We are officially card carrying members of The National Trust! According to their website, http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk,
“[National Trust] protect historic houses, gardens, mills, coastline, forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, nature reserves, villages and pubs. Then [they] open them up for ever, for everyone.”
One of my friends invited a few of us to go for a walk at Ickworth last week and promised beautiful landscape and architecture. It’s a short drive from our house and boasts a Georgian Italianate palace in addition to acres and acres of open, English countryside. I’ve been fortunate enough to make friends with a neighbor down the street, so she offered to drive. We loaded up her car with all the necessary toddler paraphernalia: carseats, strollers, diaper bags, snacks, and layers upon layers of clothing. Will this place ever get warm?!
It was a typical English day; grey skies with a damp coldness in the air but I could still detect just a hint of spring. The scenery was unbelievable; rolling hills dotted with ancient, knotty trees and thousands of sheep. We happened upon two newborn lambs and stopped to reflect on what an amazing sight it was. You could still see their umbilical cords attached and we all laughed as they tried out their legs for the first time. The mama sheep was understandably wary of us and didn’t wait long to move her babies away to safer ground. Having a child has turned me into a giant mess. I can’t help but get nostalgic when seeing other moms and their babies, even if it’s an animal. There’s undoubtedly an animalistic side to being a mama – you would die or kill for your offspring and I think that translates through all species.
We spent the rest of our stroll chatting about life and enjoying a short stretch of peacefulness while the babies either slept or took in the surroundings. Oddly enough, the three of us are all from other countries despite the fact that we live in Britain. It’s been such a treat to see through the eyes of my new Indian and Australian friends as we navigate life and parenthood in our “new” homes. I commented that I had been praying to meet some quality friends here in England and they shared they had done the same. I couldn’t help but smile to myself; God always provides and it’s in ways far better than I could ever imagine.
Since we had three toddlers with us and the weather was starting to turn, we made it a short visit. There’s a delightful restaurant called The West Wing and we stopped in for a cuppa. It was my first proper afternoon tea and I absolutely loved it! While I still haven’t acquired a taste for tea, I did discover the beauty of a scone with clotted cream and jam. Luckily, my Australian friend ordered a latte so I didn’t feel so bad bucking tradition and ordering the same. Miraculously, all the babies sat quietly in their high chairs munching on each other’s food allowing us to relax and enjoy our treats. It was one of the nicest days I’ve had since moving here and sharing it with new friends made it all the better. I am really grateful to be slowly finding my place here in England. With our new National Trust membership, I have big plans for regular outings with Lena especially as the weather gets a bit nicer.
If you’re interested in becoming a member, check the website above as we received a family discount. The membership is good for a year and allows you free access to over 300 sites in England, Scotland and Ireland. You receive a large welcome packet with maps, brochures, and magazines as well as a free parking sticker for your car. The associate who helped me mentioned that if we have visitors coming from the states, it may save money for them to buy a membership rather than paying per visit. It runs about £11 per adult per visit; our family membership was £97 so it will pay for itself in less than five visits. Possible places to visit include Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree, the cloisters at Lacock Abbey which were transformed into Hogwarts classrooms and the childhood homes of Roald Dahl and Winston Churchill, to name a few. I am anxious to start exploring!