Now that the lockdown is being slowly eased many National Trust properties have been able to reopen their gardens to the public. A couple of weeks ago we ventured out on our first day out since March.
We chose to visit Nostell Priory in West Yorkshire. We were so impressed with the new set up for visiting that we chose to visit another National Trust property the week after. This time visiting Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.
The focus of many National Trust properties is their houses which are currently closed for our safety. Plus their playgrounds, some of which are huge but sadly still closed. They do actually boast some wonderful grounds that you can walk in. Grounds that may normally be overlooked, especially for families.
Booking to visit a National Trust Property during restrictions
National Trust are controlling the number of people that visit their properties. This is to ensure not just our safety but the safety of their staff. As you can imagine with limited places open in England tickets soon sell out.
To make sure you don’t miss out make sure you try to book online at your chosen place around 6:30 am on a Friday. Every Friday they release bookings for the week ahead. I have not struggled to book early on a Friday. You book a 30-minute time slot for your chosen day.
More than 200 coastal and countryside car parks are also open. Now that more places are open it is not as easy to find properties that are open in England. Click on my posts for East Midlands and Yorkshire to find National Trust places in these areas that are open.
As a lot of properties currently only have their grounds open they are mostly selling tickets at a reduced rate. Nostell Priory, for example, is just a car parking charge. Clumber Park is a small charge per person. If you are a member of the National Trust you can visit for free but you must book a time slot in advance. Anyone turning up without a pre-booked ticket will be turned away.
What to expect when you arrive at a National Trust Property
Both times we have arrived there has been a member of staff waiting to greet us. They are there to check your ticket. Both times they requested my name and spoke to me from a distance while I had my passenger side car window down. There was no passing back and forth of paper.
You can only arrive within the 30 minute time slot that you have pre booked. They are very strict about this so don’t be late, nor too early.
You are then directed to the car park. During both of our visits we experienced light drizzle. The car park both times was only around 60% full. This meant it was also easy to park cars at a social distance. I am unsure if this was because of the rain.
Toilets at National Trust properties during Coronavirus
Our experiences at both Nostell Priory and Clumber park were very similar with regards to toilets. At both places, they had the queue for the toilets marked out with lines on the ground outside. At Nostell there was a sign at the front of the queue instructing us what to do. At Clumber park there was a member of staff helping as there are three toilet blocks in use and they directed us into the available block.
You are only allowed to enter the toilet block as a household. No other people are allowed in at the same time. Both visits we were impressed with the cleanliness of the toilets. There was plenty of soap and also paper towels for drying our hands. They are currently not allowing the use of hand driers. We also used our own hand gel after we left the toilets. We didn’t need to touch any doors after we had finished as these are being left open.
Walking around National Trust Properties
In the case of Nostell Priory we had printed out a map in advance although it wasn’t needed and we walked where the path took us, or where we felt we wanted to walk. It’s virtually impossible to get lost. There’s a lovely lake and we also took a walk up to the Obelisk. There’s a few cattle gates that you have to open but you can open them with your elbows.
At both properties the pathways weren’t always wide enough to keep a 2 metre distance but we don’t see a problem with this when you are quickly passing people. Most people kept well out of our way. It was nice to actually see people again. On both occassions we met up with my Mum who we haven’t been able to see since March. It was lovely to be able to see her again and I hope that some of the more ignorant people won’t spoil these opportunities for us.
We felt a little bit lost when we first stepped out of the car at Clumber park. It is such a huge site. The first thing we did was to collect a map from the visitor centre so that we could orient ourselves.
Without the playground and formal gardens to look around, we chose a walk by the lake. The visitor centre also has a kiosk open for drinks and snacks. There is another kiosk around the other side facing the lake. Both had marks on the ground for people to stand plus a clear panel to protect you and the staff while ordering.
There are some magificent rhodendrum bushes. But the thing that really struck us is how many wild birds there are right now. I’m sure they all moved in during lockdown thinking it was a safe place to be. In front of the main section of the lake there were more geese and swans than I’ve ever seen anywhere.
We then walked around the grounds admiring the trees, plants, squirrels and the wonderful Victorian chapel.
Although we didn’t spend as long as we normally would visiting on a day out we did spend a good few hours enjoying a picnic and walking.
Top tip – if it’s raining and you’ve brought a picnic look for the widest and lowest tree with the thickest branches. There’s more chance of keeping dry while eating.