Devon holiday – part 1: Outdoor fun at National Trust #specialplaces

Rather handily, Tom’s parents live in Devon, right at the end near to Cornwall, so every summer we go on holiday and stay with them. Everyone enjoys it because they get to see and play with the grand children, and we get a good rest with meals and washing provided. This year my parents came too, so the boys had a real fill of grandparent attention. We all had a lot of fun, and got up to lots of fun activities. The weather was pretty good for us, not that rain stops us, we just tog up anyway, but it’s nice to be able to get out and about in the dry. I’d definitely recommend all of the places we visited for young children, so if you’re planning on holidaying down that way with little ones, it may be worth taking notes….

This first instalment of what we got up to is all about the National Trust, which you can trust for a good family day out.

Having travelled down from the Midlands with Granny and Grandad on Saturday (we’d stopped for lunch at Tyntesfield, a National Trust property just off the M5 past Bristol, where we saw Gromit!), our first day for exploring was Sunday. We didn’t feel like driving too far, so decided on Antony House, a National Trust property just across the River Tamar into Cornwall. If we were to cross the river by bridge, there is quite a long drive around on the other side, so instead we got the ferry across to Torpoint, and Antony is just a mile or 2 up the road from there.

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We usually check the National Trust hand book or app for opening times, but as it was a weekend in the height of holiday season, I guess we didn’t think about it and assumed it would all be open from about 10.30-11am. As we drew up into the car park, there were only a couple of others there, and we noticed that it didn’t in fact open until 12 noon, and even that is only on Sundays in the summer – the rest of the year it’s only open mid week. After we thought about it some more, we remembered that this property is actually still lived in, so it’s completely understandable that they wouldn’t want the world and his wife pouring in every day all year round. But fortunately the woodland walk around the perimeter of the house’s gardens was already open, so we spent an hour wandering around the woods. There are two walks, signposted with green and blue arrows, which was perfect for Andrew who was happy to be our guide and look out for green arrows and point us in the right direction.

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By the time we’d done that, the house and gardens were open, so we headed in with our picnic and found a nice spot on one of the lawns. We ate a tasty lunch, despite the fact that Granny forgot to pack the cheese, which then became the joke of the holiday every time cheese or picnic came up in conversation! Andrew and Joel enjoyed playing on the grass too whilst we stayed in that spot for a while. I had also spotted a slide across on the grass over by the other side of the house, so we headed over there and Andrew, once he’d been brave enough to go down the slide once (it was an enclosed tube so not quite what he was used to), had a lot of fun going down it several more times in the next half an hour. Meanwhile Joel was happy to cruise around the story time benches watching Andrew occasionally.

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After all that activity we stopped off at the tea room for a cornish ice cream. The boys were getting tired by then, so we made our way slowly back to the car and headed home. The littlest one fell asleep in the car and the bigger one didn’t quite as it wasn’t a very long journey home, so he napped when we got back for an hour. Although we didn’t get to see inside the house, we had a thoroughly enjoyable day outdoors, taking advantage of the beautiful sunshine and the boys’ and our love of being in the fresh air.

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A few days later, on Wednesday, we had another trip to a National Trust property. This time we went even more local, to Saltram on the east edge of Plymouth. The weather had been very wet in the morning, though we still got to the local playground and then spent some time with Tom’s extended family over lunch. After the boys had napped, we got in the car and arrived at Saltram just as the weather was looking more promising. First we stopped by the duck pond to admire the cute ducks, ducklings and teenage ducks/ducklings. Then the plan was for Andrew to ride his bike and for us to walk around the extensive grounds, after Andrew took a quick detour into the playground before he discovered that he couldn’t very easily slide down the slide in his waterproof trousers that we’d suggested he wear in case of puddles underfoot (or underwheel).

