It’s the first of our holidays for 2016, and this year I’m on a roll with the planning. I’ve got them all mapped out for the year, it’s my antidote for an increasingly domestic life with two little people for company. It’s also the first time in two years we’ve been somewhere that hasn’t involved staying with a parent aka grandparent. Nice as it is to relax on the sofa with a glass of wine while the children get taken off your hands for the weekend and fussed over, you’ve got to have that independent feeling once in a while, and a choice of scenery beyond the home counties.
Mr M&H declares that sat nav says it takes only 2.5 hours to get to Derbyshire. I don’t believe him. The traffic on the M1 will add on at least an hour and I am also still traumatised by a hellish five hour journey to Yorkshire last year, made while heavily pregnant and alone with a screaming one year old in the back seat. But I am pleasantly amazed by how quickly it takes us to get there, even with a services stop. The M1 behaves itself for once, Mole and Hedgehog sleep and giggle at each other in the back seat and we’re pulling into Longnor village less than three hours later.
The cottage is gorgeous, booked via Sykes.com, about the same size as our own and very well heated for the Winter. Mole and Hedgehog’s room is at the top of the house up some steep stairs, ending in open banisters, with no stair gate. We consider this ‘death pit’ scenario for a moment, and resolve to put a step ladder across the banisters, providing a make shift barrier. We also explain to Mole not to go near the death pit without us. To give credit to my intelligent one, this appears to sink in and she doesn’t go near them all week. Except to climb up them of course and then hitch a lift back down, jumping trustfully into the air ready for someone to catch her.
It is Mr M&H’s birthday tomorrow, so once Mole and Hedgehog are in bed we have prosecco by the fire and watch a suitably whimsical French film. They always start out romantic and then descend into a seedy nightmare, but I’m slipping into a pleasant semi-drunk state so it doesn’t matter.
In the morning we wake to this perfect pastoral view from our bedroom window, of rolling hills and frosty fields, just gorgeous. Hedgehog is already in our bed, having made it in at some point during the night and is now sandwiched between us, snoring away contentedly. Mole wakes up the minute the sun rises and comes in to make sure she’s not missing anything.
During the week we make it out to Buxton gardens and pavilion, The Heights of Abraham at Matlock Bath, Chestnut Wildlife Park near Chapel-en-le-Frith and Peak Wildlife Park, among other things. The pattern of the days revolve around Mole and Hedgehog’s nap times and go something like this…
6am, Hedgehog wakes for an early morning feed and comes into bed with us.
7am, Mole wakes up and comes to find Hedgehog. By this time Hedgehog has gone back to sleep under mountains of duvet, and is rudely bounced upon by Mole, loudly declaring that it is time for breakfast.
7.30am, Mr M&H gets up with Mole to do breakfast. I subdue Hedgehog with more boob and calculate how long I can get away with staying in bed for. Usually the inevitable yeasty smell of pooh is a prompt to get up and start the daily mantra of changing bums.
8am, Bring Hedgehog downstairs to the highchair. Hedgehog feeds herself now, grabbing handfuls of porridge / avocado / cheese / whatever we give her and cramming it in her mouth. A boiler suit and splash mat under her chair covers most of it, failing that she gets hosed down in the bath. Mole watches Hedgehog with a disturbing intensity and demands to have whatever she is having.
8.30am, Get everyone dressed, bum changed, house cleaned up, shoes and coats on, boots in the car, get Mole and Hedgehog in the car seats, check and re-stock nappy bags, get water and snacks, lock up house, get into car.
9am, decide where to go, put address into sat nav and drive.
1pm, come home for nap time and lunch. Mole goes down like a dream for her nap, Hedgehog needs a bit more persuasion with the boob, but it usually does the trick. Flop into bed and shut eyes for twenty minutes before making lunch.
3pm, after lunch, venture out into the village for a mini (toddler sized) walk down to the river, to skim stones. This is one of the simplest parts of the holiday, but probably the one Mole enjoys the most. I can’t tell with Hedgehog, most of the time she looks around with a perplexed expression. We walk back into Longnor and have a cream tea in their amazing Craft Centre. I buy some locally made earrings in there, my souvenir of choice on any trip and see an advert for wood fired hot tubs. Sink into a fantasy about buying a wood fired hot tub.
5pm, darkness and cold set in. Come home to start the fire, get dinner ready, open the wine.
6.30pm, put Mole and Hedgehog to bed, shutting them into the room with the step ladder barrier. (Note to self, get one of those travel stair gates for future trips).
7pm, cosy peaceful evening with plenty of wine. Working our way through the Harry Potter DVD’s for perfect mindless relaxation.
10pm, go to bed and pray the girls stay quiet until the morning. It’s a 50/50 chance.
We’ve basically transplanted our lives to Derbyshire for the week. The only difference is a log fire and some pretty scenery. Oh and a higher than usual amount of wine. But that’s okay, the change of scene is enough to be replenished. The key with holidays and small children, as with home life, is to keep things as simple as possible to minimise the amount of labour involved. That and bringing a shed load of wet wipes with you. Wet wipes make everything better. And did I mention the wine?.
On our last morning, it snows. Crazy big giant flakes making everything pretty. I do not want to leave. Driving back across a snowy Peak District wilderness, with sheep sheltering behind dry stone walls, I want to keep stopping to take pictures, or find a convenient house with a ‘for sale’ sign asking pre-inflation prices, so that we can move in and stay there. It is all so beautiful and remote from busy life. I love being reminded that the natural world is bigger than the manmade one. It is sort of comforting. By the time we join the M1 the snow is gone, along with the magic.
We’ll be doing another Sykes cottage trip next year I reckon.