Little Thoughts on Family Life, Little Trips

Lake District Love

There is much criticism of parents who, rather than getting on with living their own lives,  choose to relive their youth vicariously through their children. Well, while I may, deep down somewhere,harbour dreams of having had ballet lessons or the bravery to ‘give things a go’ rather than run from them, perhaps my most vicarious moment (or series of them) happened in July, when we went on a family holiday.

Eleven years ago, when we were just a couple, after a difficult time, we went on a short, last minute break to the Lake District and totally fell in love with it. At the time, we talked of returning, I don’t think anticipating it would take us more than a decade to do so, or, that we would return not just as a couple, but as a family of five!

I was truly excited and delighted to be making the journey, but I must confess, I was sightly apprehensive. What if things weren’t as I remembered? What if we were going to realise that memories are a sweeter interpretation of life than reality? You can imagine my immense relief and absolute glee when I realised, that on this occasion as least, our memories had not been playing tricks on us.

There’s something about the Lake District, a beauty, a calm, almost, dare I say it, a sense of enchantment, that casts a spell over you and draws you to its heart. The stunning scenery and the incredible landscape are an awesome reminder of the wonder of creation and the generous gift that this beautiful world is to us. So, even if your caravan isn’t The Ritz (least said about that the better!), that becomes a small matter in the bigger picture of a truly fabulous week away!

As well as plans to retrace some steps from our previous visit, much online searching had thrown up a number of other options too and so, with plenty possibilities to keep us occupied, we embraced our somewhat long – awaited return trip, this time, focusing on how to keep the ‘little people’ entertained.

Ok, so I say little people. But, here’s the thing. It would seem that, though we may forget it sometimes, or the general pressures and expectations of being a grown up can repress it, the fact of the matter is, there’s a ‘little person’ inside all of us! And boy, did we embrace the opportunity to unleash our inner children, as well as keeping the three genuine littles happy! (Shhh… They’re much too young to understand vicarious living, so, remember, just in case you’re asked, it was all for them! 😉)

The perfect antidote to a day’s travelling is, most definitely, spending a day in the great outdoors and had we been planning the weather for our first full day, we couldn’t have done it any better ourselves. Picnic packed and sun cream on, we set off to explore and Brockhole on Windermere was the most wonderful spot to do just that. Green open spaces, lakeside walks, play areas, very welcome shaded picnic tables, you name it, this place had it. And, if there’d been any remaining doubts about the memory playing tricks, one glimpse of Windermere in all its beauty soon dispelled those.

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Having planned a ‘Beatrix Potter Day’, I was kicking myself that I’d forgotten reading about the little trail that was located at Brockhole- FYI, if you plan a visit, be sure to take some paper and crayons so your littles/own inner child can do character rubbings on the way round.

Now, anyone who knows we will easily testify to the fact that I am, at heart, a total wimp. I’m not one to attempt anything adventurous and so, when the kids show any interest in such things, that’s my cue to back off, smile sweetly, and hand over to dad! While the sight of Tree Top Trek left me feeling slightly unnerved and praying that the girls wouldn’t show any interest ( daddy’s inner child needed little encouragement!), Tree Top Nets was a very different story. Ever wanted to climb trees and look down on the world from a good 20 foot above ground, with nothing blocking your view? Then this is for you!

As it wasn’t a busy day, the two grown up children were allowed to swap half way through the two hour session, which meant we got to climb up and run through the tree tops (something I never thought I’d say!!) with our bigger two, while the one safely on the ground got to spectate and explore the surroundings, as well as enjoying the little playpark just beside it, with our youngest. On what was possibly the hottest day of the year, it was a great way to get some shade from the leaves in the treetops, whilst running around, or sliding down the various slides. It truly was a fabulous experience and one we’d happily repeat!

Our picnic long -since eaten and the heat having taken its toll, a trip into Winderemere itself was required for refreshments. Finding a parking space, we had the loveliest experience when, a total stranger who had bought a ticket for much longer than they needed, came over and gave it to us as they were leaving as there was still time left on it. If, by some utterly bizarre coincidence you are reading this, kind lady, thank you so much! It’s moments like that which truly restore your faith in human nature. And so, as we set off in search of ‘a little something’, to borrow from Winnie the Pooh, we did so with happy hearts. And a reminder of how little gestures which may seem insignificant, can mean so very much to someone else!

