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 :)

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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?

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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 :)

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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Me and Mine Sept/Oct 2016 – an autumn walk

I’m a bit late joining in with the fab Me and Mine linky this month. In fact I wasn’t planning on joining up at all as the only shot I have of us as a family this month is one on our bikes, which isn’t the best.img-20160924-wa0000

But then today, after a slightly odd morning with ratty kiddies who are coming down with colds (and therefore slightly ratty parents too) we decided to get out and get some fresh air on a little autumnal walk. We found the most conkers I’ve ever seen in my life and had a good old nature hunt in general.photogrid_1475411475375

Then during a little game of family hide and seek we managed to grab a few very happy family selfies.
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We had a lovely walk and as always a bit of fresh air did us all the world of good. So this is us, at the beginning of October, enjoying autumn.20161002_123809_000-268

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Visiting Auntie Maggie

My parents are both from South West London and when I was growing up we spent a lot of time there visiting my grandparents and aunt and uncle. As such it holds a special place in my heart and there are lots of memories based there. My lovely Auntie Maggie still lives there and as we hadn’t been down for about a year we decided to take a few days down there.

We met Maggie at National Trust Claremont Gardens. Somewhere I had apparently been as a child though I don’t remember. (My memory for specifics is pretty awful!) It was a stunning place to explore and we had a lovely lovely day. PhotoGrid_1472762044121

Then it was back to Maggie’s and after the kids’ tea we took a walk over to the common. Cannon Hill Common is somewhere that will always hold a lot of memories. My grandparents lived on one side and my aunt and uncle on the other. We often walked between the two, went to see the ducks on the lake and to play on the play park. It was really nice to share it with hubs and the kids and we had such a nice evening walk. The kids particularly loved having a good climb on some fallen tree trunks as the sun went down.PhotoGrid_1472762350041

The next morning we decided to visit Deen City Farm which wasn’t too far away. A lovely little farm which is free to enter and has numerous lovely animals to see including pigs, chickens, cows, goats and even an Alpaca! You can cuddle some Guinea pigs, bunnies or ferrets for a couple of pound and there is a nice play area too. Unfortunately we had a pair of incredibly cranky kids that morning so we didn’t stay too long, but it was lovely!PhotoGrid_1472762803623

We decided to have a slightly chilled afternoon and our Little Madam really needed a nap (having gone about 3 days without one) so hung out at Maggie’s for a while. We did some drawing and tries to teach the kids to play boules in the garden.PhotoGrid_1472763062607

Monkey had a snuggle on the sofa with daddy while LM thankfully had a nap which she really needed. On our trip to the common the previous day we had seen lots of blackberries and had promised Monkey we would return to do some picking, so when LM had woken up a bit we headed back to the common. We got a fab haul and Monkey and LM had such a lovely sibling moment together, walking through the woods holding hands.PhotoGrid_1472818594080

We aimed for the play park on the common and were pleasantly surprised to find the paddling pools there filled, both with water and with children! We were totally unprepared but it was so hot there was no keeping LM out of there, and Monkey soon followed. Honestly it was the happiest I had seen the kids in days being able to cool off in the water, even fully clothed haha.PhotoGrid_1472820049939

That evening we had a bit of a disaster. While showering the kids (as Maggie doesn’t have a bath) Hubs unfortunately managed to pull a bit of the shower off the wall, sending water everywhere. He got it back together and we thought that was the end of it until water began pouring through the ceiling! Nightmare! After a bit of panic initially we had a glass or 2 of wine and had dinner and waited for a plumber to come out. He helped put our minds at ease that it was back together properly and there would be no more leaks. Turns out there was a screw missing which is why it came off so easily so it wasn’t entirely hubs fault!PhotoGrid_1472820111655

The next morning I went for a lovely run across the common while the kids had some scrumpy boiled eggs for breakfast. Then it was back to the common for a visit to the play area before packing up and heading home after lunch.

We had such a lovely few days, albeit with some difficult moments with some cranky children. But that’s normal really, especially when we were so busy and it was so hot and sunny! I thought Maggie would be glad of the peace once we left but apparently it is very quiet without us. We will just have to go again soon won’t we!

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Our Dorset Holiday 2016

Well we are home from our holiday, are up to date on laundry and life is getting back to normal. It is nice to be back in our own bed and to have more space for the kids. The cottage we were staying in is gorgeous and quaint and we are so grateful to our friend letting us stay while he is out of the country… But it is also very cosy to contain 2 children and not that child safe for our crazy climbing LM.PhotoGrid_1470663241686

We were lucky with the weather though and got out and about loads, as you may have seen on my previous posts, and we really did have a wonderful time as a family.PhotoGrid_1470662790957

Of course it wasn’t without its challenges and ups and downs though. Hubs was reading an article about something business related and in it contained this great quote.

“Becoming a parent is a wonderful thing, but it robs you of a certain freedom. That is: the freedom to do nothing. To sit around, to lounge, to waste time, with no responsibilities or duties tugging at your sleeve, no endless mental to-do list to tick off.
Last week, my wife and I took our two-year-old son on holiday. We had a lovely time. But, as every parent knows, a holiday with a toddler isn’t a holiday. It’s a job.
That job, beginning at dawn each day or earlier, is to entertain, or at least contain, an insatiably restless two-foot whirlwind of wants and demands. It’s fun. But there isn’t a moment of silence or solitude.
You spend six months looking forward to your holiday, so that you can take a break from work; then you spend your holiday looking forward to your return to work, so that you can take a break from childcare.”

It’s so true as holidays before kids are so different to holidays after kids. I imagine they continue to change and as they grow that you can have relaxing times. But when they are little it is a full time job keeping them entertained, regardless of where you are!

For hubs this was a working holiday and we are hugely lucky that he can basically work from anywhere with an Internet connection and can do some work out of business hours, which meant he was able to spend a few hours each day with us exploring Dorset and having fun with us. This made my life much easier than it is at home as obviously I am normally on my own with the kids all day when he is at the office.

There were challenges though as there always are with kids, especially with kids at different ages with different ability levels. Sometimes I really struggle to do something that makes both of them happy at the same time. One afternoon I got out the paddling pool thinking they would love it. Monkey refused to get in and LM lasted about 30s with constant attention then got bored. Sometimes I wonder why I bother as they are happier plonked in front of peppa pig or paw patrol!

They did enjoy our days out though and the beach was a real winner this year. On our holiday last September LM hated the sand so the beach was a stressful trip. It is lovely now as she adores the sand! Monkey is still very nervous of the water but he did go in the sea,  and LM hates the waves in the sea.. But they both love the sand and we were lucky with some lovely warm pools created by the tide going out which LM really loved. Its not a relaxing day as they do like us to be involved at all times but they were so happy so at least it wasn’t too stressful!PhotoGrid_1470663903480

By completely random coincidence some very good friends of our happened to be on holiday in Dorset at the same as we were. Jo and I met travelling in Argentina of all places about 9 years ago and we have stayed good friends but with living 2 1/2 hours away we don’t see each other more than a couple of times a year. Especially now there are kids to think about. Its pretty amazing though as our eldest 2 are 6 mths apart in age and our youngest about 5 mths apart and they all get on so so well.

We saw them more in the last 2 weeks than in the previous few years and it was so so wonderful. We had a couple of beach days together which were fantastic and made it a bit more relaxing as at least we could take it in turns a bit to be with the kids and the kids entertained each other a lot more which was wonderful.PhotoGrid_1470679856631

They also came for a play at our cottage one day, and brilliantly, when their relatives joined them for the second week and we’re able to babysit they came over one evening for a glass of wine and a natter without children interrupting us. It was so so lovely.PhotoGrid_1470680086351

Some of our other very good friends from home were also down in Dorset for a weekend at the end of their family holiday to Devon so the kids adored meeting up with them too for a day out at Monkey World. Again it helped having other kids for our kids to play with, and other adults for us to natter with. It also helped having a bit of solidarity when our little madam threw an almighty tantrum at lunchtime… And vice versa when their son didn’t want to eat his dinner. Much less embarrassing when you can talk about it with your friends rather than just have everyone in the place staring at you while you try and deal with it. They still stare of course but it definitely helped having company.PhotoGrid_1470680660728

Because our little lady really has tested us while we were away. If anything her behaviour has improved towards the end and now we are home but she was a nightmare at times and when she goes oh my goodness she is so loud. As one of the friends we met up with put it “she certainly has a voice!” and she most definitely does. She really struggled to settle for the first couple of days at the cottage and the tiredness from bad nights sleep and lack of naps really affected her so we were hugely relieved when she got used to her surroundings and started sleeping better.

Most of the other tantrums we had with her were around food… We had an absolutely disastrous meal at Prezzo one evening which was just a stressfest of her screaming and us scoffing as quickly as we could while paying £45 for the privilege. We had a couple of other lunches out which were better… mainly because they were places that served baked beans, and because I had a dairylea dunker ready as back up as I knew she’d at least eat some cheese if she decided they weren’t the right baked beans. (I never do this at home but sometimes avoiding the stress in a restaurant is so worth it). Hubs is adamant that we are having no more meals out until she is a bit older though as it just isn’t enjoyable!

On the whole Monkey was a really good boy while we’re away but he did get tired as the time went on “I’m so tired from all the days and days” which made him tired and fractious at times.PhotoGrid_1470681657311

I’m not trying to paint a negative picture of our holiday, just a realistic one. Its easy with all the smiles and golden sunny images for it to appear perfect, which of course it wasn’t. We had so much fun on the beach, with friends and on days out. There was lovely times at the cottage and on the play area. But when you have 2 children under 5 nothing is without its challenges, and even holidays can be hard work. So much as I loved it and in many ways I am sad that it is over… I am glad to be home. The kids were so excited when they came back to all of their toys and everything that is familiar. I am not terrified every second that LM is climbing on something or reaching something that she shouldn’t. She can go outside without tripping on a step and scraping her legs (almost a daily occurance while we were away).. Oh and at home we have a dishwasher (yippee)  and the ceilings are high enough for hubs to stand up straight without banging his head haha. So it is good to be home.

Do you find holidays with kids hard work or is it just us?

And then the fun began...
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