Abbey Fields park – #CountryKids

I started writing this post for last weekend’s Country Kids linky but it got forgotten about – I know I keep saying it, but with everything else going on, this poor blog is being neglected a little. But at least I’m still keeping some kind of record of what life is like during the move so we can look back on it and see that we still did fun stuff too. So here it is this weekend instead.

Last week when Granny had a day off work, we were thinking about where to go on the lovely sunny day that it was. We knew we’d like to take Andrew’s bike so he could have a good ride, and also a good park for both of them would be nice. I haven’t been to Abbey Fields park in Kenilworth for a long time, though we used to go to the swimming pool there quite a bit as children, but recently I’d been talking with a lady at a toddler group who had just moved back to the area and was raving about how great the new playground was there. So we decided to go and try it for ourselves. And it turned out to be a fantastic place for the two of them, and although there were 2 of us adults that day, it seemed like a good park for when I’m on my own with the boys too as it has a good fence and plenty to keep them both amused.

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Joel particularly liked the small climbing frame which is a perfect size for him, not far off the ground but with various challenges for him to have a go at walking/climbing over. There’s a tunnel, a rope bridge and 2 wooden bridges as well as a slide and a few different styles of steps/ladders for him to get up and down from it. The whole thing is on that squashy astroturf type ground that is great for if they fall over on it too. Joel loves to jump – I call him jumping Joel quite often – so he was pleased with the little trampoline in the ground which is just right for him. He had a go holding onto Granny, and then had goes on his own too. Another feature of the park that he liked was the stepping log line – a series of tree stumps/logs that he could walk over and jump between.

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Andrew was mostly fascinated by these hand powered diggers in a large sand pit. They were obviously designed for kids a bit bigger than him who could put their feet on the ground, but he was determined to do it himself after some initial help from Granny when he first had a go. He got the hang of what each handle did – one moved the scoop up and down and one pulled it in and out – and by the end he was very successful at scooping sand, the only problem was he needed my help in swivelling him around to dump the sand in a different place because his legs were too short to swivel himself. Joel was interested too, until he realised that he couldn’t do it himself, he was definitely too small, so off he went and left the sand pit.

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The other part of the park that Andrew liked was the older kids bit which is outside of the fenced bit with most of the equipment in it. He’s very into ‘tubey’ slides and enjoyed the challenge of climbing up the ladder and across the rope bridge to it. Joel also wanted to have a go, but of course was way too small, so Granny took him into the basket style swing that was just opposite this rather large climbing frame. But soon Andrew was bored of the slide and wanted to go back to his digger!

Once we’d had a good amount of time on the playground, we found where the path was to go on a bike ride (well, Andrew rode, we jogged!) around the rest of the park. It took us on a route around a small lake and then up a hill. I didn’t get any photos of this – I was too busy keeping up with Andrew and Granny at the front and had Joel on my back in the sling. When we got to the edge of the park, we headed into Kenilworth town centre for a quick bite to eat and well deserved cool drink. Andrew walked once we were out of the park, but got back on his bike when we returned to the park where the car was parked after our snack – he enjoyed riding down the big hill, controlling his brakes very well, also with a little speed control help from Granny!

It was a fantastic morning out and we will certainly be back here again soon!

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

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Sheldon Country Park – #CountryKids

At the moment, Daddy is commuting to work every day on the train from Coventry to Birmingham. This means that he goes right past Birmingham Airport. He noticed a few months ago when he first started the commute that there was a sign for a place called Sheldon Country Park near the exit of Marston Green station (a suburb of Birmingham) which is at the far end of the runway, past the station for the airport itself. So he googled it and found that it’s a lovely big open space, right at the end of the runway where you can stand quite freely and watch planes come over your head just before they touch down on the tarmac. There is also a kids playground and a city farm at the other end of the park. Given all this, we thought it would be right up the boys’ street to go and visit. We’ve actually been twice in the space of a coupe of weeks – once in the car just after Easter, and once on the train on the early May bank holiday.

Sheldon 1

The first time we went, we parked in the car park which is at the end of the park furthest from the runway but nearest to the playground. There were hardly any other people around when we got there, so the boys had the park to themselves. After about half an hour on there, we decided it would be a good idea to try and drag them away so we could walk up to the other end of the park by the runway. We’d been seeing planes coming in at the distance of the park, which was pretty amazing in itself, but we knew we could get closer.

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So we got Andrew’s ball out and encouraged him to run after it. There were football pitches on the way, so we scored a few goals between us as we went – he loves scoring goals! He was a little reluctant to walk all the way to the runway, not that it was that far, but we kept having to entice him with the thought that he was going to see some planes REALLY close up.

Eventually we got there, having seen a few more planes come in ahead of us as we walked. Andrew was not disappointed! We stood right at the end of the runway (behind the fence, obviously, still in the country park so there was grass and a good path as well as benches where one could sit (clearly with 2 toddlers we never get to sit). Soon enough we saw a plane in the distance, and watched it, head on, come towards us and then fly right over the top of us. We could see the wheels and the flashing lights and lots of detail underneath the plane, it was amazing. Andrew was in his element and didn’t mind the roaring noise at all. Joel was happy to stay in the sling, and was a little more cautious about the noise, but still seemed to be enjoying it. By this time it was about 11am, and there was a steady stream of planes landing and taking off. The noise standing behind jet aircraft as they took off was loud, but they soon whizzed along the runway away from us.

Sheldon 3

That day we had planned to go to the boys’ Great Grandma for lunch, so we knew we’d have to drag them away at some point, and eventually Andrew walked back with the promise that we’d come again. And he didn’t have to wait too long, because we decided only a couple of weeks later to take advantage of a £1 day ticket on the train (because Daddy has a season ticket) and head back there on the bank holiday. We approached the runway from the other side this time, which is just a short walk from the exit of Marston Green station. There weren’t quite so many planes to see on the bank holiday, but still plenty enough, and the weather was nicer so we just played in the park for longer too. Joel was more confident this time and was signing ‘plane’ all over the place as well as running around on the grass in front of the fence.

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We also had a visit to the city farm on both days, which is a lovely idea, set up to educate local children in a big city about where their food comes from and how animals live in the countryside. We saw cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, horses and more. It’s not huge, but it was lovely to have a quick wander around with the boys. Andrew caught sight of a bouncy castle there on the bank holiday, and as it wasn’t very expensive, we let him have a go, which he loved. We’ll definitely be going back again and again, especially when we live in Birmingham, though it’s probably a similar distance there from where we’re currently living.

Sheldon 4

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

Red submarine and nocular gifts – wot so funee?

I don’t seem to have noted down so many funee moment this week. I don’t think it’s because there were fewer, I think I just got out of the habit of writing lots down over the Easter break. But here’s what I have on offer from the hilarious world of a preschooler and his toddler brother this week….

Andrew has become quite interested in the various surfaces that cover the ground at playgrounds in parks. The ones near us are either sand or that squishy astroturf type stuff that’s soft to land on though gets everything covered in salt. But recently we visited a park a bit further away that has those dark brown bits of soft wood on the ground. Andrew asked what was on the floor, so we said that it was bark chipping. He took it in, and a few minutes later he declared that he liked the “bark chicken” on the floor.

When we were on holiday before Easter, we found ourselves in the inevitable National Trust gift shop. Until now, Andrew has always chosen a bouncy ball as his souvenir treat, particularly when Granny and Grandad are with us, because they started a mini tradition of buying him one at NT shops. But this time Andrew was rather taken by these weird rubbery neon creatures that were called caterpillars on the tag, but looked more like a millipede with lots of legs to us. So that’s what we called it. But all the consonants were a bit of a mouthful for Andrew – he finds ‘l’ quite hard still when there are other consonants to make in a word, it is a bit of a different sound to make in the mouth compared to others we have in English – so he decided to call it a “lilypede” whilst he tried to master the word millipede.

Andrew has a bit of a thing about having no clothes on at the moment – he loves it, and finds any excuse he can to shake them off and go bare. He also likes to run to the door whenever the bell goes, so a fair few postmen, delivery guys and general door knockers get a lovely surprise (enough to scare away any cold callers 😉 ) One of his excuses to start stripping clothes off is if they are at all wet, even just a few drops. And this is what happened one day when he was eating cereals for breakfast with just his pants and t-shirt on. I saw him starting to pull off the pants, so asked why. His response was a loud and indignant: “I just don’t like milk in my pants!!” Fair enough I guess, nobody likes milk in their pants now do they!

A while ago I blogged about the habit that he had gotten into of taking random things to bed with him. This phase passed at some point, but he still occasionally likes to pick up  objects that I don’t think of as particularly good bedtime hugging material. For example one morning this week I found him with 2 mini plastic golf flags from a toy golf set that he plays with outside. I have no idea how they came to be there!

Although Andrew’s speech is very understandable for his age, he still of course makes learner mistakes. Tricky tenses often catch him out, like when he explained that “I didn’t went through that door, I went through this door!” It makes perfect sense really, especially when ‘went’ was coming up in the next part of the sentence too. ‘Might’ can be tricky too, so earlier I heard him say “I might can do a standing-up wee” (he can do it, I think it was just that the toilet at the garden centre soft play was a bit too high for him).

Joel is starting to sign quite a bit now – his favourites are bird, aeroplane and Granny and Grandad. He’s understanding so much of what we say, even if he can’t say anything yet in speech. Of course we’re giving him lots of praise when he signs, and Andrew then points out that he can do the signs too. Of course you can Andrew, you’re 3 and can talk! He’s also taken to telling me what the French and/or German word is for what Joel is signing, to try and really impress me and get one up on lil’ bro 😉

And finally for this week, a random bit of speech that he just came out with the other day whilst we were eating breakfast together. He’d been sitting in silence, eating his Weetabix minis and looking like he was pondering something.

Andrew: When you grow up Mummy, you can have a red submarine

Me: Really?

Andrew: Yes, Grandad will buy it for you!

Me: Really?

Andrew: Yes, and we will buy a nocular for Grandad!

Me: Hmmm….right…..?!

Nocular is ‘binoculars’ by the way – he likes looking through Grandad’s and saw that you could buy them from one of Grandad’s bird watching magazines. And he’s into the Yellow Submarine at the moment, so I’m guessing the submarine reference is something to do with that. Young minds are hilarious!

Wot So Funee?

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 🙂

Whinlatter Forest Park – #CountryKids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

The sand park – #CountryKids

Whilst we’ve been living at Granny and Grandad’s house, we’ve done lots of park trips, just like we used to back in Cambridge. The nearest park to us here in Coventry is the War Memorial Park, which is the biggest in the city. In fact, considering it’s only a 10-15 minute walk from the city centre, it’s easy to forget you’re in a big city whilst walking through its green fields.  We love it because it’s perfect for bike riding and getting a good walk in the open air, and yet it’s so close to home. Not to mention that it has an aviary, a skate park, and a couple of nice cafes.

Right in the middle is Andrew and Joel’s favourite bit: the ‘sand park’ as Andrew calls it. This is a play area that, unsurprisingly, has sand on the ground. It hasn’t always been like this – I remember playing there as a child and it was bark chipping underneath the climbing frames etc. The sand means that it’s almost like a mini beach, which is a nice idea for kids living in one of the most central cities of the UK, miles from the actual beach.

Sand park 1

Andrew in particular likes to play with the sand in the main bit of the park if we remember to take implements or if he finds some there. There is also a smaller section to one side, also with sand on the ground, that has buckets and pulleys, so you can lift sand off the ground and transport it around the climbing frame and do various things with it like put it down chutes, through a mill and through a colander. This provides lots of entertainment, and is just the right size for Joel to climb on too.

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It’s not quite like the beach in that there is no water most of the time. During the school summer holidays they open up a water area that has fountains another water features that the kids can run through and play in. I don’t think we’ve ever actually seen this working though!

Sand park 2

Generally the boys really enjoy this park, but I tend only to go there if I’m with another adult these days. The trouble is that most of the equipment is a little too old for them apart from the one section with buckets, and they both try to climb on the sections meant for older kids and teenagers, which I find stressful on my own. So we usually go to another park when it’s just the 3 of us. I’m sure this phase will pass, and we can go back there the 3 of us when they’re older. The sand is a lovely feature though, even if it does get everywhere – including all the way home!

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

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Conkers: a fun family day out – #CountryKids

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

Conkers Collage 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas holiday outdoor fun – #CountryKids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audley End miniature railway – #CountryKids

Last weekend was action packed, especially considering we’re moving house soon! But as packing seems to be under control, it was great to be able to go to both the Mill Road Winter fair on Saturday (which I blogged about last week) and the Audley End miniature railway on Sunday. We’ve been meaning to go to Audley End for a couple of years now, since Andrew has been very into trains, but we’ve never quite got around to it, and there’s nothing like leaving a place to remind you to go and do all the stuff you always meant to do! Two of the boys’ Godparents had also offered to treat us to a trip out somewhere for Joel’s birthday present, so we thought this was just the place to meet up with them.

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The railway is open for rides in the spring and summer months, plus some special events in the Autumn and Winter at weekends, such as the Christmas specials in December. We knew the trains started at 11am, so we got there pretty much bang on 11am, though had we have known that the car park would be open before that, we probably would have arrived earlier because already there were quite a few families parked, getting out of their cars, and queuing up at the station. We met our friends and joined the queue, after we’d waited at the pedestrian level crossing for a train to go past, which Andrew was most fascinated with! We had to wait about 45 minutes in the queue, but fortunately all three kids were fine during that time, and it was a good chance for us all to catch up. As we got nearer the station, there was an elf walking about talking to the children and being generally friendly.

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Finally we were near the front of the queue and just made it onto the next train. Each little compartment in the carriages was just right for 2 adults and 2 children, though we don’t get to sit right next to our friends because we were the last on. But once we got going, this didn’t matter anyway because there was so much to see that we were looking out of the train the whole time. Andrew was fascinated, and barely smiled the whole time because he was concentrating so much on taking it all in and pointing out what he could see. I wasn’t sure how much Joel would like sitting still, but he absolutely loved it too, and was happy to sit still and look out, smiling all the time.

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All the way round there were little shelters with (toy) animals in, which were decorated up with tinsel and other Christmas bits. We also saw some little wooden houses and signs naming the places we were riding through. The route is mainly through the woods, and it definitely had a magical Christmas feeling to it with all these things we could see between the trees. There were some tunnels too, which the boys enjoyed, though I wasn’t too keen on as you could really smell the smoke and steam of the train as we chugged through them.

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Then we started to slow down, though we weren’t near the station. As we came to a halt, to the side of the train was a large hut, again all decorated like the smaller ones we’d seen, but this time Father Christmas came out and greeted us! He walked along the length of the carriages with a couple of elves, talked to us all, and gave the children a present each and a sweet treat to anyone who wanted one. Andrew was keen to unwrap his right away, and was very happy to find a lovely soft toy penguin inside. Joel was interested in his too, and underneath the paper as he ripped it off was a lovely soft toy snow leopard. The boys were happy with their presents, and Father Christmas waved us off on our way back to the station. We even saw his sleigh and some reindeer just past the hut.

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Eventually we drew back up at the station and got off the train. It was a decent length ride for little people, and I was glad that we’d combined a trip to a railway with seeing Father Christmas, because at only £6.50 per adult and under 2s are free, I thought it was very reasonable compared to some of the local places where you pay £5 each just to go and visit Father Christmas in a grotto. And besides, the boys are too young to really appreciate Father Christmas yet, but combined with a train, it went down very well!

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We then headed over to the play ground where we attempted to have a bit of lunch, though the kids were more interested in playing on the climbing frames, slide and see saw, especially as there was a train made out of wooden logs – even complete with a bell to ding. Joel’s party trick was to try and climb up the slide, and Andrew ran around like a Duracell bunny before we persuaded him that it was probably a good idea to head home and all have a nap. We had a fantastic time at Audley End, and were so glad that we’d managed to go before leaving the area.

Linking up with the #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog – why not pop over and see what other families are getting up to outdoors!

 
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
 

Trip to Coombe Mill – #CountryKids

Ever since I came across the Coombe Mill blog through the Country Kids linky that Fiona runs every week, I thought that it would be lovely to visit one day, either by staying there or by popping in when we’re down that way. As we go on holiday to Tom’s parents every summer, I thought it would be a possibility to have a day trip there this year, as it’s only just over an hour’s drive in good traffic. I was so glad that we managed to make it, just before Fiona and family set off on their family holiday.

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We started off on the journey down into Cornwall and made good time, so arrived in the later part of the morning. The first thing that Andrew spotted as we drew up in the car was one of the play areas, so he insisted that we get him out right away and he ran across to it, climbing up on the ship-shaped climbing frame, steering with the wheel and playing with the canon. He also liked the look of the trampoline, so had a go with some adult supervision from the other side of the netting.

Meanwhile I went across to reception and introduced myself in person to Fiona – it’s so nice to meet people in real life having tweeted with them and read their blogs. She was busy sorting things out to go away, and I felt very privileged that she was so welcoming and willing to spend time with us even though it was a big deal to get things done in order to leave the family business and go away for a week. Whilst she finished off a few things, I went back over and joined the others; my parents and parents in law were looking after Andrew on the playground. Very kindly, Fiona then came back over and invited us to their house for a cup of tea and cake, which was lovely, and we chatted for a while whilst three of her children came to join us, mainly for the cake!

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Then it was time for a farm tour, courtesy of Felix and Clio. Our guides did a great job of showing us all the animals. We saw peacocks, chickens, pigs, donkeys, deer, goats and rabbits. Andrew was very impressed, and was keen to stroke and feed animals where appropriate, as shown by the older kids. Joel also liked looking at the furry moving things, though he was getting a bit whingey by that point, maybe teeth, maybe hunger, maybe tiredness, who knows! We were all particularly impressed by the deer, who did a run by in front of us as Clio ran into the field behind them.

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Once the farm tour was over, and we managed to prize Andrew away from the other play areas that he had seen on the way back to the start, we sat down and had a picnic on one of the benches dotted amongst the lodges. I knew that Joel would like some milk before a nap, so I slipped into the BBQ hut to feed him – this is a fantastic hut that seats 15 people with a barbecue in the middle and a chimney that lets the smoke out, or is perfect for feeding a very distractible 9 month old away from all the sights and sounds of a family day out.

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After some milk he soon went off for a nap, so I went and joined Andrew on the play area where he was playing with Granny and Grandma. Fiona came and joined us for a bit too, and Andrew found her son Jed playing with the swing ball so tried to join in.

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After a while we headed back to the toddler-specific play area, which is full of ride-on cars. trikes and tractors, so right up Andrew’s street. He also spotted the soft play hut, and had another go on there (apparently he’d already been in when I was feeding Joel). Not that it was raining that day, but having an indoor play area is perfect for the British weather, because even though we often get togged up and go out in the rain anyway, sometimes it’s nice to have a dry place for him to burn off some energy, so I can imagine that if we stay there it would prove invaluable.

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We would have loved to stay and see the miniature railway running at 5pm, but Andrew was flagging and it was clear that he would need his nap in the car on the way home sooner than that. So we started to make a move towards the car. Once we got going, it didn’t take long for both boys to drop off (Joel had woken up from his nap as we transferred him but went back off again), and by the time we had driven through the winding lanes and reached the main road, they were both sound asleep. A sign on a great day out!

The whole family was very impressed by what we saw at Coombe Mill, and we will certainly be recommending it to other families who might be looking to holiday down in Cornwall. There is so much for young children to see and do, including helping out on the farm for feed runs which we didn’t get to experience, and it’s a great spot to go off and explore Cornwall too, from beaches to hills to towns. All the accommodation is well equipped for families with babies and toddlers, so it feels like a home from home. We are blessed with this ourselves in Devon, and at the moment I expect we’ll continue to stay with Grandma and Pop, but when the boys are a bit older we would love to go and stay at Coombe Mill for a holiday. It would be a lovely place to go with another family or two with children a similar age to ours.

So for this week’s Country Kids linky, Andrew and Joel got to be country kids at the place where Country Kids was born, and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall