Who went Lisa and Eoin McSorley, their children Lois, 8, and Jimmy, 4, and best friends Luci and David Talbot-Clarke with their children Tristan, 5, and twins Henry and Agatha, 3
Where we went Gladwins Farm in Nayland, Suffolk.
We love spending time with our friends but it can be a tight squeeze (not to mention chaotic) when one of us hosts the other. So we decided to try a large self-catered cottage instead. Gladwins Farm fitted the bill perfectly – a short drive for the Talbot-Clarkes’ home in Suffolk and a pleasant two-hour trundle from Hertfordshire for us, stopping at honesty boxes along the way for fresh eggs and asparagus.
Gladwins is a 22-acre family hideaway in the heart of Constable country. As well as nine award-winning cottages, it offers an indoor heated swimming pool, tennis courts, woodland walks, playbarn, fishing lake, children’s playground with a trampoline, animals, and a spa treatment room. Amazingly, all energy for the farm is generated by giant solar panels beside the lake, with heating for the cottages and pool from woodchip burners that mostly use fuel sourced on site. No wonder it holds a Green Tourism gold award!
We stayed in Chelsworth, the largest of the cottages, which has four bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. While it looks traditional from the outside, it has everything inside to make for an easy holiday and is very stylish and modern. Highchairs, cots and all things baby are provided, should you need them, so you only really need to bring yourselves.
On arrival, we found that it had a fenced in private garden, which stopped us worrying about the small ones escaping. But once we’d looked around the farm and realised no real harm could come to our army of daredevils we let go of the reins a bit. They loved having the freedom to explore – the only rule was not to go to the lake without an adult - but that wasn’t even an issue once they discovered the hot tub in the garden. They were to spend so much of their time in it, they were constantly wrinkled!
What we ate
Gladwins is self-catering and there’s a gas barbecue in the garden so naturally we took advantage. The farm is within easy reach of supermarkets and you can arrange for your shopping to be delivered to your cottage. But there’s an on site shop stocking local produce and a selection of ready-meals from the wonderful COOK range if you really want to take it easy.
Things to do
Despite the small number of cottages, there’s a wonderful amount of entertainment laid on, and always with children and their safety in mind. The indoor pool is heated to 30˚C and has a standard depth, with lessons available if your child is not a confident swimmer. The playbarn is a godsend for those wet weather days when little ones still need to blow off steam, containing everything from soft play to table tennis and a Wii. There’s also an outdoor play area complete with Wendy house and trampoline.
What with all that and meeting the resident goats, chicken and pigs, the children were in a high state of bliss and thoroughly enjoying themselves, which left us grown-ups plenty of time to hang out together and relax. In fact, they had so much fun that when we settled them down in their PJs with a hot chocolate and Annie on the DVD player, none of them made it past the first 15 minutes and we had to carry them to their beds.
Gladwins is utterly family-friendly. The owners have young children so the entire farm has been tried and tested and seen through the eyes of small people. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed anywhere where parents and children were so well catered for. Even the animals seem to have been trained to be super friendly!
The fact that we didn’t hear any whinging all weekend says it all. Nor did anyone have to be told off (apart from Eoin telling Luci and me to stop laughing so loudly after midnight in the hot tub…). The children had freedom to explore and the entire weekend was filled with fun. We made great memories which, when all’s said and done, is what it’s all about!
From £30pppn off-peak, with options for 3, 4 or 7 night stays. Cottages sleep from two to eight people. www.gladwinsfarm.co.uk