The National Trust’s Summer of Play invites families over the summer school holidays to experience Trust places in new and exciting ways, sponsored by Starling Bank.
Set against the backdrop of the National Trust’s historic houses and beautiful gardens, the National Trust’s Summer of Play activities will have a family-festival feel with designated areas chock-full of outdoor games and experiences. Let imaginations run wild with role play and mini-stages, unlock limitless possibilities to design and build with construction zones, make art and music with nature’s materials, or slip away into a cosy book nook.
Give new (and old) sports a go with games, including croquet and badminton. Get competitive with a tug of war and egg and spoon races. Or, put your skills to the test with den building and mazes.
Designed with families in mind, the National Trust’s Summer of Play activities will be dotted around National Trust places, so there’ll be plenty of space to enjoy the games and activities as well as picnicking spots, shady rest areas and, of course, toilets, cafes and pop-ups kiosks offering refreshing food and drink.
For more information on activities taking place on each day of the summer holidays, visit the National Trust website.
There’s a natural playground for climbing, balancing and make-believe at Hughenden. It’s handily placed near the orchard, with picnic tables for that all-important parental coffee whilst the children play. Children love the walled garden with its narrow paths for running along. There’s also a willow tunnel to wind their way through. Children are also fascinated by the interactives in the exhibition about Hughenden’s secret map-making history in the Second World War.
This summer at Hughenden, there are so many ways to play; your child won’t know where to run to first. There’s active play, with croquet, hula hoops, skipping ropes and badminton. Creative types will love the craft days, bird-whittling workshops, easels and chalkboards. Little performers will love the mini-theatre built by the volunteer team with dress-up and storytelling. There are also giant dominos, limbo, skittles, den-building and ranger rambles.
Cliveden is a wonderland for children of different ages. The Storybook play den is perfect for little ones, alongside a tearoom open on weekends and busy days for a coffee whilst the children play. For the courageous, there’s a giant maze with more than 500m of paths winding amongst the yew hedges. For those with longer legs (6+), there’s a woodland play trail with balance beams, rope swings and stepping logs. You’ll also come across Clives Den in the woods – a natural fort for hide-and-seek and make-believe with wooden musical chimes and tree-trunk picnic tables. Families also love to take a skippered cruise or hire a boat (electric, rowing or Canadian canoe) to explore the prettiest stretch of the river Thames.
This summer at Cliveden, children can get up close and personal with Cliveden’s wonderful mature trees with the Big Tree Climbing Company. They’ll be here for the first week of the summer holidays (22 to 26 July), safely helping climbers scale to the tops of the trees for a unique, squirrel’s eye view over the glorious woodland and gardens of the Cliveden estate. There’s also a tree trail to follow, with more information about Cliveden’s iconic trees available from the Visitor Information Centre.
Stowe is a vast natural playground for children. It has been a tourist attraction for more than 300 years for the scale and beauty of its garden. The landscape features have been precisely sculpted and provide instagrammable views with winding paths, wildlife-filled lakes and intriguing statues and monuments – perfect for hide and seek. Families should seek out the oversized swing and skittles in the Labyrinth, look out for the farm animals in the fields and the water birds on the lakes and check out the echoes in the spooky Grotto.
This summer at Stowe, the theme is ‘Into the Wild’. Every Friday in August ZooLab is running interactive sessions at 1pm to inspire and educate children about the amazing animals in its care – expect to meet tree frogs, snakes, giant snails, tarantulas, and stick insects. On Wild Wednesdays, children are invited to get stuck into some craft sessions, and there are animal-themed games around the garden throughout the holidays.
With 400 acres of historic parkland, garden and woodland to explore, there are lots of ways to play at Basildon Park. There’s a natural children’s area behind the Stableyard containing the ever-popular ball run and different length walking routes through the woods. There are nooks and copses throughout for den-building, balancing and climbing.
This summer at Basildon Park, there are many ways to get active. There’s an obstacle course with balance beams, hurdles and nets. There’s a stage with props and costumes, Bookable den-building sessions with rangers, and the trusty ball run is having a refresh in time for the holidays.
Head down the driveway, and you’ll find the children’s play area nestled in the woodland. It’s near the tearoom and toilets, and there are benches to sit on while you watch little ones play. There’s also plenty of space for some den building. Carry on along that route, and it’ll take you on a walk around the estate with fallen logs for balance walking, chalk pits for dashing up and down and lambs in the farmer’s fields in the spring.
This summer at Greys Court, there’s a new addition to the play area – a bungee cord laser maze strung between a couple of the trees. The challenge is for children to find their way over and under without touching the ‘laser’. Elsewhere in the garden, there’s a more relaxed feel with hobby horses on the top lawn, fabric daisy chain making or borrow-a-book and picnic blankets for storytelling on the lawn if it’s dry. On wet days there’s a cosy nook for reading in the Cromwellian, and crafting will move to the pantry.
Waddesdon’s popular Woodland Playground was refurbished earlier this year and features a brand-new zip wire, board rider, swings and roundabout. In the gardens, children love to spot the rare and exotic birds in the Aviary and learn about their conservation programme. There are also acres of room to roam and winding paths to chase along in the garden.
This summer at Waddesdon, at different times during the holidays, there are circus workshops, a Junkyard Orchestra Soundgarden to play on, birds of prey and exotic animals to meet, have-a-go archery, a climbing wall, face painting and storytelling. There’s also sports equipment to borrow every day. You need to book your visit to Waddesdon, but all the activities are free.
Ascott is an Old English manor with a black and white half-timbered façade. It’s the variety of the gardens that really enchants people. The garden is a wonderful mix of formal and informal, with fountains, sculptures and colourful bedding plants interspersed with architectural hedging. There are some real surprises too, which children love, including a striking contemporary garden.
This summer at Ascott, there are 45 minutes art sessions for children to encourage them to recreate some of the iconic portraits at Ascott in paint, pastel or collage. Outdoors, there’s a children’s garden guide to point out all the best bits of the garden for younger visitors. In the Tearoom courtyard, Ascott’s heritage games will make a welcome return, including hobby horses, skittles and pick-up sticks.