Easter Monday is always a last minute ‘what are we going to do?’ ordeal, but this year I wanted to get ahead of the game and actually plan something.
We live a stone’s throw away from a few National Trust sites, and we have probably been to one in the 7-8 years of living in the area. With a family of 7 we have always put it down to being too expensive, and never bothered to even look at the membership options. My sister on the other hand has had a membership for her family of 6 for a while now, and they often plan their trips to holiday homes via National Trust properties on the way there and the way home. She said the kids get to stretch their legs, go to nice loos, the tea rooms are invariably cheaper than the services, the car park is free and everyone feels better for being in a nice location rather than a dodgy services at the side of the motorway with grotty loos!
Anyway, the Easter holidays were approaching and I had been eyeing up places to go with Mr J and the kids. We drive past Coughton Court every day. Twice a day! Even on Sundays. I thought it was about time we actually turned down the drive and visited the place I loved to watch appear majestically between the trees as we drove past so frequently. I signed up for the membership, happily a monthly direct debit option and promo code from Good Housekeeping magazines, and printed off the temporary membership cards from my email. I am still wondering why we never did this sooner to be honest. Coughton Court were doing a special Easter weekend event which included the Cadbury Egg Hunt, and as such tickets had to be prebooked. Mild panic as I wondered if this would mean we still had to pay to get in, thankfully not. Again tickets were printed from my email and we were set to go. Lots of quiet prayers for good weather too.
When Monday rolled around we loaded our picnic stuff into the car along with the kids and headed to Coughton Court. 10 minutes later we were parking – I know that close and never visited is ridiculous. We wanted to look round the house and happily didn’t have to wait too long to go round. The plan was – house, gardens, church, picnic, gauge kids moods and take it from there! As the day was prebook only it meant there weren’t too many people about, which is ideal when you have two kids who don’t cope with crowds.
The house was beautiful, and the staff were absolutely amazing. They were so patient with our fizzy 4 year old, helping him focus for a few seconds in each room as he looked for a barrel or carrot. It made this particular Mum very happy and meant I could actually appreciate the history and beauty of the house too. They all had something to share about the family which was lovely too, I love a good natter and if you are learning while talking all the better in my opinion.
As we left the house we decided to head to the tea room for a little refreshment (plus a moment to calm my nerves). It was nice to be able to have a cup of tea and not have to pick a different drink because there was no dairy alternative. Tea and tea cakes for us, juice and a brownie for the kids, made for smiles and sighs of relief all round. I loved the courtyard outside with the plants for sale and the beautiful gift shop – in which I could have spent a small fortune but Mr J was hovering so I had to settle for a jar of onion chutney and a bar of Bakewell Tart chocolate for him. I would have happily picked up a couple of the mugs in there, beautiful.
A quick trip to the loos and off we went wandering down the front drive towards the first of the two churches in the grounds. Mr J loves walking through old churches where he can admire the craftsmanship of it all. The stained glass windows, organs and crafted wood attract this particular carpenter’s admiration every time. The church did not fail to deliver, and felt so peaceful, even with our youngest pretending to be a choir boy. Even Ells enjoyed it, she hopped around the tomb stones reading them all out as we left.
Cal had a monkey in him that day, and it made it quite difficult for Mr J and me to relax into our trip. He was wired for some reason, and decided to make our way back to the car through the gardens. We started in the orchard where Cal decided to try and roll over one of the metal sculptures, thankfully Mr J made it over in time to prevent this from happening! We walked through the walled herbaceous garden and then on to the car.
There weren’t any tables left by the time we grabbed our picnic bag but being raised on road trips with my folks all you really need is a boot and fold out chairs. So we spread the picnic blanket out in the boot of the car, got the kids in before sitting under the boot with our flask of tea. Cal loved his boot picnic so much I got the thumbs up from him!
Would we go again to Coughton Court? Absolutely! We barely scratched the surface of what is there to see, and this may well become a family favourite to visit at the weekends. Especially as blue bells are beginning to blossom in the woods to the back of the estate.
I cannot recommend the estate enough, especially for families with smaller children. Our children, with autism and differing sensory needs, both thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Having the space for them to not feel overwhelmed with crowds was invaluable for us as parents, especially in preserving our sanity.
Disclosure – this post is entirely my own opinion after visitng the National Trust property, Coughton Court, Warwickshire. The membership fees have been paid for out of my own pocket and this review has not been requested or paid for in any way by The National Trust.