We were supposed to be in the French Alps, enjoying the mountains and sunshine we postponed in 2020. But, once again, thanks to Covid-19, it wasn’t to be. Fortunately I’d had my suspicions earlier in the year and booked a back-up holiday; a road trip around the north of England. No PCR tests or quarantine required.
Our departure day dawned cloudy and cool. The heatwave of the previous weeks had disintegrated into the usual mix of storms and torrential rain. Meteorologists advised the heatwave might return two weeks later but in the meantime we’d be enjoying a fortnight of autumnal weather. Oh well, at least we wouldn’t need to worry about sunburn!
Our first day’s journey was a relatively short one. From Oxfordshire we drove north up the M40, M42 and M6 to our first stopover in Staffordshire. For once I was glad not to be heading to Devon or Cornwall. BBC news reported 50 miles of stop-start holiday traffic on the M5.
Trentham Monkey Forest, Staffordshire
Our first outing of the holiday was to Trentham Monkey Forest. A rather random place to start perhaps, but it’s on my UK bucket list and fitted well with the attraction planned for day 2 (which was the main reason we broke our journey in Staffordshire).
The monkey forest is a walk through attraction, home to around 140 free roaming Barbary macaques. Visitors follow a set route of just under a mile, around the forest. Small wooden fences stop the humans from approaching the monkeys but the macaques are free to cross these as they wish. The reserve was busy with family groups but it was good to see that the strict rules about not approaching the monkeys were adhered to.
Most of the monkeys congregated on the open area in the centre of the wood. It was lovely to watch them grooming each other, climbing around the trees and foraging in the grass. I’m not a huge fan of zoos but these monkeys had plenty of space to roam and behave as naturally as they could (albeit with hundreds of people watching them).
After leaving the Monkey Forest we wasted some time at a garden centre cafe waiting for our Airbnb to be ready (although, time spent drinking coffee and eating a Kit Kat brownie is never wasted).
Deep Hayes Country Park
We cooked tea at our Airbnb and then drove to Deep Hayes Country Park for an evening stroll. We didn’t go far as I was a little worried about the car park gates being locked whilst we were out on our walk. That said, three cars with young lads in turned up just as we were leaving. I’m not sure what their plans were but somehow I don’t think they were heading out on a nature stroll!
I used Airbnb to book most of the accommodation on our trip. Our first two nights were spent in a cosy annex in Bagnall, Staffordshire, surrounded by rescue and farm animals. The location worked really well for us and I enjoyed the flexibility of booking just a couple of nights stay.