Happy 125th birthday, National Trust - Great sites in East Anglia to visit during 2020
PUBLISHED: 18:58 20 January 2020
The National Trust is marking its 125th birthday this month, but the celebrations are set to last all year. Here are some of the top sites in East Anglia to visit during 2020.
The charity is probably best known for its stately homes and gardens, including some magnificent examples in East Anglia. However, its focus has changed over the years, and it is now focusing more on nature and the fight against climate change. In our region, it preserves large stretches of coast, countryside and woodland, and has launched a special collection of 125 miles of walks in the East of England to mark the anniversary.
The trust was founded on January 12, 1895, when three environmental pioneers, Octavia Hill, born in Wisbech, Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley, set up a trust to preserve important historic and natural sites. It started out with just 100 supporters, who had each paid 10 shillings (50p - though it had far more buying power then!)
Some properties featured here are closed or have limited opening times in winter, so check opening times on the NT website before visiting.
Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge
One of the National Trust's major projects for its anniversary year will be the completion of the new 17-metre high viewing tower at Sutton Hoo, part of a £4million project to transform this famous site.
Visitors can discover the incredible story of the ship burial of an Anglo-Saxon king and his treasured possessions.
The tower is being put up next to the burial mounds, believed to be the last resting place of King Raedwald who ruled East Anglia in the first two decades of the seventh century. New footpaths have also been created and the exhibition centre remodelled to transform the visiting experience.
A series of art installations called at Pictures in the Landscape will be at the site until March 31. With the new film The Dig currently under way, starring Carey Mulligan, Lily James and Ralph Fiennes, Sutton Hoo will be very much in the news in 2020, and more visitors than ever are expected. The visitor centre and walks are currently open daily.
Blickling Estate, near Aylsham
The estate has a fascinating history, and is famous as the birthplace of Anne Boleyn. As well as the Jacobean hall, dating from 1616, there are 55 acres of gardens to explore, and more than 4,600 acres of woodland, farmland and countryside. You can follow a range of waymarked walks.
There is a current appeal to save Blickling's library, a nationally important collection which is under attack from death watch beetles, damp and mould.
The site is open daily, and this week saw the launch of special interactive trails and events for youngsters marking Percy the Park Keeper's 30th anniversary, based on Nick Butterworth's books. Percy at 30 will run until November 22, with activities changing with the season. There will also be live music events during the year including a Michael Bublé concert on July 28 and the Classic Ibiza festival on August 8.
Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate, near Cromer
The elegant country house and walled garden are set amid rolling parkland, with more than 500 acres of woodland and waymarket trails.
Upcoming events include night hikes, where you might spot Muntjac and Roe Deer, and forest therapy guided walks.
The park is open from dawn to dusk daily, and the house and gardens will reopen from February 15 onwards.
Ickworth House, near Bury St Edmunds
One of the best-known National Trust sites in East Anglia, this Italianate palace is set amid evergreen gardens and parkland.
Ickworth's roofs are currently undergoing repairs, in a major £5million conservation project known as "Ickworth Uncovered", which will be one of the biggest National Trust projects under way during 2020. The work will include retiling the iconic Rotunda roof, mending leaks and adding lighting protection.
The new Home of Great Art exhibition celebrates some of the finest treasures in the house's collection. The gardens and parkland are open daily, but, in the house, only the exhibition rooms are currently open, with the state rooms and servants's quarters being closed for conservation cleaning during January and February. Various special events are lined up, including snowdrop walks, cooking 1930s-style and sponsored runs.
Horsey Windpump, near Great Yarmouth
This windpump, the youngest and largest in the Broads, was newly restored and reopened last year, with its sails turning for the first time since the 1940s. There are 61 steps to climb, which are quite steep, but you will be rewarded with amazing views. There are also wildlife gardens to visit.
Via Twitter, Huw Sayer chose this as his favourite National Trust site in the area, although he said it was very hard to choose. "Blickling is so romantic. Sheringham has beautiful camellias in spring. But I like Horsey because it's ingenious industrial heritage that helped shaped our landscape."
The windpump is currently closed, but will reopen for half term from February 15.
Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, near Woodbridge
Orford Ness is celebrating its own anniversary in 2020, which will mark the 25th anniversary of it opening to the public. There will be special displays to mark the occasion.
You will need to take a boat trip to visit this unique, wild shingle spit, which is very rich in wildlife, including hares, falcons and marsh harriers. There are a number of waymarked trails to follow along the Ness.
Tickets for the National Trust's ferry Octavia, are limited and sold on the day, so you are advised to arrive early.
The reserve is currently closed for the winter, but will reopen from Easter.
Blakeney Point and Norfolk coast
The National Trust manages miles of Norfolk coast, including Blakeney Point, a four-mile shingle spit which is famous as the home of England's largest grey seal colony. More than 3,000 pups are born here each winter. In summer you can also see breeding terns.
The best way to see the wildlife is to go on a ferry trip from Morston Quay, offered by several companies.
The Brancaster estate is another area of coastline managed by the trust, with iconic sandy beaches and wildlife walks to enjoy.
Dunwich Heath and Beach
You can see a wide range of birds and other wildlife at this wild, remote site on the Suffolk coast. It is very family-friendly, with regular activities for children and a number of trails to follow. Events include wilderness trails, mini beach cleans and stargazing evenings.
The site is right next to the RSPB's Minsmere reserve, so you can combine a visit if you choose.
The heathland is open daily from dawn to dusk, and the tearoom and shop are currently open at weekends.
This spectacular timber-framed hall is one of the most striking structures in the preserved medieval village of Lavenham, which has more than 300 interesting buildings.
There is a new Bugs, Beams and Birds children's trail to explore in the garden, as well as various exhibits including a mummified cat and a rare Elizabethan horseshoe cabinet. Upcoming events include several spinning demonstrations.
The guildhall is currently open from Friday to Monday.
West Runton and Beeston Regis Heath
If you fancy a countryside walk, this area of north Norfolk is ideal. You can enjoy views of coastal villages and Sheringham, and spot eight species of trees and a range of flowers, birds, bees and butterflies, depending on the time of year. A beacon at Roman Camp, which is one of the highest spots in Norfolk, was lit to mark the National Trust's 125th anniversary.
Melford Hall, Long Melford
Another of East Anglia's unusual stately homes, this historic estate has lots to see, including sketches by Beatrix Potter, who was a cousin of the Hyde Parker family, who restored the house after it was devastated by fire in the 1940s.
An area of the gardens has been turned into a wildlife-friendly woodland aimed at children in particular, with a stumpery where they can hunt for bugs. You can also download country walks around the estate from the National Trust's website.
The house and garden will open for the new season from March.
Oxburgh Hall, near King's Lynn
Set among formal and wilderness gardens, this brick manor house was built in 1482. Beyond the gardens, there is parkland to explore, and you might spot an otter in the River Gadder.
A major £6million appeal has been launched to repair the building's roof. These major conservation works are currently getting under way and will continue until 2021, meaning there will be scaffolding around the building if you visit this year. However, the trust says that the next two years will be an exciting time to visit the hall, as the National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded cash for a new experience called Endurance, that will delve deeper into Oxburgh's story.
The house will open from February 15 onwards.
These beautiful landscaped gardens and park, designed by Humphry Repton, boast stunning surrounding views of the Norfolk coast. The site includes 1,000 acres of varied habitat including woodland and cliffs. The "wild garden" here is known for its winter colour.
Events coming up include wild animal tracking sessions and an "adder adventure" for children and accompanying adults, going in search of Britain's only venomous snake.
The park is normally open from dawn to dusk, and there is also a visitor centre.
Flatford Mill, near East Bergholt
One of the most idyllic National Trust sites has to be Flatford, in Dedham Vale, with the timeless landscapes which inspired some of John Constable's most famous paintings. As well as admiring Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's House, you can see an exhibition about Constable, and exhibitions by contemporary artists in the Boat House Gallery.
A new visitor experience at Bridge Cottage shows how it would have looked when the Clarke family lived there in the 1880s, in a contrast to stately home lifestyles.
The cottage, shop and tea room are currently open from Wednesday to Sunday.
Try these 125 miles of birthday walks
To mark its 125th birthday, the National Trust has launched a guide to 125 miles of walks in the East of England.
The trust describes the selection of walks as including "ancient woodland, windswept coastal paths, historic parkland, wildflower meadows, Italianate gardens and nature reserves."
The walks, which are listed on the NT website, include short strolls of less than two miles, as well as "moderate" walks of up to four miles through woodland, countryside and along the coast, and slightly tougher long walks where you will need to lace up your walking boots.
As well as a range of distances, there are also walks for each season, ranging from winter snowdrop walks at stately homes like Ickworth and Oxburgh Hall through to summer wanders through Lavenham woodland and Tudor Coggeshall.
Each suggested walk includes a map and full directions.
For full details, visit the website.
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