Summer of Imagination.
It says it in the title really, doesn’t it?
Such an evocative phrase leaves you conjuring up memories of halcyon days when, released from your normal routine, you’re allowed to let your body and imagination roam free, discovering worlds both real and dreamt.
So, when Doddington Hall & Gardens invited The Mini Malpi along to their summer holiday event, you can be sure we were quick to accept.
To be fair, the Elizabethan family home that’s just five miles from Lincoln – with rooms including the Tiger Bedroom, Long Gallery and Tent Room and five acres of gardens including a kitchen garden, duck pond, nature trail, statuesque trees, sculptures, maze, Temple of the Winds and even its own pyramid – has something to offer the imagination of any season’s visitor. And its a place that we’ve often enjoyed visiting before.
But its latest programme of events capitalises on all of this and adds and highlights much more.
Unicorns are on the family crest and a galloping blessing of the mythical creatures (created by local theatre designers Belli and Belli) greeted us as we arrived at the Historic House. Anyone interested in hunting the long-horned white horses (as well as green topiary ones) can find plenty both large and small, hidden and in full stride, around the property.
And a quest for such imagery, along with kings, queens, animals, vehicles and secret doors was our first undertaking as we headed into the Hall and were handed a clipboard and a copy of The Unicorn Quest to hunt the items, collect the stamps and claim our prize. Fortunately the stewards around the house were on hand to help point our eyes in the right direction if the clue eluded us as well as to tell us the stories behind the objects.
My favourite spot on this visit was learning that a hexagonal patchwork tablecloth once had love letters sewn within it but the minis’ favourite room was once again most definitely the tent room.
The Egyptian tent made in Cairo in about 1880 is now too fragile to be erected outside so has been installed in a former bedroom. And it definitely captured the imaginations of Luke and Willow. Daddy and Mummy Malpi are now wondering why we ever bothered buying furniture.
At that point we decided to take their energy outside and headed to the event’s Creation Station area which, on the day we visited, included the chance to make their own Enchanted Forest Crowns with Nadya.
Whether enchanted or not, the craft of weaving dried flowers and grasses, pine cones and other nature finds into the willow and the final artefact itself were definitely enchanting and very fitting in feel with the overall event. It was also an excellent family photo opportunity that my eldest two minis didn’t allow me to indulge in. Visitors more prepared (and cooperative) than us had realised the potential for some magical shots as I spotted at least a couple of fairies and one Robin Hood enjoying the gardens.
And there was lots to enjoy.
Helping to fill in an insect hotel, listening to the Talking Trees (an initiative funded by the Woodland Trust and led by Lincoln College’s production and lighting designer Howell Thomas), clambering in and out of willow domes, imagining what the inhabitants of the fairy village created by the Groovy Garden Company are like, swinging a croquet mallet, playing a game of ladybird and bumble bee tic tac toe, and generally exploring the beautiful spaces all added up to a summer’s afternoon of continual delights.
As Luke’s speech improves it is lovely to discover how much he remembers of previous days out and activities and Doddington Hall has obviously made its mark as he mentioned the previous egg and spoon race he took part in as well as other trails he followed, one ducks and one rabbits. But, as an ardent maze enthusiast, there was definitely one area that he simply had to visit again before heading to the cafe for cake.
As well as the cafe staff who saved our cake from getting soggy by helping us relocate inside at the start of a surprise short shower, we are also indebted to the lovely Hall stewards for their help in not only calming and distracting but also managing to enthuse one slightly poorly mini and one having a highly sensitive day when we first arrived (which meant their parents were slightly less fraught too).
Such warm and welcoming as well as knowledgeable staff, coupled with the magical surroundings, mean the Summer of Imagination would be a lovely destination to include in any mini’s (or major’s) summer 2017.
#DoddingtonSOI is open daily until Sunday, September 3rd, 2017 (except Saturdays), 11am to 4.30pm. Visit www.doddingtonhall.com/summerofimagination/ for more about the event, click here for the full programme and map and visit www.doddingtonhall.com/visiting/opening-times/ for admission price information.
“Logic will get you from A to B”, said Albert Einstein, “Imagination will take you everywhere else.”