On a whim, we took a trip out to Kinver Edge in Staffordshire. The description looked appealing: dramatic views, lots of walking and houses built into sandstone caves. Sounds right up my street.
The drive took around an hour but it probably took that long to get our four children into the car in the first place, as is the norm. Once there though, parking was easy and the kids clocked the ice cream van straight away.
We crossed the road from the car park, having had to stop 4 times in the space of 50m to sort drinks, hats, jackets, etc., and followed the signs through the forest towards the rock houses. I have to say at this point that this was only possible thanks to one of our favourite ever purchases: a baby backpack. If you’ve ever struggled with a pushchair across uneven or rough terrain, to the point where you have to consider curbing your outdoor enthusiasm, then this thing will change your life. It’s basically a backpack designed for people who love the outdoors, so it has room for carrying the usual paraphernalia and a water bladder as you would expect, but it is designed to carry a child up to the age of about 3 years old. As it is a proper backpack it has the hip straps that take the weight of the child off your shoulders and spread it across your trunk making the whole thing hugely comfortable. It’s not cheap, I think we paid around £130 for our Osprey Poco, but it was well worth it for us. Here it is in action with Jessica being carried by Shelley.
I digress. After a short walk we came across a small play area built out of the most readily available material in the forest. It was a nice distraction and broke up the walk to the main part nicely. It’s not a long walk, maybe 5-10 minutes, but the attention span of children is basically nothing.
After dragging them away from the play area and continuing through the forest, we eventually came to the first part of the rock houses. The boys discovered a small, shallow cave with nothing more than what appeared to be a bench in the middle. This grabbed their interest, especially when they discovered the bench had a round hole cut into it, and took turns sitting in the hole. I gave them a moment and then asked them what they thought the cave and the bench were for. After some suggestions they drew a blank, so I explained that “in the olden days” people wouldn’t have had things like plumbing or sewers so toilets would have been outside. What they were actually playing in was once someone’s toilet. Anyone with children, especially boys, will understand how funny they found this as they proceeded to sit in the round hole again and make the appropriate noises.
We went into the rock houses and, whilst a guided tour was made available to us, we felt the boys would fare better investigating the houses themselves. They found the houses themselves quite interesting, especially the sparse nature and simplistic lifestyle of the people that would have lived there. The actors they have on site added a nice touch and we paused for a while to watch them as they went about their “day-to-day tasks” of weaving, cooking and chopping wood. The actors were all dressed in traditional clothing, which added a nice sense of realism to the place, but a large codpiece on one of the male actors did bring a few smirks. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I don’t have any pictures of that.
Following a quick pit stop, we followed the path past the rock houses, up through the forest to the top of Kinver Edge to see the views. We found the toposcope at the summit and the boys used it to discover where we were and “whether we could see our house from here”.
A quick walk down and we had enough time to stop for some tree climbing and an ice cream (they never let me forget exactly where the van was parked).