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Category: Days Out UK (Page 1 of 3)

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway – Window on the Past

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is nestled running through the magnificent rolling countryside of the Cotswolds.  The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR), is a heritage railway using part of the Great Western Railway’s old line.  There is a choice of steam or diesel trains running from Cheltenham Racecourse and Laverton, and it is a very beautiful trip.  There are huge views over towards the Malvern Hills, glorious yellow fields, and lots of small newborn lambs.  Eventually the railway will extend all the way to Broadway.  The railway is run by volunteers.

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway runs both steam and diesel locomotives so you need to check the timetable if you want to catch a specific one.  We were aiming for steam and started from the Cheltenham end of the line.

We boarded the train and got underway.  The train stopped at Gotherington, and Winchcombe, before arriving at our planned destination of Toddington.  We got off at Toddington to enjoy a picnic in the sunshine, a hot drink from the restaurant, and a run around the well placed play area.  The stations are very beautiful, lots of flower beds around the old signal boxes, old milk churns, and plenty of other historical artefacts around the throw back station areas.  When we got off the train, we were treated to such a special spectacle.  We watched the steam engine detach from the carriages, and go up the line, before it tooted, and then we could see the signal man in the box, drop the signal changing the line and watch the engine come back down the line towards the other end of the carriages.  Before it reconnected back up, we watched the drivers go about their housework chores.  First we watched the train being filled up with water, and also coal being shovelled forwards towards the fire.  The children could get close enough to the engine to see this all going on very well.  We then watched the engine manoeuvre into position, and they did a few more jobs before leaving the station. My trio were fascinated.

We headed off for our picnic and play (and of course an ice cream) relaxing in the spring sunshine, before returning back on the steam train.  We had such a lovely laid back day, and all three were fascinated by the steam engine.  You could get up really close to see what was going on which they really appreciated.  It was a big learning curve for all of them, and a great day out 🙂

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway GWSR Steam Trains Steam Engines railways www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

 

Plutonium Sox

The Cotswold Farm Park – A Day on the Nation’s Favourite Farmers’ Farm.

Heading to a farm for a spring day out, a few days before Easter, is always such a lovely thing to do with the family.  On a recent trip back to the UK, we were staying with my parents who were keen to treat their children and grandchildren to a day out at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park.  His father first started the farm back in the 1970’s to try and help some rare breeds, and since then he has taken over this rather famous place.  It is growing all the time and has become very successful.  We headed off to enjoy a slightly cooler, but still dry, spring day on the farm.

There is a lot to do there, and if you are a local, it is worth a few visits there to make sure you have seen everything.  We started the day with a tractor safari around the farm.  This was a good way to get our bearings and see what things there were to do, and where it all was.  It was a very informative ride, as the driver told us about the history of the farm and the breeds they have as we went round.

As you can imagine, there were babies everywhere!!!  They have a large lambing barn, and they are keen for you to be able to experience as much as possible, so if are lucky you can see a live birth.  My father was, and he watched some triplets being born.  One didn’t make it sadly, but he was able to see mum settle in with her other 2, and by the time we got there, they were only 20 minutes old.  The trio were slightly confused by the pink tinge of the newborn lambs, but after a brief biology lesson, they’d learnt something else.  It was so lovely being able to get so close and to see so much going on.

The trio were very involved; stroking lambs, kids, holding bunnies and chicks, admiring piglets, tickling guinea pigs, and bottle feeding the lambs and kids too.  They loved being so hands on.  We’d also bought 4 bags of animal feed, and there was a very good walk around the fields of the farm, allowing us to stop and feed the animals along the way.  The majority were hand fed, but the cows had a little chute that you poured the feed down into their trough.  All the animals were so docile and very friendly.  The most laid back farm animals I have ever seen.

It was a really lovely day out, very hands on, and the trio learnt a lot too.  We could easily go back though and enjoy it again!!

The Cotswold Farm Park, Rare breeds farm, children's farm, farm day out, farming, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Country Kids

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens – A Child Explorer’s Dream!

The week before Easter saw us heading back to the UK to catch up with family and friends having been living abroad for 6 months now.  On one of these lovely sunny spring days, we met some friends at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, near Romsey in Hampshire.  One of the things that was so striking is how much more advanced into spring the UK is than where we live in Sweden.  The trees have leaves on, and the blossom is out in abundance looking so pretty.  Sir Harold Hillier Gardens did not disappoint in its beauty and tranquillity.

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens can seem full to bursting point when you arrive in the car park, but once into the gardens, it can seem really quite empty.  It is large enough to seem like you have a lot of space, peace, and calm away from other people.  The huge place is divided up into many differing types of gardens, and that in itself is one big adventure to explore.  There are also many other features there for children, not to mention the labelling of the trees and plants so us grown ups learn a thing or two as well.  There is a fantastic tree house play area (which also has the most amazing trees for climbing nearby – more on that later in the post), the flying carpet, and the super snake swing to play on.  There are fish to watch in ponds, wobbly bridges to run over, pathways hidden amongst bamboo tunnels, and boardwalks.  You can also sneak in a little geocaching too whilst you are there.  We were there for 5 hours and didn’t do half of what is there!

We met our friends and headed off to pay £1.50 for each child to do an Easter egg hunt.  The children had to use a map to hunt for rabbits that had a question on them.  The answer was used to fill out a crossword, and then the shaded letters on the crossword formed an anagram to solve.  The bunnies were well sited throughout a lot of the gardens, taking us on a lovely route and making sure we got to see a lot of the place.  We passed through an education garden with chimes to play, and a well to operate, we walked through truly beautiful blooming magnolia trees, and we ate a picnic half way round while the children raced around an open lawn playing tag.  It was so laid back, unhurried, and calming.

We returned back to the visitors’ centre to claim their prizes, and once those had been gobbled and ice creams consumed, we headed over to the tree house play area.  This is such a lovely idea.  A wooden house wraps itself around a tree and is built on stilts on a slope.  It has walkways, slides, and a climbing wall.  Plus there are the most fantastic pine trees, perfect for children climbing.  There are full of horizontal branches that start at the bottom and go all the way up the trees, very very high!  Our little lady was at least 25 feet up in the air, and was closely followed by her friend and one of our mini men.

Yesterday was such a lovely day, out enjoying yet more warm spring sunshine, surrounded by beautiful blooms, and with 5 very happy children, doing what they do best, playing in nature….happily!!  I really recommend a visit (or 2 or 3) to this lovely and very special place tucked away in Hampshire 🙂

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens - child explorers dream nature play blossom flowers trees www.mammasschool.co.uk

Calm at Furzey Gardens

img_9621Furzey Gardens is exactly what it claims to be; “a haven of peace and tranquillity in the heart of the New Forest”.  Not only it is beautiful gardens with meandering walks, it is a fairy land with lots of hidden doors, fairy ferries, and lovely touches like miniature wellies outside a fairy’s home waiting to be put on.  The trees are gnarled and interesting for the children, and there are also very intriguing and curious places and spaces to play.

img_9626We set off on a walk down towards the lake, searching out fairy homes as we went.  Dotted all around the gardens are various interesting buildings the children can play in, thatched mini roundhouses with ladders going up to a little upstairs, a long tunnel to crawl through, a boat called Tiggywinkles to play in, and much much more.  All blending in so nicely with the surrounding area.  We arrived at the play area in time to stop for lunch, and the children enjoyed going off and eating in the various den like places.  It really is such a wonderful place where children’s imagination can run wild with their play.  Another beauty of the den like structures, is they are made so it is virtually impossible for adults to gain access, therefore giving the children a sense of it being secretive and hidden away from grown up eyes.

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We did have one aim to achieve though in the day.  I knew the gardens had a good supply of conker trees, and wanting to tick off “play conkers” from the National trust list, we went out collecting some to bring home.  That’s a job for another day, but at least we have the supplies now!  Beautiful, big, shiny, conkers.

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We had such a lovely, relaxing day in the outdoors.  A huge amount of imaginative play was done by the little people, and the grown ups, although tired and a bit under the weather, had a laid back, chilled out, restorative calming day 🙂  Not a lot of packing was achieved today, but we are still riding high from the fact our home was let on its first viewing yesterday, and today Dadda made us fully fledged Swedes by purchasing the family car (so he can fetch us from the airport), a Volvo!!!!!

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“Climb a Huge Hill”

img_9547Today we climbed a “huge hill” so the children had done that activity in their National Trust books.  I had wanted to take them up Butser Hill before we left the country anyway, so it was a good opportunity.  A bit fresher temperature so it wouldn’t be as hot and sweaty as it would have been a few days ago.  So off we adventured only to bump into the whole of the south of England from about 6 years old to 60 years old running up the thing!!

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We did eventually manage to break away from parents running alongside their children screaming for them to overtake, somewhat breaking the calm of the tranquil setting, and find our own space to listen to all the grasshopper and crickets chirping away in the long grass.  The children did really well, and once they had reached the top insisted on a game of tag!  We sat and enjoyed the view while having a snack, before walking around the circular route at the top.  Towards finishing the end of this, we found a lovely little roundhouse kiosk where the children could enjoy bacon or sausage baps, and I could enjoy the view for a little longer, away from the busy visitor centre at the bottom, before we headed back down.

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I walked back down, but the children enjoyed running back down, completely out of control, and going splat on their faces a good few times much to the amusement of other walkers!  It was such a lovely four hours with my little people and taken at an unhurried pace, with nothing to rush back for (which makes a change at the moment).  They had all been interested in the basic key to the basic map we bought, and they have also all learnt that a trig point is the highest spot, and what it looks like on a map and in reality.

WWT Slimbridge.

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We gave just got back from an amazing adventure for the day to WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire.  This is a fantastic place as somewhere to wander freely amongst the wildlife, whilst great conservation is going on as well.  It’s also a place for serious bird watchers, as well as for nuturing a child’s interest, and the two types seem to mix well there (other places we have been, a child gets such a black look if they just sneeze in a hide shelter).  As Sir David Attenborough has said about it “If there is one place that can be regarded as the birthplace of worldwide conservation, it is surely here at Slimbridge”.

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There was a rather dramatic start to the day, with mini man no.2 cracking his eye socket on a hand railing that stuck out a lot on a corner, which resulted in an instant swelling that threatened to close his eye within minutes.  This resulted in me dashing through the waiting queue to try and locate an icepack, and when no one could find one instantly for me, I grabbed a cold can from the chiller and started holding it to get the swelling under control while an icepack was located.  Once I’d established his eye socket was probably in tact and he had calmed down, we were able to go and enjoy the place!  The children picked up Nature Explorer passports, where they could collect stickers from various things in the day, and once they had all of them, they’d get a big gold one for the front.  It involved all sorts of activities from watching and listening about the otters being fed, to doing some pond dipping, making a nest for some eggs, to going for a canoe safari to name some of them.  It gave us a little structure to our day too in such a vast place.  We spent 6 hours wandering the place, and there was plenty more we could have done that we didn’t.

z170We headed for our new found obsession first of otters, and they were just as delightful here as they were yesterday in the New Forest.  Again, we were all fixated and the the mans talk was really interesting and he was very good with the children, getting them involved.  We then headed off to build some nests, and learn about what makes a good nest.  This was a self led activity, and the children used the sticks, and the straw, and finally some eggs, to make what they thought were lovely cosy nests.

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The whole time we were pottering around the children were getting up close and personal with all the various wildlife, and intermittently feeding them from the seed bag that had been purchased.  They could get a good look close up, and enjoyed seeing all the different colours and variety there were.  Another favourite were the many types of flamingos they have there.  Beautiful creatures.

The children were also able to do some guided pond dipping, and as it was so quiet (end of the summer holidays), they had the lady running it all to themselves for guidance and knowledge.  This is always a favourite activity with my trio, and today their trays were bursting with life, and to their delight, they all managed to catch some stickleback fish.

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We ended the day with a lovely canoe ride (although after a rather large amount of crashes from my paddling, I was sure my four year old twins could have done it better!).  But it was a fantastic added bonus to be able to take a canoe out on the water, for up to an hour, around some waterways, with ducks, swans, and chicks paddling alongside you.  It was so calm and peaceful too away from everyone pottering around the site (although I’m not sure the wildlife felt the same way after they had to avoid me a few times!).  It also means tomorrow we can tick off 2 more things in our National Trust books – go bird watching and canoe down a river.

I have only managed to touch on a few things we have seen today, but it gives you an idea of the scale of the place, and how much wildlife there is to investigate.  It’s been a long day, so I am not going to list everything, but I’d definitely say it is worth a visit (and we used our little lady’s blue peter badge for her entry, so we’ve used that three times now).

I’m now off to read some travel documents and sort things out, as I’ll be off to Sweden in about 36 hours!  Around lunchtime today, we realised the house we had been bidding on had slipped away from us, and we were running out of options fast.  So, we returned our attentions to a house Dadda had viewed previously but looked a little “tired”.  He’s not happy to make a decision about this one on his own, so I’m going on a rather rapid trip there and back again, to make a joint decision whether we go for it, and add a little extra work on top of an international move!

