Adventures in the Lake District (part 2) #countrykids

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.

Monday

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.

The World of Beatrix Potter
The World of Beatrix Potter

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.

Peter Rabbit's Garden
Peter Rabbit’s Garden

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.

Tuesday

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!

trains

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).eskdale

Wednesday

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.railway walk

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.

Thursday

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.whinlatter 1

whinlatter 2

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.park

Places to visit on twitter

The World of Beatrix Potter Arrtraction: @BeatrixPotter

Brockhole Visitor Centre: @brockhole

Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway: @rersteam

Whinlatter Forest Park: (Facebook) Forestry Commission

I’m linking up with Country Kids over at Coombe Mill’s blog.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Shufflepot ice cream – wot so funee?

As I said in yesterday’s blog, we’ve just been on holiday for a week to the Lake District. During the week, Andrew came out with a few things that tickled us, or even made me howl with laughter in utter astonishment! So here’s my offering for the wot so funee linky this week….

Kisskin

First up is a type of bird. Now Grandad loves bird watching and is keen to get Andrew involved in his hobby too. Granny and Grandad’s garden is full of bird feeders, bird boxes, other bird paraphernalia that I have no clue about, and even cameras that capture some pretty amazing footage – take a look at Grandad’s website Garden Twitter if you’re interested, there are activities for kids too. Whenever he goes up to their holiday house the Lake District, Grandad always takes some bird feeding equipment with him so he can get some birdlife into the garden up there. This time he had a ‘spot the bird’ book for children, and encouraged Andrew by getting him to stick the stickers provided on the right page when they saw each type of bird. This meant that Andrew learned various bird species names last week, most of which he was pretty good at accurately reproducing, but one was worth a giggle – siskin became kisskin! I’m just imagining these little birds kissing each other now 🙂

It’s not unusual for children acquiring language to do this thing where they repeat a sound in a word, in this case ‘k’, at the start of each syllable. It’s not quite the same thing as ‘reduplication’, which involves whole syllables being repeated, as in ‘ma-ma’ and ‘da-da’ when they first start to say mummy and daddy, and of course in that very early babbling which Joel is just starting to do now (another post coming up on that some time soon).

shufflepot

When we got back to Granny and Grandad’s house in Coventry where we stayed overnight on the way home, Andrew had great fun removing every single price of outdoor game/sport equipment from the little shed that they keep them in. Once he’d been through all the different types of balls, commenting on their size, he came across the weird ones with (plastic) feathers that are used to play badminton with. His curiosity led him to ask Granny what it was, so she replied with ‘shuttlecock’, and his repetition of the word was a hilarious ‘shufflepot’! He then proceeded to pop a tennis ball in the top and walk round saying he had an ice cream (well it did look like a cone with a scoop of ice cream in!)

To be fair, ‘shuttlecock’ is a bit of a mouthful, with all sorts of different sounds made at different places in the mouth, so it wasn’t a bad rendition at all for a 26-month old. He got the outline of the word correct, the right number of syllables, the right stress pattern, the right vowels, it was just the consonants that were a bit mangled. The ‘p’ and ‘t’ of ‘pot’ are the same type of sound as the ‘k’ at the start and end of ‘cock’, as the air coming up from the lungs is momentarily stopped before being released again, they just vary as to where in the mouth the blockage is formed (lips for ‘p’, behind the teeth for ‘t’ and at the back of the mouth for ‘k’).

Shufflepot
Shufflepot ice cream 🙂

fangle

He’s said this one a few times now, since his birthday, but I still find it funny. When we walked into the pub for lunch one day, there were 2 candles on the table that we sat at. Andrew was very excited by this, and took great pleasure in repeating ‘two fangles’ a few times until I translated for the rest of our family and they replied, ‘ah yes you’re right Andrew, there are two candles’! 

Again, this isn’t a bad go at the word – he’s got the outline right, it’s just the consonants at the start of each syllable that need a bit of work, but he’ll get there over time. Notice how he’s using an ”f’ sound in both ‘fangle’ and ‘shufflepot’ instead of a ‘k’ or a ‘t’ sound (these two are quite similar in that they are the same type of sound, as I said above). I’m not sure exactly why he should go for this sound, which is made by air hissing between the bottom lip and top front teeth, but maybe it’s some kind of default for him when he’s finding it hard to get right all the sounds he’s heard.

No mummy, you’ve got it all wrong!

To finish off today’s post, I have to share something that left me in stitches. Unlike all the other things he’s said that have made me laugh, it wasn’t that he said something in a child-like way with dodgy consonants, but rather what he said was perfectly accurate and sounded like he was about 7 years old!! We were driving along with mountains on one side and a lake on the other (as you do in the Lake District!) He was looking out the window, so I commented on the scenery and said something like (I can’t remember exactly) ‘oh look Andrew, there are some trees up there’. His reply, in a very adult-like manner and intonation, was an insistent ‘No Mummy, you’ve got it all wrong!’ I couldn’t quite believe my ears!

He is saying many more sentences now, but this was the most accurate, out of the blue and out of the ordinary that I’ve heard from him. I think he must have picked it up just like that, the whole sentence, from someone, either in person or in a book that was read to him (or possibly on a DVD though we don’t have that many and I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard it on any of them). What I’m trying to learn from this is to watch what I say… you never know when it might get repeated back to me at an inappropriate moment. So far so good on this front, but it’s only a matter of time I’m sure!

Wot So Funee?

Adventures in the Lake District (part 1) #countrykids

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.

Friday

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.

Saturday

Views from Friar's Cragg
Views from Friar’s Cragg

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.

Andrew at lake chasing ducks

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.

Sunday

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.

View from the park (on another day - it was more miserable weather than this)
View from the park (on another day – it was more miserable weather than this)

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.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Pregnancy diary: week 28 – holiday

This week we’ve been on holiday! And what a well-needed holiday it’s been. With all this being pregnant, looking after Andrew, working, editing, blogging etc. I was feeling very much in need of a rest. We’re very blessed to have Tom’s family living in Devon, so we can go and stay with them for holidaying down in the South West of England. This means it really is a holiday, as we get looked after, for example meals get cooked, washing gets washed, tidying up gets done, and Andrew gets entertained by people other than us, which is always a novelty for him. I think with very small children, it’s less of a holiday when you still have to sort things out yourself, and still do the cooking, cleaning, and even travelling around once you’re there.

Change of background from normal as we're not at home yet, though back soon. Looking very bumpy in this summer dress, about to head out for the day, and it looks like it'll be lovely weather again 🙂

I’ve never been into holidays where you just sit around or lie around – I like doing something for at least part of each day. When I was younger, most years we went on holiday to France camping as a family, and would spend the morning out and about exploring the local area, and then come back in the afternoon to the campsite where I would spend the rest of the day in the swimming pool. Since Tom and I have been together, our holidays have mainly been in the UK, all in places where there’s plenty of outdoors to explore, like Devon and the Lake District. Although it’s been restful this week, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been out and done lots of activities as well. We’ve been to the beach and played with a kite and sandcastles, done lots of walking (Andrew sometimes on the dinosaur reins, sometimes in the back carrier, sometimes in the buggy) and been swimming. Generally the weather has been just right – not too hot, but also dry (apart from the odd shower) and only one really wet day (which we spent at the swimming pool and visiting family).

Collecting stones at Wembury beach. It turned out much better weather that day than we were expecting, so Andrew had joggers on instead of his swim stuff - it didn't seem to bother him though!
Trying to keep him out of the sea as he didn't have his swimming stuff on at that point, and it wasn't a particularly hot day!
Stuffing a jaffa cake, whole, into his mouth. Jaffa cakes are clearly the best part of any picnic!

The general routine has been to get out and about in the morning, have a picnic lunch somewhere, and then head back in the afternoon when Andrew naps (either in the car on the way back or at home) and we rest, and then do something locally in the late afternoon before dinner. This has been just right for me at this stage of pregnancy. I know that keeping active is really good for me, and I always feel much more energised when I’ve done some activity, even if I feel low on energy beforehand. I think that keeping fit in pregnancy was a big factor in how smoothly labour went with Andrew, and I’m determined to do the same this time in pregnancy. It has of course been lovely to have times of rest, when I can really rest, have a snooze, do what I like, rather than doing housework (or feeling bad about not doing housework because I did have a rest!)

A spot of croquet on the lawn at Saltram House. I don't know, we come all this way, and Andrew wants to play what is everywhere in Cambridge!
Daddy and Andrew having fun on a rope swing at Saltram House.

Andrew seems to have enjoyed his second holiday in Devon too. We came last summer, but he was only 6 months old, and didn’t really have much of a clue what was going on. This time he’s been able to take part in all we’ve been doing, and he’s pretty flexible with things like eating and napping, so we’re not tied to very strict timings in his routine. It’ll be even more fun this time next year, when there’ll be two little ones to entertain on holiday! Baby will be about 9 months old, so a bit older than Andrew was on his first trip down to Devon. I think that’ll be even more of a great reason to holiday in a place where we all get looked after!

Andrew enjoying a dinghy ride at Mothecombe beach.
I know it looks like he's running out to sea on his own, but it's shallow for miles as it's a river estuary, and we were just behind him in case of tripping up. He loved it in the shallow water with few waves.

This week should have been my 28-week appointment with the midwife and also my glucose tolerance test (to check whether I have gestational diabetes). But as we’ve been away all week, that wasn’t possible of course. So next week I’ll write about how those went, as I’ll have them at 29 weeks instead. I don’t think it really matters if you don’t have them bang on 28 weeks, because, after all, babies aren’t all born exactly on their due date, so mums don’t all end up being checked-up/tested at exactly the same stages of pregnancy. It seems like ages ago since I last saw the midwife – 16 weeks I think. But time is flying, and we’ll be into the thirties weeks very soon. There must be more posts on preparation that I’ll write, although I don’t think I’m half as aware of preparation for this baby as I was with Andrew at this stage in pregnancy, mainly because there is a lot less to do, as we have lots of ‘stuff’ for baby already this time. There are still a few things that I need to get organised with though, and I’ll let you know when I’ve done something about them!

The balancing act of life: revisited

Just after I started blogging, and not long after I went back to work part-time after maternity leave, I wrote a post about balancing everything I do in a week, including being mummy, working as a researcher, doing housework, and having some time myself to go swimming, blog and bake etc. Then a while later, having settled into this balancing act a bit more, I wrote a guest post for The Family Patch on a similar topic. This last week has reminded me of these posts; as I’ve been thinking and reflecting on how the balancing act is working, I thought I’d revisit my thoughts from back then and write about my thoughts now.

Us chilling out on the sofa when Granny and Grandad visited recently

This week has been a lovely week. I’ve had a week of annual leave, which has meant my little boy and I have been able to spend a whole week together. It’s been so fun! We’ve not been away anywhere (Daddy gets less annual leave than me, well, pro-rata as I work part-time), but we just enjoyed a normal week of activities around town. It reminded me of being on maternity leave, and I’d almost forgotten how fun the groups are that I used to go to with him then. I joined my boys at their regular music group on Tuesday morning, we met up with friends, went swimming twice, and hung out at the park a few times.

At the park - what is this weird satellite dish thing?!

It’s not that we don’t usually get chance to do any of this, but it was so good to have a whole week of quality time, just Andrew and me. We didn’t have to rush off to the childminder on two mornings, nor did I have to race on with dinner straight after getting home in the evening from her house. Life has been more relaxed than the usual racing about making sure we’re in the right place at the right time with the right things packed in our different bags (i.e. no nappies in my work bag and no laptop equipment in the change bag). This week has really made me appreciate just how busy I’ve been working part-time as well as being a mum.

Recently over at BritMums, there’s been a discussion about whether mums can ‘have it all’, in other words can they have successfully juggle life with kids, work and time for themselves? I think there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this. We’re all different with different personalities and different situations. As others commented on this BritMums discussion thread, I think it’s partly to do with how you define ‘having it all’. I mean it’s possible to have bits of time in your week devoted to kids, work, home and yourself. How you prioritise each of these, and things within these broad ‘categories’ will of course differ from family to family, and that’s not to say one family is any worse off for it than another. But I’m not sure it’s possible (for me) to ‘have it all’ in the sense that each of these categories would not end up being lived out to the full in the same way as they would with someone who didn’t have one of these categories in their life (e.g. didn’t have kids or didn’t work). Again, not that this is necessarily a problem, it’s just a question of what outcome one prefers to have, and therefore what has to give and take a little in order to get there.

Swinging in the sunshine

At the moment I know that the equation life = being mum + working + doing housework + having me-time results in a real balancing act. Some weeks I feel I pull this act off, other weeks I’m not so happy with myself for how I’ve handled it. This past week has brought it home to me how taking out ‘work’ from the equation has not only left me with more time for being mum and being myself (during toddler naps), but has meant less rushing around from one place to another, and less stress over getting ready for the day and for bedtime. I don’t think I appreciated just how hard this is until I didn’t have to do it for a week.

Must all good things come to an end? Unfortunately the good thing that was this week must come to an end, and I must go back to work next week. However, I don’t want to give the impression that I hate work or that I’m ungrateful for having a job, because these two things couldn’t be further from the truth. There are several good points about my job which I blogged about before. It’s just that I don’t feel I currently ‘have it all’ – I don’t have as much time with my boy as I’d like, and I don’t have the longer term motivation at work because I don’t have the aspiration to work my way up in an academic career (which is what many people with jobs like mine go on to do). But I know this feeling won’t last forever, and that’s what’s helping me through. My job runs until the end of this year, at which point I won’t look for another. I feel like my primary role in life at the moment is to be a mum, and in order to do this most effectively given our current situation, I would like to not have the extra pressure of a part-time job.

Learning our rainbow colours - in three languages of course 🙂

And finally, something that has encouraged me this week to be patient with how things are at the moment, and trust that this is not how it will always be. As I wasn’t at work, I was able to join in with the weekly women’s Bible study group at church like I used to on maternity leave. Andrew loves playing in the creche there with his favourite children’s worker Matt – he even walked into the room himself and started playing as soon as we got there. This gave me an hour to myself, and time to reflect on a short Bible passage that we read and discussed together. We looked at a chapter from the letter written by James, including these verses which spoke to me:

See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (James 5: 7-8)

This reminded me that I can’t necessarily have things exactly how I want right now, and that I need to be patient. I’ve never been great with patience; it’s certainly something I need to work on and have asked God to help me with a lot. The analogy with a farmer in these verses was clear for me to relate to; I need to wait for the autumn and spring rains, the right moment when God says to me that now is the time to move on to the next thing He has planned for me. And until that time, I trust that He will give me the strength and perseverance to do my best at the balancing act of life.

And finally…. swimming

At long last I’m writing a post about swimming! That category on this blog hasn’t seen any action yet. It’s not that I haven’t been swimming in ages (it’s so part of my routine that I can’t imagine not doing it), but just that more one-off ideas for posts have come into my head at a specific time, whereas this is more of an on-going thing. This post is a bit of a trip down memory lane, as I go through some of my childhood and teenage years, remembering how much swimming has featured.

Swimming has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents took me when I was a baby and toddler, and I had lessons in which I learnt how to swim unaided when I was about 4. By all accounts I took to swimming like, well, a duck to water. Amongst my earliest memories are times spent swimming widths and lengths at Ernesford Grange pool in Coventry, under the instruction of Mrs Leigh – a slightly scary and bold-voiced but very good at getting kids to swim teacher. I remember ploughing through the ASA swimming badges, first the distance ones from 10m (1 width) to 1mile (about 60 lengths), and later the skill ones from stage 1 to Bronze, Silver and Gold (I even went back to do the Honours badge some years later after it had been invented as the next stage up from Gold).

At Bedworth pool when I was nearly 2 (click here for a (not great quality!) short video clip like this picture)
An outdoor pool on holiday in Cornwall when I was 4, with Mum and Matt (before we started going to France)

When I’d completed all the badges (not sure exactly what age, but sometime around the middle of primary school), I decided that I liked swimming so much that I’d like to join the City of Coventry swim club. That meant swimming twice a week (Friday evening and Sunday afternoon) at the main Coventry baths in the city centre, and one evening at a smaller pool in the suburbs. It was a big time commitment, and I’m very grateful that my parents were so supportive, as they had to do all the ferrying around and buying me kit (swim costumes, caps and goggles wear out quite quickly when used so much). But I loved every minute of it, and learned so much about how to swim with good technique. We also had regular galas against other clubs, and although I was never such a high flyer (or super fast swimmer) that I won loads of medals, it was fantastic to take part and be part of the team. This competitive training did me lots of good for school swimming too, as I was one of the strongest female swimmers in my year, and was awarded house colours (sorry, bit of a posh school term – prize for participating in and winning for my school-internal team) for helping us win in a few inter-house galas.

My stint as a competitive swimmer came to an end in my early teenage years. I had swum the times needed to move up to the next level in the squad, and that meant an even bigger time commitment involving early mornings before school. It wasn’t so much the time of day that put me off (I’ve always been a lark), but the extra time that I would’ve needed to put in would’ve been a strain on my school work, which was getting more important to me as GCSEs were looming on the horizon. I was no longer feeling the fun of swimming with all the pressure to train most days of the week, and I decided to call it a day, concentrate on my school work, and swim for leisure in my own spare time. I’ve done this ever since, and still swim 2 or 3 times a week (as often as I can with a baby) to keep fit and unwind.

Another big part of my childhood memories is spending much of the days we were on holiday in France in the pool! Most years from the age of 7 to 15, my parents, my brother and I spent a couple of weeks each July/August holidaying with in our caravan somewhere in France – we went to a different region each year. When Mum was booking each campsite, she was under strict instructions from her (might-as-well-be-a-fish) daughter that it had to have a nice outdoor pool otherwise there was no point booking it. We would usually go out and explore some local place in the morning, then come back to the campsite for a baguette and cheese lunch, and I would proceed to spend the whole afternoon and early evening swimming. Here are a few pictures from different years showing some of the French pools that I lived in 😉

A lovely pool in the Dordogne region of France (me aged 11 on the right, Matt aged 10 on the left)
The indoor pool at the Disneyland Hotel in Disneyland Paris
Another French pool (me aged 13)
Swimming in a lake in France (me aged 14)
On holiday in the USA when I was 16 (the first year we went further than Europe, but still we found places to stay with pools!)

To finish this first post on swimming. I’ll leave you with two of my favourite swimming memories from teenage-hood (just after my 18th birthday when we were on holiday in Australia). I swam in the Sydney Olympic pool, obviously ages after the Olympics, but still there was something amazing about pacing up and down those lengths, thinking about all those Olympic swimmers who had once swum there too and won Gold. Also on that holiday I swam in the Great Barrier Reef. I’m not normally a great fan of the sea – I love swimming, but only when I can see what I’m swimming in! But the water in the reef was so crystal clear that it was almost like being in a pool, and the fish and coral that we got to see were breathtaking.

Olympic swimming in Sydney 🙂 (I think I'm in the lane just to the right of centre!)
Me getting ready to dive in and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef

That completes my blast to the past. In future swimming-related posts, I’ll write about swimming in my life as an adult, including swimming at university, swimming in pregnancy, and swimming with Andrew.