Friday, October 26, 2007

Halloween at Arlington Court

We became members of the National Trust back in July but haven't actually been anywhere to use our membership - til now; partly because of the lousy summer we had and partly because there really is only one National Trust place to visit in North Devon. So today we christened our card and went to Arlington Court for their Halloween Fun Day.

There was a bat trail around the grounds. We found a few bat cards full of information but the novelty soon wore off. They were more interested in the craft room where they sat for ages making bat masks. We then went off for a quick run around the grounds, managed to walk quietly around the inside of the house, and then came home again.

Tonight there is a Halloween Walk where the staff dress up and act out a scary story. Walkers follow them around the grounds through various scary tunnels and across dark muddy fields where witches and ghouls wait to jump out at you. We've done this twice in previous years so tonight we'll stay wrapped up in the warm. I can recommend giving it a go though - if your children are brave and you have a good sense of humour!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Torrington 1646

I dragged the children out of bed this morning. It was cold and grey and the middle of their half term but they were fine with that: even the teenager, given the option of staying behind, decided she'd come out for a visit with the rest of the family. We travelled 11 miles through the country lanes to Torrington, a small market town perched on top of some very steep hills, and there we visited the Torrington 1646 exhibition.

Centred around the the Civil War battle that took place there that year it is essentially an interactive experience that takes you through what it would be like to live during those times. The experience lasts two hours and the staff, all dressed in costumes and acting in role, take you through the exhibits on a guided tour. This was a bit worrying at first as I am generally used to allowing my children to wander at will but they were very good and the staff are obviously experienced in keeping young children entertained.

Our tour started in the costume room where a gentleman and his son were dressed in armour and then myself and a young girl from another family were dressed as mistresses of the day, much to the amusement of my middle daughter who thought it particularly funny that I had to wear a bumrole to make my backside look bigger (like it needed any help!). Then we were taken through the streets of Torrington at night while the battle took place. We visited the Barber surgeon who spared no gorey detail while telling us about his work. There is a Physic garden, but it was too cold to be shown around that so the lady brought her plants indoors to us. And finally we were taken into the garden for a weapons display. Several hapless volunteers were taken through their paces as pikemen, then we learn all about muskets.

The cafe was our next port of call for a hot chocolate to warm us all up. It was a very interesting and very entertaining visit, particularly useful if you are learning about the Civil War at school as my second daughter is. Family entrance is £21 for 2 adults and up to 3 children. My children learnt a lot and have decided they definately don't wish they were alive 35o years ago, far too many things involved urine!