Earlier this month I joined the National Trust with a goal of exploring more of the countryside and heritage sites within an hour or so by car from London and, having just received their handbook of over 500 historic places, countryside and coastline, I already have a long bucket list of places to visit over the next year.
The first few days of the New Year were spent mostly getting back into a routine after nearly three weeks in Italy, but with cabin fever quickly setting in for the little one, we started off our National Trust membership with a winter walk around the gardens of Osterley Park and House, located in nearby Isleworth and one of the last surviving country estates in London.
Currently closed over winter for a deep clean, the neo-classical Osterley House reopens for tours on 27 February 2016. Originally a Tudor house built in the 1570s by Sir Thomas Gresham, Osterley House was acquired by wealthy banker Sir Francis Child in 1713. In the 1760s, Sir Francis Child’s grandson commissioned Robert Adam to transform Osterley into a lavish “palace of palaces” for entertaining the Child family’s friends and clients.
With acres of parkland on the estate, we had plenty to explore on this crisp, sunny day. After showing my temporary National Trust pass at the entrance gate of the gardens and receiving a pair of binoculars to borrow during our visit for Little T, we set out towards the play trail.
Little T loved having the binoculars and frequently used them to peer up towards the tree canopies whenever he heard birds chirping.
At the gate, I was given a laminated map of the gardens, showing the various year-round activities and sights to look out for along the way.
We first came across the Temple of Pan, which was built in the mid-18th century as a place of relaxation for Osterley’s visitors.
The path heading towards the play trail starts off paved (shown below) then becomes a dirt trail – we both had our Hunter boots on to start splashing about in the plenty of muddy puddles à la Peppa along the way.
The first stop on the play trail consisted of several tree stumps and a log fort. A perfect spot to stop for a snack picnic and for Little T to climb onto the tree stumps and crawl into the fort. Some of the tree stumps were a bit tall for him and the way the tops were slanted made me a bit nervous whenever he looked like he was about to lose his footing. The play area at the next stop turned out to be better suited for his age.
As we made our way along the play trail, we had stunning views of Osterley House across the meadow.
This was the next stop along the trail which was great for Little T to climb around on. There were also some small logs around that he loved rolling across the ground.
We moved on to the next stop with an area to build a den along with a few swings, including this larger one that we both could fit on. We spent a good amount of time just laughing and swinging back and forth on this one together – my favorite part of that day.
After over two hours, it was approaching midday and time for us to grab some lunch. I had originally planned for us to eat lunch at home, but I was enjoying the relaxed pace of our walk so decided to eat on-site at the Stable Cafe after making our way through the rest of the tranquil landscape and returning the binoculars and map at the park gate.
The Stable Café serves light meals and homemade cakes with indoor and outdoor seating. For just under £5, I purchased a kid’s meal for Little T, which consisted of a half sandwich (I chose ham), a juice drink, fruit and a couple of snacks (I chose grapes, a bite-size savoury scone, don’t remember the third item). The meal came with a picnic box with activities on the box and a pack of stickers. Overall, the food at the café was good value with a selection of healthy options as well as some baked goodies to enjoy with tea or coffee.
Visiting the gardens at Osterley House was a good start to my National Trust membership and I’m looking forward to working my way through a list of places to visit over the next months. It was a pleasant winter day, chilly but with the sun peeking out from behind the clouds from time to time. Little T had a great time exploring the play trail and it took us about two hours leisurely walking around the house gardens.
And here’s what we received a few days later with my membership card: a handbook listing all of the sites along with a pair of binoculars, which was a nice gift – Little T enjoyed the ones he was using that day so I can see him putting these to good use whenever we’re out and about.
Osterley Park and House, Jersey Road, Isleworth, London TW7 4RB
Opening Hours: Garden and cafe open year round (excluding 25 & 26 December), 1000 – 1700, closes at dusk if earlier; House and shop open 27 February – 30 October, 1100 – 1700; 3 to 18 December weekends only, 1100 – 1600. Last entry to House is one hour before closing.
Tickets: House is currently closed until 27 February 2016. Tickets for Garden only are £6.20 for adults, £3.10 for children aged 5 and up. Tickets for House & Gardens are £10.40 for adults, £5.20 for children aged 5 and up. Gift Aid Admission available. Entry free for National Trust members and under 5’s. Free to enter the park and grounds.
Parking: £6 per car in the pay and display lot. Free parking for National Trust members, pre-booked coaches and blue badge holders.
Good to Know:
There are acres of parkland free to enter where dogs are welcome, with designated on and off-lead areas. You can also bring along a picnic to enjoy in the park and gardens.
A farm shop is located just after the main entrance, and before the parking lot, selling fresh vegetables and flowers.