A day out at Packwood House National Trust

We became members of the National Trust a few months ago and have already had so much out of our membership.

Previously, on those weekends where we didn’t have much planned, we would perhaps drive into town to spend money on things we didn’t need, or spend the days ‘getting jobs done’ around the house, which frankly is never fun. Now we (I) scour our National Trust handbook to see where we should go visit for the day.

Packwood House National Trust

Admittedly, Mr M isn’t hugely into the history (I like to think I am), but we both love the outdoors and we are both lovers of England and all it has to offer. The National Trust has certainly made us appreciate more of what’s on our doorstep and all of those great places at home you never think to visit.

A couple of weeks back we decided to visit Packwood House, which is not far from where we live. Once described as ‘a house to dream of, a garden to dream in’ Packwood House certainly offers dreamy escapism and there’s something quite enchanting about both the gardens and the house. There’s plenty of countryside to explore as well as various gardens and a newly restored kitchen garden which immediately makes you want to go dig up your back lawn and start ‘growing your own’. The Yew Garden is also quite spectacular – I can’t imagine how many hours it must take to keep those trees so perfectly pruned!

yew garden packwood house

After the gardens we took a leisurely stroll around the lake which has plenty of great spots for a picnic (as usual we hadn’t gone prepared). We also passed a couple of Packwood’s ‘Follies’ – a series of playful artworks created by artist Hilary Jack, which I imagine are great for older children to explore. This had-carved wooden bed structure is one of them – a nod to ‘a garden to dream in’ and (apparently) famous beds in history, folklore and fairytale (so I read).

Packwood House Follies Embedded

Following our morning of exploration, we headed into the Garden Kitchen Café for a bite to eat. We were pleased to discover that afternoon tea was on offer so of course took full advantage of this, stuffing our faces with clotted cream and scones. Taylor may have even been treated to a few cheeky licks…there were of course much healthier options available with everything made fresh – the soups and sandwiches looked particularly tempting (although obviously not as tempting at the cream tea!)

Packwood House lake National Trust

Stomach’s satisfied, we took a tour of the house which was restored in the 1920s and 1930s by Graham Baron Ash who created his own vision of the perfect Tudor house. The house is kept as when he left it in 1941 and as you walk around the house, you really get a feel for the great care and attention to detail that went into the restoration. Highlights for me included the Great Hall (where I think I would’ve enjoyed a party or two!), and the bedroom where Queen Mary stayed when she visited the house in 1927. Mr M, as usual, was rushing me around the rooms, so I didn’t get to take in as much as I would’ve liked, but if you have a thing for Tudor houses, then this is your place.

All in all we had a great family day out and really enjoyed all that Packwood has to offer. I’m sure we will be returning again this summer with a picnic blanket in tow.

Packwood House entrance sign

Life Unexpected

Review: Afternoon tea at the Catwalk Café in Knowle

One of the perks of being on maternity leave is being able to go out for lunch during the week without being limited to a one-hour lunch break. The novelty of this still hasn’t worn off for me and I intend to carry on taking full advantage.

Catwalk cafe review

However, finding local places that do a lunch worth spending money on is not always easy and trips into town centres are not that appealing when you have a little one in tow and a needy dog waiting at home.

So I was delighted when a friend suggested that we meet at the Catwalk Café in Knowle, Solihull for afternoon tea. I’d never been here before and I had no idea that they did afternoon tea. Nothing makes me more content than scones, clotted cream and copious amounts of tea; I take great delight in realising that the sandwich layer is finished and it’s time to move onto the cakes, and I love pouring my own tea from my own tea pot. It makes me feel Royal. Or at least a little bit spoilt.Gillian Wesley Catwalk cafe Knowle

And the Catwalk Café didn’t disappoint. The interior of the fashion themed café takes on a Parisian style with vintage furniture, black and white floor tiles and an exposed shop front that give the impression that you’re dining al Fresco on a street in Paris. The attention to detail continues at your table with lace table cloths, silver tea pots, sugar bowls and china tea cups. The staff all wear traditional black and white uniforms, all adding to the feel of a traditional tea house.

afternoon tea catwalk café

We booked in advance so our afternoon tea was brought straight out to us on arrival. The dainty sandwiches were lovely with typical fillings including salmon and cream cheese, cucumber, cheese and pickle, and there was a great selection of cakes. Not to mention the scones which came with ample amounts of clotted cream and jam – a must since I hate it when you have to start scraping around the bottom of the jar and eyeing up how much the other person at the table is having (is that just me??)

Despite the pride that has clearly gone into this place, the atmosphere is very relaxed and informal. We stayed for three hours and didn’t at all feel like we’d outstayed our welcome, despite our babies crying from time to time. The staff were very friendly and attentive and provided us with unlimited amounts of tea.

The afternoon tea costs £25 for two people and is worth every penny. A definite must-do for those living in and around Solihull.