Lions & Tigers & Giraffes, oh my! Our day at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Our little lady has a real thing about tigers and giraffes. She has watched the tiger episode of show me show me countless times and has a real love of giraffes. “Gi-rar” surprised us as being one of her first words and actually while all other animals are named by the sounds they make (moo, miaow, woof woof, even an elephant is called an “oooooh” and a lion is a “rar” )” tagar” and “girar” are the clear exceptions in being called by their actual names. Because of this I’ve had it in my head that we should take her to see them in a zoo.

It turns out that most of the zoos within easy access for us only have either tigers or giraffes, rather than both, with one exception being Whipsnade Zoo. There’s no denying it is a pricy day out but we had about £10 of tesco vouchers we were able to exchange which did take a chunk out of the cost for us. Hubs was able to take a day off during half term too so, with great excitement, off we went! It’s a little over an hour for us so not too bad and we got there shortly after it opened. We were so lucky too as it was a beautiful morning.20170220_101836

We headed in and the first animals we saw were the lynx cats. LM adores cats so she was thoroughly excited about the “miaows.” Monkey was telling her off and saying that they don’t miaow, until we pointed out on a sign that actually they make a lot of the same noises as housecats! Then it was on to the beautiful brown bears which looked on so cuddly! We also saw some sleeping wild boars, where LM kept telling us to shhhh, and a wolverine bounding about but I didn’t get a photo of that.PhotoGrid_1487612449012

We were headed to the penguins and couldn’t believe it when we came out on the hilltop to this incredible view! Again we were so lucky with the weather as we could see for miles, it was incredible. We tried to get a little family selfie but we had the sun in our eyes so it didn’t work too well, still, not the end of the world!PhotoGrid_1487612641962

We saw the penguins, which Monkey was massively excited about (as he is in penguins class at school), then some reindeer before stopping for a little picnic looking out at the view. We had hoped this would be a cup of tea stop but as our half term is a little out of sync with the rest of the country’s sadly lots of small places like this around the park were closed.PhotoGrid_1487612860827

The view was beautiful but it was incredibly windy on this edge of the park and we were more than happy to go back in a bit, to see some animals of Africa, including antelope, meerkats and lions. The lions were incredible and so huge! They were asleep just in the other side of some thick glass and they were incredible to see. They were so cute too as one went in for a snuggle with some of the others and there was a lion sandwich!PhotoGrid_1487613068984

After the lions it was on to one of the animals we had particularly come to see, the Giraffes! LM was a little scared to start with, and let’s face it, they are very big, but they have a wonderful viewing platform which I think helped put her at ease. She was absolutely loving them!PhotoGrid_1487613361037

We then headed to the edge of the zoo again to see some cheetahs and hippos. It is here that I must mention the sheer scale of the place, as there are quite long walks between each animal. Which is good as they have spacious enclosures, but it was a bit of a trek at times. According to my Tom tom watch we walked around 13000 steps in the 5 hours we were there! You can pay extra to take your car in, and there are places to park at the various areas but, I’m a bit of a cheapskate for one thing, but also wasn’t sure about getting the kids in and out of the car constantly. Anyway we walked to the cheetahs which were gorgeous, and the hippos, which were mainly hiding underwater, though we did get a couple of snaps when it popped its head up. Along the journey we did also see zebras and flamingos!PhotoGrid_1487613582218

We had a little break in one of the cafes that was open, we only bought snacks as we had brought our picnic with us, but the food choices did look and sound very tasty! After that pitstop, it was on to another of the highlights, seeing the Tigers! The kids were very excited about this and we got to see them pretty close up.PhotoGrid_1487613775663

We then had a real bonus, we walked round to the other side of their enclosure, where there is a great viewpoint, and watched the Tigers having a real spat, it was incredible! The roar was so loud and they really went for each other. We saw them have another go at each other shortly afterwards, and we assumed the female must be in heat or something. Amazing to watch though, LM found it particularly hilarious and then was running around roaring at us all! Think she needed to be caged :)

Next up were some rhinos, which Monkey loved, purely because of the mud they were stomping around in! The elephants are having work done on their area so it was a bit of trek to get round to the all weather paddock that there were in at the time, but they were lovely to see. A little one was having great fun playing with a ball, and it would have been lovely to see them roaming in their big paddock!PhotoGrid_1487613983008

The kids had seen the playpark by this point and were desperate to go and play so we then headed there for a good old run around. The park was huge and the kids loved every second, LM did really well on the park that was clearly meant for older kids too!PhotoGrid_1487614097676

There is also an indoor soft play in this area, and a petting zoo/farm but we didn’t make it to either of those. After 5 hours and 13000 steps hubs and a were getting tired of it was time for us to head off. Shame not to see the sealions, butterflies, crocodiles, Monkey’s, lemurs and anything else we missed but we definitely feel we made the most of the day and saw lots of animals.

