Dear National Trust
Today we visited our local NT site, Mottisfont. We haven’t been since you’ve made all the alterations and were surprised to see the great big new entrance building. Although we loved the old wooden hut that previously greeted us, we realised that change must happen in the name of ‘progress’ and thought that the building was impressive, if a little out of keeping.
Being a family with a wheelchair user, the increased disabled car park seemed a welcome addition but as you may have heard, size isn’t everything. There are no signs as to where the access entrance might be and the gravel surface that has been put down makes it virtually impossible for wheelchair access. We nearly gave up before we’d even found how to get in.
But Mottisfont has always been one of our very favourite places so we decided to struggle on and after several attempts and a lot of ‘almost’ blood, sweat and tears, we made our way into the new building.
Saving our trip to the new shop til after our visit we headed straight to the Stables to set up my husband with a pot of tea and to equip our daughter with the Easter Egg Trail.
Here we were met with another bout of disappointments. Gone are the homemade cakes in favour of packaged treats, gone is the English tearoom feel, in favour of a supposedly streamlined café. Gone is any kind of service that could give a nod to an English tradition.
After queueing for 10 minutes (I know, it’s Easter, it’s busy, I didn’t mind the wait) I was told that tea was no longer served in a POT but came in an individual PAPER cup. I was then directed to a grubby milk and sugar station where I could add milk from a plastic jug and stir it with a plastic fork. After depositing our tea ‘cups’ into one of the many recycling stations (that were easy to spot due to the tidal wave of used paper ‘cups’) a visit to the ‘powder room’ was called for. Dirty, no toilet paper, soap but no water (that created its own set of problems) and generally scruffy.
A quick visit to the shop on our way out seemed to take us through a space and time portal. Apart from the odd Mottisfont postcard (how long will they last in this day and age of email) or Jute bag emblazoned with ‘MOTTISFONT’ we could have been in any National Trust shop in the country. But it’s ok, if I want to buy a momento or gift, I can buy it online.
Mottisfont used to feel like a place where you were involved, a part of the community, you could feel the history and enjoy the exquisite gardens and rolling Hampshire countryside. Although the House and the Gardens are still a beauty to behold, it’s now lost its unique quality and atmosphere. My husband along with any other wheelchair user will no longer be able to visit on their own as they will need help to access the reception building.
We understand the need to make money but you seem to have lost your way National Trust. Surely the National Trust is all about preserving our heritage, has our heritage turned into plastic cups, bins overflowing with rubbish and grubby toilets? Our children may think so!