There's always something wonderful to do at a National Trust property, no matter the time of year. Kate Green and Melanie Bryan have compiled a list of suggestions for every week of 2020.
To coincide with the the National Trusts’s 125th anniversary (on Sunday 12 January) we’ve brought together this list of highlights of the year ahead.
Adult membership of the National Trust costs £72 per year, including a car pass. To find out more about properties and events, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Week beginning Monday January 6
Ashridge on the Chilterns was once the home of the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, known as the ‘Canal Duke’ for his pioneering work on waterways. The 5,000-acre estate is also an important grassland habitat that includes the Iron Age hill fort Ivinghoe Beacon, part of the Ridgeway National Trail. A ‘Nature Detectives’ exhibition, open daily in January (10am–4pm), focuses on the citizen science that many wildlife bodies rely on to inform them about biodiversity health.
Week beginning Monday January 13
Much of Stourhead’s present glory is due to the work done by its last owners, Sir Henry and Alda Hoare, who, tragically, lost their only son, Harry, in the First World War and bequeathed their Wiltshire property to the Trust in 1946. Visitors can now take a Behind Closed Doors tour, available on weekdays (11am–3pm); this takes you into rarely seen rooms over four floors of Henry ‘The Good’ Hoare’s splendid 18th-century Palladian villa. Dogs are welcome in the landscape garden during January and February.
Week beginning Monday January 20
Victorian Gothic Tyntesfield near Bristol, which was saved from decay by public donation in 2002, is one of the Trust’s latest great acquisitions. This year, there is a focus on the house’s Hispanic connections — its founder, William Gibb, was born in Madrid — with many previously unseen artefacts on display. Tyntesfield is one of many properties to hold a wassailing event, on January 25 in the newly completed cider-apple orchard. Make your own rattle before taking to the fields, accompanied by traditional folk music and dancing.
Week beginning Monday January 27
‘Art at Chartwell’ (January 11–February 23), an outdoor exhibition at the former Kent home of Sir Winston Churchill, marries the Prime Minister’s enthusiasms for painting and for the outdoors. There is also an ongoing indoor display of his collection of cherished possessions.
Week beginning Monday February 3
Trelissick and Glendurgan in Cornwall are a galanthophile’s delight, as snowdrop fever spreads from the balmy South-West across the country to, among many others, Stowe in Buckinghamshire, Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, Plas yn Rhiw and Bodnant in Wales, the Argory in Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, and Wallington in Northumberland.
Week beginning Monday February 10
Elizabethan Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire was built as a ‘statement home’ for the talented businesswoman Bess of Hardwick, the richest woman in the land after Eliza-beth I. Learn woodland maintenance and wildlife habitat skills on a ranger-guided day there, on February 13. Online booking is essential — it costs £28, which includes cake.
Week beginning Monday February 17
The Trust looks after a 10th of the 870-mile Welsh Coastal Path, which was brilliantly achieved with the minimum of fuss and an EU grant in 2012. Spectacular stretches include Rhossili Headland on the Gower, St David’s Head in Pembrokeshire, Cardigan Bay and the Llyn Peninsula, ‘Snowdon’s Arm’. If you’re lucky, you’ll have no one but seals and seabirds for company.
Week beginning Monday February 24
The Vyne in Hampshire, the Tudor house built for Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain, Lord Sandys, has a new, free trail around its gardens and wetlands to showcase the reconstruction of the glasshouses and walled gardens. There’s also an exhibition (until September 7) about how the estate coped with two World Wars; memorabilia includes the house’s last private owner Sir Charles Chute’s medals, photographs and the homemade banner that welcomed him home in 1918. Warm up with a hot chocolate in the excellent Brewhouse tearoom.
Week beginning Monday March 2
The Souter Lighthouse in South Shields was the first to be designed to use alternating electric current. There’s an organised walk along the limestone cliffs there on March 3, with the brilliant addition of a walk designed for Parkinson’s sufferers, at a pace and distance to suit everyone; carers, family and friends are welcome. Advance booking is essential (07483 929080).
Week beginning Monday March 9
The magnificent medieval/Tudor house at Cotehele was started by Sir Richard Edge- cumbe after he was gifted the property for his role defending the future Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The Cornish estate’s fortnight-long Daffodil Festival promises a joyful celebration of the cheery flower and an education on the history of market gardening in the Tamar Valley.
Week beginning Monday March 16
The doll’s house at Nostell Priory, the Augustinian priory in West Yorkshire that became a spectacular Palladian family home created by Robert Adam, has been brought magically back to life (from March 7). The exquisite house was commissioned by the Winn family in about 1735 and has recently undergone a £100,000 restoration, thanks to generous donations.
