What with work, school and everything else, it’s not often I get to catch up with old school or uni friends, especially with most spread all over the country. But 2 of my school friends (both secondary, but one going back to primary/church) and I always try and meet up 2-3 times a year with or without kids, trying out various locations near each of us in turn.
We managed to get March in the diary, so the other week the 3 of us, plus the 3 children, converged on Waddesdon Manor. Unfortunately we were still a couple of weeks early for the house opening, but that made it good because it wasn’t so busy and we could get inside for food with no problems.
On parking up, I couldn’t believe it but parked next to me was another friend from school there with her children. We had a good old chat, having not seen each other in probably close to 20 years, and of course ended up bumping into her over the course of the morning. It was lovely to catch up and coincidental that all 4 of us were in the same place at the same time.
We grabbed one of the first shuttle buses of the day to take us up to the manor, then mooched around for a bit heading to the playground to wait for the others to arrive.
N loved the playground – it’s great to have somewhere so good for outdoor play. He doesn’t like going in playgrounds when they’re really full, so to be one of the only ones there was a bonus and meant he could play on whatever he wanted. He’s at the funny age where he’s too old for the toddler equipment but is only emerging into the bigger children’s areas. Mostly because he’s funny about trying things out. Although once he’s been on equipment once and enjoyed it, he’ll then spend ages playing.
He had a good old swing, but the one he really loved was a see saw / rotating seats so we spent a bit of time on that. Yes me too, because his feet wouldn’t touch the ground to be able to rotate himself. My thighs certainly got a good workout.
The others arrived and the kids made sure they made the most of the playground. N discover the enclosed wavy slide so he was happy, as well as climbing up and down a wooden’pyramid’. It was lovely how they all egged each other on and got on really well during the day. With a variation in age from 5, 7 and 9, it might have been awkward, but they did really well and there were no bust ups.
Before lunchtime, we warmed up going into the Stables area to let the children do some crafting. They had to design and decorate a Mimi minor bird and stick on the wall for a competition. The great thing about National Trust is all the activities they have on. We did have to pay a small amount for the crafts, but the activity trail was free. The kids also got a Waddesdon ‘passport’ with activites at events throughout the year. They can collect stickers for completing them, so I’ll just have to store N’s passport properly otherwise we’ll forget that we had it.
The one downside is how busy National Trust restaurants get, but this time we walked straight in to a table just before 12pm. There were a few other tables free too, although half an hour later there was a queue forming. The food was fairly limited in choice. N had his usual kids lunchbox, while the other 2 had pasta. Us adults all had jacket potatoes – we were able to get beans and cheese which weren’t on the menu so it’s worth asking if you want a variation. We didn’t feel rushed either which was good, even though things were getting busy.
Once fully sustained it was off to try and complete the activity trail. What I love about trails for children is not only that it keeps them focused, but also often means you get to find places around the estate that you may otherwise miss. They had to collect nature items, answer questions, and spot the visitors at different sites.
They were interested in the Power House even though there was a Waddesdon history film being shown.
N was also enjoying using the GoPro, even though he did look a bit like a tourist with a self stick! I’m not sure he got any decent footage. I suppose it doesn’t help him being so short. He gets in a lot of bottoms!
While roaming around we had a breather and run around playing tag below the water fountain area. There’s so much space they could just run around at will, and with so few people it gave them a chance to do their own thing without worrying out disturbing other people.
The children were pleased to complete the challenge, so we had to return to the stables to hand in their scores for filling in all the activities. They were able to write their names on a piece of paper, and their names were stuck on the wall of fame under Gold. They were also offered a little chocolate or lolly. So happy children – of course it’s worth the effort of doing the activities when they get a reward at the end…for the adults, our reward was amusing ourselves with the wall of names, that is the highly unusual / made up / badly spelt names.
We were at Waddesdon for nearly 5 hours, so we headed off back to the car, leaving the others to enjoy it a bit longer. Considering the house wasn’t open for the new season yet, there was still plenty to see and do. I loved meeting up with my friends, and it was great to see N getting stuck in with other children he doesn’t really know. N’s even told me that he wanted to go back later in the year. Normally he moans and says he doesn’t want to go out with me anywhere, but of course as soon as we arrive he loves it.
Where’s your favourite National Trust property? Do you find you bump into old friends in random places?
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