VISITORS to National Trust sites around Wiltshire and Hampshire have enjoyed their first taste of Christmas, now that the heritage charity has opened its doors for the festive season.

Staff and volunteers at historic houses of Mottisfont, Hinton Ampner, The Vyne, Mompesson House and Uppark have been busy behind the scenes for weeks, decorating huge trees with thousands of baubles and lights, creating magical scenes that brought stories to life, and devising outdoor trails full of active festive fun for kids.

Mompesson House

Mompesson House in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close recreated Charles Dickens' famous tale, 'A Christmas Carol', with nearly 1,000 visitors in its first few days of opening.

The house revealed settings from Dickens’ own world as well as from his novel - visitors could pop into the writer’s study – and for the first Christmas - the upstairs rooms were open as well as the ground floor.

On show were Scrooge’s bedroom, and the Cratchet’s table where people sat for a Christmas feast.

The sensory experience was full of opportunities to see, smell and hear the sounds of Christmas, and for little ones, there was dressing up and free storytelling sessions, which will be repeated every weekend.

Mompesson House visitor experience officer Jennifer Grene said: "We were really delighted to welcome so many happy visitors in our first week of Christmas opening.

"Mompesson is smaller than many National Trust places but it does make it that much cosier at Christmas.

"We’ve decorated nearly the whole house... it was very jolly with little ones getting stuck into the dressing up and activity sheets, and of course, they loved the storytelling sessions we held on Sunday.

"We really wanted to make this Christmas magical as well as historical, and A Christmas Carol has been the perfect choice."


At Mottisfont, near Romsey, over 3,000 people collected train tickets on their arrival to journey to the North Pole on Mottisfont’s Christmas Express.

Highlights included the polar bear’s ball featuring a life-size polar bear, a winter forest scene and "spectacular lighting effects", culminating with a ‘Northern Lights’ display.

In the gardens, families discovered hidden doors inside postboxes, stone urns and barrels revealing "beautiful" miniature scenes revealing the secrets behind Santa’s Christmas postal service.

Children wearing elf hats queued up to try out the Christmas postbag stuffing challenge, then had a go at designing their own Christmas stockings.

Helen Potts, Mottisfont’s visitor experience manager said: "We had a spectacular Christmas last year with our Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe recreation, and this year’s offering is no less enchanting.

"We worked with professional theatrical props makers, Tin Shed... and everyone is loving the life-size train carriage they’ve built

"Not surprisingly, our polar bear has been a huge win; he’s absolutely gorgeous and our visitors have loved posing with him for pics. The other real talking point has been our ‘naughty lists’, which some are taking quite seriously."

Hinton Ampner

Hinton Ampner, near Alresford, welcomed over 2,000 visitors to its re-telling of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan with a festive twist.

The entrance hall had become the nursery for the Darling family children, and the dining room was transformed into Captain Hook’s treasure trove.

Highlights included Peter Pan’s flying shadow flitting across a room and, especially for younger visitors, a life-size ticking crocodile.

Visitor experience manager Michaela Saunders-Hall said: "We sold nearly 800 tickets in our first four hours of box office opening, which has never happened before.

"I think this year more than ever, people want to escape into something magical and joyful.

"It’s been a real thrill seeing the delight and surprise on people’s faces as they wander through the rooms and discover all sorts of fun things in the garden.

"Peter Pan has strong cross-generational appeal too and we’ve seen grandparents with memories of the story introducing it to their grandchildren, which has been delightful.

Partnering with Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital has made the experience even more special."

The Vyne

The Nutcracker sprang to life at The Vyne, near Basingstoke.

Visitors flocked to take in the sight of the colourful battle scene between the villainous Mouse King and the heroic Nutcracker cavalry.

'Sweet’ thrones were a hit with visitors keen to capture fun photographic memories in the mouth-watering 'Land of Sweets'.

Hollie Ryan, visitor experience manager for The Vyne, said: "We had such a lovely first weekend of opening at The Vyne.

"Giant Nutcrackers stood outside the house to welcome people in, and everyone loved the Land of Sweets with the thrones they could sit on – it’s really colourful and fun.

The battle scene between the Nutcrackers and the mice was very popular with families because it features rather lovely toys."