Have you taken your littles to the zoo? What are their favourite animals?

Snowdrops Week at Easton Walled Gardens

I make no secret of that fact that we like to get out for an adventure, whatever the weather… But I have to admit that the weather forecast for this weekend tested even our resolve! Grey, rainy,snowy and freezing… We did debate our sanity ever so slightly but after a chat over the breakfast table, the kids were adamant that we go so go we did, to somewhere we hadn’t been before, the Walled Gardens at Easton, just south of Grantham.

I saw some friends had visited last year on Facebook and thought it looked lovely, so had a bit of a nosy. When I saw they had opened for one week in February to show off their snowdrops, I was determined we would go for a visit. I have to admit I had hoped for a perfect winter’s day with blue sky… But sadly that was not to be on the day we had earmarked to go. So we wrapped up and donned waterproofs and it was off we went.PhotoGrid_1486993192113

Even on such a bleak day it was still obvious how lovely and how well cared for the gardens are. PhotoGrid_1486993514477

We loved having a good old explore, and LM particularly loved the giraffe statues… She does love a “gi-rar!” PhotoGrid_1486993862252

And the snowdrops certainly didn’t disappoint! PhotoGrid_1486994037732

There is a a lovely little hut in the gardens, which would be a lovely place to sit on a summers day… And was a lovely place to escape the drizzle for a few minutes!
PhotoGrid_1486994438841
We had a lovely lunch in the tea rooms of jacket potato, baguettes and warm soup to thaw us out a little, then, after a tantrum about wearing her coat it was back outside to explore the rest of the gardens. I loved the fact that they provided balls, hoops and even quoits to play with and we certainly put them to good use! PhotoGrid_1486994665771

Then it was time to come home and thoroughly defrost ourselves and snuggle in the warm. We had a wonderful day, though with some serious tantrums and feistiness from our madam alomg the way… Though I doubt any outing would exist without those from her at the moment!

I was so glad we braved the weather, though, as we really enjoyed ourselves, and I look forward to. Coming back in the warmer months, hopefully on a sunny day!

Mummascribbles

Run Jump Scrap!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Babyfoote

My must-haves for getting out and about in winter

Brrr! Winter does feel a long old time doesn’t it? Dark mornings, dark afternoons and some days so grey that it barely feels like it gets light at all. So easy then to just stay indoors in the warm, but I’ve written before about how much we like to get out, even during the winter months as it really does us all good! (and, random timing, but I’ve just read an article in the news about how much kids need outdoor time for their development!)

But how to make sure that it is a successful trip? With happy little people throughout? Well I have a few suggestions of things to have with you to help keep the smiles despite the cold.

  1. Warm clothing. Lots of little layers and for us it often includes waterproofs and wellies. Waterproofs mean puddles are no bother and wet slides at the playpark don’t result in soggy bottoms! They also work as an extra layer and can help with windy days as well to stop the chill permeating.PhotoGrid_1486126285252
  2. If it is a fairly dry and mild day and we forego the waterproofs I try and remember to take some old tea towels with us instead. Just in case any of the swings or slides are still soggy!
  3. Food and drink. A bottle of water and some healthy snacks. LM is at an age where I am wary of her snacking too much as it stops her eating her dinner, however some dried fruit or cheese can prevent a full on meltdown on the way home! Biscuits work well too of course but I try and encourage healthier options as much as I can.
  4. Spare clothes. Depending on waterproofs etc. and I don’t worry about these on a short trip to the park but on a longer trip out we have spare clothes, socks and even gloves in case the first pair get wet or overly muddy!
  5. Something to inject some fun! Regular readers will probably know that I rarely leave the house for a walk without taking a ball and some bubble mixture. Kids love bubbles and a few mins of bubble chasing can (not always mind you, but most of the time) avert let downs or persuade little legs to walk the direction you want them to go! We also recently did a bit of a nature hunt with Monkey, which is great for slightly older kids and definitely kept him entertained while we were out! Fun can be impromptu though too as hide and seek around trees always goes down well, or a simple game of chase!PhotoGrid_1486126054629

That’s probably about it really, other than a camera to capture all the smiles and fun you have :). What are your must-haves for getting out and about in the colder, wetter months?

