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Whinlatter Forest

For me, any trip to the Northern Lakes isn’t complete without a visit to this beautiful forest. It has spectacular views, walks for all abilities, as well as great mountain biking. I absolutely love it here, and truly cannot recommend it enough. In my opinion it really is the best that Forestry England has to offer; the absolute King of their forests. For many people visiting the area, they head straight for walks around lakes and their surrounding fells, but missing this place is missing a true gem.

When I was a child, I spent many happy times doing the Rabbit Run and Fox Trot over at Whinlatter (does anyone else remember those children’s trails?). I was so excited to take my daughter this weekend for the first time, and really hope she grows to love it like I have.

Website: https://www.forestryengland.uk/whinlatter

Parking: Pay at the machines after your visit, we parked at the main visitor centre.

Facilities: An adventure playground, toilets and cafe. A Go Ape is also on site.

A walk at Whinlatter is perfect in any weather, so we chose to come on a day that was actually pretty miserable. It was cold, windy and wet, which made the shelter of the forest so appealing! Whilst the poor visibility meant the views weren’t quite as good, it did mean the becks running through the forest were full of water and were beautiful!

There are a number of children’s activity trails to follow here, including the Shaun Glow Trail (which we’ve recently done over at Dalby Forest) and what looks like a great Gruffalo Sculpture Trail.

There are also a number of set walks from the centre, with super easy navigation following coloured markers. Map here.

Our walk

The Red Two Gills Trail and Blue Comb Beck Trail are both 1.75 miles, so we decided to combine them to make a longer route. It’s definitely not buggy friendly, and parts of the walk have steep drops, so your little ones need to be sensible!

We started off on the red route, climbing up through the trees from the visitor centre, past the adventure playground. The first part of this walk shares the route with the Gruffalo sculpture trail, which added some extra fun for Jess. But once the routes split, and the path turns off the forest track, this is where the walk really becomes much more fun. The narrow path winds through the trees alongside Black Gill, before the it opens up and you get more spectacular views!

Following the path down alongside Comb Gill, you reach a forest track where you can pick up the blue path. Just be careful not to miss the turning- the coloured marker faces away from the direction you’re walking, but really you just need keep on following Comb Gill downhill. It was so lovely on this path, we decided to stop for our picnic.

The path continued through the beautiful woodland, past a ancient sheepfold, a disused Dam and a pond before you climb back up to the centre, where you get further fantastic views.

If you have older children, you might want to try one of the other marked paths. Lord’s Seat (552m) is a fantastic fell to climb, such a different walk to others in the area, and one I remember doing with my parents over 20 years ago. Simply superb, and as a bonus you can bag them a Wainwright.

Whinlatter also has some amazing Mountain Bike Trails, perfect for those who are starting to get into the sport. The Quercus trail is only a blue grade, but is thrilling and stunning in equal measures.

Whatever you do on a visit to the Northern Lakes, just make sure Whinlatter is on your itinerary.

You might also be interested in the following blog posts;

Wentworth Garden Centre

A day out to a garden centre? I was a little dubious when a friend suggested taking Jess (3) there. But what a great suggestion!! Based adjacent to Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham, this is why we loved it;

Feeding the Animals

A visit to the farm is £2.75 for adults and £2.50 for children, with a bag of food just 60p. You’re able to feed Aplacas, Llamas, Pygmy Goats and Sheep. We had to go back for more food because Jess was so excited by them! Other animals (that you can’t feed) include pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs, meerkats and a wide selection of birds.

The Play Areas

There is a main playground in the garden centre, and within the farm there’s a brilliant undercover toddler play barn and a large outdoor sandpit. In the farm there’s a number of coin operated rides, including a race track. There’s also notices up about a new pirate ship area coming soon.

The Maze

Within the gardens is an absolutely brilliant maze. Perhaps it was because we had the place to ourselves, but we had loads of fun playing hide and seek within it.

The Gardens

They’re great to explore, with lots of little paths and steps to wander round. Within the gardens is a short woodland walk, an ice house, a bear pit and deer to find!

The Food

We loved the cafe; it had a wide selection of hot and cold food, a good children’s menu, and despite being busy, efficient staff kept tables cleared so we didn’t have to wait. In warmer weather there’s alternative places to try.

And remember it’s a garden centre!

So mum and dad stay happy with a good mooch about, including looking at the gift shop and pet and aquatic centre!

