Toddlers and Teens in Devon: Part 3

If you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading about how we found ourselves at a ukelele festival, getting squirted to hilarious effect at Teignmouth and my nieces attempt to cross the channel in a £17 dinghy then pop back to Toddlers & Teens in Devon parts 1 & 2.

Part three sees us visiting the beautiful ( if questionably named) Cockington, having a close encounter with a Great White at Living Coasts in Torquay and splitting up briefly for some solo activities.

During the week we were in Torquay there was a Country Fair at one of the local villages – Cockington. It was on a Wednesday which seemed a bit weird to me (I assumed it was mostly for the benefit of tourists like us). Cockington is a pretty little place with history dating back to the iron age, an 11th century church and a huge ‘bowl’ field running up to the house at Cockington Court – a stately home built on the site of a medieval court. The village itself is now home to several arts and crafts workshops and an ancient forge – you can see everything from glass blowing to chocolate sculpting (guess which one the toddlers and teens liked best?!). The ‘picnic’ we ended up having consisted of hotdogs and chocolate fish and chips!

As all the rides and inflatables were very expensive we didn’t end up staying too long in the end. The place was heaving and we had to queue to get out through a gap in a hedge!

That afternoon we took a walk down to Ansteys Cove from our hotel near Babbacombe. The cove is what you might consider a perfect place for smuggling – tucked into a kink in the Devon coast as it is, surrounded by cliffs. The rocky, pebbly beach was perfect for exploring (albeit we had to purchase some little rubber soled wetsuit shoes for the boys to protect their feet). Even so JJ still managed to gash his knee against the rocks during a deep wade! Meanwhile, EJ just revelled in picking up the biggest heaviest rocks he could manage (blimey that boy is strong!) and hefting them into the sea! At one point I found myself carrying him precariously from rock to rock as he urged me onwards in an attempt to catch up with JJ and his cousin before I had a sudden vision of pitching headfirst into the water and dashing the poor boy’s head against the outcrop (I didn’t but this thought was enough to send me rapidly shorewards!).

Later we saw a dog owner take a little swim in the bay whilst her poor water-shy pooch stepping stoned it to the furthest rock, skittered and barked furiously until they were reunited.

The following day was our last in Devon. It was the day before my birthday and my mum and sister had got together to treat me to a couple of spa treatments at The House of Beauty in Wellswood where we were staying (according to my mum’s Torquay- based friend this was, traditionally, the ‘upmarket’ part of the area and still has a couple of nice little cafes and a deli as well as a lovely pub – the Kent’s- which *gin alert* ladies!! – specialises in gins from around the globe ( I really wanted to like ‘Death’s Door’ from Wisconsin but actually preferred Tarquin’ s Cornish Dry…) But I digress.

House of Beauty

In the morning my mum and sister packed the boys up and took them off on an Odyssy of train and bus rides up the coast to Dawlish whilst my dad and nieces trekked back down to Ansteys for a kayak adventure and I meandered down to Wellswood to let the pampering commence! After I was done it transpired that the kids were all still out doing their various bits so I took myself down to The Kent’s and had a lovely salmon bagel whilst reading my book. Glorious birthday treat! On my return to the hotel I ran into the dad and nieces who were hungry so we went back to the pub (goodness knows what that bar maid must have thought!) and I had a yummy dessert whilst they tucked into their sandwiches.

We then drove down to Torquay’ s version of the sea life centre, Living Coasts, and met up with my mum, sister and the boys. My mum and dad opted for a rest at the lovely cafe complete with a wrap around balcony sporting stunning views out across the bay, whilst the rest of us headed inside for close encounters with penguins, otters, seals and a very friendly octopus!

The entire place is covered by a huge high net and one area to the next is separated by those doorways covered by hanging plastic flaps. Apparently plastic flaps are more interesting than otters *sigh*.

Devon plastic flaps

Soon after the otter experience JJ informed me that he needed the loo which sent us off on a wild goose chase through the entire exhibit to the very end to find the nearest toilet ( where JJ pointed out to me that someone appeared to have completely missed the toilet with their number two – not quite sure why this particular part of the experience was so memorable!). Then we retraced our footsteps to join the others for a chance to get up close and personal with some seals, protect EJ from a random duck which took a dislike to him and pecked his leg (notice the accusing finger in the picture!) and witness a shark attack!! (Only kidding but this anamatronic beast was enough to scare the living daylights out of JJ whilst his cousin was happy to oblige with her best ‘terror-stricken’ pose!).

