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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Where to go on holiday in Dorset with toddlers

Thanks to our lovely friend who lets us housesit for a couple of weeks in the summer while they are out of the country, we are getting to know Dorset pretty well and have had some wonderful days out with the kiddies. So I thought rather than loads of posts about each place, I would compile a list of where to go on holiday in Dorset with toddlers, based on our experience. Now of course this list isn’t exhaustive and there are probably lots of other wonderful places to visit too.. But these are our favourites so far.

Places to see Animals

Weymouth Sealife Centre

We do love a good aquarium or sea life centre, and the one in Weymouth is a particularly good one as there is so much to see and do. Animals wise, there are so many fish, sharks, rays, jelly fish and all sorts of different habitats to have a look at. There are rock pools where you can stroke starfish and try not to get nipped by some lovely big crabs. There are also some other wonderful animals there too, with seals, penguins, frogs, turtles and otters in addition to the more traditional aquarium animals. The kids adored looking at them all.PhotoGrid_1470042544783

It’s not just about the animals though as there also some great fun rides to go on, including a log flume, and they have a fantastic splash zone. I recommend taking swimwear for the kiddies as the paddling pool with slide and water fountains are really great fun. There is also a normal play area which the kids loved too.PhotoGrid_1470045821973

Before you go: It is definitely worth booking tickets online before you go as they are much cheaper than on the day. Everywhere is very accessible for pushchairs for little ones and there are loads of places to sit and enjoy a picnic. We ate from the cafe there and the kids enjoyed it but it was  bit pricey and there wasn’t a huge amount of choice so if we went again i would definitely take food with us.

Monkey World, Wareham

Monkey world near Wareham is a really lovely place housing primates which have been rescued from less savoury zoos or from the pet trade. It is a lovely site, with nice big enclosures for the monkeys and lots of viewing points s you can see them swinging around happily or having a rest. There are all sorts there, with Lemurs, Orangutans, Chimps, Capuchin Monkeys and Spider Monkeys to name but a few and the kids loved looking around.PhotoGrid_1470037514165

There are also some really great playparks for your little Monkeys to clamber about on, with some dotted around the park and a particularly brilliant big one at the end which the kids adored.PhotoGrid_1470037283481

Before you go: Monkey World is really accessible with paths suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs, they even have swings which can be used with wheelchairs. We ate there and while there wasn’t a huge amount of choice in the cafe we chose, the food was simple sandwiches and was all we really wanted anyway. There are a few cafes throughout the park, as well as snack stops and lots of places to sit if you would prefer to take a picnic. Toilets are also dotted about and easy to find and on the whole we were impressed, places were clean and food wasn’t too expensive.

Abbotsbury swannery

Abbotsury is a small village to the west of Weymouth which houses a few great tourist attractions. A childs farm, tropical gardens and a swannery. You can buy access to all 3 for £17  for an adult which makes it very reasonable, however we have only seen the swannery so far. The swannery is such a beautiful place, very peaceful and we found it really lovely to go somewhere a bit different. The swans are all so well cared for and the kids adored seeing the signets. Monkey was also thrilled to be able to take part in the feeding of the hundreds of swans. They are well practiced at this to make sure that everyone who wants a go can have a go and it was great fun.PhotoGrid_1470038174374

The kids loved exploring across the site and they particularly loved the giant maze in the shape of a swan. Monkey loves a maze and the great thing about this one was all the percussion instruments dotted about. There is also a quiz you can complete if you find all of the points throughout the maze which Monkey really enjoyed. I was glad to have the map they gave us at the entrance as it helped us get out quickly when LM got tired and hungry for her lunch!PhotoGrid_1470039078612

Before you go: Everywhere is accessible for pushchairs or wheelchairs, and I would recommend taking a pushchair for little legs as it is quite a walk from the entrance to the swans. There is a playpark by the entrance and a lovely cafe  with a great menu, but this is also by the entrance so we decided to take a picnic to avoid having to walk back at lunchtime. There are plenty of lovely spots for a picnic including a nice shady area for sunny days, or benches to sit and watch the swans. Feeding the swans is at 12:00 everyday and well worth joining in with.PhotoGrid_1470037864804

Beaches

Many of the beaches around the South and West of Dorset are shale, or stony, beaches, which can be lovely but lets face it, the best beach days out with toddlers are sandy ones where lots of sandcastles can be built. To that end, here are favourite sandy beaches in Dorset.