If you’re looking for a garden centre (or let’s be honest even if you don’t), and want to keep everyone happy, you’d be hard pressed to find a better choice. You’re welcome.

A day enjoying Bolton Abbey

It is difficult to identify a more picture perfect place to enjoy the winter sunshine! There are walks for all abilities here… and on this beautiful sunny day we enjoyed two of them!

Firstly some key info:

  • A map of the estate can be found here.
  • Parking was £10 all day. With a ticket you can visit different car parks, but we based ourselves at the Riverside carpark. Entry is otherwise free.
  • At each of the car parks, toilet facilities are available.
  • Many paths are gravel or surfaced, but there are definitely muddy parts, particularly across fields towards the Abbey.
  • Pushchairs are certainly possible in many places, but you need to be brave on the steeper paths. If you prefer to keep it safe, a good option might be to the Astrid and back from the Riverside carpark.
  • There are no traditional play areas, but there is a sandpit, and at certain times of year there are activities on the main paths… including Easter and Christmas trails.

Starting our morning walk at the Cavendish Pavillion, we decided to take advantage of the glorious sunshine and walk on the far side of the river towards the Strid, crossing at the Aqueduct and returning on the near side. We’d packed a picnic so we’re looking out for a good spot for lunch!

This path can get steep in parts, and be careful with a youngster as the path does have some serious drops in places! Jess is (usually) pretty sensible so we were confident she’d be fine. I can’t say for definite how far this route is, stupidly forgetting to start my tracker, but looking at the estate map I think a little over three miles. If you’re after something a little longer you could also walk up to Barden Bridge (previously done on this blog post).

Walking back was a bit colder in the shade! Luckily Jess was refuelled after her sandwich and the draw of ice cream (!?!) at the Cavendish Pavillion kept her going. I had an amazing chocolate brownie with my cuppa, which kept me pretty happy too!

After warming up we crossed back over the bridge, this time taking the river path to the abbey. This path is also steep in places, but there’s lots to keep children engaged including crossing a ford (although you can also avoid it), as well as a money tree!

Be warned, the field on the approach to the Abbey can get VERY muddy… the path along the side of the river (rather than cutting through the field) is a bit better, and also provides the opportunity for stone skimming!

To cross to the Abbey you have the choice of a footbridge or if you’re feeling brave, the infamous Stepping Stones!

After exploring the Abbey, we took the path alongside the road that takes you back down to the Riverside carpark.

Both children were fast asleep by the time we got to the road, a sure sign of a cracking day out!

I wonder what your favourite walks are there?

Moorlands Nature Reserve, YO32 2RE

We’re always on the lookout for a new nature reserve, this one, near Skelton north of York, is great for children! As well as enjoying the nature (complete with Nature Trail), there are loads of things to look at and explore.

Website: https://www.ywt.org.uk/nature-reserves/moorlands-nature-reserve

Route: A circular path leads you round the reserve, follow this trail map.

Pushchairs: The path does get narrow in places, but is fine would be fine for most pushchairs.

Facilities: None, but the nearby Haxby does.. including a Costa!

Parking: Free roadside parking

Our first visit here was on a Little Legs walk with the Baby Walking Group. Jess was immediately on side on entry, when she spotted some logs to balance on. I was more interested in some early Snowdrops blooming, gorgeous! If you visit later in Spring, this is a prime spot to enjoy bluebells.

The nature trail takes you around the reserve passing 10 posts of animals (they’re listed on the map linked above). We walked in an anti-clockwise direction, which meant that we could leave the tree house until later in the walk.

One of the first things you come to is the pond, with a platform to help you take a better look.

I wasn’t expecting the sculptures dotted about, but they were great, with a pixie tree our particular favourite.

The treehouse provided shelter for our snack, the children loved climbing the steps and peeking out the windows.

The final excitement came with the fairy circle outside the classroom. After this we “enjoyed” playing hide and seek back to the entrance.

Overall, this is a really lovely reserve, especially for small children to explore. It’s great if you live in York, but perhaps a little far from Leeds, unless you’re combining it with another trip. If you’ve got National Trust passes, you could visit the nearby Beningbrough Hall.

If your little ones need a little encouragement getting excited about being in the outdoors, you might find this blog post useful.

Shaun Glow Trail at Dalby Forest

Since my first visit to Dalby Forest about 10 years ago I’ve been absolutely enchanted. I love a good excuse for a visit, and the fact we hadn’t done the Glow Trail seemed to fit the bill!

