Living in Leek means that we are in Staffordshire but also right on the border of both Cheshire and Derbyshire so our days out tend to flit between the three counties. Now, I like to think I know of most places within our local area but during the Easter holidays we discovered a real hidden gem, which had managed to pass us by until now.
We had an absolutely brilliant day out at Thornbridge Hall & Gardens which is situated in Ashford-in-the-Water on the outskirts of Bakewell.
It took us just over 40 mins from Leek but we didn’t rush as we were in the van and to be honest we were taking in the scenery on route. With restrictions in place having a drive out has become a bit of a habit and we sometimes enjoy it as much as the actual destination.
If you are a fan of family days out to National Trust properties or English Heritage sites then I think you’ll love it here.
Emma and Jim Harrison are the owners who since 2002 have tirelessly restored the property and gardens to the beautiful site it is today. Oh, and they also built up the Thornbridge Brewery with its award winning Jaipur IPA in their spare time too! The brewery has since moved off site though – sorry Dad’s, but it’s still only a short drive down the road!
Thornbridge Hall is our home and a truly magical place that we have the privilege of caring for and making sure it is full of life and brings new experiences and happiness to our thousands of visitors. We have been opening our gates to all manner of events from just four days after we owned it. Hummmm… we warned people to dress scruffy and bring an umbrella as it was raining inside!Emma Harrison
There are 12 acres of beautiful gardens to explore with hidden statues and grottos to find, an on site shop, café and plant centre too.
But, what makes it really special in our opinion is the lawn games area. Here you will find painting activities, huge brightly coloured building blocks, hoopla games, a beanbag toss, hammocks to laze in, a web swing, parachute silks to hide under and large musical instruments to make a ruddy great noise with.
Honestly, Eli (2 years) thought this was the best day out EVER! Have you ever seen a happier child?
The icing on the cake though is the recently refurbished fountain which thanks to a lockdown project to restore it, is now in full working order for the first time in over 100 years! The fountain is home to hundreds of rubber ducks that you can ‘fish‘ for.
TIP: buy your net from the shop on the way in to save a walk back up! Prices start from £4 for a basic net.
Fishing for ducks is the best fun we’ve had for a good while! The boys absolutely loved it! There are a few ‘special’ ducks in there too, which are a prized catch, and it was great to watch ‘teams’ of little fishermen working together to get the ducks in!
Paddling in the duck fountain is encouraged, there’s even an official sign that says so (it was too chilly on our visit sadly) so remember to pack a towel on warmer days. As a mum sometimes I feel like I’m always saying no, or don’t, or stop it. It was so refreshing to go somewhere that has been designed for fun and actively encourages a bit of silliness and free play.
The café serves a selection of hot and cold food and beverages with large outdoor seating area, there is indoor seating too that will open when restrictions allow.
The site politely ask that you do not take a picnic and instead support the café on your visit.
We had sausage rolls which were to die for, especially the stilton ones and some homemade tomato soup. We ordered our sausage rolls but were informed that there was a bit of a wait for the oven. After asking what was available sooner and explaining that James (4 years) was Type 1 diabetic and that his bloods were dropping [probably due to the fact that he’d been running around with a net like a complete loon for the entire morning, but I digress] the staff couldn’t have been more helpful!
We were sent out with crisps and soup to sample while we waited, all free of charge and it was just enough to stave off his incoming hypo. Our posh sausage rolls were brought out to us and were soooo worth the wait, the pastry was melt in the mouth delicious.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank the café staff for their kind and genuine support, having a young child with health problems is always a juggling act between doing what’s best and just letting him be a carefree 4 year old. When you find somewhere that shows understanding it makes a huge difference.
Since our visit there has been more hard work going on and Emma has recently announced that ‘Quackers’ a new café situated in a log cabin down by the fountain is now open.
There has also been some major work to extend the carpark to accommodate coaches and the site is now connected to the Monsal trail directly….just look at that crossing, it’s fab!
I have never met Emma or Jim, but I have the sneaking suspicion that they may be a tiny bit bonkers – I like them immensly already!
You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.Lewis Carrol
I think what I loved most about Thornbridge Hall and Gardens is the atmosphere. It’s such a beautiful spot, from the stunning hall to it’s formal gardens with hidden tunnels, statues, a lake and sweeping vistas. No wonder its a popular wedding venue. However, it doesn’t feel like your normal stately home or heritage property, it’s fun, a bit zaney, eccentrically English and completely laid back. Most places we’ve visited might have a few well meaning toys out to keep the kids entertained so the adults can enjoy the surroundings. Here however, the beautiful views and coffee and cake on offer keeps the adults entertained while the kids are busy having the time of their lives!
In the digital age we now find ourselves in, as a parent it was just wonderful to see my boys immersed in a simpler world for a day. A day of play, noise, colour, fun and fresh air. And they loved it!
As we are heading towards May Half Term we’d highly recommend you make the day trip over. You can so easily spend a full day here if the weather is nice, my boys had to literally be dragged out. It’s not going to break the bank either which is fab news if you are a larger family like us. I’ve promised the gang that we will head back over, so we might just see you there!
There’s no need to prebook, Thornbridge Hall and Gardens is open 10-4 daily.
Under 16’s FREE
Update: We visited again yesterday as a Half Term treat and wow, there has been lots of changes since our original visit! The pieces of wood that the children have painted have been built into a den, there are still paints and wood out so you can add to it! The new Quackers café is fab and serving children’s picnic bags for £6 which we took advantage of so we could graze while playing. You can also buy your nets from there as its now the main entrance in from the new car park. On the lawn there has been the addition of basket swings, more hammocks, badminton nets and some cute little toddler fabric swings too.
But, best of all…the fountain has been transformed again so now it’s water looks totally tropical and perfect for paddling. Yesterday, we got to paddle and splash about to our hearts content!
All images are my own unless otherwise credited and must not be used without permission.