Back in 2018, Clare surprised her 80 year old mother with a wonderful family gathering at Cossington. With family in Germany, Ireland and the UK, getting a long distant family together without her mum knowing was certainly difficult!

Below is an extract from Claire herself:

“I come from a large Irish family and as my siblings and I have grown up, and many have their own children, we made an unwritten rule to only really celebrate when someone reaches a new decade and we club together to buy something special. In 2018 my mother hit one of those milestones, turning 80. It’s hard to know what to buy an 80 year old who says she has all she needs and she is not someone who has extravagant tastes. What she does like, though, is to see all her family but this rarely happens as she, and most of her brothers and sisters, live in Ireland with the rest in England, her children live in England and some of some of her grandchildren live further abroad too. Also my mum asks too many questions to have a surprise do and if you ask her she wouldn’t want us to go to any trouble – so what to do?

In the end we arranged a fool proof plan / story!

The favourite child invites her to stay with her in Devon for a couple of weeks and maybe meet up for a meal around her birthday with her kids.

The day before my mother’s 80th birthday was a Friday and it also happens to be my birthday – so we arranged for her to visit me and we would have a meal that evening with my siblings in Somerset as slightly more central than Devon and then she could back that evening.  I told her that as I had the day off work, so she should come up in the afternoon and have a look around the gardens at Cossington Park.

Little did she know that on the Thursday some of her grandchildren flew to Bristol and came to stay at my home, camped out on the floor then on the Friday most of her siblings and their partners flew in or got the train to Bristol and my brother and I picked them up. Another cousin made the journey to another family member’s house and he drove down picking up his kids from university on the way.

A food delivery van arrived at Cossington Park just as we all got there and by 4pm we were all in the garden having a Cream Tea in the lovely spring sunshine and catching up with each other’s news. We were just in the nick of time as my sister called soon after to say she was nearly there with my sister-in-law, niece and mother in the car!

I met my mum and took her into the garden – she recoiled! There were guests staying and she was intruding on their break! I said to her “don’t worry mum – do you recognise any of them?” as we got closer, she saw her sister she had spoken to only that morning in Ireland and couldn’t work out what was happening but then it dawned on her – the best surprise birthday ever!

Everyone loved Cossington Park, the grounds, the history and the ability for just catching up. Every day we went to have a look around a local place including Wells and Glastonbury and my uncle who was almost in his eighties himself beat the 20-somethings up Glastonbury tor!

It was great to find a place where a large family from across Europe could all meet up, catch up, use the brilliant kitchen with all the utensils you would need to create a banquet and eat together around the lovely dining room table then relax and chat into the evenings in the different areas. Everyone loved the history within the main house and the amazing grounds and walled garden – some looked at the flowers and planting and others played football and frisbie. The location is great for day trips and well located with the airport only 40 minutes away and the train station in Bridgwater and M5 so close for road and rail links.

I think she wants to repeat it for her 90th birthday! I hope its not booked up!

~ Claire