Week beginning Monday March 23
Celebrate the 125th anniversary of the dona- tion of Dinas Oleu in Wales on March 29. The 4½ acres of gorse-covered hillside in Snowdonia, overlooking the Llyn Peninsula and Cardigan Bay, hold a pivotal place in the charity’s history: it was the first piece of land the Trust took into its care, donated on this day in 1895, by Fanny Talbot.
Week beginning Monday March 30
Don your hard hat for an underground venture into the newly reopened Fan Bay Deep Shelter, under the White Cliffs of Dover. Built during 1940–41, this network of abandoned tunnels is an eye-opening reminder of our country at war. Arrive early to ensure a timed entry ticket of your choosing.
Week beginning Monday April 6
Learn to dye fabric with flowers at East Riddlesden Hall, West Yorkshire; join an Easter wreath workshop at Sandham Mem-orial Chapel on the Hampshire/Berkshire border; paint eggs at Moseley Old Hall, Staffordshire; or try willow-weaving at Attingham Park, Shropshire — these are some of the many Easter crafts courses on offer.
Week beginning Monday April 13
The colour scheme of bluebells in woodlands just coming into green is Nature’s paintbox at its best. Lanhydrock in Cornwall; Kingston Lacy, Dorset; Hinton Ampner, Hampshire; Cliveden, Buckinghamshire; Blickling, Norfolk; Croft Castle, Hereford-shire; and Kedleston, Derbyshire, are among the striking displays to be found.
Week beginning Monday April 20
William Wordsworth was born 250 years ago, on April 7. In celebration, there will be a series of talks exploring the life and times of the Romantic poet, the first of which is on April 23 at Wordsworth House and Garden in Cumbria; it will focus on his childhood and relationship with his sister, Dorothy.
Week beginning Monday April 27
Seaton Delaval was once home to the flamboyant Delavals, notorious party animals and pranksters. May 1 marks 10 years since the Georgian country house in Northumberland opened its doors to visitors, following a famously generous public response to an appeal to buy it. There will be a programme of celebrations over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Week beginning Monday May 4
The 75th anniversary of VE day, on May 8, will concentrate minds on the role of country houses during the Second World War. ‘Nellie’, Churchill’s trench-cutting tank, was developed and tested at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire; at Coleshill, Warwick-shire, some 3,000 men were trained to be part of a British Resistance in the event of a German invasion; and Hughenden in Buckinghamshire was where a top-secret map-designing operation, code-named ‘Hillside’, was based.
Week beginning Monday May 11
Rise early for the always uplifting natural phenomenon that is the Dawn Chorus. Look out for early-morning openings at places such as Hanbury Hall, Cheshire, and Upton House, Warwickshire.
Week beginning Monday May 18
Trust buildings are full of bats. The best time to see them flittering about when feeding is just after sunset. Mysterious Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire is one of the most atmospheric places to glimpse them.
Week beginning Monday May 25
May 28 marks the centenary of the death of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, the vicar, social reformer and promoter of the Arts who co-founded the Trust with Octavia Hill and Sir Robert Hunter. In commemor-ation of the date, a walking route will be established in the Lake District, where he moved in the 1870s and campaigned to protect the landscape from industrialisation — Friar’s Crag, Derwentwater, was given to the Trust in his memory in 1922 — and there will be a series of events to mark his legacy throughout 2020.
Week beginning Monday June 1
The ‘Renew, Recharge, Revive’ exhibition at Standen in West Sussex (June 1–November 15) reflects the Arts-and-Crafts house’s pioneering artistic spirit, uncovering stories of people for whom the movement proved core to their wellbeing.
Week beginning Monday June 8
The Trust looks after 780 miles of UK coastline, about 75% of which was acquired after the Neptune Coastline Campaign was launched in 1965. Some 300 miles is in the South-West, including 185 miles of the South West Coast Path, which is strewn with wildflowers at this time of year. An enormous variety of coastal landscape and wonderful walking includes Studland Bay in Dorset, around Daymer Bay in Cornwall and the dunes of Woolacombe Warren and heathland of Brean Down in Devon.
Week beginning Monday June 15
Mark the Summer Solstice at atmospheric Avebury in Wiltshire, which is also a World Heritage Site; the henge is the largest stone circle in the world at more than three- quarters of a mile in circumference and the only one that has a village built within it. Check closing times of the manor, home to marmalade magnate and archaeologist Alexander Keiller, who uncovered some of the ancient life of Avebury; the shop and museum will be open.
