What have you got planned for 2014? Have you set yourself some resolutions for the year ahead? What about a challenge you’ve always wanted to complete? How about this…
The Challenge: to visit all National Trust properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The ‘why’ of this challenge is a slightly complicated question. I think the inspiration first came from the thought that I was just simply not taking enough holidays! I go on several weekend breaks with friends each year but take very few extended holidays, having always been a little reluctant to travel alone for any length of time and apprehensive about travelling abroad by myself. As a result, I thought that perhaps it was time to take a few holidays in the UK, which I might be better able to tackle alone.
And this led me on to the NT. As a child, I went on many holidays around Britain, which always included numerous visits to stately homes and gardens, so there was something comforting and familiar about the idea. Somehow, I think I will find it easier to take the plunge into solo holidays if I have a specific plan in place before I go.
That is not to say that I plan on doing this whole challenge on my own! I already have visits to Dorset and Kent properties lined up with friends over the next couple of months and I will be happy to welcome other friends and relatives who might want to accompany me at any time… although they should be warned that I intend to cover every property in as much detail as I can, with the inclusion of as many on-site cafés and second-hand bookshops as possible!
They have already visited Charlecote, coming to see us in September last year, you can read more about that visit and more on the National Trust challenge blog.
No rest for the wicked. A day after Hughenden, I was let loose on the Cotswolds and headed to Charlecote Park. This was my first property classified in the Midlands region so I’m counting that as another milestone – I need to give myself milestones so I feel I’m making progress, even though I’m still just over a twentieth of the way through the challenge!
Charlecote was another repeat visit although I last came on a Wednesday when the house wasn’t open so that first time didn’t really count. On arrival, my first port of call (after the toilet, that is!) was the gatehouse where I gathered with some other interested folk to listen to a welcome talk. I can’t stress enough how useful these talks are as an introduction to a property and the Charlecote version was no exception, giving me some helpful background and some anecdotes about the Lucy family, particularly those members of the clan who have shaped the house and grounds.
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