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One of the pleasures of a long drive across the UK is the chance to visit a National Trust property en-route, to break up the journey. In summer it is rare that a long detour is required but out of season it is often difficult. So it is really agreeable to see that some properties are opening earlier.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped in Norwich, for a couple of days because Blickling Hall was already open (  This is a wonderful Jacobean house in a splendid Park, full even in February with snowdrops, crocuses and other spring flowers.

Norwich is also a charming city, compact and pleasant to explore with a lovely Cathedral. The Norfolk coast is worthy of a visit, as is Oxburgh Hall where we have contributed to the restoration of a Flemish cabinet. See: Donations to NT

Much further North, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park is Nunnington Hall ( Much more a comfortable house than the grand Blickling Estate, it is still a charmer, with great gardens and in a beautiful setting. Here, and you will have to ask to have it pointed out, is a small watercolour by JMW Turner, one of the greatest English painters of the 19th century. We have paid for the frame! See: Donations to NT Go there however, for a lovely house and grounds with the ruins of two Cistercian Abbeys not far away, each in its own delightful valley, plus the cathedral towns of York & Ripon. A lovely part of England!

Nicholas Fern