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Muddy reviews: The Easter trail at Mottisfont, near Romsey

Running low on Easter holiday inspo? This year, the good old National Trust have some cracking nature trails. But what did the Mudlet make of Mottisfont?

Easter nature trail Mottisfont National Trust

Big or small, there’s nothing like getting back to nature. And if you’re desperate to get your rabble off screens this holiday, a good old nature trail is always a winner.

In Hampshire, we’re blessed with several stunning National Trust properties – The Vyne, Hinton Ampner, Uppark and Mottisfont being just a few of them. And they are all offering Easter Trails to get your kids off the sofa, engaged in the great outdoors – and eating chocolate (of course).

Tulips Spring Mottisfont National Trust

With the Easter holidays falling slap bang in the middle of April this year, Spring has well and truly sprung. In the National Trust’s always well-tended gardens and woodlands, there are plenty of daffs, tulips and other gorgeous blooms to enjoy.

Flower power wasn’t the headline for the youngest in our family. But the mere mention of the chocolate reward incentivised the Mudlet (6) to grab her Easter hunt bunny ears and dash for the car in record time. We headed off for Mottisfont, one of our stunning local National Trust headliners near Romsey.

THE LOWDOWN

Mottisfont Abbey National Trust house estate

A grand 18th Century house with the remains of a medieval priory church tucked away inside it, Mottisfont sits beside a stretch of the beautiful River Test, flanked by gardens, wetlands and meadows. Not far off the M27 or M3, there’s plenty of free parking (around 400 spaces).

Running until this Sunday 24 April, Mottisfont’s Easter Adventure in Nature takes kids all around the grounds with activities to do along the way. The trail activities are on top of the year-round children’s favourites here, like Mottisfont’s renowned pooh sticks bridge and the pump, pool and paddle water play. Head to the Visitor Centre on arrival to collect a trail (£3), which includes a map, pencil and a chocolate egg at the end.

THE TRAIL

Leaping like a rabbit

After stepping off the bridge from the visitor centre, hang a right and follow the map to find 10 trail points. We begin with a series of cute rabbit leaping and jumping challenges our little bunny sets about with gusto.

After stopping for a sensory exploration of grass, bark, moss and other natural soft, smooth and rough textures, it’s on to the always-popular water play area. The Mudlet enthusiastically takes a turn with the pump and dam (above) then we’re on our way (but I could definitely see us lingering longer for a paddle on a warm summer’s day).

There’s no dedicated trail task on the next stretch along the river. But with happy brown trout literally leaping from the crystal-clear water and splashing the Mudlet and the other kids walking alongside us (cue squeals of delight) we really didn’t need it.

Crossing over the bridge, we’re invited to pause and take in the sounds of nature. Mr. Muddy helpfully identifies a bird. By this point, the Mudlet has already disappeared, although she does pause to read and have a crack at a few of the other nature challenges we find as we walk along the other side of the river towards the house.

More mindful nature activities follow (and a much-needed coffee break). Simple but fun, we’re totally engaged in bird and spring-watch spotting using binoculars to look out over the meadow, river and skyline.

Afterwards, there’s a VERY popular bird feeder craft activity involving pipe cleaners, Cheerios and immense concentration. In the cafe we find coffee, cake and Spring nature-inspired drawing. Then, after sniffing out Spring smells and herbs in the walled garden, we’re off to the last trail points in the Winter Garden where we hunt for colours and bugs.

THE HOUSE

Potentially another journalist in the making (or just a nosy parker) the Mudlet insists on having a poke around the house. The room isn’t part of the outdoorsy trail but we never tire of looking at it and she particularly enjoys the beautiful White Bedroom. And she’s very intrigued by the ‘secret’ fake-bookcase door one of the friendly volunteers points out in the study.

Another top tip from our visit – and also not officially part of the trail – take crafty and older kids to the Gardener’s Cottage, just outside the walled rose garden. Inside, they can make their own pretty paper blossom branch using pink tissue.

By the time we’re done and heading back to the car, the Mudlet’s energy levels are a lot less boundless and she’s so entertained she almost forgets to claim her chocolate egg (which is promptly devoured in the car home).

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Even without the trail, if you’re looking for a full family afternoon or day out, you’ll find it at Mottisfont. The trail is ideal for younger kids of around 10 and under and we saw plenty of slightly older ones enjoying it too (though any self-respecting tweenagers will of course give you a hard stare/eye roll if you ask them to hop like a bunny).

chionodoxa flowers Lime Avenue Mottifont Spring National Trust

Grown-up highlights included a rare tranquil moment by the river with some spring sun on my face while Mr. Muddy and the Mudlet watched the river trout. The gorgeous periwinkle blue chionodoxa flowers carpeting the Lime Avenue are so pretty right now (above). And I also paused mindfully to soak up the super fragrant blossom scents and spring flowers in the Winter Garden – and a very decent coffee in the café.

GOOD TO KNOW

The Coach House Cafe and most of the paths are pushchair friendly but you’ll need to park them outside if you go into the house. As well as the Coach House, you can grab drinks, snacks and sandwiches at the Walled Garden Kiosk. Or get a scoop or two of Hampshire-made Jude’s Ice Cream from one of their converted horse boxes. The Wild Play area is currently closed.

Enjoy a mooch? Mottisfont has a very good gift shop by the visitor entrance and exit. If you can tear the kids away from the pocket money toys, look out for grown-up buys from local makers, like Long Barn Lavender goodies.

Mottisfont, near Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 0LP. Tel. 01794 340757, nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont.

1 comment on “Muddy reviews: The Easter trail at Mottisfont, near Romsey”

  • Renska April 19, 2022

    Lovely piece for Spring inspo on what to do with the little ones – great photos too x

    Reply

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