Watching me grow at Mottisfont, National Trust

Roses at Mottisfont, National Trust

Dear mummy, every year we make our annual pilgrimage to Mottisfont, Hampshire to see their wonderful rose gardens. We’ve been visiting for years since I was a baby. My mummy has loved watching me grow, just like the gardens at this … Continue reading

Exploring Belfast Botanic Gardens

Belfast Botanic Garden

Dear Mummy, while we were across visiting relatives in Belfast we enjoyed a brief visit to Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. It was a beautiful sunny day in South Belfast and we could see straight away why these 28 acres of gardens were … Continue reading

Top Ten Places in Hampshire this Easter!

Easter in Hampshire

Top Ten Places in Hampshire this Easter!

Dear mummy, here’s a little list I compiled of places to go and things to do in Hampshire this Easter! Easter is a lovely time in this neck of the woods and we love visiting gardens and farms in Spring. Here’s our top ten attractions.

  • Exbury Gardens, Southampton – Explore the Rhododendrons and jump on the steam train to see the Easter Bunny. We visited last year and had a great time!
  • Visit Marwell Wildlife, Southampton – To join in with the Easter Park Trail in the Zoo!
  • Build Lego at Bricks in Motion at Milestones Museum, Basingstoke – Watch the master builders create stunning displays out of Lego. We went last year to Lego Lost World and had a fab time.
  • See the spring lambs at Manydown Farm, Basingstoke – It’s lambing season along with Easter crafts and activities. We went last year and I made an Easter Egg card for my mummy!
  • Visit The National Trust at Mottisfont, Romsey and go to the Easter Bunny Ball and join in with the Easter Egg hunt.
  • Visit Wellington Country Park, on the Hampshire border of Basingstoke/Reading and join in with one if their themed days over the Easter break! We’re looking forward to visiting the Circus!
  • Visit The Vyne and join in with their Cadbury Easter Egg trail.
  • Finkley Down Farm, Andover – Pop down to the farm come rain or shine and see the little chicks and lambs!
  • Pop into Basingstoke Town and enjoy the events Festival Place have put on – Eat Street will be bringing live cooking demonstrations, entertainment and prizes. Also at the Top of Town in Basingstoke there will be Easter activities and entertainment too!

We hope you like our little list on activities over the Easter Break in Hampshire. Hopefully you can join in the fun! Let us know where you visit if you are local 🙂

Love Bella x

The List

A winter walk at Mount Stewart, National Trust

A winter walk at Mount Stewart, National Trust

Dear Mummy, on our recent trip to Northern Ireland we headed outside Belfast to find an old National Trust estate called Mount Stewart.

Mount-Stewart- houseIt’s an 18th-century property situated on the east shore of Strangford Lough (or Strangeford as my mummy calls it).

It’s about 40 minutes from Belfast where we are staying and the car journey gives me a good opportunity to nap before our great adventure. It’s a grade A-listed building built for the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family, Marquess of Londonderry.

Their family played an important role in politics so I’m told and one name I recognise is Viscount Castleregh who acquired the house in 1821 after his father’s death, he was a very famous Foreign Secretary. He lived there during his childhood and what a beautiful place to live!

However, the main star of the show is the late, great Lady Londonderry who spent her time redesigning and planting the new gardens straight from her imagination. What creativity she had! Because of the milder climate, created by Strangford Lough, plants which could not otherwise have survived so far north have flourished here. This gave Lady Londonderry much more scope for her mediterranean themed gardens. The National Trust were left the gardens in 1957 so the public could enjoy their beauty too.

National Trust Mount Stewart 7We’ve wanted to visit this estate since we saw it featured in the film Dracula Untold recently at the cinema. The ‘Spanish Garden’ was transformed into Dracula’s Castle for the film and it’s not the first time National Trust properties in Northern Ireland have been used as filming locations.

Across Strangford Lough, via the ferry, is a National Trust estate called Castle Ward which was heavily featured in Game of Thrones. *We make a note to visit there also on our Northern Ireland tour.

Mount Stewart is located off the long and twisting coastal Portaferry Road which hugs Lough Strangford. It’s a beautiful car journey to the estate from Belfast through Newtownards.

Dear Mummy Blog at National Trust Mount Stewart 3The car park overlooks the Strangford Lough and the jungle-like path takes us to the visitors centre where we are warmly greeted by the friendly staff and ushered into the warm cafe.

They are serving Irish Stew and roasted carrot soup, so we grab some lunch before our epic walk outside in the cold.

It’s a bright sunny day and the sun is low in the December sky, some frost is still on the grass and the statues in the gardens are heavily wrapped in plastic to protect them from the Irish winter. It seems a bit warmer here than Belfast I think though.

My mummy is testing out her new camera today (Canon 700D) which she got for Christmas. She still has no real idea how to use it, but it’s good to get some quick practice in.

We head to the front of the house, which is currently being renovated and will re-open in Spring 2015. The National Trust have done a great job of keeping building work to a minimum so as not to ruin the surroundings. The gardens are peaceful and there aren’t many people around today.

Dear Mummy Blog at National Trust Mount StewartThe present-day estate of Mount Stewart extends to 98 acres with a large lake and many monuments and we try to see everything but it’s very cold so just visit the gardens and the lake. We try to do as much walking as possible to keep ourselves warm.

We miss out on the The Temple of the Winds and the Tír na nÓg (Irish for ‘Land of the Young’) burial ground. As it’s the winter season a lot of the stonework is covered up for protection and pathways are roped off because of icy conditions.

Dear Mummy Blog at National Trust Mount Stewart LakeUnfortunately we didn’t see any Red Squirrels. You see the ‘Ards Peninsula (where we are) currently has one of the largest populations of endangered red squirrels in Northern Ireland. We are told Mount Stewart is one of the best places to see them. Must be too cold to see them today and they aren’t in the trees or around the feeders. The National Trust prides itself on the conservation of these little creatures and organises trails around the estate to see them in their natural habitat.

After our hot Irish Stew we walk past the back of the house through the heavy ornate iron gates into the gardens.

On our left is The Sunken Garden at the west of the house and it was the second garden Edith, Lady Londonderry, embarked upon after the Italian Garden. A lot of people can hire this garden out for weddings and it’s a beautiful setting for photographs. It funny to think that before 1915 all these gardens used to be plain lawns, it’s much more interesting now!

Dear Mummy Blog at National Trust Mount Stewart  2Behind it lays the Shamrock Garden inspired by Irish mythology; the Red Hand of Ulster, The Formorians – a race of half human half demons and a children’s story carved in the topiary. It’s a fairly wacky garden and wouldn’t look out-of-place in Alice in Wonderland my mummy thinks.

It’s a really enchanting place and we spend time gazing at the hedges with characters growing out of them. There are water features with pools of ice and flowers in bloom like the Rhododendrons with dew on them, they look beautiful and like they might shatter into glass pieces if we were to touch them.

National Trust Mount Stewart 8We briefly visit the The Italian Garden and The Spanish Garden with ornate stone work pillars and a water parterre.

Mount Stewart is a great place to visit in the winter – just imagine how beautiful it would look in Spring and Summer. We can’t wait to return and see the roses in the walled garden when we visit relatives again. A lovely winter walk and well worth a trip for relaxation and reflection.

Love Bella x


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N.Ireland Sunset at Newtownards