Gate House in Coniston
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As we arrived at our weekend holiday home in Coniston, it was a good sign when a small member of our party said he wanted to live there for ever.
Unsurprisingly, as the Gate House is utterly beautiful.
Tastefully-appointed, this lovingly-restored Georgian property boasts four spacious double bedrooms, all with designer bathrooms, three sitting rooms, wall-mounted smart TVs and PlayStations. We lit one of the log burners in the evening and the following morning, had breakfast in the huge, warm welcoming, hi-spec kitchen which features a large range cooker, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer and Nespresso coffee machine.
Alongside the garden runs a busy little stream, the Church Beck. With views over fields and meadows and just a pleasant stroll to Coniston village, the Gate House is a dream destination in an idyllic location, nestling within the Coppermines Valley, shielded by Coniston Old Man.
One might describe our stay as a family 'Generation Game' weekend when I took along my two sons (their wives were given some time off) and my four grandchildren: Florence, eight; sister Claudie, five and their cousins: Henry six and William (Billy), three.
The Gate House exudes style and charm, with wonderful fixtures and furnishings. Immediately, we put away some ornaments out of the reach of clumsy little fingers. In the back garden, Claudie sat on one of the miniature stone sheep, while Florence and Henry picked out the small, shiny yellow pebbles in the water trough (they did put them back!). Lifted shoulder high to look at the running beck, Billy, with earnest little face, looked at me and asked if there were any sharks.
The children ran freely at Brockhole adventure park on Windermere, where there's no entrance fee and a large playground. Activities include laser clay shooting, boat hire, mini golf, cafe, archery and a caving experience. All great fun but these can be a bit pricey for families.
For two hours, the girls and their dad explored the treetop nets, more than 1500 metres of huge trampolines, walkways, slides and tunnels, suspended nine metres high between trees. Henry and Bill climbed and balanced precariously on rocks at the lakeside, threw stones into the water and skipped along the jetty to watch the passengers board one of the Windermere Lake Cruisers. We ate lunch at a picnic table and all was well until Claudie got down from the table, tripped and fell into the edge of a small nettle patch. A dock leaf, soothing ointment and an ice cream helped to dull the stings on her leg.
This year's Peter Rabbit film has fuelled additional interest in Beatrix Potter's much-loved animal tales. Our little ones couldn't wait to visit the award-winning World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness. Here, the the colourful characters of her books are almost brought to life in the enchanting, life-sized recreation of the three-dimensional scenes depicted in all 23 of her stories. See Mrs Tiggy-winkle in her kitchen, Pigling Bland, Jeremy Fisher and, of course, Peter Rabbit. Oh, how I could have warned silly Jemima Puddle-Duck, taken in by wily Mr Fox, that charming gentlemen are often not what they seem.
Peep through tiny windows in trees to see the mice family at home.
Step into the delightful little Peter Rabbit Garden which offers visitors a glimpse of the cabbages where Peter lost a shoe and the garden gate he squeezed under as he tried to escape Mr. McGregor! Activity sheets and a quiz keep children entertained. Our teenager-in-training, Florence, was desperate to get into the shop to spend grandma's pocket money on a Beatrix Potter souvenir.
We returned to the Gate House, our delightful weekend holiday home, had a quick wash and brush up, then strolled down the lane to the 400 year-old former coaching in, the Black Bull pub, in Coniston village, for dinner. Later we played games, thoughtfully provided by Gate House owners, Simon and Jane.
The couple bought, re-designed and refurbished the property, after they fell in love with it, following many stays there over several years.
During the evening, Florence and Henry, tried to teach the adults how to do the latest dance, The Floss. My effort caused much amusement. Apparently, it resembled The Twist.
The bed was so comfortable, the soft, white, pure cotton bed linen, divine. Waking up to a view over the fields and towards the village, was inspirational.
On the quiet shores of Coniston Water, we watched swimmers clad in wet suits cross the lake and swim back and enjoyed coffee and a cake at the Bluebird Cafe, before heading to the Lakeland Motor Motor Museum, near Newby Bridge, at the southern tip of Windermere.
My grandson Henry, six, who is mad about cars, can identify just about every model on the road. But recognising all the vehicles in the museum was a challenge too far.
For the award-winning collection, which traces the development of road transport in the 20th century, comprises some 30,000 exhibits. From vintage to veteran, curious and comical to weird and wonderful, it's not just for petrol heads. The display includes a 1952 TVR, manufactured by the independent British manufacturer of high-end sports cars, founded in Blackpool, in 1947.
Among the vehicles on show is a 1936 Bentley with Park Ward body, formerly owned by the late Donald Campbell. Full-sized replicas of Donald Campbell's Bluebird series are displayed in a separate building, where visitors can watch a film about his water, speed-breaking mission and final tragic attempt on Coniston Water in 1967.
Of course, for car-crazy Henry, the motor museum was the highlight of our family sojourn. Florence liked Peter Rabbit and the shopping. Billy keeps on saying 'holiday house' and Claudie, of course, is unlikely to forget the stinging nettles.
As for grandma, I'll always recall precious
time with little ones, but I might just take a little break before the next
episode of our family's 'Generation Game'.
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