A year full of heritage

Steph and I have been members of the National Trust since 2011. Following our first visit to one of the Trust’s properties in February that year (to Hanbury Hall, just 7 miles from home), we have tried each year to get out and about as often as we can. After 5 years membership, we were offered a special senior citizen joint membership: such great value for money; so many interesting houses, landscapes, and gardens to visit, and enjoy a cup of coffee (and an occasional flapjack) in one of the NT cafes.

These visits give purpose to our excursions. We’ve now explored 97 National Trust properties in England and Northern Ireland (as well as as few maintained by the National Trust for Scotland). And we have enjoyed many country walks as well around parkland and through gardens.

Click on the various links to open stories I have posted during the year, or an album of photos.

We are fortunate that close to us (we’re just south of Birmingham in northeast Worcestershire) there are half a dozen properties that take 30 minutes or less to reach. The closest is Hanbury Hall, and we often visit there to enjoy a walk around the park – four times this year – or take one of the many paths to the canal, up to Hanbury church, and back into the park. I particularly enjoy seeing how the parterre changes through the seasons. It is a very fine example.

The parterre at Hanbury in August

The other houses close to home are Charlecote Park ( in July), Croome (August), Packwood House (August), Baddesley Clinton (October), and Coughton Court (April and November).

Coughton Court in April

Our National Trust year began in February with a return visit to Newark Park, 58 miles south in Gloucestershire, to see the carpets of snowdrops, for which the garden is famous. We first visited the house in August 2015.

A week later we traveled 20 miles southwest from home to the birthplace of one of England’s greatest composers, Sir Edward Elgar. It was a sparkling day. We even managed a picnic! After visiting the house, The Firs, and the visitor center, we took the circular walk from the site that lasted about 1 hour. I found watching a short video about Elgar’s life to the accompaniment of Nimrod quite emotional.

Then a week later, we decided on a walk in the Wyre Forest, about 17 miles west from Bromsgrove, to find Knowles Mill, a derelict flour mill in the heart of the forest.

April saw us take in three properties (besides Coughton Court): Dudmaston (which we first visited in 2013); Kinwarton Dovecote; and Southwell Workhouse (a fascinating visit).

In May, I had to obtain an international driving permit, and the closest post office was in the center of Birmingham. That was just the excuse we needed to book a tour of the Back-to-Backs on the corner of Inge and Hurst Streets. What an eye-opener, and one NT property that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Closer to home, in fact less than 4 miles from home, is Rosedene, a Chartist cottage that was one of a number erected in the area of Dodford in the 19th century. It’s open infrequently, so looking to the weather forecast we booked to view the property on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, the NT guides were unable to unlock the front door, so we never got to see inside, just peer through the windows.

We had returned to Upton House in Warwickshire at the beginning of the month to enjoy the walk along the escarpment overlooking the site of the 1642 Battle of Edgehill, and then around the garden. We had first visited in July 2012.

We were away in the USA during June and July, and just made some local visits in August. We were preparing for a week of NT and English Heritage (EH) visits in Cornwall during the second week of September.

What a busy week! We stopped at Barrington Court in Somerset on the way south, and Knightshayes in Devon on the way home a week later. You can read about those visits here.

Barrington Court

Knightshayes

We visited four more houses in Cornwall: Lanhydrock, Cotehele, St Michael’s Mount, and Trerice, and I wrote about those visits here.

Then there were the coastal visits, to The Lizard, Cape Cornwall, and Levant Mine (check out the stories here).

While on the north coast (visiting Tintagel Castle – see below), we stopped by Tintagel Old Post Office.

Cornwall has some fine gardens, and we visited these: Glendurgan, Godolphin, Trelissick, and Trengwaintonread about them here.

October was a quiet month. I can’t remember if we took a walk at Hanbury, but we did enjoy a long one along the Heart of England Way at Baddesley Clinton.

November saw us in the northeast, with a return visit to Seaton Delaval Hall (that we first visited in August 2013), and also to Penshaw Monument that is such an imposing sight over the Durham-Tyneside landscape.

In mid-November it was 70th birthday, and Steph and I spent a long weekend in Liverpool. One of the highlights was a visit to the Beatles Childhood Homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney – rather emotional.

We completed our National Trust year by enjoying Christmas at Coughton Court on 30 November.


