Family fun in Shropshire

It is this time last week that we were on our return journey from a weekend near Church Stretton in Shropshire. The clan gathered for a belated joint birthday celebration: a 40th and a 70th so billed as a combined 110th.

The Shooting Lodge was a great place to fit us all in - Mum and Dad, Uncle John, and us three siblings and families. Susannah was very nervous of the stuffed stag's head in the banqueting room (it was rather a grand place but probably not quite as posh as that sounds), but she got used to it soon enough and she loved the little room she shared with Pippa. The accommodation was augmented by a small annexe - a bedroom, weirdly with its own toilet in the room itself (no number twos was the deal there!). And the entertainment included another outhouse, this one with table tennis.

The weather wasn't great, but Acton Scott Historic Working Farm is worth a visit even in drizzle and it was a very short drive away from where we were staying. Indeed it is part of the same estate. We saw all the usual farm animals: sheep, lambs (the only animals to be handled on this occasion), geese, ducks, cows, horses (magnificent, huge shire horses), piglets (aw, too cute). There was a butter churning demonstration and various other ye olde world type of things to look at. A scrumptious cream scone in the cafe (in the converted old school house) kept me happy, and then we enjoyed racing through the maze. As you can see from the pictures you could also milk a cow - not a real live example, but probably more fun as far as Susannah was concerned - and play in a gypsy caravan.


In the afternoon, a few hardy adults went up Long Mynd. I say hardy but actually you could drive close to the summit and in fairer weather we probably would have dragged the kids up too. For the stretch we did, the terrain was not too tricky but you could enjoy views, fresh air and sky larks song.

Meanwhile, one of Pippa's highlights of the weekend was going on. Gentle conversation and then a small nature walk from the lodge itself with her uncle Martin. He is recovering from Lyme Disease (what a nasty illness that is) and only had energy for small doses of activity spaced out through the day. They were both happy.

Saturday evening was the focus of the general eat-a-thon that these family get togethers tend to turn into. If you find yourselves in mixed age company with a 2-year-old who needs bed around seven, then you could do a lot worse than arranging a caterer to come in. Our celebratory meal was prepared by Milly and we had wonderful local, seasonal delicacies such as asparagus on puff pastry and hollandaise sauce, and elderflower sorbet. The lamb was a little rare for my taste, but otherwise the whole experience was fantastic. Far more relaxed than encouraging a fidgety near four-year-old to cope with some fancy posh nosh restaurant. No need to decide on non-drinking drivers either for that matter.

By Sunday our table tennis skills had improved no end. The sun came out and so did the frizby. We barbecued (barbecues provided) and generally enjoyed the outdoors and the beauty of our location. The only down side was the start of a nasty tummy upset for the youngest member of our group. For the rest of us, it was easy to relax simply watching the swallows darting in and out from under the eaves of the house where they were nesting. And of course it would be hard to reach the end of a family weekend with this particular family without some music making.

I don't remember ever going to Shropshire before, but I look forward to a return visit and enjoying that beautiful countryside again.