Sunday, 9 August 2015

Gardens and the like

I suppose I need to wrap up this rather haphazard set of posts about our holiday.  So the other things we got up to are here.  Mostly gardens.

On the way North we stopped at Preston Park, entirely because it was there when the children/parents got grumpy.  It has a lovely big playground and bouncy castles and a reasonable cafe.  Loads more (such as 'grounds') but we focussed on the playground and the cafe really.  Marisca did really well at these swinging things, "challenging herself" and eventually getting up to the 4th handhold.  Quite impressive.

They love bouncy castles...

...and of course each other.

On the train and Etal castles day (did I mention the train?  There was a train) we found ourselves at a cafe at Heatherslaw Watermill that had a load of outdoor games outside.  Marisca is surprising good at hula hooping.

And then we popped up to a Big Horse Place (I forget the name).  It had big horses, two of which were called Emily and Thomas (being the names of local friends, this amused us).  Marisca would like me to tell you that there was a sheep that sounded a lot like a pig.  Plus Big Horses.

On a different, quite sunny day we went to The Alnwick Garden.  Not just Alnwick Garden, it has the be The Alnwick Garden.  Anyway, despite being quite a way from the parking, and being incredibly crowded with tourists and probably not too cheap, we had a very lovely time.  They had a fairy tales treasure hunt thing which was great - Marisca chose to dress up and we raced round the gardens looking for clues.  Without the hunt I'm not sure we'd have had quite so much fun, the gardens would have been equally nice for us but a challenge to drag the children round.

Hint: in busy places, dress Tom in bright orange.

Clue #2...

I think per the clues that this is the Beast's rose.  It was just quite nice so I took a photo.

Tom, not getting lost (although he id taking an illicit path down the endless switchbacks through the cherry orchard).

As a bonus we saw some ducklings heading for the big pond!

We actually got away with it in the water features.  There's a bit of fountain sprayingness for fun, and then some really lovely water sculptures further round.  Clearly one of these does a big water show designed entirely for drenching children, but it had just finished by the time we got there, and as we weren't equipped with towels, we survived with only slightly wet children.

Finally, as I don't have pictures of the bamboo maze or of the enormous tree house, here is a familiar picture...  Remember this?  They're even wearing the right colour tops...

Not really a garden, but a farm park on one of our wet days (the other featured a trip to a science museum in Newcastle).  The highlight wasn't really the farm but watching Risky on the go carts.  Obviously having built up her pedalling muscles, she was awesome on them!  Lots of fun.

Oh, and proof of animals.  These ones are called goats.

Our last garden was at Howick Hall, near where we camped.  It's the home of Earl Grey so we went to the tea room (Elspeth had coffee.  Odd choice) and had a potter around the garden.  The children mustn't have been very photogenic that day, so here's some flowers.

So that's it.  What a lovely holiday, lots of things done and seen but lots of relaxation too.  We coped with lots of rain in our aging tent and all remembered again how much we love camping.  Next up is Teesdale again in a couple of weeks.


We had a very lovely time on Lindisfarne.  More ruins (not a castle this time), learning roly polys down hills, and a walk across the beach and rock pools to a tiny island that St Aidan went to when the main tiny island got too hustle and bustle for him.  And had a lovely coffee and cake at Pilgrim's Coffee House, a recommendation if you visit.

Learning independence: Bikes and stickers

At the last minute we decided to tie the kids bikes on top of the car for our camping trip, and we're really glad we did.  Since we bought her bike for her birthday, Marisca's only been out on it a handful of times for a grand total of about 20 metres or so.  She did ask for her stabilisers to be taken off just before we went away (she started off with a balance bike so didn't really get on with them) but has never really been confident with the pedalling.  But once we got her on the flat, wide, grassy campsite, she really started trying to make it work and day by day improved.  Each day she had something new (starting off by herself, standing up a bit, hopping off the bike mid glide, etc) and by the end of the week she was taking herself off to the toilet block and to do errands like filling with water bottles.  It's been great to see her learn and get confident with it and she's no so independent on a campsite.

Equally important although less heralded in traditional pictures of childhood, Tom has now learned how to take stickers off the paper by himself.  This is very good news for keeping him occupied for a few minutes while we get on with something else.

Well done both!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Northumbrian castles

There really are lots of castles in Northumberland. At one point on our holiday Marisca grumbled 'not another castle' but really they're quite good places for children, little bits of hide and seek, lots of space, and occasionally audio tour things for them to steal from their parents.  I've lost count of the ones that we saw, but our favourite was definitely Dunstanburgh, which we could see (ish) and walk to from the campsite.

This is actually Etal castle where Marisca did quite a tricky quiz by reading all of the sides about the Battle of Flodden in the exhibition.  And then coloured in the England and Scotland flags in the colours she thought they should be (more fun but a nightmare for face painters).

So, yes, we had a day walking the mile or two to the castle on the coast.  It was lovely to have Marisca walking and she didn't really complain about any of it.  Her favourite thing I think was opening and closing the gates while my favourite was watching her happily walking away down the footpath.

Thomas was generally carried until we came to the stile, which he is negotiating here with his own toddler style.

Here's the castle.

Here's a bit of playing.

And here's both the best shot and a more typical shot of trying to get a nice picture with them both and one of the towers in the background where we sat for lunch.  

There was a really nice path around the walls of the castle with most of the interior given to meadowy coastal grassy stuff.  One thistle flower exhibited two bees and two butterflies at one time which was quite impressive.  This picture is lovely but doesn't exactly match my memory of how easy it was to get Tom around the walls...

And finally, well, it's the same castle but a different day.  A little light beach trip after the raininess of the weekend, a fun few minutes but a bit too brisk for swimming!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Camping! Again!

We love camping.  At church yesterday when Tom was asked what he wants to say thank you for he said Camping.

Here are some of the reasons why.