Weymouth beach

The area to the east of Weymouth, near the sea life centre, has a long and stony beach, however the beach at the centre of Weymouth itself is a very lovely sandy beach, perfect for taking the kids to.PhotoGrid_1470040425793

Before you go: The beach was clean and the sea wasn’t too cold, even though we were there on an overcast day. There are public toilets, lots of places to buy ice creams and buckets and spades, and to hire deck chairs from. There are a couple of options for parking within easy walking distance, you could park near the pavilion and Jurassic Skyline, which is quite close to the beach, or as we did, park at the Swannery car park, which is very easy to get to and also only a short walk to the sea front.

Middle Beach, Studland

In East Dorset, in an area known as the Isle of Purbeck, we found a truly lovely, lovely beach at Studland bay. It’s just one of those lovely lovely places you don’t want to leave and can’t wait to get back to! The bay is huge so there is plenty of space and we opted for Middle Beach, so I’m not sure what the other areas are like. There is supposedly a naturist area on the beach but this is apparently well signposted and we didn’t come across it.

We loved this beach because the sand was clean and perfect for  digging and building castles. We arrived when the tide was fairly high and it went out throughout the day. This is the perfect beach for paddling as the water is very shallow and you can walk out really far without it ever going over your knees. This also means the water is a lovely temperature and gets steadily warmer throughout the day, it is also incredibly clear so no nasty surprises. Our littlest lady isn’t a fan of the noise of waves but she loves exploring the pools created by the receding tide, and we even found som nature to explore in them.PhotoGrid_1470037069712

There are gorgeous views from the beach, you can see over to Poole and Bournemouth to the north, or looking straight ahead you can even make out the Isle of Wight! To the south of the bay are Old Harry’s Rocks.PhotoGrid_1470036928156

Before you go: Maintained by the National Trust, parking is free for NT members. Access from the car park to the beach isn’t too far but it is down a fairly steep and uneven path through and behind a lot of beach huts, so I wouldn’t recommend taking a pushchair down, though I did see someone manage it. There are toilet facilities and a cafe which were very nice though we took a picnic with us. The beach is dog friendly so be aware of that, dogs are supposed to be kept on the lead however many owners flouted this rule, though we only had one instance of dogs running through our things, as most were well behaved and looked after.

The Durdle Door

The Durdle Door tops many a “must see” list for places to visit while in Dorset, but it is not the most accessible place, especially if you have small children. You can read more information about how not to do it from my post last year, which includes a map of the route to get to the beach itself.

The Durdle Door is a stunning rock formation of an archway in a simply stunning spot on the south Dorset coastline, honestly you would think you were in the mediterranean or something with the clear blue waters and it is definitely worth a visit, though it is not without it’s challenges. It is the one beach I am mentioning here which is a stony beach, because the views are worth it but no sandcastles are being built here.PhotoGrid_1470061898589

Before you go: The access from the car park to the Durdle Door and beach is incredibly long, steep and includes a lot of incredibly steep steps. I would definitely not recommend taking a pushchair and advise you to travel light. It is stoney beach so no point taking buckets and spades, and when we were there the waves were pretty rough so the kids would not go near the sea. There are no toilets and the only facilities are an ice cream van about halfway down so take plenty of drink and some snacks if not a picnic. For more information, read this post.

The beach at Swanage is also said to be very lovely and sandy however we are yet to visit so I can’t say more than that really!

Portland

South of Weymouth is the island of Portland which has places to visit too. We found out too late about a pirate graveyard which Monkey would have enjoyed, but we did manage to visit a couple of places on the island.

Portland Bill Lighthouse.

At the southern tip of the island there is a lovely lighthouse called portland bill. It is a stunning place to visit with the ocean all around and the remains of a quarry of Portland stone perfect for scrambling over. There is a visitors centre you can pay to look around and older children and adults can pay to go up the lighthouse however as we wouldn’t all have been able to go, we were content just exploring the outside.

Before you go: there is a great big car park there and a lovely little restaurant nearby, which was child friendly although the child meals were quite pricey in my opinion.PhotoGrid_1470484998639

For the lighthouse itself it is approx. £3 to go in the visitor centre or £7 to also climb the lighthouse. But, be aware that babies and small children cannot be carried up. Children must be over I think 1.1m tall and able to get up under their own steam.