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New Forest Wildlife Park

z152Today we took a visit to the New Forest Wildlife Park.  We visited with another family we are friends with, making 2 pairs of 4 year old twins and 6 children between us!  We had a lovely day, and the whole place has a calm and laid back vibe about it, making it a much more relaxed day out than some other places we have been to visit animals.  It is a place to visit owls (a lot of different breeds), Bison, deer, wallabies, wolves, butterflies, many types of otter, water voles, hedgehogs, harvest mice, ferrets, polecats, foxes, sousliks, wild cats, boars, lynx, and badgers.

We started the day with some owls, which always fascinate me and then the butterfly house.  The children loved the butterfly house as usual, but what made it really special was the fact the butterflies seemed to like them just as much!!  They were landing on them, letting them examine them on their hands, and they really took a lot away from that interactive experience.  The butterflies were most obliging!

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z153After the butterflies we headed to the otters.  I think I can safely say, after spending around an hour observing them, all four of us are otter obsessed.  They are very cute (even though they have a sharp nip!).  They love to juggle stones, and they even get “favourite” stones (maybe our little lady is an otter at heart!!).  They walk around with the stones under their armpit so no one else can pinch their favourite stone, and then squirrel them awz151ay somewhere, creating a pile of

 

favourite stones!!  They were fascinating to watch, moving as a group with a rather adorable squeaking sound.  They rough and tumbled each other, played in the water, and generally looked like they loved to get up to a good dose of mischief!

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One our other favourites were the wolves.  They were beautiful and graceful, although the whole idea of seeing wolves had scared our little lady a lot beforehand, and I am not sure I’ve mentioned to her yet they live in Sweden!  The whole experience was a fantastic day out, and there was a lovely play area for them to indulge in while we ate lunch too, all blending in to its surroundings, but involving a lot of climbing and heights, so right up my trios street!  I would definitely recommend going here, for anyone that wants a calm, unrushed day out, indulging in looking at animals that we don’t usually see in places we visit such as zoos and farms.

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Cave Visiting and Bid, Bid, Bid!

z139So, on rising this morning the bidding kicked off again fairly early for the house Dadda looked at yesterday (5 parties involved in total).  We got involved and soon it was climbing up again.  However, it stalled at about 0900 hours with us as the highest bidders.  Dadda was just about to contact the estate agents and push for the signing of the contract and sale, when the people who had kept bidding with us, put in another bid early afternoon, so we countered back within 10 minutes.  We are going to bed tonight as highest bidders still, but because no one has formally withdrawn yet from the process we are still not at the finishing line.  So, providing there are no more bids first thing, Dadda is going to push for the sale to be completed tomorrow. That is where we are at bedtime tonight.

z137 z138 z136Today I took the trio off on a little adventure though to take my mind off things a bit.  We went to explore some caves.  One of the National Trusts 50 things to do.  I had considered other caves, but all seemed really commercialised, so we headed for a natural cave system in the Forest of Dean that had been used to mine iron ore.  Not only did they get to look at caves in a more natural state, but they learnt about mining, and how lucky they were not to be down them, as you started work as young as 5, for 10 hours a day!  Our little lady was reading and absorbing everything as she usually does, and touching absolutely everything.  Mini man no.2 was climbing and chattering, and generally giving the impression he was a little bit spooked, but mini man no.1 surprised me the most.  Now both twins have reached the non stop why phase, which is great but infuriating!  However, today, it was like twin 1’s thirst for knowledge wasn’t quenchable, and his interest in the whole place was astounding.  He was totally absorbed in the experience.  He wanted and needed to know everything about everything.  The cave’s system isn’t really that large and only took us about an hour and a half to mooch round.  If you are a bit older, you can have a guided tour down to the lower levels but our twins were too young.  However, it did serve the purpose of giving them a great cave experience, and for a lot less money too (even better when I got there and discovered under 5’s were free!).

There was a small museum before you entered the cave system, but throughout the cave system there were little displays and bits of equipment to look at and touch.

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Our little lady tried out a billy (quite a heavy container children as young as 8 would carry the ore to the trucks in, and she was only just able to lift it empty).  There was also items of equipment, that had something similar to timpani mallets attached to them, so if you played them like a musical instrument, not only did you get a nice tune, but visitors in other parts of the cave system, heard noises like axes hitting the rocks, imitating the mining.  We also saw a lovely natural water pool, and on this they had done a clever light display in white, of fish moving in the water and on the far wall as well.  It was very effective and slightly hypnotic.

It was a lovely quiet place, and not heaving with visitors, and all very natural.  Despite all this though it still manages to get you to run the gauntlet of getting to the exit through the gift shop with three little people in tow!  It was a great visit though, and we will be filling in our national trust books tomorrow.

