Half Term Holidays: Sheep, Birds, Castles and Gardens.

Half term seems to have been very full this year. We seem to have crammed plenty into nine days off (school was closed yesterday for teacher training).

First of all we had a visit to the in-laws in Cumbria. Son Number One always looks forward to this because he adores going to visit his cousins on their farm. They had a lot of fun together, going right up onto the fells to feed the sheep.

I think he would be quite happy if we suggested that his Aunt and Uncle adopt him. Not only do they let him do farming activities, they nearly always feed him his favourite meal: sausage and mash.

While we were away, the Husband and I had our first Night Out Alone since……well, neither of us could clearly remember the last time. We had a lovely steak dinner and were still home by about 9.30. We must need more practise.

On Thursday, the Husband went back to work (booo) and I had a lovely day out with the oldest two (hooray) while my Mum looked after Babykins. We met up with one of my old antenatal class pals and her two boys at Salthome, our local RSPB reserve. They were running a ‘dissect an owl pellet’ activity for the children. I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most, me or them. I was amazed that in one pellet, there were at least three small rodent skulls. It was possible to identify quite a few different bones, such as the vertebrae, ribs and thigh bones. Who knew that owl ‘sick’ could be so interesting. I’d love to go to the next session they are running, which is aimed at adults. You can find the information about it here.

I must confess this is an old photo of a different activity. I just wanted to put it in to show the lovely murals in the classroom. I wish I had taken some more photos because they really capture the environment. There are even paintings on the ceiling. One depicting what it would be like to look up through a pond and see tadpoles and other water creatures swimming by and one showing the sky with birds in flight, as if someone has removed the roof.

The children took full advantage of the play area (I might just have joined in too). There were lots of good places for a game of hide and seek.

Son Number One is quite keen on bird spotting and managed to identify the coots and moorhens correctly when the hide guide checked his knowledge. I was very proud.

It was a real treat to just enjoy just the two of them. I must try to do it more often.

As the week went on, I kept thinking that we should take advantage of our extra day of holiday and go away for a long weekend. My Mum was thinking the same thing too. We decided to phone up Flowery Dell lodges, just outside Richmond.

Luckily for us the ‘Juniper‘ was available. It was the perfect space for us, being on one level (no stairs for Babykins to climb) and with three bedrooms, a single, a twin and a double.

The weather on Saturday was stunning: clear, sunny and crisp. We explored the site with my brother and his wife, who had come to visit. First, the little play area, where there was a lot of fun to be had climbing….

trying to climb (but getting stuck)….

and balancing…

When they fell off, their Uncle ordered them back to the start and off they ran, giggling.

Babykins seemed amazed by the chance to explore such a wide open space. He is often tethered to a push chair while we are out but not this time. He practically did a double take as he trotted past this little water feature. Thankfully it was well designed and he couldn’t actually get wet.

The light was so beautiful. It lit up the bright white bark of these birch trees.

and shone through dried up leaves of the beech saplings.

It made super-dooper tall shadows.

Suddenly, there was a change in the weather. Cloud came in and unbelievably, snow started to fall. There was quite a blizzard and my brother and his wife decided to make a run for it, just in case.

It only lasted about 15 minutes and then there was full sunshine again. Very unusual.

The night was very cold and frosty but we were cosy in our little lodge.

Of course, the great thing about frosty nights is the clear, blue-sky days that often follow them. Sunday was a stunner so we went off to explore Richmond. First of all the castle, with it’s virtually intact keep.

We climbed to the very top. I can’t think why I didn’t take a photo of the view. We looked out for dragons, knights and damsels in distress, but there were none to be seen.

After all that climbing we needed refreshments.

How about that for afternoon tea? I’m very fussy about tea shop teas. Any that have proper, non-drip teapots and milk in a little jug score highly with me. Those scones were whoppers. I couldn’t eat any dinner until after 8pm.

Our last day of the holiday was spent at Thorpe Perrow Arboretum. I’ve often wondered about visiting this place but somehow never got around to it. Turns out that Monday was a great day to go. We met some friends there and apart from our party, there was only one other little, young family there. We had the whole of the grounds virtually to ourselves.

It was almost worth the entrance fee for the pleasure the children had getting close to the robins. Son Number One tried very patiently to tempt one to eat from his hand. I think if his sister hadn’t been jumping around quite so much he might have managed it.

Even she got close though.

And how about this? I did use the zoom function, of course.

I really enjoyed walking through the grounds. There were plenty of snowdrops in bloom and the mixture of trees meant that it was still interesting, despite the season.

Babykins got to stretch his legs again. Thank goodness for reins. He would have been swimming with the ducks otherwise.

At this time of year, you have to enjoy the detail of plants.

The main attractions as far as the children were concerned were the animals and birds of prey. In fact, it couldn’t have suited Son Number One more. It was a near as he is going to get to ‘Deadly 60‘, one of his favourite TV programmes. Because there were so few people there, we all got to stroke a corn snake and hold a buzzard and a barn owl.

The meerkats were very cute too.

We walked over the board walk through the bog garden a few times. Each time I looked as carefully as I could at this stunning toadstool. I couldn’t work out if it was real or not. I took a few photos, zooming in as closely as I could. See what you think….

Now look more closely….

I should have realised when I saw the fairies in their tree stump.

We had a great time but I’d love to go back there, just me and the Husband and explore the grounds. Maybe in another 15 years or so….