bodiam. There were a few Halloween activities on, and slightly busier than how we prefer it, but still a lovely day:


On our visit to Sissinghurst in early December, it was clear that the garden was resting, and the towers had been wrapped up – for renovations, not a Christo art piece. The weather was quite dull, and nature went mostly in shades of brown. This time we had a good look at the den making area they’ve arranged for kids. Penguin wasn’t as impressed as me though 🙄 Maybe he’ll be more up for it on a brighter day… We’ll be back.


Actually, we were back at Sissinghurst again recently, as you can read about here: A Sunday Walk at Sissinghurst But we didn’t get around to building any dens this time either.

All in all, I think we’ve got really good value out of our 12 month family membership with the National Trust. What do you think..?

Scotney Castle, January 2018


This post is NOT sponsored in any way and all opinions are my own. The photographs are also mine and may not be used without written permission from me. Thank you.
The Pramshed

Country Kids

Shank You Very Much
Potty Adventures

Letters to my Daughter

80 thoughts on “One Year with the National Trust, in the South East

  1. I’ve read about the national trust passes before and think they are great value! I must see if we have a similar system in Holland. All of these locations are absolutely stunning and beautifully captured. Your photography is stunning. I really love the light in the October shot at Bodium castle and the old mill with the reflection in the water. Thank you for linking up to #PointShoot 📸

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Catie! We seem to share similar tastes in some ways, I too really like those two photos, for the same reasons as you’re mentioning ☺️
      We’re about to move into a house this evening (!) so I’ll be back to read the other posts tomorrow xx


  2. I’ve heard lots of good things about National Trust memberships, and this post showcases just why so many families enjoy having one. You’ve visited some stunning locations over the last year, and it’s interesting seeing the different season through the photos shared too. #MMBC

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re lucky to have such lovely NT properties so close to you. We have trek quite far to our nearest, Wimpole, but it’s worth the journey. We visited Bodiam at half term, such a stunning place and such a fun castle for kids! #ExplorerKids

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m guessing that your national parks are generally much larger than these gardens, parks, stately homes etc. But yes, it could be a similar system. Do you have any national parks near you? 🙂


  4. You’ve certainly made use of your membership. We’ve had ours for a year too but we haven’t been out as much as you, we only managed three places last year. I’m determined we’ll do more this year though, I really do love visiting these places. You have some lovely places to go in your area and it’s always nice to go back and see what it’s like in different seasons. Some of the gardens are truly amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your photos are stunning. We have just renewed our NT membership. It is such great value for money. Like you, we have revisited our favourite places throughout the year. It is nice to see the changing landscape and there are always new activities for the children. I hope you enjoy this years membership just as much #countrykids

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s clear that Penguin loves discovering the adventures at your local National Trusts, they really are wonderful spaces to get out and enjoy the fresh air as a family. I can see why these four properties are the four you most regularly visit, with plenty of space and sensory spots for monkey. Visiting the same places throughout the year is great for learning too as you can see the changes the seasons bring.

    Thanks for sharing your favourite National Trust spots with me on #CountryKids.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sonia! Yes, there are so many lovely places here 😊 I hope you’re finding lots of great places to explore in Sweden, too. Is it on the west coast you’re living now (Halland or..?)? We used to live not far from Ystad in Skane before we moved back here, but we’ve also lived in the Stockholm area as well as Vasteras and Malmoe 🙂x


  7. It looks like you have had some wonderful days out and sounds like you have made fantastic use of your National Trust passes….I have thought about buying them for the year but all the National Trust places up here are such a faff to get to on public transport. (Neither my fella or I drive) #MMBC

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kim! Yes, getting to these places without a car is a bother – and one we’re feeling at the moment as ours failed its MOT badly about a week ago… So we’re a little bit stranded for now. Hoping to get back ‘on the road’ again before the summer xx


  8. It certainly sounds like you made the most of your National Trust membership! We’ve had it for a couple of years and it’s been well worth it. Like you, we tend to go back to the same places time and time again and it is lovely seeing them at different times of year. I love the photo of the gardens at Sissinghurst in March – they are so beautiful. We’ve not been to any of these properties but they all look like lovely places to visit if we are ever in the area. #countrykids

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I didn’t realise there was so much to see in the South East! I think we will get a pass when Dee is a bit older and we start properly home schooling. It will be good to be able to get out to interesting places! #BlogCrush

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, 99% sure – the plan is to go travelling as a family when she’s a bit older and learn on the road

        Liked by 1 person

  10. You really are lucky to live somewhere so beautiful, in a country that has treasures like this, Gorgeous photos, Thank you for being part of the #mg community

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What lovely photos! My parents are part of the National Trust and we always go to some stunning places with them when we’re visiting. We looked into getting it for ourselves as we love to be outdoors as a family, but there aren’t many properties around us so it wasn’t really worth it. But, as I say, your photos here are lovely, and I’m sure hold many happy memories for you all #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Some great photos! National Trust membership is such a great way to get out and about and see the country. Bodiam looks wonderful and Sissinghurst seems to be a favourite of yours..the view from the tower was stunning. #AdventureCalling

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great photos! I love how you can see the changing seasons as you look through them. I think that a NT membership is great value, they offer so many fantastic family days out. You’re lucky to have so many beautiful properties nearby, I really should make more use of ours. Thank you for sharing #AdventureCalling

    Liked by 1 person

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