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Advice on my post-London itinerary for England (Wales?) please

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Hello, My family of four (we have two boys, 12 and 15) is traveling to England in April. We'll be in London for 6 days, and I'm trying to put together a plan for the next 4 days. (leaving London on a Sunday, and will need to get back for a 2pm flight from Heathrow on a Thursday). We would like to spend these days somewhere in the countryside. We're interested in moderate hikes/walks, and one son would like to see "dramatic" scenery; the other son would love to ride/see steam trains. There are two big issues: 1. we won't be renting a car and 2. we'd like to shoot right up to Liverpool Sunday morning for the day (and see the Beatles sites). So we'll be heading our final destination Sunday night, and I'd like to use that location as a base until we have to return to Heathrow. Here's what's confusing me:

1. My children really wanted to visit Wales. The older scenery-loving son has been reading about Snowdonia, and my younger son loved the Thomas stories and still likes trains. I quickly looked at a map and thought Liverpool seemed close enough to Wales, but of course after further research I see that it's tough to go from one point to the other, and that it's silly to be in N. Wales without a car. Am I correct in thinking that I should forget Wales for now?
2. I've been reading about the Lake District, Yorkshire, and the Peak district for our post-Liverpool days. I'm thinking my best bet is a larger hotel in the countryside: somewhere we we could take scenic walks right from the property and perhaps walk to a nearby village. I've been reading through dozens of listings looking for a family-friendly spot that's somewhat close to a rail stop.
3. I'm thinking that we should leave whereever we end up staying on Weds. afternoon and go to Windsor and stay the night there so getting to the airport won't be so stressful the next day. Does that sound right?

We really want to spend those days after London walking in the country and relaxing. I don't want to waste too much time transferring trains etc. I guess my other question is, do you think we should do the Liverpool visit as a day trip from London instead? It seems to be making everything difficult! I was in London years ago, but the rest of my family has never been, and the kids have never been out of the U.S. I'd like to say we'd be coming back soon, but it's taken this long to get there, so I want to make sure we use our time wisely!
Thanks so much, and if you have any different ideas all together about a "base" after we leave London, I'd love to hear them.

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