Country Kids

Babyfoote

A winter’s morning at our local country park

We are incredibly fortunate where we live, that we have a fantastic country park basically on our doorstep. I don’t like to name it as hubs feels it is too clear an indication as to where we live, but we can walk/cycle there so easily. It is the perfect place for a family outing, to meet friends and generally have a play. Last weekend we arranged to meet some of our friends there for the morning.

It was such a clear, but very cold and frosty winter’s morning. Though it is very close it can be a bit too far for little legs to walk (especially the homeward bound leg after running and playing all day) so we decided to cycle over. I adore that LM loves being on the back of my bike, and Monkey is getting much stronger and able to cycle faster and for longer meaning we can have a bit of a family bike ride (though still a very sedate one!). It was gorgeous cycling over in the morning sun and sparkly frost.PhotoGrid_1485353769385

We had a look around at some of the ice and frozen plants, and shells etc before our friends arrived.PhotoGrid_1485354002746

They joined us for a play on one of the playareas, which was interesting in the ice, as the slide was seriously slippy, so much so that LM flew at one point bless her!PhotoGrid_1485354216821

The kids then had great fun chasing bubbles, which looked gorgeous in the sunlight.PhotoGrid_1485354309545

We then walked over to go to another playarea but at this point LM threw a mega wobbler and basically wouldn’t stop screaming. One of those times where you can’t really even work out what is wrong or what she wants you to do. Always fun. Eventually she was happy to ride on Daddy’s shoulders which thankfully gave us a break from the screaming!PhotoGrid_1485354415362

Thinking she may be cold we stopped at a cafe for some hot drinks and cake to warm us all up, before going out onto the nearby sandy play park. The kids love this park and had so much fun out there, going through tunnels, jumping off ledges, going down the slide and playing in the sand in general.PhotoGrid_1485354535511

With lunchtime approaching and knowing we had to get back to our bikes, and then cycle home, it was time to head off. I love a good cold morning out when you can then wrap up warm and cosy when you get home :)

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
 

Mummascribbles
Run Jump Scrap!
Babyfoote

Hills & Holes, Barnack, Lincolnshire

A little to the north of where we live is a little known nature reserve, and a place that I love, called Hills & Holes. It is the site where limestone was quarried to build Peterborough cathedral, and quite simply this left the area with lots of hills, and lots of holes!

I know it sounds a bit odd but honestly I love it there. I have so many awesome memories of running up and down all the hills and in and out of the woods there as a kid.  Hubs did the same with his family too so it is a place we have always said we wanted to take the kids, and finally it feels like LM is old enough to start to enjoy it, so with some rare sunshine forecast on Saturday morning, we headed over.PhotoGrid_1484575491854

Monkey could not get his head round what we meant when we said we were going to Hills & Holes, and he was even more confused when we pulled up in one of the few laybys that class as parking on the edge of the village and walked through a little gate. But as soon as we got in and he saw the hills, well he was about as happy as a 4yr old gets at the prospect of an adventure!PhotoGrid_1484574948014

It’s difficult to see in the pictures just how hilly and undulating it is… but I’m sure you get the idea! PhotoGrid_1484575419728

I was so proud of LM as she did so well walking up and down some of the seriously huge hills holding Daddy’s hand…  Though her little legs definitely got tired after a while and she needed a carry the rest of the way.

At some times of the year there are sheep in some areas of the reserve. We wandered over to say hello and they were all staring at us and being quite friendly. But then when we carried on walking they started following us, which unnerved LM a bit bless her. We were a little perplexed and turned back to see the ram push his way to the front of the sheep and start stomping his feet at us! We weren’t really sure what to do at that point other than calmly but swiftly carry on our way.  They all followed us, with the ram leading them, though thankfully at quite a distance, for some way until we went through a gate into another section of the reserve. I have to admit that I’ve walked through herds of sheep a number of times but have never been confronted by a ram before. What should you do in that situation?PhotoGrid_1484575642847

Anyway, after that little bit of excitement, as LM was needing to be carried we were getting a bit tired (carrying a toddler up and down hills soon becomes hard work!) so headed home. We had a lovely time though. I’m so glad the kids are old enough to start to enjoy it now and look forward to going back many more times over the years for some fresh air and a run around!

Things you need to know about Hills & Holes.

Hills & Holes is on the edge of the village of Barnack, just to the south of Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Parking is in a few laybys on the road between the reserve and the village itself.

Dog’s are welcome but there are signs up when sheep are in the reserve to let you know they need a lead.

It is not remotely buggy friendly or even accessible so if a little one isn’t big enough to walk themselves then they will need to be carried!

No toilets or refreshments etc. of any kind.

If you live nearby have you ever been to Hills & Holes?