Week beginning Monday June 22
The time to visit Mottisfont Abbey on the River Test in Hampshire is in June, when its famous walled rose garden, with 500-plus varieties and the National Collection of old-fashioned, pre-20th-century flowers, should be in glorious bloom. There is currently an appeal to raise funds to restore the rose garden created by botanist Graham Stuart Thomas to full splendour for its 50th anniversary in 2024.
Week beginning Monday June 29
National Meadows Day is now in its sixth year; these species-rich grasslands are, say organisers, as much a part of our heritage as Shakespeare. The Trust ran its own campaign in 2014, to improve 6,000 acres across the UK; there was a major drive in the Welsh county of Ceredigion, notably in the parkland of Llanerchaeron.
Week beginning Monday July 6
Book a working holiday at a Trust property and learn a new skill, from repairing footpaths on the fells to making cider. It could be one of the most rewarding holidays ever.
Week beginning Monday July 13
The Farne Islands, off the Northumbrian coast, is the place to see the endearingly comical puffin — known locally as a sea parrot or Tommy noddy — waddling about during the breeding season, which extends to late July. Head along a little later in the year and you’ll spot baby seals instead.
Week beginning Monday July 20
When it’s too hot to think, swim in the clean, refreshing waters of the River Teign on Dartmoor, in the East Lyn around roaring Watersmeet on Exmoor or Blea Tarn in the Lake District, with its dramatic backdrop of the Langdale Pikes.
Week beginning Monday July 27
You won’t be alone in heading to a beach, but there’s a sporting chance of finding your own patch of sand in the expanses of Bran-caster Beach in Norfolk; the beautiful dune landscape of Ireland’s first nature reserve, at Murlough in Co Antrim; or on the eight-mile stretch of Saltburn in North Yorkshire.
Week beginning Monday August 3
Countryfile Live North, the BBC’s expansive show of all things rural, with which the Trust is associated, returns to Castle Howard in North Yorkshire (August 6–9).
Week beginning Monday August 10
Go camping: the Trust has camping and glamping sites in the most spectacular locations, from the Cumbrian shores of Lake Windermere to the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, where you can stay in a handcrafted wagon with a wood-burning stove.
Week beginning Monday August 17
Countryfile Live’s new southern venue is Windsor Great Park, Berkshire (August 20– 23). Another date not to be missed is Dunster Show (August 21), a proper old-fashioned agricultural show with parades of cattle, sheep, Exmoor ponies and hunters, in the meadows below Dunster Castle in west Somerset.
Week beginning Monday August 24
Oh, to be on Exmoor in August when the heather’s out, the Bristol Channel looks blue and you can see Wales; walk to the top of Dunkery Beacon or to the tranquil waters of secret Nutscale Reservoir, then have a cream tea in Selworthy and visit the village’s charming little white church.
Week beginning Monday August 31
This is veg-show season, and there are prize produce and old-fashioned heritage fruits to be found in the fascinating kitchen gardens of places such as Beningbrough in North Yorkshire, where the two-acre walled Victorian garden grows avenues of pears and 50-plus varieties of apple, plus figs, grapes and liquorice. Victorian Knights-hayes in Devon is even bigger, with 102 varieties of heritage tomato.
Week beginning Monday September 7
‘Nature Underfoot: Dancing in Landscape’ is a collaboration between Sadler’s Wells, choreographer Ben Wright and composer Esmeralda Conde Ruiz, with outdoor, participatory dance projects across 10 sites: Fell Foot, Ormesby Hall, Clent Hills, Clumber Park, Sheringham Park, Sutton Hoo, Nymans, Bodnant Garden, Lambert’s Castle and Divis and the Black Mountains.
Week beginning Monday September 14
Red squirrels are now so rare in England that many young people have never seen one. Apart from the island strongholds of the Isle of Wight and Anglesey, the best places for an almost guaranteed sighting of these enchanting native mammals are in Northumberland, Cumbria and the pine woodland at Formby, Liverpool.
Week beginning Monday September 21
September 27 is World Rivers Day, as if one needed such a reminder of their pleasures — dippers, dragonflies, brown trout. The Trust manages land beside such varied waterways as the Test in Hampshire, one of the world’s finest chalkstreams; the Dove in the Peak District; and the Erne in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, where you can take a boat and fish.
Week beginning Monday September 28
Book an out-of-season break. There are all sorts of quirky let properties to choose from, such as the one-bedroom Skipper’s Cabin near Portcothan Beach in north Cornwall, a gatehouse on the Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire and a Birmingham town house.
Week beginning Monday October 5
Horner Woods and the bracken-filled combes below Cloutsham Farm, an enchanting Swiss-style chalet house on Exmoor that was visited by sporting artists of the past, are good places to listen, at dusk, to the extra-ordinarily eerie sounds of red-deer stags rutting. Charlecote Park in Warwickshire is a good place to view — from a distance — fallow bucks clashing antlers.
