Those of you with an inquisitive nature may be wondering why I am writing a blog post about Halloween in the middle of January. I could try and think of a clever reason but, frankly, there isn’t one, I am just very lazy and I have neglected this blog for some time.
So, with a host of my other New Years resolutions already broken, I thought I would get back to my blog!
I (Itchy) have always been a big fan of camping. When I was a child, my family holidays were the six of us heading into Europe in a VW camper with a 6 berth tent. My Dad was always in charge and would have a rough plan of where we would be going but we always had that ability to change plans and follow the adventure. If a town or city wasn’t what we thought it would be we would pack up and move on early and give more time to the places that we enjoyed.
Over the years we covered Spain, France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Italy (including a last minute change of plan one year just to watch Mount Etna erupting), Yugoslavia, Greece (yes, we drove to Greece) Germany, Czechoslovakia, Holland and Denmark to see Legoland.
This spirit of adventure was not so clear in Titchy, she is much happier with a comfortable bed and hair straighteners than the back to basics of camping. So, in the spirit of compromise that makes us such a happy couple, she agree to a spot of ‘glamping’.
If you ever want to try and book a camping/Yurt/Tent with a hot tub experience, then good luck to you. Pretty much all of the sites that we tried to use were either impossible to navigate or, once you found one that was was ok, it was impossible to get booked up on the days that you could travel.
*Million dollar ideas number 1) A decent camping-with-a-hot-tub-location-booking-website and number 2) A camping-with-a-hot-tub campsite with decent availability. *
Eventually, we found something that looked pretty decent. Peake’s retreats was very much at the ‘glam’ end of the glamping spectrum. The beds looked better than the beds that we have at home, there was a hot tub and it was very close to Alton Towers and so the kids could be bought into the trip too! What could go wrong?
We set off with a car full of sausages and marshmallows for the camp fire and arrived mid afternoon. Sarah gave us a lovely welcome and showed us around. There was a wash room , a toilet block that was filled with posh soaps and lotions, a BBQ hut, a kitchen and four separate Yurts in the field with a communal hot tub in the middle. We booked our hot tub slot for later that evening and began to unpack.
The Yurt was already cosy as the owners had set away the wood burning stove, that was our only source heat for the next three days, an hour before we arrived. As soon as you opened the front door, it was as if the yurt was hugging you into it, dragging you into its warmth.
It was all very exciting and exactly what we were looking for. We wandered over to the hot tub and chatted away in the warm water, gazing up to the clear skies dotted with stars. It looked like the flecks of emulsion left on the floor after you have painted a ceiling.
The cold nipped at your skin when you got out of the hot tub and chased you all the way back to the yurt. As the kids tucked into the snuggly beds, the fire was filled to the brim with wood so that we would be warm through the night. The soft smell of burning filled our noses as we slept like kings.
The next day we popped over the road at the suggestion of the owner. Church Farm was running a Halloween pumpkin search event. We wandered around finding clues around the petting zoo and chatted with the animals and get the greedier ones. Me, with my horse allergy, stayed well clear of the horses but the rest of the menagerie were lovely and friendly.
The kids, all filled with animal love, had had a good morning and so it was time to keep half of the adults happy. I had worked for a few months in Lichfield, 15 minutes down the road from where we were, and often passed signs for The National Memorial Arboretum but had never found time to visit. Now was the time.
The site features over 300 thought-provoking memorials, each with a story to tell and fascinating symbolism to discover. We started with a spot of lunch, which was lovely, and then did the full tour of the memorial on the land train. It my have been because we were so close to remembrance Sunday, maybe its because it was such a beautiful and tranquil space, but it was a moving and powerful day. Even for the kids, they left a little more quiet and reflective I think.
We headed back to the Yurt that was now a tiny mushroom of warmth on a bitterly cold Halloween evening. It would have taken a pretty dedicated fancy dresser to knock on the door for sweets tonight, thats for sure. We lit a fire outside of the yurt just so that we could toast our marshmallows and we were just about start telling each other ghost stories when the rain saved us and so we dived out of the rain and kept dry in the hot tub! We fought over our ideal three course meals that we would pick and chatted until bed time. It was a lovely end to a lovely day.
Next day we got up and cooked a breakfast in the communal kitchen and braced ourselves for the exciting day ahead. It must have been half hour drive to, arguably, the best theme park in the country, Alton Towers. The kids were keen to get there in time for opening and we thought we had, but the half hour walk from the car park to the gates caught us a little off guard.
It wasn’t the warmest or brightest of days but, until the last few hours it stayed dry and we had great fund wandering the acres or park and picking the best queue to stand in. It all got a lot better when the rain did start to fall, pretty gently at first, as the softer types decided to go home and the queue times dropped significantly.
In the end, there were a few rides that you were able to finish, then run around and pretty much join the next available trip. That’s my idea of a theme park! Just as we got towards the end of the parks opening hours the skies opened and it began to pour from the heavens. The half hour walk to the gates seemed to be a massively amount longer when you had rain bunching up off the car park and back up your trouser leg. We pretty much swam the last 10 minutes walk.
We stopped at McDonald’s on the way home in order that we cemented our places at the very top of the ‘coolest parents of the year’ awards. It was a great way to dry off and end the day.
The next morning we packed up and set off for home. Peake’s Retreats had been exactly what we were looking for and the service was excellent, they were so friendly and even the venues house cat, Lady Marmalade, made us feel like part of the family for the duration of the stay.
It’s a lovely part of the world, with lovely people, and we hope to be back one day when it’s maybe a little warmer! I hope to make it back in the summer for a dip in the hotter and watching the sun dip down.