Mummascribbles
Run Jump Scrap!
Monkey and Mouse

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Babyfoote

Canons Ashby with Friends

I’m a bit late writing this post but a few weeks ago we met up with some lovely friends of ours, Sarah from Run, Jump, Scrap and family, at National Trust’s Canon’s Ashby. Living a fair distance from each other we often meet up somewhere like this in the middle, and I can’t believe that the last time we went to Canon’s Ashby was a little over a year ago! We’ve met up at other places since then but still hard to believe it was a year since the last time we were there, playing in the autumn leaves. We were particularly excited to meet up with them this time as it was to be the first time that we met the newest addition to their family, beautiful baby piglet.

We got there a little early, and it was absolutely freezing! Thankfully we were all wrapped up warm and while LM was fixated on seeing the chickens, Monkey and I ran around having a bit of a leaf fight,before we headed to the cafe for a hot chocolate while we waited for Sarah and Co.photogrid_1480069386744

After warming up and having a little snack it was time to head out and explore the grounds, after the kids had a game of hide and seek with hubs that is!photogrid_1480069491380

The gardens are great fun and the kids loved running about, though poor Gremlin took a tumble and twisted her ankle which stopped the fun a little.photogrid_1480069607336

To warm up we headed into the house itself, and headed straight to the nursery which is set up with toys for the kids to play with. They had loads of fun in there and the gorgeous piglet woke up so we got to enjoy some cuddles with her.photogrid_1480069778688

We headed for lunch not long after and after some yummy food headed back outside for a play, adults and kids alike hahaphotogrid_1480069971192

Then the rain started. We headed into the priory in the hope that it wouldn’t last too long. The kids had a whale of  a time chasing each other round the pews and generally messing with each other while us grown ups got to have a good old natter.photogrid_1480070047897

With the rain getting worse rather than better we decided it was time to call it a day. We had so much fun though as always and look forward to our next meet up :)

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Monkey and Mouse

Soft Play in and around Peterborough

With 2 children under 5 I have frequented most of the soft play places around our local area on more than one occasion. Love them or loathe them there’s no denying that kids like them and they can be a lifesaver on rainy days. So I thought I would share a little bit of info about the soft play in our local area to help other mums finding their way in the world of soft play.

The Play Barn at Sacrewell Farm

We love sacrewell farm and the play barn is brilliant. It is cleaner than many a soft play I’ve seen and the kids adore it. There are different areas for different ages and it really is great. The entry cost is high because you get entrance to the farm too. We were given membership as a Christmas present last year and have definitely made the most of it in th play barn alone, let alone visiting the rest of the farm, so it is worth considering if you have little ones.
Food:
There is a kiosk in the soft play that is open at weekends or holidays and a café in the main farm entrance building. Food is reasonably priced but you can also bring your own food. There are a lot of picnic tables in the play barn and no problem whatsoever having a picnic inside or out.
Parking:
Loads of free parking outside the farm.sacrewell

Big Sky, Orton Longueville

A classic soft play this, a huge building with all sorts inside, big guns that shoot soft balls, a race track, tunnel slides, ball pits and a bouncy castle. They have recently redone the younger kids area which is now fantastic. The rest of the centre could do with some attention though as some of the aforementioned guns don’t work and the carpets are pretty filthy. Fairly expensive and I’m not a fan of having to pay for adults to come in when obviously adults are only there to accompany and supervise children. It’s not like a theme park after all.
Food:
There is a canteen serving some pretty basic but acceptable food and I’ve also never had any problem taking my own food for the kids.
Parking:
A fair bit of parking round the back however I would imagine it would be completely full at half terms and weekends (I’ve only been during term time). It is on the number 1 bus route though.big-sky

Activity World, Fengate

Similar to Big Sky in that is a purpose built soft play. Could definitely do with some attention though as some areas really are filthy. It is fairly pricy and also charges for adults like Big Sky does. They do however give you a discounted reentry if you return after 7 days with your receipt. It is also huge and the kids love it.
Food:
There is a canteen which serves a limited amount of food. You cannot take your own food in and I have a friend who was even charged for tap water for her child.
Parking:
There is a good amount of parking, I’ve never had trouble getting space even during half term though it does get extremely busy.activity-world

The Yard, Stamford

Much smaller than the likes of the above but still a decent sized soft play with a smaller area for babies. Only charges for children which is a plus and is in better condition than Big Sky or Activity World.
Food:
You aren’t allowed to take your own for food in. The food they serve is yummy though and not too expensive.
Parking:
The parking here is limited unfortunately and I have had to park on adjacent streets a few times as there are only a few spaces in the adjacent car park.the-yard

Selina’s tea room at Calmababy, Woodston

20160313_094729Much smaller than any of the above and not soft play in terms of slides or ball pits but this is a very lovely cafe with a large indoor play area attached to Calmababy. There is also an outdoor play area for in the summer but quite a lot to entertain little ones in the playarea indoors while you have some cake and a natter. No entry charge.
Food:
Lovely food and reasonably priced. It’s primarily a café so you can’t take your own food in.
Parking:
Quite a lot of parking in the car park, it can get busy at peak times as it is for Calmababy swimming pool too.

