Monday, 16 April 2012

Our holiday in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote

We have recently returned from our first family holiday abroad. We chose to visit somewhere we have been before so we knew what to expect. As the world is such a big place we don't usually go back to the same places, but we really enjoyed Lanzarote as a couple and wondered if we could as a family. Our reasons for liking Lanzarote are the lack of high rise developments and the islands bio-sphere status. Thanks to the late artist Cesar Manrique large highrise developments are not permitted and buildings are to be whitewashed which makes the island so pretty and the views from most locations stunning.  Lanzarote is only 4 hrs flight time and is in the same UK time zone so no time changing to confuse little ones.

Previously we had stayed in Playa De Los Pocillos, close to Puerto del Carmen and knew Puerto del Carmen wasn't a child friendly resort so we opted for Playa Blanca and the Flamingo Beach Resort.
We loved Playa Blanca, we were about 15-20 min walk from the shops along the front promenade so all pedestrianised. We were right on a lovely child friendly beach and walking distance from two others. These were all white sand beaches which aren't very common in Lanzarote.

We did a couple of the organised tours with the holiday company. One we took the boat across to Fuerteventura for the beach and sand dunes which go on for miles.
Another day we visited the Timanfaya National Park to get up close to all the volcanoes and also Los Jameos del Agua which is a cave created from an air pocket of lava, its stunning and had Charlotte in awe of how amazing it all was (its not pushchair friendly lots of steps).

Its actually a concert venue/nightclub but during the day is open as a tourist attraction. We wished we could have visited the green caves (Cueva de los Verdes) as we loved those from last time but it clashed with other trips. We also skipped C├ęsar Manrique's house/foundation, we did that last time and unless you are a serious art fan it would be too much for little ones. Our last trip was to Rancho Texas, which is a must for adults and children alike. The bird of prey show is stunning and scary at the same time whilst the birds swoop millimetres above you head. Last year they opened up a water park at Rancho Texas and looks like they are expanding currently. Excellent water park for the kids, but its not heated so very cold in spring time.

We loved our hotel, Flamingo Beach Resort, was really well located and had so many swimming pools (6 and most of them heated), a good kids club (only used once as we don't go on holiday for a kids club), family restaurant and adult only restaurant, adult only spa (didn't use), activities through the day and evening entertainment. The food was great in the family restaurant, it may have been a little hectic at times but go a bit later on in the day or head to the chill out room and its great. We are a mix of vegetarians and fussy eaters and found something to eat at every meal.

Our first family holiday abroad went so well we have just booked our next holiday... Disneyland Paris here we come.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Getting kids playing out and about

The report by the BBC this morning made for really interesting reading about parents struggling to play with children or children not being allowed out and about to explore and get dirty. The National Trust has come up with a list of 50 things to do before you are 11 3/4 and reading through a lot of them are easily covered by places we have featured on this blog. So here is a few of the national trusts 50 and where you can do them locally.

Build a den - this is a Daddy favourite task. We have built dens at Little Whittenham Nature Reserve and Cowleaze Wood
Fly a kite - well the best place for this has to be Wittenham Clumps
Play conkers - the best place for conker finding is the car park at the start of the Steventon walk
Balance on a fallen tree - need some of the nice woody walks for this one Little Whittenham Nature Reserve, Cowleaze Wood or Lashford Lane Fen
Blackberries growing in the wild - we saw these at Wittenham Clumps
Hunt for fossils and bones - the area is protected so be careful not to climb or damage the walls to the pit but Dry Sandford Pit has these
Climb a huge hill - the perfect hill for this Wittenham Clumps
Discover whats in a pond  - the best for this would be going to one of the open days at Sutton Courtenay Environmental Education Centre as there will be staff to help you
Hunt for bugs - you could go anywhere for this but we have found the best places are the BBOWT nature reserves
Dam a stream - this is great on a warm day we went to Shotover Country Park but we also see kids building dams along the ock river walk when its low

Friday, 6 April 2012

Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve, nr Bampton, Oxfordshire

Approx time: 1 - 2 hours
Paths:  grass and boardwalk
Points of interest: trees, wildlife, streams, pond, cows, river
Amenities: car park
Grading: all terrain buggy
Weather: all seasons

We saw so much wildlife on this walk today, it really was excellent. In a field near the car park we saw 4 deer, we were down wind so got a good watch of them without them knowing we were there. There were grazing sheep and cows.

 From the bird hides we saw a heron and swan. We saw 2 more deer in another field, they had spotted us so we saw them racing across the field. We saw rabbit holes and badger sets, heard woodpeckers a few times too.

There are various footpaths you can follow round chimney meadows, just doing the pond and bird hide would take about an hour, to go across the Thames and into the fields beyond took us about 2 hours. The walks are almost circular.

There are 2 picnic benches positioned close to the Thames path, so perfect if you want to take a picnic or snack with you.
The footpaths can be a little bumpy in places, but an all terrain buggy could handle this, the footpath to the bird hides is wheelchair friendly so this area is all very flat.

More information about Chimney Meadows can be found on the BBOWT website

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Half Term activities with BBOWT

This half term we have been back again to our local BBOWT reserve (Sutton Courtenay) to take part in some of their Easter activities, and what a lot of fun we had. We made face masks (Charlotte decided to be a cat not a rabbit), did an Easter egg hunt and made a birds nest. The activities varied slightly from last year, see our review here but was just as excellent.
Check out the BBOWT website to find out which sites have activities on this half term.