A Day Out At Knole
The National Trust’s Knole in Sevenoaks is a remarkable place. Its history spans all the way back to 1456, when it was built by the then Archbishop of Canterbury (although there had been an older manor house on the site even before that). It is, perhaps, most famous as being one of Henry VIII’s favourite stately homes – he was keen on hunting in Knole Park, and, of course, it is situated not too far away from Hever Castle, home of Anne Boleyn – but with 400 years of the Sackville family having lived there, Knole is more than ‘just’ a royal palace.
Knole was Virginia Woolf’s inspiration for her novel Orlando, for example (which was written for her lover, Vita Sackville-West, who lived at Knole at the time). And over the years, many artists have discovered the romance and the splendour of this grand house. It is still popular with artists today, and on any given day you will find photographers, painters, poets and more enjoying the special ambience of Knole and its surroundings.
The house itself is open to the public, and is currently going through some major renovations to bring it back to its former glory. This is not something that need concern anyone who wants to come for a visit, however. This massive conservation project, in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund is being carried out whilst the house is open, and in fact the public is encouraged to take a peek into the rooms that are being worked on to see how far the project is from completion. Each unfinished room is described in detail thanks to the informative handouts, so it is still possible to discover what went on there; but more than that, it is possible to discover what will go on there in the future.
The National Trust is in the process of opening lots of new spaces to visitors. The Gatehouse Tower opened for the first time in June and the refurbished Brewhouse Café and shop opened in July. Later this year, the new lifelong learning centre and a professional conservation studio will also open. Knole is a wonderful day out now, but once these new areas are opened up, it will truly be magnificent. Those who have visited in the past will want to return to see what has changed, and those who have never come before will be in awe of what patience and passion can do.
Knole is the ideal family day out. Where better for children to enjoy themselves than in the huge expanse of the park that surrounds the house? The National Trust is keen for children – and their parents – to carry out as many of the 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 as possible, and many of them can be done at Knole, around the house and in the park. Rolling down hills? Check. Climbing trees? Check. Spotting leaves, animals, plants, nature in general… check. Fresh air, history and a sense of freedom combine to ensure that the little ones enjoy Knole as much as their parents do. When inside the house why not follow the fun trail to find the hidden fluffy leopards? Outside, you can embark on a geocache adventure in the park, follow the family trail, or take a story sack out into the garden. The fun is never ending.
If there is something more specific that you and the children want to join in with, there are plenty of events taking place throughout the year at Knole. The supremely popular Family Mondays offer the chance to experience different arts and crafts, and there are also Tudor dressing-up days on which children are able to try on costumes from the past, and learn more about the people who would have worn them.
Knole, and its garden and park, is the kind of day out you will want to do again and again – and each time you will find something new to experience and love.