Friday, 25 July 2014

Summer Outdoor Gear from Mountain Warehouse

With our holiday to Wales we knew we were going to need an odd mix of clothes. Packing shorts, along with fleeces seemed so wrong. But it all got worn.
To add to our outdoor items Mountain Warehouse kindly sent us a few things to try out.

Outdoor Trousers

I went for the trek women's trousers in navy and Charlotte the shore girls trousers in purple. Sold as quick drying and lightweight these were perfect and performed really well, worn almost every day.
They were wonderful on cooler and warmer days, they got covered in sand, mud, a lot of rain and some sea water. When wet they weren't heavy like jeans and dried as you walked when it brighten up.
Our cottage had no washing or drying facilities. So when I really had to wash them in the basin they drip dried hung in the shower over night ready to wear the next day.
Looking good in our trousers

Women's trousers in detail:
These were true to size, the word elasticated waistband usually sends me running but it was done in a flattering way and made the fit and stretch better. The "short" trousers were 29" not the usual UK 28" so I often turned the ends up. Two zip pockets for a mobile or change, the cargo pocket was even big enough for my compact binoculars and a few other pockets for beach finds.
Just a little wet and sandy in this shot

Kids trousers in detail:
Charlotte loved the colour of her purple trousers, something different than the standard navy and beige with a puddle loving 6 year old doesn't work. The BIG bonus of these was the adjustable waist band when you have a skinny minnie. We went for age 5-6 and they are perfect. She still has them on the short leg option (love this too) so will fit for some time more. A couple of pockets for her to store her collection of finds and she was happy. She never complained once so they must be good.
turned up ankles


Bermunda Aqua Shoes

We were all lucky enough to get a pair of these and they came in useful for all sorts of things.
Aqua Shoes

Sadly nobody would go kayaking in the sea with me but on the beach and rock pooling they were great. Stopped all those ouches when walking down to the sea, or the fear of landing on something sharp when jumping waves. After a day on the beach and all de-sanded if the shoes were dry you could walk back to the car with sand free feet (always remember as a child having the sand scrubbed off my feet in the car park).
no sandy feet here

 When rock pooling they offered grip and protection. They drained quite easily and didn't have too much weight or resistance when trying to walk in the sea. They would dry in a few hours in the sunshine.
rock pooling and jumping waves

As an idea on size - I sized up with Charlotte and hers were ok, never fell off but a little loose, Phil's were perfect fit 9 in everything he wears. I'm a 3-4, went for the 4 and should have got the 3.

0.5L Metallic Water Bottle with Spout

Like most people we go through so many bottles as they all seem to leak, but so far the contents of our bags have stayed dry with this one.
keeping hydrated

I thought the karabiner looked great, but it wouldn't hold the bottle if the spout was on, only if using the stopper. Real shame that. As it was a bottle for us to share the spout was more practical. The cap kept the spout clean, but sadly you still need to pull the spout with your hand, so transferring germs. Being metal it could get a little warm in the sun. We filled with chilled water and usually stayed cool enough to drink if kept out of the sun. Has stood up to a few bumps and scrapes fine so far.

Australian Wide Brim Hat

Phil was so looking forward to this as is always in need of hats.
sunglasses not included

But he has a big head and the one size fits all didn't work in this case. I have a small head and it fits me just about right, so may have to take ownership of it as naughty me I don't own a hat. He liked everything about the hat, the style he wanted, the UV protection, the khaki colour. If this was available in other sizes it would be perfect.

These items were kindly sent to me by Mountain Warehouse in return for this review. This has not influenced by views in any way.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Where we go for an hour to escape

Our life these past few weeks has been filled with children's birthday parties one after the other. So a good long walk or day out has been put aside.
A few of the parents laughed when we told them at one party that our wellingtons and coats were in the car ready for us to have walk after. Two hours of sugar and hyper kids it's great to have some fresh air and walk it off.

running ahead
 So where do we go to escape, nearly always our local BBOWT reserves. We have 2 very close and depending on how much it has rained we argue over which we enjoy the most. One walk has been named the fossil walk the other the board walk, or in real terms Dry Sandford Pit and Lashford Lane Fen.

