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.
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.
Scotney 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.
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..?
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.