Welcome to the spring issue of our magazine

The spring magazine covers © National Trust Magazine

The spring magazine covers

Warming my frozen feet in a cosy pub after the star party photoshoot at Tyntesfield, North Somerset, for this issue’s cover feature, I found myself thinking about how much more there is to the Trust than buildings.

In this age of light pollution, we are lucky enough to care for land beneath some of the darkest skies in Britain. Parts of Exmoor and the Brecon Beacons have even been designated International Dark Sky Reserves by the US-based International Dark Sky Association, which campaigns for the protection of the night sky. Our feature is by astronomy writer Will Gater, who shares his love of stargazing and offers a beginner’s guide to the best that the night sky has to offer at this time of the year. So why restrict your visit to the daytime? Make tonight the night to go out and see its beauty for yourself.

In fact, this issue is packed with ways to enjoy the outdoors this spring. Travel guru Alastair Sawday explains why he believes some of the world’s most special holiday destinations can be found right on our own doorstep. Look out for our top family events to enjoy this February half term (p71), and over the Easter weekend Cadbury will once again be sponsoring a series of trails at many of our properties, where children can become ‘Eggsplorers’ and earn chocolate ‘Eggheads’.

I've also been up at Dunham Massey, Cheshire, for our article on the First World War.

100 years ago, Dunham Massey’s donor family, the Stamfords, transformed their family home into a military hospital at huge inconvenience to themselves. The family lived alongside and nursed wounded soldiers from the Great War, providing them with the sanctuary and care they desperately needed following their ordeals in the trenches.

To commemorate the centenary of the First World War this year, the team at Dunham Massey has gone to enormous lengths to recreate the Stamford Military Hospital. Visitors can wander the actual rooms where recovering soldiers rested, where nurses snatched precious moments for themselves and where the visiting surgeon performed his work. It’s a magnificent snapshot of history with fabulous attention to historical detail, but that’s not why I find it so moving. By so vibrantly bringing into the present the stories of the people of that time – the soldiers, the nurses, the mothers who wrote their impassioned letters of gratitude to Lady Stamford to thank her for caring for their sons – the whole property comes alive. If ever there was an example of why it’s so vital that we preserve special places for ever, for everyone, this is it. 

Also, I am delighted to introduce the first of our new three-part ‘Journey of Discovery’ series, which I hope will inspire you and your family to go for a walk together and see what you can find. It’s gloriously illustrated by Little Red Train author Benedict Blathwayt – and children have the chance to win one of our specially commissioned original artworks from the series (p43).

Enjoy your issue,

Sally Palmer, Editor