Before Christmas Wifey and I decided we wanted to make sure we got out of the house at weekends as PG loves the outdoors and it’s important she gets her exercise, so we signed up for National Trust membership. If you would have asked me when I was 12 about National Trust I would have probably said it was rubbish as old houses didn’t (and to be honest still don’t) interest me particularly. There’s LOTS of outdoor stuff to do though, so we thought it was worth a bash.
East Riddlesden Hall, Keighley
We signed up for a joint membership as PG is free until she’s five which costs us around nine quid a month – we also got some free binoculars, which we’ve promptly
put somewhere safe lost. So far we haven’t, admittedly, done much but now the weather is brightening up we’re going places more and more.
This weekend we went to East Riddlesden Hall, a 400 year old house from the 17th century. With it’s gardens and lake complete with ducks we knew before we set off there would be plenty to do outside and the sun was shining. It’s only around 30 minutes from home so a good choice when we don’t want to spend ages travelling.
When we arrived it was more or less lunchtime so rather than let PG get to the point of super hungry we went in the little café – which was really rather quaint (and had a ludicrously low beam, watch your heads folks) – and had a bite to eat. It didn’t feel like the cheapest café but that might just be me being a cheapskate. We spent around £17 on two paninis, a half jacket spud for beasty and some bottles of water. The food though was really nice, so I won’t grumble too much.
Most of our time was spent outside, which was just as well because when we tried to go in the house itself PG took an instant dislike to it (that or she didn’t like the jolly chap who was the volunteer guide in the first room we went in!). Due to the low ceilings and traditional lighting it could have just been that it was too dark.
Outside there is lots to see, smell and hear. We fed the ducks first, which was PG’s first time she’d ever fed them and something I’ve been looking forward to. I remember as a young handsome boy enjoying feeding the ducks on lots of occasions – apparently you’re not supposed to give them bread, which I always did (sorry ducks). Duck food was 50p from the gift shop at East Riddlesden Hall and you get plenty.
I’m sure we aren’t the only parents who have had to stop their daughter from jumping in with the ducks. Reigns are a must, otherwise your kid will sink like the titanic unless they’ve got REALLY good self control. PG just runs towards water like she’ll be able to walk on it.
After shrieking at and feeding the ducks, we hit the adventure playground. This is for bigger kids but PG had a go on the wobbly bridge and rather impressively the bloody steep slide which even freaked me out. This girl has no fear. There’s a good view from the playground so let your kids run wild and enjoy the scenery.
Next we moved onto the gardens and this in my view was where the fun for PG really started. There are lots of things to look at from flowers to wildlife (birds, insects etc), smells from the different plants and herbs. There is plenty open space to run around in. It was safe enough to just let her roam and explore as she wished. We only needed to step in to manage the odd step or gap in between the lawn and path.
I had two personal favourite outdoor spaces. The first was the Butterfly and Bee Garden, an isolate, almost secret enclosed space which was a real sun trap. A tree sits in the middle with a bench around. The National Trust run an activity for kids called “50 things to do before you’re 11,” with different activities at various different locations. There’s an app and book to get kids engaged and let them track their progress.
On our visit PG was encouraged to ‘Take off those shoes and socks, wiggle your toes and go for a barefoot walk’, something which we weren’t sure she’d want to do. We gave it a go and she LOVED it
It was so cute watching her run round the garden barefoot, feeling the grass on her feet. She wasn’t even bothered by the non-grassy areas which were probably a bit more uncomfortable. She’s a real gem when it comes to trying new things, always happy to have a go – it’s something we both hope continues as she grows up.
We moved onto the Discovery Garden. Another awesome little place. Here kids can make mud pies in the mud kitchen, chill out in the wooden hut or even sit in a teepee built from tree branches. PG made a little friend and it was nice to watch them play so well together. She was more than happy for us to shut her in the little hut and let her play independently.
Anyone who knows my mum will have heard at some point that I was an absolute wimp as a child. I apparently clung to her like a limpet until I was about
165. I’m rather pleased that PG takes after her mum instead of me in that regard!
After a good play we meandered back through the gardens and stopped off at the activity room. Here PG could make a ‘nature crown’ – a paper crown decorated with leaves etc. She’s at the age now where she enjoys being creative, be that sticking or colouring, so she was pretty happy to be doing this. Kids can also dress up here, should they wish.
We spent about three hours here and as PG gets older she’ll be able to spend more time in the playground and playing in the gardens. She was sleepy by this point so we headed home, finishing off the duck food on the way back to the car.
All in all a really pleasant place to visit. I’d definitely recommend seeing if the National Trust is for you. It’s another good way to guarantee good days out without having to spend a fortune.