17 Aug Mingling with Muggles at Dyffryn Gardens
I know this may seem a little early to mention the C word but just roll with it. Every Christmas we get inundated with gifts that although greatly appreciated we have little need or room for. Our house is up to the rafters with un-played plastic toys, books waiting to be read and a box full of novelty soaps and bubbles.
As we become aware of the plastic waste epidemic it makes me completely uncomfortable with this need to have piles of stuff to show our love. Whilst Santa still brings the kids some presents the last few years, we have tried to limit the number of things we get our children and spend money on trips instead. Making memories and spending quality time together is worth more than having twenty plastic toys.
We try to instil this onto our relatives also to help limit the number of incoming gifts and every Christmas for the last few years my father has gifted us with National Trust membership.
If you are a family and you aren’t members of the National Trust I cannot recommend it enough. It takes me back to how proper childhood should be, running around outdoors and exploring nature. One of the best things about getting your kids outside is how quickly their imaginations run wild.
We went to Dyffryn Gardens, South Wales which isn’t too far for us and we were pooch sitting so we were unable to go inside the house. With that in mind as the house usually entertains the children for another hour or so I wanted to make sure that we could be outside having the most fun whilst pleasing my 13 and 8-year-old daughters. This summer their four-year age gap has become tricky to navigate. Luckily my teenager hasn’t quite hit the ‘too cool for school’ phase yet and is pretty chilled. I asked them for suggestions on an epic adventure we could have and my youngest asked if we could play Harry Potter.
As soon as we started the role play it became clear that Dyffryn is a haven for adapting a Harry Potter adventure. It helps that we heart it hard in our house. So, there we were, nervous first year students entering Diagon Alley to get our supplies, first stop was Gringotts Bank. Up the Rockery path to the left of the house we went towards a big tree and collected little green buds off the floor to act as our coins.
Next stop was back towards the rockery to Ollivander’s wand shop. This is where the woods help, giving you an abundance of broken twigs on the floor to have a pick at. I scooped up a few weird and wonderful sticks different in lengths and thickness and stood in a little paved area and this is where my years of studying Drama came into its own. John Hurt may have played Ollivander in the movie but if they had seen my acting skills I would’ve been cast.
We had our wands and off we trotted to Madame Malkin’s robes for all occasions and got fitted for our robes. We walked through the gardens down to the reflecting pond where there are lots of potted trees on the paved courtyard which became our cauldron shop.
It then started raining, I blame the Dementors, so we jumped through a hedge archway into a shelter which became the Hogwarts Express and there we ate our picnic which we bought from the Trolley lady (all food became Harry Potter themed – drinks Pumpkin Juice/ Butterbeer, Pumpkin pasties etc)
The house then becomes Hogwarts. There is a room upstairs where you can dress up. Armed with a hat and a gorgeous armchair – here you can do the sorting ceremony. There is also a second-hand bookshop which can be the library. The adult books being the restricted section. The whole house is obviously gorgeous with carved fireplaces, grand staircases and huge windows it doesn’t take much to believe that it is Hogwarts. If you find one of the National Trust volunteers, they will talk you through the history of the room that you are in so in essence you are in a Hogwarts- A history (try saying that without mimicking Hermione) lesson. Once you have had your fill of soaking up the house, you can pop to the Great Hall for a feast (the café for refreshments, the cream teas in particular)
Replenished on cakey goodness, we made our way to the greenhouse for a herbology lesson where we pretended to pot screaming mandrakes.
Outside the greenhouse we went into the Italian Gardens to Visit Hagrid and Fang in his hut. Opie played the role of Fang very well, barking and sniffing in all the right places.
We scooted over to the walled garden and had a potions class at the giant well, I channelled my inner Snape and we concocted a big batch of Polyjuice potion. There is also an indoor option for potions class as in the same room where the dress up stuff is you can make a little bottle of perfume using dried herbs and petals cultivated from the gardens. There is a pot with a suggested donation of £1 per person to pay for this and tiny little glass jars which look like potion bottles and a bowlful of label stickers to place on your bottle. This all depends on your budget for the day as the more of you there are the more it costs but the money does go straight into Dyffryn which helps with the upkeep and restoration of the place.
We then wandered through the forbidden forest (the arboretum) and climbed some trees not realising that one of them was the Whomping Willow.
Then the kids had a duelling class on the lawn some of the spells we knew – Stupefy, Expelliarmus, Sectumsempra. Petrificus Totalus. Some of them we made up by just adding an ‘itis’ on the end of words so it sounded Harry Pottery.
I can’t say who enjoyed it the most because the kids looked so happy but as I am a massive Harry Potter fan and now I have heavily bleached hair I am a dead ringer for Lucius Malfoy it was probably me.
It’s so easy to be sucked into all the wonderful technology that we have but really nothing beats your imagination and the outdoors.
Wands at the ready.