Monkey loves trains so when we heard about the Swanage Steam Railway down in Dorset we thought it would be a nice thing to do on our holiday. Add to the fact that you can ride the train to an amazing ruined castle and we were sold! (We love a good castle.) It isn’t the cheapest day out to combine the railway and a trip to the castle but being National Trust members thankfully we only had to think about the cost of the train tickets.
The steam railway runs between Swanage and Norden in Dorset, with a couple of stops along the way, one of which being Corfe Castle. We chose to park in Swanage, and take the train from there to Corfe Castle and back. There is a park and ride at Corfe Castle so you could, in theory take the bus to Swanage and the train back to the castle or something, but there is also quite a nice big car park 5-10 minutes walk from the station in Swanage. (There is no car park right at the station in Swanage, just a co-op with a short stay car park)
We took a little picnic to eat on the train journey and Monkey was just so so happy to be on the train. The staff were great with him and so friendly, and he loved getting his ticket stamped. It’s not a very long journey, about 20 minutes, which is probably about right with little ones and the scenery on the way is very pretty.
Corfe Castle in the village of Corfe, is seriously impressive, perched on top of a hill so you can see it for miles around.
It’s not very suitable for buggies but the National Trust to have some baby carriers available for hire and you can leave your buggy at the gate. We also saw a few people who had taken their buggy up the hill and tried to get it round the site.
As LM is too much of a fidget pants to be happy in a carrier we just carried her about in our arms. As I mentioned, we love a good castle so we very much enjoyed having a good explore of the ruins.
The views from the top of the hill are amazing and I loved seeing the steam train chugging by.
Afterwards we stopped at a little tea room and decided to have some cream tea in the gardens…. unfortunately we got completely swarmed by wasps which wasn’t fun and sacrificed our jam, moving it onto another table hoping the wasps would surround it instead of us. It worked very well thankfully but I have never seen so many wasps all crammed into a small pot of jam!
We tried to get a nice family selfie with corfe castle in the background and, well, it’s not great but not too terrible either. Not easy getting all 4 of us looking n the right direction!
Then it was time to have another fun little journey on the train back to Swanage. A lovely little day trip.
If you follow me on social media you may have seen that I was hugely excited last week to be given the opportunity by Three Mobile to review the brand new Samsung Galaxy S6 phone. In addition to letting me put the S6 through it’s paces for a few days, Three Mobile also very kindly gave us a day out in London where we visited the Natural History Museum and their wonderful “Sensational Butterflies” exhibition.
The Samsung Galaxy S6
A little bit about the phone first. It is really slim and light though a bit longer than my current phone. I tend to carry my phone in my pocket and I was concerned it wouldn’t fit, but actually, although taller than my current Nokia, it is slimmer so fit a little better if anything, result!
It runs on Android, and being a Windows Phone user this did take a bit of getting used to but is much more user-friendly than the last time I used Android (we are talking a few years ago now) and I soon got to grips with it. I also found the phone very fast which is nice as being nearly 2 years old my phone can be a bit sluggish!
The best thing about the S6 though has got to be the cameras. Yes, plural, because both front and back cameras are very impressive. The back camera is a whopping 16megapixel and the front is a lovely 5megapixel. I love a good family selfie so it nice to be able to take a quality shot with the front camera for a change. To show you the difference here is a couple of selfies taken with the front camera on my current phone compared with the front camera on the S6. I have no make up on so apologies but you can see the difference. The third shot has “beauty mode” switched on which kindly smooths your skin out for you – definite improvement I think!
I also loved the speed of the cameras. It loads super fast even when the screen is timed out, and, best of all it takes the photo almost instantly when you press the shutter. Kids move around seriously fast and I often find with my current phone that by the time it has focussed and taken the shot, I have missed the moment. This happened a lot less with the S6 which is a HUGE plus in my books.
That’s about as technical as I am going to get as I am not that technical! So that you can see for yourself how great the cameras are, here is our day at the Natural History Museum.
Our day at the Natural History Museum
We set off on the train to London first thing in the morning. Monkey was so excited to be on a really fast train and loved every second of the journey, especially the tunnels.
We had hoped LM may nap on the train but it would seem she was too excited too as was not remotely in the mood to nap. We had a lot of fun keeping her entertained instead.
Getting around London on the tube with two tots, a buggy and our bags was interesting. The tube was absolutely packed, and we were squeezed in like sardines! Monkey was such a good boy but LM was not a fan…. though she was charming everyone by making sneaky grabs for people’s jumpers and sunglasses etc! Thankfully everyone she chose to grab was friendly and in a good mood.
We finally arrived at the Natural History Museum which is such an impressive building, and after a cheeky selfie (though I really need to have a bit more practice with my selfie stick) we headed inside to see the huge Brontosaurus.
We were concerned Monkey may be a bit wary of the dinosaur but he loved it and decided it was smiling hehe. We just had time for a quick cup of tea and slice of cake before heading out to the Sensational Butterflies exhibition.
In the grounds of the Museum is a tropical tent housing lots of beautiful butterflies who are free to fly and roam as they please. As you go through you follow the trail which charts the life cycle of the butterfly, from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly, while all the way you are surrounded by butterflies fluttering past.
Unfortunately Monkey had a full on freak out about the butterflies. He found them really scary flying so close to us and one landed on my back which really set him off. LM seemed to love watching them flutter past though! I managed to get some gorgeous shots but we did have to rush through a bit to get the screaming, clinging mess of a toddler out of the tent :/
It was such a shame as it was a wonderful exhibition and lovely to see the butterflies up close and learn more about these gorgeous insects, but that’s kids for you, always unpredictable. I was glad that the camera was so fast to load and at taking photos, I would have liked a bit more time in there to play with manual mode – but was dead impressed with the shots captured with the auto focus.
After calming Monkey down we headed back into the museum for more of an explore.
Sadly the queue to see the dinosaur zone was massive so we went for a walk around the mammals instead. Monkey had a few initial jitters about the stuffed Lions and Bears but once he realised they wouldn’t move he relaxed and he loved it – he even told the Polar Bear that he loved him… bless him, such a softy.
We had a great time wandering around and looking at all of the animals, skeletons and the other models. Monkey loved this big rotating earth and I love this picture of the two of us, again I am just so impressed with the photos we took on the S6.
LM dozed off on our walk round (thank goodness) then we headed for some lunch. The service and speed in the restaurant were great considering it was a busy Saturday but it was pricey and the food wasn’t very good quality. We were hungry though so scoffed it down. Hubs had fun taking photos of the four of us in the huge mirrors in the restaurant.
After lunch we checked on the queue for the dinosaurs again but it was even more massive so after a bit of a wander in the museum we headed outside to the ice cream van we had seen earlier – only to find that they had turned the ice cream machine off! We couldn’t believe it! We had promised Monkey an ice cream by this point and as the afternoon was getting on we decided to make our way back to the station. We found an ice cream along the way then had another hot and busy journey on the tube back to Kings Cross where we got the train home.
It was a long day and very tiring but so much fun too and I am proud of us for stepping out of our comfort zone and taking the kids on the train and tube on such a busy day. It proves we can do it, though I am not sure we will do it again in a hurry.
I loved giving the S6 a real test out and it has really got me thinking about what phone I am going to go for next. I’ve always loved the Windows Phone OS but I found Android to be really user-friendly and the cameras are just amazing on the S6. I use my phone largely as a camera since becoming a blogger so it really is important to have a good one. There are things about the Windows phone OS that I would miss on the move to Android…. but not as much as I thought, so I may have been converted as the camera is such a big temptation.
I really cannot fault the Samsung Galaxy S6 at all as it was so fast and just so easy to use and I think the pictures speak for themselves. I was using it all day, taking tonnes of photos and a few videos, and the battery lasted well until we got home which I did find impressive. I think I will be hard pressed to find a better option when it is time to upgrade my phone in a few months’ time!
Is your phone your main camera? Are you a lover of Android, Windows, or Apple?
I was loaned the Samsung Galaxy S6 for a few days and Three Mobile gave us tickets to London and entry to the Sensational Butterflies exhibition for the purpose of this review. All opinions and images are entirely my own.
February was a bit of a month. It was very busy for all of us and sadly, full of germs too! Illness aside there was lots going on including the big build up to the wedding of one of my best friends on the 28th. As a result it has felt very hectic and hubs and I have been a bit shattered and run down as a result. The day after the wedding, the 1st March, the sun was shining and we decided to get our lives in order a bit.
We do love our lists so we sat and worked out what jobs we wanted achieve this spring, and also what nice days out we hoped to have. Monkey loves lists too so of course he helped :). This was also when we decided to take control of LM’s routine so our day very much revolved around that.
In one of her awake times we decided to get out of the house and enjoy the sunshine. With all the poorliness lately we have spent a lot of time indoors and we just wanted to get out and get some fresh air. We are very lucky that we are walking distance to a steam engine railway line, so after checking the timetable we popped LM in the carrier and wandered off there to see a train. We hope to take Monkey on a train ride at some point, but after his fears of seeing the trains at the National Railway Museum, we thought it would be a good idea to get him used to the scale and noise of the train first!
Although it was lovely and sunny it was really windy, which Monkey wasn’t at all keen on and there was a real chill in the air waiting on the station to see the train so he and Daddy had a lovely snuggle.
Soon enough the train arrived and Monkey was so excited to wave to the train and all of the people on board. He cracked me up when the train was leaving by shouting “Follow that train!” over and over again! Bless him I had to explain that it was a little too fast for us to catch!
It was then time to head home and have some lovely lunch. Just a short outing, and hubs was shattered from pushing Monkey on his trike (it is so heavy and unwieldy but with Monkey just getting over being ill we didn’t want to push him too hard or make him walk – good job as little did we know he was actually coming down with Chicken Pox too!) and I was shattered as it is probably the longest I have had LM in the carrier for some time and she is getting heavy!
Hubs and I had soup for lunch but Monkey wanted bread and cheese. As we sat down to eat he exclaimed “This cheese is significant!” lol not sure what that meant, he has obviously heard the word and decided to try it out! As toddlers do! He did the same later, sometimes hubs and I call the kids darling, often when they are being grumpy. After lunch when I was changing LM’s nappy, Monkey came over and said to me “Darling… what you doing?” hehe hearing “darling” come out of his little mouth was so cute. He then wandered off saying darling to himself over and over. So adorable, he has called both hubs and I babe before too as we occasionally say that to each other. Thankfully Mummy & Daddy always return to favour though.
After lunch Monkey helped Daddy sweep out the car port (one of the jobs on our list) then both kids had lovely long naps in the afternoon which meant hubs and I got to have a bit of a rest as we were shattered. It wasn’t a massively exciting day or anything to write home about but just one of those lovely, ordinary days having fun with a toddler (and a baby of course) and sorting a few jobs out. After a busy month with a mix of socialising and illness it was lovely to just have one of these ordinary days, and I hope we get to have a few more of them this Spring.
Some really good friends of ours live in Newcastle, which is around a 4 hour journey from where we live. In order to see each other a bit more often we are trying to meet in the middle a bit more – making day trips with small children much more manageable. For our first such meet up, my friend suggested the National Railway Museum in York.
We considered going on the train but it was going to be about £100 without a seat for Monkey, plus the added stress of where to put LM and her buggy, so we wimped and out and went in the car. The train would have taken a little over an hour whereas it was nearer 2 hours in the car, but we were comfortable and LM slept both there and back which was brilliant!
The National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum is the largest railway museum in the UK and home to over a million artefacts showing the history of railway. It is free to enter, though you can make a donation ot purchase a guide book if you wish. A must for any train lover and what little boy doesn’t like trains?
Well, ours, apparently! He had been really excited about going, then as soon as we arrived and walked into the museum.
“I don’t like trains” “I don’t like trains” repeated on loop at least 50 times on the way to the cafe where we headed to feed LM and meet our friends. Ever the contrary toddler eh?
In truth though I can understand why. The building itself is vast, and absolutely filled with trains, including the biggest trains I have ever seen! Hubs is 6’2″ and one of the first trains you can see when you arrive is a Chinese train where the wheels are as tall as hubs… and the whole thing about 3 times his height. Understandably daunting to a 2 year old I think bless him! So in saying “I don’t like trains” I think what he was actually saying was “Hey Mummy I am not sure about this, they are a bit scary! I thought trains were smaller than this!”
Possible the biggest train I have ever seen, difficult to tell scale as hubs is not that close but trust me, it is huge!
After having a snack and meeting our friends we hoped Monkey would feel more enthusastic about the trains and took him to have a look inside them. But no, he was having none if it, typical! This was just him you understand, my friend’s little boy was loving looking at all of the trains and there was lots of other children there enjoying themselves, There was however a model railway which he adored and didn’t want to leave!
One train we did get him interested in was, unsurprisingly, the post train! He seriously loves anything “post” related. We did also manage to persuade him that some of the big trains he saw were like “The Greendale Rocket” form Postman Pat so he did enjoy those a little more.
The post train
Both boys thoroughly enjoyed the great little outdoor playarea, even though it was bitterly cold and so windy that day!
Dining wise, there is a couple of cafes and restaurants to choose from and there is also a lot of benches and picnic tables available to use, both indoors and outdoors. We had a a morning cuppa, and an afternoon break at the cafes but took our own picnic for lunch and there was lots of families who had done the same. It is always nice that there is seating areas provided for this, and that we didn’t have to sit out in the cold to enjoy our picnic.
The museum has great access for pushchairs and wheelchairs and our boys adored running up and down the ramps – it really is the simple things that entertain children isn’t it? The museum is divided across the road and there is a concourse that runs underneath, with lifts at each end.
Our boys loved the sweet playarea, which of course, had lots of trains to play with and even Chuggington dressing up clothes! Though I believe they are renovating it soon which I am sure will only improve it.
There is a variety of exhibitions and so much to see and honestly we barely touched the surface and weren’t really able to take much of it in with small children to entertain. They do demonstrations of trains turning on turntables and we did go to see a show, which sounded great and very entertaining, although we realised it was little above our boys’ level when they started discussing Newton’s laws of motion! I am sure older children would have loved it though.
Waiting for the show, with our wriggly boys!
I think the highlight for our little Monkeys was standing out on the viewing platform watching the trains go in and out of York station. They loved waving at them all as they went by and the train drivers were great, waving back and tooting at them – they must see kids there so much but for them to respond to it is very kind and made their day!
We had a really lovely day out at the National Railway Museum and will defiitely go again when the kids are a little older too and can appreciate it a little more!
Last weekend, after a quick trip to buy some fence paint we decided to stop off to feed the ducks. Somehow I’d manage to overbuy on bread and we had some going to waste so decided the ducks should have it. Rather than go to our local country park, which we visit pretty frequently, we decided to pop to another spot. It’s not far away but we haven’t been in all of Monkey’s life so far! It’s a bit quieter than our local park, has no play areas etc, but is has some other lovely things to see.
So we fed the ducks and the geese, and one beautiful swan! Monkey loved feeding the ducks but did get a bit nervous of the geese. The ones in the lake weren’t too bad but the ones on the ground are probably bigger than he is so I can’t blame him for being scared of them! I got bitten by a goose as a kid so I’m not a huge fan of them, though obviously I don’t want Monkey to know about that!
We soon used up all of out bread, and we had literally just finished it all when a mummy duck appeared with her ducklings! We were so disappointed that we hadn’t saved any for them, but hey we didn’t know they were there. They were so cute though!
We are really lucky in that we live near the Nene Valley Railway which runs steam trains, and this spot has one of their stations. We had finished feeding the ducks when we caught a ‘choo choo’ in the distance, a train was on the way! We jogged over as quickly as we could to see the train up close, and Monkey loved it!
By the end he was shouting “choo” “choo” which was very cute! At some point this summer I think we’ll take a train ride with Monkey, it just goes up and down and into the city centre so wouldn’t be too long a journey, but so lovely to go on an old fashioned steam train!
After the train disappeared from view, we crossed the track and over to the river, where there is a huge lock. The noise at the lock is tremendous and Monkey loved it, ad kept shouting at the water lol!
We were in luck as there happened to be a boat going through the lock when we got there! We missed the beginning bit but daddy was trying to explain to Monkey about how it works, not sure how much he understood though!
It’s a really picturesque spot and above the lock the river is so tranquil and peaceful. I can’t believe we haven’t been there in so long! As a kid I used to cycle there all the time and it links up along the river to our local country park. I’m sure we’ll go there a lot more as Monkey gets older.
On the way back we had a quick game of pooh sticks through the lock, which was quite amusing as the sticks kept getting lost in the torrent!
Then, as we were walking back, the train came back on it’s return journey!
We waved goodbye to the train then it was time to head home for some lunch.
It was a lovely morning and reminded us that you don’t have to go too far for a lovely day out. In fact I have come up with a new acronym for days like this. A DOOOD – A Day Out On Our Doorstep!
Have you ever had a lovely day out on your doorstep?