Wembury rock pools – #CountryKids

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.

Wembury 1

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.

Wembury 2

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.

Wembury 3

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.

Wembury 4

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

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Pennywell farm – #CountryKids

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!

Pennywell 1

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.

Pennywell 2

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!

Pennywell 3

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.

Pennywell 4

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
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Brockhole Visitor Centre, Lake District – #CountryKids

I know I seem to be stringing out posts from our holiday in the Lake District just before Easter, but we had so much outdoor fun, that I really want to share it all and give each place a post of its own. Today I’m writing about Brockhole Visitor Centre near Ambleside on the shores of Windermere. We’ve been there every year whilst holidaying in the Lakes since we’ve had kids, because it’s a fantastic place for families. This year was the busiest I’ve seen it, probably because it was just before the Easter bank holiday weekend, and usually we don’t go during the North England school holidays. But there was still plenty of space and it didn’t feel ‘too’ busy, just more people than we’re used to when visiting.

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This year was the first that Andrew was really keen to go on all parts of the playground. It’s not far from the entrance, and as soon as he saw it, he rode his bike straight over there, ditched the bike, and ran up onto the boat climbing frame, which looks like one of the steamers that go out on Windermere. Once Joel was down from my back, he too followed and climbed up onto the boat using the stairs. In the playground there are the usual swings and slides, plus various climbing frames and other equipment, suitable for all ages. Being his usual daring self, Andrew all of a sudden shot up the big kids’ climbing frame and was swinging across rope bridges in the tree tops (all with safety nets, he couldn’t actually go anywhere downwards), then he came down the tube slide, which he was very proud of because he’d previously been put off one that was too fast for him.

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Joel was happy with the little kids’ stuff – swings and small slides as well as generally pottering about and watching the older kids play. We stayed there at the adventure playground for nearly an hour. Grandma and Pop were due to meet us at Brockhole a bit later than we’d got there because they were dropping the boys’ aunt at the station to go home, so it was handy to wait in the playground near the entrance until they turned up nearly an hour later in the end. Opposite the playground, we’d noticed that there was a small, temporary bmx bike track set up for kids to have a go on, and there were some older children having a go on the bikes provided. I wandered over to ask if Andrew, at 3 years old, could have a go using his own bike, and they said of course he could. So when we managed to drag him away fro the playground, we headed over to the bike track. It was on the grass, so quite hard for him to pedal, but with Daddy’s help, he completed the course no problem, and the guys running it were amazed how well he was doing without stabilisers for a 3 year old.

Brockhole 3 jpg

After the fun of the bike course, we carried on with Andrew riding his bike, and took the path that leads round by the shore of the lake. It’s always hard to keep up with him these days, but Daddy just about managed it with a jog whilst the rest of us trailed a little further behind. The weather wasn’t quite so nice as it had been that day, so the lake was very choppy and high winds were blowing on shore making it quite chilly on the lakeside. This didn’t perturb the boys though, who as soon as they saw the crazy golf course, wanted to have a go. There weren’t many other people playing (not surprising given the weather), so we said that we’d go and get a couple of clubs and balls from the centre and they could ‘play’. And by ‘play’ I mean not score or do it properly, but just whack the ball with the stick wherever you can, sometimes picking up with your hands if that’s easier to get around obstacles! Crazy golf really is cray when our boys are playing it! It was great fun though, and Andrew didn’t want to leave it when we said that we should carry on because we were all getting tired and hungry for lunch.

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Despite the wind down by the lake, we found that up by the visitor centre building itself was much calmer weather-wise, and behind the building was even more sheltered. There we found a ‘picnic’ area with a few logs to sit on, which was a perfect place to eat our lunch. We decided after this to head back to the house, because we had packing to do for the journey home the next day, and the boys were both tired, so much so that they both napped on the way home – it hardly happens for Andrew these days.

In previous years we have gone into the centre and looked around the child-friendly exhibition all about the Lake District history and geography, and also had a drink in the lovely cafe there. But it was much busier this year and the boys were perfectly happy to spend all the time we had there outside. We’ll definitely be back in future years, it’s a great place to keep going back to.