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It’s safe to say that we milked our super sunny day for all it was worth and even paid a wee visit to Fell Foot. The most beautiful lakeside spot, with room for running around, barbecues, boat trips (though we were a bit late arriving for that) and a really great play park – which even had its own zip wire. As a final stop-off on an utterly stunning day, it was the perfect venue to stretch our legs before getting back into the car for the last part of our journey back to base.

Our Beatrix Potter day began with an incredible three hours of thunder, lighting and rain. Now, hours of rain is nothing new to me, but the thunder and lightning was something else!! But, besides a quick run to a car park meter which left me questionning just how waterproof my waterproof coat was, the early morning weather did nothing to dampen our day. The Beatrix Potter Exhbition in Bowness on Windermere was something we had visited previously and it was an absolute joy to explore again. However, when your youngest decides to do a spot of climbing and become part of one of the displays, it serves as a reminder of how carefree our earlier visit must have been! We thoroughly enjoyed it and the girls had a ball. If you ever visit, you need to be sure to pop into the little coffee shop. Lovely staff, great coffee and THEE most generous slices of cake ever! (Please note my utter joy and delight when I realised portion sizes had not diminished in the intervening eleven years!!)

Before our trip to Hilltop House, where Beatrix Potter did her writing, we went for a wander in the town and even managed a little trip on a road train. It gave us the opportunity to enjoy the experience of a little train designed for the road that drives about 3 miles an hour and had been a tad irritating the previous day when we’d been stuck behind it in the car… isn’t it incredible what a change of perspective can do?!

The journey to Hilltop was quite a long and winding one but, I’m not convinced that wasn’t down to Annie (our Sat Nav… yes, she has a name and, it would seem, a personality! Please note, giving her an identity was not my choice and, I’m not convinced she isn’t a swim wear model on her days off!) but, it was well worth the drive. The area is, unsurprisingly gorgeous and a small but incredibly located play park was a great picnic sit while we waited to get into the house. Just a quick glimpse around, and it’s not hard to see where the inspiration for the characters and story lines came from – it was totally delightful! Made even more so when we were able to see things in the house just as they had been when Beatrix Potter lived there and spot actual picture scenes from the books in the house itself. Not to mention the glorious gardens where I kept expecting Mr McGregor to make an appearance!

On our last day at the caravan, we took a morning to get organised for the next leg of our journey and as well as the big two heading to the pool with their dad, we all had a go on a pedalo on the lake at the site. It was great fun, though, I fear there may well be terrified swans in need of therapy for some time!! (The least said about women drivers the better thank you very much!) While I’ve metioned that our caravan was well, not the cleanest, to be frank, the site at Lakeside itself was absolutely brilliant and the girls even had some fun fake-ice skating on a couple of the evenings!

That afternoon, we headed to Wray Castle and it was, for families, quite simply, super! It was a child’s dream. From the outside, an historical landmark.  From the inside, a child’s play area! It made for a truly great afternoon and it was so lovely not to have to warn our as-of-that-very-day two year old not to touch, something we seemed to have spent a lot of time doing. In honour of her birthday, we even treated ourselves to tea out in Ambleside, yet another wee gem and of course, there was the obligatory photo by ‘the wee strange bridge thing’!

Having made plans to catch up with friends and family that weekend, our time at Lakeside and in the Lake District was at an end. We were sorry to leave but, our holiday was by no means over and there were still some fabulous experiences to come but, I think that’s probably more than enough for now (assuming you are actually reading this and still awake!)

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The obligatory caravan/birthday selfie!

So, if you’re ever thinking of a holiday in Britain, I suppose I’m suggesting you give the Lake District a go, if you haven’t already. And, if by some strange coincidence you happen to be reading this because you want to pay someone to tell people what a lovely spot it is, feel free to get in touch! But, you know what, I’m happy to do it for free; it’s already given so much to us!

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