A walk around Rydal Water – #CountryKids

One thing that we were amazed about when we were on holiday in the Lake District recently was just how much Andrew was willing to walk. He can be a bit fussy when we’re at home, walking some of the way to places but not reliable enough for me not to take his sling to hop him up on my back if he gets tired. One day in the week away we decided to do a walk around Rydal water, up above the lake on Loughrigg terrace for most of the way, except at both ends when we came down to the waterside to cross the river. On the map this is about 3 miles, plus some climbs. Although we took his sling, Andrew walked pretty much the whole way, only being carried for a couple of 5 minute periods. He was our little mountain goat 🙂 I think his bargain walking boots for 99p off eBay might have helped spur him on, and the odd go-faster snack.

The walk was relatively easy, but with stunning views on the way round. We found all sorts of nature to look at and pick up. Andrew took a liking to a stick that was just the right size to be a walking stick for him, and Pop got out his pen knife to carve him a handle by stripping the bark off it at the top. At one point we spotted a tree with a hollow trunk, so Andrew hopped up inside it and thought this was hilarious. Joel was on my back for the first part of the walk until we stopped for a picnic lunch half way round, and then did some walking himself. High up on the terrace we got some amazing views down to Rydal Water on our way around.

Rydal 1 jpg

At the far end of the lake we came back down to the water level and had our picnic by the river that runs between Grasmere (lake) and Rydal Water. We then walked along this river towards Grasmere, and crossed over a bridge that was fantastic for Pooh sticks, just before the lake itself. We stopped on the shore of Grasmere for a little while, so the boys could have a play. Andrew was keen to try and learn stone skimming techniques from Grandad and Pop, and Joel was fascinated with a rather large rock that he could sit on and jump off! The weather was quite warm by this point, so we were happy to stand around for a bit. The view across Grasmere towards the village of the same name was lovely.

Rydal 2 jpg

As we carried on, we walked up again onto the terrace on the other side of Rydal Water, to continue our circular route around it. The views back across the lake were still fantastic, with fewer trees in the way on this side. Both boys were walking on this side for a while, until Joel got tired again and went back on my back, though as I said, Andrew was keen to carry on walking himself. As we neared the end of the lake, towards the car park where we had left the cars, the path came back down near the lake shore again. This was another great excuse to try some stone skimming, and Joel even went for a little paddle in his boots. Both of them clearly found this a lot of fun!

The walk was just the right length for a day out with toddlers, and we all enjoyed it with the views and the weather being particularly good to us.

Rydal 3 jpg

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

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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.

Watendlach 1 jpg

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.

Watendlach 3 jpg

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.

Watendlach 4 jpg

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.

Watendlach 2 jpg

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.

Keswick Collage 1

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

Keswick Collage 2

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

Keswick Collage 3

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

Keswick Collage 4

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

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

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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.

Baddesley Collage 1

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.

Baddesley Collage 2

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.

Baddesley Collage 3

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.

Baddesley Collage 4

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.

Baddesley Collage 5

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

A day out in/with Brum – #CountryKids

Last week we went on a very exciting day trip to Birmingham. Daddy had an interview for a job at the university there, so the boys and I as well as Granny went with him, so that he could concentrate on the interview and not have to worry about travelling all the way from Cambridge on his own. Turns out he did rather well at the interview, because they gave him a job! So now we’re busy planning our move to Birmingham at Christmas. But that’s another story.

Andrew is a big fan of the little yellow car Brum, who had his own TV show back in the 1990s, set in Birmingham (or ‘The Big Town’) whose nickname is also Brum. See the clever play on words they did there! So when we told him we were going on a day out in the Big Town where Brum saves the day, he was very excited. We had to take Brum with us too of course (in toy form).

Brum Collage 1

We set off from Granny and Grandad’s house in the morning, and drove to the campus to check out exactly where Daddy needed to be later after lunch for the interview. Then we headed to a nearby pub for lunch, which Granny had booked a table at. We were a bit early still, and Joel was asleep in the car so Granny offered to stay with him whilst we had a stretch of the legs – we thought we might find a park because the pub was located in a residential area that looked just the kind of place that would have a park with swings and slides. We didn’t actually find one, but had a nice bit of a walk anyway – up a hill, which is something we don’t do very often living in a very flat city.

Brum Collage 2

After we’d eaten, we headed back to the campus just up the road, and dropped Daddy where he needed to be. Then we parked the car and got out to explore the place ourselves. We were on the look out for any of the sites that we see watching Brum. Soon we came to the clock tower in the middle of the campus. Some of the buildings around there are definitely on Brum! After a short ride in the buggy, Andrew was keen to walk/run and explore – I’m not sure he actually recognised much from Brum himself, but he seemed to understand what we were saying.