Linking up with the fab #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog as usual 🙂

A walk around Rydal Water – #CountryKids

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.

Rydal 1 jpg

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.

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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.

Rydal 3 jpg

Linking up with the fab #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Derwent water & Friars Cragg – #CountryKids

Well we’ve made it up to the lovely Lake District for our annual Easter holiday here. Since our journey in the car was quite long yesterday, especially for the boys and an even longer one for Grandma and Pop who came all the way from Devon, we decided that a quiet day walking from home rather than going in the car was in order for us all. So we headed off into Keswick town centre, just 10 minutes walk from the house. We had a look at the market, looked in a few shop windows – including the Peter Rabbit shop, and then wandered down to the lake – Derwent Water – just beyond the town centre. We walked through Hope Park on the way, and found a special path over a stream with stepping stones.

Keswick Collage 1

There are lots of ducks, geese and swans that congregate on the shore at the top of the lake. Luckily for them, we’d taken some food and the boys started throwing food for them to eat, being careful of the slightly menacing-looking swan. The ducks didn’t seem too bothered, but I guess they are well fed by all the tourists who go to feed them every day. Joel seemed more interested in the water and the boats, whilst Andrew was concerned with the bird-life, walking up to ducks and giving them food. I remember he did similar last year, and couldn’t understand why the ducks ran away from him as he tried to walk up to them and get close to feed them. Some things never change!

Keswick Collage 2

As we walked on further, Andrew started to get tired, he had walked all the way from home so it wasn’t bad going, so he hopped up into his sling. Meanwhile Joel was happy to stay down from his sling where he’d been since we left home until arriving at the lake, and he had more of a walk along the lakeside. After a few more minutes walk, we came to Friars Cragg, a rocky outcrop into the lake, where you get amazing views over Derwent Water and the surrounding fells. The land here and other areas around the lake are owned by the National Trust, so they are well maintained and great to walk in. The weather wasn’t brilliant, but I quite like the scenery with threatening clouds, it still looks beautiful.

Keswick Collage 3

After we’d admired the views and taken a few photos, both boys got into their slings and we heeded back into town. Granny and Grandma kindly offered to buy Andrew something from the National Trust gift shop – a bouncy caterpillar and a sticker book. We walked back through Hope Park again, and tried to go in the cafe there but it was full! So we headed to another cafe in town that has a handy toy corner, which the boys really enjoyed in between sips of drink and mouthfuls of yummy shortbread biscuit.

Keswick Collage 4

On our way back home, we had more of a look at the market and bought a few bits and bobs between us. The boys were well and truly shattered and we’d all had a good lot of fresh air, so after some warming soup for lunch, we had a restful afternoon, before heading back out to the park with Andrew’s bike later in the afternoon. He rode it almost all the way back from the park on his own, no hands from Daddy, so he’s definitely got more confidence and won’t be going back to the balance bike now.

Linking up as usual with the fab #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s lovely blog

 
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Are we there yet?

I’ve recently handed over my role as Editor of The Voice, quarterly magazine of the Cambridge branch of the NCT. I very much enjoyed volunteering for the charity in this way, but it was time to move on being as we no longer live in Cambridge and I would like to take on other things (mainly Sewn Down Purple Lane). During my time as Editor, I wrote quite a few articles, some of which I think are relevant beyond just Cambridge, so I thought I’d share some on this blog. First up is an article I wrote recently about our experience of long distance car travel with little ones. I hope you find it useful if you’re planning a long journey with young children soon.

The location of our boys’ grandparents’ (holiday) homes – Devon, West Midlands and Lake District – means that we’ve done our fair share of middle-to-long distance car journeys with them at various ages. Before kids, we used to catch the train down to Devon, but as the route means two (overground) trains as well as hopping on the tube across London, we haven’t fancied that with a baby, toddler, or baby and toddler, plus all the paraphernalia that travels with them for a week away. Cross-country (i.e. not through London) train services to the Midlands aren’t something we enjoyed even without kids. And for the Lakes, it’s handy to have our own car for getting around once we’re up there

Cumming car 1

Planning ahead

The first time we attempted the Midlands trip – which takes about 1 hour 45 minutes in good traffic – with each baby, they were 2-3 months old. As they were still quite unpredictable with feeding and sleeping, we couldn’t really tell when was the best time of day to travel from their point of view, so we just went for it and ended up stopping for a feeding break or two, even though we’d normally do this distance in one run.

For about the first 6 months or so, neither of them liked being in a car seat for very long awake, so we took it in turns to sit in the back and try to keep them calm and reassure them. Joel didn’t seem as distressed as Andrew did at the same age, probably because he had his big brother in the back with him too, pulling silly faces and chucking toys at him! If you have to drive alone with a rear-facing baby in the back, a mirror attached to the back seat’s headrest means they can see your face reflected in your rear-view mirror.

As they got older, we would usually time our journey for when they would normally nap or sleep (early afternoon or evening), since they both started to sleep well in the car, though Andrew is less likely to drop off now that he’s just turned 3. But neither of them have slept for the entire journey to Devon or the Lakes – about 6-7 hours with a couple of breaks in good traffic.

Entertainment central

Cumming car 2So what to do during awake time? As babies, toys attached to the car seat were handy, so when they inevitably got thrown out, whoever was sitting in the back could easily retrieve them. It’s also amazing how long games like ‘peekaboo’ and ‘pulling silly faces’ can entertain a bored baby in a car.

One of our best buys since having kids has been our in-car DVD player for long journeys from around the age of 1. It attaches to the back of the driver’s/front passenger’s headrest for back passengers to view, or on the back seat’s headrest if baby/toddler is still rear facing. I have also heard of iPads/tablets (which we don’t have) and a car headrest holder (available to buy online) serving the same purpose. The novelty of a new (to us) DVD or one not watched for a while has worked wonders at entertaining them in the car. Of course music CDs go down well too.

So far Andrew seems to be fine at reading on the go (something which makes me car sick), so a new magazine does the trick of amusing him for a good hour or so. We’ve also just got into playing the simple game of ‘spot the [insert colour] car [or other common/rare vehicle]’, particularly in slower moving traffic, and this encourages him to look out of the window and take in our surroundings. As much as we don’t like being stuck in traffic, watching out for emergency vehicles if there has been an accident is very exciting for a vehicle-obsessed toddler.

As they get older, I’m looking forward to playing more games, some of which we used to play as children on long car journeys, for example ‘I spy’ or making words with the letters on registration plates, and some of which I have discovered from friends or the book Are we there yet? by Jo Pink. One friend of my parents, who has two girls a few years older than Andrew, takes an Argos catalogue for each daughter on long car journeys: she sets the girls ‘tasks’ from the catalogue, for example they have to find the cheapest set of saucepans or the most expensive television, or they have to plan their dream bedroom or toy collection and add up how much it would all cost (if they were ever lucky enough to get it!) Apparently this keeps them amused for hours, and it’s totally free!

Expect the unexpected

Cumming car 3Apart from thinking about entertainment, it’s important to plan food, drink and other supplies when driving with little ones. We always take more than we think we’ll need, in case of hold ups, and a substantial packed lunch and other snacks mean we can eat and drink if stationary rather than having to wait to pull in at the next services. When travelling in winter we pack coats and sturdy shoes so they are easy to get at if we need to stop or were to break down. And in (warm) summer we take plenty of drinks. On that note, the potty is also handy to have close at hand

I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed every single moment of car journeys with the boys, but we’ve certainly learned how to make the most of them and try to avoid pitfalls.

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

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

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

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

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

PicMonkey Collage (1)

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

PicMonkey Collage (2) copy

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

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

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

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

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

Linking up with the lovely Country KIds linky again 🙂

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

 

 

Camels in Devon fields – wot so funee?

Things have been quiet on the blog for over a week because we’ve been away on a lovely family holiday. As much as I love blogging, I enjoy a rest from all the fun (and not so fun) things I do at home and it gives me time to reflect and think rather than write all the time. In the blogging silence, however, there has been no shortage of sounds coming from the mouths of babes, and in particular from Andrew in his toddler speech heyday.

One thing that I’ve noticed him pick up is “I said…” in the context of giving an order or, more specifically, repeating an order. This came out quite a lot on the way down to Devon. Whenever I took one of my hands off the steering wheel, for example to change gear, he noticed and ordered: “No Mummy, hold on to there, I said hold on to there!” (by ‘there’ he meant the steering wheel). At one point he even insisted that I put my hands higher up the wheel; he presumably couldn’t see them from his angle. It’s lovely that he’s so concerned for road safety, but it’s also highly annoying when I’d like to change the position of my hands on the wheel after they’ve been stuck driving in a straight line on the motorway for the past half an hour! Incidentally, he also tells me to “hold on to there” when I’m pushing his buggy with one hand instead of two, and continues reminding me until I keep two hands on the handle bar.

Another little stock phrase that he’s been slipping in is “if I like to”. He’ll usually tag it onto a request that he’s putting in to do something, for example “I can play with toys, if I like to”, which I would translate as “please can I play with some toys?” Other cases this week have included food requests, such as having a cake “if I like to”.

A couple of questions that he’s very keen on asking at the moment are “Where going to?” (translated as “where are we going?”) and “Where’s [insert noun] gone?” He started these a while before holiday, but they came out in force over the week, as he was interested to know our plans for the morning and afternoon each day and was concerned that he didn’t miss out on a thing. On the way home from an exciting adventure one day he chirped: “where’s my house gone?” We weren’t sure if he really meant our house back in Cambridge or Grandma and Pop’s house where we were staying for the holiday. So we explained that we would be going back to their house again now, and then back to ours another day. I’m not sure if he got it, but it didn’t seem to bother him again.

Andrew has been doing fairly well at potty training, but we decided that a week away with extra pairs of hands to do other stuff for us would be a great opportunity to give him full attention and crack it. And it did go very well I have to say. One morning he had done something in his potty and got up from it to tell us. Tom and I were sitting in the room at the time, and Grandma came in the front door just at that moment – she’d been out shopping. To greet her, Andrew came out with a very proud: “Andrew done poo in potty, it came out of my bottom and went doink!” What delightful news to be greeted with on your return from the shops! Looking back I don’t think I ever blogged the other classic potty quote from a while back, so I’ll throw it in here as the topic has come up: “Look Daddy, it’s like a sausage!”, as Andrew proudly showed off his potty offering to Tom one morning.

Moving on…. Andrew has had a good dose of nature this past week as we’ve spent a lot of time outdoors. (I have A LOT of material to blog about for the Country Kids linky over the next month or so.)  On our second trip to the beach, he spotted something in the sand that he’d heard about on our first trip to the beach: “Look, there’s a shelf!” No, nothing from B&Q had washed up on the beach, it was just a shell. I can see how easy it is to confuse the two words though, because the ‘f’ sound of shelf isn’t very prominent at the end of a word, and he’s probably heard us say shelf more often than shell.

Alpaca

On the way back from that beach, when Andrew was supposed to be dropping off for a nap but was slightly hyper rather than sleepy, he suddenly exclaimed: “Look, I can see camels over there!” To which we replied something along the lines of “really?!” Then I realised that he was pointing to the field of sheep in front of us, so I said something like “they’re sheep Andrew”. But he was insistent that they were camels. At first I thought he was going slightly loopy, but thinking about it later I realised where the confusion may have arisen. When we visited Coombe Mill earlier in the week, we saw some alpacas which had been shawn fairly recently, so their fluffiness looked similar to how Andrew has seen sheep who’ve recently been shawn, and of douse an alpaca also looks like a camel. I think that was his logic at least!

Finally, there came a classic line when we arrived back at Granny and Grandad’s house (our handy stop over place) on our way back from Devon. On the morning that we’d left for holiday, Andrew had been watching one of Grandad’s favourite DVDs – Thunderbirds. A week later, when we were back there and suggested that he could watch a DVD whilst I cut his hair, he asked if he could watch the same DVD of puppeteering excellence: “Wonderbirds!” Not a bad name for it I reckon – I do wonder if Andrew and his generation will wonder what on Earth it is!

Wot So Funee?

When in Germany, speak German – wot so funee?

As a birthday present for me, my parents organised and paid for the four of us and them to go away for a long weekend this week. The destination was the village where a good friend of mine lives in Germany. We have known each other since we were paired up for the exchange that was organised by our schools when we were just 14 years old (doing the maths, that means I’ve now just about known her for longer in my life than I didn’t know her!) We got on very well during our first visits to each other’s homes through the school trips, and then we kept in touch and stayed with each other on various occasions and our families have too. My family and I went to her wedding and vice versa, and this was the first time that our kids met each other.

This was also the first time that my boys went on a plane. Of course Andrew was very excited, and absolutely loved the experience. We thought that he might get a bit frightened when the engines powered up and the plane shook for take off, but he laughed and shouted: “it’s like a rocket!” He’s watched countless rocket launch videos on youtube after Grandad once showed him one! I was sat on the other side of the plane with Joel, who managed to fall asleep feeding during take off on both legs of the journey, but Daddy and Grandad, who had the pleasure of sitting in the vicinity of a very excitable toddler, recounted how he had been during the flight once we’d landed.

As all 6 of us couldn’t easily fit into my friend’s house for staying the night, we stayed over at a local hotel, which was an old castle – Schloss Hotel. It was really interesting seeing the (relatively) modern rooms inside what was a very old building from the outside. When we’d pulled up in the car park and Andrew was standing with me and Joel as the others unloaded the hire car of luggage, he looked up at one of the turrets and said: “it’s like a rocket!” Bit of a rocket theme going on here! He does generally say that a building is like a rocket if it is tall and stretches up into the sky – he says the same thing about the tower on the church we go to for example.

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Schloss Hotel, Friedewald: it’s like a rocket!!

After we’d deposited our bags, done a bit of shopping for essential supplies, and the boys had had a nap, we headed back to my friend’s house to spend the late afternoon and early evening with them. We pulled up on the drive, where we had parked earlier when we’d first arrived before her husband had showed us the way to the hotel. Andrew let out an excited: “Here’s Germany again!” He’d obviously understood that my friend’s house, the central place of our visit, was in fact this place called “Germany” that we’d been talking about all week before we went. We’d been telling him that we were going on a plane, and that we’d travel to a place called Germany. In his mind, it was just the end destination that was Germany, not the whole country. But then why should he have a concept of a “country” yet? He’s not been abroad until now, and even now he’s done it, I’m not sure he understands that we live in one country and we went to another country on holiday.

And I can’t forget the snippets of interesting German-English interaction that involved Andrew. One funny moment occurred when we were at my friend’s parents’ house and her sisters and their children came for Kaffee and Kuchen (German equivalent of afternoon tea) on Saturday. There was a big table for the adults and a small kiddy-sized picnic table where Andrew and another little boy and girl were. Andrew had recently had a drink in a Very Hungry Caterpillar beaker, and was enthusiastically explaining this fact to the other two children. After a minute or so of rabbiting on to them, the little boy looked up to the table of adults and said “was sagt er?” (“what’s he saying?”) as if Andrew was from another planet or something, which we all found hilarious! It was interesting though, that despite the fact that they were both speaking different languages to each other, it didn’t matter – the universal language of play meant they all had fun chasing each other around the garden and getting wet with the various water games on offer.

Although Andrew understands a fair amount of German when I ask him questions, inevitably he can be quite shy in speaking it when we ask him to in front of others. But by the end of the weekend he was impressing everyone with his counting to ten in German, sometimes on demand and sometimes whenever he happened to randomly think about it! He also got the hang of “Danke” (“thank you”) – when he said it to the lovely lady in charge of breakfast at the hotel, she thought it was the cutest thing ever 🙂 Charmer!

Wot So Funee?