Cots and lots provided in this Cotswolds haven
Nature meets luxurious nurturing on this family brea – Sherna Noah persuades her son to swap his tablet for a trowel in The Cotswolds
IT’S not every day you’re happy to stand back and watch your five-year-old whack a table with a large, wooden mallet. But at Woolley Grange, a luxury hotel on the edge of the Cotswolds, that’s exactly what my son is being encouraged to do.
We’ve travelled to this Jacobean manor house for a short break, and our visit happens to coincide with a Tuesday morning gardening session for children (aged two to eight years).
And so, Isaac is thoroughly enjoying bashing apples from the hotel orchard to bits to make juice for the restaurant.
Dating back to the 17th Century, Woolley Grange looks imposing when Swingball, pond dipping and croquet will keep you busy – not to mention the chickens we first walk up the gravel pathway to the entrance.
But we soon discover a relaxed atmosphere, where children can run around despite such grand surroundings.
Isaac gets to plant broad beans and collect a freshly laid chicken egg from the nesting box. And his tablet – which we’d brought along for the car journey – is now lying abandoned and forgotten in our room.
Depending on the time of year, different activities, such as apple pressing, take place in the walled garden, where chickens, ducks and geese roam freely.
It’s a kids’ haven with a tractor to climb on and two wooden playhouses with real geraniums growing in the window boxes.
Eliza Reid, the head gardener, who used to work as a researcher on wildlife TV shows, wants children to get planting young. So she launched the once-a-week Little Green Fingers Club, where kids hone their skills planting flowers and vegetables under the tuition of the gardeners. But it isn’t just our son getting an education.
I’d never thought about where my bathroom loofah came from and hadn’t realised it was a fruit.
But Isaac helps cut the loofah, which resembles a large cucumber, from the “Loofa-torium” for later use in the hotel spa.
And this is where I find myself a few hours later, having a full body massage where the “golf balls in my shoulders” are rubbed away with jojoba oil.
The spa menu includes facials, mud cocoon and pumpkin treatments. I come away from my massage feeling taller – and at 5ft nothing, that’s a real result.
Being vertically challenged can be advantageous at Woolley Grange, however. My 6ft 2in husband has to duck to enter our Jaco bean-pro portioned bedroom, with its beautifully exposed low wood beams.
Our two-level suite comprises a sitting room, which serves as our son’s bedroom, a walk-in wardrobe, huge bathroom and our bedroom, with views of Woolley’s grounds.
We look out to cedar, weeping willow and walnut trees and the inviting-looking outdoor pool.
There’s also a 12 by 7m indoor pool, with a view through full-length glass windows of the herb garden.
There’s a sauna and steam room next door, so you can nip in while taking it turns to play sharks with your children.
If you want more time to yourself, you can book a session for your offspring at the Ofsted-registered creche, or Woolley Bears Den.
And at night, most parents enjoy a candlelit dinner alone, by making use of the in-room monitoring service where reception staff alert you if they hear your child wake up.
Woolley Grange was a family home in 1989 when its owners opened it up as a country house hotel.
It’s now part of the Luxury Family Hotels group, a collection of eight, upmarket child-friendly properties, ranging from a castle in the Cotswolds, to Fowey Hall in Cornwall, said to be the original inspiration for Toad Hall in The Wind In The Willows.
Inside, Woolley Grange is full of character – we find carousel horses and a stuffed bear on the landing.
There’s a dark panelled lounge and a sitting room that doubles up as a cinema, with DVDs you can take to your bedroom.
But we spend most of the time outside, doing a little pond dipping and visiting the nature garden with its rabbit and “insect hotel”.
For those with energy to burn, there’s a trampoline, Swingball, a croquet lawn and space to play football or bat a tennis ball.
We’d planned to venture out of the hotel during our stay – Bath is only eight miles away, the historic town of Bradford on Avon is a five-minute drive and there’s also Longleat Safari Park – but we don’t quite manage it.
There’s simply too much work to be done in the garden, Isaac informs us.
Woolley Grange specialises in looking after families