Originally posted 13 October 2017
I once read an article (of course I can’t remember the magazine or who wrote it!), where the writer explained her love of books and the anxiety that she feels when she thinks about all of the books that have been written and those that are yet to be written, that she will not be able to get through in her lifetime. I feel like this about the National Trust. I will never be able to visit all the wonderful places that the Trust owns but gosh, would I like to! However, I am a National Trust member, very happy to be one and I’m going to do my best to visit as many of it’s special places as I can in my lifetime, because it really does inspire and enrich our lives. Let me tell you how…
I ‘discovered’ the National Trust about 10 years ago now, when my family and I visited my Mum after she moved to the wonderfully picturesque village of Porlock in West Somerset. As we approached Minehead town, the outskirts of which you travel through to get to Porlock, we were greeted by the most impressive site and what is still one of our favourite views. Sitting on the hill South West of the town was and is the stunning Dunster Castle, set in the beautiful, medieval village of Dunster, our favourite (Shhh, don’t tell Porlock!).
This was the first National Trust property we visited as a family about 5 years after we first laid eyes on it (I’m not sure what took us so long!), and to say I was taken with it is an understatement. I fantasised about packing up our city life and moving to Dunster to live a gentler life, a stone’s throw away from the castle. We promptly became members and as they say, the rest is history! Much to my delight Mum now lives in a village closer to the castle. With our rucksacks packed full of little treats for the kids and a few silly games and songs up our sleeves, Dunster castle is a very pleasant 30 minute walk away. 50 minutes if I take photos of every wildflower/bird/pretty cottage/gorgeous view etc! So, through Mum’s village and up the country lane…
Past fields of cows and hay…
Through the deer park, where wild ponies and deer roam free (what could be more idyllic!?) and the lower part of Dunster village…
And you arrive at Dunster Castle, ready for a cuppa and to explore the beautiful grounds, gardens and the castle itself…
I will be writing posts about each National Trust property we have visited so far, with I think, special focus on the seasonal changes we have witnessed and experienced. After all, I have taken so many photos of each of them, I couldn’t possibly fit them into one post. So more on Dunster Castle another time. For now, I want to share a little bit more about why I am so taken with the National Trust as a whole.
For my family and I, the National Trust is all about escapism. I would describe the properties, grounds and gardens as ‘out of this world’ and that is truly how I feel when I visit, like I am no longer in my normal, everyday world. Instead I am somewhere very special, full of the wonders of nature and human endeavour, both current and historical. For so often I have a sense of stepping back in time.
As I stroll along the paths and wander through the grand rooms, I imagine the wealthy residents of these architectural beauties. So too do I get a sense of the existence of the servants and workers who made that life possible for the privileged few. In fact the picture of elitism and nobility or aristocracy that is conjured up, does make me feel a little bit uncomfortable. I cannot help but think about the inequalities in society (I know that this is not only a historical issue) and wonder how the evident level of wealth was achieved. But this is our history.
These properties are now owned, managed and looked after with love and care by the National Trust, thus conserving our history and this is what makes the Trust so special. Through our membership and our donations upon entry, we the public, from all walks of life, have access to these special places and we can ‘own’ a slice of our rich and varied past. That is certainly how I feel: That the National Trust and the places it keeps are mine somehow. And yes, of course, if I am forced to share, they are yours too! I have connected with some places on such a personal level that on busy days when I visit, I feel as if there are trespassers in MY garden! I’m thinking of Fenton House especially, a beautiful late 17th century town house in North West London, with stunning gardens and breathtaking views from the top of the house.
The National trust does not only own wealthy historical homes though. You only have to flick through the handbook to see what variety there is at our fingertips! Air bases, coastline, churches, theatres, burial mounds, writer’s cottages, parkland, forest, villages, mills, areas of outstanding natural beauty and much much more. And in order to enjoy some of these places, you do not have to be a member or pay to enter. Yes, some of these marvellous places are free to visit and enjoy! Isn’t that fantastic?
I am so pleased too, that there are many National Trust places in London. If you have read my post about ‘Finding Urban Beauty’, you will know that escaping the downsides of living in London is a preoccupation and a necessity of mine, and the Trust has played a major part in my family and I being able to do that.
The ethos of the National Trust is a big part of it’s attraction for me. I have mentioned it’s conservation of these wonderful places that are now accessible to us all and that some are even free, but this value of inclusivity goes further than that. If you look through any correspondence or communication from the Trust, and I include the handbook, the magazine, leaflets, posters, and it’s website, you will see people from all walks of life, from so many different backgrounds enjoying time at it’s special places. When I read the magazine for example, I see people that look like me and I see children that look like my children, and I can’t tell you how rare that is, but also how important that is to me. It is something that should not be overlooked and although of course it should be the norm that people of all colours and creeds are ‘represented’, someone who works for the National Trust has thought about this and I am ever so grateful.
This year, in the year that marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the National Trust is celebrating the people, whose homes are in now it’s care, who defied society’s rules and outlook on gender and sexuality. Making such a move is bold and I congratulate the National Trust for it. Telling the full and true story of the people who owned these historical houses is important and necessary in order for us to understand the style and essence of them. Inclusivity indeed.
The inclusivity of the National Trust is also evident through it’s volunteers, whom it relies on to keep it’s special places open and running smoothly. I know that for many volunteers, they gain a great deal of happiness from this opportunity. I have chatted to quite a few volunteers over the years and many of them are of an older generation, often retired, sometimes with a special knowledge of the history of the area or the house in which they are working. I just want to hug some of them and if I could write each of their stories, I would!
I am not forgetting those that are paid employees of the National Trust. Amongst them, it is the gardeners who hold a special place in my heart for it is the gardens in which I feel I can really escape. I do so love to wander around the orchards, lawns, walled and structured gardens and veggie plots and peak into the potting sheds. I immerse myself in their beauty and the variety of the nature within them. I cannot possibly do them justice in one paragraph, so I will go into more detail when I write posts about each of the places I have visited.
There is so much more I could say about the National Trust. I haven’t even mentioned the cafés and shops, oh and the signs! I love the handwritten polite and informative signs you find all through the grounds of National Trust properties. This might sound silly, but it feels like an extra touch that must take quite a lot of time and I am grateful for this. Anyway, I will save all of this extra praise and love for the individual posts I will write!
I must tell you that this is by no means a sponsored post. I have simply felt compelled to write about the National Trust and share with you the reasons I love it.
I want to say a big thank you before I sign off today. Last week, I shared my memories and some stories about my lovely Dad. It is the most personal post that I have written and shared with you so far, and that left me feeling a little bit vulnerable. But it seems that my heart is safe in your hands, as you left me such wonderful comments here on the blog, over on instagram and in private messages too. I am truly grateful and encouraged lovelies, thank you.
I’ll be back next week, I’m not quite sure with what yet, but I know I’ll be excited because it will be the start of half term and we’re off to stay near Mum, in Dunster village, our favourite, just a few minutes away from the castle! Yay!
Lots and lots of love,