If you’re heartily fed up with me banging on about Bradgate Park or sick to the back teeth of pictures of abundant foliage on this blog, I’m afraid you’re going to have to look away now….for today was another secret picnic kind of a day!!
Oh yes dear reader, with the sun beating down, the kids and Pud at football training and a desperate need to get a bit of exercise, I packed my bag, plonked my old faithful trainers on and off I skipped. No secret picnic table for me today though – I’ve learned the hard way that it opens up its planks to any old riff raff at the weekend – no, today I headed up in the hills to pay my mate Old John a visit.
It’s up there somewhere.
Old John sits majestically at the top of the kind of hill that makes you wonder if you’re going to make it without the need for an oxygen mask or medical assistance but let me tell you, when you do finally arrive at the top, gasping for breath and your face the colour of an overcooked beetroot, it’s so worth it to see what I can only describe as………
…..a giant concrete mug!
Old John is a folly built in 1784 by the fifth Earl of Stamford. What is a folly, I hear you ask (I had to ask and my daughter had to enlighten me)…..well, a folly is ‘a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or large gothic ruin built in a large garden or park’. Which pretty much sums Old John up.
Except that I for one, refuse to believe that there wasn’t a reason for it being built. If for no other purpose, I’m of the firm belief that the Park’s wizened up old Night Keeper resides in that there tower and when dusk falls and the Park’s visitors have all gone home for their tea, he gives the nod and under his watchful eye, the fairies, elves, white witches, talking woodland creatures and mini dragons of the Park all come out to play. And I bet you that if Old John wasn’t swarming with members of the public all vying to get the best view from the top of the second highest hill in Leicester, then the old Night Keeper would be sure to invite me into his beer tankard of a house for a peanut butter sandwich, a glass of cloudy lemonade and a large slice of cheesecake topped with little deer poos collected on a nightly basis by the Park’s poo elves. Ahem.
Anyway, in a bid to re-set my breath back to a rate that kept me in the land of the living, I settled myself into my favourite place to sit at Old John. The majority of visitors sit admiring the splendid views across the hills and fields but I like to tuck myself in just behind the ‘handle’ thus scaring the pants off anyone who walks through the arch. ‘Levi! Get back ‘ere you little bas-‘, they holler as their kid tries to run off from them, then; ‘Come along Levi you silly billy, let’s go and see what Daddy’s up to shall we?’ they continue as they clock me lurking behind the wall and quickly change their tune. Come on, we’ve all done it haven’t we – ripped the shit out of our kids when we think no-one’s looking and then acted like the model parent when we realise someone has appeared from nowhere and is watching our car crash parenting in a mixture of horror and sick fascination?
Or is it just me and Levi’s Mum?
And that is not my beer can before you judge. I had a vodka before I went out, haha.
And then of course, in the words of the great Pooh Bear, there’s the coming down. Which isn’t quite as bad as going up but almost pulls your knees out of their sockets just the same. All paths at Bradgate lead to home – and if you take an unexpected wrong turning as I did, then they just take a bit longer to get you there. I’m glad I strolled off the beaten track though, otherwise I wouldn’t have stumbled upon the shoulder high bracken and the rather splendid tree shown in the feature image.
I started back with a slightly heavy heart, I always do when I leave Bradgate, but the lure of egg sandwiches and lemon cheesecake (no deer poo) for lunch won me over.
I know I’ll be back soon though, and when I return, you’ll be the first to hear about it…….