One thing or a mother: A ‘fun’ family day out

I’ve lived in Sussex for my whole life, except for a year working at Walt Disney World in Florida (we’ll get to that another time – my colleagues just love my endless anecdotes from my time in America...)

I love exploring our county, and I thought I had been to most of the great places nearby. But if lockdown had any positives, it’s been finding out I really didn’t know the half of the amazing places on our doorstep (that, and it becoming socially acceptable to drink gin on a Monday).

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me pictures from her family walk on the Knepp Castle Estate. Assuming she’d gone to some far flung part of the British Isles, I asked her if she was having a nice holiday.

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Knowing I’m prone to being a bit slow on the uptake (can you still claim it’s baby brain more than two years post-birth?!), she gently explained to me it was, in fact, just 20 minutes up the road. So, off we popped up the A24 to Dial Post to spend the day there on Sunday.

Knepp Castle Estate was the scene of the great cow poo incident of 2020. SUS-200923-163234001

It is essentially a rewilding project, with free-roaming animals including deer and pigs. There are also ruins and treehouses to explore on four coloured routes through the estate.

In my head, my family was going to skip through meadows and everything we’d see en route would provide the perfect opportunity for an impromptu science lesson. We’d take photos worthy of ‘the gram’, and just maybe I might use that account I set up years ago to stalk celebrities on to wow people with my wholesome family fun.

But, that’s not quite how things panned out...

We chose the purple route, and immediately got lost. Despite my husband insisting we call him Bear Grylls such was his ‘at-oneness’ with nature, he walked us up onto somebody’s farm. A quick backtrack the other way, and we found ourselves outside a pretty tumbledown barn.

Katherine Hollisey-McLean's new column is called One Thing or a Mother SUS-200917-065003001

Because we’d been walking for approximately two-and-a-half minutes, the kids were already desperately hungry and thirsty, so we sat down for a snack on the world’s largest picnic blanket – one of many ‘amazing’ Amazon purchases in lockdown.

After our quick pitstop, the kids ran off to play. They were having fun standing on what looked like mounds of grass, so I started packing up. Turns out picnic blankets for giants aren’t that easy to fold, and for ten minutes I had a fight Anthony Joshua would be proud of with a 2x3 metre piece of plastic-backed fabric. I’d almost finished wrangling it back into some kind of shape, when my youngest came over and said ‘Mummy, hands wet’. Instantly suspicious, I turned round to realise the worst. Yep, he was covered in cow poo – those grass mounds essentially being big piles of manure. All I can say is, thank goodness for baby wipes and hand sanitiser.

We walked on and then, huh, the buggy kept getting stuck in potholes in the grass. Almost as if nature hadn’t laid out a smooth path for a Silver Cross Pop to seamlessly navigate.

So, barely one kilometre into the route, we had to give up. Intrepid explorers we are not, but having seen deer, horses and bulls, we’d already been converted to the estate’s charms.

And not one to be easily beaten, I’ve already vowed we’ll go back. Knepp, I hope you’ll be ready for us!