My middle boy is still working his way through birthday Lego. Today he’s exhausted, up late with every excuse under the sun not to get to sleep last night. He’s parked up at the table before I’ve even dragged myself from crumpled bedsheets. My youngest has been up and down all night, waking me sporadically for, seemingly, nothing more than a 2 a.m. chat.
I get the feeling it’s going to be a long day.
As I sit sipping scalding tea in a vague attempt to get some life and movement into me, the boys play upstairs with new diecast lorries Daddy brought home yesterday. I’m grateful for the peace they’re providing me with.
By 7.30 we’re dressed and in desperate need of fresh air. We climb in the car and head to Elvaston Castle.
Despite Elvaston being so close to home, we rarely come here. It’s an early morning kind of place, getting busier and more overwhelming as the day wears on. Plus I have issues with the fact they have about ten ticket machines and only one of them ever seems to be working (never the same one twice).
The boys start in the play area as I sit with my coffee before we set off across the field towards the pathways.
We are surrounded by solitary dog walkers, each one starting across the same field, but heading in different directions. We never see the same folk twice.
For the first time this year, I notice that the leaves are beginning to turn. Under the many oak trees scattered across the grounds lay the first few acorns. The boys hurriedly stuff them into their pockets to add to their collections of useless things to horde that we know will drive Mum crazy.
The boys play on equipment fashioned from wood, a crude, rotting obstacle course that is so much better than the metal equipment in the play area.
They climb up and over, clamber across makeshift ladders and jump from tree stumps, avoiding the nettles pushing up as they go.
They screech as they find more wooden sculptures. They say, ‘hello!’ to every passing person and my middle boy says to me, ‘we should never be the one to not say hello.’ Quite right, kid.
Strangers smile at happy boys enjoying the simple things in life.
There’s something so peaceful about Elvaston. I can’t even explain what it is. Maybe it’s the water, the quiet calm that comes with being close to the water. Or maybe it’s the tangled, chaotic roots of trees; some cut down for safety and others still growing strong. Perhaps it’s the sweeping, clumsy arcs of stone that litter the grounds. Beautiful memories of years gone by.
I don’t know what it is. But I do know we should visit more often.
The boys weave between the rocks and trees playing hide and seek. The hiding is fluid – such are the possibilities of slipping to the next crevice as the seeker approaches. They rarely get ‘found’. Instead they see how far they can sneak without being detected. It’s endless, yet the boys love it.
Several hours later, the car park is filling quickly. We slip past the families on the bridge and head back to the car. The boys make me promise that we can bring their bikes here next time, and actually, that sounds like a really good idea.