After lots of travel abroad last year and the year before, as Carnival’s Funnest family, and with Comic Relief, it’s been equally awesome to spend time appreciating the UK this year. I’ve really enjoyed working with some local tourist boards to find the best of what is on offer for families in Cardiff, Nottingham, Norfolk and now the Lake District.
The Lake District seemed like the perfect place to retreat to over half term, to celebrate my birthday and reconnect with my family after a few months of Mr A working away. Regular readers might know I have been on a bit of spiritual journey recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes me happy, and what I believe in, and it keeps bringing me back to trees and nature.
Although I have been feeling happier than ever with life recently, I’m a restless person, so I’ve got that sense of life just ticking along, picking a holiday with challenges and opportunities for a new sense of achievement was just what I needed, and I think the rest of the family appreciated that feeling too.
Here are the moments that will really stay with me.
A warm welcome
We stayed with Sykes Cottages for this trip, reviewing Fox Barn in Staverley. I am part way through writing a full review of our stay, and posts on the places we visited, but for now I feel so overwhelmed with how wonderful the trip was, that I just want to capture some glimpses into our holiday I don’t want to lose. Bread is always a symbolic gift, there’s a theatre company I studied that always give it away at performances. So arriving to a fresh spiced loaf from artisan bakers More! in Staverley, as well as some dog treats, and beer from the local Hawkshead Brewery was a real treat. The owners of Fox Barn are a really lovely couple and really made us feel at home, via email before our trip, and by a phone call to check we had all we need – they gave us so many great tips to help us enjoy our break.
I am so grateful to my friend Sarah for taking the time, admittedly over a joint birthday brasserie lunch, complete with pink fizz and OS maps, to point me in the right direction. Sarah wrote this guest post for me on A Residence blog on climbing mountains with kids, and has been visiting the Lakes for years. With a son the same age as L, she knew exactly what would work for us, and sent me a list of things to try.
Go Lakes also suggested some fab places to go, and the handbooks at Fox Barn were brimming with ideas. I really loved indulging my inner planning geek tendencies and spending time researching what to do for this trip over guide books and OS maps, rather than just rocking up, as Mr A favours.
I was also lucky enough to sample the local beer in the local pub, with local Kirstie, from The Family Adventure Project, who had lots of great ideas too.
You can see my top tips over on Space in Your Case.
And the kids picking me flowers everywhere we went, that’s the most wonderful feeling too.
Our first week away with Max
We’ve done lots of weekends with Max, but this was the first full week with him, taking UK holidays means we get to take him with us. He really amazed us. When we adopted him he refused point blank to go over a stone stile in Wales, greyhounds who are ex racers often haven’t encountered stairs. If we took him to the pub with us he would stand up and slobber at the end of the table. But this holiday he cleared a stile, he curled up quietly on any number of pub and cafe floors, he rode on three boats with Windermere Lake Cruises, and even climbed a mountain. I couldn’t be more proud of Max. It was the first holiday where I think we all felt really confident taking him everywhere with us, and where he felt truly part of the family. A number of times shopkeepers even came out to say hello and invite him inside when he was bored of waiting, he also made a friend….
I love this pic!
Playing in the Treetop Nets, Brockhole
There was a moment where Mr A and I completely forgot the kids and were so busy bounding around Tree Top Nets, chasing each other through the trees, giggling and cavorting like teenagers. I had to beg him to stop making me laugh, although I was still super impressed with my pelvic floor; after two kids laughing until you cry, while trampolining, is quite a test. Probably the best two hours I have spent in a long time. Well worth the money – the feeling of liberation and freedom is priceless. Goes without saying that the kids loved it too. Mr G is a little afraid of heights, and was super cautious to begin, but was soon leaping around like a wild little tree monkey.
Climbing our first fell
We were so excited to find a fell named the same as L. A two hour walk from the cottage door, and easily achievable, but absolutely worth it for the views.
Climbing a bigger fell
You know when you get those random ‘parental-ability-affirming’ moments when someone compliments your kids, normally old ladies in a supermarket? Well we had that, but a few metres from the top of the tallest fell we climbed. A couple stopped us to tell us how amazing our kids were, bobbing along like mountain goats. They didn’t complain once, and although it was a fairly safe and manageable climb for their age, it was very steep. We thanked them, and it gave us the last bit of energy we needed to catch them up and reach the peak, where another family with older kids congratulated them too. They were so proud of themselves, sometimes we all need to feel a new sense of achievement. It was a huge achievement for Max too, who managed to get his spindly long legs up some challenging terrain.
The literary associations, and the views here were fab, following in Wordsworth’s footsteps along Loughrigg Terrace and then scrambling up the steep series of mounds to the top of the fell.
You can see the video of the day here.
An hour to myself
It meant a lot to spend an hour in the Wordsworths’ house Hope Cottage. It’s important to indulge your own interest; I studied Romantic poets at University, so I really enjoyed trying to imagine life in Wordsworths shoes and learning more about his sister Dorothy, who was a diarist who kept records of their life in the Lakes, I wonder if she would have written a blog if she were alive today? Seeing their home, kitchen and coffee grinder, the chairs where they sat to write, and then sitting in the garden, with its views of Grasmere, was a poignant reminder of a life well lived, and beautifully expressed.
We are just tiny specks on this planet…it made me quite emotional watching these four descend Loughrigg Fell.
They must be out later in Cumbria, but they were everywhere…stunning woods full of them.
Walk, eat, sleep, repeat
I love this picture of Max and L waiting for the Windermere Lake Cruise back to Bowness after walking four miles from Wray Castle. It really epitomises the week’s sense of tired but happy achievement. Max and G crashed completely together on the boat deck on the way home. I love how this picture makes a heart…
I have never felt healthier and slept better as I did in the Lakes. Human bodies need to walk, to be in nature, to earn their fill of incredible food. And to sleep the sleep of someone who has climbed a fell or conquered a lake, is a magical sleep indeed.
And yes, we did have some lie ins, and a pyjama day too!
We’ve decided to return to the Lakes for our 10th wedding anniversary in August, just me and Mr A this time, I can’t wait, I am trying to resist planning it all now. We also had a top secret second wedding in the Lakes, but more on that another day…
Our accommodation in brief
We stayed in Fox Barn, Staveley, courtesy of Sykes Cottages. it is a two bed ground floor cottage. It is a very comfortable, well equipped and dog-friendly, located on a lovely lane by the river, just a quarter of a mile from some great eateries in Staveley village, with a lovely walk along the river. Its open plan layout worked really well for us as a family and Staveley makes a really peaceful, un-touristy base, yet is only 15 minutes from Windermere where most of our activities took place.
I would really recommend Fox Barn and would definitely use it as a Lake District base again.
Full review of the cottage on A Residence, and more awesome family adventures to have locally on Space in Your Case.