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.

lobster pots robin hood's bay

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

sea monster robin hood's bay

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

memory bench robin hood's bay

 

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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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52 Weeks of Happy: 30/52, 31/52, 32/52, 33/52

School holidays are here, family birthdays are here, it’s been busy, busy busy in my household so I’m going to try to choose one picture for each week. It won’t be hard. The last few weeks have been great.

IMG_7775Babykins enjoying filling his shoe with gravel after a hard day exploring The Forbidden Corner near Middleham. If you are in need of a family day out, The Forbidden Corner is a lot of fun. We took Son Number One’s Godmother, who is 20 and I think she enjoyed it. I really don’t think I can describe it very well. It’s partly a beautiful garden but it has lots of strange, surreal, underground sections, some of which are quite scary for little children.  Son Number One and The Middle Miss had a whale of a time exploring it, dodging the unexpected squirts of water and trying to find all the ‘landmarks’ on the leaflet you get at the start. It’s expensive, but well worth a visit. Just remember you have to book in advance.

IMG_7824Son Number One requested a party at the local climbing wall to celebrate turning eight. We took four boys and two girls to RockAntics, who gave them an hour and a half of climbing fun. First they warmed up with some bouldering (climbing without ropes above big crash mats) then they each did three climbs roped up, with an instructor holding the other end. Son Number One got braver with each climb and managed to reach the top on the last one. The Middle Miss was a natural and scampered up to the top each time. Even Babykins sneaked in on the bouldering. Not for the first time I was grateful that I could hold onto his dungarees!  We ended the party by scoffing a load of Dominoes pizza and birthday cake. Good times – not cheap but relatively low on stress levels.

IMG_2923It’s the time of year for family holidays and this is the first time we have been away for more than a week. It’s also the first time we have been on a family summer holiday without any input from a charity! We have benefitted from the generosity of various groups over the years of Son Number One’s leukaemia treatment but this year, we were on our own! Well, we were in my Mum’s caravan. So it’s thanks to her generosity in loaning it to us, along with her car, that we were able to chill out on this lovely campsite in Somerset. Here we are on ‘hay watch’ as the farmer unloaded his wagon full of towering round bales by pushing them over with a tractor.

IMG_3298The Middle Miss turned six the day after we returned from our holidays. It was a bit of a last minute dash to get her birthday presents organised. I didn’t even get around to decorating her birthday cake. Not to worry, Grandma had lots of little cakes just ready for embellishing. The old tin of candles and decorations came out and some new tubes of ready-made icing were cracked open and ta-dah! All three children had fun decorating their own cakes. The look of concentration on babykins’ face was priceless as he squirted and squeezed the icing. A ‘magic moment’ according to Grandma. Here’s to more Happy Days.

The Joy of Caravans – Part one: Knayton

Caravan holidays are a favourite part of our summer holidays. They are not always easy with three small children but they are worth it. My Mum and I are becoming masters at this type of break. This summer we have specialised in the ‘last minute dash’ caravan holiday. The first of our two trips was to Hillside Caravan Park at Knayton, near Thirsk in North Yorkshire. We stayed for four nights from the 8th of August. Luckily for us, the weather was fine, warm and dry.

Hillside is a great caravan park for novices because the pitches are flat and there are several that you can drive onto without the need for reversing. It is also fairly luxurious. The toilet block has underfloor heating and is spotlessly clean. We used a pitch that not only had an electric hook up but also the potential to connect your fresh and waste water. More importantly for a family of Olympic addicts, it had a direct link to the TV arial too. Normally I wouldn’t mind doing without TV but without it we would have missed the spectacle of Mo Farrah’s 5000m win and the drama of Tom Daley’s bronze in the 10m platform diving. It is a quiet, family-friendly site in a ‘play-outside-from-morning-until-night-with-new-friends’ kind of way. Fortunately Son Number One and The Middle Miss were very happy to do just that.

When we were entertaining the children, water was often involved. We visited the local stream a few times to enjoy the usual games – plopping stones in, building dams and playing Pooh sticks.

Our sunsuits and ‘crocs’ have had plenty of wear this year, despite the earlier dismal weather in April, May, June and July.

The Middle Miss preferred wellies. She wasn’t keen on the temperature of the stream water.

There is a lot of freedom for children on a caravan holiday. They get to ‘play out’ without obvious supervision in a way that they don’t at home. The danger from cars is minimal on this kind of site. Because of this, most of the time the oldest two just wanted to go to the ‘park’ (think play area with swings, a climbing frame, slide and balance beams). We had to train them to slip out quietly because Babykins always wanted to go too. Sometimes we went with him when he toddled off after them (sometimes we had to run after him in our nightclothes) but often we went for distraction. You can have a lot of pleasure pouring water from one container to another when you are 20 months old….

Bathing your horses is fun too.

I managed a few moments of peace and quiet. It’s always nice to take time to ‘smell the roses’. In this case it was more like ‘appreciate the blooming verges and hedgerows’.

There was a little bit of time for crochet. As you can see I’m still working on circles for my blanket.

I polished off a bowlful of cherries after scoffing that two whole packets form M and S was surely too much to buy. Well, they’re wheat free after all.

All in all, it was a very pleasant little break. I’ve got a feeling it might become an annual tradition.