A Family get together at Box Hill

Box Hill - tea 2

This past weekend was one of the hubster’s work weekends. I often take the boys over to my parents house at times like this, but they are currently holidaying in Sicily (lucky things!). Fortuitously, we had been invited down to Salisbury to stay the weekend with my sister-in-law and her two boys, where they have just moved into their new house after a five year stint in Germany. Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances this plan had to be postponed. On the up side this left us free to arrange a get together with my sister, brother in law and nieces for a lunch date on Sunday.

We hadn’t really had any plan until the night before when we suddenly realised that we hadn’t really got any idea about what we wanted to do. It is an hour’s drive between our homes so we thought it might be nice to find something to do which is kind of half way between. After much umming and erring, mulling the pros and cons of RHS Wisley, Painshill Park or, our initial desire – ‘a castle!’ (looking at Hever in Kent, the Boleyn family seat – simply too far for us), we settled upon Box Hill near Dorking, National Trust owned land with plenty of walks, trails, nearby cafes and pubs. As my first thought had been to do something outdoorsy which would give us the chance to appreciate the beauty of Autumn, this was a grand idea and the weather was set to be dry (if not sunny).

We opted to do an early lunch for the sake of the boys who get hungry early (!) which ruled out the Smith and Western restaurant nearby which doesn’t open until 12. We ended up at the Ryka’s cafe which is apparently one of the biggest biker’s destinations in England (!!). It is essentially a greasy spoon caff where your main option is burgers, burgers or more burgers (or, in the case of the kids, chicken nuggets!). We appeared to be the only people in there who weren’t dressed from head to foot in leathers!

Next we hopped back in our cars and drove up the zig zag road which formed part of  the London-Surrey Olympic Cycle circuit (and there are still plenty of Tour de France style scribblings on the road!). It took an age to drive up as the road was littered with cyclists funnily enough, causing my youngest niece to comment that she had a problem with Lycra (leather is OK apparently).

There is a lovely ‘Natural Play Trail’ up there so, wellies donned, we set off to discover: Slippy logs:

Box Hill - slippy logs

Climbing branches:

Box Hill - log climb

Stump sculptures:

Box Hill - stumps

Dens:

Box Hill - Dens

A portal through a tree to another world*

Tree portal

And some breathtaking views:

Box Hill - Views 2

Not to mention many, many, many muddy puddles (which I appear to have omitted from the camera roll – probably due to a sudden fear that my children would re-play that scene from the Vicar of Dibley where she merrily skips into a puddle which turns out to be waist deep!) Before heading to the cafe for hot chocolate, babyccino, ice cream, cake, flapjacks and coffee (Not all for me I hasten to add 🙂 ). It was here that EJ started singing Happy Birthday much to my bemusement until I realised he’d clocked the NT bunting!

All in all a lovely little outing.

*The other side of the tree.

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


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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

An afternoon at Ham House; a ferry ‘cross the Thames

At the weekend the boys and I headed over to my parents for an overnight visit whilst the hubster was working. During the week my mum had told me to pack wellies and splash suits so that we would be free to take the boys out whatever the weather. In the event it was actually a lovely sunny afternoon – despite torrential rain and thunder storms in the morning.

As both my mum and I now have National Trust membership she suggested we head over to one of the local NT properties a short drive from where they live – Ham House, on the Richmond Riverside in South West London.

 

We didn’t even attempt to enter the house with the boys but it wasn’t necessary as the grounds are big and beautiful and there is so much to explore and space to run around like loons (as they are wont to do!). We also had a little game of hide and seek:

Discovered the kitchen garden where I took a few pics of the beautiful wild flowers:

And tried to find the promised ‘den building’ which turned out to be a pile of sticks someone had already leant up against a tree and not much else:

Ham House 'build a den'

The next part of our little afternoon adventures took us down to the riverside where we hopped on a little mini ferry which took us over to the Twickenham side which backs on to Marble Hill House and grounds (not NT but owned by English Heritage) and drops you off on the doorstep of a lovely playground and cafe (note below, JJ very proud to be allowed to ‘drive’ the boat! And our brush with a family of swans – six little fluffy cygnets!). The Hammertons Ferry is apparently the last remaining privately owned foot ferry on the Tidal Thames and its one of only four remaining ferry routes in London not to be replaced by a bridge or tunnel.

Once we returned on the ferry we took a slightly different route back to Ham House and stumbled upon a little paddock (it transpires there is a Polo club next door!). EJ was thrilled to see a horsey up close! This particular horse was very friendly and came ambling over to say hello.

All these different interludes kept us all entertained right up until the drive home and the boys were happy and good natured to have been out in the fresh air for a couple of hours so all in all a lovely little day out!


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