Last year a group of old friends and our little ones decided that we would meet up en-masse on a yearly basis. We are so blessed that our little ones get on (most of the time) so they all get super excited. We decided, due to where we all live, that the Peak District was a good choice again and so we booked in to The Old Barn in Swincoe close to Ashbourne. See separate review of the property but suffice to say it is an ideal solution to a big group with little and big uns.
Like last year we sorted a food delivery to be sent to the accommodation and just needed to turn up on time – this saves a lot of deciding who will bring what and just makes everything that bit easier. The only thing we all bring ourselves is whatever we want to drink.
So once we were all sorted with logistics and catering myself and two of the other mums decided to spend the Friday together too. We opted for Chatsworth House and whilst I am still keen to go and visit the house -it was agreed that with a group of 8 kiddies (one just over a year old) this could/would be a disaster of epic proportions – we therefore just bought the tickets for the farm and adventure playground.
We had a lovely drive in the sunshine we arrived at the estate, parked up and headed up the hill. After petting the animals there was the chorus of “when is lunch, I’m hungry, what can I eat” so we made our way down to the picnic area. This was brilliant – plenty of tables but also plenty of space if you wanted to just get a picnic blanket out. Plus, once the kiddies that don’t take 16 hours to eat a sandwich had finished they could just run around and kick a ball whilst waiting for others to finish. Perfect.
After lunch we went to the adventure playground and it was fabulous. A huge area with climbing frames, ropes and a whole range of activities for all ages. The kids were manic and only ventured back for a quick swig of water before speeding off again. We were pretty much guaranteed some zzzzzz’s on the drive back but also knew this would be for the best with a couple of late nights ahead of them. After a couple of hours of exploring we made our way back to the cars and set off to the cottage.
There was a slightly smaller group on the first evening due to work/weddings and other events and so we decided on a bit of a treat. We sorted the little ones out with a Spaghetti Carbonara and then they were ready for more tearing around. The accommodation is on an old campsite so there is plenty of space so we headed to the open field and let them tire themselves out (again). Once we achieved this it was back inside, PJ’s on and a unanimous vote for the Greatest Showman movie. Popcorn and snacks and they were settled enough for the grown-ups to enjoy their dinner.
Red wine, sirloin steak and a stinky cheese board for dessert and we were all in our happy place. Kids finally put to bed, a nightcap or two and we were all ready to hit the hay ourselves.
We had a few staggered arrivals on the second day, which made it a little difficult to go walking anywhere, so we had decided that a day in the park, picnic and ball games was the perfect solution. It was a little overcast when we arrived at the Cricket Pavillion in Ashbourne and I am sure we must have looked a little bit odd setting up our picnic. The kids ran to the park and no surprise – as it had a water feature – Ella (and a couple of others) stripped down to their pants and just got wet. Not a care in the world and we loved watching them. I have mentioned it was slightly overcast but this certainly didn’t bother them until they decided to stop and then they were cooooooooold.
After lunch the sun started to make its way through and it was time for rounders. I have not played this for years and no idea why. We had such fun! In fact, all of the kids at the end of the weekend said this was their favourite part. Teams selected, tactics shared we were super competitive but still (for fear of tears) decided a draw was pretty much the final result.
Time to pack up and head back for a BBQ but we first decided a quick refreshment at the Dog and Partridge just near the cottage. Now we have been here before and it has a great beer garden but the customer service is pretty non-existent. It has great potential but they need to improve how the staff talk to the punters (or maybe that is the appeal). However, suitably refreshed and back up the road the hunter gatherers stoked up the BBQ and the ladies poured the G&T’s. We had a feast fit for kings and were all suitably well fed before the kiddies decided more ball sports were in order so we were back on the field but with full bellies and G&T’s in hand we were more spectators.
Once the little ones were in bed we cranked up the music and had a bit of a dance in the dining room. Now I met all my friends whilst living down in London when clubbing and partying was our thing. Older now (but not so wiser) we might not partake as much but we still love to get our groove on. There it is always that one tune that always does it for my amazing friends. It has memories from all our time together and just sets us into a frenzy (despite our ages). After a bit of moshing then we retired our now ancient bodies.
Morning time and I had volunteered to get the troops fed and watered. A good old full English and we packed up our cottage and headed to Dovedale.
Dovedale is a spectacular place and one we will definitely return too. The sun was shining and the British Countryside was at its best. We didn’t quite know how hot it was going to be and how tired our kiddies little legs would get (I think the late nights and constant running around didn’t help) but we had planned to make it to Reynards Cave alas the little ones made the decision for us time to turn back. Half of the group (myself included) decided to take lower path back thinking we were avoiding a bit of a hill. Not the best decision as the path ended abruptly and we had to cajole, crawl and scramble up to the highest point (the steps would have been much easier). All but one of the kids thought it a great adventure though so happy days.
On our return to the stepping stones my feral child decided to wade across the river (luckily it isn’t deep) so she was sodden but cooled down and chuffed to bits with herself. A slow amble back to the car park and a treat of a delicious ice cream by the banks and it was then time to say our goodbyes.
This is always the hardest part of great weekends away and even Ella commented “this is rubbish mummy – why does this weekend have to end”. But with promises to catch up over the summer for a couple of days out and decisions to be made on next years rendezvous – we sadly got in our hot cars and headed home.
Tired, happy and a memory bank with more deposits.