“It was a cold blustery day, as the children set off towards the mountain where the feisty dragon lived…” Well, that’s what it was like in the story one of the children’s rooms just before bedtime tonight, but actually for Prep IV it’s been a lovely sunny day here in Castleton. After an uneventful journey here, where the only singing on the bus was Mrs. Booth’s, we arrived at the hostel. After a frantic melee of assigning children to the right rooms, Mrs. Booth worked her magic and had us upgraded to the West Wing where followed another melee before everybody ended up in the right places.
We then met Tim, our guide, who walked with us from the outskirts of the village into the centre, admiring all the exotic wild animals we met along the route, like chickens, and sheep. The village itself is amazingly picturesque, which led to an array of questions from our eager children: “Are we allowed to go shopping?” “Can we buy ice creams?”
As we entered the lower part of the castle grounds, we were disappointed to learn that we were not going to be allowed to go into the keep itself – after nearly 1000 years, it is showing signs of wear and tear and the health and safety boffins have decreed that it is best to keep out. Henry II would be turning in his grave! We calculated the best places to defend the castle, explored the al fresco Norman toilets (nobody used them) and gazed out over the fantastic views, trying to work out where ITV had filmed their TV advertisement over the Hope Valley which spread out in front of us. Tim asked us what we thought the best way to attack the castle might be, to which came our favourite reply: “Dress up as a Normal tourist and just stroll on up.”
The castle visitor centre offered that favourite of all pastimes, shopping, offering a vast array of medieval souvenirs for the discerning school child. Parents, brace yourselves for squidgy plastic stress balls, feather pens and historic chocolate. After exploring further around the base of the castle to discover just how hard it would have been to be an unwelcome visitor, we returned to the hostel where we became archaeologists, searching a newly discovered ancient rubbish dump underneath the hostel for ancient treasures. At this point parents, please do not panic – this was merely the story fed to the children, it wasn’t a real dump, but the excitement of the children as they discovered old boots, crushed drinking vessels and sheep’s skulls. Searching for clues as to the age of our discoveries, Tim was hoping desperately that the message on the tankards wasn’t really the “Made in Taiwan” that one of the children said it was.
After a delicious tea to which all the children let their ears back (and Mr. Suter had thirds), we went gem panning, hoping to find a wonderful treasure – check Mrs. Seward’s rings next week as we think she might have secreted a piece of Blue John for a new sparkling ring. After that, half the group had an impromptu fencing lesson from Tim while the other half played outside.
And so to bed, and the stories…