We stayed at Talton Lodge at the end of October for a 40th birthday celebration with friends.
There were 7 families staying with kids ranging from 4 to 13 years old and they all loved it. We were a bit worried about staying in the yurts in October and the hardier famliies decided to give them a go - and they were great: really comfortable beds and snug with the woodburners keeping us cosy. The only issue with the yurts is the trip to the bathroom across the field in the morning in the frost - the loo/shower rooms are a bit chilly in October in cold weather, but even I had a shower in one of the bathrooms which soon warmed up with the lovley hot water, and I am not known for my cold-tolerance.
The barn was gorgeous - perfect for hanging out in for breakfast and very comfortable to sleep in. There are two tables which the children happily coloured and played games on. There is a great audio system that can hook up to an ipod and a ceiling projector for watching dvds (we only used this to occupy the kids when we were packing up as we had far too much fun to watch dvds during our stay). The woodburner kept the barn nice and toasty.
Because there were so many of us, some families stayed in Talton House across the road. We were going to leave some children asleep over there whilst we partied, as on the map on the website it only looks a hop and a skip away, but in reality there is a small road with a smattering of traffic between the barn/kitchen garden and Talton House and then the house is down a dark driveway which is a bit spooky at night - not conducive to leaving children on their own happily, even when they are 13. This meant that some parents went to bed earlier than they perhaps would have done if they had been staying on the Barn/Garden side. I don't think it spoilt their weekend though - they looked well rested compared to those of us who stayed up far too late!
In the evenings we had food provided by Olivia. On both nights, we ate in the giant tipi in the kitchen garden dressed in our warm coats but also warmed by the roaring fire in the middle of the tipi. On the first night we had seemingly unending pizza from the wood-fired oven - this was delicious and everyone enjoyed it. This was followed by chocolate brownies. It was great to not have to cook for so many people and the cost was really quite reasonable. On the second night we had a three course meal, which again was very good. Olivia was very flexible with the timings and arranged the meal so that the kids ate first and then the adults. Eating in the tipi was a great experience and was really memorable. Barney had arranged a big bonfire in the garden on the second night which we all stood around before we ate - it really added a special touch to the celebration.
Breakfast provisions were provided for us to cook - bacon, sausages, eggs, bread, jam and butter and milk with tea and coffee. There wasn't enough for us to have this two days running, but this didn't really matter. For lunch we walked down to the local farm shop which is a short walk either down the road, or through the grounds of the house (we only found this out on the second day). The farm shop is fabulous - really lovely food, plants, flowers. There were quite a lot of us descending all at once there and it did mean they were a bit swamped in the shop (they were already pretty busy with regular customers) - but some of us waited outside in the farm shop outdoor cafe having very reasonably priced coffee and read the paper.
The absolute highlight of the weekend was the treasure hunt which took us exploring all over the grounds of the Lodge and House. Barney had arranged it really superbly - we split into two teams and were sent off in different directions, but looking for the same clues in different orders. The treasure was excellent and well worth finding! I will say no more....
Also on the site is a rope swing next to the river, another tyre swing near the barn, lots of potential hide and seek spots, a couple of friendly dogs, a wood to run around and a quiet footpath to the village. There were also bikes to hire.
We really enjoyed our weekend - it was pretty stress-free considering how many of us there were because the catering was all sorted (Had we been self-catering it would have been quite a feat to arrange a meal for 30 cooking in the barn as the kitchen is small - there is another kitchen in the pavillion in the garden, but this was quite cold in October). We were lucky with the weather, if it had been raining we might have been a bit more squashed into the barn with lots of kids to entertain.