space to explore and find new things
 We love the freedom to explore, we know the locations well and yet we will find something new and exciting every time. We sometimes find a field vole at one site and this last visit we found a new born tiny baby. It was amazing to see, took us all by surprise. But we crept away quietly as didn't want to scare the mum away. Who doesn't love to get covered in mud, paddle in the streams and then realise your wellies leak. This is the steam we saw a fresh water crayfish in last summer.

who doesn't love an unusual bug
 Hopping from stone to stone through the reed beds until you can't see mummy sitting on the bench waiting.

this bug loves a pink coat
Charlotte knows the routes well so runs along in front zooming round the next bend shouting come on, hurry up to us. So much for that relaxing walk! All the grumbles we had at home are forgotten about and we are having fun.

the best way to learn, outside looking at what nature has created
Without realising it we are also ticking off so many of our 50 things. Dam a stream (well we didn't do very well but had a go), skim a stone, run around in the rain (so many times), make a daisy chain, hunt for fossils and bones, climb a tree, hunt for bugs, track wild animals, discover what's in a pond... and a few more I have missed out.

now Charlotte goes to find the fossils
 Come rain, shine or birthday parties, we still find time to get out and have fun exploring even if it's only for an hour.

Did someone say rain, doesn't stop this little person
I'm joining in with Baby Routes Wildlife Wednesday linky.

Friday, 9 May 2014

could this be the best bag - healthy back bag

I brought my small healthy back bag last year before going on holiday. It was one of my best buys for bags for sure and use it every weekend, so imagine my excitement at receiving the big bag healthy back bag. I brought my first healthy back bag for the versatile way of wearing it, across the body or on one shoulder, its safer than a rucksack due to the location of the zip and it hugs your body.

Textured nylon citron big bag
The first visible difference between the two was the size. I thought "this is huge, not sure it will work it's just too big!" I really needn't have worried as once it was on it fitted fine and I'm petite, that's the magic of a healthy back bag, its tear drop shaping just fits to your body, and stays close. The next thing to impress me was how many pockets the bag has (8 internal, 5 external). There are so many, and I've managed to utilise most of them to be extra organised. It really is perfect for a day trip or a week of exploring. The shoulder strap has more padding in this bag which is very comfortable.

a size comparison between small and big bag
 I love the spring/summer 2014 new bright colours. Mine is citron in textured nylon and I love the colour contrast of really bright with black zips and stripes at the base.

 The bag arrived bang on time for us having a week off work with lots of days out planned and also an over night trip to cornwall. So got put to full use.

I had pockets for plasters, pocket for my drink and one for Charlotte, the outside drinks pocket is insulated meaning a bottle of water did stay cool most of the day. Another pocket for a mobile, 2 key hooks, clear plastic pocket which was useful for bus/train tickets, a mesh pocket that was perfect for tablets, pen and lip gloss pocket. If you can think of it there is a pocket for it. Charlotte decided the detachable pouch was hers to keep her lipsalve and stone find in!

internal mesh pockets and silver lining
 The internal main pocket of the bag was HUGE. For a night away this was filled with jeans, chunky knit cardigan, top, wash bag, makeup and toiletries. I found the internal drink/umbrella pocket perfect for bottles you like keeping upright, and fitted 4 of those miniatures and a deodorant in.
This means the bag could easily be used as a swimming bag, or sports bag.

click for larger image
In the above image the bag contains: jeans, cardigan, t-shirt, keys (on key hook) sunglasses (in mesh pocket), ipad (in an internal side pocket), binoculars and toiletries in detachable pouch. Still lots of space left.

 I had the bag quite full most days, and only on one day did it make my shoulder ache slightly after walking for hours (London Zoo, London underground, those days when your whole body aches from not stopping) and probably not the best day to put a hard back book in. But we did manage A4 sticker/activity books, colouring pencils, snacks, camera, binoculars most days with no problem. We even got our portable potty in there one day, with room to spare and it wasn't uncomfortable. Most of the time I don't even realise I have the bag on.

bright colour contrasts worn across the body
 I had two minor quibbles with the bag, the first was with a big chunky knit cardigan every time I put it across my back one of the zips would pull the thread on my cardigan and get me tangled. Easily resolved with  a pair of pliers to nip the zip's tag clasp together more tightly when we got home. The second was an external pocket that would bow outwards as there was no zip or velcro to keep it closed, this wouldn't happen if you wore it on the opposite shoulder but it left this pocket a bit unsafe. On the other hand I did find it handy for easy access to tissues or guide maps, could even reach it when the bag was across my back.

My mum said the 3 outside pockets would be fab as a little pouch that could upzip to be used separately. But I don't think my mum has seen the baglett yet!

worn on one shoulder
 I have used this bag so much recently and loved it, I think it has replaced my love of the small bag and will use this one more often. It's that pefect bag for when you don't need a pushchair any more but the children are still at that age when you need more stuff than will fit in your coat pocket. It leaves hands free when walking when worn across your back, but can also be used on one shoulder when in shops, paying for items in a cafe or hugged to your body when on the underground train or bus. Even worn it across body on my front so I could give Charlotte a piggy back! Its a lot more versatile than a rucksack, safer to use and looks a lot more stylish.

I paid for the small healthy back back myself but received the big bag for free direct from The Healthy Back Bag Company in return for this review. This has not influenced my views in any way.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Hill End Play Day, Oxfordshire

We have mentioned Hill End before on this blog, it's an outdoor education centre in Oxfordshire and often used by schools and organised groups. They have started doing more family activity days during the holidays which we are always keen to attend if we can. We spotted the Easter play day on twitter, and thankfully they were running it on a day we had off from work. So out the sun came, we rounded up Charlotte, invited 2 of her friends and off we went exploring.

Hill End
On arrival the girls were given a sheet of 10 things to do at Hill End and a map of the site. There are plenty more things to get up to, but 10 fitted in with the time it was open... the girls would have stayed all day if they could.

First up make music in the sound garden, think old rubbish that makes a good noise. Xylophone shopping trolley for example.

Get lost in the willow maze. Not quite sure how the girls managed to get lost, but with lots of squealing and I'm leading they made it in and out. We found a willow den next to this and told scary stories!

telling scary stories
Get muddy on a stream walk. Oh they loved this, one girl came minus wellies, but with some swapping and phil carrying the 3rd so they were all in the stream at the same time they did not want to get out.

going on a muddy stream walk
Find your favourite tree. To them involved running around hugging trees shouting this one, no this one until the all agreed on a silver birch.

Have an adventure in the explorers garden. Climbing over tree trunks and a brilliant water recycling activity that we had to tear the girls away from.

where will the water come out
 I read ahead to find the next activity was "muddy", so I told the girls to run up the hill and find the perfect spot for our picnic. We were right beside some daisies so once they scoffed food they ran off to make daisy chains whilst we got a few moments of rest.

The girls rolled down the damp hill to the next task.

Make a mud pie in the mud kitchen. A lot of oh no and gasps and ew mud from all 3 of them. But after a little bit of encouragement they were making  a big apple crumble and adding extra crumble topping, I think they skipped the main course! They did get a little freaked over how muddy they were (and they were cleaner than most there) by the end but they loved it.

a mud apple crumble anyone
Walk to the top of the hill. They are 6 of course they ran, then rolled down (the next task) and then repeated, again and again.

Walk through the silver birches. Junior school did teach me something, this is about the only tree I know and all the girls loved them and their lovely colour. Charlotte now shouts out silver birch when she spots one.

Tell the time on the human sun dial, not quite sure the girls got this one but they loved looking at it, the numbers and months and standing in the middle. It was correct too.

It was 2pm we completed everything and our time was over, the girls did not want to leave.  They played in the sandpit until we were the only people left and we really did have to leave.

heave ho in the sandpit
 The girls loved the day and both mums reported back about how their daughter couldn't stop chatting about the fun they had. We have noticed charlottes confidence improve too with trying  new things. We spotted another stream a few days later and she was in it before we could even check how deep it was, not quite over wellies thankfully.

Check out the Hill End website for more family events coming up... hint, hint May half term.

Thank you Hill End for such a good day.
The "Hill" End
linking up with #countrykids
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Monday, 13 January 2014

Waterperry Gardens, Wheatley, Oxfordshire

Most of Oxfordshire is under water at the moment so finding a good weekend walk wasn't that easy. We have visited the garden centre at Waterperry before but have never been round the gardens as you have to pay. I spotted on twitter that the gardens are free during January so seemed a good time to visit.

We arrived in time for lunch, and headed straight for the tea rooms. There was a nice selection of hot and cold food, we opted for soup and roll and scones between us followed by some cake.

Next to the tea room was an amazing museum of rural life housing a varying arrangement of things. A wide selection of old farming equipment, gardening tools, kitchen implements, biscuit boxes. Charlotte loved the old school desk and chalk boards. It was like a little time warp and the man running it was happy to explain things.

Museum of Rural Life
 We then headed for the gardens, on the left as you enter is an amphitheatre, the footpath goes to the right along what they call virgin walk as the young ladies studying horticulture used to socialise along this shaded area. Waterperry is quite famous for their snowdrops which are just coming out. In a few weeks it will look fantastic.

Amphitheatre and Virgin Walk
 The grounds are quite extensive and divided up into areas, we couldn't do the woodland walk as the ground was too wet as it's close to the river Thame. There are wide areas children can run around in, a beautiful rose garden, rows upon rows of apple trees, we loved reading the names of some of the apples. There is a pond, statues to look out for, we found an old potato planter, and an alpine garden. There are plenty of seats around to just sit and reflect for a moment and enjoy the surroundings.

Rows of apples and the school veg patch
There are "did you know" boxes dotted in various locations that Charlotte loved to find, inside were leaflets with interesting facts about the plants in the borders, things to look out for at certain times of the year, and some history about Waterperry. The house used to be a School of Horticulture for Ladies so some of the history and photos were interesting. Sadly though there was nothing on these sheets for children, it would have been good for them to have things to find or look out for. Waterperry is very popular with the older generation, they do have special family events but it just felt to us that these sheets were missing that something extra.

did you know sheets and lady of the light
As well as a garden centre on site there is an arts and crafts gallery and a gift barn.

the house down to the river
We really enjoyed our few hours here and the weather was wonderful, it's made us want to go back for one of the family events or in the summer to see the borders in full bloom.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Cheddar Woods Holiday Park, Cheddar, Somerset

We decided to have Christmas with a difference this year and to go away. How ever tempting some winter sun was we didn't much fancy flying over the Christmas period so decided on a staycation.
I'm always tempted by the lovely woodland lodges with hot tubs in the Hoseason brochure, but often miss out on them as they book up so early. I was so excited to see that the brand new Cheddar Woods Holiday Park had recently opened and had hot tubs available for Christmas week that we booked it.

The park was really easy to find, not far from the M4/M5 and just on the edge of Cheddar. The site looked lovely when we pulled up, really clean and tidy and welcoming. We were given a warm greeting on arrival, with the offer of mulled wine and a biscuit along with the key to our lodge.

Cheddar Woods Holiday Park
The lodges are beyond a security barrier (only minus is the key pad is on the passenger side), and all lodges are numbered and easy to find. The wow factor when we opened the door was there, it was warm and cosy and really tastefully decorated. The kitchen is bigger than ours at home and had just about everything we needed along with some tea, coffee and washing-up supplies. There were large fluffy towels on all the beds along with bathrobes and extra towels for the hot tub on the double bed. There were white company toiletries in the bathrooms.


our lodge
 The hot tub was wonderful, we used it every day. The instructions to turn it on were easy to follow and it was just the right temperature to use. It was really lovely to come back to after a day exploring the local area.

View from our deck and in our hot tub
After unpacking we headed for the swimming pool, and were very pleased to have it to ourselves. The pool was a bit too deep for Charlotte to stand up in (it was the same depth 1.4m the whole length), but she loved the baby pool that was attached. Nice and shallow and also every 15mins had water jets and bubbles start up. We swam every day in the pool, sometimes watching the sun going down over the valley from the windows. The pool has different open swim sessions every day depending on what goactive water activities were on, and an adult only session early every morning. The changing room was clean and tidy, with single cubicles, 3 large family cubicles, showers, hair dryers and lockers (need £1 for these will be returned). Just off the changing rooms was an adult only relaxing/quiet time area along with a sauna, steam room and experience shower.

As well as reception and the swimming pool the club house also has a gym with trainer on hand for any help (sorry we didn't use as we forgot our trainers/were on holiday!) a very nice spa offering espa treatments. I did treat myself to a facial and massage, really lovely it was too. There is a farm shop offering milk, frozen foods, drinks, local items and any essentials you may have forgotten. Beyond this there is a great 2 lane bowling alley, 2 pool tables, golf simulator, kids soft play area, bar and restaurant. The bar leads onto a nice decking area with tables and chairs, astro turf area and a play area. I can imagine this area in the summer would be lovely in the evening.

facilities on site
 We did have dinner in the restaurant one night and it was a lovely meal with great service, we also had breakfast in the bar on saturday morning after a swim and before driving home. Fantastic double egg toastie.

breakfast, site view, our Christmas dinner
The goactive activities are excellent and run by some keen members of staff who are great with the children. The activities are divided into age groups so there is something suitable for most children from 3 upwards. Charlotte did the wizard workshop and pirate paradise sessions and had a great time dressing up, colouring, singing and telling stories. When your 7+ there are way more exciting things like archery, snorkelling, fencing and many others. We were almost tempted ourselves with a few activities, maybe next visit we will take the grandparents to look after Charlotte while we test them out. We took a walk to the top of the site where there is a tennis and basketball court, beside a climbing tower. Behind this was where they do archery.

A pirate, swimming pool and climbing tower
 The staff really made the holiday, every single person was friendly and welcoming. Things like dressing up like Father Christmas on Christmas morning and coming round to visit all lodges with a present was a lovely touch. This really does make a difference to a holiday.

We loved our week and were so sad when it was over, we had such an excellent time and the facilities were wonderful. There were lots of places to explore close by, cheddar gorge was walking distance away and others just a short drive. Not all the lodges were full the week we visited, and there are still more hard standing areas for sale so we do wonder what the site will be like come the summer, as we obviously saw it at a quiet time.We can't wait to return and really would love to visit again as our week went too fast.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

We love going to Waddesdon Manor as it's excellent for families, often has various activities on and isn't too far from home. Currently they have Winter Light at Waddesdon: Bruce Munro.

Waddesdon Manor
We arrived late morning, and went to see if we could get some tickets for the house (I've not been round but readitdaddy and C have) but it's so popular the only time left was very late afternoon so we passed this time. We headed down to the stables to "hug a husky". There were about 8 lovely husky's to stroke, cuddle and have your photo taken with. You could even sit on a sledge and have your photo taken pretending the husky is pulling you along a snowy scene (for a small price).

hug a husky
When we could finally drag ourselves away from the huskys we had lunch outside the stables as the cafe was really busy. The garden chairs had thick sheep skin throws on so no cold bottoms whilst enjoying yummy pumpkin soup, hot dogs or the NT must have scone and tea.

cosy and warming seats
A did quick check to make sure that the reindeers and Santa's sleigh would be ready for christmas day.

fly reindeer fly
 Then we took a stroll down the hill to the plant centre for the christmas food market, plenty of local food and drinks to try and lots of gifts to buy, we didn't come away empty handed.

we found these dens to explore on the way to the plant centre
 We had a walk back up the hill and through the play area. It's a really fantastic woodland play area, the footpaths were lit up, the trees and also reindeer along the way. There is something for every age from swings to zip wires that keep the kids amused for ages.

one of the play areas
can you spot the owl
We then took a trip down Miss Alice's Drive, it's a wonderful woodland walk with something to explore at every turn. Lots of different bug hotels, board hotels to lift (sadly only found a worm), stepping stone logs and weave a fence.

checking under the board hotel
stepping stone logs
Once we got back to the top of the hill and the house again we took a look around the aviary, its a magnificent looking structure with some unusual birds housed there.

day turns to night
 By now the sun was just setting so with glow stick in hand we headed off to winter light at Waddesdon.

glow stick
 These are 6 works of art displaying light in different ways and to an amazing effect. It was lovely to see young and old exploring and enthralled by the installations. We had to walk round twice to see it again as it got darker.

Brass Monkeys
Parliament of Owls
Mynah Words
River of Light
I think River of Light was our favorite installation, I had to go to the bottom of the hill to get the view looking up

River of Light
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall