Monday, 23 October 2017
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ni4families

Halloween 2016

Ruth McClurg, senior visitor experience officer reveals why autumn is the perfect time for a trip to Mount Stewart...

“I’ve worked in Mount Stewart for 3-and-a-half years now and my four children Josh (15) Adam (13) Jenna (11) and Ethan (7) are all regular visitors. With the impressive colour schemes, picturesque lake and beautiful areas of woodland, it’s not difficult to see why the gardens remain one of the most popular in Northern Ireland. My favourite walk will always be the lake walk. When we first became members of the Trust, three of my children were very small so a mile walk, taking in trees and a lake with swans and ducks was perfect for us. We actually walked around the lake the evening before Ethan was born and his first trip out in his buggy was to Mount Stewart….pushed by three very excited older siblings. We never tire of the view across the lake, of the changing colours and seasons. You can see something different every time you walk round. We have hunted Orc and Gruffalo around this lake…a child’s imagination has no limit and this is the perfect place to let it run wild!


NEW NATURAL PLAY
One of the most exciting discoveries for a child is our White Stag. He ties in with the Celtic legend of Tir na nÓg, the name of the family burial ground which is situated just off the lake walk meaning Land of the Ever Young. The legend suggests that if you see the White Stag you are on your way to Tir na nÓg. My favourite hidden gems are the Glen and Folly on the newly opened demesne trails. There is something almost magical about the walk through the glen, with little bridges and being sheltered with the trees. In spring there are thousands of bluebells and it really is quite stunning. The folly itself is no more than ruins, but to a seven-year-old with a fantastic imagination it can be many things and that’s what makes it so special.

The new natural play area is something I (and the kids) are really excited about. Based on The Magic Inkpot, there are various wooden sculptures which depict characters from the book and even a throne to sit on! There are areas for den building and balance beams made from the trees from the estate. It really is about letting the children roam free to have their own adventures, whilst under the close eye of their parents. I know from experience that the balance beams can support the weight of an adult and I have no doubt I’ll not be the only one trying it out!

Something else extra special to experience for a child is a nature walk with one of our rangers. Some of these focus on the demesne, some on the gardens and some around the various places we look after such as Kearney and Ballyquintin Farm. If you are lucky you may see one of our red squirrels (we are one of the best places in the UK to see red squirrels in their natural habitat) and there are always lots of birds to see. There is a board in the courtyard which will tell you some of the birds to keep an eye out for. One of the birds you won’t be able to miss are our very friendly robins. These little birds are quite tame and pop into reception on occasion and watch intently if you eat your lunch outside, waiting for some crumbs. In terms of biodiversity we have a wide range of breeding and winter birds as well as butterflies and bees and there are also some unusual flowers in our wildflower meadows.


TREASURES INSIDE AND OUT
There are also many wonderful treasures to discover inside. The neo-classical house re-opened in April this year after a three-year-long restoration project, bringing back the elegance and charm of the house when it was home of the 7th Marchioness Edith, Lady Londonderry and her family in the early 20th century. Filled with the spirit and character of the owner, Edith was one of the great political hostesses of the time, creating a sanctuary for world-renowned guests including Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. There are over 15,000 items in the collection of family memorabilia including paintings, ceramics, furniture and porcelain brought back from the family's travels.

My favourite event at Mount Stewart at the moment would have to be the ‘Muck In at Mount Stewart Days’. My children volunteer regularly and I have no doubt their love of this place comes from being such frequent visitors. These completely new events encourage families to come, volunteer and make a difference. Trying to find time as a family is extremely difficult these days and finding something to do that incorporates all the different age groups is even harder. The muck in sessions cater for all ages and even the littlest hands can help us clear some ivy or gather wood to clear a site. The families that volunteer are really helping with the valuable work we do and we hope it will grow a love for Mount Stewart in our younger helpers as they will be the future of this fabulous property.”


Just Some of the 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾ at Mount Stewart

Catch a Falling Leaf
It’s the perfect time of year while you walk around the lake trail.

Climb a Tree
A firm favourite which applies no matter what age! Find two great climbing trees just to the side of the croquet lawn.

Create Some Wild Art
Brilliant at this time of year as there are lots of different leaves on the ground to collect along with sticks, conkers and fir cones to make fabulous autumnal displays.

Play Conkers
You’ll find lots here.

Climb a Huge Hill
There a couple of really steep hills on the new walking trails, enjoy or avoid!

Explore a Cave
There isn’t a real cave but children love playing hide and seek in the bamboo grove in the Lily Wood.

For more ideas visit nationaltrust.org/50thingstodo


Don’t Miss - Halloween Fun at Mount Stewart

Take part on fiendishly delightful daily activities from Oct 29 to Nov 1 from 11am-4pm

There will be surprises and scares around every corner at the spooktacular event. Dress in your favourite spooky attire and take part in storytelling, craft activities, facepainting, make a monster model with Bricks for Kids and follow the trail around the lake walk.
House Tours at Halloween will follow the theme of the Magic Inkpot. Written by Edith, Lady Londonderry, for her children in the 1920s the stories combine tales from fairy tales with Irish Legends. In the book, the inkpot – a well-known object in the house – is transformed into Dagda Mor, the ancient Irish King of the fairies and takes two of the children. Mari and Robin on exciting and marvellous adventures.
“A strange sight may have been seen on All Hallows Eve had anyone been there.” The Magic Ink-Pot by Lady Edith, Marchioness Londonderry


Don’t Miss
Autumn is a wonderful time to visit Mount Stewart, it's not just the foliage changing, it's the wildlife too. Look out for the red squirrels preparing for winter, Jays burying acorns, an array of fungi or a Goldcrest – Ireland's smallest bird.


Don’t Miss
The Lookout is a wildlife interpretation centre and is located in the car park. Staff are on hand to answer questions and advise you on the best places to discover wildlife. Telescopes allow you to spot birds and seals and a remote camera will give you a close up view of nesting seabirds. Open from 12pm to 5pm on weekends and bank holidays until October 31.


Find at: Portaferry Road, Newtownards, BT22 2AD
Tel: 028 4278 8387 Facebook symbol - Mount Stewart National Trust
Gift Aid Admission Adult £8.50, child £4.25, family £21.15
Gardens, tea-room and shop open all year (closed 25 & 26 Dec)
The house is currently open 7 days a week from 11am-5pm (last entry 4pm) with a brand new set of rooms on display. House: admission by free-flow

For Temple of the Winds opening times or information on special events visit nationaltrust.org.uk/mount-stewart

Image captions: Ruth with Jenna and Ethan at the Folly

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