Kick-start 2013... with the National Trust

PUBLISHED: 16:37 13 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:34 20 February 2013

Enjoying a walk on a bright, frosty day at Stowe. Photo - NTPL Rod Edwards

Enjoying a walk on a bright, frosty day at Stowe. Photo - NTPL Rod Edwards

Emma Ward hopes to lure you from the sofa with invigorating walks in beautiful surroundings

Kick-start 2013 with the National Trust

Emma Ward hopes to lure you from the sofa with invigorating walks in beautiful surroundings

We all know that post-Christmas feeling of over-indulgence and too much exposure to television and afternoon naps; it can often leave us feeling lethargic and reluctant to get off the sofa. So we might stay indoors, or perhaps drag ourselves round a sale or two, but generally wed prefer to hibernate in the warm until it is time to go back to work again.

How about an alternative way to enjoy the post-Christmas break and kick start the New Year? After the initial effort of putting coats, hats and gloves on and getting out into the countryside, you will be rewarded. Nothing beats the exhilarating fresh air, beautiful surroundings and health benefits of an invigorating woodland walk or a stroll round a beautiful frost-tipped garden, rounded off by a warming drink or meal in a welcoming cafe.

Many people think that the National Trust shut up shop entirely for the winter months. Whilst it is true that we must close some of our houses to protect the delicate contents from the colder conditions, most of our countryside areas remain open to the public all year, from historically significant Runnymede near Windsor to the wildlife haven that is Maidenhead and Cookham Commons. Here are some ideas for places to visit during that post-Christmas Day period.

Stowe

Winter walks and musical mayhem

Visitors are welcome to visit this fine 18th-century English landscape garden in Buckinghamshire, which opens every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. As well as the chance to walk in delightful surroundings and enjoy the winter plants and trees, there is also a newly opened visitor centre, plus our restored coaching inn with dressed Georgian rooms. Visitors can enjoy a warming drink and a snack in the new cafe and spend some Christmas money in our shop, which will be full of seasonal bargains and souvenirs.

On 12 January, visitors to Stowe can join in an afternoon of Wassailing to scare away bad luck at the start of the year. Bring musical instruments, dress in red, yellow and green and have fun making a noise. There will be crafts for the children too at this free event (after normal entry has been paid).

Ashridge

Wildlife and post Christmas walking

This beautiful stretch of countryside spans the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire border and is home to a diverse variety of wildlife. There are around 5,000 acres to explore, taking in woodlands, commons and chalk downland. The views are outstanding, and if you are lucky enough to see the area with a soft covering of frost or very light snow, the effect can be breathtaking.

For those who fancy getting out of the house on 27 December to walk off the Christmas Day and Boxing Day excesses, we have organised a two-hour guided walk across the Ashridge estate, with mulled wine and mince pies at the end. Places must be booked in advance on 01442 851227 and cost 7 for an adult, 5 per child.

The Chilterns

Childrens play trail and kite-flying paradise

More fantastic walking opportunities abound at the nearby Chiltern countryside, home to a group of beauty spots with far-reaching views and interesting walking territory. Landscapes include woods, farms and hamlets that are all typical examples of the attractive countryside to be found along the Chilterns. Children will enjoy a special play trail at Coombe Hill, which also offers easy, level ground for visitors needing to use pushchairs and wheelchairs, and isa great location for kite flying and lovely views.

To find out what else is happening at the National Trust in 2013, visit

www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southeast

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