Summer holidays 2014

It’s been a while since I updated my space here. I know holiday photos are boring but this is mainly for me and my family archive. If you want to see some happy pictures, feel free to read on.

Our holidays started with a trip to Shap to take part in the 2014 ‘Total Warrior’ 10km muddy obstacle race. This is the ‘before’ picture.before total warrior 14This is one of the most energy sapping obstacles we did. The Husband and I are smack bang in the middle of this photo. I’m the one up to my chest in mud. I was very grateful to swim through a river shortly after this! The weather was dreadful, which didn’t make much difference to us as competitors but it wasn’t much fun for spectators.total warrior 14 in the mudFortunately, things improved the day we drove to Beddgelert in North Wales. The mountain you can see in the distance is Snowdon, the highest in Wales and England. This was taken from in front of our caravan, which was parked at Cae Du campsite, a site that prides itself in providing a peaceful, quiet environment. Driving the caravan there wasn’t an experience for the faint hearted but Beddgelert proved to be a good base for exploring Snowdonia. View of Snowdon from CampsiteOne of our first days out was to Criccieth, a little coastal town which had everything you could want (except perhaps sand). We found a patch of sheltered pebbly beach and settled in to eat freshly fried chips. We spent the rest of the afternoon building rock caves instead of sand castles. I could have spent a few days here as there seemed to be a high street filled with delightful, independent shops but I never got any closer than admiring them from the car. There was also a cute little castle close to the beach but we never made it to that either, we were contended enough on the beach.Sea at Cricceth North WalesCaenarfon Castle however, was unmissable. It is truly spectacular. There were so many towers and turrets to explore that we spent hours there. You need plenty of stamina and a head for heights. Climbing the towers gives wonderful views over the town, the Menai Straights and the mountains of Snowdonia.Canaerfon CastleThis is the view from the Snowdon Mountain Railway. There aren’t many mountains you can ascend by rail in the UK but Snowdon is one of them. It was very expensive for us to do this trip as a family of five so we were very grateful for mostly good views. The summit was cloudy, cold and windy but I suppose that was a good experience too. Our children now know how true it is when people say that the conditions can change quickly in the mountains.View from SnowdonWe did have some rainy days during our holiday. This photo was taken the day that the remains of Hurricane Bertha passed over. Apart from putting the storm straps on the awning, it didn’t affect us too much. We just settled in with games and crafts and eventually dodged the showers for a walk to the village.Indoor games caravan Wet Wales hillsidesAnother of our days out was to Plas Newydd, a stately home on the Anglesea side of the Menai Straits. The estate is owned by the National Trust, who have made their properties very family friendly in recent years. Our children generally enjoy the quizzes that the NT provide and the Plas Newydd experience was no different. They also took full advantage of the playground and happily explored the terrace and formal gardens. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me because although I’d never really visited the house or gardens before, I stayed at the adjacent outdoor education centre a few times when I was a biology teacher. I used to visit with the 6th form on their field trips and we spent many an hour foraging in the seaweed on the shore below the house.Garden at Plas Newyyd AngleseaSnowdonia has some fabulous coastline. This picture was taken at Nefyn on the Llyn Peninsula. The colours and the light are a wonderful combination of blues, greens, browns and white. We got quite a taste for swimming in the sea, with the beach at Llandanwg, near Harlech having water that seemed surprisingly warm.Ready for swimming Into the Sea North WalesHarlech and Nefyn both had great sandcastle sand too.

Sandcastles 2014In truth, we could have spent a lot of time just exploring the area around the campsite and Beddgelert. This lake was a short, easy walk away along a quiet lane and scenic footpath.Paddling in lake near Beddgellert Beddgellert scenery lane at BeddgellertBut, North Wales has plenty of attractions too and and we couldn’t resist another rail trip from Beddgelert to Porth Madoc on the Welsh Highland Railway, a narrow gauge railway that runs North to Caenarfon too.Dragon bench on Welsh Highland RailwayWe could have spent lots more time exploring North Wales but our time was up after 11 nights. We had a pressing deadline. The Middle Miss wanted to be home in time for her seventh birthday. However, staying on a site with tents stimulated a short camping trip over the August bank holiday weekend. I told Son Number One that I was never camping again and that if he wanted to I was happy to keep paying his subs at cubs. The Husband fancied a trip though and planned to take the older two children to a site near Robin Hood’s Bay, which is just an hour away down the coast. I hummed and ahhed about joining them and eventually I felt sorry for Babykins, who was going to be left behind if I didn’t go. Luckily, it was a great trip on a pleasant site with plenty of sunshine.tent set up camping camping tea timeOn the Saturday, The Husband, Son Number One and The Middle Miss embarked on a bike ride from Hawsker to Ravenscar, the same trip that we did last September with the local scouts.


