Sometimes a day just doesn’t go to plan. I try to throw in a spontaneous day out, giving N a few options. But mum usually knows best, on this occasion ending up at National Trust’s Coughton Court after an aborted trip to Ragley Hall.
Ragley Hall disappointment
After N requested a trip to Ragley Hall (the lure of the adventure playground overrode anything else suggested), I looked up the opening times as 10am with tours in the afternoon. We don’t do tours – a 6 year old wants to go round stately homes at his own pace. So at just after 10, we were trying unsuccessfully to find our way into the hall. This after struggling to find the parking, only spotted by N, and guessing we were in the right place. It wasn’t an optimistic start to the trip.
It turned out that the hall isn’t generally open at 10, just the café. And that tours are the only option if you want to see inside. With 2 ½ hours to kill, that we knew we wouldn’t be able to to fill, N was let loose on the adventure playground.
While it wasn’t worth the £17 entry we’d paid, it entertained him for an hour, and could have spent longer there. With an amazing climbing frame and slides, plus a maze and lots of bridges and walkways, it was child heaven. There was also an over 12s play area so something for every age.
I was getting angsty and decided instead of trying to hang around, we would head off to nearby Coughton Court instead. Nothing like National Trust membership to make the most of your membership.
Coughton Court National Trust
Coughton Court is a magnificent looking house with lovely formal gardens, a large walled garden, kitchen garden and orchard. The grounds are varied with a river walk and bog garden too. I hadn’t realised that half term was our last chance to visit before it closed for winter, so it was good timing. And explained why it was so busy.
We picked up timed house tickets and headed for a walk round the gardens first. N had forgotten his camera so decided he was taking over mine. Thankfully my phone takes good photos, but he did manage to take a few nice shots that I was impressed with. He certainly seems to take on board my tips:
Easy photography tips for kids and beginners
- Use zoom if needed
- Move your feet to get everything you want in the picture
- Keep it straight
- Find one thing to focus on
- Press the button half down to focus before pushing down fully
The garden was beautiful, still with a few climbing flowers in bloom around the various archways. The wonderful sunny weather helped make you feel relaxed and warm as you walked round. But lunch called so we didn’t explore all the way to the end of the gardens.
Lunch took a while – we queued up to the small serving area for around 20 minutes, and there was limited choice of sandwiches at 12pm. N was happy with a children’s lunchbox, and there was plenty of table seating inside and out despite the queues. You can also eat your own food in the picnic area.
With a bit of time to spare before our house slot, there was time for a few games of outdoor noughts and crosses. Unfortunately I’ve given my winning secret to N so he’s pretty smug about knowing how to win each time when you start. I think it’s great that National Trust provide outdoor games to entertain children, it certainly makes hanging around waiting for parents to finish a meal if they’ve got something to entertain.
The history of the house
We didn’t pay to do the Gunpowder Treason trail around the grounds, so it was a little disappointing that there was no challenge for children in the house. But it was really too busy to move around comfortably inside. Given there were time slots, I think the crush of people was because there was only 1 way in and out, rather than a one way system you usually see in stately homes.
At Coughton Court you’re advised to go up the tower and to the roof first, then work down. Getting up and down the tower is a challenge when it’s busy, but was worth the view.
Twenty generations of the Throckmorton family have lived at Coughton Court since 1409, and lived through the challenges of catholics vs protestants. So there is plenty of history to learn about, especially around Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot.
All in the day ended up nicely, with a relaxed wander round the grounds at Coughton Court. A bonus trip vs the disappointment at the start of the day.
Have you visited either of these? Where’s your favourite stately home to visit?