National Trust: Blicking Estate & Gardens & Happisburg Owls

Back in August, I had to attend a training session at Blickling Hall.  While I did take a bit of an independent tour around the gardens when done, I didn’t get to really walk through the house.  As an employee of the National Trust, we get free entrance and parking to all 500+ places throughout the England (plus Scotland & Australia, but clearly we’re not going there any time soon!)    Having recently been to Sheringham Park and Felbrigg Hall, we thought why not check out Blickling Hall as it was a gorgeous, dry & sunny Fall day.

When we got to the property, we were a little early so we popped into their used bookshop.  To me, it was a good place… loads of kids books, cookery books and other things which I’m interested in – but Nils said it was great.  He could have bought tons of books.  So with a couple books in hand, we headed out to the house for a walk through.

I think in the past, National Trust has been known as a place for old people, but thankfully they have really tried to branch out and cater to families too.  As we all know (and thankfully now the National Trust does too) it is hard to keep kids’ interests long. So at each property, they have gotten with the times and try to offer some very child-friendly activities.

Here they each received a small wicker basket and a shopping list.  They were to go throughout the house in search of these six items (which were small cards with photos of the product.)  At the end, they’d take them back to the Visitor Services Center where they’d get a certificate.  Clearly some of the older ladies didn’t quite have much experience with kids, as they gave them clues as to where they can find the baskets, without giving them a second to look for it themselves.

As we walked through the house, each room has a fact sheet, along with a volunteer expert who could tell you about the particular room and they were there for security.  While it was nice, I don’t think I know the full history of the house like the details of the Boleyn family, as a lot of the time, I was watching to ensure the kids didn’t run or break anything.   There is an RAF Museum and other key features of the house, which we didn’t get to fully see – so I’d like to return. In fact, they offer Segway tours of the property – so perhaps something for next season.

It was a really nice to walk at our own pace through the rooms – some we went rather quickly others, we really took our time looking around.

Soren pointed out the toilet and that the bath was wicked dirty!

It was the library, called The Long Gallery which we found of particular interest and the volunteer guy was the best. He was funny and informative and really took a genuine interest in our family.   He pointed out one book which he thought would be of interest with the “Massachusetts connection and that we’re such “modern people” lol  – Eliot’s Indian Bible published in 1663 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  It is one of the first books ever printed on North American soil and, rarer still, is a copy of the Old and New Testaments translated into the language of the Massachusett tribe of the Algonquin Indians.  It is unlikely the book was ever read by the native Indians, rather it was probably a piece of propaganda to help raise funds for Christian missionaries.  Inside the front page is a handwritten message from John Higginson, minister of Salem, presenting the book to this brother Francs.  In 1692, John Higginson was involved in prosecuting the town’s infamous witch trials and even had to judge his own daughter.

After we toured around through the house, we headed out into the back gardens where Nils & the kids played croquet on the lawn and large connect four…

while I walked around and took photos of their tremendous trees.

We promised the kids we’d stop in the playground area near the orchard and across from the Buckinghamshire Arms.  When Nils ran back to the car to get our picnic, Nils ran into Billie and her cousins from America/London, so we offered to take Blake with us for the day, so she can spend some time with her cousins and the baby and the kids can play.  While they put in the car seat, Maebh spent time watching and talking to Indigo.

Soren appeared to get a little cross when his little sister and his best school pal got too close – ha ha .. Fast forward 13 years.  Just not clear who was initiating the holding of hands.  

Happy again.  Once we set off, we were heading towards the coast, we thought we’d stop over at the greatest farm ever –  Light House Farm… which I call Big Barn Farm.  We have been there before and the owner, Sandra, gave us a tour of the farm.  Today she did the same.  I saw on her Facebook page that Spring the goat had a broken leg and in a cast.  Turns out, his mother and/or father hurt him and she told us the story of the break and the Vet visits.  When we went through the gates to see him, Fudge the pony had left his stall and was visiting with Spring.  If you know the show, Big Barn Farm, you’d know why I say this.  It was so cute that one animal, was visiting the other.  And Spring, kept jumping up on the stall door to show of his cast.

Anyway, our main visit to the Light House Farm was to visit Happisburgh Owls.  Sandra has eight owls in all. Two tawny owls, two barn owls, a snowy owl, and eagle owl and an Asian wood owl and Mumbles – a Chaco owl (which I never heard of before). Anyway, they are all so cute and Soren & Maebh both love holding the barn owl best.

We have never noticed this before but the snowy owl started doing something funny.  He’d turn is head around and not look at us and then whip his head back and open his beak. The kids were in hysterics laughing and I think he has learned that he gets a reaction when he does this, so he kept doing it.  She is now closed up for the winter and will return after Easter.  I’ve passed her details along to the kids’ school as we’d like to have her come to the school for the school Fete in the summer with the owls.

After the trip to the owls, we made our way back to the house via the coast and a quick stop for ice cream.  The place we stopped, was just like a place you’d find in Seabrook or even Winthrop or only here the ocean comes much closer to the wall. It’s worth a photo as it is sooo not a beach you’d find around here.

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