Coastline from RavenscarBabykins and I explored Robin Hood’s Bay itself.

IMG_1698IMG_1670IMG_1668IMG_1655IMG_1652IMG_1651IMG_1645IMG_1644 It’s an incredibly photogenic place but I just haven’t captured it. The houses appear to be piled on top of each other and cling to the sides of a steep road down to the harbour.

robin hoods bay housesEverything about it is quaint and picturesque.

old bike at robin hood's bay

As you can see from the picture below, fishing is still a part of the town’s activities.

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I didn’t know it had it’s own sea monster!

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Mainly, I think, it’s a place to make happy holiday memories…

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Yarn talk: Yarndale

I have bought a lot of yarn in the last few weeks, most of it at the wonderful Yarndale festival. Luckily for me, Skipton, where the festival was held, is within a couple of hours drive. Even luckier still, I was able to head there for two nights with my Mum’s caravan and a yarn-loving friend. I was very, very pleased to have her with me as navigator and for general reassurance, especially as it was my first ‘solo’ caravan trip. I had a bit of a panic when we reached a particularly interesting archway across the road. You can see a picture of it here. We breathed in, peered in the wing mirrors and drove through very slowly. We made it through without a hitch but I had the return journey in the back of my mind for most of the weekend.

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Apart from the thought of driving back through that arch we had a perfect weekend. We were able to visit another friend and her new baby who lives close to Skipton. Her husband treated us to a delicious home cooked meal (and a much needed glass of wine) and on the day of the festival, she acted as a taxi service.

IMG_3618We found our way to the auction market by following the bunting that had been strung along the path. As we approached the building we admired the other wooly decorations.

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IMG_3615But of course, there was much, much more to see inside.

IMG_3610I took very few pictures inside the exhibition. I was far too busy, viewing, stroking and buying yarn.

IMG_3607This was one of the more eye-catching pieces of crochet on display. I’m sorry I don’t know whose stall it was on.

IMG_3608I could have taken pictures of ‘The Natural Dye Studio‘s’ stall all afternoon. Their patterns and yarn were absolutely amazing, so brightly coloured and so soft to the touch. I bought a copy of their ‘Desirable Crochet Motifs’ book though goodness knows how I will make use of it. If you want to spend some serious money on some beautiful crochet, you could do a lot worse than to visit their website and buy one of their kits.

My friend and I both spent a ridiculous amount of money (I had been saving up for some time so I don’t feel too guilty).

IMG_3621This was our joint pile of purchases, mine on the right, hers on the left. Anything left of and including the cone of thick, carpet yarn in the middle is hers, including the fabric. We both had things in mind when we bought our yarn. I really shouldn’t need any more projects for at least another year. In order to use up this stash I am going to have to learn some new skills. For example, the fluffy, brown coloured yarn in the bottom right-hand corner came with the most delicate, flowery pattern for an infinity scarf knit on a circular needle. You can see how it is supposed to look here. I bought three different sock yarns, though I have absolutely no idea how to cast-on with four needles. They may become crocheted slippers. I think my favourite purchase of the weekend was the fluffy, rainbow dyed yarn. I specifically wanted something in these colours in order to make a new hat for The Middle Miss as she really has a thing for rainbows at the moment. Apart from some tiny snowflakes, made from the crochet cotton near the top right of the picture, the rainbow hat has been my first project.

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I don’t think it will be long before it is finished, though there is a bit of trial and error going on as I decide how big to make it and how to finish it off.

I think that that is about the end of my post about Yarndale. There are lots of other bloggers who have written about it much more definitively than me so if you want to see more, do a bit of googling or maybe start here.

More yarn talk coming soon….

Oh, and I made it back through that archway with centimetres to spare, under the gaze of a group of cyclists and a worried looking motorist heading in the opposite direction. Not. Fun. At. All.

Summer in Somerset

It is less than two weeks since we came back from our summer holidays but it seems like ages ago. We seem to have packed so much in since then. In the interests of documenting family life, here is my pick of the Somerset pics, a lovely region to visit.

Views from our campsite across the Somerset levels towards Glastonbury Tor.

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Beautiful Wells, the smallest city in England. This is Vicars Close, which is supposed to be the oldest, continually inhabited, residential street in Europe and below that, the cathedral.

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Cheddar gorge and caves. A day out courtesy of my Tesco clubcard points! We visited most of the attractions – the show caves, the museum, the open top bus tour up the gorge and finally, we climbed up the steps to the top of the lookout tower. All 274 of them.
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IMG_7925IMG_2972A Somerset cream tea. Much needed to keep me going on a busy sight-seeing day.

IMG_7916More Somerset produce.

IMG_7933Picnicking at the top of Glastonbury Tor. Our picnic rucksack, containing knives, forks and plates has been well used.

