SHOWDOWN AT HILLCREST FARM... DERBYSHIRE
“This is going to be the best holiday… of our lives,” I cried with faux enthusiasm that fooled my kids into shouting, ‘yay,’ and my wife into punching my left leg hard enough for me to pretend that I was no longer able to change gear.
We rolled up to Hill Crest Farm with the engine labouring in fourth, and a man with no teeth hobbled out and gave incomprehensible directions to the fortunately visible building we had booked for the next five days - my wife’s idea for an easy half-term break. We were near Bakewell, Derbyshire, 42.7 miles from home.
The children bolted off towards a nearby copse to explore.
The seventeenth century stables have been renovated from locally reclaimed materials, they are well-designed, comfortable, and fully-equipped. The whole farm is ‘off-grid’ - powered by a single wind turbine just audible on the brow of the hill. I made an indecent suggestion to my wife (Sarah, 36, usually right), but before she could say, ‘what about the kids?’ our youngest, Harv (five – superpowers: tangles, dinosaurs, lego) came crying because Wacko had fallen. Wacko is our inappropriately nicknamed eldest child Jack (seven - superpowers: jumping, balancing, falling).
A broken rope swing dangled over a gully where, 20 feet bellow, Jack sat sobbing bravely. His left leg appeared to have an extra joint half way up the phema which earned him a week in traction. Sarah and I agreed one of us should be with him the whole time. She didn’t fancy sleeping up on the farm with just Harv for protection, so I happily volunteered for the day shifts at the hospital.
Nights were spent in the stables reading stories and telling jokes. The farm people let us build a camp fire which we cooked on, joined by a pleasant dog named Boy who actually howled when Harv and I sang. Harv got to ride a cow and milk a goat; I got to taste a home-made drink I’m not certain was legal.
J was crazed on narcotics and had changing moods. By good fortune I had my laptop and we spent our days playing games, reading stories, drawing pictures, and we wrote a very disturbing children’s novel that I will one day use to blackmail him. Meanwhile Harv and Sarah were bandidos on the look out for trouble, and there’s plenty to be had in North Derbyshire. They went to Eyam (the plague village), Cryche Tramway Museum, Peak Cliff Cavern, and generally got lost and had picnics.
It was an eerily calm holiday and I missed Sarah. The biggest expense was petrol. Between us we clocked up an unanticipatable 628 miles. The farm and local activities were great. It was heartbreaking to see Jacky doped, and worse to see him in pain. But time with both kids was actually quite moving. Jack has a limp (the doctors say it won’t last) and no memory of the hospital. The gully at Hill Crest now has a fence protecting it from falling boys, and the nice people wouldn’t accept a penny for our five nights in their stables.