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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Watendlath tarn walk – #CountryKids

A few days into our Lake District holiday and the weather looked lovely when we woke up. We looked at the forecast too, which said it would be nice all day so we decided to head off into the fells and do a family friendly walk. We drove the cars from Keswick to Rosthwaite along the side of Derwent Water through Borowdale. There’s a handy Ntaional Trust car park at the foot of the fell that we wanted to walk up, though it was pretty full and we only just got enough spaces. Once we’d togged up with walking boots (including Andrew’s absolute bargain Karrimor ones from eBay), various layers of jumpers/coats and the slings, we headed off up the path, saying hello to the sheep grazing in the field as we walked past them.

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First there was quite a gentle, winding climb, and then it got steeper, but Andrew was amazing and walked most of it, except one carry in the sling from Daddy at the steepest part. We took our time and took in the breath-taking views. Behind us we could see the snowy summit of Scafell Pike, highest peak in England, and the very green valley floor around Rosthwaite and surrounding villages. There were plenty of sheep grazing in the lower pastures, and the odd few on higher, rockier ground.

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We passed between two craggy hill tops on either side, and then we were at the highest point of our walk. There was a gently undulating walk over the top of the fells and then we had a short downwards walk towards Watendlath tarn and village/hamlet. The views of the tarn (small hilltop lake) were stunning as we came down, and Andrew was still keen to walk all of this, holding hands and taking it slowly over the rocky rubble path on the way down. Once we were down, we just had to nip over a quaint bridge and we were on the right side of the stream to find a nice picnic spot by the tarn.

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The boys (and all of us) were ready for a break and some ‘go faster’ lunch. We even made a couple of doggy friends who came over to sniff at our picnic and lick up the crumbs. Joel was itching to walk/run around having been in the sling most of the way on the harder walk, so we were glad we had his backpack reins to keep him out of the tarn, though the shoreline was very shallow so he had a little paddle with his boots on.

All fuelled up, we headed to the tea room for a drink, though the boys and I were hoping for an ice cream because it was really quite warm by then, but their seasonal delivery was only due in the following day so we just missed it! Nevermind. It was a beautiful tea room to sit outside at – there were lots of little birds flying around and coming to pick up crumbs off the tables and the ground.

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The return walk was back the way we came, so a bit of a climb to begin with, then a gentle undulation, then a steeper descent. This time the views over to Scafell were in front of us, when we could look up from watching where we were stepping down. Andrew wanted a bit of a carry towards the end, but he’d done incredibly well. Joel was so tired he had a nap in the sling near the end of the walk, and didn’t wake up when we transferred to the car – he must have been shattered from all the fresh air.

We had an excellent day out, and it was lovely to get fell walking with the boys so that they could experience this important part of holidaying in the Lake District.

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

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

Charlcote Park, National Trust – #CountryKids

As I’ve written several times before, you can always trust the National Trust for a good day out. At the end of last week, before I got ill, we decided to go to Charlcote, a local property near Stratford-upon-Avon with Granny and her brother, Uncle Uncle Richard (two uncles make a Great Uncle), who is over visiting from Australia. The weather forecast didn’t look great, but we don’t mind togging up if wet, and in the end it didn’t actually rain until mid afternoon, just as we were leaving, so that was a bonus.

We took Andrew’s bike – the balance bike again as he’s really still not keen to be let go of on the pedal bike, even though he can do it perfectly fine when riding around the cul-de-sac at home, but we’re planning on taking it away with us next week when there will be 4 adults to each child so he can have a good crack at it and shake off the fear! The grounds at Charlcote are extensive, and these huge fields are fantastic for him to ride his little bike around. We spotted some deer as we headed away from the house towards the lake – in the distance in the bottom right picture.

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We walked all the way around the small lake, and back round to the one end of it where there is a small waterfall where the water runs out of it. The water then runs under a bridge, so we stopped and had several rounds of Pooh sticks. The bottom right picture below is Andrew leaning over trying to see his stick come through – I had to hold him tight otherwise we risked a man overboard, he was that keen on looking for the sticks! Joel was happy to do some walking and then see the sights from on high – either shoulders or then in the sling on my back.

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We stopped and had some lunch in the restaurant there as our little biker was getting very tired and hungry. The boys had one of their favourites – bangers and mash. After we’d refuelled, we headed over to the West Park, the other side of the house from where we’d been, where there are even more extensive grounds to explore. We saw some sheep that are reared on the land belonging to the house, and another group of deer in the distance – this one had lots of little cute fawns 🙂 There are some lovely views back to the house from this side, and we could see it through the trees as Andrew rode on the dirt tracks that are perfect for a bike.

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On our way back towards the house, Granny spotted an old tree that had a hollow trunk. It was just the right size for Andrew to get into, which he thought was brilliant. He sat down in his little hideaway and invited us in. There was no way we could fit through the little hole in the trunk that he had, but when we went around the other side, there was a bigger hole that an adult could fit through, so Granny went and hid in there with him. We just about managed to persuade him to come out again and head back to the car.

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Overall this was a fantastic morning-to-mid afternoon trip out, and we all got lots of fresh air amongst some very pretty scenery. It’s been a while since I last went to Charlcote, and we didn’t make it into the house itself this time, but I’m sure we’ll be back with the boys again in the not too distant future, now that we live nearer this property again.

As ususal I’m linking up with one of my favourite linkies – #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog

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