And then the fun ended and the following day we all returned home. Thanks for reading!

 

Toddlers and Teens in Devon: Part 2

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, let me point you to Part 1 of this mini-series: Toddlers and Teens in Devon: Part 1.

On day two we knew that it was going to be one of our warmiest sunniest days (based on the BBC weather forecast) so we decided to make this our ‘beach day’. We had it on good authority that one of the nicest beaches most suitable for the little people in that area was to be found at Teignmouth – about a 20 minute drive away from where we were staying just outside Torquay.

After packing up the million and one things you need to take to a beach with kids (not including food) we set off in convoy and took a scenic drive up the Riviera coastline arriving in Teignmouth at about 10.30am. I found an ideal parking spot right on the roadside but the others had to go a bit further up to the car park. My dad decided to go and track them down and duly disappeared whilst the rest of us found each other outside the Beachcomber Cafe (which was always going to be a safe bet 😉 ) and then we all wondered where Grandad had gone with all our bags!

In the meantime my brother in law had ordered pancakes with bacon and maple syrup for the girls and lattes for the adults. The restaurant was busy but very convenient and we ended up ordering the kids a little packed lunch lunchbag from there later on albeit during a massive embarassing, screamy meltdown from EJ! Here is a view out from the restaurant:

Devon View from the Beachcomber

Pretty scenic!

It was another one of those partly stony, partly sandy beaches and it wasn’t the most massive stretch so it did get very busy up near all the facilities. My brother in law bought a little dinghy which kept JJ and the girls entertained and then they settled down to build a sand fort.

Just across the road was a lovely water play park which EJ absolutely loved although by that point JJ had gotten a little bit wet and cold and he was happy to go off and explore the other play equipment while his little brother got squirted and ambushed by the intermittent jets of water shooting up in every direction!

EJ scaled great heights all by himself as he is wont to do and JJ loved the fact there was play equipment in the shape of a pirate ship!

It really was a lovely place to take little children and I’d definitely recommend it.

On day 3 we decided to do something completely different and headed inland to the lovely town of Totnes. We’d visited here before as a family, two years ago when EJ was just 5 weeks old and pretty much re-visited the same places and did the same things again. On the itinerary was a scrummy breakfast at the unique Barrel House cafe where I had the most magnificent Eggs Benedict and my sister had the Eggs Florentine which looked equally delicious! The children were kept quiet with luxury hot chocolates and eggs on toast.

With full tummies we left to explore and do a little bit of window shopping. Totnes is one of those towns full of interesting one-off boutiques although we spent rather a long time hanging around Mountain Warehouse which EJ decided was the best and nicest shop ever and we ended up playing the ‘yes of course I’ll buy you this camping chair/set of skittles/wind-up torch” before skipping round the back of the display stand to put it all straight back!

Devon The Barrel House

Devon Totnes

We eventually extracted the monkey and headed down to the South Devon Steam Railway. My mum and I took the toddlers and teens on a round trip to Buckfastleigh via the Hogwarts Express (as far as my nieces were concerned!) whilst the other adults hung out at the cafe of the Rare Breeds Farm which is just the other side of the tracks. After our train journey my sister and brother in law took the boys into the farm whilst the rest of us chilled out at the cafe.

Devon JJ Hogwarts Express

Devon EJ Hogwarts Express

My dad at the Rare Breeds cafe looking out across the railway and rolling hills:

Devon View from the Rare Breeds Cafe

Some train portraits (not sure what happened to JJ – he must have been off wandering the corridors!):

dDevon EJ on the steam

Devon Portrait of K

Devon Portrait of C

And later, some more ‘arty’ black and white shots:

Devon Totnes Littlehempston sign

Devon Step back in time

Devon Noisy Steam

(Steam trains are noisy!)

Devon Great Western Railway Notice

Last time we came to this place it was absolutely bucketing with rain so we really had the luck this time round and a lovely day out for all the family.

Look out for the third and final installment of Toddlers and Teens in Devon to discover:

– Blue tongues and chocolate body painting*
– How to entertain two preschoolers with nothing but a small hotel room and a fully inflated dinghy
– When plastic curtains are more interesting than skittering otters (*sigh*)
– And how to (almost) swim with the seals.

