Moneysupermarket.com and Tots100 are on the hunt for Britains Best Family Days Out and gave us the chance to visit a National Trust property of our choice. We used to be National Trust members, but lapsed once the Dimples arrived and it was enough to get us all out of the house before dusk, so the chance to visit an NT property thrilled me. There’s something very reassuring and British about their properties, which are dotted far and wide across the British Isles. In fact, look on their website and you may discover that you have one on your doorstep.
That’s the thing about Knole Park: it literally is on your doorstep. In fact, when entering Sevenoaks, you should pay close attention to the brown signs. When they say the turning is fifty yards away, they mean it, and though it looks like you are turning along someone’s drive between two houses, you are in fact crossing the threshold of a Medieval Deer Park gifted to Henry VIII. It’s like crossing through the wardrobe to Narnia: literally feet from the High Street and you find yourself wallowing in bracken that stretches for 1000 acres.
The drive to the car park alone is worth the entry fee: we saw two beautiful stags tussling in the mist whilst parking the car. The house- sadly not open to the viewing public until March- looming out of the fog, just begs you to put on a pair of pantaloons, gnaw a chicken leg and cry “Off with her head” at appropriate intervals.
Fortunately we had come from a splendid lunch in the nearby White Hart (phenomenal. Do try it. Just make sure you book), so had little room for the oh-so-tempting morsels available in the Brewhouse Tea Rooms, but did make use of the “jolly nice loos, Mamma” before heading up the hill behind the house on a postprandial digestive walk.
The irony of being able to see only a few feet in front of you on the day you visit an historic Deer Park such as this to review it is not lost on me. But we had great fun playing hide-and-seek, going on a Bear Hunt, petting other people’s dogs* and squelching our wellied feet in the muddy puddles. It’s perfect territory for the romping that children used to get up to in the Swallows-and-Amazons era.
There is so much space to do as you wish: climb trees, search for big sticks and have sword-fights, picnic in a secluded area, forage for whatever people forage for, go on a Nature Hunt, that people come for the whole day in summer. Entire families bring deckchairs and blankets and pitch under the ancient trees. It’s what family-time should be about: getting out and enjoying the fresh air and the incredible spaces that we often take for granted.
And then there are the deer. The herds roam free across the park so you never quite know where you will find them. The hunt is part of the thrill: in fact we lost Grandpa and nephew for a good twenty minutes whilst they indulged in some Deer-stalking. Meanwhile the Girls contented themselves with poking at dew-soaked cobwebs with sticks, and trying to balance on the narrow paths through the grass.
At Knole you find something for everyone: peace, a sense of history, a good walk, a big stick and to get up close to wild-roaming deer when a thriving High Street is a minute’s drive away. It’s the kind of space that reminds you why you love Britain so much.
*whatever you do, keep them on the lead and make sure they are well-handled. We had an incident in which the dog and her lead legged it, requiring DH to give chase across the aforementioned acreage, all the while bringing to mind the infamous Fenton/Richmond Deer Park Youtube clip that went viral. DH and I remain permanently scarred by the experience and are only grateful there was no-one to witness our shame and broadcast it to the world.
Disclaimer: I was sent a complimentary family entrance for a National Trust property of our choosing by MoneySupermarket for the purposes of this review. All opinions, as always, are my own.