The National Trust is a conservation organisation which works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces in the UK. The trust owns 350 heritage properties including historic houses, gardens and monuments which can be visited for a fee, as well as many sites of natural beauty which are open to the public free of charge.

A few years ago I decided that I would buy an annual membership, and have maintained that every year since. Visiting National Trust properties is a great way to spend a few hours if you are a fan of history, architecture, scenery and more importantly, CAKE. I rate my favourite properties by which ones have the best tea-rooms and serve the best cakes! Well, this is not technically true, but am I selling it to you?

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Umbria is a region of central Italy landlocked between Tuscany to the west, Marche to the east and Lazio to the south. It’s fair to say it doesn’t sit as prominently on the tourist map as some other parts of the country. The draw of neighbouring Tuscany with it’s beautiful landscape of rolling hills, cypress lined vineyards and olive groves, along with destinations such as Florence, Pisa and Siena is too much to pass.

The thing is though, Umbria, known as ‘the green heart of Italy‘ has an equally beautiful landscape of valleys, rolling hills, medieval hilltop towns and one of the most dramatic national parks I have visited – Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini. These are the reasons we decided to visit.

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Having visited Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park in California a couple of times, I have become a little obsessed with the Giant Sequoia tree. The Sequoiadendron gigantium also commonly known as the Giant Redwood can reach up to 280 feet in height and are among the oldest living things on earth, the oldest known by ring count is 3500 years old!

As well as their dominating height, I love the texture of the bark. The reddish-brown bark is fairly soft and fibrous but can be up to 3ft thick at the base of the trunk, which gives significant fire protection to the trees. The shape and patterns created on the trunks from the layers upon layers of bark are beautiful when seen up close. These forests also smell fantastic. Go visit!

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