Despite the miserable weather it was wonderful. It was also great that we were able to pop in to see my Dad, and catch up over a locally bought fish and chip supper. However it inspired us to book ourselves a few days away making the most of the kids' half term break, and we all know how stressful it is to fly anywhere with kids for just a few days so it made perfect sense to stay local and what better than to try another of the Luxury Family hotels as we've only had good experiences so far. Woolley Grange in Wiltshire - the destination.
One of the great things about the hotels that we've experienced from the Luxury Family Hotel group is they really are wonderful properties which cater brilliantly for families. You'll get everything from a creche that's open and where you can leave your children to have heaps of fun for up to two hours at a time (you can also stay with them for a longer period), to knowing they'll be children's cutlery and enough baby chairs in the dining area. You'll even get a designated dining area where you don't have to panic too much when you're kids decide to become the messiest eaters ever or transform themselves into sugar fuelled monsters. It's actually quite refreshing and amusing to see other parents experiencing child tantrums and traumas that you believe only you are subjected to. There's plenty a smile from another parent to give you that look of understanding when it's your turn to be overcome by screams at suppertime, or breakfast for that matter.
So what to do when you're kids are being looked after?
Go for a swim - they have a wonderful indoor pool and a heated outdoor pool, although that was sensibly closed whilst we were there as it was stupidly freezing outside.
Go for a run - there's some lovely countryside and a cute local town. I'd like to point out that in his training for this year's marathon it was Johan that went for a run whilst I caught up with some reading.
Read - there's stacks of books in a comfortable and quiet drawing room, loads of magazines in a sumptuous room next to the reception where you can sit by the fire and grab a coffee or four.
Enjoy afternoon tea - yes, along with clotted (real proper stuff) cream and scones you'll get cakes and sandwiches (the salmon ones are delicious) and one of a number of teas. All served up just right.
Grab a coffee - you'll undoubtedly get a couple of cheeky and delicious shortbread alongside.
Go to the spa and get a treatment - I had the Reflexology treatment, which aside from one lady whom I've just re-located working in a salon at Canary Wharf, was the best reflexology treatment I have had. If you don't manage to sleep then within possibly ten seconds you may well full into the deepest of slumbers like I did. Perfect.
Go for a walk - there's some really pretty grounds and if you're into photography there's plenty to take photographs of including many of the plants, shrubs, trees and yes, I saw my first display of this year's snowdrops.
What about the kids? Perhaps it's because they knew that they'd be a creche but within half an hour of me redistributing the entire contents of our luggage (anyone would think we were staying for a fortnight) and they were practically running to find it.
The creche really is great. Stacked high full of everything a child would love to play with from crafts galore to a shelf full of books.
There's even adequate room for a ballet sequence ...
We never even bothered with the Hen House, which is for the older children (unsupervised) with a whole heap of games from table football to a pool table. Neither did we bother with the under fives play area, which includes a large sandpit and climbing frame as well as swings and a slide.
However we did get dragged along to the Good Life Garden, which is like a little oasis hidden behind what is called the Walled Garden. It's great and I'm sure even better in warmer climes. There's a make believe farm shop and kitchen and outside on a decent sized green - tractor wheels converted to sandpits and flower beds, and even a tractor close by, to sit on.
There's even a pond for tadpole collecting as well as wellington boots to use should it be a typically wet English weather day, all lined up in the doorway. Very cute.
What I most loved about this place was the complete serenity of it, the ability to totally relax and take in some wonderful scenery and remind yourself why England really is a green and pleasant land...
It really is easy to get to from London with the journey taking just over two and a half hours, a bit longer if you decide to stop en-route at the Fleet service station like we did. For the best part of our journey I was SatNav defiant to the point where I believe our SatNav just figured I was ignoring it so it would ignore me and then sent me on this stupidly convoluted route. Lesson: go the straight forward motorway route M3 to M4 and listen to SatNav. However on the way back we got out the old fashioned big UK road map and found our way to Stonehenge. A good little pitstop for the journey home. Woolley Grange is really close to the city of Bath too and despite our best intentions of taking a day trip there we were too relaxed and having far too much fun to make the trip. Next time! For we will definitely return.