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.

Plymparks Collage 1

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.

Plymparks Collage 2

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.

Plymparks Collage 3

Plymparks Collage 4

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.

Plymparks Collage 5

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.

Plymparks Collage 6

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.

Cambridge tour

As this was our last week in Cambridge before we move to the Midlands, I thought it would be nice to do a short tour around some of the sights of Cambridge, to show the boys and take some pictures. There are so many lovely things to see, and living in a place often means we take for granted what’s on our doorstep – I’ve heard it said that you can tell a Cambridge resident if they walk/cycle up King’s Parade and don’t turn their head towards the rather large and beautiful building that is King’s Chapel – and although I try and admire our surroundings, it’s definitely true for me that I often forget. Some of the places where we stopped to look at something and take a picture are the common sights where all the tourists stop, and others are places that have significance for me or us as a family. So take a seat and hold on tight for this whistle-stop tour around the beautiful city of Cambridge…

First up are actually some pictures from our walk home from some friends’ house last Sunday – we stopped at the flats where Tom and I used to live just before Andrew was born, and then we headed across the common that we have walked through several times on the way home, including past the Cambridge United Football Stadium in which the floodlights fascinate Andrew. He never got to go to a game when we lived here (though Granny and Grandad went to watch one not long after he was born), so maybe one day we’ll come back and he can watch a game with the rather large crowd of local loyal supporters that the team attracts considering it’s non-league.

Cam tour 1 Collage

Now onto the central tour. We started by walking down Downing Street. Yes Cambridge has a Downing Street too, not just London! I don’t think anyone that famous lives here at the moment though. We passed the Downing site (bottom right picture), which is where I used to work and where lots of Cambridge University scientific research has taken and is taking place. Further down the road, which then becomes Pembroke Street, we passed on our left the college where Uncle Matt studied (top right picture), and a lovely German cafe on the right. At the end of the road we crossed over at the pedestrian crossing right outside the famous Fitzbillies cafe – this started many years ago as a bakery, which became famous for its amazing Chelsea buns, and when it had to close down in the recent economic crisis, some new owners bought it and carried on the tradition of Chelesa buns and other yummy cakes. Across the road we went past the Pitt Building (bottom central picture), home of Cambridge University Press. I worked for CUP for a short while, though I was based at its out of town offices near the station, but heard some of the history of the press and about the central building. Then we turned right down Mill Lane, where various university buildings are located, including the infamous Board of Graduate Studies (as it used to be called when I did my graduate studies in Cambridge, it now has a new name, it’s the bottom left picture) – or ‘the BoGs’ for short, which many a student felt was an appropriate title when it came to the administration of their Masters and PhD courses and theses.

Cam tour 2 Collage

At the bottom of Mill Lane (not to be confused with Mill Road by the way, as I’ve heard happen) is a very Cambridge sight: punts on the river. If you’re not familiar with the term, a punt is a long, thin boat which is propelled through the water by someone standing at one end and pushing on the river bed with a long pole (the Cam isn’t very deep), a bit like a Venetian gondolier. There wasn’t much happening at the punt station on a cold December’s day, but there was a guy touting for business as they usually do. We used to get asked by these touts all the time when we first moved here if we wanted to go punting, but now we must give off an air of ‘we live here’ as we walk past them because we’re rarely asked any more.

It was at this point that I remembered that my new phone can take photos at the front, so I managed to snap a few with Joel who was on my back in the sling. Behind us as we stopped and looked at the punts was the river heading towards Granchester and the meadows that surround it (bottom right picture). That makes a lovely walk, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to do everything, so we didn’t head any further out of town along the river. I have good memories of walks to Granchester in the summer, and sitting outside in the famous Orchard tea rooms.

Cam tour 3 Collage

We then headed up Laundress Lane, luckily we had no carriage or horse with us (top central picture), and came to the bridge which gives a good view of the so-called mathematical bridge in Queens’ College. Andrew was fascinated by the maths bridge, and wanted to walk across it, but I had to tell him that unfortunately only people inside the college get to walk across it, though we did once when visiting the college to look around for a possible venue for our wedding reception.

Cam tour 4 Collage

After I persuaded Andrew to stop looking at the bridge, we scooted round the back of Queens’ College and started our walk along ‘the backs’ – a lovely walk in which you get to see the back of a few colleges that are set beside the river, the most famous of which being King’s College with its chapel the size of a cathedral. We will always remember King’s because that’s where Daddy worked for 3 years before getting a new job in Birmingham to take us back to the Midlands. We have good memories of various events like the staff Christmas party, the family fun days, and going for lunch with Daddy in the Great Hall. Just at the start of the backs walk we found a metal plan of all the central Cambridge colleges, which Andrew was keen to look at and I pointed out a few that were special, like King’s and Downing (my college as a student). He was also interested in the various college gates that we walked past, probably because they are very grand.

