This week's issue of The Beano is the first ever time the National Trust has given fictional characters keys to all of its 300 homes and access to the 617,500 acres of land it cares for. The comic's creative team have had full creative control as characters from Dennis the Menace to Billy Whizz conquer castles and race ponies across grand estates.
The hope is that by letting Beano characters invade their properties, it will help the National Trust bring its places to life and prove that its doors (and copious amounts of fresh air) are open to all - breaking down preconceptions of the organisation.
Dennis the Menace and Gnasher kick off the chaos as they conquer Powis Castle in Wales, fooling National Trust staff with dozens of "hedge menaces" disguising the real rascal and his companion and becoming King for the day.
The Numskulls, who live inside Edd's nostrils (of course), are sneezed out at Edwardian Surrey estate Polesden Lacey into a game of croquet - and a planned bug hunt - to enjoy the buzz of bumblebee racing. Meanwhile, Minnie The Minx takes her dad on a manic trip to Northern Ireland to discover the iconic Giant's Causeway - and find the giant Finn McCool himself.
The Bash Street Kids take over Devon family manor Arlington Court as they enjoy the great outdoors - bat watching and pony racing with a less than happy teacher to calm them down. Fellow mischief-maker Billy Whizz - the fastest boy in The Beano - explores the country in less than a day. Fooled by Attingham Park's false doors, to completing Cragside's 8 foot high rhododendron maze in seconds and experiencing life as an Anglo Saxon at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, Billy has a fast-paced day topped off by a good night's sleep in Lyme Park's Edwardian Nursery.
"We're delighted to open our doors to The Beano and all of its mischievous characters," says Tony Berry, Visitor Experience Director of the National Trust. "The Trust and The Beano are both British institutions and we are hoping the news that we have opened our doors to them all will encourage families to take a leaf out of Dennis' book and organise a trip to one of our places.
"As our black and red stripy friend says; 'a menace always has a plan' and this summer should be no exception.
"Wherever we can we have tried to take away ropes and show the fun side of our places with everything from mazes to talking portraits. We are certain that real-life Dennises will find that it is not all 'please don't touch' anymore - in some places you can even have a go on the snooker table."
"We couldn't think of a better way to prove what fun kids can have at 'Gnashional Trust' properties by letting the world's most famous menace and his friends from Beanotown loose on them," added John-Paul Murphy, Head of Brand Marketing of The Beano publishers, D.C. Thomson. "Dennis hasn't let his own 60th anniversary affect his ability to cause his own brand of havoc and it is a fitting birthday treat for him to become 'King of the Castle' at Powis.
"We're sure Beano readers will have just as much fun as the characters have when they visit the venues featured in our comic this summer."
- The Gnashional Trust issue of The Beano goes on sale Wednesday 27th July. For a behind-the-scenes look at the takeover visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/thebeano.
- National Trust sites taken over by The Beano:
Powis Castle, Powys (Dennis the Menace & Gnasher)
Polesden Lacey, Surrey (The Numskulls)
Giant's Causeway, County Antrim (Minnie The Minx)
Arlington Court, Devon (The Bash Street Kids)
Attingham Park, Shropshire (Billy Whizz)
Cragside, Northumberland (Billy Whizz)
Sutton Hoo, Suffolk (Billy Whizz)
Lyme Park, Cheshire (Billy Whizz)
The National Trust is including a Kids Go Free offer over the whole of August. This nationwide offer excludes the Bank Holiday Weekend only (27th-29th). To download your voucher or find out more, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/augkidsfree