For a few years now we have been to the local Christmas Fayre at Hylands House. Traditionally this has basically consisted of craft stall holders inside the house, Santa's grotto and horse & carriage rides around the grounds. The stalls are full of fab handmade Christmas gifts, decorations and festive food stuffs to sample and buy, and there are usually long queues to see Santa and his elves behind closed doors in the vast eighteenth century house.
This year it looked set to be bigger and better than ever before so I booked the day off work and we set out to get there shortly before the Fayre kicked off. I'm so pleased we did this! The carpark was already filling up and there was lots of people who had obviously had the same idea as us. Luckily we managed to park with ease in the makeshift carpark that had been set up and then we headed straight over to the house, where we decided we would queue first to visit Santa. There weren't too many people in front of us so that was good. It was £5 per child to see him and instead of the usual queue where inevitably children get bored of waiting around, there was a lounge area where story telling was taking place in one corner and tables where children were invited to write a letter to Santa, then post it in the letter box inside his grotto, so that a reply could be sent to each child that wrote one. The monkeys did one each with help, then we were called to outside the grotto to await our turn. Both the monkeys got an age appropriate good quality gift from Santa who was kind, friendly and most of all asked them questions about their likes, dislikes, what they wanted for Christmas etc. His elf helper was fab also and the two of them made the monkey's visit a magical one. Photo's were encouraged and both monkeys left happy. There were so many people waiting to see him when we left the house itself, we knew we had done right by going to him 1st. This was confirmed when they announced over the loud speaker a little while later, that the grotto was taking no more bookings as it was fully booked! What a result!
By now the grounds and house were incredibly busy and we realised we should have stayed inside the house to walk around the craft stalls, as the queues were now too long to go back inside! Instead we got hotdogs from one of the food vendors and took the monkeys on the land train around a small area of the grounds.
We wondered into the crowds to get the monkeys a new handcrafted Christmas tree decoration, something which has become somewhat of a yearly tradition since they came along! Big monkey chose a reindeer for them each. I got a really lovely handmade silk cushion as a gift for a member of the family. We could have spent a lot longer there, as there was lots more to see and do but we had promised the monkeys an outing to the Miniature Railway Santa Special Day, so we left the Fayre after only a few hours there. I understand there was to be a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at teatime today where children were to be invited to hang a decoration they had made, but unfortunately we didn't get to return to do that.
The Miniature Railway usually runs on Sunday's throughout the summer but each year they run a Santa's Special and this was our 1st year of attending. It's ticket only and cost us £24 for 2 adults and the 2 monkeys. The ticket allowed for a train ride for all of us stopping at Santa's Grotto with a present for the monkeys, mince pies and a hot drink for us and further unlimited rides on the other engines. Little monkey was especially excited by the trains and they both enjoyed seeing Santa again. This time they got matching wooden Jenga games each. Once again we spent a few hours there and the monkeys had fun riding the trains and having a snack in the tearoom.
The Railway is run by volunteers and has been running for over 75 years but there are a surprising number of locals who have never heard of it in the City. I have to say it is tucked away a little so they could be forgiven!
Finally today we went to little monkeys Preschool Christmas Fete, which was soon to finish when we got there. Luckily the stalls were still running, so we got some raffle tickets, bought the monkeys a cupcake each and had a quick wonder around. Had everything not clashed and been on the same day, we would have spent longer there and even helped to run a stall but I think we did well to fit in what we did!