Mister E and I have been joint members of the National Trust for as long as we have been married. Membership gives free entry to National Trust properties. The number that we have visited, however, is relatively small. Instead we have paid our annual fee with the aim of helping to preserve our coastline and countryside, missing out on visiting stately homes and other places of historic interest. Indeed, there have been many years where the only benefit we have enjoyed has been free parking at Dungeon Ghyll in the Great Langdale Valley.
Nevertheless, whilst staying in Langdale this summer, we also included visits to two properties in the ownership of the Trust, namely Sizergh Castle, the seat of the Strickland family, and Allan Bank, one of William Wordsworth's homes. I am not sure why we have spent so little time in the past taking advantage of our membership in this way as I love walking around such properties, imagining that I am back in the past, living there: skipping through the castle grounds; reading a book in a casement window; admiring the view of the lake whilst sitting at my desk writing poetry.
Sizergh Castle, set amidst stunning gardens and overlooking a lake of petite proportions has been the residence of the Strickland family since the 12th century and is a veritable treasure trove of history.
Allan Bank, described by Wordsworth as a "temple of abomination" when it was constructed, as it spoiled his view from his then home at Dove Cottage, has beautiful views across both Lake Grasmere and the surrounding fells with a tunnel through a rocky face in the garden leading from one vista to the other.
We have yet to decide whether or not to maintain our membership of the National Trust in retirement, bearing in mind our past failure to access the properties to which it gives entry and satisfied that over the years we have probably paid our bit for all those stones set loose on footpaths right across the Lake District in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible can walk the most popular routes without eroding the ground underneath. Although not highly publicised, there is a reduced rate of membership for those over sixty and their spouses, who have been members for five years or more. If we decide to take advantage, we shall then have another ready made bucket list of places to visit and hopefully the time in retirement to see more than that car park at Dungeon Ghyll.