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The Lake District: Picture postcard

It’s not until we approach our third bout of traffic in an hour that it dawns on me: it’s half-term. Too late to turn back, and with three kids in the car it’s going to be a very long journey. To make matters worse, the boys (three and six) — pumped up on Haribo and with no outlet for their adrenalin — start fighting.

The Lake District: Picture postcard

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My friend Sara scans the radio for news about accidents and finds it dominated with information about an incoming storm. Suddenly, the traffic doesn’t seem to be the enemy.

When we finally reach our destination — the 500-acre Graythwaite estate — we’re worn out. Our large cottage, in the middle of a forest, offers a cosy lounge with open fire, country-style kitchen, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. But with no energy to explore we hit the sack, dreaming of a new day.

Opening the curtains the next morning I feel like I’ve been teleported in: each window framing a picture-postcard view of glistening Lake Windermere surrounded by scarlet, burnt-orange and mustard-yellow trees — autumn in full swing.

With nothing on the agenda, we head to Hawkshead for supplies — a beautiful village straight out of Emmerdale, filled with old buildings, churches and history. Often referred to as the prettiest village in the Lake District, I stand in front of the cutest building I think I’ve ever seen — bizarrely, a post office — and fight the urge to tell a complete stranger that I think pretty is an understatement.

It’s easy to see why writers are pulled here; the scenery inspiration enough for putting pen to paper. William Wordsworth spent 60 of his 80 years in Hawkshead after attending the local grammar school, while Beatrix Potter resided here after marrying a local solicitor. His former office is now the Beatrix Potter Gallery.

Many visitors stop off here on the way to Grizedale Forest, 9sq miles of broadleaf woodland and pine forest between Lake Windermere and Coniston Water. As soon as we arrive, the boys want to climb a mountain but my toddler’s buggy won’t handle much more than a steady incline, so we compromise and head on a gentle walk around Ridding Wood Trail, with its reliable shelter from the rain, babbling brooks and suspended walkways.

When three-year-old Elliot spots a large key sticking out of a tree trunk I’m as surprised as he is; I’m even more surprised when winding it creates music that sounds just like a little girl’s music box — the sort with a twirling ballerina inside. Happy childhood memories flood back. It’s all part of the forest’s well-preserved and regularly changing sculpture trail, and as much fun for adults as kids.

When the little ones are in bed later that evening — knocked out by a day in the country air — Sara and I make a fire, pour large glasses of red wine and finally catch up. The conversation turns to surviving the dreaded drive home. “Maybe the storm will hit and we’ll be stuck here,” she suggests only half-heartedly. With the stars twinkling in the night sky and another fun-packed day ahead, I wonder if that wouldn’t be the worst thing.

graythwaite.com/the-cottages