I should put it out there straight away that I am a really big fan of the National Trust. I genuinely struggle to imagine how I would have made it through the last five years without it. Partly it's because I am both a history geek and a fan of the outdoors, but also for the opportunity it provides to be a very lazy parent, whilst feeling really quite smug because your kids are getting fresh air/learning about things. Picnics on the lawns of houses significantly nicer than yours, roaming estates with endless stuff to climb on/build/run on/fight with, fascinating houses/ruins to explore... and it all feels like it's for free. I know it's not*, but once you've joined you can just waltz up to all these amazing places and take advantage of it endlessly, so it FEELS like it's free, which is part of the beauty.
Wakehurst, Nymans and Sheffield Park are old and extremely good friends of ours and we spend a great deal of time at all three. Bodiam Castle is an occasional, and much loved, treat (I still possess a blue visor cap from my youth that says 'I heart Bodiam' on it, just so you can get the picture of what you're dealing with here). But in the last few weeks we have branched out and done day trips to Batemans and Knowle (both about an hour away… I know! I'm basically Ernest Shackleton) and both have been absolutely brilliant days.
Batemans, home to Rudyard Kipling, is a gorgeous, interesting (and incredibly moving, I think) house and the kids loved it - especially his amazing study (with a rug made out of a real life wolverine! Sam was terrified/obsessed) and the original, quite scary pictures of The Jungle Book animals. The kids asked the Nat Trust volunteers loads of challenging questions ("Excuse me, why was he not scared of that rug? Was he very brave?") and enjoyed exploring the beautiful gardens and it was very good, fun day. Knowle provided a gorgeous day of running and climbing and camp building and deer spotting (the kids, obvs… the mums drank coffee and ate brownies and sat on logs… EASY PARENTING!) and was definitely worth the drive. I highly recommend both.
Other than these excursions, we have really just been pottering around. I am reluctant to be more than ten foot from Nancy at any point as we are on a literal countdown until she deserts my nest and goes off to build her own life in reception (I CAN'T BEAR IT), so I have basically just been following her around and telling her how much I love her, whilst she ignores me and goes about her business.
In terms of books, we have been all about the Mr Men recently. We have had the box set of Little Miss for ages (a great deal from The Book People) and the children are endlessly fascinated by them, so I treated us to a box of 20 of the Mr Men when they, too, came up on offer. I remember enjoying them when I was little but the kids never tire of them! They are funny and silly and also pretty cool for increasing understanding of good words (i.e. stubborn, fickle, topsy-turvy etc). Plus they have kept me amused by the chat they inspire (For example, Nancy: "Mummy, is it fair that even though Mr Mean has learnt his lesson and isn’t being mean anymore, that everyone still calls him Mr Mean? " Me: "You're right, Nance, what do you think he should be called?" Nancy: (Long pause) "Bob".)
* Just had to look up the price because I joined when I was TWENTY FOUR because I am a massive loser. It's just under a tenner a month for family membership.