Blog Post Type: Summary of a City Guide
When I took off for Europe the first stop was London. We explored museums, parks and ethnic foods for days. While sharing a pint with an Australian fellow he invited us to check out the van he was selling at the London Aussie-Kiwi van lot. One great sales pitch to a couple of backpackers later and we headed out of town on a road trip across Great Britain. We spent a good 3 weeks driving on the left in a rusty VW camper van while maneuvering between hedges on country roads.
I never thought the English countryside would be so interesting but I was soon enthralled by the National Trust properties. We visited castles and estates, walked through rooms set for tea and crossed more than a few moats. As members of the National Trust we could easily plot our course from historical site to site.
The National Trust is still busy restoring historical buildings. Since 1994 it’s added a contemporary cultural twist at many locations throughout London.
Breakers Yard and gardens
This 1535 Tudor home of Sir Ralph Sadleir, a courtier for Henry the VIII, has endured centuries of occupants from merchants to Huguenot silkweavers to squatters. Eventually a junkyard took over. Still the oak-paneled rooms, original carved fireplaces and courtyard of Sutton House remained intact.
With the help of the National Trust, the once derelict scrub-land has been transformed into an oasis with a contemporary vibe. The Breakers Yard includes an edible garden, up-cycled vehicles, a car tire sand pit, a bus greenhouse and metal gates embedded with toy cars.
The yard also hosts the Grange, a 1970’s caravan that sprang from the imagination of the artist Daniel Lobb. He incorporated a stairway from a hotel demolition, scrap crown molding, and decor from flea markets into a two-story design complete with a balcony. From the outside it looks like a tall, misshapen trailer home, but inside it echoes a stately mansion.
Take a tour of the Grange in this short video from the BBC Top Gear Show:
What to do in London?
Hop on a Routemaster Tour
The National Trust has gone further along with the caravan theme and created a mobile experience, Routemaster Tours. In 2013 they worked with the Arriva Heritage Fleet to restore the first double-decker Routemaster coach back to its original green glory. Since then each spring tour has focused on the history, architecture and culture of the capital city, while inspiring innovative and unusual experiences in London.
Imagine riding to historical sites with choice experts like authors, film makers, coffee brewers, architectural specialists, and broadcasters. Tours last from three to six hours , including a one hour stop and information packets. The next tours are set for springtime departures.
What excites me most? The National Trust Routemaster riders are given access to locations that aren’t normally open to the public.
Today the National Trust is still a good value for travelers spending a week or more in London and the British Isles. Membership for a family is relatively inexpensive when you consider entrance to over 300 historic houses, gardens, countryside, and coastline locations. The London locations are accessible by public transportation, but if you end up falling in love with a van or caravan, you’ll get free parking too.
This article is part of the #HipmunkCityLove series. Don’t forget to check out great ideas for London hotels when booking your trip.