I love the National Trust's wonderful Belton House. We are lucky to live close enough to visit many times a year, and visit we do. We have never been to any of the big events which are hosted there, even though they must feature amongst the highlights of Lincolnshire's events.
We've also never bothered all that much with the actual house - as stunning as it is - except on the odd occasion when we have been caught out in wet weather. If anything, there never seems to be time left once we have done all the other essentials of each visit - for me the gardens, for the kids the adventure playground, and a picnic. And don't forget the shop (especially now they have the garden and plant centre) and a walk around the lake if anyone has any energy left.
No - for us Belton House is simply a fantastic Day Out.
There are some aspects which the girls love but which I don't tend to let them do every time. This includes the miniature train ride and an ice-cream stop. Don't I sound like a mean old misery! It's just that we seem to cram enough calories and expenditure into each visit without doing these aswell.
They also love the Discovery Centre, which I must admit makes my heart sink (although that is entirely a result of my limitations and not the fault of the Discovery Centre which most children really seem to enjoy). I have come to accept that there are aspects of parenting and creativity which I enjoy and do well (such as cooking with my children and feeding them well, nurturing their love of reading with visits to the library and story-telling sessions) and there are others at which I am completely useless. Top of the latter list is Art & Craft. I am officially Not Interested and would much rather leave that to someone else so we can spend our precious time together doing things which we all enjoy.
If I get the chance I love to have a potter around the gardens on my own. The lavender inspires me every time. We were there under a rather heavy, grey sky on our most recent visit but it still looked beautiful.
This summer the adventure playground makes me all too aware of how quickly the girls are growing up. When I first started taking them there they were 2 and 3 years old and they needed lots of help with things. The big slides were a particularly scary adventure needing Mum's helping hand to steady them. This gave me an excuse to go on aswell, of course. I used to have great fun (and a bit of a work out too as I helped them over and under things)! Now, at 6 and 7 there is nothing that they need any assistance with and I am starting to feel a bit redundant. I suppose this is a taste of things to come: useful preparation for their increasing sense of independance. I just didn't expect it to start this soon.