*Not as exciting as it sounds…

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Toddlers and Teens in Devon: Part 1*

On Friday 1st August at about 10.45am, a black Ford Galaxy pulled up outside my house. Out jumped my mum, dad, sister, brother in law and nieces to help me load up my own car with the million little things that you take on holiday with you when you have small children (everything from EJ’s new circus tent ‘for the beach’, to half a wooden railway, card games, sticker books, plastic racquets, picture books, wellies, sandals, splash suits, suncream, oh, and a few clothes!).

Unfortunately the hubster was not able to join us due to work commitments – even the days he was planning to join us were cancelled out by last minute training courses.

We knew that it would be a long slog down the A303 across Salisbury Plain – particularly the Stone Henge stretch, on a Friday, at the height of summer! In the event the journey took us about 6 hours from North East Hampshire to Torquay on Devon’s ‘Riviera’ coastline. I have to say that the kids were remarkably well behaved – all despite the Stone Henge blip when JJ started up the ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ interrogation, EJ flew off the handle when we pulled into a layby for JJ to do a quick wee and my mum was obliged to sit between the boys for the rest of the journey!

We had been sorely disappointed by the week’s weather forecast, and it was indeed bucketing with rain on our arrival, but, I’m happy to report that, for the most part, the weather people were wrong and we had glorious sunshine for the majority of the week.

On day one were were serenaded at breakfast by my 15 year old niece on the ukelele. No, not ‘when I’m cleaning windows’, she actually does a beautiful, melancholy version of ‘Sugar Man’ by American folk musician Sixto Rodriguez and Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Apparently the uke is really coming into it’s own with the younger generation, so when we heard that there was a ukelele festival down on Oddicombe beach that very day, there seemed little alternative but to head off along the clifftops to see what was going on.

ukelele festival poster

Oddicombe is just along the coast from Babbacombe which was very close to where we were staying. The small, pebbly beach sits in a little cove at the foot of steep cliffs which can only really be reached by taking a funicular train directly down the cliffside. So far so good – trains of any description tick the box for JJ!

The music that greeted us when we reached the ‘festival’ was not really what my niece had been hoping for though. The players, and indeed the audience, were well into their 50s and 60s and ‘old time’ music hall was more the order of the day than anything more modern or experimental, although they did cover some hits of yesteryear – a couple of Stones and Beatles classics, but the children got to have their paddle, the girls hired a peddalo and gave everyone a bit of a heart attack by appearing to set sail across the channel, before returning completely oblivious to their poor mother’s frantic waving, and a thief was born as EJ suddenly produced a postcard he had apparently filched from a low shelf!

That day we also visited Kents Caverns, a short walk from our hotel, with one of those amazing, billion year old cave complexes full of stalagtites, stalagmites and funny anecdotes about explorers who had to strip down naked, grease up with goose fat and squeeze themselves through small crevices, so that one day we could call for a swift escort out through the dark tunnels with a bored two year old (fully clothed!).

Back in the gift shop/cafe, EJ appeared with a plastic scoopful of pick and mix which obliged me to shovel £2.40 worth of sugary evil into a paper bag to make up for this little procurement – but now I say never again! If cynical shop keepers are wiley enough to make that stuff accessible to little fingers, then they can take the loss – I can live without the extended sugar meltdown thanks!

Tune in for further installments to find out:

  • How much chocolate ice cream it takes to paint a toddler
  • The wonders of Teignmouth
  • All about pancakes, bacon and Eggs Benedict at Totnes’s Barrel House
  • How I survived yet another flippin’ steam railway journey 🙂 !
  • And some close encounters of the seal kind at Torquay’s Living Coasts

*No photos in Part 1 as I went on holiday with an *uncharged camera* (!!!) #poorplanning

 

View into Anstey’s Cove: B&W Photography Project

JJ Anstey's Cove

While we were away in Devon we discovered this little cove which was walking distance from where we were staying. A couple of memorable things happened whilst we were there including JJ bashing up his knee wading between rocks, EJ covering himself from head to foot in chocolate ice cream and a bit of a stone chucking marathon by EJ who seems to love chucking stuff more than anything else!

I caught this pic of JJ looking out to sea contemplatively and it comes across really quite mean and moody in black and white I think.

Joining up again with the Black and White Photography Project over at Podcast Dove.


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North Norfolk with preschoolers Part 3

Before I begin let me gently guide you to two more brilliant travel posts which could have been (but weren’t) sponsored by the Norfolk Tourist Board (come on guys get your act together! 😉 ) North Norfolk with Preschoolers Part 1 and Part 2

After having read Lucy’s post all about her stay at The Pigs in Edgefield and perusing their website I was really keen to visit and see the place for ourselves. Knowing that it would be really child-friendly with an outdoor playzone designed by the creators of BeWilderwood, I persuaded the hubster that if we were to have one meal out all week it should be at this venue. We visited one afternoon hoping that we could get the boys an early tea but unfortunately they don’t start serving food til 6pm so we hung around for a while, checked out the play areas, had some great fun on the zipwire, tree-house-come-giant slide and climbing equipment before heading back to the holiday house with the intention of returning for lunch the following day.

Unfortunately our return trip wasn’t quite so successful. EJ really seemed to have entered the terrible twos – he was being stubborn, screamy and very, very hard work, insisting on ignoring the play areas in favour of wandering up and down the length of the pub picking up knives or breakable objects left on low tables. When the food arrived JJ decided that he didn’t like his burger. Someone spilt some lemonade at some point and we felt that our meals were OK but not £15 each worth of OK…Having said that I would still recommend this place to people with little children as this would have worked out on another day I’m sure, and the menu of Norfolk Iffits (like a local version of Tapas) was something I would have liked to have tried – in fact some Iffits and a dessert would have been preferable I guess but we weren’t prepared to stay and wait and pay for a dessert with EJ in High Maintenance mode – no fun for anybody!

We decided to keep most of the day a bit low key after cramming so much in since our arrival in the county and another NT venue was on the cards – this time Sheringham Park. As the hubster was intending to do the Park Run here on Saturday morning he wanted to check the place out so we decided on a little stroll.

EJ wanted to run everywhere and JJ was happy to have a run initially but then he wanted to be in the buggy. Unfortunately EJ wouldn’t accept this and demanded that JJ get up and continue running with him which went down about as well as a plate of raw fennel (although, bizarrely I do know someone who claims this is one of their four-year-old’s favourite foods…). Then EJ decided if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em and this was the result:

Norfolk 2 boys 1 buggy
Perhaps we should have bought that double buggy after all…

On our last day the sun finally came out and the winds dropped a bit – hurrah! We had a long think about where to go. Initially I was very keen to try the Dinosaur theme park which looked like really good fun from the leaflet, but the hubster persuaded me that it wasn’t worth going somewhere where you would pay up to £40 to enter (still cheap compared to somewhere like Legoland but with no guarantees on EJ’s interest or behaviour, not an expense we relished) and then get ripped off on food and drinks. I flicked through the basket of tourist leaflets in our holiday house and eventually alighted upon a pamphlet for Wroxham Barns which fulfilled all our criteria – no entry fee, some shops (for me), a café, petting farm and mini funfair.

When we arrived there the hubster and I realised that we’d been before about 7 years previously when we’d visited with his daughter and her cousin who were both three at the time. It really is a lovely little place. After a coffee outside the café we wandered round to look in the lovely gift shop. I was after some fudge or other treats to take back for my work colleagues and there was a sweetie shop with home made fudge so I popped in closely followed by munchkins who can smell out a jelly baby at 100 yards. EJ was immediately drawn to the pick and mix selection which was crazily positioned within toddler-reach and, in the blink of an eye proceeded to help himself much to our mortification. After several attempts to extract him from the jelly tots I gave in and shovelled half a tonne of the boys’ drug of choice (sugar) into a large paper bag and handed over the cash. One has to wonder why someone can’t invent some sweets the effect of which would mirror barbiturates rather than speed… but I digress.

Whilst the hubster took the boys off to the fairground rides I hung around the gift shop and perused some pretty clothes – I saw these gorgeous nautical theme shoes from Joules:

navy spot joules shoe

but alas they had none in my size! Then I began to feel guilty about shopping whilst the boys were off doing fun stuff and left without a purchase. They really did have loads of fun on pirate ships, a little transport themed merry-go-round and some quad bikes before we headed off into the town of Wroxham to get some lunch.


I don’t know if you’re familiar with Wroxham but the whole town appears to be owned by a guy called Roy. There’s Roys of Roxham, Roy’s Toys and a couple of other Roy-branded venues as well all of which makes the place feel a bit like you’ve stumbled into some kind of frontier town where a man called Roy might appear at any moment and demand a toll for safe passage. He didn’t.
It is also known as the gateway to the Broads – Norfolk’s famous waterways. Pretty, but unfortunately we didn’t get to take a boat trip on this occasion.

