Family {the ordinary moments}

Halfterm in the rain at Chatsworth


On the sunniest of all of my half term long weekend days, it seemed somehow both inevitable and quitessentially British that I decided we ought to go to the one place in the country where the clouds were lowered and grey drizzle stretched across the horizon.  John’s theory is that that’s what happens when you decide to go to a National Park on any form of school holidays, some sort of precipitatory predestination, but whatever the reason, it was as we crossed into Derbyshire that the first drops hit the windscreen.

Chatsworth has been on my must visit list for ages, and even with the house and gardens still shut for the winter it’s still set in some gorgeous countryside just perfect for exploring.  And in some ways it was a good thing, becuase there is so much to see and do at the Farmyard that if we’d have been trying to see house and gardens and farm all in one day we’d have felt hurried at best and probably had to skip something.

As it is we’ve already decided that we need to take the tent north for a weekend’s camping so we can keep exploring; but under sunnier skies.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

The Farmyard was perfect for a half term treat.  It’s sort of separate from the main house and garden; you still park in the main car park but it’s a separate entry fee (£22 for a family of five ticket) and then everything through the gate is included.

We started with the animals and the most adorable 10 day old saddleback piglets, squeaking and jostling each other to get to their mum, who lay there, eyes half closed, expression entirely familar to any mother of many.  Every now and then one of the piglets would just fall asleep, only to be woken again by one of its siblings treading on its head.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

Despite the rain all three of mine loved the tractor in the yard, to the point that Pip was quite prepared to hide away and spend the night there, just so he could keep driving it around his imagination.  Only the promise of a real tractor ride lured him out of his seat and up the steps.

The tractor and trailer ride is a brilliant set up.  Firstly you get to go in a tractor and trailer, which is Pip’s idea of seventh heaven.  Then you get views down to the roof of the house and across the valley to the other side, probably more of a plus for the parents but still pretty cool, and last but by no means least, every child is equipped with a pump action water pistol as they climb aboard.  The rules are fairly simple: shoot out of your side of the trailer and don’t shoot at any walkers.  What you can shoot at are targets and cut out cowboys lined up along the side of the route; Pip shot indiscriminately until he ran out of water, smiling fit to burst every second of the way, while Kitty got tactical, lining up her sights on the next target and surveying the route for the shots she could make.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

It was over all too quickly for all of them.

Back in the barn we hid from a rain storm with some colouring and sticking and making (horses and cowboy hats), and when the reptile show and tell started at the same time that Pip and I went on a little wonder to allow his sisters some more drawing time, he found that he’d stroked a dragon (just a little one) before deciding that the better part of valour was letting other people pet the snake (sensible boy).

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

From there we found sheep and goats, an enormous wild boar and his equally huge pig stablemate with a fabulous turned up snout, and a gorgeous Jersey cow who was very unimpressed with our arrival given that in her world we really ought to have been her afternoon feed.

But even with the tractor ride and the piglets and all the animals, the highlight (once we’d lured the children away from the pedal tractors) was the adventure playground.

Now adventure playgrounds of my youth had a tendancy to consist of exactly the same things as an ordinary playground, but made out of wood, along with a zip wire and one of those things where you have to get from one end to the other without touching the ground all made up of wobbly wires and oddly placed tree stumps.  They were fun, but they were nothing to this.  This is an adventure playground and a half.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

For starters it’s vast; the girls and John ran off to one corner to climb up into the tree houses and try out the slides, and Pip and I couldn’t see them as we headed down past swings and slightly more toddler sized climbing frames to what is the nearest thing you will find to a beach in Derbyshire.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

A stream runs through the easterly side of the playpark, and not only does it have a bridge to stomp over, and some low banks to let you in to paddle your wellies, but there are two Archimedes Screws fitted to run from the stream up to the top of a series of channels and basins.  You turn the handle to pump the water up and then lower and raise gates to let it run out into a sand pit via the water wheel or a big flat dish.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

If you can pump enough water it then runs down to a little climbing frame at the far end of the sandpit so you can make a good puddle, or nice damp sand, perfect for turning into castles with all the buckets and spades on hand to help.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

Watching Pip, and later his sisters, respond to it by making castles, or big heaps, or trying to dig a channel to run the water all the way down to the bottom, was seeing my childhood all over again. This is what we used to do at Gara Rock with the stream; we’d try to dam it, or divert it to make moats for our castles, or just dip hands and feet in the icy water running off the hillside.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

And it was with great reluctance that we dragged them back to the car, damp and sandy and in dire need of their spare clothes.

Later on in the week, working from home on a sunny afternoon, I realised from the fact that I couldn’t see my laptop screen for the glare, just how long it has been since it’s been sunny, and so I think a wet adventure was exactly the right way to celebrate half term and blow more than a few cobwebs out of the way as we go back to the run up to Easter.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and Donna at What the Redhead Said for The Ordinary Moments

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  • Notmyyearoff 26/02/2017 at 7:40 am

    I love Chatsworth so much. I used to drive through it all to get to work and would always stick classical radio on as it was all so Pride and Prejudice like 🙂 I’ve never been to the farm bit though and it looks like a fun day out!

  • Laura @ Little Ladies Big World 26/02/2017 at 7:41 am

    Ah I love Chatsworth, that isn’t too far from us and has reminded me that we haven’t taken our littlest yet which which abslutely need to do. It looks like a great day despite the rain! x

  • Laura - Dear Bear and Beany 26/02/2017 at 7:45 am

    What a great place to visit, there is so much to do and a bargain price to get in. I love the idea of having a water pistol, I’ve never seen this before, it sounds great fun! That is a pretty amazing adventure playground, my girls would have loved it. Gorgeous photos as always x

  • Jo Lloyd 26/02/2017 at 8:04 am

    Chatsworth is the most wonderful place – I didn’t know about the farmyard because my children are grown up, but I’ve been a couple of memorable times. The first was one December when the snow lay in pillows on the ground. My daughter was at Uni in Sheffield and we decided to have a little mother/daughter time before heading home at the end of term. And so we hopped on the bus through the white blanketed countryside to Chatsworth to see the house “dressed for Christmas”. It was magical…. not least because as we queued in the snowy courtyard to get in, we were serenaded by a three piece brass band playing carols. The second time was a couple of years later: my husband and I were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with a weekend in the Peak District and Chatsworth called to me…. This time it was a gloriously sunny June day. We wandered round the house – there was an exhibition of contemporary chairs dotted throughout all the rooms which guests were allowed to sit on, amazing unique, eccentric, chairs that couldn’t possibly be chairs, chairs. As a contrast to the house itself, this was brilliant. And then, and THEN we went outside and wandered the glorious grounds in the warm sunshine. And heard music. An orchestra. We had unwittingly chosen to visit on the day of Chatsworth’s annual evening outdoor Prom concert. So the orchestra and singers were all practicing. We sat on the grass with many other surprised and appreciative visitors and were treated to pieces such as the haunting “Nimrod” ( which made my husband cry), “Bring him home” from Les Miserables, ( which made my hair stand on end), Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Henry Wood’s arrangement of the “Fantasia on British Sea Songs…. and on and on. I recorded vast bits of it on my phone … I remember sitting there and feeling wildly gloriously happy. Happy at our 25 year and happy with this amazing unexpected gift of a day. Chatsworth has a very special place in my heart

  • Claire @ The ladybirds adventures 26/02/2017 at 8:10 am

    I visited chatsworth playground once as a child and still remember it. We are under an hour away and I keep meaning to take the kids.

  • Jenni 26/02/2017 at 8:18 am

    This looks like a great place to visit. What a fun half term x #ordinarymoments

  • Sherry 26/02/2017 at 9:25 am

    This really does sound like an amazing day out. Whenever we visit our friends in York we head to Piglets or Creepy Crawlies and it reminds me of these places, something we are lacking in Hampshire #TheOrdinaryMoments

  • otisandus 26/02/2017 at 6:35 pm

    Aah I had forgotten just how much I love Chatsworth house there is so much to see and do, we had talked about camping nearby sometime as it’s so beautiful out there ! Thanks so much for sharing – stopping by from #MyFamilyAdventures

  • Kerri-Ann 26/02/2017 at 6:37 pm

    Sounds like you had a wonderful day out, Chatsworth House is on our list too. I think we’ll wait until it warms a little. I agree that typically the one day you head out the heavens open. Thanks so much for joining in with #MyFamilyAdventures – it would be great if you could add the link so people know where you’re linking too. Have a great month of adventures and I hope to see you back in March x

  • Jenny 26/02/2017 at 8:02 pm

    I love how much fun you had at half term outside here Carie despite the rain. We have been trying to do that very thing no matter what the weather is we get out for fun and fresh air. So far we have been doing well with it. Love all your family adventures and this is such a lovely linky to join in. We also shared our half term although somewhat quieter version with just me and my son. lol #myfamilyadventures

  • Mary Smith 26/02/2017 at 9:00 pm

    I need to go to Chatsworth – its so lovely. I hear their Christmas market is worth a visit too? Lovely pics, making the most of halfterm and some outdoor fun. I love piglets, I bet they were gorgeous. Did the kids coo all over them?? #ordinarymoments

  • Donna 27/02/2017 at 1:32 pm

    This looks like such a lovely day out. I love an old house – especially if there are so many activities for the children to do and the £22 sounds like great value! x

  • Helena 28/02/2017 at 5:39 pm

    Great to see the rain didn’t put a stop to the children’s play. #myfamilyadventures

  • Louise | Squished Blueberries 05/03/2017 at 9:54 am

    Wow this looks fantastic! Shame we aren’t closer. The tractor ride and the adventure playground would absolutely delight my children. What a lot of fun for £22!