Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sunny day, picnic packed, salmon en croute with dill crème fraiche for us and bangers in buns for the sprogs. We met up with Stan's best friend Isaac and our great friends Lesley and Jamie at Groombridge Place for Stan's 6th birthday treat. I had only ever been once with my cousin Honey when we were unfortunate enough to be rained on so badly that we had to admit defeat and head back to Honey's house to apply our clothes to the tumble drier! Today was clearly not going to pose that kind of a problem. Groombridge Place is a kid and adult paradise with everything from beautiful, formal gardens,peacocks, a vineyard, the"Enchanted Forest" filled with boardwalks, fox runs, labyrinths, forts, mazes Tree fern valleys, incredible swings on the longest ropes ever and all sort of other magical treats. There's a short canal with a small boat to carry you back to the start if your legs are too weary - or simply for the fun of it.
We started with our lunch on the grass, next to the water and with views over the fields to the Spa Valley railway line allowing frequent glimpses of the small steam tdain than runs back and forth- and when you couldn't see it you heard the whistles and toots. Fortified we set off up through the vineyard which is the steepest climb so good to get it done before small legs are weary.Then to the boardwalk and rope runs - there are two levels, and the kids pelted up the "tricky" one involving tunnels, balance beams and wobbly bridges, which I was coerced into, despite not conforming to footwear rules which stated "stout" (not slippy old Birkee's) and despite becoming less enamoured with crawling through tunnels as I get older..
One of the things the forest is well known for - and Stan's most anticipated part - was the fabulous swings. The boys had been before and were really looking forward to it. There was a small melt down as Georgia (taking seriously her role of grown-up big sister) read the sign to the birthday boy, which stated that no-one under 10 could go on and relaying this info to him before we could he shed several tears before we explained that some rules were made to be broken...including the one that said only one person at a time, I had a blast up there with Stan on my knee. Because of the incredible length of the ropes they swing not only to great height but at a majestic pace...want one!

Stan checking the map - which might have been more useful later when he and Isaac got "lost" -(or you could say, took an unplanned route?) causing a small amount of concern and making several adults run up more hills than they might have liked.

After such a full and at times adrenalin filled afternoon, we settled down for tea, birthday cake (or rather birthday-mountain-of-brownies) and rays. Happy Birthday lovely boy xx
Huff, puff
Quieter time playing Horrible Histories Top trumps - Stan checked thoroughly, but apparently there really is no card for Hitler..
Finally the gardens closed and we went home, but not without first checking the standard of the local pub.. and can report that it has fine beer, great vibe and a lovely sunny grassy lawn where we sat and supped and the kids ran amok - how they had any energy left beats me!

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