We walked through a little market place with fresh fruit and veg on sale, and then through a square with big blocks that were perfect for Andrew to walk along the top of, with Granny’s help. We were on the look out for the race track, because Andrew had seen an episode of Brum that morning which was set at the university race track. As we walked around, we saw a sign for it, and it was just around the corner. We found the entrance and saw a few people using it for running practice. There was plenty of space for Andrew and Brum to have a run too though! Unfortunately I’ve just realised that all the videos I took here (and in previous months) are lost because of some glitch in backing up from my phone to the computer, and I hadn’t got round to uploading them to youtube yet 🙁 But I can assure you that they had a good run.

Brum Collage 4

Once the sprinting was done, we headed out and continued our circular walk around the campus. We saw all sorts of different shapes, sizes and colours of buildings. The weather had generally been good if a little chilly, but fine if we kept moving. It did, however, start to rain at one point, and as there was still sun the other side of the rain clouds, we knew a rainbow would appear. And sure enough, there it was, over the buildings behind us.

Brum Collage 5

Eventually we came to the football pitches, where there were three 5-aside games being played by footballers who looked like they were students (i.e. they looked much younger than me!) Andrew was absolutely fascinated by this, and wandered up and down the sideline (behind the wire fence) watching them play. We could hardly tear him away when the phone rang to say it was time for us to meet Daddy who’d finished his interview.

Brum Collage 3

Although we were in the middle of a large city, it was lovely to have a walk around an interesting place that Andrew recognises parts of, a mini town in itself, and explore somewhere that  we will grow to know better as we live near it in the new year.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall



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




Adventures in the Lake District (part 2) #countrykids

When I started writing up our holiday, the blog post soon got too long. So here’s the second instalment about what we did in the second half of the week….

If you find yourself on holiday in the Northern Lake District with children, here are some ideas for activities that a family will enjoy, including places that are fun and allow children to let off steam in wet weather. I thought I’d also link up with Country Kids over at Coombe Mill.


Again we awoke to the pitter patter of raindrops as well as little feet. But rain never stops play in the Lake District – it couldn’t, you’d never go anywhere if it did! We hung around at home for a bit longer than usual, waiting for hungry babies to feed and hoping the rain might ease off a little. It didn’t, so we headed to the World of Beatrix Potter attraction in Bowness. This was perfect for Andrew, and even his baby brother and cousin had a good crane of the neck out from the sling and buggy! He was fascinated by all the models of characters from her books, and we even got to walk round Peter Rabbit’s garden as the rain eased off. There was an activity trail too, which was a bit old for our kids, but would be great for school-age children.

The World of Beatrix Potter
The World of Beatrix Potter

After a browse of the gift shop and a souvenir present from Granny and Grandad, we drove back up along Windermere to Brockhole visitor centre where we ate our picnic in the sheltered picnic area – so very British 🙂 Apart from the indoor bit of the centre which has a nice cafe and tells you all about the Lake District’s history and geography, there is quite an extensive parkland on the shore of Windermere, with an adventure playground for kids, paths for walking for all ages, and a treetop trail (a bit like Go Ape) for adults.

Peter Rabbit's Garden
Peter Rabbit’s Garden

Nap-time today was spent in the car, starting on the journey home and ending after a while sat on the drive with Daddy in the passenger seat having a nap too. Our evening meal was out at Keswick’s bargain curry house during happy hour. Andrew charmed the socks off the waiters, and impressed them with his appetite and love of spicy food – when ordering a kids portion of medium-heat chicken curry for him, I was warned that the spice would be too much, but he wolfed it down.


As this was forecast to be the best day for weather all week, we decided to venture further afield to Ravenglass and ride on a steam train at the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway. According to their website, it is “Lakeland’s oldest, friendliest and longest most scenic railway”, a narrow gauge one with fully functioning miniature steam trains. Andrew is into trains, particularly Thomas the Tank Engine, big time at the moment, so he was so excited to watch them at the station and then ride on one himself; on the return leg the train of carriages was pulled by a blue engine just like Thomas!


When we arrived at the other end of the line, we had a quick picnic on the rather windy area of grass behind the station, and then went on a walk down to a little church down by the river in the valley. Before we boarded to ride back to Ravenglass, Andrew and the babies got some badges for having a go at the activity pack that was given to children on the train. I added ‘on a narrow gauge steam train’ to my (mental) list of places where I’ve fed a baby!

As we drove home, the boys slept and the sunshine decided to come out properly, giving us lovely blue-sky views across the mountains in the distance, including Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England (which we climbed together as a family on a hot sunny day when I was a child on holiday in the Lake District).eskdale


To make up for the disproportionate amount of sun the day before, we had nothing but rain, rain and more rain! Granny and Grandad were happy to walk with Andrew into the town in the morning, and go to the park all togged up as well as dry off in a cafe afterwards. I needed to keep moving with Joel in the sling (with rain cover) so that he would go to sleep, so Tom and I had a pleasant, if damp, walk along the Keswick Railway Footpath. We got half-way along this disused railway which runs between Keswick and Threlkeld, an ancient settlement which became a mining area in the 20th century; we turned back after a 45 minute walk from Keswick because I knew Joel would want to feed in a little while.railway walk

The beer connoisseurs in the family fancied a lunchtime pint, so we headed up the road to the local pub less than a minute’s walk away and had a warming lunch. Nap-time at home was followed by playing with toys and games in the living room, watching the rain through the window. The day finished with us listening to the howling gale outside, rattling the old sash windows as we fell asleep.


With the promise of better weather, we made the short journey to Whinlatter Forest Park, where we played on the adventure playground and went for a walk through the woods and down, round, and back up the hill. It had been so windy the night before that there were bits of tree everywhere: branches that had fallen off, one which had to be chopped off just before we walked past because it was was hanging off precariously, and even a whole tree that had come down across the path, which we had to climb over with two buggies and two sleeping babies (one in a buggy and one in a sling attached to me) – that was quite an adventure in itself! The Forestry Commission, who manage the park, were out and about clearing up and sorting out all the damage to trees.whinlatter 1

whinlatter 2

Having walked up an appetite, we had a lovely homemade cake in the cafe, which unfortunately had no power, we think due to a tree falling through cables, so they could only do tea and coffee by boiling water on the gas hob rather than with the electric coffee machine. We headed home for lunch, packing and naps. Later in the afternoon, we nipped over to the park, where Andrew got the hang of swinging his legs with the rhythm of the swing, copying Daddy’s movements on the swing next to him. For our final evening we had a pub dinner just up the road, a great night to end a lovely holiday.park

Places to visit on twitter

The World of Beatrix Potter Arrtraction: @BeatrixPotter

Brockhole Visitor Centre: @brockhole

Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway: @rersteam

Whinlatter Forest Park: (Facebook) Forestry Commission

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

Adventures in the Lake District (part 1) #countrykids

Last week we had our annual spring holiday in the Lake District. It’s very handy for us that my parents have a holiday home up there, which they let out for much of the year, but also take weeks for themselves and family. This time the four of us went up with my parents and my brother and family – 6 adults and 3 kids – good job the house sleeps 10. It is situated in Keswick, which is in the northern Lakes on the northern shore of Derwent Water.

There are plenty of activities for the whole family in and around Keswick and further afield. As we had 2 babies with us who are feeding quite a lot still, we couldn’t easily be on the go for too long at a time, so we did a mixture of very local outings and some which required more travel, of course with frequent feeding stops throughout the day. I kept a mini diary of what we did, and here it is written up in (hopefully) intelligible form along with photos. If you find yourself on holiday in the northern Lake District with children, here are some ideas for activities that a family will enjoy, including places that are fun and allow children to let off steam in wet weather. I thought I’d also link up with Country Kids over at Coombe Mill’s blog.


Having travelled to my parents’ home in Coventry on the Thursday evening, we set off up north after breakfast. We had one of the easiest journeys up there that we’ve ever had. We stopped twice at services for toilet/food/drink; the second stop was at the Tebay services on the M6 – this is like no other service station that I have ever visited. Secretly I was quite pleased when Joel started whinging for food not far from it, because I knew that Andrew would be in his element in the soft-play area, which would help him let off some steam during an otherwise sedentary day in the car.

On this occasion I spent most of the stop in the car, as that seems to be the most reliable place to get Joel to feed. But Tom sampled the deliciousness of the cafe, which prepares fresh snacks and meals using lots of local produce – I’ve tasted it before and was very impressed, not like your average bacteria in a bun or cardboard sandwiches at services! The highlight of my trip there this time was the family changing room, which was clean and easily fitted the four of us, with a spacious change table for Joel, a little person’s toilet and wash basin for Andrew and an adult-sized toilet and wash basin too; this kind of thing makes such a difference when you’re travelling long distances with little ones.

When we arrived in Keswick, Andrew set about exploring the house, which we think he vaguely remembered from last year. Despite having slept quite a bit in the car, the boys were tired come dinner time, so a quick bath and into bed was the next step. Tom and I then went for a short wander through the town for a leg stretch and fresh air whilst Granny and Grandad babysat. It felt very weird to be on our own without the kids.


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

After the car journey the day before, we all decided that staying very local was the order of the day. A leisurely get up, involving Andrew going in to Granny and Grandad’s bed to play with the iPad and listen to music, was followed by a relaxing breakfast. We then headed down to the lake, which is about 15 minutes walk from the house. The land around Derwent Water is managed by the National Trust, and in particular we like the area called Friar’s Cragg, a rocky outcrop where you get some stunning views of the lake and surrounding hills. We were not disappointed by the views there on that day.

We also stopped to look at the ducks on the pebbly beach where the rowing boats are available for hire, and Andrew had great fun running after them. He kept shouting “ducks running away” as he followed them around, as if he was surprised by this cause and effect! As the weather was fairly warm and bright, we stopped for a coffee and cake at a lovely cafe overlooking the lake and even sat outside.

Andrew at lake chasing ducks

In the afternoon we went back home for lunch and then Andrew napped and the rest of us rested. Later on we nipped back into the town to have a mooch around the market which sells all sorts of things from food to crafts to old books to clothes. Amazingly all three children were in a good mood and not feeding/sleeping at the same time just before dinner, so Grandad got his camera out and we had a family photo shoot with some cute results.


We woke up to pouring rain, the kind that soaks you through in just the seconds that it takes you to run to the car to pack it up! So to get our fill of exercise and fun we headed to Penrith leisure centre for a family swim. The small pool was perfect for the little ones, and the adults took it in turns to swim some lengths – I did a quick 30 lengths which was great as I don’t get much chance to swim properly these days. Whenever we’re with family we take advantage of the extra pairs of hands and get as much swimming in as possible so that Joel’s experience is as close as possible to Andrew’s at this age – we used to go once a week but I can’t take them both on my own now.

On the drive back we stopped at Reghed Centre – what’s that? In their words: “Well, we are a number of things really, but the four things we pride ourselves in is being a destination for family, food, the outdoors and arts & culture.” It’s actually run by the same people that run Tebay services (Westmorland Ltd). The two things we went for were lunch – a yummy freshly cooked selection of mains and lighter bites (I’d definitely recommend the flatbreads) – and soft play – Andrew adores this at the moment he’s just like a Duracell bunny going up and down and round the play area again and again.

Worn out, we headed home, and after quite a late nap to recharge the bunny’s batteries, we nipped over to the park opposite the house as it had stopped raining by then.

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

To be continued in another post…..(this one got too long!)

Places to visit on twitter

Tebay services and Rheged: @tebayservices

The National Trust: @nationaltrust

Penrith Leisure Centre: @Penrithleisure

I’m linking up with Country Kids over at Coombe Mill’s blog.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Pregnancy diary: week 28 – holiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust the National Trust for a great family day out

Just a quick post to say what a lovely time we had at Ickworth House and Gardens near Bury St Edmunds this weekend. It’s a National Trust property, and as usual we couldn’t fault the location for a fun family day out.

Snow drops

We’re lucky that quite a few of the 512 NT locations are within a half-an-hour-ish drive from us. Before Andrew came along we were members for a year (whilst one of us was still at the under 25 years old price), and almost every weekend we went for a walk in the gardens/fields around one of the properties near us. We decided that we wouldn’t renew our membership when a year was up because (a) we would have to pay two adult prices, (b) with me being on maternity leave and a baby to budget for it was one of those things that no longer fitted within our budget, and (c) we thought we wouldn’t make it too far every weekend when baby was very little, so instead would go for very local walks from home.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that he walked all the way from the steps you see in the background to here on his own!
More walking/running

Since then we’ve been a few times with each of our sets of parents, either near their houses or near us. This weekend we decided to take Tom’s parents to a NT place they haven’t visited before. We all like walking, and Ickworth has miles and miles of walking paths of various difficulties and surfaces. They even have a designated family mountain bike track, which we’d love to take Andrew on when he’s older. We walked a nice round route through fields and a bit of woodland, nearly getting blown away by the gusty wind at times, but it was enjoyable all the same – made us feel like we’d blown away the cobwebs for sure.

Can't catch me Daddy!

Of course no trip to a NT place would be complete without a trip to their tea room! They always have scrummy lunches and cakes on offer, all freshly prepared there. This time was no exception, and we all enjoyed our food, including Andrew who chose beans on toast from the lovely kids menu (and put the 5-ish-year-old on the table next to us to shame by eating all his when she didn’t finish hers!), and my mum-in-law, who is wheat intolerant, had soup with a wheat free roll as well as a shortbread biscuit (there is usually at least 1 gluten-/wheat-free cake on offer).

Sitting on the big boys' chair (and being caught by Pop when lunging forward!)

Have you ever thought about joining the NT? Are you already a member? Which properties do you like in particular? We’re thinking about joining again at some point, when we think we’ll make good use out of it for the amount of money we’d spend on it.

Playing with stickle bricks in the visitor centre