As a child, I remember my parents taking me to see all these very grand National Trust properties, which they found really interesting and I found less interesting. As a parent, I now find myself wearing those very same shoes.
Like most parents, I don’t want to be continuously having to tell my children “don’t touch that” or “you can’t sit there”. But, convinced by friends who had told me it was great for families, I bit the bullet and took our family on a trip to Tyntesfield.
Although it was a gloriously sunny day, it was also quite muddy so we put our wellies on and entered the grounds ready to start our adventure. With map in hand, we agreed our plan of action and immediately headed off towards the woodlands, mainly so that the children could blow off some steam.
We reached the top of the estate and were presented with a series of surprises. First there were the do-it-yourself teepees, which the children loved exploring. This was followed by the birdcage playground, which in itself was also a giant sculpture that the children could play on. As we ventured on, up in the trees we spotted bumble bees and a hive, which had been woven from twigs. It was great for the children’s imagination.
Finally, we landed at the first major playground, which was brilliant: all very natural and made from wood. We could have spent much longer there, however, there was still plenty to see.
Next stop was the house: the part that, if I’m honest, I was dreading. But I shouldn’t have been worried. As we entered the house, we were greeted with a warm welcome by the volunteer who was quick to point out areas of the house that the children would enjoy. The first challenge was to find the lions in the hallway, which are a series of lights held in the mouths of lions.
It didn’t stop there: the children were also able to have a go at polishing the silverware as the butler used to do, and, up in the bathroom there were a number of different hats to try on. Things have certainly changed since I was a child.
I wanted to find out how things had changed and so I had a quick chat with Malcolm Thorne, a Visitor Experience Assistant at Tyntesfield, to find out what has changed to make it more family friendly. “There have been some big changes over the past few years, including the setting up of a learning team,” he explained. “One of their objectives is to arrange events for families, and they take on customer feedback about ways to improve things.”
Major recent changes include the building of the three play areas spread across the grounds for the children, one of which is outside the cafe by the Kitchen Garden, plus setting up a trail through the grounds that children can follow, and that makes a visit more fun. It costs £3 and also includes a prize. For the youngest children, TYNEtots has been established to put on events for 0-5 year-olds throughout the year, and during the warmer months families are invited to play tennis and croquet outside.
Our visit wound up with some dressing up, and a quick peek at what’s on at Tyntesfield in the lead up to Christmas – it would be a wonderful place to get into the festive spirit, with storytelling and a carol concert.
I can honestly say that the children had a fun-packed day and were exhausted by the time we left. There is so much to do and see – I really was impressed. I will be asking Santa for National Trust family membership as long as I’m on his good list.
Tyntesfield is located in Wraxall, BS48 1NX. A family ticket to Tyntesfield costs £36.80 (excluding Gift Aid), or £22.70 if you just visit the garden and grounds. To find out more or book, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/tyntesfield.
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