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.