What is it? Just how much inspiration a disposable camera and little teddy can bring. They made walks – which we usually have to bribe Savannah, 7, and Imogen, 4 to go on – turn into great adventures.
Where? Do some research about local attractions. The hotel is in North Lincolnshire but is near the border to other regions which the local tourist office may not enlighten you about. The Deep, for example, is only 30 minutes away and was our favourite attraction, but because it’s in East Yorkshire you may not hear about it during your stay.
Description: Centrally positioned for several traditional villages and historic towns, including Lincoln, Hull and Grimsby, plus the market towns of Brigg, Barton and Epworth. The countryside is great for walks. Attractions aimed particularly at kids include The Deep aquarium in Hull and Pleasure Island Theme Park at Cleethorpes.
The best thing? Savannah: “Hiding teddy in the woods for Mummy and Daddy to find.” Imogen: “Sleeping in the same room as Mummy and Daddy.” Daddy thought this was one of the worse bits, as it meant an 8.30pm bedtime both nights! Mummy (always short of sleep) loved that.
Forest Pines Golf & Country Club is on the old Roman road through Broughton, near Brigg, and can be contacted on 01652 650770; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Its accessibility is one of its major features – it’s just off the M180, and on the roundabout where the A15 meets the A18. Prices, for weekend B&B with two adults and two children sharing one family room with two double beds, start at L78 per room per night. An interconnecting room counts as two rooms, so that rate is doubled. For the family explorer break, add a L15 supplement per room. The hotel does special offers and packages (such as an Easter weekend special, where the children get an Easter egg). Contact the hotel for details. The hotel is owned by the Q Hotels group, which has 22 four-star hotels throughout the UK. Visit their website www.qhotels.co.uk or call 0845 074 0060.
I knew it was time for a break when I started making silly mistakes. “I’m in too much of a hurry,” I told myself when I left the freezer door open all night. “I’m doing too much,” I thought when I couldn’t remember where I’d parked the car. Easily done, I assured myself when I arrived an hour early for a birthday party. Except… it was my daughter’s birthday party. I ought to have got the time right. The guests did![bear_lost_in_woods.jpg] Enough of the excuses, I needed a break from the relentless mania of my life. So the whole family headed to the four-star oasis of a North Lincolnshire hotel for some wind-down time. I didn’t want much, just a break from my juggling act, the chance to concentrate on one thing at a time and have some uninterrupted family time. When I saw the white fluffy dressing gowns in the wardrobe, I knew I’d come to the right place! From the moment you arrive, there’s something relaxing about Forest Pines, Perhaps it’s the woodland setting or the staff, who were friendly and welcoming. This may be a four-star hotel, with the quality and service you’d expect from that rating, but the atmosphere was far from starchy and intimidating. It was warm and soothing. En route to the hotel we made a 10-minute pitstop at Mount Pleasant Windmill. The old tower mill has been restored to grind organic grains into flours, which are available for sale at the windmill’s tea room. And we were allowed to climb the stairs inside to the top of the windmill – a novelty for the kids. Once in our hotel room – which had two double beds, TV and en suite – the kids fell upon the teddies and disposable cameras inside their adventurer packs. And so started a frenzy of clicking shutters. We tried explaining that 36 shots of the inside of the hotel room may not make for the most interesting holiday snaps, but they continued like demented paparazzi. And so it continued the whole weekend. “Smile Mummy!” CLICK. “Say cheese!” CLICK. “Are you in the shower Daddy?” CLICK. Putting cameras in the kids’ packs was an inspired idea. They loved them. They were rather attached to the teddies too, which accompanied us on all our weekend trips. They provided great entertainment on our country walks, when we played hide and seek with them, hiding them up trees, beneath the undergrowth and in bushes for the girls to find. They encouraged the girls to walk further than they would otherwise have done. The first evening we tested out the 24-hour room service, as we’d planned to join a ghost walk in Lincoln (half an hour’s drive away), and needed a bite to eat before the restaurant had opened. Our food arrived swiftly, and the trays of leftovers and remaining foodie smells had disappeared on our return, a couple of hours later. Top marks for room service. The ghost walk was informative (if you buy into the whole spooky scene) and entertaining (if you’re a sceptic). Either way it would have been an hour well spent, without a four- and seven-year-old in tow. Older kids would probably have loved it, but on a cold night it was too late and too much for our youngsters. It did, however, give us a wonderful view of the beautifully-lit Lincoln cathedral. Back in the room, we couldn’t seem to get the lighting right to enable the children to have enough darkness on their side of the room to sleep while giving us enough light to read. So the lights went out and we were all asleep by 8.30! Not so much unwinding as totally unwound! Consequently, it was an early start on Saturday, enabling us to have a leisurely and delicious breakfast before heading to the pool. The all-over one-metre depth made it slightly tricky for Imogen, but a member of staff was quickly on hand to supply a float. We spent the morning at Hull’s uniquely designed and fantastically hands-on aquarium, The Deep (01482 381000; www.thedeep.co.uk), which tells the story of the world’s oceans. The girls stroked crabs and starfish, marvelled at the amazing creatures of the deep and learnt heaps. It sounds very active, but there’s something essentially calming about The Deep. The serenity of the sea creatures and the subtle lighting had us floating out a couple of hours later. The afternoon was spent at Normanby Hall Country Park, where there was plenty of space for the girls to run around. We strolled the woodland grounds, and the girls climbed trees and played in the playground. During high season, the hall and farming museum are open too, and there’s a calendar of events. [girls_climbing_trees.jpg] The evening meal back at the hotel was in keeping with our stay generally – great quality and wonderfully relaxing. The food was yummy and the service attentive but not intrusive. The light and airy Garden Room leading to the restaurant makes a great place to chill before or after your meal. To complete the wind-down, our final morning was spent on an invigorating walk in Twigmoor Woods, a couple of minutes from the hotel. By the time of our departure from the hotel, the whole family was feeling thoroughly chilled. I, however, managed to leave my debit card in the hotel machine. My excuse? I was just too laid back by then to care! (Tanya Spriggs is a journalist who has worked extensively for parenting magazines and the parenting sections of daily newspapers. She lives in Kelvedon, Essex, with her husband, Alan, and two children.)