Cam tour 5 Collage

Then we got to the point where the path along the backs crosses the lane that goes up to the University Library. This is where I spent a fair amount of time looking for books and occasionally reading them (if I couldn’t take them home or to my office) when I was a Masters and PhD student, and I will always remember the maze of book shelves and just how jam packed it was, even with many floors and long corridors –  and it’s even home to a copy of my PhD thesis. We decided not to walk up to the library itself, but you can just about see the tower through the trees in between the left set of traffic lights and the white lamp post in the left picture below. Instead we headed back into the centre with Trinity College on our right – the central picture below shows the Wren library in the college.

Cam tour 6 Collage

Up a steep bridge and back over the Cam we went, stopping at the top to wave to a sole punt whose passengers were brave to head out on the water on such a cold day. And then we saw an empty punt moored by the bridge on the other side.

Cam tour 7 Collage

After walking through some old lanes – Andrew loved walking on the cobble stones, or ‘bobble stones’ as he called them – we came out into the central streets by the Senate House. This old building is where all students graduate in a very Cambridge-style ceremony, most of which is still to this day in Latin. I’ve been in there once for each degree ceremony, once in summer and once on a freezing cold winter’s day when it wasn’t much warmer inside than out. In fact Andrew has been in there once – as a bump for my PhD graduation! It was at this point in our tour that Andrew announced that he needed the toilet, so we raced to the shopping centre which is where I could think of the nearest toilets.

Cam tour 8 Collage

Once out of the toilets. we stopped to look at one of Andrew’s favourite sights in Cambridge – the big ‘potato’! This is his name for the large rock with a maze of lines carved into it which stands outside in a courtyard by one of the shopping centres (bottom right photo below). It also happens to be outside one of his favourite places to have lunch – Carluccio’s restaurant where he is in pasta heaven (bottom left photo – you can also see the Corn Exchange in the background). We then walked out into the market square, and stopped by a sculpture that was recently placed outside the Guildhall on one side of the square (top left photo below). It is a tribute to someone whose name I can’t remember who was famous in the city for doing street entertainment here until he died. Just a bit further round from the market and we walked past our church, Holy Trinity, which is where we got married and where we have been most Sundays for the past 7 years since living in Cambridge.

Cam tour 9 Collage

After all this walking around, we’d worked up an appetite, so stopped at our favourite cafe for having lunch at when it’s just the 3 of us – Living Stones. The reason we like it is the play area, which has a play house complete with kitchen and fireplace (hence Andrew’s name for the cafe – ‘The Cafe House’). The boys are kept nicely entertained whilst we wait for the food, which is very good value and they do children’s portions of everything on the menu. Andrew always goes for beans on toast, and Joel often has a jacket potato and cheese. A friend, who was coming out of the cafe as we were going in, kindly took the photo below for us outside.

Cam tour 10 Collage

There was just enough time before heading home for a nap for Andrew to play on the park in town. Joel was very tired so didn’t get out for a play. This particular play area is probably Andrew’s favourite and has been great for him and Joel from about 9 months to nearly 3 years.

Cam tour 11 Collage

So that was our little tour of the city that we’ve called home for the past 7 years and where the boys were born. They probably won’t remember it in a few years time, but I’m glad we have lots of photos to show them in the future where they lived as babies and toddlers. We’re sad to go, because we love living here, but we’re also sure that we’ll have many more good times and memories to make in our next home city.

A walk by the river – #CountryKids

I love the location of where we currently live – we can walk into Cambridge city centre in about half an hour (if Andrew goes all the way on the buggy board and we don’t get stuck behind tourists walking at ‘tourist’ pace!), the supermarkets are just 10-15 minutes walk, there are plenty of toddler groups within 20 minutes walk…. and also in just 5 minutes we can walk from home in a definite urban setting to a lovely rural environment with cows in a field next to the River Cam.

There is a round-trip walk from our flat, which goes along this river and across a common, and is perfect for an afternoon stroll with a baby and toddler – since having kids I’ve walked this route so many times that I can’t remember how many, either getting them off to sleep as babies or wearing Andrew (and soon Joel) out as a toddler. This week I took some photos to show what we see on our way round. Andrew is easy to spot with his pink buggy which he likes to push around the circuit, and I find it keeps him walking/running longer than if he doesn’t take it.

Walk 1

After a short walk up the road and down an alley, we come out, across a cattle grid for bikes, into a field that often has cows in (they rotate the exact bits of common that they graze on, so aren’t always in the same place). The river is at the far side, in a dip, so you can’t see it until you get closer, though if the rowers are out, we see 9 heads moving at high speed across the far end of the field! (8 rowers, 1 cox.)

Walk 2

Part of the fun of walking through this bit of field, down towards the river, is looking out for trains that pass along on the left side and go across a bridge over the river. As it’s the main line out of Cambridge, we regularly see several trains on one walk. As we get nearer the river, we can look down stream towards an old village called Fen Ditton, which we can also walk to if we go that way. Most of the time we carry on with the river on our right though, and head towards Cambridge centre.

After going under the railway bridge on a pedestrian and cycle boardwalk over the river, we come to an enclosed field with 2 horses in it. We usually stop and say hello to the horses, who are friendly – so much so that this week one of them decided to lick our buggy rain cover!

walk 3

Navigating the cattle grids (for bikes) with a buggy can be fun, though we’re getting to the stage that Andrew can almost walk the whole route and I take Joel in the sling, so I’m looking forward to not needing wheels (except maybe Andrew’s bike) for this outing! Once we’ve got through these grids, there is another field in which the path goes right next to the river, and more cows often graze there. Other animals about include plenty of ducks and some swans, as well as several dogs being walked/run in the field.

Apart from dodging cows and dogs, if we walk there towards the end of the afternoon, particularly on a Friday as we did when I took these photos, we also have to dodge the many bikes that speed home from town along the path. It’s not really a problem as the path is so wide, but I do find I need my wits about me when walking with a lively toddler, pushing a buggy, and also when the cows are standing on or near the path.

walk 4

The other mode of transport that we see lots of in this stretch of river is boats. There are house boats, canal boats and, of course, rowing boats – sometimes just single or double, and at the weekend often the 8 rowers plus cox boats (most of the college training happens early in the morning except at weekends, and although we’re up early, we don’t often make it down to the river until later in the day!)

walk 5

When we get to the foot bridge over the river, we go the other way (not crossing the river) and walk towards the park, and if we have time we stop for a play. Even if Andrew is starting to flag from walking at this point, he always seems to have enough energy for the park. Then it’s just a 10 minute walk back along the road home again.

We love being able to do this walk and never get bored of it and the views that we get on the way. We’ve walked it in all seasons: snow, rain, wind and sunshine. When we eventually move from here one day, we’ll miss this walk a lot.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall




The big green in the big smoke – #CountryKids

Last weekend we went down to London to meet my cousin (that’s the boys first cousin once removed – we’ve looked it up!) and his wife who had just flown in from Australia. We drove to my brother and family’s flat in West London, where Granny and Grandad had also stayed the night, parked there, had a cuppa and used my niece’s darkened quiet bedroom to feed Joel in as he really doesn’t want to miss out on excitement so won’t feed properly when we’re out.

Lovely scenery on the drive down, and waiting for the bus in London
Lovely scenery on the drive down, and waiting for the bus in London

Then we all headed out to Richmond. There were no trains running on the overground line that we needed due to engineering works. So a rail replacement bus it was. Fortunately Andrew loves any form of transport, so a bus was almost as exciting as a train. After crawling through some pretty heavy Sunday traffic, we arrived at Richmond station.

Running around on Richmond Green, with yellow bouncy ball
Running around on Richmond Green, with yellow bouncy ball

There was about half an hour before our Aussie family would arrive, so we walked up the high street and turned down a side road that led to Richmond Green. Andrew was keen to get his bouncy ball out, the one he got as a souvenir from Birdland two weeks previously, and throw/kick it whilst running around, including towards some pigeons who (funnily enough) ran away at this, much to Andrew’s surprise. His uncle and aunt also had a kick about of his small football. As we were on this big green, I found it amazing to think that we were in London – just behind a row of buildings was the busy high street with buses, cars and trains going by, and yet we had a lovely green space to run around on away from the hustle and bustle.

Walking by the Thames and feeding the geese/pigeons (and Joel eating lunch)
Walking by the Thames and feeding the geese/pigeons (and Joel eating lunch)

As time got on, we headed back to the station to meet the visitors, and then we all crossed the road to have lunch at an Italian restaurant. Once we’d enjoyed a yummy meal, we had a leisurely walk back along the high street and back across the green, where Andrew insisted, quite rightly, on getting his bouncy ball out again, and then we carried on down to the river. It was such a beautiful day, so we walked along the river for a while. Andrew found a wall to walk on that separated the path from a grassy bank on our left (the river was to our right.

He was still insistent that he needed his ball, even though we tried on several occasions to suggest that we put it away now so it didn’t roll into the river. And as we had feared, the bouncy ball that was so new did meet a very watery end that day and must now be residing at the bottom of the Thames! He also invented a new game called run around the tree until you’re dizzy – the last bit of it is in the video, along with Granny asking where his ball is and me and him saying it’s in his hand, so this was before the fatal lob Thames-ward.

After a coffee/cold drink stop in a riverside cafe, where Joel also had a small attempt at feeding, we headed back to the station to wave the Aussies on their way back to their London stop over flat, and then we caught the bus back to our car and drove home – two very tired boys fell asleep almost straight away.

Homeward bound
Homeward bound

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

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall