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Travel: Life on Jasper’s Leicestershire farm is perfect pick-me-up

© Press Association ImagesThe lake at Brook Meadow.
The lake at Brook Meadow.

The girls are giggling uncontrollably as we’re thrown around the 4×4, gripping on to anything that might keep us vaguely more stable.

Jasper Hart, the 77-year-old farmer here at Brook Meadow, is in the driving seat, steering us through muddy tracks and sploshing in and out of giant puddles, as we take a tour around the grounds.

If I’m honest, Leicestershire isn’t a place I thought I’d ever holiday. But skipping airport queues for a drive through the countryside to stay in a quaint lodge on the middle of a farm feels like the perfect pick-me-up to our stress-addled family life.

Some fields are rented out for growing crops and outdoor sports. But Jasper’s beautiful beef cows are his main priority. You can’t miss blonde Boris, one of two bulls here, making his presence known as he struts around a field, mooing at us interrupting feeding time as calves suckle nearby.

I’m here with my husband James and daughters, Rosie, 12, and Poppy, 9. We’re staying in Skylark – a two-bedroom lodge whose decor wouldn’t look out of place in an interiors magazine.

You can open the doors up to dine al-fresco, or barbecue in the sunshine overlooking the lake, and wood-burners can be set up for toasting marshmallows and keeping warm as the sun goes down.

We’re visiting before peak season, when wood-fired pizzas can be gobbled hot from the stove, family outdoor cinema nights can be enjoyed under canvas, and most excitingly, you can book a stay in the fancy two-story Marabou Safari Lodge.

There are delicious discoveries to be made nearby, too. Rosie’s eyes grow wider as we nibble on the pesto fromage at the outdoor French Cheeses stall in Market Harborough, a 15-minute drive. Even in the cold, we could stand here for hours tasting all the cheeses, but it would probably leave me bankrupt (two small pieces cost £11.50), so we wander past an onion bhaji the size of a small frisbee (£3.50), sniff the most pimped-up doughnuts we’ve ever seen (£11 for four) and chomp on freshly-fried churros, dunked into hot chocolate sauce (£5).

If that wasn’t enough of a treat for one day, we head to Harrington (another 15-minute drive away and full of long winding roads and picture-perfect cottages) to try the award-winning fare at the Tollemache Arms (thetolly.co.uk) pub.

Portions are enormous, service is wonderful and the food is great. The perfectly-cooked hanger steak kebab with roasted veg, chimichurri dressing and flatbread (£16) is worth the indulgence, but big enough for two, especially because the layered fondant-like ultimate posh chips (£4.50) are an absolute must. And leave room for pudding – both the peanut butter creme brulee with choc chip cookie (£6.50) and lemon posset with forced rhubarb and Chloe’s shortbread (she’s the head chef, £6) are to die for, as is the homemade mango and passion fruit lemonade.

Back at the farm, we head over to Avalanche Adventure (avalancheadventure.co.uk), where we watch 4x4s wheel-spinning through muddy mounds as they whizz around off-road tracks, and wait for our clay pigeon shooting slot.

Robin gives us the lowdown before we don ear protectors and attempt to shoot clay pigeons and rabbits (£35 for one hour). Poppy eyes up the quad bikes (£55 per hour) but she might need to wait a couple of years before we get to test those out.

After working up an appetite, we head over to the lake for our first family picnic of the year. We gobble up the cheese, charcuterie meats and freshly baked bread that was delivered in our hamper (the local honey, homemade jam and marmalade and buttery croissants were all devoured at breakfast) and while the time away chatting, as the ducks waddle around our feet, hoping for crumbs.

On our final morning, we learn all about the 12 on-site hens from Mary. Rosie and Poppy scatter seeds for them to peck at, as we tiptoe over to their hen house in the hope of finding some breakfast. Sure enough, after opening up the back, one chicken is laying an egg on cue. Poppy reaches in and picks out any already laid and Rosie carefully lifts the freshly-popped egg, surprised that it’s still warm.

As we wave goodbye to farm life, we all agree it’s the perfect weekend escape and a real chance to slowdown.


P.S.

Jasper and his wife Mary have been running the farm for 30 years. Their daughter Claire has transformed the accommodation, so you can now choose whether to camp, glamp or stay in wooden lodges.


Factfile 

Lodges at Brook Meadow start from £470 for a four-night midweek break, and £510 for a three-night weekend, sleeping four people. To book, visit brookmeadow.co.uk