In the afternoon we finally got to take advantage of our holiday home location. We stayed in a lovely little three bedroom Victorian terraced house named Forsythia Cottage, owned and run by Poppyland Cottages – a four star venue with all mod cons and the provision of a cot and a few big tubs of toys for the boys to play with as well. It is located just a stone’s throw from the sea front and there is a lovely playground just across the road. JJ changed into his swimming shorts and EJ just stripped down to nappy and t-shirt and we all piled down to the beach to make some sandcastles and have a paddle. It is a partly sandy, party stony beach which means that the walk down to the water’s edge is a bit like a run over hot coals in bare feet to get to other side! I really did wish that I’d thought to bring some jelly shoes at this point!

I think JJ could have stayed there for hours – he had so much fun jumping the waves and running up and down on the wet sand! I’m just so happy we got the chance to do this after a week of somewhat chilly days.
Chicken pox and tantrums aside, this was all in all a fab week of little adventures – a really nice little staycation!

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

North Norfolk with preschoolers – Part 2

(For part one of this mini-series – don’t miss out on chicken poxy shenanagins! – click here.)

On day two we were already suffering from that vague sensation you get when you go on a self-catering holiday entirely unprepared for mealtimes. After a bit of a verbal scuffle with the hubster I had to concede that eating out every day was not going to be an option. We decided on a trip into Norwich (“A Fine City”) which would allow us to treat the boys to a cheeky Happy Meal at the Golden Arches.

Norwich really is an interesting place, packed with history. Anyone who reads the brilliant Put Up With Rain blog will be in no doubt that Lucy’s pride in her home city is justified. Having said that, history is not something that really appeals to pre-schoolers and we had second thoughts about a trip round Norwich Castle with them, instead opting for Norwich Cathedral (which felt like less of a commitment money-wise). It was actually really fortuitous because our visit coincided with the filming of a major motion picture starring Judi Dench – Tulip Fever based on a great book by Deborah Moggach set in 17th Century Holland. The hubster and kids were decidedly underwhelmed by this (although the hubster did attempt to pimp EJ out to the film crew should they need a ‘child with the pox’ for any reason – they politely declined).

For me though, this was one of the highlights of the holiday (being on a movie set, not having my toddler pimped out)! I have been a lover of all things cinematic and film-related for as long as I can remember and used to be able to claim encyclopaedic knowledge of what was going on in the industry, devouring Empire magazine from cover to cover month in month out. Nowadays I don’t get much opportunity to take in a movie – even on the small screen, but I will be keeping an eye out for this one because I know there will be one little scene during which I was tucked away just behind the action desperately attempting to keep EJ from either yelping or charging headfirst into the limelight.

The hubster was much more taken with the twitchers camped out on the green outside – actually the Hawk and Owl Trust all set up to view and record the movements of the peregrine falcons which nest up in the turrets. They let us have a look through one of the viewfinders and they really are impressive birds.

A quick Costa latte fix, a trip to Langleys toyshop (where the boys got a coach and an ice cream van respectively – the latter of which went on to drive us to distraction with its annoying tune!) and our day was complete.

Day three we set off for JJ’s promised land – the North Norfolk Steam Railway! Honestly I don’t think I have ever experienced so many trips on steam railways since JJ was born – he absolutely loves them and it was perfect to have a little branch line in Sheringham – so close to where we were staying. We opted for a very short trip (you never know where you stand on enclosed spaces with a toddler in tow!) and journeyed to the first stop and back with a little time to spend looking around the lovely old-fashioned station at Weybourne. The friendly guard on the train told us to look out for the toilets in particular and he wasn’t kidding – genuine Crappers! The whole of the Ladies (not sure about the Gents!) was a museum piece in itself.

There was also a lovely café and toyshop on the station and a pretty little garden area with tables where I caught this butterfly shot (in between lunges at a wayward toddler who seemed to quite like the idea of diving off platform edges :-/ ).

When we arrived back at Sheringham we still had the day ahead of us so we took a stroll down the High Street with the intention of seeing the sea. I have to say that my initial impression was that, for the crowds, it could almost have been Camden or Covent Garden on Sea. However the average age was probably 70 and street entertainment was thin on the ground. You can see why this place appeals to the older generation though – it is like stepping back in time to a former decade – one in which out of town supermarkets did not exist and you would visit green grocers, butchers, bakers and ironmongers all individually. I am old enough to remember the very end of that era and it was a bit nostalgic in that respect!

We made it to the end of the road and on to the seafront but the weather wasn’t great and the munchkins were beginning to flag. A quick ice-cream (pistachio for me – delish!) a few photo shoots of the giant lobsters which seemed to abound (!) and we were en route home.

After a pit stop for an EJ nap and lunch we decided that a little afternoon trip was in order to keep the little people from mutiny. As we became members of the National Trust in April it was a no-brainer to seek out the best Norfolk had to offer (a free trip means no obligation to ‘make a day of it’ and we knew we could call it quits if tantrums or chicken poxiness got the better of any or all of us). We opted for Blickling Estate – such a stunning property – even though we didn’t go inside the building itself it was a pleasure to stroll in the lovely grounds. The boys didn’t take long to discover some little hills for rolling down. EJ became very attached to a rock on a gravelled path which he attempted to kick along like a ball (perhaps after all he was aware of World Cup fever…) and then we stumbled upon some giant lawn games (and who doesn’t love the idea of getting a pile of giant Jenga bricks collapsing on a sandaled foot?).

Coming up in Part three:

  • That doomed trip to The Pigs (a Fine pub)
  • Wroxham (who the f**k is Roy?)
  • Two boys, one buggy, in Sheringham Park
  • And finally – the sun comes out in Overstrand and we hit the beach!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

North Norfolk with preschoolers – Part 1

I can see the sea!

This weekend we returned from a wonderful family holiday to Overstrand near Cromer on the North Norfolk Coast. This will be our last chance to travel outside of school holidays as JJ starts big school in September.

We opted for Norfolk primarily due to the fact that one of my closest and oldest friends lives en route (near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk) and it was deemed the perfect opportunity to get our little families together for the first time since ou children have been old enough to interact together.

Because of post-motherhood fuzz brain (I’m not going to openly admit to just being a bit s**t at planning and organisation :-/ ) I booked this holiday over the Britmums Live dates – for which I had already purchased my £98 ticket – read more about my thoughts on this shortly!

Other than bad planning which can be blamed on me, the universe decided to stick its oar in as well, as, lo and behold if I didn’t remove EJ’s pyjama top on the morning of Day 1 to discover a little constellation of chicken pox spreading itself out across his back. This, of course, put paid to our 2 planned visits to the lovely Sophie as, despite her eldest having previously suffered the chicken pox, she is also currently the proud owner of a bloomin’ gorgeous 6 month old baby and there was no way we were going to put him at risk.

Armed with an extended first aid kit including acqueous calamine, Calpol, Calprofen and enough bicarb of soda to automatically qualify me for the Great British Bake Off (you put it in the bath, right?), we put on a brave face and set off in the almost certain knowledge that JJ would soon join his brother in the pox.

Cut a long story short – he did, within two days, and suffering with it worse than his little brother inducing a Tourettes-a-thon (minus the swearing!) of hopping, twitching and itching which culminated in a ‘luxury’ hot chocolate being shot up into the air and all over the floor of a toy shop in the beautiful town of Holt which we will probably never be able to show our faces in again (for shame!).

All this said, we did not let this minor ( :-/ ) setback stop us from exploring all that North Norfolk had to offer the likes of us. The first, and highly touted, visit we made was to BeWilderwood near Wroxham – a kind of massive adventure playground, if you will, all set in atmospheric woodland and set up to mirror a fantastical world where small mythical creatures and the occasional witch (also a crocodile-like being named Mildred who, apparently, likes to dance around a sparkly handbag at the weekend) live out their days. Our children weren’t really bothered by all this mythologising and the best bits for them (JJ in particular) were the boat ride, wobbly high bridges and zipwires.

Norfolk Bewilderwood

I had the pleasure of closely shadowing EJ’s every move as he casually mistook himself for a child 8 years older and attempted to scale even the tallest structures. Unfortunately this meant the camera stayed firmly zipped up in my backpack for 90% of the time.

I also had to eventually concede to the hubster that, for better planning (here we go again!) we would not have been faced with the prospect of spending £3 on a plain cheese sandwich.

Still to come in the North Norfolk with Preschoolers series:

  • A surprise awaited us at Norwich Cathedral
  • JJ’s wish came true with a trip on the North Norfolk Railway
  • What happened when a trip to the most child-friendly pub ever (The Pigs in Edgefield) didn’t quite work out…
  • Fun and games (and attempted sweetie theft!) at Wroxham Barns and a brief foray into Wroxham town for a quick squizz at ‘The Broads’
  • Beach shenanagins back at Overstrand
  • And finally, two more National Trust properties to cross off the list – Blickling Estate and Sheringham Park.

Linking up to What’s the Story over at Podcast The Doves.


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Love the little things Week #6

READ

(disclaimer: some of the things I will mention here may bear a resemblance to things I talked about last week, the difference being last week I was thinking about them, this week I’ve put them into practice!)

While I’ve The Sleeperbeen away I’ve been trying to make a bit more time for leisure reading – fiction. In the past choosing good summer reads was part of the fun of preparing for a holiday but nowadays the chance to find the time is rare. Nevertheless I have put down my more literary tome and picked up The Sleeper by Emily Barr. I’ve only managed to read about a fifth of the book, mostly before dropping off to sleep last thing at night. It’s a bit of a slow starter if it is to be a mystery thriller – so far there has just been a very small hint of more interesting things to come. She does however really get you inside the mind of her protagonist so you feel like you might be able to predict her later moves. I’ve read some books by this author before so I feel confident that the plot will pick up soon!

WATCHED

Well, despite promising myself that I would take a step back from blogging this week I have ended up still doing a lot of reading and commenting, but in the background has been a lot of international football (Spain’s out – shocker!), Chuggington, Topsy and Tim and Swashbuckle (I’ll be talking like a pirate for some time – ah-harr me hearties!)

WORE

I’ve been mostly sticking with the red, white and blue theme this week – unfortunately our holiday weather hasn’t been very warm and sunny so most of my new pretty lightweight outfits have just hung in the wardrobe of our holiday house. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some wear out of them when we go off to Devon in August… Here’s a pick of myself and the boys sporting a range of stripes:

Norfolk stripy tops

HEARD

Paulo Nutini. He’s one of those singers, like Aloe Blacc, who have the most amazing, god-given voices – eminently listenable, and some of his songs thrill me – I’m thinking Last Request and New Shoes. His latest release, Scream (Funk my Life Up) is pretty good, but I’m still not sold on some of the other songs from the album. In the old days I would just buy the album and then it would grow on me, but in this age of downloads and digital ‘tasters’ I am often left a bit undecided…

MADE

I’m on holiday so time in the kitchen has been reduced and I certainly haven’t cooked anything as such. I have the makings of a great holiday album though and I helped make a little family of Supermen by buying the hubster a T-Shirt for Father’s Day which matches those of the boys just for fun!

The Supermen shirts

AND LASTLY…

It’s been a week of highs and lows as holidays with small children are wont to be – the worst thing being that both children succumbed to chicken pox – EJ from Day 1!

Highs though, have included visiting Norwich Cathedral during the filming of Judi Dench’s new movie Tulip Fever – a book I loved by Deborah Moggach. I’m excited to know that when I watch the film I will be able to pinpoint the scene where we were tucked in to a side chapel just behind the action with our fingers crossed that EJ wouldn’t suddenly squeal at the top of his lungs! (He didn’t!).

Visiting the beautiful Blickling Estate one sunny afternoon and playing giant lawn games with the boys was awesome.

And a lovely little (short!) journey on the North Norfolk Railway culminating in me taking pictures of the toilet (a genuine Crapper!):

Norfolk Weybourn rail 'Crapper'

Capturing a fab butterfly shot outside whilst waiting for the train back:

Norfolk railway butterfly 1

And then a lovely stroll down Sheringham High Street which (whilst somewhat heaving with the older generation!) was like taking a step back in time with lots of green grocers’ stacked with beautiful looking and smelling fruit and veg outside, baker’s shops with tempting treats, ice cream parlours and adorable gift shops which made me sad that I wasn’t there with a girlfriend for the purposes of browsing through the scarves, homewares and intriguing little bits and pieces. There also seemed to be a bit of a lobster theme going on there:

So now I just need a holiday from my holiday and I’ll be a happy woman!

Happy Friday Little Loves! X

 

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A healing holiday?

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This week’s Prompt from Sara over at Mum Turned Mom is this quote: In matters of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius! Mehmet Murat ildan. Well, to be honest I’ve never taken a holiday to heal either my mind or body. I did go away on a family holiday with a five week old baby in 2012 though, and that was healing in many ways.

In those early days with my eldest I was pretty desperate and time with constant support from my family would have been amazing. Obviously that was never going to be the case as he came at the beginning of September. EJ on the other hand came at the end of July – the two of them bookmark the school summer holidays perfectly!

I was worried when my Mum first suggested a holiday at the end of August 2012 – the initial plan was to go to a fun holiday camp somewhere in Holland and it occurred to me that it must be pretty difficult to get a passport application (and photo) sorted for a couple of week old baby (although I’m sure people do it all the time!). Soon though the plan was changed to good old Devon – bit of a staycation instead.

My mum found a fab holiday farm which would accomodate 9 of us. It included an indoor pool which was fab for the kids but not so much for me. Women are generally advised not to go swimming much before six weeks after giving birth. I really had fun watching my brother in law fling JJ across the pool though much to his delight and hilarity – I’d never seen him so chilled out in the water before.

My mum cooked a few big family meals for us all and I’ll never forget one evening sitting down to a big cheesy cottage pie and JJ piping up by saying “mm this is Berry nice Grandma” – He was just about to turn three and it was the cutest little compliment ever!

We went on steam trains and the Rare Breeds farm near Totnes, we visited Salcombe Bay and went for a walk through Dartmoor (where JJ whizzed along so fast and furiously on his balance bike and managed to fall off grazing up his face in the process!).

We took a long boat trip down the Dart river from Dartmouth to Totnes and spent our evenings chatting amiably and taking it in turns to rock and cuddle the baby.

I think that, as women, we naturally go through a healing process after birth, physically, but it can take a long time to adjust mentally – first time round especially, but second time round there is also the adjustment to being a mum of two – learning how to deal with a toddler and a baby at the same time. Having something to look forward to and then company, support and people there to share in the lovely bits, if only for a week, was perfectly timed to make the adjustment a little easier and I will always treasure the memories of JJ’s last real holiday as the centre of attention in everything he said and did.

 

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A perfect day…

A shaft of sunlight falls across the sheets of the bed. You wake to the sound of birds singing, water splashing from the filter of the aquamarine swimming pool outside your windows and the laughter of your children. You realise that you are somewhere different, somewhere special. The smell of fresh coffee and freshly baked sweet rolls wafts through the room. You feel immensely satisfied to know that you’ve slept solidly for over eight hours.

As you pad across the room and out into the living area you sense an atmosphere of excitement. Something a bit different is planned for the day. A scenic drive down a beautiful coastline in a hired mini bus full of family, young cousins laughing and joking, everyone singing along to old Motown classics. You stop to spot exotic wildlife and do some beach combing along the way, filling buckets with the most beautiful seashells you’ve ever seen.

Everyone is treated to lunch at a pretty little seafront bistro with amazing ocean views. On the next part of the drive you stop to take photographs and buy beautifully crafted wooden animals from native roadside vendors.

The drive takes you into more mountainous country – the most stunning valleys and long distance views – some have described this as a view from ‘God’s window’.

You reach your destination for the night – a little b&b from the Victorian era, updated to boutique standards for the weary modern traveller. Everyone from your extended family take stock of the journey so far over dinner – funny things that have been said, holiday catchphrases and chatter about the itinerary for the following day – following a gold rush trail, passing through more frontier towns heading ever closer to our final destination – Safari!

three rondevals

I wasn’t sure where I was heading with this imagined description to begin with but almost straight away my thought process was hijacked by memories of the most wonderful holiday I had when I was 20 – travelling with my sister (and her then boyfriend) to Cape Town in South Africa to visit my Aunt, Uncle and cousins who were living out there for a few years due to my Uncle’s job off the African coast at the time.

The description above is a bit of a re-imagining based on the fact that I am no longer one of the kids but one of the adults! We really did take this most amazing journey up “The Garden Route”, saw wild baboons on the roadside, beachcombed in the most stunning places – beaches us Brits can only dream of. We visited the Kimberley Diamond Mines, stayed in a place called Pilgrim’s Rest, perched high in the lush mountains of the Mpumalanga Province and continued on to a safari lodge within the limits of the Kruger National Park. I’m getting shivers and tears in my eyes just thinking about it.

My Aunt and Uncle were the most wonderful hosts and it was fabulous to spend some quality time with them as young adults. The only thing missing really was the company of our parents as well. And the memory of perfection is more than just thinking about the physical location – it is a memory of a feeling – a feeling of such happiness. It was a time in my life when there were no real complications or worries. I was on that border between childhood and adulthood – enjoying the best of both worlds.

Of course that’s not to say that I haven’t had perfect moments and days since that time or that I won’t again.

I guess to sum it up my perfect day involves being in a special place, surrounded by special people. It has to be outside of the usual routines, and away from all the worries and chores of daily life. Love, laughter, sunshine and blue skies, new places and new experiences all add to the mix.

What would you’re perfect day look like?

This post was inspired by this week’s Prompt from Sara at Mum Turned Mom: A Perfect Day.

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