Week beginning Monday October 12
To find Nature’s colour chart at its russet best this month, there’s Petworth Park in West Sussex; Osterley Park on the outskirts of London; the Avenues at Montacute in Somerset; the Victory V plantation at Felbrigg in Norfolk — planted by Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer in memory of his brother Richard, killed in the Second World War — Orvis Wood in Constable Country at Flatford, Suffolk; or the Capability Brown walk at Dinefwr Castle, Carmarthenshire.
Week beginning Monday October 19
The Trust looks after numerous orchards and historic apple varieties, including the 1629 Flower of Kent that featured in Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity; it aims to plant 68 new orchards by 2025. Look out for Apple Day celebrations on and around October 21, at such places as Killerton, Devon, and Wimpole, Cambridgeshire.
Week beginning Monday October 26
Hallowe’en (October 31) might have got out of hand, but it’s still the time to revisit ghost stories and hauntings. Anne Boleyn is reputed to reappear — without her head — at the site of her birth, Blickling in Norfolk, on the anniversary of her execution (May 19) and the spirit of her tortured father, Thomas, is said to haunt the area. Buckland Abbey in Devon is associated with the ghost of its former owner, Sir Francis Drake (in a coach driven by headless horses), Corfe Castle in Dorset has a ‘woman in white’ and Dunster Castle, Somerset, is frequented by a ‘man in green’ and phantom voices.
Week beginning Monday November 2
The Morden Hall estate, once owned by Westminster Abbey, has 125 acres of parkland in south London, through which the River Wandle meanders. It’s home to overwintering birds — egrets, snipe, fieldfares — as well as cormorants, kingfishers, little grebes and nuthatches.
Week beginning Monday November 9
The week of the Armistice is an appropriate time to visit country houses such as Belton in Lincolnshire, a First World War training ground, and Gibside, Tyne & Wear, where Land Army girls were housed (and complained about the cold). Building at Castle Drogo in Devon started in 1911, but the owner, Julius Drewe, refused to employ men of military age, so the work wasn’t completed until 1930. Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, Bedfordshire, was planted by Edmund Blyth to commemorate friends killed in war; Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire, also built as a memorial to grief, contains Stanley Spencer’s monumental paintings.
Week beginning Monday November 16
Amaze your friends with your homemade mistletoe rings, paper-chains, stained-glass baubles and lino-cuts, not to mention the clever things that can be done with some woven willow and a pine cone. Numerous Christmas craft courses, at places such as Ightham Mote in Kent and Polesden Lacey in Surrey, will furnish you with these eclectic skills, but early booking is advised.
Week beginning Monday November 23
Dunham Massey in Cheshire, which has the largest winter garden in Britain, opens its spectacular Christmas trail around the garden and deer park; it’s like a perpetual fireworks display, with projected light displays — the Vortex Tunnels, Fire on Water and the Tunnel of Light — toasted marshmallows and mulled wine.
Week beginning Monday November 30
Wherever you are in the country, you’re not far from an artistic masterpiece. There’s Isaac Oliver’s miniature of Sir Edward Herbert at Powis Castle, Powys; Van Dyck’s The Stoning of St Stephen at Tatton Park in Cheshire; Velázquez’s Prince Baltasar Carlos at Ickworth, Suffolk; or Burne-Jones’s Love Among The Ruins at Wightwick Manor in the West Midlands, to name but a few in the care of the Trust.
Week beginning Monday December 7
Enjoy the array of traditional decorations at London’s Red House in Bexleyheath, as well as medieval carol concerts and Olde Father Christmas in his green suit. Similarly, Ham House, Morden Hall Park, Osterley Park, Fenton House, Rainham Hall and Runnymede all offer festive workshops and events around the capital.
Week beginning Monday December 14
Advent is a time to gaze at stars and the Geminid meteor showers usually peak on about December 14. Sites with Dark Sky status include Carrick-a-Rede in Co Antrim, Carnewas on the north Cornwall coast, Exmoor, the Long Mynd in Shropshire and several in Pembrokeshire.
Week beginning Monday December 21
Winter is an especially atmospheric time to visit Greenway, the family holiday home of Agatha Christie on the Dart estuary in south Devon. The writer often used holidays as a theme for her murder mysteries — seasonal books include The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and the short-story collection Murder for Christmas.
Week beginning Monday December 28
The relatives have gone, the turkey’s been eaten and there’s no one around except your dog and some wheeling birds. The marshlands of the Blakeney Freshes, Norfolk, Wenlock Edge, Shropshire, Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales and St Anthony Head in south Cornwall are among the peaceful places in which sanity will be restored.
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