Last week I wrote about our trip to Mothecombe beach in Devon when we were on holiday. That’s a mostly sandy beach on an estuary with lovely shallow water until quite a way out from the shore. Another day of our holiday we went just 5 minutes drive down the road from the edge of Plymouth to Wembury beach. Since the great storms that hit the south west coat last year, this has been a very rocky beach, and when it’s low tide, it’s perfect for a spot of rock pooling.
Andrew had spotted the old net in Grandma and Pop’s shed with the other beach toys earlier in the week and was desperate to have a go with it. So we’d promised him a morning at a rocky beach to try his hand at rock pooling. Unfortunately the net that was once Daddy’s had seen better days, so we treated him to a brand new one from the cafe on the beach, and it was very reasonably priced considering we were a captive audience.
When we arrived it was pretty much bang on low tide and there were lots of fantastic pools. We all set out across the rocks, wearing sensible shoes (wellies for the boys) and carrying our net and buckets. Joel is a keen climber, so was also in his element, even though he wasn’t in the least bit bothered about looking for animals. Andrew wanted to use his net when we spotted a few things, but the kinds of creatures that we saw really needed an adult with a faster hand and a better eye for catching them as they were too quick for him. We didn’t actually catch much in the end – this shrimp was the highlight really, and we let him go back home after a few minutes.
We did see lots of limpets clinging to the rocks, and barnacles, and anemones which I said looked like shiny cherries on the rocks. We saw lots of little crabs too, but they were too small to catch in our net.
Joel was a bit of a handful really, and soon got tired so had a tantrum about not being able to go it alone across the rocks! It’s an activity that he’ll need another couple of years to appreciate fully. Andrew was keen to give it a go though, even if he couldn’t do lots himself. We’ll definitely be back here in future years. There is also a fantastic marine study centre just off the beach at Wembury, which is open to the public and you can have a look round at the exhibit telling you all about the sea plants and creatures of the area. Again, a bit lost on our boys for now, but give them a few years and I’m sure they will be very interested.
Linking up with the fantastic Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog.
The weather forecast for the week that we were on holiday in Devon wasn’t as amazing as it had been earlier in the summer, so we decided to go to the beach on our second day there, the best looking day of the forecast, just in case we didn’t get another chance.
Grandma and Pop had recently invested in a new blow up dinghy, since the one that Daddy and his siblings used to uses kids finally bit the dust last year when we were on holiday. One of the best beaches for small children that we’ve been to near their house is Mothecombe – the beach on the Erme estuary is fantastic, because it’s so shallow, you have to go out a long way before you can’t stand up any more as an adult, and at low tide, you can walk across the estuary so it’s not even deep enough to swim in. This makes it ideal for a row in a dinghy with little ones.
We got there quite early and were the first ones on the beach. Not surprising given that it was spitting slightly with rain, though was fairly warm still. We found a good spot and got our various bits of entertainment out – buckets and spades, bats and balls, football, kites, sand castle flags, and of course the boat with pump and oars. Pop and Daddy set to and blew up the boat, while the rest of us played in the sand and paddled in the sea – it was high tide so there wasn’t as much beach then as there was later in the day.
Once the boat was in working order, the boys both went out a few metres from the shore with Pop rowing, They absolutely loved it, and wanted to keep doing it several times for the rest of our time on the beach that day. Most of us adults had a turn to be in the driver’s / rower’s seat with either one or two boys with us.
We had lots of fun doing all sorts of activities on the sand and in the water. Joel was quite happy to sit and play with the sand, putting it into buckets with his hands and throwing it about. It’s the longest I’ve seen him sit doing something for a while. Of course he did get up and play too, and also destroy Andrew’s sand castles, as is typical behaviour for each of them.
We had the obligatory British picnic lunch on the beach too, although at that point it was clouding over and just after we’d eaten we had a short and light rain shower, similar to a few that we’d had earlier in the morning, but it was the kind of shower that by the time you’d got a coat on, it was over and sunny again. The boat came in useful as a shelter for the boys though, with an adult at each end holding it up!
Joel was getting tired after lunch, but we’d decided to see if he would have a nap in the buggy as everyone else was having a lot of fun. And he actually did fall asleep during a short push in the buggy. That gave the rest of us a chance to have a rest too, except those who were taking it in turns to row Andrew in the boat.