We have been members of English Heritage (EH) since 2015. Our daughters gifted us membership at Christmas 2014. Witley Court in Worcestershire is the nearest property to home, and we have been visiting there since the 1980s when we first moved to Bromsgrove. But not during 2108. Here’s a story from September 2017.

In April we were in the northeast and enjoyed a visit to Warkworth Castle near Alnwick on the Northumberland coast (map) with grandsons Elvis and Felix. Since it was close to St George’s Day, there was a tournament entertainment for the children.

Warkworth Castle

While in the northeast, we visited Rievaulx Abbey, somewhere I had first visited as a student in the summer of 1968, and then again in the mid-1980s on holiday with the family on the Yorkshire coast.

Towards the South Transept and the east end of the church from the southeast.

During our trip to Cornwall in September, we got to visit Chysauster Ancient Village, Pendennis Castle, Restormel Castle, and Tintagel Castle, which I have written about here.

The steps leading up to the castle gate.

Then in November, on the way home from Newcastle, we stopped off at Mount Grace Priory, that is owned by the National Trust but managed by English Heritage.

It was a bright and calm November morning, lots of color in the trees, and we were enchanted by the peace of this wonderful site. On our trips to Newcastle we have passed the entrance to the Priory many times, but never had found the time (or the weather) to stop off. It was well worth the wait.


This has been our heritage 2018. We have barely scratched the surface of NT and EH properties. We look forward to spreading our wings further afield in 2019.

Before the ‘Beast from the East’ strikes

Friday 23 February. A bright, sunny day, and not too much of a breeze. Although the day dawned with a covering of frost everywhere, it was not as cold as I feared. Still, there was a need to wrap up warm.

It looks like things will be rather different next week when the Beast from the East hits the UK. Beast from the East? That’s what the weather system from deepest Siberia has been labeled, and due to hit the UK early in the week, with Arctic sub-zero temperatures, and possibly significant snow fall. There’s a more or less stationary high pressure system over Scandinavia to the northeast of the UK, blocking ‘warmer’ weather systems driving in from the Atlantic, and at the same time drawing in all that cold Siberian air on a strengthening easterly air flow.

So, with much more inclement weather forecast, Steph and I decided that we’d better take advantage of yesterday’s decent weather and head out for a walk, and visit yet another National Trust property: Knowles Mill, a derelict 18th century flour mill alongside Dowles Brook in the heart of the Wyre Forest on the outskirts of Bewdley, about 18 miles west from Bromsgrove.

Knowles Mill along Dowles Brook in the Wyre Forest, with the mill cottage (privately-owned and undergoing renovation) behind.

There are no National Trust signs to Knowles Mill. It’s located within the Wyre Forest National Nature Reserve, and parking (with space for up to a dozen cars) can be found at the end of the very narrow Dry Mill Lane. We arrived around 10:20, and took one of the remaining spaces. Best to get there early although by the time we departed, just after noon, many of the cars had already left. As with all my blog posts, just click on the images to open a larger version.

We decided to follow the Dowles Brook Trail (marked red on the map below), although there is a public bridleway on the other side of the brook, and a bridge over it at Knowles Mill.

This route initially follows the Wyre Forest Butterfly Trail along the bed of the disused Tenbury and Bewdley Railway that was opened in 1864, and closed in July 1961. Then there’s a steep walk down into the valley, with the path emerging behind the mill and cottage.

So what was a mill doing beside Dowles Brook, how long had it been there, and what was its history?

The millstones and gearing mechanisms inside the mill are still in quite good shape.

On the west side of the mill the skeleton of the water wheel can be seen, and beside that the drained mill pond (although with some standing water today).

I couldn’t help wondering how life at the mill must have changed once construction of the railway began in 1860. The peace and tranquility of the site must have been shattered as the gangs of navvies moved in to build the massive embankments across all the small valleys that cut through the hillside above Dowles Brook.

After visiting the mill, we headed upstream, passing Cooper’s Mill (just a cottage now) before crossing over Dowles Brook and returning to the car park along the disused railway. At the car park we enjoyed a hot cup of coffee (we’d brought a flask with us) before setting off home in time for a later than usual lunch.

The walk, just on three miles, had no challenging sections to speak of, and combined the best of both worlds: local history and the enjoyment of beautiful woodland landscapes.

Note: there are no toilets at the car park.