Easter Holiday Traditions

A few years ago I heard Steve Biddulph, author of ‘Raising Boys’ speak about parenting. One of the things that struck me was how he talked about traditions. I hope I’m not misquoting him but I seem to remember his speech going along these lines “Children who have grown up in happy families look back on their youth and say ‘remember when…’ as parents we have to provide the traditions that our children will remember with fondness”. He talked about families that spent one night a week all ‘camping out’ on mattresses in the same bedroom to illustrate that traditions don’t have to be expensive, they just require the willing input of the family, particularly the parents.

This all comes to mind now, as I look back on our recent Easter holidays. Traditions are becoming ingrained within my family and our friends family, who we share our break with. This year is the third year that we have spent time together at my Sister and Brother-in-law’s farm in Cumbria, in their simple holiday cottage. You can see posts from last year and the year before herehere and here. You may notice that I take pretty much the same photos every year, all that changes is the weather and the size of the children.

Every year our children look forward to helping out with activities on the farm. They herd the sheep, feed the lambs, look for eggs, fill up the hopper on the turnip masher (I’m sure there is a proper name for this bit of farming kit but I don’t know what it is), throw straw around in a vain attempt to put bedding down for the cows, feed and water the indoor sheep and venture up to the fell top to feed to the hardier sheep up there. Then there is playtime; they build straw bale castles with their cousins, splash stones in the stream, collect ‘crystals’ from out of the stream, kick a football and ride a bike. Together we have Easter egg hunts and walks over the fell, share meals and bedtime rituals. As each year passes, they have more things to look forward to as they remember the things they did the year before. Long may it last. We are already booked in for next year!IMG_4694 IMG_4699 IMG_4712 IMG_4755 IMG_4662 IMG_9752 IMG_4677 IMG_9758 IMG_9761 IMG_4681 IMG_9790 IMG_9836 IMG_4738 IMG_4746 IMG_4745IMG_4750IMG_9846IMG_9861IMG_9867IMG_9870IMG_9895IMG_9898IMG_9899

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Come for a walk with me

IMG_2021Put on your wellies, warm clothes and waterproofs because we are going to visit a Cumbrian hill farm.

IMG_2039Just look at those snow drifts piled high against the dry stone walls. A few days before this photo was taken the road was completely blocked.

IMG_2019When I took this photo the weather was dry and fairly bright, despite the cloud. The air is cold, clean and crisp up here. Turning to the left we can admire the landscape of deceptively dry-looking open fell and the snowy North Pennines in the distance.

IMG_2051Carrying on along the road, the modern farm house comes into view. Usually by this time of year the fields at either side of this road are starting to fill up with ewes and new lambs but the long winter has delayed things a bit.

IMG_1996Cross the cattle grid into the farm yard.

IMG_1992This road is actually a public bridleway as you can see from the photo. When the weather is better this is a fairly popular route with cyclists. They often speed through the farm with the sound of several barking sheepdogs ringing in their ears.

IMG_1988Turning around 180 degrees to look back on the cattle grid and the view over the fell.

IMG_2062After passing through the first part of the farm, we carry on into the older part of the farm. Straight ahead is the byre where the sheep are brought if they need more help during lambing time. You can just see a tiny bit of white wall beyond the byre. That is the old farm house, now a holiday cottage, where we stayed.

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IMG_2079Now we have arrived at our accommodation, complete with genuine farmer in high viz jacket (my brother-in-law). This house dates from the 1700’s and is built right into the slope of the hill.view from cottageThis is the view from the front door of the cottage. The photos from top to bottom, left to right are as follows: looking to the right the public bridleway continues up to Loadpot Hill after first dipping down to the foot of the valley. Straight ahead is the building where the cows overwinter and to the left is the picnic table and beyond that the sheep maternity ward byre. The green frame on the door is surrounding a new heavy duty mesh door that has been put in place in an attempt to keep the badgers out. Badgers have caused a bit of trouble this year. I suspect that they are being driven to attacking lambs as their normal food is running thin due to the hard winter. While we were there, my brother-in-law saw badgers in his main barn during daylight hours, eating the cattle feed. That is not normal behaviour.

IMG_6715Inside the house there is a cosy living room with an even cosier stove. Thankfully these days there are also some electric wall heaters, otherwise it would be a very cold place to stay.

IMG_6717This is the view from the kitchen window. It’s a cracker, though it is sometimes obscured by a sheep peering in. There is one house further up the valley, you might just be able to pick out the roof, four squares in from the left and five whole squares up. It is currently under major renovations. I’m sure it will be on ‘Grand Designs’ one day. I remember poking around in it a few years ago and it was completely derelict with no access road, no mains water or electricity. I’d love to see it when it’s done.

IMG_6766 The mesh on the window is a bit of a necessity  because it’s base is actually level(ish) with the ground outside and the area beyond the window often acts as a sheep pen. You can see this in the picture above. I’m always entertained when a sheep strolls past while I’m washing up.

IMG_6726Here is the same view but taken from an upstairs window. I would really like to take you on a little photographic walk down the snowy track next to the fence but I’m not sure my photos are good enough.

I hope you have enjoyed this little visit to Scales Farm (click on the link for more photos). It’s well worth a visit for the views alone, which I can’t do justice to with my camera.

 

52 weeks of happy mash up, weeks 12, 13 and 14

Just for the sake of completeness I am going to amalgamate my last few 52 weeks of happy posts in to one and then normal ‘service’ can resume.

Week 12/52 – March 19th to 25th

IMG_1929My haul of yarn from a charity shop. Four almost complete balls of 100% cotton and six and a bit balls of  Shetland, 100% wool, lace weight. All for less than £4 and bought whilst having a sociable, child free, morning out with an old friend.

IMG_6613Starting my bunny making extravaganza. Making the centres was the easy part…

IMG_6626Doing some ‘research’ for a suitable birthday cake recipe.

IMG_6620Not a great photo but a magic moment. The Middle Miss is really beginning to enjoy reading to herself and these Usborne phonics books are just right for her.

Week 13/52 March 26th – April 1st

IMG_6691Making an aubergine parmigiana with my little helper (I can’t help but think of Miranda Hart’s Extreme Mothering article in the Telegraph every time I make this). We got cooking oil everywhere and I was slightly nervous about the proximity to a smoking hot griddle pan but the end result was very tasty. Even Son Number One ate it up. I had to laugh at his verdict “Hmm, it smells good, like a nice pizza but it looks horrible.” He had a fair point. My advice was to shut his eyes while he ate it…

IMG_6703More reading, this time ‘The Smartest Giant in Town’ by the great Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Everything about this makes me happy – the fact that she can read, the fact that she loves it so much, the fact that she read to her little brother and the fact that he listened intently. Happy, happy, happy.

IMG_6708The arrival of The Easter Basket from school. The Middle Miss was so excited about doing this. Also, bringing it home marked the start of the holidays, which meant we could go….

IMG_2051here! It may look a bit cold, dark and brooding in this photo but trust me, it is a beautiful spot. I have loads and loads and loads of photos to upload of our happy holiday with friends and family. If you want to see more, take a peek at last year’s lambing time visit by clicking here.

Week 14/52 April 2nd – 8th

IMG_6715A real fire in our holiday accommodation – bliss, especially when the electricity went off one day.

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Don’t ask me why but taking photos of hens makes me happy. Perhaps it is because they don’t mind it when you get close to them, perhaps it is because they are good subjects and often stay relatively still. There’s just something appealing about them, despite the fact they are the ultimate recyclers and eat anything.

IMG_2004My older children, their cousin and some blue sky!!! Yes, yes there is quite a bit of snow too but when it is piled up in dramatic drifts I don’t mind that, even in April. This photo is all about the freedom that holidays bring.

IMG_6746Freedom that extends to me too. It’s lovely to be on holiday with friends and family but one of the bonuses is that I can escape for a little walk, all on my own, down the lane in the clear, cold, twilight. If only my camera had been able to really capture the light and the landscape.

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.

Blackpool

We spent the second week of the school holidays in Blackpool. Look, there was sunshine!

These photos were taken on our very first afternoon in town. The Middle Miss soon spied the Big Wheel on the Central Pier and begged to be allowed a ride. I wasn’t that keen, but I climbed aboard with the rest of the family. I think Babykins was a little bit scared by the experience, he certainly held tight to his Dad (and his hat).

It does look like an awfully long way down….

It is quite some time since I have been to Blackpool. In fact I think it was probably around 1995. The Husband (merely The Boyfriend at that time) and I had a day out at the Pleasure Beach. Somewhere, we have one of those cheesy roller-coaster action photos to prove it. Truthfully, I was a bit nervous about a family holiday there. However, if you are not bothered by or can ignore the tackier side of the British Seaside, Blackpool certainly has something for everyone.

For example, if you are a lover of modern art, I give you this view of the Prom, walking north from the Central Pier. The North Pier can be seen in the distance, though we never made it that far. The large black bendy things are some sort of ‘installation’. I haven’t been able to find out much more than that. I will leave it to your imagination what the majority of the locals said about them when I enquired. Personally I quite liked them. They bend and move in the breeze. I’d be interested to see them on a very windy day. Our host said he had seen them with only about 8ft of clearance from the ground!