Portland CastlePhotoGrid_1470485386491

Portland Castle is run by English heritage and we found it to be a great little Fort, actually about the perfect size for a short trip with our little ones. Under 5s are free and it is just under £6 per adult to get in. The kids loved exploring the ramparts and seeing the cannons. They also really really enjoyed the dressing up area, as you can see below!

Before you go: we did take the buggy but had to abandon it a couple of times as it isn’t really accessible as tou would expect from such an old Castle. There is facilities and a nice cafe on site though sadly they didn’t seem to serve ice creams when we were there.

Other places to visit

Swanage railway and Corfe castle

One of our highlights from our holiday last year was our trip on the Swanage Steam Railway to visit Corfe Castle. The railway runs between Swanage and Norden, just to the north of Corfe Castle. You don’t have to visit the castle on your trip, and you can visit the castle without riding the railway but it does make for a nice day out to combine the two. We chose to drive to Swanage and take the train to the castle where we loved having a good explore (we do love a good castle) then return to Swanage to drive home. You could however park at the castle and take the train to swanage too.

Kids love trains so our two definitely enjoyed a ride on the train and the staff were great with stamping tickets etc. The Castle itself is simply stunning with the ruins perched atop a hill with amazing views of the surrounding countryside.PhotoGrid_1470061213131

Before you go:  There is no car park at the station in Swanage, just a co-op with a short stay, however there is a large car park just 5-10 minutes walk away. The journey between Swanage and the castle is about 20 minutes so we had a picnic on the train, however there are some cafes at Corfe Castle which are lovely too.

On arrival at the castle we were advised not to take our pushchair up as the ground was very uneven, however we did see others pushing buggies around so I think that is up to you really. the National Trust do have some baby carriers you can borrow. It is very hilly and steep so may be tricky to navigate for some little legs. LM wasn’t walking when we went last year so she was carried around by us.

Dorchester Dinosaur Museum

There are a few museums in Dorchester but we have only visited the Dinosaur Museum so far. We went on a particular wet and rainy day on our holiday last year. It is a lovely little museum with lots of Dinosaur information and some great model Dinosaurs.PhotoGrid_1470060203184

It isn’t very big however so on a wet day it can get incredibly busy and quite warm as a result. There are stairs inside so we were asked to park our buggy near the entrance.

Before you go: Don’t plan to stay too long and be aware that you may not be able to take a pushchair with you and if you do it will make getting around quite tricky.

Munchkins Cafe Dorchester

A really great find for a rainy day is this stay and play cafe, possibly the best of its kind I have seen. With over half of the cafe, and much of the garden, dedicated to toys and play areas, the kids absolutely adored it. there is a slide which goes down the set of stairs in the cafe and just so much for the kids to play with. Outside is a sand pit and some water toys for hot days too.PhotoGrid_1470070097120

Add to that the food we had was delicious and there is free wifi, perfect for blogging or surfing while the kids play.

Before you go: There is a charge for playing at the cafe, however this is discounted for siblings and one charge lasts for 7 days which makes it incredibly good value. They have fantastic facilities for baby changing, even providing nappy bags and hand sanitiser free of charge. There is a breastfeeding room should you wish for some privacy and just about anything you can think of that your little ones would like. Because  it is great, weekends and rainy days can get busy, however on a dreary week day when the kids needed a quiet day we found it to be perfect and it wasn’t too busy. The nearest parking is on Trinity Street and is £1 for a couple of hours.

So there we have it. Some of our favourite places in this neck of the woods. No doubt there are lots of other wonderful places but hopefully I will have given you some ideas for where to go on holiday in Dorset with toddlers.

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Traffic Problems & Toddler Tantrums but a Terrific day

On Bank Holiday Monday we met up with our very good friends Chris and Sarah (from Run, Jump, Scrap) and their gorgeous Gremlin. We chose to head back to the wonderful National Trust Stowe to see what it was like there in Spring and on the whole it was such a wonderful day. It was';t without it’s challenges though as was bookended by some pretty bad traffic and well with 3 under 4s there is bound to be 1 or 2 tantrums during the day isn’t there?

The day started off well and of a couple of different routes, we chose to go via Milton Keynes, as we thought it was the fastest option. Unbeknownst to us at the time however there was a marathon on and loads of road closures. We were making good progress and then, suddenly, boom. Road Closed. No warning, no diversion, not even a reason why. Just got to a roundabout and the A421 was closed. We followed a couple of cars down a different road that seemed to lead to an alternaye route but all roads leading from there were closed too. We ended up down a dead end and waited our turn to do a u-turn. Then a parked car suddenly reversed, crashed into the side of our car – and drove off! We just sat there in shock and disbelief but gathered our wits enough to note down their number plate and take pictures of where we were and what happened.

We carried on and with thanks to google maps on my phone managed to navigate our way out of MK and on to Stowe where we tried to put it behind us for a few hours! We were lucky that despite forecasts for grey clouds we had a lot of sunshine and it was really really mild. The kids had a lovely time exploring and we had a lovely picnic.stowe 1

Monkey and Gremlin also had lots of giggles with bubbles and hiding under a picnic blanket together bless them haha.stowe 3

There was a lot of tree climbing going on which was lovely but also tricky when the kids are so little and there was one or tantrums at this point haha. All good fun though!stowe 2

We then came to a fantastic monument up a hill which the kids adored rolling down, climbing up, running down etc. We spent quite a bit of time here and enjoyed the sunshine and scenery.stowe 4

There was one brilliant moment where Gremlin was trying to roll down the hill but not really pointing in the right direction. Her Daddy tried to help only to be firmly told “no Daddy I can do it” and I have to admit when she hadn’t moved a few minutes later I did think to myself “Hmm are you sure about that??” hehe bless her.20160502_123331

We were having so much fun that I decided to try and get a group shot of us all using the selfie stick and capturing a frame from a video. As you will see in this unedited video, it did not go too well haha.

Three uncooperative kiddies with four desperately encouraging parents! haha love it all the same as just makes me giggle, especially the Gremlin’s face!20160502145349

I also loved trying to get a photo of all 3 of the kiddies smiling sat together on a bench… completely impossible hahastowe 5

a compilation of the best 3 shots however, is gorgeous!PhotoGrid_1462203422602

We had seen on the map that there was a cafe on the far side of the gardens so headed there. It was in one of the monuments which was so cool so we ordered and waited. Never fun keepung the kids entertained in those situations and the order seemed to be taking forever. So with stress levels rising we eventually asked what was going on, only to be told that there had been a power cut and they couldn’t fulfill our orders. Why they couldnt have told us that I have no idea! It didnt really make sense as hot drinks seemed to still be going out to other people so we didnt really get what was going on so eventually just got a refund. Thankfully we all had a few supplies left from the picnic to placate the kids and we started the walk back across to the entrance.

On that walk back it actually started too rain so maybe it all worked out for the best anyway. We eventually got back to the entrance, by which time LM had fallen asleep in the pushchair, and decided to make our way home. Thankfully LM transferred to the car easily and slept for another hour at least as the traffic on the journey home was terrible! A journey that should take a bit over an hour took over two so we were shattered and grumpy by the time we got home!

Still, none of that detracted from the fun we had with our friends. The police and insurers are on the case about the driver who hit us so hopefully we won’t lose out as a result of that either. In the meantime we look forward to catching up with Chris, Sarah and Gremlin again very soon!

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Little Miss’s first trip to the zoo!

We are really lucky that there is a little zoo not too far from us, called Hamerton Wildlife Park. We have been there loads in the past with Monkey, but the last time I went was when I was pregnant with LM, and she was yet to go. She loves animals though and getting out so it was time. We arranged to meet some friends there and headed off.

It was a beautiful day and LM loved running about everywhere and was so excited by seeing all the animals… Though I am pretty sure she wanted to cuddle the wallabies and lemurs!PhotoGrid_1460378460427

There are so many gorgeous animals there and many of them are rescue animals, which makes it much easier to see them caged. Monkey loved a very er “friendly” vulture and we got to see one of the tigers very close up which was amazing though also a bit sad to see him pacing.PhotoGrid_1460378777738

We had a lovely picnic lunch then both kiddies enjoyed a play on the fab playpark.PhotoGrid_1460378996569

We had another good wander after lunch to see some more animals and met this fabulous owl. He really took me by surprise when I turned and saw these beautiful eyes staring at me.PhotoGrid_1460380509192

We had such a wonderful day enjoying the sun and having fun as a family and with our friends.PhotoGrid_1460379559365

Do your little ones like the zoo?

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Clumber Park, Chicken Pox and a very short holiday!

A couple of weeks ago Monkey came down with Chicken Pox and though he is much better and his spots are nearly gone, it has been a bit of a waiting game to see if /when LM would catch them too. With an incubation period of up to 3 weeks, we knew it could potentially coincide with our weekend away in Yorkshire and after lots of um-ing and ahh-ing about whether to go or not we decided to go. And, well, what do you think happened? Yep she got poorly while we were away.

