We’ve pretty much been to every National Trust property near us, but holidays mean there’s more opportunity to explore and discover new places. Many appear on other blogs I’ve read, but on our way home from Norfolk, I wanted to stop off to break up the journey and make the most of our membership. A random place I spotted was Anglesey Abbey and Gardens, so off we headed.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived, but it turned out it was going to be a lot of walking. N said no to seeing the house/abbey, but I decided we’d just do the bits he wanted first and then head there afterwards. Everything is quite spread out with the children’s natural play area one end, then the house, and mill at another end , so it’s perfect for a whole day of exploring. We only had the morning, so we were on a mission to see as much as possible.
I usually try and encourage N to do other things first with the promise of a playground at the end, but the house and mill weren’t opening for an hour so it gave us plenty of time to do the woodland walk and see what we could find. N had refused the children’s activity sheets but that didn’t deter him from finding logs to climb on, feathers to find and collect and sticks to trail along everything. We also listened out for birds because it was so peaceful with what felt like us being the only ones walking the woodland path.
Now I’m not a particular fan of woods, but the map was pretty good and the trail fine to follow with fun distance markers to help encourage children along as it is a fair walk for little legs. It’s buggy friendly though, so handy for those with tired toddlers.
There’s beautiful open parkland alongside the woodland walk, so plenty of places for picnicking or letting children run a bit wild.
We reached activity hub first. N didn’t have any interest in all the boxes, but headed straight for the wooden tree stick xylophone. He wasn’t too convinced at first, but I was up for a play and he soon joined in once he’d worked out the optimum size of stick rather than a whole tree that he couldn’t lift!
The natural playground was a little further on. First there was the treehouse and willow tunnel. I couldn’t believe he didn’t want to go in the treehouse, deeming it boring, so I had to prove him wrong. It’s a great space for children to be able to get up high and see more of the woods. It also meant N could spot where we needed to go to get to the playground.
The path is edged with natural materials and is great for children ducking and diving from one area to the next. N turned his nose up at the play area at first. But as soon as he actually got in there and started exploring, he was happy as anything.
The hale bale climbing went down well, although he was disappointed that some ‘naughty children have written on the castle’. We spent a bit of time in the den building area before heading off into the woods to see what else we could see.
That’s where we got a little unstuck. We just ambled, and the map didn’t make much sense, so ended up going round in circles a bit until we found the entrance we came in.
I managed to detour the other way round so we got to see the circular statues with the aim of heading towards the abbey. I think N resigned himself to the fact that he’d have to go in and actually enjoyed it. What’s great about National Trust is how most of the volunteers in the houses really want people, including children to have a great time, so make the effort to talk to them. N was quite happy with the activities provided for children to do as they walked around the house.
The house was formerly a medieval abbey so it was interesting to see the difference in the upstairs rooms vs the oldest part of the house which still looks largely how it might have done years ago.
It was time for lunch by the time we finished round the house. It’s a bit inconvenience because the café is back at the entrance, but the final thing I wanted to see, The Lode Mill was in a totally different direction. That meant there was no way I was getting N back out to see it after lunch. So we didn’t get the chance to see the mill on this occasion. Maybe if we’re in the area again we’ll return to see it.
The café was busy even for an early lunch time of just after midday. The service was fairly slow as is the norm, but we didn’t have a problem finding a (rather large) table. We did end up having chosen to sit where all the mums meeting up with friends and their babies and toddlers were congregating which wasn’t my ideal place. I thought it a cheek that they were feeding their children packed lunches inside the café rather than doing a picnic or even eating out on the tables outside. Certainly I’d not have been impressed if I’d not been able to get a table when we were paying for our lunch given they were taking over several tables.
On this occasion we weren’t in the cafe long as we wanted to head off on the road, The car park was rammed as we left, so I was yet again glad we’d got there early when all was peaceful, and it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
We really enjoyed Anglesey Abbey. It worked out well for a spontaneous visit decision, and is somewhere I’d be keen to explore more of in future.
Have you ever been to Anglesey Abbey? Where’s your favourite National Trust places in and around Norfolk?