Kiddicare

As with the above, a bit of a lose link to soft play. It is a play area in the cafe of Kiddicare. It has a soft floor and loads of toys for little ones to play with while you have a cuppa. Some weekday mornings childminders pay a visit so it can get a bit full. Free to use and not bad when your kids are little but not much good for older kids. Sort of a pre-soft play play area I guess!
Food:
Being free to use and attached to the cafe it is frowned upon to bring your own food and the food there isn’t too bad.
Parking:
Plenty of free parking

Brewers Fayre, Hampton

Slightly odd one but there is a soft play attached to the Brewers Fayre in Hampton. There is a fee to use but it is not very much. It’s a bit dingy and tired but the kids enjoy it and there is an area for little ones as well as older ones. The opening times are linked with the restaurant so are a bit unusual but I believe it opens earlier one morning a week for a coffee morning. Call them for more information.
Food:
It is attached to the restaurant so I think that generally the assumption is that you will have eaten there first or will be eating there. But I have fed the kids snacks at the tables near the soft play without a problem.
Parking:
Shared with the restaurant and Premier Inn so it can get quite full. Don’t park in the McDonald’s opposite as you could be fined if you haven’t bought anything in McDonald’s.brewers-fayre

Wyevale Garden Centre, Crowland

Quite a nice sized soft play that both my kids have always enjoyed. An area for younger ones with big soft bricks to stack, a ball pool and a decent slide. There’s also an outdoor play area and entry to the soft play is not at all expensive
Food:
You can’t take your own food as it is part of the cafe. Some of the food is a bit pricy in my opinion, though if you order early (before 11.30) and can get breakfast beans on toast is quite reasonable.
Parking:
Ample parking at the garden centre.crowland

Van Hage Garden Centre

There is a fairly small soft play area in the garden centre cafe, in a families area that has its own counter. It is small and quite dark but the kids had fun in there. Ok for while you are waiting for food but not great for a long visit I wouldn’t say.
Food:
You can’t take your own food as it is part of the cafe. They serve a few things from the counter in the family area or you can get things from the main cafe too.
Parking:
Loads

So there you have it, a bit of a run down of I think most of the soft play and stay and play cafes in the area. Please let me know if  you know of any I have missed, there is one in Whittlesey but I was unable to go in the one time I tried as it was busy and I haven’t gotten round to returning but it is supposed to be pretty good.

All of the above information is correct to the best of my knowledge and based on my most recent visit. I haven’t included entry prices as these are obviously subject to change. This is all based on my own personal experiences and I haven’t received any payment for sharing this post.

We're going on an adventureTATRun Jump Scrap!

Sudbury Hall and the National Museum of Childhood

Last weekend we were headed to the Peak  District to celebrate my aunt’s 70th. As it is a fair old distance for the kids in the car we decided to do our usual and break the journey at a National Trust place along the way. We chose Sudbury Hall because I heard it had a great play area and also because we thought that the kids may enjoy the museum of childhood if the weather turned sour.photogrid_1478181773530

Continue reading

A gorgeous autumn day at Belton House

I love being a member of the National Trust and love a good family day out at a National Trust property. We’ve visited quite a few now but my favourite has to be Belton House. I remember visiting as a kid so there are lots of great memories associated with it, but it is even better now if anything. It’s just a stunning place to go, whatever the time of year, and there’s always so much for the kids too.

I’ve been itching to go again so this half term my Mum and I took the kids for the day and had an amazing time. As we got close to Grantham up the A1 on the way there a heavy fog descended and it was decidedly grey and chilly when we arrived so we popped to the fantastic stay and play cafe for some tea and cake first. photogrid_1477408406605

Continue reading

LM’s 2nd Birthday party and Pumpkin Picking!

Our gorgeous girl turned 2 on Saturday and I think it is safe to say she had a lovely birthday… even though I’m pretty sure she didn’t really get what was going on!

We started off with presents on our bed. The lighting for these shots is terrible and we’re obviously all very sleepy but I love the happiness nonetheless. There were some lovely siblings moments where Monkey helped LM open her presents (and play with them haha) and she was definitely very excited by them. photogrid_1477313258576

Continue reading