Start the New Year with a healthy stroll, says the National Trust

If you are feeling heavier than you did before Christmas, then why not take a healthy and invigorating stroll in beautiful surroundings? Emma Ward looks at what the National Trust has to offer this time of year

We do it every year. Eat far too many Christmas mince pies, drink far too much New Year beer and laze around over the holidays watching far too many cheesy films, generally not moving around very much at all. Well, why not? During that week in between Christmas Day and New Year, the schools are shut, regular commitments take a back seat and many working people take time off with sighs of relief.

But what about doing something else with this precious time off work, not to mention during the first weeks and months of 2012? We at The National Trust would suggest that January is the perfect month to get out into the fresh winter air and start the New Year exercise regime. Nothing strenuous – simply join in one or more of the outdoor events happening across East and West Sussex.

Or plan your own ramble through the hundreds of acres of National Trust countryside in the UK open to everyone to explore for free, all year round. Many of our houses and formal gardens also have attractive wider estates that remain open all year, including Bateman’s, Sheffield Park Garden and Petworth House and Park.

Family Fun

Bored children are no fun, so get them off the sofa and out into the open air. Before leaving for your walk, why not plan a scavenger hunt, A-Z spotter game or other nature challenge to make the walk more interesting. On your return, warm up with a mug of hot chocolate and work together to make a scrapbook or nature collage as a souvenir of your walk.

Fans of period dramas might also like to come to Nymans on any Wednesday in January (also 1 and 8 February) for a chance to peek behind the scenes and find out what we do to look after the 1920s, mock-Medieval house and its contents over winter. Spaces on the half-hour tour are limited and cannot be booked in advance. Tours leave at 11am – arrive early to secure your place and avoid disappointment.

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Winter warmers

On 27 and 30 December (for early readers of the magazine!), Sheffield Park Garden will offer visitors a rare opportunity to see its spectacular white waterfall, Pulham Falls, crashing over the 10-metre rock face between 12 noon and 1pm.

The garden opens all year round, except Christmas Day, from 10.30am for visitors to enjoy a stroll and refreshments in the tea room.

Healthy happenings

Our countryside in Sussex is available all year round for walks and wintry outdoor fun.

Even in snowy weather, there are snowmen to be made and animal tracks to follow.

Walks of various lengths and difficulty levels are available to download from The National Trust website. Braver souls might like to dip a toe in the sea at East Head or wrap up warm to go rock-pooling at Birling Gap. Winchelsea and the South Downs countryside will look dramatic in January, so we strongly recommend you take your camera on your walk for some striking pictures.

History matters

If you are up for a more structured walk, then book a place on the Devil’s Dyke’s walk on 28 December, when Head Warden Charlie Cain will discuss the history of the South Downs landscape. The walk (2pm-4pm) costs �3 per person and there is no need to book in advance. Meet in the Devil’s Dyke car park.

And finally, culture vultures needn’t feel left out, as Nymans in Hayward’s Heath is holding an exhibition of designer Oliver Messel in the Long Gallery between 11am and 3pm every day until the end of February. Viewing this free exhibition (after normal admission has been paid) could be combined easily with a winter stroll round Nymans garden to see our beautiful winter plants.

So, for those planning their winter adventures, come and visit our website at In the meantime, we wish all our readers a happy and healthy 2012, with as much fresh air and exercise as you think you can possibly fit in!

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