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Andrew sped off down the track so fast that he left us way behind him. We took it in turns to try and catch him up, first Grandma and Pop, then Tom and me, while Granny and Grandad took care of Joel in the buggy. We really had to jog, or even run, to keep up anywhere near him. Occasionally he would slow down to look at something en route, like the cows in the field or a woody bit with ‘off piste’ cycling possibilities. The route goes through fields to begin with, then turns a corner to meet and run alongside the large tidal estuary of the River Plym. So at that point we made him stop and carry on next to us – the adults walking on the side of the path nearest the river and Andrew on the inside, though he kept trying to break the human barrier.

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The circular route led us back to the car, and we all headed home having had a good dose of fresh air and a brisk walk (or jog!) As always, even though we’ve been to both these places before, they didn’t fail to provide us with a good day (or afternoon) out. The next instalment of our holiday adventures will focus on the days we had at the beach.

Linking up with the lovely Country KIds linky again 🙂

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall




Riding on my bicycle – #CountryKids

For Christmas, Andrew was given a balance bike. He wasn’t quite 2 years old, but this ‘lite’ version of the Early Rider is designed for children aged 20 months plus. He had a go on it with grandparents helping him when we were staying with them for the Christmas break, but when we came back home, he didn’t seem too fussed to ride it much for a couple of months. He didn’t mind if one of us pushed him on it, but he didn’t seem to want to try riding it himself. It probably didn’t help that it was a cold winter and there weren’t exactly ample opportunities to take it out, especially as I still had a small baby in my care as well as him during the week.


Then, all of a sudden around Easter time, he started to show more interest again. The days were getting longer, the weather was, well, still not great but hey, and Joel was being less demanding in terms of feeding all the time. So we had more opportunity to take the bike out in the garden and to the park. One day, he went from insisting that one of us held onto the saddle to riding it all on his own with no help, just like that. And it didn’t take long before he was really confident, enough to lift his feet up when going downhill and ride it like a ‘real’ bike.


I’d heard about balance bikes before he was bought one by Granny and Grandad – the theory is that they help toddlers learn what it feels like to ride a bike before pedals are introduced, so that when they are big enough to get a pedal bike, the biggest part of learning to ride it, the balance, is already in place so they just have to add in the pedalling bit and away they go. I was recently talking to a friend whose son is about a year older than Andrew and he has successfully done this transition with ease. A trike teaches pedals but not balance, so it would take longer for the balance to come when moving onto a bike. In theory, there shouldn’t be a need for a pedal bike with stabilisers once balance has been mastered on a balance bike, though they may help for a short period whist the skill of pedalling is being mastered.


For now Andrew is happy on his balance bike, but I can see already that it won’t be long before he can take the next step (and Joel can have his balance bike). Where we live (Cambridge) you see lots of kids cycling, many from very young, I guess because there is such a culture of cycling around here. In our pre-kids life, Tom and I cycled everywhere, and Tom still does on his own. I’m not keen to take the boys on a bike myself, as I personally don’t feel that child bike seats and trailers look particularly safe, and I wouldn’t say I’m confident enough at cycling on the road with them. So I haven’t cycled since Joel was born when I stopped going to work on my bike. But one day I hope that we will be able to go cycling together as a family on the cycle paths down by the river, for example.


Now that the evenings are lighter, our favourite late afternoon activity has become getting the bike out and Andrew riding it around the garden and on the drive in front of the block of flats we live in. He would do this for hours if we let him, but at some point we do have to coax him back in with the promise of dinner! (Food always works in his case.) The drive is off a very quiet cul de sac, so a car hardly ever comes along at that time of day, and when they do there is the most evil speed bump in the world to slow them down. In fact Andrew loves bumping up onto that and coming down again, a bit like a skate park ramp for toddlers. On the drive there is plenty of space for him to ride around. There is also a slight incline in the paving which he loves riding down and that’s where he’s learnt to take his feet off the ground and just free wheel down the ‘hill’ (as he calls it – hardly a hill, though by Cambridge standards it’s pretty hilly).

Like many life skills, such as swimming and learning languages (two of my favourites), I think cycling is one of those things that the younger you learn, the easier it is. So I’m glad that Andrew has taken a liking to it already, and I think he will beat Daddy and me in when we learnt to ride a bike – I can remember it, so I must have been about 6 or 7.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall