Whinlatter Forest Park – #CountryKids

On the second day of our Lake District holiday, we decided to visit one of our favourite places not far from the holiday home – Whinlatter Forest Park. As the name suggests, there are lots of trees, and several paths that wind their way through them on the hillside. There’s also a Go Ape! course in the tree tops, and the park is popular with mountain bikers who hare up and down on the trails through the forest.

Once we’d parked in the already pretty full car park (it was a relatively good weather Sunday in the Easter holidays, so everyone was out), we made our way up to the visitors centre. Granny spotted a sign which said that there was currently a Gruffalo trail in the woods and that we could get an activity sheet for it from the kiosk. So we queued up and got our sheet, then set off into the deep dark woods in search of a Gruffalo!

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Andrew was tasked with spotting the signs that had an arrow and a picture of the hairy creature with terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws. We made our way through the winding paths, guided by Andrew’s navigational skills. Every now and then there was an activity log by the side of the path, which encouraged the kids to think about things related to the Gruffalo story. For example we had to match up animals like a mouse, snake and fox to their different homes, use our five senses to notice things in the woods, and write our names using sticks. This was all very fun whilst being educational and teaching us all about the forest. The sheet that we’d got from the kiosk was handy to write our answers to the activity questions down on, but in the end we forgot about this and decided it would be useful to repeat the activities when we got home to see how much Andrew could recall from the experience.

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One of the activities was to collect 10 natural things from the forest floor. So as we walked, Andrew collected various items like stones, twigs, leaves, feathers and bark, and stuck them in the pockets of his yellow mack until they were full to the brim. We also had some lessons on tree-related things from Pop, the tree consultant, including the resin that we could see seeping out from holes in one tree’s trunk. Despite the first half of the walk being uphill, Andrew was keen to walk most of it, though he did get tired and hitch a lift in the sling on Daddy’s back near the top, then he got out again later on the way down. We joked that Daddy blended in well with the woodland with his squirrel print fabric sling.

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Joel was mostly happy to be carried in his sling on my back, but as we neared the top of the walk, he got restless and wanted out, so he then walked all the way down again with Pop holding his reins, which was quite a way for little legs. The route back down the hill brought us through the adventure playground. This is a fantastic area for kids (and grown-ups!) of all ages. There are climbing frames and swings, but also some more unusual pieces of playground equipment including an Archimedes screw that picks up water from a stream and drops it off onto a wooden run which you can dam up in places and then release the water. Andrew was fascinated by this, and Joel liked the look of it so much that he climbed in! There is also an area of the park with gravel that you can shovel into buckets and tubes and then lift them up using pulleys onto the climbing frame which has chutes where you can drop the gravel down again. This was also popular with the boys — the adults as well as the kids!

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At this point we were nearly back down to the start again. Once we’d had a good go on the playground, we decided that we’d all earned a nice drink and snack in the cafe. Clearly everyone else had thought this too so it was packed, but it was just about warm enough to sit outside with coats on, and actually we got a lovely view of the bird feeders hanging near the cafe, which were attracting lots of little birds to the seeds.

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We had a lovely day out, and learned some interesting facts about the forest and its wildlife. Did we find the Gruffalo? Well no, but didn’t you know, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo! 😉

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Triathlon result!

Thursday was the big day: Andrew completed his mini toddler triathlon in aid of Sport Relief. I said last week that I would blog about how it went, so here I am!

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I think both boys might have been expecting some boat rowing to feature in the events too 😉

We set off just before 9am to Newbold Comyn Leisure Centre in Leamington for the aquatic bit. After filling in a form to give us permission to take photos, we got changed and Andrew kept his t-shirt on over his costume so we could take some photos with it on the poolside. He was keen to jump i, so while Granny got into position to take some action shots on her camera, the boys and I got into the pool at the ‘beach’ side, and made our way across to the side wall. Andrew swam with his noodle float all the way across to the other side and back again, encouraged by me a few steps ahead of him, holding Joel who was laughing him on too. Despite an almost detour around the island in the pool, he achieved two full widths of the pool, which is about 20m in total. After that we had our usual fun swimming, and Granny joined us in the water so we could each keep an eye on one boy whilst they were swimming and splashing.

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When we’d finished, it was time for a quick refuel and then back home for some rest and lunch. Once we were ready again, we headed out to the Memorial Park in Coventry. Andrew’s task was to ride his bike over there, around the top field in the park, and back home again – approximately 1 mile in total. While we were there, he also completed his run – approximately 500m across the top field. This was the part that he needed the most encouragement for, I think he was getting tired, but I jogged too and cheered him on.

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He can’t have been that tired though, because he still had an extra reserve of energy for his usual go on the playground too! This brought a welcome opportunity for Joel to burn some more energy too, as he’d been in the sling for the bike riding and running. We stayed at the park until it started to rain and everyone was getting worn out. Andrew completed his cycle home and then enjoyed a special treat snack and drink whilst chilling out on the sofa.

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So there we go: one mini triathlon complete, one very tired but happy athlete having spent the day doing what he loves – burning energy in the pool and the park! And that’s what Sport Relief is all about – getting active, having fun, and raising life-changing cash.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about our 3 year old’s sporting challenge, please consider donating whatever you can to Sport Relief via our Just Giving page. To find out how the money will be spent by Comic Relief, have a look here. Thank you!

Also linking this post up, as usual, with the fab #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Coombe Country Park – #Country Kids

This week the boys and I went to Coombe Country Park near Coventry – a park that I used to go to quite a lot as a child. It’s changed over the generation in terms of the details like playgrounds and the visitor centre, but overall it’s still the same big country park that I remember. Coombe park is home to Coombe Abbey, which was built as a monastery in the 12th century and later became a royal home following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. For several generations it was owned by the Earls of Craven, and then was bought by the city council in the 1960s and the grounds were opened up as a park. The old building is now a hotel that is a popular venue for weddings.

The park a fantastic space for the boys to explore, including a playground that’s perfect for the two of them, and plenty of paths and open space to run and ride bikes on. Last week I wrote about how Andrew is coming along well with his pedal bike, but when I’m on my own with them both, it’s better for all of us if he’s still on the balance bike, because he still needs help from me for his pedal bike and Joel gets everywhere so needs my constant attention.

The first exciting thing that we came to when we got out of the car in the car park was a load of HUGE puddles! More like mini lakes than puddles really, which the boys of course loved to wade/cycle in. Andrew even got one of his wellies stuck in some hidden mud in a puddle at one point, so I had to wade in and rescue him! Good job I had wellies on too.

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There is an impressive long driveway leading up to the hotel, lined on both sides with a row of trees. It was a beautiful sunny (though chilly) day, and we noticed that there were plenty of spring flowers popping up underneath the trees – daffodils and crocuses were what we spotted. The shadows that the trees were creating on the grass were fascinating for the boys, gently swaying as the trees moved in the cool breeze.

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The next exciting thing that we came to was the playground. This is new since I used to come here, and the boys love it. They particularly like the little huts to sit down in at the top of the climbing frames. There are also plenty of bridges to walk across and slides to shoot down. It is well suited to their age range, as well as to older children. In the week it’s pretty quiet, and we had this practically to ourselves until our friends came to meet us.

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After a good hour on the playground, we went for a walk/ride around the park. I didn’t get loads of photos of the walk this time, because I was chatting to our friends and trying to keep Andrew in sight (easier said than done on his bike!) because there are a couple of lakes and streams. We forgot some bread to feed the ducks this time, but usually the lake in front of the hotel is a great place to do this and the boys enjoy it. This week there was plenty of mud to squelch through in the woods and in the open field at the far end of the park. We all got well and truly covered!

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Once we’d made our way back to the visitor’s centre near the playground, it was time for lunch, and we’d decided to eat in the cafe there with our friends. I’ve not eaten there before but it was very reasonable – good simple sandwiches and hot snacks like beans/egg on toast – we paid less than £10 for the 3 of us to eat. In the visitor’s centre opposite the cafe there is a room for kids that has various activities where they can learn all about the wildlife and nature of the park. Andrew particularly likes the game of snakes and ladders with the spinny wheel for dice, and there are lots of things to do like colouring and sensory experiences. It is very well done and we found it hard to drag our toddlers away from this when we had to go.

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All in all it was a fantastic morning-to-lunch out – I think it’s a sign that we’ve had good fun when we have to leave our wellies outside when we get home because they are still so muddy underneath despite trying to wash them in puddles! I’m sure we’ll be back there many more times as the boys grow up, just like when I was growing up.

As usual I’m linking up with the lovely #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog – which is particularly appropriate this week on the grounds of names!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

 

Fun in the winter sun at National Trust Baddesley Clinton – #CountryKids

Each week Granny has one day that she doesn’t work, and since we’ve been staying with her and Grandad, she’s mainly been spending that day with us. A couple of times she’s helped us go and look at pre-schools (i.e. she’s looked after Joel whilst Andrew and I went in to have a look round), and most often we’ve been swimming because that’s something I can’t do on my own with 2 toddlers and we love a good swim. But as this week was half term, we figured that the pool would be much busier than the usual quiet parent and tots session, so we decided to visit a local National Trust property instead, especially as the weather was so nice and sunny.

We’d seen that there were welly walks advertised through the NT app at both Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton in the afternoon, but as the boys were due a nap in the afternoon, we headed off first thing in the morning to Baddesley Clinton, thinking that we could just do our own welly walk through the lovely grounds there. When we arrived it was lovely and quiet, and as we walked off around the outside of the house there was nobody else in sight.

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The house is interesting because it is surrounded by a moat, and this fascinated Andrew, particularly as there were ducks swimming in it. There were also plenty of puddles to splash in on the path by the moat, so this satisfied the boys’ desire to get wet without resorting to jumping in the moat! We then continued on a path beyond the house, which took us around a lake surrounded by trees. It was so beautiful – the sun glistening on the water and the trees reflecting in the calm lake. We came to a few bridges too, across streams leading into/out of the lake, which the boys loved. They both did really well at walking, though Joel’s little legs didn’t quite make it all the way round before he wanted up onto my back.

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Andrew collected a couple of sticks, as usual, and we came back round towards the house on the other side of it. There was a lovely patch of snow drops and the birds were out in full force, tweeting away in the tree-tops. With these and the sun, it really felt like a spring day compared to all the wet days we’ve had recently, though it was a bit nippy out of the sun.

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As we walked through the more formal, walled bit of garden, Andrew was getting tired, so we spurred him on with the thought of a drink and snack in the tea room – it was only 10.30 by this point. You really can’t go wrong with home baked National Trust goodies. We shared a cupcake, gingerbread lady and shortbread biscuit between us; they went down well.

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By the time we’d finished, the house was then open, so we headed across there to have a look around. The boys aren’t really old enough to appreciate much of it, but they enjoyed having a brief explore through the old rooms with uneven floors and interesting objects. There was an activity for kids – a welly hunt – so Andrew was tasked with spotting all the little pictures of wellies as we walked around. Unfortunately I didn’t get many photos inside as you’re not allowed to use flash and I was too busy holding hands with one of the boys. But I did just about capture them on camera in the last room where there was a dressing up box with period clothes in – they loved putting some hats on.

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After this, we fed the ducks with some bread that another family gave us, and then we took another short walk down to the field at the front of the estate, to see the sheep and the tractor that was driving about. Andrew was also fascinated by what looked like a local electricity generator (I’m no expert, but there was one of those ‘danger of death’ signs that I associate with electricity) – in his words: “look Mummy, it’s a lightening, a lightening”!

By this time though, the boys were clearly very tired, and we knew that the car journey home and some lunch before nap would be a good idea at this point. There was just enough time to go back via the shop and claim our prize for counting the wellies in the house – a sticker for Andrew – and buy the usual bouncy ball souvenir, which Granny and Grandad always buy for them at a National Trust property.

It was a fantastic morning out in the fresh air and almost spring-like sunshine. The grounds and house were perfect for little legs to explore, and when we move to south Birmingham, this will be one of our local properties, so I’m sure we will be back many a time in the future.

Linking up with Coombe Mill’s fantastic Country Kids linky as usual – pop over there to read about others’ outdoor family fun.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Conkers: a fun family day out – #CountryKids

For his birthday, Tom was given a family ticket to the Conkers centre near Ashby de la Zouch. My Grandma had seen an offer online and decided to buy this for Tom for us all to enjoy. We had to use the ticket within 30 days of its purchase, so despite the slightly dodgy looking weather forecast, we decided to go for it this weekend, because there was no guarantee it would be any better next week when we had to use it by. But actually I think we picked a good time of year to go – it was very quiet, there were hardly any cars in the car park when we arrived and left, and this meant we had lots of parts to ourselves or with very few others around; I can imagine it gets packed on a warm sunny day and we’d have had to queue for the train ride, for example.

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We started off by walking out of the main entrance building – the Discovery Centre – and around the edge of the lake that’s just in front of it. As we neared the train station, a train was just pulling up, and as there was no queue, just one family on the platform getting on board, we decided to hop on it there and then – once Andrew has seen a train, it’s very hard to drag him away again anyway. It was a lovely little ride, and the boys enjoyed looking out at the trees, tracks, tunnels and other bits of the park that we could see. This took us to the other side of the park, to the Waterside Centre.

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Right next to this station is a huge adventure playground, with equipment for all ages from toddlers to pre-teens. The boys were off there as soon as they dashed off the train, trying to climb up the tall towers first before coming back down to the climbing frame and swings that were more their size. Andrew likes watching older kids on aerial runways, so although he felt he was too small for the long one here, he was happy to watch me have a go and cheer me on! We stayed here for a good half hour or so, with a few intermittent spots of rain, and other people coming and going during that time.

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Next we went into the Waterside Centre, mainly to use the toilets and nappy change facilities, which were all very quiet too. We spotted a table with a craft activity going on downstairs, so we took a look – they were indeed providing the materials to make your own Gruffalo mask! As Andrew is a big fun of the Gruffalo (I thought there was no such thing?!), we had to stop and make our own, which was just right for his age, with some help from me to read the instructions and direct him with the glue. We also spotted a table next to the craft which had all the culinary dishes mentioned in the Gruffalo book – roasted fox, scrambled snake and Gruffalo crumble – made out of junk modelling stuff and papier mache. They were brilliant, just how you could imagine a Gruffalo meal looking.

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Then it was time to go back outdoors for a bit, and walk along the trails on this side of the park. We walked around another small lake, then into the woods. It looked like a great place to build dens and play hide and seek, particularly in the summer when the trees would have leaves on and cover the area with foliage more than on this winter’s day. The path was suitable for a buggy, though we used the buggy for transporting our bags rather than the boys – they both walked some of the distance, and then one by one they got up onto our backs/shoulders as they got tired. It was just the right length of walk for us with kids whose legs are on the smaller side, though there are many more paths to explore on the other side of the park near the Discovery Centre, which is bigger than this side.

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We came to an opening with a covered outdoor amphitheatre. This is where we had planned to eat our picnic lunch, after I’d tweeted the centre the day before and asked if they had anywhere sheltered to have a picnic. This was a good recommendation – it kept us sheltered from the wind and kept Andrew amused with all the steps up and down that he insisted on doing whilst eating his sandwiches! There was of course plenty of space to sit down; nobody even walked through the amphitheatre whilst we were sat eating, looking terribly British with our outdoor picnic in winter.

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Having done a fair amount of what was on offer over this way, we headed back to the train which took us back to the other side of the park. Again there was just one other family and us on the ride. The rain became more set in as we got off the train and walked around the lake where we had started off the day, but it didn’t really bother us – we were all togged up, and Andrew had a whale of a time jumping in some awesome puddles that came to the top of his wellies in places. One place we could shelter for a bit was a covered viewing tower with a view across the park. The boys enjoyed going up the stairs, and we could hardly drag Andrew away, as he insisted that he wanted to keep going up and down them over and over again.

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We looked on the map that we’d been given at the entrance, and noticed that there was a labyrinth a little further round, which was enough to entice Andrew away from the fascinating steps of the viewing tower. He had done a lot of walking though, and at this point he got into the buggy for a ride around the labyrinth. There was a ‘spot the fairy’ activity as we went round, and Andrew was put in charge of counting up the fairies pinned to the walls. It was quite a long maze; at each turn we wondered how far it would be until the end, but eventually we came to the middle – a fairy house.

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As everyone was getting tired, we headed back to the Discovery Centre for some indoor fun. There is a lot to see and do in there! We learned all about different aspects of the environment in the fantastic hands-on exhibition. The giant model of a leaf was particularly popular with the boys, as we got to stand inside it and look at the cells and press buttons to see the various parts that air, water and sugar pass through – this took me back to A-level biology, this would have been a great place to go to get to grips with plant cell functions. I can imagine that this gets used for school trips in the week, it’s an interesting place to learn and all done very thoughtfully. Of course our boys didn’t learn as much detail as older kids would, but it was accessible on many levels, and they just loved looking at all the interactive displays and getting the sensory experiences.

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In amongst the educational bits, there is an ‘enchanted forest’ soft play area, up above some of the displays in a dimly lit (but in a good, mystical way) environment. It was only suitable for preschoolers upwards, so Andrew went up (with a bit of help from me to begin with to suss it out before he knew it was fine on his own), and Joel stayed down with Daddy, running around the fun exhibits, and finding the toddler play-tree in the cafe. Again, the soft play was all really well thought out, with lots of enclosed rope bridges and bits to climb over as if he was in the tree tops. Considering he had been flagging outside, he managed to regain a fair amount of energy to run off in the soft play – he always has a reserve of energy for soft play it seems.

There was also a Pirate entertainer hanging around in the big foyer, but unfortunately we weren’t there at quite the right time for his shows, though Andrew did get very excited about the balloon sword that he got from the Pirate’s stall. As Joel hadn’t napped all day, we knew that he was getting exhausted with all the running around, and decided to slowly head back to the car. It was hard to drag Andrew away, but the encouragement of a drink and a biscuit was a help, and he’d earned it with all his running around too. There was just enough time to call in at the gift shop and buy the inevitable bouncy ball – the boys’ favourite kind of toy souvenir.

All in all it was a fab day out, with activities indoors and outdoors for children of all ages. It’s well worth the entrance fee (which we of course received as a present). If you live near enough, there is even a yearly members’ ticket, which I think would be worth it if you could go more often than us. We will definitely be back again, and when the boys are a bit older, there will be different things for them to enjoy and get out of it.

Disclaimer: I received no incentive to write this post, and the views expressed are my honest opinions of our day out.

Winter garden fun – #CountryKids

There are many reasons why we are enjoying living at Granny and Grandad’s house temporarily. One of these is the fact that they have a nice garden with lots of space to play. Having come from a flat, though we were lucky enough to have almost sole use of the communal garden there, it’s a real luxury just to be able to open the door and run out to play, knowing that the boys are fully enclosed. With the weather being so rubbish this week, and us being ill at the start of the week, it’s been good just to be able to get out between showers without going too far and getting drenched.

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The boys’ main point of interest this week and last has been the slide that Andrew got for his birthday. I know they like slides at the park, but I guess with other equipment there the fun gets spread around, whereas in the garden this is THE thing to climb on! (They haven’t taken to climbing the trees…yet!) I love how kids like nothing better than repetition – somehow doing the same thing over and over again entertains them for hours. Andrew can of course do it entirely unaided, and how dare I offer to help! Going down on your bottom forwards is for wimps, so instead we see all angles attempted, though some (like head first on tummy) he’s discovered aren’t too comfortable. Joel tries to do the whole slide thing himself, and has a good go, but as it’s really meant for 2-6 year olds, the steps are quite big for him, and an arm stretched out to Mummy appears. He’s not afraid of the relatively steep drop for his size though, and laughs as he whooshes down.