IMG_7941Heading up…

IMG_2995View from the top, where we tried to spot our caravan, though it was much too far away.

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IMG_3004Inside the ancient barn at the (free) Museum of Rural Life in Glastonbury.  This beautiful barn, which originally belonged to Glastonbury Abbey is almost 600 years old. Amazing to think of the time, money, care and attention that was spent on it.

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IMG_3025The Middle Miss was very taken with this shop display in Glastonbury – she loves rainbows.

IMG_7939The best sandcastle sand I’ve come across for a while, at the almost deserted Burnham-on-Sea. Much building was done as you can see below.

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IMG_7970The sky looked like this through most of our holiday. It’s classic English summer weather; blues sky with white fluffly clouds. Warm enough for shorts but not too hot to be uncomfortable. Perfect, in fact.

IMG_3050Well, this is England. It wouldn’t be a summer holiday without a little bit of rain.

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Looking for Old Jack’s Boat

Monday was a bank holiday in the UK and amazingly it coincided with the best weather of the year so far. Actually, the hottest, sunniest day was Tuesday but luckily for us, my children had an extra day of holiday due to school being closed for staff training. Days like these are few and far between. It was a great opportunity to get out and about.

I have been promising The Middle Miss a trip to Staithes for a while now. It’s not far from where we live – less than an hour away in the car. Usually, if we are heading that far along the coast we aim for Whitby but Staithes is actually closer and we had a reason to visit.

If you have small children and you watch CBeebies you will probably know where I am going with this. If not, I will explain… Old Jack’s Boat is a relatively new series starring Bernard Cribbins as ‘Old Jack’, the captain of a magical boat called The Rainbow.

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Now, I have yet to watch a full episode, but, a while ago I saw the opening and thought “That looks a lot like Staithes”. As I watched a bit more I heard the words (that begin every story that Old Jack tells) “Once upon a twinkly time The Rainbow set off from Staithes, waved goodbye to Whitby and headed off over the horizon…” Not only had the BBC filmed the series in such a lovely, local place, they had also chosen to keep the real name. I hit google to find out more and discovered this quote from the show’s production team “Staithes was a wonderful backdrop to the series and we took the decision to retain its name as we wanted the programme to feel rooted in a real place.” I was immediately excited by the fact that I could take my children to see this very real, very special place.

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Staithes is a very magical looking little village, especially on such a sunny day. There is one main street winding down the steep cliff side to the quay. The houses seem to built on top of each other, each one clinging on to it’s place alongside the road or the river. It’s not really the best place to visit with a pushchair because of the gradient of the hill….I’m not sure which is worse, going up or down.

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IMG_2313We wound our way down to the seafront, ready to look for Old Jack’s Boat. Alas, it wasn’t in port. If it had been, it would have been moored up on the far side of this picture, just in front of the lobster pots and the small stone building with the red square on it. If you watch the opening sequence on the CBeebies website you will be able to see it.

Undeterred, we went on to the small crescent of beach where, I was reliably informed by The Middle Miss, Jack’s dog, Salty, lost his blanket. We thought we had better go and search for it. In fact, the children just got stuck into digging in the sand, enlarging big holes that someone else had previously begun.

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We had the beach pretty much to ourselves, the sun was shining (have I mentioned that already?) and we were sheltered from the wind. Bliss, a chance to sit back and feel the sand between my toes or skip off to take a few more photos.

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The digging progressed into seaweed gathering, which was then turned into ‘hair’ on a very sandy face by The Middle Miss. The only downside of the beach being so quiet was that I think the whole of Staithes could hear my darling daughter keeping her brothers in order. She told them in no uncertain terms just what she required for her work of art. Eventually Son Number One resigned from her work force and it was time to head back up the village.

IMG_7063On the way we passed Captain Cook’s Cottage, where, as is says on the plaque, a young James Cook got his first taste of the sea while working as a shop apprentice. Both my children have studied Cook at school and Son Number One was quite taken with the idea that he actually lived in this house. Another example of a story coming to life in Staithes.

IMG_2331A bit further up the hill, we found a craft gallery selling all kinds of things knitted, stitched and painted. This beautiful mermaid sculpture was in the sunny courtyard behind.

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IMG_2341Finally, we crossed the little foot bridge across the river to see if we could spot Old Jack’s house but we weren’t very good at that. We had a little peek in at the lifeboat station and stood on the quayside where Old Jack would be coming back soon to moor up The Rainbow, next to the lobster pots. After that there was nothing for it but to drag ourselves (and push the pushchair) back up the hill, just in time for tea and cake.

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Autumn Outings: Part One – Durham

The weather has been reasonably kind over the last few weeks, allowing us some autumn outings.

