Words: Simon Paterson Images: France Milburn and Simon Paterson
A few months ago, Bekah and I found ourselves in that rarest of situations; child and work free on a weekday! So, we decided to head out into the Peak District for a walk along the Monsal Trail, starting at Hassop Station. Heading North towards Chee Dale, we'd walked for roughly 10-15 minutes before we stumbled upon a sign that said,
‘Quackers Café - this way!’
We were expecting a quaint cafe, but what we found was a joy. The Quackers Café is on the Thornbridge Estate and is the perfect pit stop for anyone venturing along the Monsal Trail, which I would highly recommend, and it has stunning views of the gardens and hall.
We quickly found a seat outside, checked the menu and ordered a Thornbridge Jaipur Ale sausage roll, a slice of lemon meringue and two flat whites. But what excited us was the outdoor activities available for the children upon paid entry to the grounds. We decided to return the following day, kids in tow, for the whole Thornbridge experience. It didn’t disappoint!
Thornbridge Hall was built in the 12th century, and over the years, it has been home to linen merchant's, lawyers, and student teachers, but it's Emma and Jim Harrison whom we owe the splendour of Thornbridge Hall that we see today.
A 15-year-old Emma visited Thornbridge Hall with her youth worker, Donna, and was astonished that places like this existed. She dreamt of buying Thornbridge and gliding down the staircase in a red flowing dress. This dream came true in 2002.
Emma and Jim set to work straight away renovating and transforming the property and grounds whilst preserving its history and elegance. Extensive work was completed on; the Music Room, Carriage House, Gardener's Cottage, North and South Lodges, and building work to link the whole estate.
The Begonia collection in the Orangery was crowned the best in the UK by the BBC's James Wong from Gardeners World... be sure to check it out when you visit.
Bekah and I were eager to return the next day, so we set off early to make a day of it and ensure we didn't miss a thing.
We started with a walk around the gardens, which are just beautiful. There are lots of little places for the kids to explore’ like a giant secret garden with ancient statues, a picturesque pond filled with Koi carp, and stepping-stones to traverse on your adventure through to the garden centre and orangery.
Bekah particularly loved the garden centre, purchasing several bits that are still in our garden.
After a morning spent taking in the garden and architecture, we ventured on through Daffodil Bank to the children's play area. With hammocks, a den adorned with books, giant chalkboards and chimes, swings, croquet, and the hook-a-duck fountain filled with hundreds of ducks and paddling children, it was brilliant! All of this playing, purchasing and perusing was hungry, thirsty work, so we ventured into the Quackers café for the second time in two days. These activities, and the many events at Thornbridge Estate, change with the seasons, so be sure to keep up to date via social media or their website!
Florie (aged 3) went for a kids picnic bag (a choice of baguette, either crisps, fruit or a Freddo and Fruit Shoot, milk or water). Bekah (aged undisclosed) had the Thornbridge quiche of the day. I (aged 41) had another Thornbridge Ale sausage roll, and Eva (aged 10) had some lemon drizzle cake because well, why not?
After our late lunch, we sat on Daffodil Bank and read a book to the kids before departing home, full of gratitude and joy.
Throughout January, entry to the formal gardens and children's play area is free! When it's not free, it's amazing value for money, and I have no doubt we will see you frequenting Thornbridge many times.
Thornbridge Hall & Gardens
T: 07733 965749
Ashford in the Water
Derbyshire DE45 1NZ
DO NOT USE THIS POSTCODE IN A SATNAV.
The main entrance is on the A6020 Ashford to Hassop Road off the A6.