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Thousands of pounds for a bedspread
Member Name: lellagrace
Advantages: Great days out
Disadvantages: Where does my money go
I was a member of the National Trust for several years and it is only recently that I have not renewed my membership.
Over the years I was a member we visited many different properties, throughout the UK. Whenever we were on holiday we would seek out NT places and make a point of visiting them.
The NT was set up to preserve historic houses and gardens and other places of interests, such as nature reserves, such as the Red Squirrel reserve at Formby, for the enjoyment of the public. Therefore wherever you are in the British Isles you are within easy reach of one of the NT attractions.
Membership fees vary according to the type of membership you want. You can join as an individual, a couple (living at the same address), a family, student etc. It is best to check at their website or one of the properties for current membership fees.
Once you join you are given a handbook which lists all the properties throughout the UK, together with your membership card which lasts for one year. When you visit NT places you show your card and you are admitted free. This represents a great saving on entrance fees.
When I joined we were in the Lake District visiting the house where Beatrix Potter lived. If we joined there we could also access other NT properties in the area and during our few days in the Lake District we had more than had our moneysworth.
Another must-see attraction is Cragside near Rothbury. This is a magnificent house and the grounds, especially in the spring when the rhododendrons are out, are breathtaking.
In each NT property there are guides in most of the rooms. These are all volunteers (yes, you can become a volunteer too if you want) and they give up their time to advise visitors. The ones I have encountered are all very pleasant with the exception of one chap who seemed to think he was a Sgt Major the way he spoke to me when I had mislaid my entrance ticket. Even though I showed him my NT card and could not have got as far as the house without obtaining my ticket, he decided to be awkward and spoke to me as if I was a five year old. If I had not really wanted to see this particular property I would have walked away.
These are just a couple of examples of where we used our NT membership. However, I have to admit that after a while it became rather boring to visit houses that were set out like museums and where photography is not allowed. I understand flash photography is harmful and people may use photos for unauthorised purposes, but I do think sometimes that when you want to take a shot of an interesting piece of plasterwork on the ceiling or something obscure that you should be allowed to do so.
You can of course take photos of the gardens. These are delightful on a warm day and there is always a teashop nearby where you can sit and admire the view.
As regards safety, I would feel perfectly safe wandering around the NT gardens on my own, not so in public parks, which makes NT membership attractive to single people and mums with children. There are often play areas too for the children. Even if you don't want to take the kids into the houses, you can just use your membership and visit the gardens.
However, back to my point. I began to question whether some of the furniture in the houses was really as authentic as the NT would have us believe. Had they done adequate research to recreate the houses?
Well I got my answer one day when I was looking at a bedspread on one of the beds in a house - can't remember where it was. The guide took great delight in pointing out that it had cost over twenty thousand pounds to restore that particular bedspread!!!! Now this really got my goat! Yes, it might have been worth preserving, but surely for a lot less than that they could have had a replica made? After all, it was only a bedspread. Had they done the same with the curtains and all the other soft furnishings I wondered? I was somewhat annoyed as walking round the rest of the hosue I could see structural repairs that would have been far more worthy of having that amount spending on them than on a bedspread!
I decided then that this was not what I wanted my NT membership money to be spent on, so I decided not to renew. One word of warning, if you pay by Direct Debit and you want to cancel after the first year then do remember to cancel your DD!
Overall, I would say the NT is a good organisation to join if you enjoy the pleasures historic houses and gardens have to offer, but after several years I have had enough.
Summary: National Trust is worthwhile
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