Mrs Hudson Recommends………………..Easter activites for all the family!

Walpole and I

Walpole and I

It’s officially spring time! Easter is upon us and Walpole is desperate to start visiting some historic properties. The good news is, Easter signals opening season! Over the next few weekends we will see many of our favourite historic houses, gardens, castles and heritage sites opening up once again and offering a fabulous range of fun and exciting events to kick off the 2014 season!

Blenheim Palace have a full weekend of Easter Entertainment from 18th-21st April. Youngsters can expect appearances from Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam and can take part in the Easter Egg Hunt around the Pleasure Gardens. There will also be a bouncy castle, face painting, crafts and traditional fairground rides to keep the little ones entertained.

Alnwick Castle start their tours today. Choose from a tour of the state rooms, the sumptuous rooms decorated in lavish Italianite Renaissance style, within the castle’s walls. Or, if you fancy some fresh air join the castle’s guides for a tour of the grounds, taking in the architectural views and surrounding ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. For those who are not afraid of heights, join Alnwick Castle’s wizarding professors and take part in a broomstick training session! I am very pleased to learn there is no upper age limit for broomstick training! Walpole informs me however, that he will be keeping his paws firmly planted on the ground!

Weston Park is open this Easter for crafting fun. Children can decorate themed gifts, make a bonnet or design an egg shaped candle to take home. Green fingered types should join Head Gardner, Martin Gee, on Sunday 13th April for a guided walk around ‘Capability’ Brown’s historic parkland.

Youngsters visiting Beaulieu during the Easter holidays can follow an egg-citing trail around the estate and enjoy a sweet treat at the end. There is also Easter themed face painting and if you’re very lucky you might even meet the Easter Bunny! Grown ups, pop into the ‘For Britain and The Hell Of It’ exhibtion while you’re there and learn about the story of Beaulieu’s land speed record cars.

The Lindt Gold Bunny has escaped and is hopping around Hever Castle’s Gardens, kids can explore the gardens and follow the trail to discover where the gold bunny is hiding. Children can also make Easter bonnets at the daily craft workshops and meet Henrietta Hen in the display of rare breeds of bunnies and hens. If you’d at Hever Castle this weekend, the 12th and 13th April, don’t miss the longbow archery display. In fact if you’d like to take part you can pre-book a lesson and the take part in the competition! How thrilling!

Cadbury and the National Trust have teamed up this Easter to create Easter Egg trails at a huge selection of National Trust historic properties and gardens. Here are a few of our favourites:

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
Ickworth House, Park and Gardens
Lyme Park
Osterley Park and House

Head to the National Trust website for more information on National Trust events. Click here for more information on Cadbury Easter Eggs trails.

My word, what a list! Walpole is exhausted just reading it! We’d better start packing or we’ll never make it round them all! Where will you visit? Tweet us your pics and Easter activites @HudsonsHeritage. We can’t wait to hear from you!


Fluff and Stories

Written by Sarah Greenwood

The debate about the history curriculum continues to rage among the chattering classes. ‘Fluff and stories’ is how Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust described the current offering last week. Michael Gove’s great education revolution is firmly rooted in an idea of the past. He wants to bring back the teaching of an era before the perceived decline in standards. For history this means chronology, dates and kings rather than an emphasis on social movements and teaching by topic. As with everything there is merit in both systems. Well taught, one gives you scaffolding on which to hang your learning and the other gives you a general understanding of why things happened. Clearly what we need is something of both.

Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust

Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust

But what about places? In a country where everyday history is all around us, we ignore the opportunities offered by engaging with historic buildings and surroundings at our peril. The National Trust in the past decade, with Simon Jenkins in the Chair, has done much to promote a sense of place. If we want children to understand and enjoy the past or the origins of Britain and Britishness, we can do worse than getting them to experience it for themselves.

Having educated my children in 5 different education systems around the world, I feel I have some insights of my own. Of course one disadvantage of an international education is that you don’t learn much British history. So like a true middle class mother I took it upon myself to turn teacher. Home history lessons involved building a paper timeline all around the landing – a conveniently square communal space – its value was underlined when a determinedly modernist daughter wanted to know why we bothered to learn about the Romans. A quick look at the timeline showed that the 400 years of Roman Britain took up a substantial chunk across the corner over the stairs. Of course things were far more confused at the recent end of our paper trail where the hundreds of key events of the 19th and 20th centuries jostled for space against the doorframe. But I think it proved that chronology works when you want a scaffold for ideas.

Live Jousting

Live Jousting

But actually what they remember best of those lessons was the Spanish Armada. Because it was a heroic turning point that established Britain’s place in Europe, you ask? No, because we staged it with paper boats in the paddling pool and the effect of British fire ships on the Spanish fleet was every bit as spectacular for a small child as the real thing must have been in 1588.

The 'Paper' Spanish Armada

The ‘Paper’ Spanish Armada

They also remember pretty well what an English mediaeval village was like because they saw villages in Romania with oxen ploughing strip fields and boys herding cows across the common pasture. On holiday back in the UK, they climbed castle stairs and tried on helmets at Bodiam Castle, ogled the naked gods at Burghley, watched the sunsets at Stonehenge and shivered with the Roman soldiers on Hadrian’s Wall. Doing it at first hand is what counts.

Kids take over Hadrian's Wall

Kids take over Hadrian’s Wall

So I come down firmly on the side of chronology and kings but for goodness sake let’s not forget the importance of places too. Let’s use places to create experiences which will stay with children as they become adults and make sure they are rooted in our culture. Let schools (and parents) take their kids and go and see the Duke of Wellington’s boots at Apsley House or Stratfield Saye – or even Walmer Castle where he also left a pair. Climb castle towers to see if the English or the Scots or the Welsh or the French or whoever are coming. Dress up for below stairs or above. Roll down hahas or sit in trees like Charles II after the Battle of Worcester. We have so many places to use to teach history, let’s let our kids experience it more, keep the stories and get rid of the fluff once and for all.