In the garden – #CountryKids

In case you missed my recent posts, or haven’t seen me for a while, we’re in the process of moving from Cambridge to Birmingham. One of our reasons for moving to a more affordable city is that we can buy a house with a garden instead of our current flat. I would love to be able to open the back door and let the boys out to play, because they love being outdoors running off energy. Having said that, we do have a very nice communal garden that we share with the other 7 flats, and as none of them have children, we’re the only ones who are ever out there playing in it. But we do all have to go out and come in together because it’s not completely fenced off, and we can’t just pop back in easily if one of us needs to fetch something or go to the loo, for example.

One morning this week we hadn’t got any particular plans, and I asked Andrew what he wanted to do. His answer was to go in the garden, so we did! I knew that Joel would want (or rather need) to nap at some point after another of his spectacularly early starts, so I wore him on my back and wrapped us all up warm. He did eventually drop off, after watching Andrew run around a bit first.

Garden Collage 1

It was lovely to spend a couple of hours playing and bike riding, and I took some pictures to remind us how great this space has been. It’s nothing fancy, but the gravel circle in the centre has provided hours of entertainment over the few years we’ve been here – digging, hiding balls and other bits in it, crunching it and swishing it with our feet, kicking balls on it (and inevitably kicking gravel too!), walking/running around the brick border, making letters/numbers/patterns with the stones on the bricks… and much more!

Garden Collage 2

There are also a couple of man holes that Andrew often stands, jumps and dances on; it’s a bit like being on some kind of podium! The grass is of course great for running around on, or riding a bike on, though he prefers using the large and quiet drive in front of the flats as his bike riding territory. Talking of bikes, for a while there have been a couple of ornamental metal bikes in the garden (I think a couple of ex-residents left them when they moved out and they used to be on their balcony) – Andrew thinks these are hilarious, and loves to put his bouncy balls in the basket on one of the bikes and ‘ride’ it around, or rather drag the bike around whilst walking with it under his legs.

Garden Collage 5

Whenever we go out in the garden (or to a park), there is one rule that cannot be broken: we must take balls with us! These can be bouncy balls, footballs, tennis balls, fluffy balls – whatever balls we have that are easily find-able at the time of departure. If any children do come and live in these flats at some point, they will probably end up finding some balls lodged underneath fences, balconies, bushes etc., as I’m sure we don’t have nearly as many as we should do anymore. Andrew loves hiding small balls in the gravel, kicking any balls around the grass, and trying to throw one or two before I catch him and suggest that we save that for the park as there are too many windows in sight.

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At just less than 3 years old, Andrew just about understands the classic game of hide and seek. There are only a couple of good hiding places, most notably a long thin passage to the side of the block of flats where it doesn’t quite meet the fence – perfect size for a toddler hider. The other popular place to hide is behind the bins, but more because he knows I won’t come too near due to the smell, which doesn’t bother him apparently!

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We’ve had a lot of fun in this shared garden since the boys were born, and we have some good memories of outdoor fun very close to home in this period of our lives. Water balloons and gardening are two other blog posts that spring to mind. But looking forward to next year, we’re also excited to be searching for a house with our very own garden, and thinking about all the fun that we can have when it belongs to us 🙂

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I’m linking up with the amazing Country Kids linky again – I’ve not been so consistent at linking for the past month or so since we found out we’re moving, but I hope to be joining in again more often in the new year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A day out in/with Brum – #CountryKids

Last week we went on a very exciting day trip to Birmingham. Daddy had an interview for a job at the university there, so the boys and I as well as Granny went with him, so that he could concentrate on the interview and not have to worry about travelling all the way from Cambridge on his own. Turns out he did rather well at the interview, because they gave him a job! So now we’re busy planning our move to Birmingham at Christmas. But that’s another story.

Andrew is a big fan of the little yellow car Brum, who had his own TV show back in the 1990s, set in Birmingham (or ‘The Big Town’) whose nickname is also Brum. See the clever play on words they did there! So when we told him we were going on a day out in the Big Town where Brum saves the day, he was very excited. We had to take Brum with us too of course (in toy form).

Brum Collage 1

We set off from Granny and Grandad’s house in the morning, and drove to the campus to check out exactly where Daddy needed to be later after lunch for the interview. Then we headed to a nearby pub for lunch, which Granny had booked a table at. We were a bit early still, and Joel was asleep in the car so Granny offered to stay with him whilst we had a stretch of the legs – we thought we might find a park because the pub was located in a residential area that looked just the kind of place that would have a park with swings and slides. We didn’t actually find one, but had a nice bit of a walk anyway – up a hill, which is something we don’t do very often living in a very flat city.

