>National Family Week & a trip to Hever Castle

>I must have been walking around with my eyes closed because I didn’t know it was National Family Week from today, it was only when I read a newsletter recently that had a small piece on it that I found out a bit more. Here is some info from http://www.nationalfamilyweek.co.uk:

National Family Week is the UK’s biggest annual celebration of family life aiming to highlight the importance of quality time together and promote the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. Backed by all major political parties, National Family Week represents the largest coalition on family issues in the UK, working with hundreds of partners and supporters from major national charities to community organisations to help bring families together.

This year, thousands of record-setting, action-packed and fun-filled family events are taking place in every corner of the country so families everywhere can enjoy eating, learning, playing, exploring and getting out and active together. National Family Week 2010 will make the summer half term holiday a walk in the park… or a piece of cake… or a home run with everything from picnics in the park to large-scale sports days, huge giveaways, great competitions and loads of special offers for families to enjoy!

To find out what’s on in your area click here

My daughter is off on holiday for a few days with her nan and grandad to their holiday flat on the coast during half term but I wanted to make the most of the weekend with her before she goes. Saturday and Sunday we spent baking lots of goodies which you can read about in my previous post, reading and watching dvds and today we went to Hever Castle in Edenbridge, Kent.

Most of you will have heard of Hever Castle as the childhood home of the infamous Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s more unfortunate wives. Her ghost is said to have been spotted 30,000 times since her death in 120 locations, including Hever, Blickling Hall (her other family home) and the Tower of London. It is infact over 700 years old, the original medieval defensive castle being built in 1270 with the tudor dwelling being added within the walls by the Boleyn’s in the 15th & 16th centuries. It later passed on to who I consider the most fortunate of all Henry VIII’s wives, Anne of Cleves, who escaped with her life and several stunning properties and rather a large pension when Henry decided he didn’t fancy her much and sent her packing, unlike some of his other wives who ended up without heads! The castle later fell into disrepair until 1903 when it was bought by William Waldorf Astor, a wealthy American, who restored the castle to it’s former glory, built the adjoining Astor wing and created the magnificent gardens and lake.

Today was a bank holiday special at Hever and it featured a masque (play) about Robin Hood that all the kids could join in with, there were leather workers, pewter casters and demonstrations on fletching (arrow making), archery competitions and of course guest appearances by Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and their court. My daughter absolutely loved the day, there was so much to do, and my mum quite liked the men in tudor dress – think the breeches and lace up shirts went to her head! But there is so much to do at Hever on any other day that you don’t really need a special event to get the most out of it, infact if the queues to get into the castle are anything to go by I wouldn’t actually suggest going in as we queued for well over an hour to get inside and then queued all the way round, maybe on a less busy day you can really see the castle and everything inside it far better than we managed to today.

There are two large car parks, 2 restaurants, a cafe and several ice cream shops, 2 shops selling a multitude of Hever and Tudor related items, toys, books, homeware, plants, sweets, stationary and much more. There is also a boating lake which I didn’t brave as I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to boats and the gardens are absolutely beautiful, you can walk through the gardens for hours on end and many people choose to visit Hever just for the gardens rather than to venture into the castle. For kids you have the adventure playground with it’s huge bucket swing, climbing frames, slides and zipwire, plus a wooden maze that E lost herself in for at least an hour and never tired of going round and round in there. Then you have the water maze which is fantastic, the aim is to reach the grotto in the middle without getting wet, but the slabs you step on tilt as you walk and you end up getting squirted as you try and jump from one to the other, it’s very funny to watch, E managed to get a tiny bit of water on her leg, whereas other kids were so wet they needed a change of clothes and I can imagine it is even more fun when the sun’s out and you’re dying to cool off. Then there’s the yew maze, which E impressively navigated the first time around, which understandably she was very impressed with.

I love Hever, I’ve always loved it since I was a child and I used to visit it with my dad who still lives close by. I love Tudor history so it would always be a winner with the history geek in me and I remember admiring the building, it is beautiful as you will see in the photos below, but I didn’t remember just how amazing the gardens are, they are truly stunning and I would love to go back just to see the thousands of roses we saw when they finally flower and the rhododendrons were to dye for – who knew I am so old and boring I now appreciate a good garden! Children love it as do adults, just watch out for those queues if you can!

Here’s some pics for you to enjoy:


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