52 weeks of happy 19/52

My happy post this week is full of images from our first caravan jaunt of the season. This also happened to be our first trip in our new caravan so we didn’t go far from home, just to Hillside Caravan Park at Knayton, near Thirsk. It’s a lovely (some would say luxurious) site that suits our needs very well. You can read more about it here.

greenery1Spring greenery, brightening up the scenery…

IMG_7103Something that I don’t think I’ve seen before (but hope I will again).

IMG_1187A visit from my brother and his wife.

IMG_1209Established traditions. A trip to Knayton must include buying an ice cream from the farm house no matter what the weather. It just so happens that the heavens opened after this was taken….

All the same, our first trip was a success and that made me happy.

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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.

The joy of…..Lambing time

Son Number One is in love with the farming experience. At Christmas, when I asked him if anything was as exciting as the festive season he replied “Well, maybe lambing time”. I remember feeling the same excitement as a child when we visitied a friend’s farm. There must be some deep connection with our collective agricultural past. As you may know, sister and brother-in-law live on a Cumbrian hill farm. It’s in a beautiful, quiet spot on the far eastern side of the Lake District National Park. The hill on the horizon is Loadpot Hill, this picture was taken on the footpath to Whale (yes, there is a little hamlet called that). The River Lowther is just below the first row of trees. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you will see a white spot next to my arrow. That is the gable end of their home.

We set off for our Easter fix of lambing time activities straight away as school broke up on the 29th of March. This year we had arranged to stay with some friends in the holiday cottage. It’s actually the old farm house and looks out onto a yard full of cows. Our boys were very much looking forward to being involved in the working of the farm. I think it’s fair to say their expectations were exceeded!

Our car parked up in front of the cottage

The (sheep’s eye) view from the kitchen window. The mesh is to ensure they don’t decide to join you at lunch time.

Stove in living room

Did I mention the yard and the cows?

The children were given small jobs to do and that definitely added to their enjoyment. All six year olds like to think that they can do a task as well as an adult, and in the farming world, sometimes they can. No wonder Son Number One’s confidence goes up in leaps and bounds with each visit.

In this day and age, when freedom to play outdoors is limited, what small child could fail to enjoy building a straw bale den, covering their wellies in muck and then washing it off in a tumbling stream, collecting eggs ‘straight from the hen’s bottom’ or herding sheep in a family team. There are few adults who don’t get some pleasure from the experience of bottle feeding a hungry lamb. We did all those things.

Last weekend we sneaked back for one last fix of lambing time. I would be misleading you if I said it was a perfect weekend because actually, we had a fair bit of sickness in the family. All the children have had a bug, which I suspect was ‘slapped cheek disease/fifth disease’. However, I would still do it again. You can’t beat chasing sheep in such a beautiful location, especially when you find out that it rained at home and was fine ‘down on the farm’.

I will leave you with some more images of our trips. Don’t forget, if you fancy a visit yourself, you can find details here. The rates are very reasonable and I think there is still some summer holiday availability.