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After we’d eaten, we headed back to the campus just up the road, and dropped Daddy where he needed to be. Then we parked the car and got out to explore the place ourselves. We were on the look out for any of the sites that we see watching Brum. Soon we came to the clock tower in the middle of the campus. Some of the buildings around there are definitely on Brum! After a short ride in the buggy, Andrew was keen to walk/run and explore – I’m not sure he actually recognised much from Brum himself, but he seemed to understand what we were saying.

We walked through a little market place with fresh fruit and veg on sale, and then through a square with big blocks that were perfect for Andrew to walk along the top of, with Granny’s help. We were on the look out for the race track, because Andrew had seen an episode of Brum that morning which was set at the university race track. As we walked around, we saw a sign for it, and it was just around the corner. We found the entrance and saw a few people using it for running practice. There was plenty of space for Andrew and Brum to have a run too though! Unfortunately I’ve just realised that all the videos I took here (and in previous months) are lost because of some glitch in backing up from my phone to the computer, and I hadn’t got round to uploading them to youtube yet 🙁 But I can assure you that they had a good run.

Brum Collage 4

Once the sprinting was done, we headed out and continued our circular walk around the campus. We saw all sorts of different shapes, sizes and colours of buildings. The weather had generally been good if a little chilly, but fine if we kept moving. It did, however, start to rain at one point, and as there was still sun the other side of the rain clouds, we knew a rainbow would appear. And sure enough, there it was, over the buildings behind us.

Brum Collage 5

Eventually we came to the football pitches, where there were three 5-aside games being played by footballers who looked like they were students (i.e. they looked much younger than me!) Andrew was absolutely fascinated by this, and wandered up and down the sideline (behind the wire fence) watching them play. We could hardly tear him away when the phone rang to say it was time for us to meet Daddy who’d finished his interview.

Brum Collage 3

Although we were in the middle of a large city, it was lovely to have a walk around an interesting place that Andrew recognises parts of, a mini town in itself, and explore somewhere that  we will grow to know better as we live near it in the new year.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

 

Fun at Wimpole Home Farm – #CountryKids

We love the fact that we live so near to the National Trust’s Wimpole Home Farm near Cambridge. We’ve been several times since we’ve had kids (and a couple of times before!) and we never get bored of it. The Wimpole Estate is a large area of land with a mansion house and a working farm with animals that are reared for milk, meat, eggs and wool. There are also extensive grounds that you can wander around and picnic in.

The last time we went was the August bank holiday Monday, which was a lovely warm day and we had a wonderful family morning out before Daddy had to go to work in the afternoon. We arrived early and ours was one of the first cars in the car park, so we bought our tickets and wandered around a bit by the entrance to the farm until it opened. As National Trust members we still have to pay to get into the farm, but is is much cheaper than the standard ticket and well worth the price for a good value family day out.

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An excited Andrew was looking forward to seeing the animals, so as soon as the gate opened he steamed ahead on the path down to the farm. As we approached, we stopped to see the donkeys and goats in the first field by the reception. The first thing that Andrew spotted once we were actually inside was a tractor that you can sit on and pretend to drive, so he and Joel had a turn on that together. We also stopped to watch a baby cow having its milk from mummy, and then Andrew had a go at ‘milking’ using a milking simulator – a couple of cow sized teats hanging off a bucket of water!

Wimpole 2 Collage

Next we went over to say hello to the shire horses, which were inside the stables at that point, but they also come out to do cart rides that visitors can hop on to. There were some turkeys in the stable too, next to the horses, which Andrew found very amusing, maybe because they were down at his level and he could wave to them. I think too that he hasn’t made the connection between turkeys like this and the turkey that we eat sometimes. Joel enjoyed looking at the rabbits that were across the courtyard on our way over towards the pigs.

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Soon it was time to watch the pigs being fed, so we headed over to the pig sties and stood there while other visitors congregated in anticipation of the feeding session and the pigs got very excited. But nobody official turned up with the food for a while, and Andrew needed the toilet, so while he and Daddy went off, Joel and I waited and eventually saw the pigs being fed. There was a range of ages of pig, right from little piglets to teenage pigs to mummy pigs pregnant with litters more babies!

Wimpole 4 Collage

The next thing on Andrew’s radar was the small playground (shaped like a combine harvester) and the toy tractor maze – ride on tractors that you can drive around a small maze of hay bales. We spent quite a while there, and Joel enjoyed being pushed around on a tractor too. Then we headed to the bigger adventure playground that is tucked away in a wooded bit. It was still very empty at that time, so the boys had a good go on it without the busyness that I’m sure it would have had later on in the afternoon once more people had got that far.