By about 3pm, the tide was about half way out and there was much more beach, not that we had to share it with many people because it wasn’t very busy at all. Andrew and I went on a walk along the estuary shore, and got to the bit where you can walk across at low tide. We could have walked across then, because there was only a shallow bit of water to walk through, but we knew there wasn’t too much time left on the beach because we had to get back home for 4.30pm. So we walked back across the beck, following the footprints that we’d made on the way. Except when we were not quite back, we saw a sand bank higher than the water level out to sea slightly. So we waded through the shallow water, and came to our very own ‘island’ that had no footprints on yet. Then it was just a short walk back through the water to the part of the beach where the others were sat.
Gradually we packed up all our stuff and set off up the hill to the car park. Joel stayed asleep until we got to the car, and Andrew fell asleep in the car! It’s the sign of a good day when Andrew naps these days. I’d definitely recommend Mothecombe beach for little ones. It’s so quiet, not many people seem to know about it, or would rather not have the walk down (and up) the hill to (and from) the beach, but we think it’s worth it.
Linking up with the fab Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog
When the boys’ Grandma asked people with small children where are some good places to go with little ones in the area local to them, most people said Pennywell Farm near Buckfastleigh in Devon. It’s been going for 25 years, but they hadn’t been as a family when Daddy and his brother and sister were little, so we decided that we had to try it out. And it turned out to be an amazing day out. We went on a day that we knew didn’t have a fantastic weather forecast because although lots of it is outdoors, there is quite a bit of indoor stuff too.
The first area that we came to once we’d paid our entrance fee was the guinea pig pens. There were some benches where you could sit down, put a blanket over your knees, and have a hold and stroke of a guinea pig. Andrew was keen to have a hold, so did so with some help. The guanine pigs were very tame and happy to sit and be stroked. Joel was less keen!
Then we walked around the main yard in the centre of the farm, and saw various animals in their pens, like sheep, alpacas, shire horses, goats and more. The boys were happy to be able to see them all through the fences and the animals were obviously used to kids poking about. Soon we heard a bell ringing and a lady announcing that lamb feeding was about to begin in the main barn, so we headed over and got a seat on some of the hay bales in the tiered seating in the barn. It was a great view of the feeing pens. She explained that these lambs couldn’t be fed by their mummies because a ewe can only care properly for 2 lambs, so if she has more, then the littlest/weakest/daftest ones get kicked out the way and don’t always survive. So these were those types of lamb, and were being bottle fed on a mixture of goat’s milk from the farm goats and sheep formula milk. I was very interested in this lactation information! Andrew got to hold one of the bottles, though Daddy had to help because the lamb was very strong and pulled hard on the teat when sucking.
Just past the main barn was a smaller barn where the Pennywell miniature pigs were. Apparently these were bred at Pennywell for their small and cuddly size. And you could see that they liked nothing more than getting lots of cuddles from the guests. We sat down on a bench and got to hold a pig between Andrew and me, and he loved being stroked, nearly falling asleep on my lap. Joel wasn’t that bothered, but was happy to run around looking at other animals.
We’d seen some children having donkey and pony rides, so we headed over to where the animals were standing and saw that we had to book a slot, so we booked one in for after lunch so that Andrew could have a go. We carried on and came to a covered area that had lots of ride-on tractors to play with. There were various sizes, right from little Joel-friendly ones with no pedals that he could sit on and push with his legs, to big Andrew-friendly ones that he was keen to pedal and steer (mostly avoiding obstacles/other kids on tractors/helping adults). Both boys absolutely loved this bit, so we ended up staying for a while and as there were picnic tables right next to it under the covered area, we decided to eat our lunch there too. Next to the tractors were also some toy ride-on ponies, and Andrew figured out that to make them go you had to bounce up and down on them with your fit in the stirrups and they ‘trotted’ – ingenious idea for a ride-on I thought!
After we managed to drag them away from the tractors and ponies, we headed across to the other side of the farm, where there was a tall tower with a fabulous view over the moor to the north, and a playground. We also heard the ‘choo chop’ of a train and then spotted the sign for the ‘Rainbow Railway’. This train was just the right size for a ride with toddlers and preschoolers, and Andrew was very happy that he got to be the driver and the rest of our family sat in the carriages.
On our way back from the railway, we stopped and looked around the ‘funky foul’ area where there were all sorts of chickens and the like – some with very funky hair dos! By that time, it was nearly time for Andrew’s pony ride, so we headed back to the main yard. There was an owl display going on just near the pony park, so we managed to see some of that while waiting for the pony. The man was explaining all about how owls fly, hunt and eat their prey.
Finally came the time for the pony ride, and Andrew took to it very well. The pony’s name was Yarter and she was 17 years old. He had a ride around the main yard and up towards the tractor rides and back round again near the owl display.
By the time the pony fun was over, Joel was getting very tired, having walked around most of the farm himself. Even though we hadn’t done everything on the farm, we decided that that was enough for one day. It’s such a great day out for little ones, and even slightly older children. I think for what you get, the entrance fee is very reasonable, and we need to go back again to see what we couldn’t see in one trip. It’s definitely something I’d recommend if you’re in the area.
Linking up for the first time in a while to the fantastic #CountryKids linky
One thing that we were amazed about when we were on holiday in the Lake District recently was just how much Andrew was willing to walk. He can be a bit fussy when we’re at home, walking some of the way to places but not reliable enough for me not to take his sling to hop him up on my back if he gets tired. One day in the week away we decided to do a walk around Rydal water, up above the lake on Loughrigg terrace for most of the way, except at both ends when we came down to the waterside to cross the river. On the map this is about 3 miles, plus some climbs. Although we took his sling, Andrew walked pretty much the whole way, only being carried for a couple of 5 minute periods. He was our little mountain goat 🙂 I think his bargain walking boots for 99p off eBay might have helped spur him on, and the odd go-faster snack.
The walk was relatively easy, but with stunning views on the way round. We found all sorts of nature to look at and pick up. Andrew took a liking to a stick that was just the right size to be a walking stick for him, and Pop got out his pen knife to carve him a handle by stripping the bark off it at the top. At one point we spotted a tree with a hollow trunk, so Andrew hopped up inside it and thought this was hilarious. Joel was on my back for the first part of the walk until we stopped for a picnic lunch half way round, and then did some walking himself. High up on the terrace we got some amazing views down to Rydal Water on our way around.
At the far end of the lake we came back down to the water level and had our picnic by the river that runs between Grasmere (lake) and Rydal Water. We then walked along this river towards Grasmere, and crossed over a bridge that was fantastic for Pooh sticks, just before the lake itself. We stopped on the shore of Grasmere for a little while, so the boys could have a play. Andrew was keen to try and learn stone skimming techniques from Grandad and Pop, and Joel was fascinated with a rather large rock that he could sit on and jump off! The weather was quite warm by this point, so we were happy to stand around for a bit. The view across Grasmere towards the village of the same name was lovely.
As we carried on, we walked up again onto the terrace on the other side of Rydal Water, to continue our circular route around it. The views back across the lake were still fantastic, with fewer trees in the way on this side. Both boys were walking on this side for a while, until Joel got tired again and went back on my back, though as I said, Andrew was keen to carry on walking himself. As we neared the end of the lake, towards the car park where we had left the cars, the path came back down near the lake shore again. This was another great excuse to try some stone skimming, and Joel even went for a little paddle in his boots. Both of them clearly found this a lot of fun!
The walk was just the right length for a day out with toddlers, and we all enjoyed it with the views and the weather being particularly good to us.
Linking up with the fab #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog
When I started writing up our holiday, the blog post soon got too long. So here’s the second instalment about what we did in the second half of the week….
If you find yourself on holiday in the Northern Lake District with children, here are some ideas for activities that a family will enjoy, including places that are fun and allow children to let off steam in wet weather. I thought I’d also link up with Country Kids over at Coombe Mill.
Again we awoke to the pitter patter of raindrops as well as little feet. But rain never stops play in the Lake District – it couldn’t, you’d never go anywhere if it did! We hung around at home for a bit longer than usual, waiting for hungry babies to feed and hoping the rain might ease off a little. It didn’t, so we headed to the World of Beatrix Potter attraction in Bowness. This was perfect for Andrew, and even his baby brother and cousin had a good crane of the neck out from the sling and buggy! He was fascinated by all the models of characters from her books, and we even got to walk round Peter Rabbit’s garden as the rain eased off. There was an activity trail too, which was a bit old for our kids, but would be great for school-age children.
After a browse of the gift shop and a souvenir present from Granny and Grandad, we drove back up along Windermere to Brockhole visitor centre where we ate our picnic in the sheltered picnic area – so very British 🙂 Apart from the indoor bit of the centre which has a nice cafe and tells you all about the Lake District’s history and geography, there is quite an extensive parkland on the shore of Windermere, with an adventure playground for kids, paths for walking for all ages, and a treetop trail (a bit like Go Ape) for adults.
Nap-time today was spent in the car, starting on the journey home and ending after a while sat on the drive with Daddy in the passenger seat having a nap too. Our evening meal was out at Keswick’s bargain curry house during happy hour. Andrew charmed the socks off the waiters, and impressed them with his appetite and love of spicy food – when ordering a kids portion of medium-heat chicken curry for him, I was warned that the spice would be too much, but he wolfed it down.
As this was forecast to be the best day for weather all week, we decided to venture further afield to Ravenglass and ride on a steam train at the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway. According to their website, it is “Lakeland’s oldest, friendliest and longest most scenic railway”, a narrow gauge one with fully functioning miniature steam trains. Andrew is into trains, particularly Thomas the Tank Engine, big time at the moment, so he was so excited to watch them at the station and then ride on one himself; on the return leg the train of carriages was pulled by a blue engine just like Thomas!
When we arrived at the other end of the line, we had a quick picnic on the rather windy area of grass behind the station, and then went on a walk down to a little church down by the river in the valley. Before we boarded to ride back to Ravenglass, Andrew and the babies got some badges for having a go at the activity pack that was given to children on the train. I added ‘on a narrow gauge steam train’ to my (mental) list of places where I’ve fed a baby!
As we drove home, the boys slept and the sunshine decided to come out properly, giving us lovely blue-sky views across the mountains in the distance, including Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England (which we climbed together as a family on a hot sunny day when I was a child on holiday in the Lake District).
To make up for the disproportionate amount of sun the day before, we had nothing but rain, rain and more rain! Granny and Grandad were happy to walk with Andrew into the town in the morning, and go to the park all togged up as well as dry off in a cafe afterwards. I needed to keep moving with Joel in the sling (with rain cover) so that he would go to sleep, so Tom and I had a pleasant, if damp, walk along the Keswick Railway Footpath. We got half-way along this disused railway which runs between Keswick and Threlkeld, an ancient settlement which became a mining area in the 20th century; we turned back after a 45 minute walk from Keswick because I knew Joel would want to feed in a little while.
The beer connoisseurs in the family fancied a lunchtime pint, so we headed up the road to the local pub less than a minute’s walk away and had a warming lunch. Nap-time at home was followed by playing with toys and games in the living room, watching the rain through the window. The day finished with us listening to the howling gale outside, rattling the old sash windows as we fell asleep.
With the promise of better weather, we made the short journey to Whinlatter Forest Park, where we played on the adventure playground and went for a walk through the woods and down, round, and back up the hill. It had been so windy the night before that there were bits of tree everywhere: branches that had fallen off, one which had to be chopped off just before we walked past because it was was hanging off precariously, and even a whole tree that had come down across the path, which we had to climb over with two buggies and two sleeping babies (one in a buggy and one in a sling attached to me) – that was quite an adventure in itself! The Forestry Commission, who manage the park, were out and about clearing up and sorting out all the damage to trees.
Having walked up an appetite, we had a lovely homemade cake in the cafe, which unfortunately had no power, we think due to a tree falling through cables, so they could only do tea and coffee by boiling water on the gas hob rather than with the electric coffee machine. We headed home for lunch, packing and naps. Later in the afternoon, we nipped over to the park, where Andrew got the hang of swinging his legs with the rhythm of the swing, copying Daddy’s movements on the swing next to him. For our final evening we had a pub dinner just up the road, a great night to end a lovely holiday.
Places to visit on twitter
The World of Beatrix Potter Arrtraction: @BeatrixPotter
Last week we had our annual spring holiday in the Lake District. It’s very handy for us that my parents have a holiday home up there, which they let out for much of the year, but also take weeks for themselves and family. This time the four of us went up with my parents and my brother and family – 6 adults and 3 kids – good job the house sleeps 10. It is situated in Keswick, which is in the northern Lakes on the northern shore of Derwent Water.
There are plenty of activities for the whole family in and around Keswick and further afield. As we had 2 babies with us who are feeding quite a lot still, we couldn’t easily be on the go for too long at a time, so we did a mixture of very local outings and some which required more travel, of course with frequent feeding stops throughout the day. I kept a mini diary of what we did, and here it is written up in (hopefully) intelligible form along with photos. If you find yourself on holiday in the northern Lake District with children, here are some ideas for activities that a family will enjoy, including places that are fun and allow children to let off steam in wet weather. I thought I’d also link up with Country Kids over at Coombe Mill’s blog.
Having travelled to my parents’ home in Coventry on the Thursday evening, we set off up north after breakfast. We had one of the easiest journeys up there that we’ve ever had. We stopped twice at services for toilet/food/drink; the second stop was at the Tebay services on the M6 – this is like no other service station that I have ever visited. Secretly I was quite pleased when Joel started whinging for food not far from it, because I knew that Andrew would be in his element in the soft-play area, which would help him let off some steam during an otherwise sedentary day in the car.
On this occasion I spent most of the stop in the car, as that seems to be the most reliable place to get Joel to feed. But Tom sampled the deliciousness of the cafe, which prepares fresh snacks and meals using lots of local produce – I’ve tasted it before and was very impressed, not like your average bacteria in a bun or cardboard sandwiches at services! The highlight of my trip there this time was the family changing room, which was clean and easily fitted the four of us, with a spacious change table for Joel, a little person’s toilet and wash basin for Andrew and an adult-sized toilet and wash basin too; this kind of thing makes such a difference when you’re travelling long distances with little ones.
When we arrived in Keswick, Andrew set about exploring the house, which we think he vaguely remembered from last year. Despite having slept quite a bit in the car, the boys were tired come dinner time, so a quick bath and into bed was the next step. Tom and I then went for a short wander through the town for a leg stretch and fresh air whilst Granny and Grandad babysat. It felt very weird to be on our own without the kids.
After the car journey the day before, we all decided that staying very local was the order of the day. A leisurely get up, involving Andrew going in to Granny and Grandad’s bed to play with the iPad and listen to music, was followed by a relaxing breakfast. We then headed down to the lake, which is about 15 minutes walk from the house. The land around Derwent Water is managed by the National Trust, and in particular we like the area called Friar’s Cragg, a rocky outcrop where you get some stunning views of the lake and surrounding hills. We were not disappointed by the views there on that day.
We also stopped to look at the ducks on the pebbly beach where the rowing boats are available for hire, and Andrew had great fun running after them. He kept shouting “ducks running away” as he followed them around, as if he was surprised by this cause and effect! As the weather was fairly warm and bright, we stopped for a coffee and cake at a lovely cafe overlooking the lake and even sat outside.
In the afternoon we went back home for lunch and then Andrew napped and the rest of us rested. Later on we nipped back into the town to have a mooch around the market which sells all sorts of things from food to crafts to old books to clothes. Amazingly all three children were in a good mood and not feeding/sleeping at the same time just before dinner, so Grandad got his camera out and we had a family photo shoot with some cute results.
We woke up to pouring rain, the kind that soaks you through in just the seconds that it takes you to run to the car to pack it up! So to get our fill of exercise and fun we headed to Penrith leisure centre for a family swim. The small pool was perfect for the little ones, and the adults took it in turns to swim some lengths – I did a quick 30 lengths which was great as I don’t get much chance to swim properly these days. Whenever we’re with family we take advantage of the extra pairs of hands and get as much swimming in as possible so that Joel’s experience is as close as possible to Andrew’s at this age – we used to go once a week but I can’t take them both on my own now.
On the drive back we stopped at Reghed Centre – what’s that? In their words: “Well, we are a number of things really, but the four things we pride ourselves in is being a destination for family, food, the outdoors and arts & culture.” It’s actually run by the same people that run Tebay services (Westmorland Ltd). The two things we went for were lunch – a yummy freshly cooked selection of mains and lighter bites (I’d definitely recommend the flatbreads) – and soft play – Andrew adores this at the moment he’s just like a Duracell bunny going up and down and round the play area again and again.
Worn out, we headed home, and after quite a late nap to recharge the bunny’s batteries, we nipped over to the park opposite the house as it had stopped raining by then.
To be continued in another post…..(this one got too long!)
Places to visit on twitter
Tebay services and Rheged: @tebayservices
The National Trust: @nationaltrust
Penrith Leisure Centre: @Penrithleisure
I’m linking up with Country Kids over at Coombe Mill’s blog.