If the traditional, bucket and spade approach appeals to you then Blackpool can certainly supply the sea, the sand and the donkeys. You have to be prepared to retreat from the beach though because when the tide comes in, there is no sand at all.

The donkeys were a big hit, in fact the children went for a ride three times. They were very cute. The fleecy blankets under their saddle caught the children’s eye. For example, they would have described the nearest two in the picture as being disguised as a ladybird and a tiger respectively. They also took a very keen interest in their names, which were on their nosebands. Babykins thought the whole experience was fantastic. He grinned from ear to ear as they plodded down the beach and back.

My children are also hooked on the ‘money games’ as they like to call the arcades. They must have spent £5 each on 2p slot machines but it gave them a lot of pleasure. The Middle Miss even managed to extract a couple of dubious prizes. I know it’s a crazy way to loose money but hey-ho, it was a small price to pay for two or three hours of entertainment. We made them spend their own pocket money on that, so that they knew where the limit was. I was, however, also persuaded to part with the best part of £25 for some rides on the roundabouts, helter-skelter and dodgems. Surprisingly, the Middle Miss is quite a daredevil when it comes to these rides.

They all enjoyed this little ride and must have been round in at least four different vehicles each. The Middle Miss did a sterling job of looking after Babykins until he got enough confidence to ride alone.

This water shooting game was another family favourite.

Of course, Blackpool can offer all the important and traditional culinary experiences associated with the British seaside. Son Number One was astounded at the number of fish and chip shops. He would have been happy to test every establishment.

I really wanted to go into the convenience store in this picture to see if it had a vicious till. If you are familiar with the work of Ronnie Barker (think Open All Hours) you will understand what I mean. A bit further along this street was a shop where you could go and watch rock being made. It looked like a busy family business. I couldn’t help but laugh at the words inside the rock that was being produced while we were there: SKEGNESS.

There are all sorts of expensive attractions in the vicinity of the Central Pier in Blackpool: Madame Tussauds, The Tower and The Sea Life Centre. We only visited the latter. I thought Madame Tussauds would be lost of the children because they wouldn’t know who half the people were.

Compared to some other aquariums, the Blackpool Sea Life Centre is quite pleasant. All the usual creatures are on display, in pretty much the usual way but it somehow seemed smarter than the last one we visited (I won’t name names but it was in Yorkshire). Maybe it was just the fact that we were pretty much the first visitors of the day, so it wasn’t crowded, and, on the basis of past experience had decided to leave the pushchair behind.

If wildlife is your thing, Blackpool also has a pretty good zoo. The enclosures are reasonably animal friendly and there is certainly a wide selection of species. For me, the most impressive were the Gorillas. They live on an island so there is relatively little in the way of bars separating you and them. There is plenty of distance, of course, but they still catch the eye as they go about their business. The sight of the male silverback moving around is very impressive. Here are some of our other pictures.

You may be wondering why we ended up in Blackpool, considering I mentioned near the start that I wasn’t sure about it as a destination. The truth is that it was a deal too good to refuse. Because of Son Number One’s connection with the RVI and CLIC Sargent we were offered a holiday at Donna’s Dream House. The house was set up by the Curtis family in memory of their daughter, who died in her early 20’s of a rare form of melanoma. As holiday destinations go, it’s a one off! How many places have you stayed with that are decorated with old Blackpool illuminations? Can you spot us in this photo? We are camouflaged.

This is the play room. There are so many toys there is hardly room to play with them.

The back yard has it’s share of Blackpool paraphernalia.

These fish are a fitting decoration for outside the hot tub room. Oh yes, this place has a lovely hot tub. The children LOVED it. We enjoyed it but it was a far cry from the old ‘BC’ days when one of our neighbours had one. There was no chance of having a quiet glass of red wine this time.

Another big hit was the home cinema. There was an enormous screen, proper flip-down seats, surround sound and even free popcorn. What more could you want.

Thanks to the generosity of the people who support Donna’s Dream House, the holiday was free. Previously we have benefitted from static caravan holidays with CLIC Sargent. When Son Number One was on active treatment they were a great benefit. Children undergoing leukaemia treatment can develop serious infections at the drop of a hat and have to be hospitalised. This makes it impossible to consider booking a holiday, there is little chance you could get insurance. This year, almost a year since he finished his chemo, he was really quite well. I felt a bit of a fake really. I just told myself that it was treat for the children that we might struggle to afford otherwise. Both Son Number One and The Middle Miss have had to put up with a lot because of leukaemia. Thankfully, it’s an issue that is mostly in the past. I think this will be the last holiday of this type that we will have. Though I’ll miss the opportunity to go on holiday for free, (who wouldn’t) going out and putting down a deposit on a break will be another milestone in our family journey up and away from childhood cancer.