Easter holidays. Time to have those ten-years-old grandsons over. Time to keep them so busy they don’t have a chance to realise that ours is not a home stuffed with devices. Not a smart phone in sight.
Let’s get them back to the past straight away, even before we get them back to our house. Are they too old for an Easter Bunny hunt at Fountains Abbey? Apparently not. Not when there’s a chocolate bunny to eat at the end. Are they too cool for egg and spoon races and egg-rolling down the hill? Apparently not.
Would they like to visit ‘Forbidden Corner’? They agreed they would, even though we failed to provide a description of what to expect. We couldn’t. It’s been described as ‘The Strangest Place in the World’. Perhaps it is. It’s a folly. It’s a fantastical collection of follies. It’s woodlands, walled gardens, mazes, tunnels, grottoes, built in the manner of a topsy-turvy collection of fairy tale castles in enchanted grounds. Every stone putto is liable to pee on you as you walk past. Every passage is too narrow, too low, too dark, and may lead nowhere. You just want to try to get along it anyway, because at the end there may be another secret door, with halls of mirrors, or ever-changing fountains, or grotesque stone gremlins, or stepping-stones …. And beyond, in every direction, the glorious countryside of North Yorkshire.
Next day, off to Brimham Rocks. No child can resist the opportunity to climb and jump among these extraordinary tottering towers of balanced rock formations. A visit there is a regular fixture for Alex and Ben.
And finally – yet more rocks. Underground this time. Stump Cross Caverns: limestone caves set about with stalactites and stalagmites, tinted in all kinds of shades from the iron and lead seams that also penetrate the area. Gloomy, dark and mysterious, and guaranteed to fire the imagination. Photographs courtesy of Ben.
Down, down, deep into the earth.
In the evenings we sat round the kitchen table and played board games. The London Game brought out everybody’s inner mean streak as we blocked other players in, or despatched them to the end of the line at Wembley Central. Stone Soup gave us the opportunity to lie and lie again in an effort to get rid of all our cards. All very satisfactory. A good time was had by all.
But Granny and Grandad would quite like a rest now. Please.