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Adventures

z116With the arrival of our little lady’s Blue Peter Badge, and our move to Sweden edging closer, it got me thinking about places I’d like to explore with the children before we leave this country.  We have done a lot with our trio, but we have a home education National Trust card and now a Blue Peter card, that I would also like to take advantage of a little before we leave, plus a few other places I’d like to take them.

With so many places to choose from, I did manage to make a shorter list of around 25 (one of which was Stonehenge), so if we move to Sweden at the earliest possible date we can, we are in no way going to see all those, so I am picking and choosing from the list.  I wanted them to see some caves, and although Wookey Hole and Cheddar Gorge are on the list, they seem really commercialised, so we are going for a more natural experience next week in Gloucestershire (and a little cheaper too!).  I’d love to be able to take them to the Dinosaur museum in Dorchester after they loved the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, and along with that one is the Teddy bear museum, and possibly monkey world, in the same area.  The science museum in Bristol is another one at the top of my list.  I remember a school trip to this place when I was younger and it was fantastic, and looking at its website it has got even better.  We have managed to organise a trip to the New Forest Wildlife Park with some friends of ours to enjoy a “goodbye” day there, and I am definitely going to head back to Furzey Gardens (as close to the time we go as possible…as long as that doesn’t get drawn out) with the trio as there is no where to collect conkers quite like there :-)!!
z126So those are my priorities really, but I have other places too:  I’d like to head to the WWT Slimbridge, BirdlandPark and Gardens in Gloucestireshire, WWT Arundel, the Bekonscot model village, The British Wildlife Centre in Surrey, Box Hill, Hengistbury Head, Buriton, Butser Hill, Hinton Ampner, and Tropical World near Newbury 🙂  So between these plans and packing up a house, there isn’t much time left for sleeping!!!  My list of adventures for Sweden has already started too, but I need to remember I have to unpack a house there too, and will have a lot more time in the future to explore.  I think for now the issue is I am not sure when our time here is up….it could be three weeks it could be three months (although I seriously hope not and a lot hangs on a house bidding war due to start Monday night!!).

 

Last Mamma Day…Stonehenge.

z122Today marked the last day of the twins preschool time, so it was also the last Mamma day for our little lady and I.  A while ago she wrote into Blue Peter for a Green Blue Peter Badge (environment, conservation, and nature).  She got awarded one, and a month or so ago it arrived in the post, followed quite a few weeks later by the identity card that would allow her access to over 200 places free of charge.  I have just finished trawling through the list to see what we’d like to try and squeeze in before we leave, and Stonehenge was one such place.  She had already been studying the Stone Age before she left school, so when I suggested it last night, she was very keen to get the chance to visit.  So, after dropping the twins at preschool us two girlies headed off for our day’s adventure.

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We got there in good time for our 1100 entry time slot.  I hadn’t really appreciated that the Stones were so far from the visitor centre, but there are a lot of shuttle busses so there is no waiting, and a good marked footpath up the lane for those wanting to walk.  Much to her disgust we took the footpath (it’s around 1.5km at a guess, up hill).  Once there we spent a while mooching around the ancient temple that is aligned on the movements of the sun.  It always amazes me how these stones were raised 4500 years ago and the large scale of them.  After we had walked around once, reading the various information boards, I asked her what she would like to do now, and instead of replying, back to the centre for lunch, she asked to go round again!  So we did.  On the way back down to the visitor centre, we took the more scenic National Trust footpaths through the countryside.  This allowed us to get a more close up view of some of the barrows (burial mounds).

z119Our little lady was so non plussed by the walk (unlike her and might have had something to do with the 25 degree heat and a backpack!), she voiced it would make it better if we found a geocache…so on went the app, and there was one in the area so we headed for it.  This then took us through a wooded path, rather than the main route most people were using, and we discovered a few more hidden barrows on our own in the woods.  We did also find the geocache, which was perhaps the one we have had to be the most stealthiest at, due to it being so close to the main path, and so many people walking along that route up to the monument.

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After we’d had some lunch we pottered around the Stone Age homes they’d erected on sites were they’d found evidence of flooring and beds.  A very nice man chatted to us about how they’d been built, and went through the equipment and tools.  There was also an exhibition centre which was full of artefacts, information, and big cinematic displays that grabbed your attention.  Our little lady loved all of it, and just drifted around examining, touching, and watching.

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Doing what she does best…touching absolutely everything! However, here it was actively encouraged and she loved running her fingers over the 4 metal models, and it seems she absorbed a lot of information this way 🙂

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