Saturday, 31 October 2015

Woolley Grange, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire

Remember when you were a small child and you'd be taken somewhere new. You might have felt excited and a little tiny bit anxious, but mostly incredibly curious. You just couldn't wait to explore... Well, if you'd been lucky enough to be taken to Woolley Grange, your curiosity would have been well rewarded.

It's a country-house hotel, created on the premise that, just because you now have children of your own, that's no reason to give up any of the luxury and comfort you knew beforehand. But, unlike many hotels that say 'family friendly', at Woolley Grange, children are positively welcomed. There's nowhere they mustn't go or things they shouldn't touch. There's even a friendly resident hotel dog, Rex, who wanders about looking for a stroke or to have his belly rubbed. That doesn't mean grown-ups have to compromise though: there's an on-site spa with pool, sauna, steam room and professional staff on hand to provide treatments; a comfy living room filled with overstuffed sofas and panelled walls where you can take afternoon tea, a pre-dinner cordial or an after dinner nightcap – or just play cards, if the mood strikes you.

Meanwhile, your children might be in the supervised Woolley Bear's Den, being entertained and enlightened by the trained Mary Poppins types; hanging out in the unsupervised Hen House, playing pool, table football or air hockey; or just exploring – of which there's plenty to do. In fact, you might want to explore with them...

Inside, you could come across unusual carousel animals to clamber on, find a stuffed bear to dance with (he's on a wheeled stand) and all sorts of interesting things to stop and look at.

Outside, the grounds have been cleverly divided up into different areas that pique the imagination. Will you spot a fairy in the Fairy Garden? Come take a look... Or what about a swim in the outdoor pool (open in the warmer months)? A game of football, a jump on the trampoline, a swing on the tree swing...? Or a visit to the Good Life Garden, where a clutch of little shed-houses need looking into and the eggs from the free-range chickens might need collecting. Oh, and then there's the helicopter landing pad. You drove here? Never mind, there's always next time.

Remember to pick up the Sheep Trail rhyme. There are eight sheep dotted about the house and grounds, devised and created by the head gardener – can you spot them all?  We found two without much effort, but where are the other five...? We'll just have to come back and have another look...

The hotel is just outside the pretty Cotswold town of Bradford-on-Avon, which still has one-off stores rather than chains, and not just the pretty Avon wending through it, but the Kennet & Avon canal as well. You can do a very reasonable walk from town up the canal to Avoncliff, where a feat of 1797 (yes, they knew how to do this way back then) engineering sees the canal go over the top of the river and train line in a bit of Esher-esque craziness.

Cross over, enjoy the views and take the little lane back toward town, admiring the countryside and, eventually, lovely stone houses on either side. It's not an overly long hike, maybe an hour or two, depending on your pace. In fact, even a child could do it.

No comments:

Post a Comment