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Although the slide is brand new, the older garden toys still get a look in. Joel is particularly fond of the seesaw, probably because it’s just the right height for him to get on and off himself, which isn’t the case at the park. What you see behind the seesaw in the pictures just below is a Little Tikes toy kitchen – there’s a bit of a story behind how we acquired this… Granny and Grandad were walking down the road near to home one day and spotted this kitchen in a skip on the drive of a house. It looked in perfect working order, if a little grubby, so they knocked on the door and asked politely if there was any chance they could have it. The man at the door said of course they could, it used to be for their grandchildren but they have now grown up, and he even offered to drop it round to our house in his van! So with a bit of a clean up with the hose, it’s now got a new home to get loved by another set of grandchildren, who love playing with (toy) kitchens. Those are the pots and pans that came with it scattered on the grass. A good bit of recycling that would otherwise have ended up at the tip.

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Talking of recycling, the boys are always fascinated by cardboard boxes and other such ‘interesting’ bits of rubbish. The slide came in a big box, which when flattened out on the grass became a ‘trampoline’ for a while. They had great fun jumping up and down on it, rolling balls over it and generally treating it like a toy rather than something to go in the recycling box. It’s amazing how far a little imagination can go when it comes to cardboard!

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It’s particularly good to have an enclosed space outdoors for Joel, because he is surprisingly fast for his age and I find I need eyes in the back of my head when out with the two of them on my own at the park. Of course he can still get into mischief in the garden – like when he takes an interest in the compost bins (pictured bottom right below) – but generally it’s a pretty child proof environment. On this particular day he was getting tired towards the end of our play outside, so at one point just lay down on the grass and kicked his legs in the air – pity he never adopts this pose when I’m actually trying to change his nappy rather than running off immediately!

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Another of Andrew’s favourite ‘toys’ that isn’t a toy is the water butt and watering can combo. Ever since he learned how to get water out of the tap on the butt, he’s keen to water the plants at every opportunity, even if they clearly don’t need watering (he obviously hasn’t realised how much rain we’ve had recently!) But despite the fact that he didn’t really need to water the garden, it was alright to be emptying some water from the butt, because there was a blockage at some point between the two butts (one doesn’t have a tap on so just flows into the other, if all is well) and Grandad needed us to get rid of a bit of water so he could investigate. So we filled a few watering cans and poured them onto the garden or then down the drain once the plants were well and truly saturated. Andrew took charge, showing Joel how it’s done.

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No post about garden fun could be complete without a word on the various forms of food and drink that are on offer for local wildlife, mainly birds, though squirrels get their oar in too, and Grandad has created a ‘hedgehog home’ out of scraps of tree and other foliage at the back of the garden (which you can just about make out in the bottom left picture below).Andrew is often intrigued by the nut holders and other equipment that is rigged up on the lawn, and likes to help Grandad mend it and top up the food/water when necessary. There’s even a tray on the lawn at their height for putting food out like scraps of bread and fat (pictured on the top left). I could write a whole post about bird watching with kids in this garden, or better still get Grandad to write it – he blogs at Garden Twitter.

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Although it’s been cold and wet recently, we’ve still had fun togged up in the garden whenever we can, and now the evenings are getting noticeably lighter, it’s so positive to be able to get out even after afternoon naps for an hour or so. Roll on spring! We’re also looking forward to having a garden at our new house, where the new slide will live and where I’m sure we’ll have many more good outdoor times to come.

I’m linking up with the fabulous Coombe Mill blog for #CountryKids again this week.

Toddler fun at the skate park – #CountryKids

Just a quick post from me this week about our outdoor adventures. I’m still not finding loads of time to blog in amongst the boys not napping consistently and trying to sort out house things plus finding out about the local area of where we will (hopefully, if the sale goes through) live. But I had to share this outing that we had to the local park one bright and crisp morning this week. We’ve been here a lot, as it is rather handily just a short walk from Granny and Grandad’s house, and is perfect for bike riding.

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One part that we haven’t been in for a while is the skate park. As there was nobody else there, Andrew was keen to go in. At first I thought he wanted to ride his bike in there, and so I was hesitant to agree to this. But then he told me that he wanted to play with his ball in there, which sounded like a much safer idea! So we went in, and he absolutely loved it. I couldn’t believe how much fun he had with some concrete ramps and a small yellow ball. This free form of entertainment kept him busy for ages – placing the ball near the top of a ramp, watching it roll down and up the opposite side, and running after it – again and again and again! His giggles were amazing, he clearly enjoyed himself a lot.

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We did have to watch out for a few icy patches, but we just kept to the ramps that we could see had been in the sun longer and therefore the ice on them had melted. It was me who had to drag him away, because we needed to get home for when a work man was coming to fix a window, but we will definitely be back for some more toddler-suitable fun in a place that generally lies empty when all the big skateboarding and bmx-ing kids are at school (though I’m sure Andrew will love to do that himself one day, if his current love of bike riding is anything to go by).

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I also can’t forget to share a couple of pictures from elsewhere in the park that morning. First up is the ‘sand windmill’ that he is fascinated by – the sand was particularly hard and crunchy with the ice, so a great sensory experience for him as he picked some up to make the wheel go round and round (Joel was too tired to be out with him here, so was snuggled in the sling on my back).

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And second is the ‘numbers snail’ that he likes to walk around, starting at number 1 and counting up as he goes around the spiral up to 25. So being outdoors can be just as educational as staying at home with books and toys (though of course we like doing that too once we’re home). I love the shadows in this picture too – little Andrew, tall Mummy, and Joel’s head peaking over my shoulder 🙂

Christmas holiday outdoor fun – #CountryKids

For the past week or so, I’ve been wanting to write about the outdoor fun that we had over Christmas with Grandma and Pop down in Plymouth, but Joel isn’t sleeping very well at the moment – especially a distinct lack of naps in the daytime which means he’s very grumpy by tea time and often falls asleep in his high chair. This has left me with little time or energy after trying to help him nap using various means, so blogging hasn’t been possible. Plus we’ve been busy house hunting, which also leaves me with little time or energy! So finally, here is what we got up to outdoors over Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, the weather forecast said it would be windy but generally dry with the odd shower. We decided to head not too far down the road to Mount Batten, which is on the coast looking over the estuary towards Plymouth city centre. There is a good wide path next to the water and a barrier, so it was a good place to take Andrew’s bike, and there is also a park a little way up the hill which has a great view over the sea. We togged up with waterproofs and woolies to guard against rain and wind, and I should say that this was well before any of the high tides that were really dangerous in the south west after Christmas, as we would never have dared to go that close to the water then.

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Andrew absolutely loved the chance to ride his bike, as he always does, and particularly as it was near the sea and river. Joel was tired so he mainly stayed in the buggy with the rain cover on as a wind barrier so he could have a snooze. When we got to the park though, he livened up and was keen to have a go himself, chasing after Andrew and following him onto the swings and slides. The park was just the right size for toddlers, so they were very happy. On our way back from the park to the car, we saw a lovely seal asleep on a lifeboat platform near the yacht yard on Mount Batten. Apparently harbour seals are quite common here, and this one looked very happy snoozing on the warm rubber platform.

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On Christmas day, our time outdoors was a walk to church and back, and with all the festivities, there wasn’t time for a trip to a park. So on Boxing day, we headed over to the boys’ uncle and aunt’s house, firstly to see their pets – a lovely rabbit and 2 lively degus – and then for a walk down to the Tamar Bridge at the end of their road. Again, Andrew rode his bike whilst we all walked/jogged after him! First we headed down to the river shore underneath the bridge, where we also found a small park (only a couple of swings remain where there used to be a bigger park next to the river). Then we walked back up the steep hill (Andrew walked rather than rode his bike up), and then across the pedestrian side of the Tamar Bridge. In fact there is a split path – half for pedestrians and half for cyclists, so Andrew took to the side with the picture of a bike on, and rightly so! Joel wanted to walk, so he took to the side with the picture of a person on. It was a lovely bright day, and we all enjoyed getting out for some fresh air and exercise.

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The day after Boxing day was our last full day down there, and as the weather was still generally fine, we decided to head to another park. Grandma and Pop had noticed a new park at one of the coastal villages – Newton Ferrars – down the road from their side of Plymouth when they were out walking there one day previously. They knew that the boys would like it and thought it was a bit different from the local ones to them because it was all made out of wood rather than metal. And they were right, it was very popular! It was a bit wet underfoot, so again we had to tog the boys up with full waterproofs, but they loved it. There were a couple of slides (one small enough for Joel and one perfectly sized for Andrew), swings, a climbing frame in the shape of a pirate ship, a bridge with holes in that you have to step over, sand with buckets to play with it and lots more.

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The added bonus of this park was the lovely view that we got looking across to the village centre on the waterfront – another estuary reaching into the sea. Once we’d finished in the park, we walked through the woods – where Andrew did some off-road biking, and then walked down to the water to admire the pretty view.

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All in all we had great outdoor fun over Christmas, at places very local to where we were staying, where Andrew could ride his bike, Joel could have a toddle, and both could play on the playgrounds – nothing fancy, just good outdoor family fun.

Woodland discovery area – #CountryKids

Following on from my post last week about the woodland art activity that we did after one of our many trips to our local National Trust property, Anglesey Abbey, I thouht I’d write a bit more about the woodland discovery area there, because recently Andrew has got very into exploring it.

The property has extensive grounds that range from formal gardens to informal fields to wild woodland. Once you enter the grounds, there are signs that point the way to the woodland, which is at the far end of the grounds relative to the entrance. The signs are made from natural materials, such as cared wood and painted rocks and stones. Andrew particularly likes the rocks painted as ladybirds that signal one of the entrances to the area.

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Once inside, there are many activities to keep an active, or even less active, toddler amused for quite a while. Near the entrance, we enjoy the stepping stones, and the branches that hang from a rope that you can ‘chime’ with another branch like a xylophone and play a ‘tune’. Then as we venture further in, never taking quite the same path, we come across the tree house and the pirate ship, both built up around trees using wood, and which are perfect for a toddler who likes to climb up steps (with help of course).

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One of our recent trips was at the time of a scarecrow competition – local schools had made and displayed scarecrows in various categories like ‘the best dressed’ and ‘the scariest’ scarecrow. So that was fun to see their creations as we wandered through the woods.

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We also like the places that you can sit and have a rest (well I do, Andrew sits for about 10 seconds before turning the benches into climbing frames!) There are a few circles with benches made out of logs, one has a ‘tent’ made out of willow branches over the top, and one has a story telling cupboard inside – it’s actually a hollowed out tree stump with a hinged door fitted into the bark, and inside there are various costumes and props that you can use for telling stories. Andrew chose to be Little Red Riding Hood on one of our visits.

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Of course I can’t forget the hut where we saw the picture frames that inspired us to make our own. Inside there are lots of crayons, paper and other craft materials that you can use to be creative in this middle of the woods location. Not that Andrew is too interested on one activity for more than a few minutes, but I think this is a lovely idea for slightly older children who like to stop running around for more than 5 minutes!

Even though we’ve been to the woodland discovery area several times, both before and since children, I still don’t think we’ve discovered every single part of what’s on offer there. It is extensive and has so much to offer for all ages from baby to grandparent (though I don’t think we’ve been to that bit with the boys’ grandparents – we must do that!) I’d definitely recommend it for a day out.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall