A lovely spring morning, and we're knee-deep in daffodils trying to work out how to storm a large wooden cowboy’s fort, while avoiding a huge dinosaur made of wicker. We're in the Enchanted Forest at Groombridge, a truly excellent place only an hour out of London.
If your kids are learning about the Tudors at school, the Weald of Kent is a must – there is Hever Castle just up the road, replete with moats and mazes and secret passages, plus a bed Henry VIII slept in, and then Penshurst Place, another wonderful Tudor house, used as location in ‘The Other Boleyn Girl', and also full of armour and drama and beautiful gardens.
I have cleverly found an actual Tudor building to sleep in as well, although it's even better than that - its heart is medieval and it struggles up a small hill in Tudor and then Edwardian sections. Its name is Hoath House and its set in a fabulous garden with views overlooking Ashdown Forest near Chiddingstone Hoath.
We enter after dusk, when the polished floors and rows of ancestral paintings have taken on a slightly mysterious hue. My son becomes convinced we're in a Scooby Doo set. We settle into our enormous family-sized room with views over the garden and head off for delicious meal at the nearby Bottle House, a proper Kentish pub that's very welcoming to children.
Then it's back for a bath in the beautiful Art Deco bathroom, where my son goes to sleep in his bunkbed and I retire to the library to read my Agatha Christie. It’s a perfect book for this house, which does have the air of a Scooby Doo mystery but also one of faded Edwardian glamour – the ideal setting for a country-house mystery.
With the library to myself, an enormous fire and rows of books, I'm as happy as Larry. You wouldn't come here for the mod cons, but all the important things are amply catered for: the beds are very comfortable, with good sheets, the rooms are well heated, the breakfast is delicious and sourced locally (rhubarb from the garden, sausages from the pigs down the road), and the place has atmosphere and charm in spades.
We've only been away a couple of nights, but because it’s so easy to get to from London, we've had three whole days' worth of holiday. I feel like we've done an enormous amount and really enjoyed being in the country.
Things to do in the Weald of Kent:
Penshurst Place – a wonderful house and gardens with toy museum, adventure playground and regular events for children.
Hever Castle – a 13th-century moated castle with miniature houses, boating lake, water maze, yew maze, wooden maze and great adventure playground
Groombridge Place Gardens and Enchanted Forest – a mysterious, fantastical forest fully of swings, serpents, dragons, ponds and other entertainments, birds of prey and peacocks.
Bedgebury National Pinetum – a 2,000-acre forest with great play area, cycle trails and visitor centre.
The Hop Farm – an award-winning attraction with Shire horses and animal farm and pet corner, and lots of special events and shows. A great place for a feel of the real Kent.
Spa Valley Railway – runs steam trains from Tunbridge Wells to Groombridge via the wonderful High Rocks. Thomas the Tank Engine can often be found working this line.