In the first week of the month, Son Number One went on a school trip to Durham Botanical Gardens. The following weekend we decided to have a family trip there as he was keen to show us around. It was a perfect day to appreciate a garden in autumn.

I bet every visitor to the garden photographed this tree

Bright blue skies and golden leaves, warm enough to leave your coat behind but cool enough to be autumnal.

There were still lots of lovely bedding plants around and I couldn’t help taking lots of pictures of the dahlias.

Although it was hard at times not to imagine the pleasure of a child free visit to these gardens, the real joy of this trip was watching Son Number One. He helped his sister do all the clues on the ‘quiz trail’ and guided us around the garden in a very confident fashion.

By a complete coincidence we met some of our best friends there, though they were almost ready for leaving when we arrived. It didn’t stop the children exploring the greenhouses together. One houses a small collection of ‘minibeasts’ (well, the spiders weren’t so mini, they were big and hairy) and a fish pond, one houses the cactus collection, one houses a ‘tropical rainforest’ complete with spray and one houses a large tank containing giant lily pads (somehow I managed to miss this). The boys had a great time trying to photograph the minibeasts. I won’t scare you with the results but I will give you Son Number One’s fish photo’s because I think they are quite pretty.

I should probably mention that a large part of the garden is accessible with a push chair. We took our Phil and Ted’s 3 wheeler and managed to go ‘off road’ quite a bit. All in all, we had a lovely afternoon out. We should visit Durham more often as it really is on our doorstep. It was funny to be there on one of the first afternoons of the new university term. The Husband and I felt quite old as we watched swathe after swathe of students go to and from the playing fields. They all looked so young and full of vim and vigour. It seems incredible that is is almost 20 years since we began our university careers. Son Number One is closer to University age than we are. Scary thought.

The Joy of Caravans: Part 2 – Whitby

My children have been back at school for over two weeks now. The summer holidays seem a long way back even though we were still caravanning into September. Our last trip was to Whitby, one of my favourite places of all time. My family have been camping near Saltwick Bay for many years. We have old black and white pictures of my Grandparents enjoying their holidays there. All my children have been to visit since they were little babies. My first ‘holiday’ with the Middle Miss was to this caravan site when she was eight weeks old.

Whitby is an incredibly picturesque seaside town, full of history. James Cook, the British sailor who ‘discovered’ Australia learned much of his sailing skills here and the first ship he commanded was a Whitby Bark called Endeavour. Although there are lots of modern businesses here now, it doesn’t take much creativity to imagine the town in his day, over 300 years ago.

No trip to Whitby would be complete without a trip to ‘The Lucky Duck’ Shop.

As you can see, they make lots of cute little glass objects. We were on a mission to buy a lucky duck for The Middle Miss (who has never had one) and  a new one for Son Number One (who broke his). They both chose Harlequin ducks. The Middle Miss named hers ‘Multi Coloured Mary’. Sadly the shop no longer demonstrates making the ducks. “Health and Safety” is apparently to blame.

After the lucky duck shop we all had an ice cream, even Son Number One who has only recently decided he likes it.

We wandered along the narrow streets, enjoying some of the displays.

Some of them rarely change from year to year, for example here is the window of the fishmongers…Obviously they change the produce but the shark jaws in the window are a permanent fixture. I remember them from my childhood. Clearly they are just as fascinating to the children of today.

 

We were heading for the beach, because it was a lovely day: fine, dry and calm.Son Number One and I collected some deck chairs, passed the donkeys and set up our patch of sand.

We waited and waited for Grandma and The Middle Miss to return with some lunch from the nearest fish and chip shop. It seemed to take a long time but I wasn’t worried, there was likely to be a queue. When she arrived back she was full of curses for the local bird population.

Grandma had been dive bombed by a seagull, loosing all her newly acquired fish and chips in the attack. In her words “It was like an exocet missile”!

The next day was another sunny one. After our terrible early summer weather we wanted to make the most of any sunshine that appeared. We invited some friends to join us for the day. That’s another of the good things about Whitby, it’s not too far from home.

Babykins climbed the cliff path down to the accessible part of Saltwick bay under his own steam (well, some of the way at least)

The Son Number One and his friend made dams and learned to ‘open the flood gates’.

The beach was virtually empty, all the local schools had already re-started for the new term. The children had a great time playing together but eventually it was time for our friends to head home. We settled into the caravan to enjoy the nightly sunset show behind the Abbey (hard to capture with just an iphone, let me tell you!).

Our last night in Whitby was the second last day of the school holidays. I was very grateful for this trip. I was starting to go a little bit crazy by the time it came along. Having said that, I think we made the most of the summer break this year, squeezing in as many happy times as possible, from morning until night…..

We enjoyed the summer holidays, right until the last moment.