We wanted to get out of the house today, but we had no official plans. After packing up a picnic we drove to Crich Tramways only to find it queuing out of the door. We realised they were holding an event and so we turned the car around and drove to the National Stone Centre.
Instead we spent the day in the middle of nowhere, following unofficial paths and avoiding the nettles pushing across the weaving path. In several places there were trees blocking the way that we had to climb over, and then slip under.
We come to a field full of wildflowers that runs alongside the railway and we set up camp for the day. The boys shrug off their rucksacks, laying out a picnic alongside their paints and brushes.
The boys paint the wildflowers as the sun beats down. Once finished they place them carefully on the ground to dry and skip off to chase crickets and butterflies. They collect empty snail shells, filling their pockets with them to bring home. As soon as they hear the steam train approaching on the track, they run to the boulders lining the top of the bank. My eldest gives his little brothers a leg-up and they jostle for space atop the rock. The passengers wave, startled by three excited boys appearing from nowhere and shouting ‘hello!’.
It’s like a scene from The Railway Children, minus the landslide and jailed father.
Walking back, we follow the trail to the actual station where we sat waiting for a train, to no avail (it finally arrived as we’d given up and reached the top of the hill.)
We’ve walked so far today; in no particular direction, other than uphill and downhill too many times to count, that all three boys are complaining their legs hurt.
We meander back up the incline one last time in the direction of the Stone Centre. We stop in to let the boys spend their pocket money in the shop – each of them leaving with a brown paper bag full of gemstones.
We return home, tired and sun-worn. We sit together watching the videos the boys filmed of soaring crickets and feeding butterflies. We eat outside, the way we always do. And I’m grateful that sometimes Plan B turns out better than the original.