Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire

We wake to rain, the sky leaden. Packing sandwiches and bananas into my bag as the boys pull on their base layers, the rain continues. Throwing on my rain jacket, I nip to feed the hens and they dance at the gate, soggy and bedraggled. The rain keeps on.

I print off the walk we intend to do, and still the rain comes down. I throw the rainsuits and coats in the boot of the car. We strap ourselves into our seats and put the postcode in the sat nav – and still the rain comes down.

Clumber Park is about an hour from us, mostly on the M1 heading North, which I can categorically state is my least favourite stretch of motorway. I can’t even explain why, just that I find it bleak and uninspiring and until you pass Doncaster, I just don’t like it.

Today though, after hitting the motorway, the rain finally decides enough is enough and the dark, violent rain clouds begin to break. The last remnants of the rising sun peek through and the sky turns from darkness to a patchwork of colour, the wiper-blades on the car slowing until finally stopping altogether.

Arriving at Clumber Park, we park up in a very tight car park. I’m grateful for arriving early as by the time we left there were cars wedged all over the place, littering verges and blocking gates.

The boys head straight for the woodland play area, the way they always do.

From there we set off on our walk, which we downloaded here. Two miles of pure, solitary bliss and the sun shining on the lake.

Returning from our walk we head to the Discovery Centre. The boys were in Heaven. So beautifully decorated, with a reading corner and nooks designated to puzzles and colouring sheets, the boys immerse themselves. There’s microscopes, a huge tank full of pond life to identify, spider webs, bats and birds woven into trees and plants scattered around the room.

The lady running the centre asked the boys if they’d like to do the Clumber Quest, an Alice in Wonderland themed treasure trail, which they loved.

(Photo Credit: The National Trust)

Returning to the starting point to claim their prize, we head into the second-hand book shop for hot chocolates to warm us up as we browse the books.

My middle boy chooses Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, which reminds me of how my sister used to love this book and how we’d sit on her bed hearing our mother read it over and over.

We spend time in the bird hide, which was a hive of activity. We ticked off another few birds in our RSPB book and watched as the birds danced and frolicked in front of us.

The robins, so dainty and friendly-looking are clearly the boss around here and the boys enjoy watching them dominate the hide.

We skip the walled kitchen gardens today, saving them instead for a day not threatened by cold, sharp showers. The boys spend the journey home planning the summer days they want to spend here, earmarking the benches overlooking the lake where they want to picnic.

For a change, I take too few photos and I mentally chastise myself. In hindsight, it was actually nice to spend a day with the children and not be trying to capture the perfect image.

Sitting around the dinner table in the evening, I look at the boys. They’re rosy cheeked and blushed, their hair tousled from their hats. Outside, darkness has fallen and the rain returns. They chat amongst themselves, processing their day from a child’s perspective. It’s nice to kick back and listen.

I kiss the boys goodnight and I pour a glass of red, sinking onto my bed to start reading one of my new books. It’s been a day well spent, and the rain keeps falling.

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