Wimpole 5 Collage

Having expended a lot of energy climbing, sliding, swinging, running and more, Andrew in particular was getting very tired and we knew that Daddy had to be in work fairly soon, so we started to head back to the car, stopping by some more paddocks of animals (mainly sheep and chickens) on our way, waving to the inhabitants as we passed.

As always when we visit Wimpole, we had a fun family morning out, and we’ll be back again another time to do it all again. I can definitely recommend this as a great way to let babies and toddlers experience farm animals in a family-friendly setting. It’s also good for slightly older children to learn where certain foods come from, rather than just ‘the supermarket’!

 

Linking up with the lovely Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

 

 

Devon holiday – part 3: Around Plymouth, parks & swimming

This is my fourth and final post about what we got up to on holiday this summer. First I blogged about our day trip to Coombe Mill, then I wrote about our brilliant National Trust days out, and our days at the beach. This week’s post is all about the days we spent closer to home, visiting places that Tom went to as a child, and seeing how they’ve changed (or not!) down the generation.

The weather on the Thursday didn’t look too promising, so we decided to stick close to home and head to Plymouth Hoe for a walk around the sea front and go to the park on the west side of the Hoe area. Part of the fun was getting the boat across the Sound from Mount Batten to the Barbican rather than driving into the city centre. Andrew loved this experience, and was keen to sit on the top deck of the double decker ferry! When we got off the boat, we walked around the Hoe at toddler pace – he jogged and we followed! When we got to the lighthouse at the top, we stopped for a break and had a drink in the cafe, before carrying on to our special destination…. West Hoe Park, home of Gus Honeybun and his train.

Gus

Now I had never heard of Gus, a rabbit. Tom explained that he was the mascot for the local ITV broadcasting station back in the 1960s-1990s. There is a little train ride for kids in the park that to this day has Gus riding around on it. Just like his Daddy did years ago, Andrew was thrilled to see this train in action, and was keen to jump on and have go himself (at only 50p each I thought it was a bargain!) Train madness runs in the family.

Plymouth 1

Also at the park was a bouncy castle, which Andrew had fun on for a while, though we all decided that it was time for a picnic before he got over hungry – he still doesn’t quite get that you have to keep your energy up when running around outside, and if he’s not reminded to eat it all ends in tears, literally! After we’d replenished our energy, it was time for the playground, where both boys had a go on the swings and slides, and Andrew did some climbing.

Plymouth 2

He’d also spotted another part of the park that had rides and games suitable for toddlers to early teens – a crazy golf course, ride on cars and boats, remote control cars and boats, diggers, trampolines, and panning for ‘gold’. He really wanted to go on the boats, so the grandparents bought him some tokens and I volunteered to go on the boat with him – it was slightly more ‘spinny’ than I normally like, but he thought it was hilarious and his roars of laughter were enough to make me laugh out loud too! After that we explained that he had some more tokens so he could go on something else – he chose a ride on electric car. The sign said that young children should be accompanied by an adult, so Pop was volunteered to ride on with him (I was still recovering from the boat ride and Tom had Joel asleep on his back in the sling). Andrew chose a sports car, so Pop could sit on the spoiler at the back and help with the steering – that was the plan at least, but Andrew refused to let him help, so we watched a hilarious 5 minutes of Andrew pretty much singlehandedly driving a car around the track and Pop looking petrified!!

Plymouth 3

Having survived that ride, the next one he wanted to try was the diggers, and with a bit of help rom Daddy, he successfully scooped some gravel around the pit. After that he wanted to go back on the car track, so Grandad then had a turn with him, and then I was volunteered to go on one with him to use the last token we had. It was fun, if a little scary! But soon he was getting very tired, and had a rather loud tantrum at the fact that we wouldn’t let him slide down the final hole of the crazy golf course where other people were trying to play! So we encouraged him into the buggy for a ride in it to the boat, and he fell asleep as soon as we got home.

Plymouth 4

A couple of days later on the Saturday, our final day on holiday, the weather was also decidedly wet, and as we hadn’t been swimming yet all week, we knew this would be a good plan. Last year we’d enjoyed a good swim in the brand new Plymouth Life Centre, which has a 50m swimming pool, leisure pool and diving pool (Tom Daley’s home territory!), so we went there again. Unfortunately so had everyone else, understandably as it was a wet Saturday in holiday season, and the leisure pool was full with a waiting list for another hour or so. Instead we went into the main pool, which they had roped off into various sections – some for swimming lengths and some for families with kids to play in.