She had zero symptoms the day before and we thought that if she was coming down with it then she would probably have some cold type symptoms so got all packed up and ready. Woke up Friday and there was a few little spot like marks on her back but she was still fine and we were ready to go, so we headed off.

We broke the journey at the National Trust site Clumber Park. We do like to make the most of our NT membership and feel a stop off at somewhere like this is a bit more fun than just a service station. Shame the weather was wet and grey but we all had wellies and waterproofs so set off for a good explore.

We chose to do a simple walk as though we would love to walk around the lake there is no way little legs can manage it at the mo, not on such a quick visit anyway. So we explored the gothic Chapel, the pleasure ground and the lake.
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Monkey also enjoyed exploring amongst the trees where he found an amazing den that someone had made.PhotoGrid_1458655123309

For her part, LM was enjoying exploring and was still perfectly happy, and her usual, independent self.
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We stopped for food at the cafe and enjoyed a view out the window and LM loved sitting on a big girl chair.PhotoGrid_1458655523226

After lunch we visited the fab woodland play area where lots of fun was had. LM got cranky and it was nearly nap time so time to resume our journey North. There’s so much we didn’t get to see at Clumber, including an indoor play area but I am sure we will be back another time.PhotoGrid_1458655715481

We headed to our holiday cottage in the gorgeous village of Hutton le Hole on the south of the North York Moors, which is such a stunning part of the country. The village is amazing, so picturesque with a gorgeous little stream running through and we loved the cottage we stayed in as it was so full of character (including some very low doorways haha) , had everything we needed and wasn’t too expensive either so we really want to go back!PhotoGrid_1458656012705

We had a good explore of the village before heading out to nearby Pickering to buys supplies and have a fish and chips tea. LM wasn’t eating much which is weird for her but was otherwise fine. At bath time we noticed a few more spots but she was still fine in herself and both kids went down to sleep no probs.

The next morning however things took a turn. LM woke up at 4am really unhappy with a terrible high fever. She was suddenly covered in nasty looking spots and was clearly unwell. Cue decision making time and both of us feeling that we just needed to be at home for her. We obviously also felt guilty for coming away at all at this point but we really weren’t expecting it to get worse with such a bang.

So anyway we packed up and got ready to go home, while LM watched some TV and thankfully perked up with a bit if medicine. She even managed a bit of an explore around the village and a go on the trampoline in the garden. She is really not one to sit still!PhotoGrid_1458656316166

We re-questioned our decision again but still felt it was time to go. She slept in the car for nearly the whole journey home (bar a quick stop for a nappy change and to put on her coat as she was cold) which just never happens, to sleep nearly 3 hrs in the morning?? We got home and she was still unhappy and slept for another couple of hours in her bed. Definitely the place to be.IMG_20160319_100606

20160321_090535 (2)So it was possibly the shortest holiday ever and a long way to go for such a short amount of time… But we did have a nice time and it was worth coming home to where she is most comfortable. She has been very up and down and has so so so many spots poor thing that have been really really irritating her.

She does seem to be a lot better now though thankfully so hopefully we are coming out the other side and hey we never have to worry about chicken pox again do we? Unfortunately since we have been back Monkey has also had a tummy bug so it has really been a week of poorliness! So that is my word for this week. Poorliness. Here’s hoping that everyone is well for Easter!

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Sunny Spring Days

This last week has seen some glorious weather hasn’t it? Signs that winter may finally be over, so we did the only thing possible and got put there and enjoyed the lovely sunshine and warmer days.

On Saturday we headed to Sacrewell Farm, which is such a lovely place, not too far from us, and one of our best Christmas presents as a family was a yearly membership for us all there. It is such a lovely place and we all enjoyed seeing all the animals – especially some of the newborn lambs!PhotoGrid_1457950886140

We had a good wander round enjoying the signs of spring and threw some pooh sticks in the river. I tried to get some good family shots but sadly they weren’t the best haha. Ah well. PhotoGrid_1457951089605

Of course it wasn’t long before the kids found some muddy puddles… and LM once again fell in and needed cleaning up!PhotoGrid_1457951631435

We also had a little play in their wonderful soft play barn.PhotoGrid_1457951147414

On Sunday we went swimming (more on that to come in another post) and then later that afternoon went for a country walk with my big brother and his lovely wife. It was a glorious day but there was still a definite chill in the air despite the sunshine. It was lovely to get out and enjoy the fesh air though and LM walked for miles, it was amazing! Oh and yes, once again the little ones were drawn towards the muddy puddles.PhotoGrid_1457960447097

As the sun started to go down it was getting colder and there was just time for some bubble chasing on our way home in the glorious afternoon sunlight.PicMonkey Collage

Simple pleasures but so lovely to be out enjoying the sunshine – and we are all so so looking forward to spring and summer and many more lovely sunny days to come.

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The Stick Man trail at Fineshade Woods

Last weekend we finally visited somewhere I have wanted to visit for ages, Fineshade Woods, to do the Stick Man trail. Fineshade is about 20 mins from where we live and yet we had never been, bonkers!  So with the sun shining we donned our wellies and headed off for a walk through the woods to rectify that. PhotoGrid_1456145605528

Stick Man is one of Monkey’s favourite books so he was dead excited to follow the trail. He excitedly ran to each of the signs and was excited by every picture from the book. Hubs also used the opportunity to help with Monkey’s reading by helping him read the signs, which Monkey found great fun. PhotoGrid_1456146479242

He also loved doing the activities at each point. I thought they were great too, building nests and towers and dens out of sticks! It was nice seeing those left over by others too and the kids had a fab time playing in a den left behind by previous explorers! PhotoGrid_1456146353976

For her part LM adored exploring the woods and yep the mud. She was straight in to any muddy puddle she could find and was so happy! (She got covered though as you can imagine!) PhotoGrid_1456146566144

On the whole we had a lovely time and lots of fun as a family. Then when LM’s welly got stuck in the mud and she stepped out of it covering her leg in mud we took as it a good time to end our visit and head to the lovely top lodge cafe for a hot drink and yummy food. PhotoGrid_1456147571918

There are some fantastic play areas at Fineshade too and though we had to cut short our visit because of a very muddy LM we look back to returning soon!

What you should know about visiting Fineshade Woods. 

Fineshade is easily accessible and well signposted from the A47 between Peterborough and Uppingham.

Pay & Display parking is in operation, £1 for an hour or £3 for the day,  coins only at the moment so don’t get caught out!

You don’t need an activity pack to complete the Stick Man trail but it does add to the fun. The pack cost £3 and is available from the cafe where the staff are so friendly and helpful.

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Life UnexpectedCountry Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

National Trust Stowe Gardens in Winter

We love a good day out, and that is one reason why we love being members of the National Trust. There are so many places to go that are great fun with kids. It is even better when you have friends who are National Trust members too as you can combine a lovely day out with having a good catch up with friends.

Last weekend was one of those days as we met up with our lovely friends Chris (who hubs has known since he was a kid)  and Sarah (who blogs over at runjumpscrap) and their little Gremlin at Stowe Gardens. The weather was thankfully kind to us and we had a really great fun day.

Enjoying the gorgeous sceneryPhotoGrid_1453804146597

Climbing the monumentsPhotoGrid_1453804408566

Puddle splashingPhotoGrid_1453804604030

Chasing bubblesPhotoGrid_1453804937962

Generally having a nice time running about and catching up.PhotoGrid_1453805129858PhotoGrid_1453805260393

Important things to note if you plan on visiting Stowe.

  • There is quite a walk from the entrance and visitors centre to get to the actual gardens. They reckon 10mins at adults pace (if that) but with little legs this can take a lot longer so it may be worth taking a buggy, that way you can conserve their energy for when you are actually in the gardens rather than just getting there and back.
  • The paths are very accessible for buggies which was brilliant.
  • The cafe itself is at the visitors centre so bear that in mind if you are planning on eating lunch there and maybe think about eating at the start or end of your visit. Otherwise you will do as we did and basically get to the gardens then turn back again to get lunch then get down to the gardens again!

I think next time we will actually take a picnic (weather permitting) as there is so many lovely spots to have a picnic throughout the gardens and then we could spend more time exploring.

We really did have such a lovely time and the kids enjoyed having a good run about while we were nattering and it was nice to get out and enjoy the fresh air. It was so peaceful there too and really did me the world of good. I look forward to visiting in the summer as I imagine it will be stunning!

National Trust Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire

We recently arranged to meet some good friends of ours who live in Newcastle. Being a good 4 hours away from each other we like to pick somewhere halfway to meet up for the day so Yorkshire is usually where we head, and as always we do like our National Trust places for a lovely family day out. This time we chose Beningbrough Hall as it looked like there was lots to do and see with the kids, and indoor spaces as well as outdoor areas if the weather turned on us (it is November after all!) and it did not disappoint.

Although it was lovely and sunny when we left home, it got foggier and foggier the further north we drove which made the journey interesting! It was pretty easy to find but it was really funny as we were driving up the long drive wondering where exactly the house was and it suddenly loomed up out of the fog right in front of us!foggy

We had arrived a little early and it wasn’t open yet so we headed to the little farm shop and cafe a short walk from the car park for a nice cup of tea and cake while we waited for our friends and chatted with some other parents with little ones. Our friends arrived and we headed in to the grounds, which are huge. The gardens were lovely, even on a gloomy day and the kids were loving exploring and basically having a good old run around after a couple of hours in the car!beningbrough 1

I believe there are meant to be some gorgeous views….. but on the day we went we could only just make out some cows and trees through the fog! Still it was very atmospheric (Hubs feels that “bleak” is a more appropriate word haha)beiningbrough 2

It was lovely to catch up with our friends and meet their gorgeous new addition, look at these gorgeous cheeks! LM loved meeting her too and the older boys had a great time together again.Beningbrough 3

We wandered over to the fantastic outdoor play area for our picnic lunch and to have a play. It really is an amazing lay area with a hige fort, boat, house, loads of swings, a den building area and some trikes and bikes that you can use. The kids had an absolute whale of a time and the fact that it was wet and muddy really did not spoil their fun! I was glad they all had waterproofs on though!!beningbrough 4After lunch we went into the hall itself for a look around. They have a lift which is very handy and small stroller buggies you can use as they ask big buggies to be left outside. As well as the more standard rooms and exhibitions they also had some fantastic interactive displays which were perfect for the kids. Because they had an exhibition on loan from the National Portrait Gallery of the Royal Family (which was fab) there was a portrait zone where you could dress up and set the scene to create your own portrait – great fun! There was also a fab playroom which the kids absolutely adored, of course.

Beningbrough 5When we headed back outside we had some lovely bubble fun and then some family group shots before it was time to head home.

beningbrough 6We loved seeing our friends and as always the National Trust delivered a fab place for us to do so. Beningbrough Hall had so much to see and do and I really look forward to going back one day, hopefully when the weather is nice so we can see those gorgeous views!!

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A day out at NT Canons Ashby

Last weekend we went out for the day to meet up with the very lovely Sarah from Run Jump Scrap and her family. Our husbands go back a long way and have been good friends since school. Sarah and I have met a few times over the years and went to each other’s weddings but living so far away from each other there wasn’t really a chance to get to know each other very well. Since she started blogging it has been great as I feel I know her so much better now and that we have a lot in common. We decided to meet up and with both being National Trust members chose Canons Ashby near Daventry as it is about an hour away from us both.

It wasn’t the most beautiful of days, being a bit grey and damp but at least it wasn’t raining and the autumn leaves brightened our day.

Canons Ashby 1

I always find National Trust places are great for kids and Canons Ashby didn’t disappoint as they provided us with a treasure hunt checklist of things to find. We had a good run around the garden ticking things off the list and it was great as it gave the kids a purpose while we grown ups were catching up!canons ashby 2

The gardens were lovely and surprisingly blooming despite the time of year, adding to the gorgeous autumn colours. They were tiered giving gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.canons ashby 3

There was a croquet lawn which was the hit of the day, particularly with Monkey as it was a job to get him away from it! We grown ups had fun on there too of course!canons ashby 4

The house itself was very grand though very dark, especially on such a dreary day. One of the favourite rooms was the playroom which had toys that the kids were allowed to play with. They all had great fun on the playhorse and Sarah’s Gremlin loved playing with what we thought was a rather creepy doll – as it had lost its eyes!canons ashby 5

Monkey was chomping at the bit to get back to the croquet bless him and he played that some more with the daddies and Gremlin while Sarah and I caught up and I tried to stop LM from eating mud and stones! We eventually tempted Monkey away from the croquet with some running and hiding behind some fab bushes in the next garden. It’s safe to say we all had a lot of fun running around hiding and chasing each other!canons ashby 6

Then with tired out children it was time to head home but we all had a very lovely time and will be meeting up again soon.

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