We have spent the last week in the magical world of Derbyshire. We have searched out the Gruffalo, held guinea pigs, explored an old train line, found a fairy door, popped bubbles, said hello to a squirrel and laughed. A lot.
We decided after a difficult holiday abroad last year that we would remain in England. There are many beautiful places to explore in our own country and although you can’t rely on the weather, I want our children to know our heritage and be proud of it.
After considering several options, some family friends told us about Pine Lodge Holidays at Darwin Forest. Set in the woodland of the Derbyshire Peak District, the wooden lodges looked warm and inviting and with enough to do on site including swimming pool, spa, large play centre and restaurant it seemed the right place when travelling with two children usually too young to enjoy many children’s activities.
When we arrived on the site we weren’t disappointed. Getting out of the car outside our lodge it was so peaceful, despite many of the lodges being booked up. As daddy unpacked the car the children and I explored and were soon greeted by a very friendly (and it turned out greedy) squirrel. So much so that he almost ran into the cabin when I leant out of the porch door to offer him a biscuit! The children were thrilled to say the least and spent most mornings at the windows looking out for our new friend.
After spending our first day stocking up and exploring the nearby area, on Sunday we visited some friends in Chesterfield who we haven’t seen in a long time. It was nice to catch up, although H did get a bit fed up so we only stayed a couple of hours. That afternoon Auntie Laura drove down from Yorkshire to spend the night with us and as always the children loved playing with her.
Whilst daddy had a little rest we went out for a walk. There are some lovely areas just in the park where children can climb and explore.
We came across a tree decked out with ribbons and bells, an a little door sitting on the trunk. It was a lovely little find and I told H it was The Great Elf Tree where Ben Elf lived. She loved this idea and for the rest of the holiday wanted to go see Ben Elf.
The next day we decided to go to Chatsworth Farm for the day. I had heard it was a great farm to visit and of course being part of the Chatsworth Estate was an added bonus. More on that to come, but needless to say the house did not disappoint.
There are lots of animals on the farm to see, horses, including a foal, sheep, cows, plenty of very tame chickens, pigs and goats. We managed to stroke some lambs and calves, watched a talk on Sofia the Sheep and H held a guinea pig, which was a lovely moment. It was little sad seeing a runt in a litter of piglets trying to get in for a feed, but I guess that is the way of nature (and I’m sure the staff looked after it).
There is also a huge play area at the back of the farm. Most of it was too big for the children to try out, but there was an area for the littler ones which not only had the usual swings and slides, but water and sand play, which I thought was a nice element. Daddy helped H move water from the stream at the bottom, up onto a ridge where it ran into containers she could slide to catch it. Then they moved onto a mechanism set up like a digger where a shovel moves sand from one area to another. My favourite bit was when H, Auntie Laura and I jumped on the big swing all together. It may not be a pretty picture but it was hilarious!
After seeing Little H’s wonder at the Ben Elf tree, I decided to put together a little fairy hunt for her, so on Tuesday we visited The Bakewell Toy Stop we’d seen online. Having visited here before in February, we knew our way around a little bit, and it is a lovely little town. We stopped off for some lunch in one of the cafes there and I then purchased some goodies for our hunt. Again, more on that later.
On Wednesday we decided it was time to brave our planned bike ride. I had sourced the most recommended place to hire them on the Monsal Trail – Hassop Station. The guys in there were very friendly and helpful and set us up with a trailer for the little ones and even managed to find a bike to fit my 4ft10-short-legged-frame. It has been a long, LONG time since I rode a bike, but it really is true, you don’t forget.
The Monsal Trail covers the former Midland Railway Line which shut in 1968. Derbyshire Council spent 2.2 million restoring the tunnels to create one of the most popular cycling routes in the area. We cycled past old stations, across beautiful countryside and saw some incredible views. The children loved the thrill of cycling, whilst being safe and secure in their trailer. It was great fun and we actually had some lovely weather on the day – definitely one of my most memorable moments of the trip.
On Thursday we had a quiet day. After all the excitement of the previous day the children weren’t the only ones worn out – after taking my turn to get up with our early risers, I returned to bed for a few hours in the morning to catch up on some much needed sleep! One thing I can say about PND is the tiredness kicks my ass.
That evening however, as it was our last night, we took a drive to Matlock to find somewhere nice to eat. Matlock itself proved quite unsuccessful, however as we drove on we ended up in Matlock Bath and it was a completely different story. I only wished we had discovered this little village sooner as it was truly picturesque. Originally created when a hot spa was found there, it has been host to Queen Victoria in the past and retains much of the charm from this period. Filled with classic fish and chip shops, an Victorian Tea Room and many of my much-loved hand-crafted shops you could spend all day there and still not discover its secret, tucked away places. There is also a cable car ride up to the Heights of Abraham, taking you up to the beautiful views atop Hilltop Park, or into the depths of Masson and Rutland Caverns. For one little place it holds so much to see and do and it will definitely be a place for us to return to on future trips.
Friday saw our last day of our trip. As we packed up and said goodbye I was more than a little sad to leave behind our ‘Holiday Home’. However we had decided to pay a visit to Chatsworth House so it was all sad. Come back to see more on that beautiful house.
We had a fantastic trip. The main highlight being a full week with daddy, which I know the children loved more than anything. I can highly recommend a trip to Derbyshire Peak District to anyone and if you want a family-friendly, welcoming and peaceful place to stay then Pine Lodge Holidays is perfect.