hit tracker The quirky, unspoilt village between two of Britain’s top theme parks – making it a perfect short break after the rides – Newsmix.pics

The quirky, unspoilt village between two of Britain’s top theme parks – making it a perfect short break after the rides

I LIVE next to a quirky village that’s perfect for a family break, as it’s halfway between two of the UK’s most popular theme parks.

The village of Ticknall  and neighbouring Melbourne in Derbyshire are starting to become established on the tourist trail, thanks to some star appeal from TV’s Johnny Vegas.

Catherine Lofthouse

Writer Catherine Lofthouse at the beautiful Melbourne Hall, close to both Alton Towers and Drayton Manor[/caption]

Catherine Lofthouse

Catherine’s children love playing at Calke Abbey’s adventure playground in Ticknall[/caption]

The TV comedian has recently set up his Field of Dreams glamping site by beauty spot Melbourne Pool, but Ticknall and Melbourne are still delightfully unspoilt.

As they’re just a half-hour drive from Drayton Manor and about 40 minutes to Alton Towers, they make the perfect overnight stop between the two – with guests bedding down in an old helicopter and an American school bus, among other quirky cabins.

I drive through Ticknall every day and it’s popular with walkers, nature lovers and history buffs for its lovely landscape and National Trust property Calke Abbey.

There’s one unusual feature that I’ve never spotted anywhere else and that’s a series of 15 green water spouts installed around the village 100 years ago, to improve living conditions for the workers who kept the big estate running.

Some of the Ticknall taps still work and they’re something of a tourist attraction themselves now, with visitors to the village trying to find them all.

Last year, the taps were decorated with knitted toppers, like you sometimes see on postboxes, for a fun family trail.

Calke Abbey itself is well worth a visit, as it’s got a huge woodland adventure playground called Calke Explore with a child-size badger sett that my boys love running through.

There’s acres of parkland to explore, a stable block with family activities and a walled garden where there’s often extra events in the summer.

A word of warning though: I rarely venture into the house itself with my children as it’s full of taxidermy, so if you prefer your animals alive rather than dead and behind glass, it might not be for you.

As it’s a National Trust property, you’ll be able to visit free if you’re already a member, otherwise a family ticket to the park and gardens, not including the house, costs £18.75.

Catherine Lofthouse

Ticknall’s quirky green taps, which have become a hit with tourists[/caption]

Catherine Lofthouse

Catherine at Johnny Vegas’s new glampsite – where guests can sleep in an old helicopter[/caption]

If you’re visiting the area with children, my top tip for a sunny day would be Staunton Harold Reservoir, which has a big playground overlooking the water, plenty of woodland walks, or the similar Foremark Reservoir nearby.

The market town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, with its ruined castle run by English Heritage, is just down the road and it’s easy enough to visit both Derby and Nottingham if you’re after a bit of city life.

In the summer, foodies enjoy visiting Melbourne Hall Courtyard on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer for the street food stalls, and you can visit the hall and gardens but opening times vary, so check the website in advance.

If you take a wander round the lanes and fields around Ticknall it’s easy to feel like you’ve gone back in time, as it’s surrounded by quirky old cottages, gorgeous Georgian houses and a couple of cosy pubs.

The village shop and one pub are currently closed, but there’s lots of independent businesses in Melbourne to frequent and a bus runs between the two several times a day.

Alamy

Melbourne Hall also welcomes food stalls on Wednesday evenings in the summertime[/caption]

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