Both boys loved it, despite it not being the warmest of pools that they have swum in! Andrew had fun jumping in from the side repeatedly, and Joel was happy to kick around on his tummy whilst being passed between various family members. The boys’ uncle and aunts joined us too, so we were quite a party, and that meant that the adults could take it in turns to go and have a ‘proper’ swim, which I took full advantage of as I don’t get to go swimming for myself much these days and I miss it. There weren’t as many toys and floats as in the leisure pool, and Andrew kept asking if he could have some, but there were enough of us to distract him and keep things fun without the toys. Joel particularly liked it when I swam underwater and popped up in front of him suddenly – he jumped but laughed, several times!

Plymouth 5

The swimming pool is located in a large park called Central Park, and there is also a large playground with all sorts of climbing frames, swings, slides, water features, bouncers etc., which we had to go and try out too. Joel napped for this part of the morning, but Andrew was so excited with all the different things to do in the park. There was a notice board explaining that the playground had been designed to reflect the different continents in different sections of the equipment. I’d not seen this kind of plan behind a park before.

And that was the end of our summer holiday. We had a lot of fun, got up to lots of activities, and we’re already looking forward to going back next year and having some more adventures!

Linking up our adventures with the lovely Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Trip to Coombe Mill – #CountryKids

Ever since I came across the Coombe Mill blog through the Country Kids linky that Fiona runs every week, I thought that it would be lovely to visit one day, either by staying there or by popping in when we’re down that way. As we go on holiday to Tom’s parents every summer, I thought it would be a possibility to have a day trip there this year, as it’s only just over an hour’s drive in good traffic. I was so glad that we managed to make it, just before Fiona and family set off on their family holiday.

PicMonkey Collage (1)

We started off on the journey down into Cornwall and made good time, so arrived in the later part of the morning. The first thing that Andrew spotted as we drew up in the car was one of the play areas, so he insisted that we get him out right away and he ran across to it, climbing up on the ship-shaped climbing frame, steering with the wheel and playing with the canon. He also liked the look of the trampoline, so had a go with some adult supervision from the other side of the netting.

Meanwhile I went across to reception and introduced myself in person to Fiona – it’s so nice to meet people in real life having tweeted with them and read their blogs. She was busy sorting things out to go away, and I felt very privileged that she was so welcoming and willing to spend time with us even though it was a big deal to get things done in order to leave the family business and go away for a week. Whilst she finished off a few things, I went back over and joined the others; my parents and parents in law were looking after Andrew on the playground. Very kindly, Fiona then came back over and invited us to their house for a cup of tea and cake, which was lovely, and we chatted for a while whilst three of her children came to join us, mainly for the cake!

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Then it was time for a farm tour, courtesy of Felix and Clio. Our guides did a great job of showing us all the animals. We saw peacocks, chickens, pigs, donkeys, deer, goats and rabbits. Andrew was very impressed, and was keen to stroke and feed animals where appropriate, as shown by the older kids. Joel also liked looking at the furry moving things, though he was getting a bit whingey by that point, maybe teeth, maybe hunger, maybe tiredness, who knows! We were all particularly impressed by the deer, who did a run by in front of us as Clio ran into the field behind them.

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Once the farm tour was over, and we managed to prize Andrew away from the other play areas that he had seen on the way back to the start, we sat down and had a picnic on one of the benches dotted amongst the lodges. I knew that Joel would like some milk before a nap, so I slipped into the BBQ hut to feed him – this is a fantastic hut that seats 15 people with a barbecue in the middle and a chimney that lets the smoke out, or is perfect for feeding a very distractible 9 month old away from all the sights and sounds of a family day out.

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After some milk he soon went off for a nap, so I went and joined Andrew on the play area where he was playing with Granny and Grandma. Fiona came and joined us for a bit too, and Andrew found her son Jed playing with the swing ball so tried to join in.

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After a while we headed back to the toddler-specific play area, which is full of ride-on cars. trikes and tractors, so right up Andrew’s street. He also spotted the soft play hut, and had another go on there (apparently he’d already been in when I was feeding Joel). Not that it was raining that day, but having an indoor play area is perfect for the British weather, because even though we often get togged up and go out in the rain anyway, sometimes it’s nice to have a dry place for him to burn off some energy, so I can imagine that if we stay there it would prove invaluable.

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We would have loved to stay and see the miniature railway running at 5pm, but Andrew was flagging and it was clear that he would need his nap in the car on the way home sooner than that. So we started to make a move towards the car. Once we got going, it didn’t take long for both boys to drop off (Joel had woken up from his nap as we transferred him but went back off again), and by the time we had driven through the winding lanes and reached the main road, they were both sound asleep. A sign on a great day out!

The whole family was very impressed by what we saw at Coombe Mill, and we will certainly be recommending it to other families who might be looking to holiday down in Cornwall. There is so much for young children to see and do, including helping out on the farm for feed runs which we didn’t get to experience, and it’s a great spot to go off and explore Cornwall too, from beaches to hills to towns. All the accommodation is well equipped for families with babies and toddlers, so it feels like a home from home. We are blessed with this ourselves in Devon, and at the moment I expect we’ll continue to stay with Grandma and Pop, but when the boys are a bit older we would love to go and stay at Coombe Mill for a holiday. It would be a lovely place to go with another family or two with children a similar age to ours.

So for this week’s Country Kids linky, Andrew and Joel got to be country kids at the place where Country Kids was born, and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

 

Adventures in Germany – #CountryKids

Last weekend we were treated to a long weekend away courtesy of my parents as my birthday gift (it was a special number of birthday after all 😉 ) The destination was Germany, to visit mmy friend who I’ve known since we were paired up for the exchange that our schools organised when we were 14.  We now both have families, and we don’t manage to write to each other as often as we once did, but we are still in touch and so are our families, who have visited each other on a few occasions in the past, including for each of our weddings.

Part of the present was for my parents to come with us for extra pairs of hands – I can’t imagine flying on our own with energetic 9 month old and 2 year old boys! So on Thursday, off we all travelled on our Germany adventure. We flew into Cologne/Bonn airport and hired a car to drive to our first location – a sleepy village in the Westerwald, home to my friend and her in-laws, about half way between Cologne and Frankfurt am Main. The area is beautiful, full of trees (Wald = forest), rolling hills and quaint villages. We stayed in the neighbouring village called Friedewald, in the old castle – yes that’s right, actually in the castle, which has been done up fairly recently (in the life span of the building at least) into a hotel. This was the perfect setting for us all.

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On Friday (my birthday) we decided to go swimming because my friend, knowing how much we love it, recommended a pool that had very recently opened up in the nearest town – Loewenbad, Hachenburg. The weather was warm, muggy, overcast and occasionally drizzly, so we decided that swimming would be a great activity, especially as there was an outdoor pool as well as an indoor one at the complex. Plus we always take the opportunity to go swimming when we have extra pairs of hands because it can be quite a handful with both the boys, even with two of us adults.

We were very impressed when we arrived, there was something for everyone. There was a plain indoor pool where I could swim some lengths, as well as a gorgeous little padding pool with lovely warm water, just right for Joel. Andrew spotted the water slide outside, so he, Daddy and Grandad went outside to the slide and happily plunged into the cooling water. The little swimmer was slightly shocked by the temperature of the water as he came off the end of the slide, but was soon happy to do it again, and again, and again….! The outdoor pool was amazing: a plain pool as well as the slide and another bit for kids with a seal squirting water and even an outdoor heated paddling pool for babies which Joel enjoyed. The pool was set in a grassy area so there was plenty of space to play outside, sunbathe and eat a picnic if you wanted on a sunny day – the entrance fee was valid for a whole day, and was very reasonable considering you could spend a good day there. We had a birthday lunch planned back at the village, so just spent an hour or so there, going between the various parts of the pool between us. I haven’t been to an outdoor pool for a long time, and I was so glad that we all got to enjoy this outdoor swimming while the weather was warm enough.

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Then on Saturday we headed about an hour and a half north to Hemer, the town where my friend’s parents still live, where I stayed for the original school trips before she moved south when she got married. It had been 10 years since I was last there, and the town has undergone quite a lot of regeneration. On Saturday late morning, just after we got there, we walked the short distance down into the town centre and the boys had fun on the new playground in the pedestrian zone. There is a blue ‘band’ with water in that runs down a slope around the playground; this was perfect for walking through and cooling off our hot feet, and both boys loved it. We spent the afternoon in the garden, and my friend’s sisters and their families came for Kaffee und Kuchen (German equivalent of afternoon tea). The kids had great fun playing with the various water toys, which included two water slides, a paddling pool, and some water shooters. We all got very wet once the toddlers realised that it was fun to get the parents and grandparents soaking as well as themselves. But we didn’t mind, it was so good to cool off in the heat.

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On Sunday morning we headed across the town to a new attraction, the Sauerland Park. This was perfect for kids of all ages as well as their parents and grandparents for a fun family day out. We started off on the adventure playground, which is called “Zwergengold” (Dwarves’ Gold). It is made to look like a little dwarf town, set in the woods, and gives the impression of a little touch of magic about it. Andrew enjoyed this, and we all had a go on the twin log swing! Then we walked to the viewing tower, and those of us who weren’t afraid of heights or trying to get a tired baby to sleep without distractions climbed to the top to get an impressive view across the town and the Sauerland. Again Andrew was very impressed with this. Next we found an exercise area with outdoor gym equipment. We all had a go on a few things, and the trampolines were a big hit with young and old alike.

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A walk further down the hill brought us to a sandy play area with water features. Next to it was a cafe so we bought some nice cool drinks and the adults sat and had a rest while Andrew played in the sand and Joel was just waking up from his nap. Andrew also spotted a carousel with various vehicles on it a bit further down the hill near the entrance/exit, so after playing in the sand we headed down there and he chose which vehicle he wanted to sit on – of course it was the fire engine! (Well actually he wanted to go on the tractor but another little boy had beat him to it!) Soon it was time to leave and get home for lunch with the extended family again so we could make our flight in the afternoon. As we walked to the exit there was a big paddling pool being filled with water, so we took our shoes off and had a quick splash through it on our way out – Andrew was particularly interested by the little boy who was riding his bike through the pool!

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All in all we had an amazing time and thoroughly enjoyed our time in Germany. The weather was warm and mostly sunny which meant we had plenty of opportunity to get outside with the boys and the family we went to visit.

Next weekend we’re off to Devon to see Grandma and Pop – handy having the boys’ other grandparents living near the seaside – so I’m sure I’ll be back with more outdoor tales after that 🙂

Linking up with the amazing Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Fun at Belton House – #CountryKids

Today’s Country Kids post is more of a photo gallery than a wordy post, for a couple of reasons – it was Granny and Grandad who actually had the fun with the boys (so I can only recount what Andrew enthusiastically reported on the way home, and the photos are all Grandad’s), and the end of this week has been tiring with a congested toddler and a teething baby waking at night (so I’ve been napping in the day myself instead of writing).

Last Saturday, Tom and I were invited to the wedding of an old friend of ours from university. Although they said that Joel could come with us as he’s still breastfeeding, they were hoping that those with less dependent little ones like Andrew could find alternative childcare. Joel is now feeding a lot less during the day, and not at all when we’re out, so we decided that a few hours away from me would be fine for him too. That would be enough for us to celebrate with our friends at the church and the drinks reception but not stay into the evening. The venue for the wedding was equidistant from us and my parents, so Granny and Grandad jumped at the chance to come and meet us there and spend the afternoon with the boys. We all had lunch together in a friendly pub, and then Tom and I headed off to the church, which turned out to be tiny, and we wouldn’t have been able to easily contain two very fidgety mobile children for an hour within the old pews anyway!

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The boys and their grandparents headed off down the road to the National Trust property of Belton House near Grantham. I can see from the guide leaflet that they left in our change bag that it has huge grounds with lots to do for families. The most popular things with our boys were the little train ride and the extensive adventure playground. Andrew got to wear the train driver’s hat, and he keeps going on about the big slide that was very fast. They also enjoyed an ice cream from the cafe. Fortunately it was lovely weather so they could spend the afternoon outdoors, but there is an indoor soft play area too for wet weather days out.

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When we met back at the pub again, the three of them who can talk were all raving about how amazing Belton House is for children, and we’ve said that we’ll have to go back again one day – we have friends who live not far and go there often, so we’ve talked about meeting them there. Then I can write more about exactly what it’s like. Both boys were so exhausted from all the excitement that they fell asleep almost straight away on the journey back.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
 

The big green in the big smoke – #CountryKids

Last weekend we went down to London to meet my cousin (that’s the boys first cousin once removed – we’ve looked it up!) and his wife who had just flown in from Australia. We drove to my brother and family’s flat in West London, where Granny and Grandad had also stayed the night, parked there, had a cuppa and used my niece’s darkened quiet bedroom to feed Joel in as he really doesn’t want to miss out on excitement so won’t feed properly when we’re out.

Lovely scenery on the drive down, and waiting for the bus in London
Lovely scenery on the drive down, and waiting for the bus in London

Then we all headed out to Richmond. There were no trains running on the overground line that we needed due to engineering works. So a rail replacement bus it was. Fortunately Andrew loves any form of transport, so a bus was almost as exciting as a train. After crawling through some pretty heavy Sunday traffic, we arrived at Richmond station.

Running around on Richmond Green, with yellow bouncy ball
Running around on Richmond Green, with yellow bouncy ball

There was about half an hour before our Aussie family would arrive, so we walked up the high street and turned down a side road that led to Richmond Green. Andrew was keen to get his bouncy ball out, the one he got as a souvenir from Birdland two weeks previously, and throw/kick it whilst running around, including towards some pigeons who (funnily enough) ran away at this, much to Andrew’s surprise. His uncle and aunt also had a kick about of his small football. As we were on this big green, I found it amazing to think that we were in London – just behind a row of buildings was the busy high street with buses, cars and trains going by, and yet we had a lovely green space to run around on away from the hustle and bustle.

Walking by the Thames and feeding the geese/pigeons (and Joel eating lunch)
Walking by the Thames and feeding the geese/pigeons (and Joel eating lunch)

As time got on, we headed back to the station to meet the visitors, and then we all crossed the road to have lunch at an Italian restaurant. Once we’d enjoyed a yummy meal, we had a leisurely walk back along the high street and back across the green, where Andrew insisted, quite rightly, on getting his bouncy ball out again, and then we carried on down to the river. It was such a beautiful day, so we walked along the river for a while. Andrew found a wall to walk on that separated the path from a grassy bank on our left (the river was to our right.

He was still insistent that he needed his ball, even though we tried on several occasions to suggest that we put it away now so it didn’t roll into the river. And as we had feared, the bouncy ball that was so new did meet a very watery end that day and must now be residing at the bottom of the Thames! He also invented a new game called run around the tree until you’re dizzy – the last bit of it is in the video, along with Granny asking where his ball is and me and him saying it’s in his hand, so this was before the fatal lob Thames-ward.

After a coffee/cold drink stop in a riverside cafe, where Joel also had a small attempt at feeding, we headed back to the station to wave the Aussies on their way back to their London stop over flat, and then we caught the bus back to our car and drove home – two very tired boys fell asleep almost straight away.

Homeward bound
Homeward bound

 Linking up with #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog again today 🙂

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

The ball and the Abbey – #CountryKids

I love the fact that we live only 10 minutes drive from our local National Trust property, Anglesey Abbey. The Abbey is actually an old house (not a church as you might expect) set in a lovely large area of land with gardens, lawns, fields and woodland, perfect for little legs to run around in and let off steam. There is also a spacious cafe with yummy food and a toddler toy table which keeps Andrew amused for hours!

Quite often we meet friends up there, and it’s a popular meeting place in the week for mums with young children, especially NCT groups and the like. Sometimes I decide at the last minute to head there on my own with the boys when we have an hour or so in the afternoon after Andrew’s nap time with nothing particular planned and no errands to run. This is what happened earlier in the week.AA Collage 1

Andrew insisted that he take his new foam football that Granny and Grandad kindly gave him in a damage limitation effort with respect to Joel, windows and other breakable objects. Even though I said he could take an outdoor ball, he wanted to take this soft one – I’m not one to argue too much with a determined toddler when the matter isn’t a serious one.

He had a lot of fun kicking it up the paths, over the fields, along the lawns, and under the trees (avoiding the beautiful bluebells hiding under there). As we reached the lawn by the house, where we’ve seen croquet being played a few times so I knew it was alright to have a ball on, I was quite glad that it was the soft ball after all, as Andrew was keen to kick it and we seemed to be so near the old house with its delicate windows (not that he can kick it high yet, but you never know when he might learn!)AA Collage 2

Just around the corner from the house we walked into a bit of garden with a high hedge around it because Andrew spotted a few steps that he wanted to jump up and then run down the grass slope next to them. This little game lasted a surprisingly long time. There were also some urns on plinths in this bit of garden, and Andrew said hello face to face with the lady carved into the side of one!

The whole area of land around the property is full of little bits of hedged off garden, perfect for a game of hide and seek. Over the several years that we’ve been visiting the place, we’ve often discovered hidden statues as we walk through the various gardens – even having been umpteen times, we’re still to this day finding new bits of garden with plants and works of art in them, as the land is so extensive and varied.

AA Collage 3

We have been into the house before, which is fascinating, particularly an intricate clock that chimes spectacularly every hour, but that was back in our pre-kids life. One day we’ll take the boys in, but they’re still too young to appreciate it, even with the kids activity sheets. In any case, it closes earlier than the time we usually make it up there in an afternoon, which was the case this time too.

The weather was fairly kind to us. It started off overcast and quite chilly, but Andrew was warm enough running around with his bright yellow fisherman’s coat on. It did start to rain a couple of times, but didn’t come to much, and we’re used to being out in worse than that. Joel spent the whole time snuggled up warm and dry asleep in the buggy.

As the afternoon drew closer to closing time, we headed back to the car through a short woodland walk. There was no time for a refuelling stop in the cafe today, and besides, it wouldn’t be long until dinnertime anyway, once we had crawled back into Cambridge on an unusually busy road (it’s not normally busy going into town during rush hour, but I think there had been some incident on the modern road wonder that is the A14 so cars were being diverted!) Despite the journey, we had a fun afternoon and I’m sure it won’t be too long until we pop back again.

Linking up with the lovely #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog again 🙂

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Outdoor fun close to home – #CountryKids

As the weather has got much nicer this week, most afternoons we’ve been outside making our own fun either at the local parks or in our garden. In the mornings we go to groups where there is usually an opportunity to play outside too, either during or after the group, when the weather is nice. But it was when I was taking pictures of the boys at the local parks (we live about half way between two) and in the garden that I realised just how important it is to us to go out so locally and have fun involving physical activity.

Earlier in the week the weather was sunny but still not so warm, hence the hat and coats!
Earlier in the week the weather was sunny but still not so warm, hence the hat and coats!

It’s not that we didn’t do it in the winter – believe me we went to the park as often as possible over the past 6 months – but when it was (getting) dark at 5pm, even our local parks were difficult to walk to in 10 minutes, play for a while and walk back, all after Andrew had woken up from his nap and Joel had finished feeding (notoriously hard to coordinate these things!)

A warmer day at the other park later in the week.
A warmer day at the other park later in the week.

As much as we love adventuring further afield and exploring new places, particularly on holiday, we do also love the familiarity of our local outdoor spots that are great for the boys. Although Cambridge is a city (ok, a fairly small one) there are lots of green spaces and parks, so wherever you live here, even if in or near the city centre, you’re never very far from somewhere that the kids can run around and let off some energy. As I said, we live in between two parks, one of which offers more for Andrew now that he’s confident on all sorts of equipment including slides, swings, seesaws, tunnels, rope bridges etc., and one of which is smaller and more contained so is easier for me to keep an eye on him whilst letting Joel go on the swing and seesaw.

I distinctly remember taking Andrew to the park for the first time when he was nearly 4 months old. I pushed him gently on the swing and it was a gloriously sunny day – that was the year that we had a lovely April and May of hot weather. Just recently I realised that although Joel has been to the park many times in his life, I hadn’t actually given him a go on anything, because he’s usually been asleep as we tend to go out when he needs a nap and he feeds mostly when we’re at home. So I’ve started trying to give him chance to have a go on things before he goes to sleep – quite tricky to coordinate timings, but we’re getting there.

Bike in garden
I’m riding on my bicycle, riding on my bicycle – in our garden

Although we live in a flat, there is a lovely communal garden (read: our garden, as nobody else ever uses it, they’re all singles and child-less couples who work all day and seem to go away at weekends) with plenty of grass and a gravel circle which Andrew loves – picking up gravel, moving it to our window sill, making shapes with it on the slabs, throwing it (until Mummy stops him doing that one!), kicking it (gently is ok by Mummy), kicking a ball on it, riding his bike around the edge and more! The grass is handy too, for these kind of activities. There is also the great game of running round and round the house of flats trying to hide from Mummy, which can be exhausting but fun for anyone over the age of 2.

Playing with balls of different varieties in the garden.
Playing with balls of different varieties in the garden.

The only downside of this garden is that we have to go out the main front door, even though we are on the ground floor and our ‘balcony/terrace’ looks out onto the garden but is separated from it by a thick glass panel that only people as tall as daddy can jump! So I can’t just open the back door and let Andrew out on his own and watch him from inside. One day we hope to have enough money to get a bigger place and we would only consider places with a garden because we can see how crucial this is for our boys. But for now we all go out together, which is by no means a bad thing, we just have to wait til we’re all ready.

Do you enjoy going to your local park? At what age did you start going with a baby/toddler? We’d love to hear from others who love being outdoors like us 🙂

Andrew trying to be like Daddy and jump the balcony/terrace wall! Plus a new found skill of looking at me through his legs. It all got a bit much for Joel and he took a nap as we played :)
Andrew trying to be like Daddy and jump the balcony/terrace wall! Plus a new found skill of looking at me through his legs. It all got a bit much for Joel and he took a nap as we played 🙂

I’m linking up with #CountryKids at Coombe Mill blog again this week

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall