Tag Archives: family time

The Grove: A Surprisingly Fabulous Family Break

By Erin Anderson

In a wonderfully serene Hertfordshire landscape 18 miles northwest of  London sits the classically opulent, Grove Hotel. With great history, the high-living, well-heeled have been coming to the Grove for centuries; including a Queen Victoria and her week-ending aides. IMG_8754But  the once restrictive dress code is now modernly non-existent and there’s a wonderfully inclusive feel for family of all ages. Longer half-term holidays or short family breaks at the Grove are the new reality. 

Our family of four was invited to stay over this recent October half-term to experience all the Grove has on offer for families; and for a crisp, colourful, autumnal break, it didn’t disappoint.  Not sure about you, but when I was a kid I always loved staying in a hotel. Time seemed to stand still. It was something about the adventure of exploring a temporary home with possibly a pool, and maybe a lift, was fun. You could become someone else for a little while. This was clearly the case for our four and six year old children…as well as for my husband and I.

From the moment our car entered the gates of the stately grounds, our backseat daughters began giggling with anticipation. The stresses of everyday life began to fade and the stillness and excitement of what the day to come offered took over. “Is there a pool, Mummy? Will I have my own bed? Is the bathtub big, Mummy?” Well, “yes, yes, and yes!” But there is so much more.

As we arrived early, the smiling and welcoming staff offered to store our bags so we could begin our familial journey of the beautiful hotel grounds. Once we got our bearings, we went for a walk for some fresh air and the girls burned off some energy in the lovely wooded play area. You couldn’t have asked for better weather. The Grove Anouska's play area
The perfect autumn day. A little chilly, but with blue sky and the leaves in perfect hue, it all offered a wonderful backdrop to the beginning of our stay. 

After a little play and a walk, we headed to our first lunchtime culinary experience at the Glasshouse, one of the three main restaurants. At first I wasn’t sure this was a place for a four and six year old…even on their best behaviour. The setting is slightly formal, but because the staff were so warm and welcoming it felt normal to bring small children to such a lovely occasion. They were so interested in the girls and sincerely wanted our experience to be a treat. And boy a treat it was.

The dish production and detail is amazing…and to think they do this a few times a day every week. Sectioned buffet areas, overlooked by the chefs themselves, for all-you-can-eat locally sourced, freshly prepared seafood, antipastos, salads, asian stir-fry, tapas, roast dinners, curries, soups, cheeses, and our absolute favourite…the various Halloween-themed merengues, tarts, and other tantalising desserts.

The Grove Glasshouse lunchtime for family

As we meandered to our table, I looked down at my girls with their wide eyes and could tell that they checked their once-picky appetites at the door. In addition to pizza, some cheeses, and fruit salad, my girls actually ate a varied amount of vegetables. Beautifully presented and exquisitely-tasty vegetable dishes. This alone is a successful feat and warrants a return.

Of course, just when we thought they couldn’t cater any further to us or our children, the hostess stopped by our table with some “Princess packs” complete with crayons, colouring, mask-construction, and puzzles. The smiles on their little faces grew bigger and sustained, with manners in tact for the remainder of meal. A lovely, caring touch for potentially nervous parents bringing children to such a nice place.

After experiencing such wonderful delights, the reception team notified us that our room was ready. Reverting back to the excitement of a temporary home, we were eager to see our living quarters for the next day, so we ventured down to the contemporary West Wing side of the hotel. Family size room at the Grove

The family-size room is huge with included deluxe king size bed, sofa beds for the girls (or bunk beds, if you request), sizeable flat screen tv, giant bathtub, bathrobes for us and for the girls, a hamper of gifts and a thoughtfully-placed box of toys and children’s books. It was a fantastic room and had us all thinking maybe we’d stick with a duvet day instead of heading out to cycle or swim.

A walk over to the balcony overlooking the view of the grounds and golf course quickly view of the golf course from the Grove west wing family rooms
changed our minds. It was a glorious day and my cycle-loving husband and children were ready to get out and explore some trails. My four year old learned to ride a bike this past summer, so we were ready to head out on our first family ride. There’s a 1.92 mile wildlife trail and a 1.03 mile musical meander trail, but we opted for and cycle-winded our way through 4.02 miles of wooded autumnal parkland and along the serenely picturesque Grand Union Canal. Such a wonderful way to spend the heart of the afternoon. The Grove cycle trails for families

After all the exercise and fresh air, we returned our bikes, and headed back to the comfort and luxury of our family room. We all quietly laid-back on our beds and chilled-out for a bit. The girls played with their toys and books while we caught up for a short while on our phones (what else?)…This didn’t last long, though, as the girls had recharged their batteries and were ready for some swimming before dinner. 

There are two pools to explore as a family at this time of the year (three in the summertime). Something to explore on another trip, the fantastically-renovated Sequoia Spa offers a black mosaic-tiled indoor pool that caters to families with children over 12 years old. Those of us with younger kids, however, are better suited to use the smaller and more shallow indoor kids’ pool at the Anouska’s Kids Club. It was early evening and we were the only ones using the facilities which was nice. The bathwater warm pool has one section for more independent swimmers and one section for less confident children, toddlers, and babies. It was so nice having a calm little swim after cycling so much The Grove's Anouska's kid's pool
earlier in the day. Anouska’s has lovely and clean showering facilities equipped with the aromatic ESPA products, so we showered and headed back to the West Wing before dinner.

All the exercise made us collectively tired, but also nicely relaxed as we got ready for our 7pm dinner booking at the Stables. We enjoyed the room a bit more and then walked over to the Golf clubhouse where the Stables is located. Despite the abundance of our lunchtime feast, we were all starving and ready to experience our next inspired meal.

The Stables is slightly more casual dining than the Glasshouse, but equally welcoming and yummy. Once the housing of 18th century horses, it’s now a country-styled building with an atmosphere that is perfect for families. The girls were presented, once again, with packs of crayons and colouring and given a hefty choice of options on the Children’s menu. My six year old opted for the pasta and my youngest, the sturdy burger, accompanied with crispy French fries.

The main menu is simple, but detailed enough to cause some indecision. Everything sounded great. In the end, I opted for the sea bass, jerusalem artichoke puree, capers, and a side of chips. My husband followed my four year old’s choice and dug in to one of the juiciest-looking, apple smoked cheese burgers I’ve seen in a long time. Instead of starters, our sweet-toothed family chose to top-off our meal with desserts of chocolate brownies, apple galettes, fruit salad, and lemon tarts. Lovely stuff. the stables children's menu desserts chocolate brownie

After a full day of fun and food, this family was ready to finalise our day by cuddling-up on the big king size bed for a film. Needless to say, after the day we had, we only made it halfway through “Despicable Me 3” before the sirens of sleep made their calling. My eldest slept walk into her sofa bed, while my youngest stayed nestled between mummy and daddy for some shuteye.

As with the rest of our Grove experience, we all slept hard and awoke rested and rejuvenated. Unfortunately for us, it was also the end of half-term, so we couldn’t linger too long before heading back to work and school that very day. It was all worth it though.

Even though we live a short drive from the Grove and were only there for one day, the whirlwind experience felt like a long weekend break somewhere further afield. As we pulled out and back down the cascading drive, my six year old says, “Mummy, I don’t want to leave the Grove. Can we live here forever?” I’d say that’s a family break to remember.

Depending on timing, family rooms at the Grove start at £195 per night, but you can also check out the many wonderful family offers listed here                                                          

Erin Anderson tech content writer Mumsnet Editor                                                                                                                                               
Erin Anderson is a mum-of-two and the Editor of Mumsnet Hertfordshire, Barnet, and Enfield. She is also a freelance tech growth marketer and content writer. Previous career stops include London and San Francisco-based roles at Google, GPJ, and various start-up ventures.




Review: “Mrs. Armitage and the Big Wave” A Great Family Day at the Theatre

Mrs. Armitage and her faithful dog, Breakspear, are off to the seaside for a day of surfing; but what happens while they’re waiting for the big wave makes Quentin Blake’s story a sincere display of true companionship, trust, problem solving, and eternal optimism.

I recently had the privilege of experiencing the Ga Ga Theatre Company’s adaptation of this lovely story at the Abbey Theatre in St. Albans. We took the whole family to this hour-long production and it was a wonderful, interactive way of giving young children a taste for the theatre, as well as having a lovely morning together.


The entire play uses two clearly talented actors each portraying a handful of upbeat, amusing characters. Different voices and accents are used to give real variance and depth to the characters and certainly keep the audience, especially the children, interested.

The main characters endure many situations as they’re ‘waiting for the big wave;’ and with each comes the choice of either giving up or staying positive and finding a solution. These scenarios also made for some good discussion with the kids after the show.  mrs_armitage_0393

The combination of quality acting, funny lines, simple, yet clever, props, and animated, projected sketches make for a well-integrated way of interpreting Blake’s story. Well done to the Ga Ga Theatre Company for this fun production. Looking forward to your next project soon.

For more information on the Ga Ga Theatre Company and their coming productions, see the website, here: http://www.gagatheatre.co.uk

For more fun, check out Mumsnet Hertfordshire’s site: http://local.mumsnet.com/hertfordshire

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Halloween: It’s Not Pagan, it’s Fun; and it’s a Herts Good Thing

Halloween pumpkin, hat, corn, broom, leaf and pot isolated over

Ok, I know everyone thinks it’s just one more insidious American tradition brought over from the ‘land of the free’ to infiltrate the British culture (I mean, wasn’t the Grey Squirrel enough?!). I, however, have always loved Halloween. For me it was always about the time of year; the pumpkins, the apple-picking, Autumnal weather, jumping in fallen, brightly-coloured leaves, and then ultimately, the challenge of coming up with a creative and possibly cute (not ghoulish) costume. The British love fancy dress, so why is it that Halloween has had such a bad rap?

Is it because of it’s pagan roots? Is it because it’s like some unwanted and undesirable cold caller ceaselessly knocking at your door until you reluctantly open to placate and go back to your television? Or is it because of the last thing the British want is one more American influence? Maybe? Well whatever the reason, it’s not winning. Halloween is catching-on and it’s catching fast.

Last year alone we handed out two big baskets of chocolates. Children of all ages covered our neighbourhood disguised in everything from ghosts, to princesses, to frogs, to pirates. Each one with a smile on their face, having a blast walking the streets with their mummies and daddies, getting fresh air and receiving yummy treats. It was lovely to see because? Well,  it was fun! Family memories in the making; and that’s a good thing.

This said, here are some of Hertfordshire’s hottest Halloween happenings:  http://local.mumsnet.com/hertfordshire/halloween

HERTS GOOD THINGS: Get Fit with these Three Herts Events

We all want to feel healthy and fit, but many of us need a goal or incentive to do so. I find running the easiest and most therapeutic way to feel great while managing the demands of family life. I mean, all you really need is at least 30 minutes, a pair of shoes, and a bit of will and you’re off; and of course the great advantage, we in Hertfordshire have, is the amazingly beautiful country roads, trails, and parks on offer for us to trod along. I went for a jaunt yesterday while pushing a buggy (while a toddler slept) and this was my view:


Motivated, yet? I mean, c’mon. We have one beautiful county.

This said, it’s time to get yourself out there, too; and I’ve found three HERTS GOOD 10Ks to use as a way to get fit this autumn before heading into the winter doldrums. I know they seem like they’re just around the corner, but a few weeks on the roads (even if you have to run/walk) and you’ll be a solid Hertfordshire running convert soon enough.

1. Herts 10K:

I ran this last year in the cold and pouring rain, but despite the weather conditions it was one fab time. Lots of happy, energetic running-folk excited to challenge themselves in the trails of mud. The route takes you through the hills behind Rothamsted Research park and the shops and cafes of Harpenden ( a great place for a pre-race coffee). Probability states that we’ll have much better climes this year, so do something and get registered this weekend.

**More information here:  http://local.mumsnet.com/hertfordshire/other-local-events/286321-herts-10k

2. Willow 10K – 5 October 2014

I’ve not run this one, but am registered. I also am a BIG fan of Hatfield House, it’s shops, it’s cafes, it’s play area, it’s farm, it’s countryside, etc. SO, I’m really excited to try this one out. Apparently it’s the fastest growing 10K in Hertfordshire and with the lovely unexplored grounds they’ll expose us to I can understand why. There’s also a free kids run (100m dash). It is a week earlier than the Herts 10K, so you better get moving now!

**More information here:  http://local.mumsnet.com/hertfordshire/other-local-events/286325-willow-10k

3. Flamstead 10K – 19 October 2014

Another lovely countryside running event with lots to experience. There’s the 10K as well as a 1K fun run, so get the family along and have a family-fit Sunday. A bit further out, so more time to train. No excuses!

**More information: http://local.mumsnet.com/hertfordshire/other-local-events/286329-flamstead-10k

Here you have it. Get Healthy in Herts and register for one of these Herts Good things, now!

For more information on Mumsnet Hertfordshire check out our site, here:  http://local.mumsnet.com/hertfordshire