We’d read about downloading the (free) app before we went. And obviously ignored it. And forgot there’s not really any phone signal there. So the first 20 minutes of our visit I spent in the cafe in the free WiFi waiting for it to download (it’s not massive, the connection was just slow) while Jess and hubby played in the rather impressive adventure play ground.

We also bought the activity pack for £3.50. The trail is recommended for 6-12 year olds. Jess was absolutely fine with the walking (she’s coming up 4) but didn’t get the concept of the trail as much. The activities were good, but I hate to say after standing there for 20 minutes getting the app, she was actually bettter using the paper clues in the activity pack. The app puzzles were a little beyond her…. but I think they would be good for older children (so the recommended age)! Online, I’ve seen examples of photos with Shaun which I also assume you can do on the app but we must have given up before that was possible, that or we didn’t see it (you can tell I work for a tech company, right?!?). In a nutshell, you CANNOT do the activities without buying the pack (you need the special pen) but if you have younger ones you don’t necessarily need the app too.

The walk itself takes you out the back of the visitor centre, and past the BBQ area where we stopped for a perfectly picturesque picnic by the stream. I can imagine in summer this is super busy, but we had the area to ourselves. It was a fantastic winter treat!

The trail continued uphill into some woodland. It really isn’t suitable for buggies after the first kilometre of so; it gets quite steep as you turn off the main track and is super muddy in places. It’s definitely a step up from the Zog Trail, despite it being not much further in distance.

The activities involved using a glow stick (UV torch) to identify shapes. Jess loved this, even though, as I’ve said didn’t necessarily get the whole spaceship theme.

Between the stops for clues there are also suggestions for little activities, our favourite was how many trees can you touch in 30 seconds. So obviously in the denser part of the forest we did this about five million, six thousand, three hundred times. Our favourite activity in the woods is always looking for signs of the bears, I’m dreading the day Jess gets too old for this because we love it soo much!! Every fallen tree, snapped branch, trodden leaf is a sign a bear has been through!

Back at the visitor centre we enjoyed some hot chocolates whilst Jess had her usual winter food choice of ice cream.

I think the walk’s just the right length for younger children.. the return to the centre is downhill which makes it easier for them! There should still be plenty of time to do another walk or maybe some bike riding afterwards. Make sure you do leave time for the play area, and a little play in the stream at the back.

If you wish to do another guided trail, I think you could mostly do the Zog trail without buying another pack, as the activities are written on the clues. There’s also a beginners bike trail from the visitor centre. Or you could just go and explore the beautiful woodland on one of the many walking trails. I cannot wait for the children to get older so that we can go on longer walks. There are also explorer packs that you can rent for £3; little backpacks with all the tools you need to explore the streams or woodland.

If you do make it out there let me know how you get on!

Details:

Finding Boggarts at Longshaw (NT)

Another weekend, another National Trust Trail!!

Longshaw, in the Peaks is an absolutely fantastic place to head to for gorgeous walking trails and outdoor adventures for children.

The Boggarts trail is based on one of the main walking routes that can be seen on the property map. Whilst the main path itself is suitable for robust pushchairs (some parts can get muddy), be warned the activities and exploring areas are largely set off the path.

The trail starts at the main car park, where you can pick up a trail guide for just a pound from the welcome building. Alternatively, you can follow the orange marked walking route and look out for Boggart signs!

One of the first discoveries is the little Boggart hamlet of Boggart Rise! All the little dwellings have doors that you can open and try to catch sight of one!

Other favourite activities were balancing at Boggart View and exploring Boggart Burrow.

There’s also a great viewpoint over the valley (although its largely obscured by our selfie)!

The Boggart trail’s final activity is found just off the orange route, on the path leading towards Padley Gorge, with more little magic dwellings.

If you’ve got a buggy, you’ll need to return to the orange route, it’s 1.7 miles in total. If you take a picnic it’s great for little ones!

However, if you’re buggy free you have the luxury of heading down to picnic or snack at the truly beautiful Padley Gorge. On warm sunny days you’ll find loads of families enjoying this wonderful spot, and there’s often an ice cream van parked on the road that you cross.

Without a buggy, you have another option to return to the car park. You can extend your walk by picking up the pink route, this brings the total length of the walk to 4.5km.

The pink route follows the stream, and whilst there’s no Boggarts to find there’s lots of fun to be had throwing in sticks and grass playing Pooh sticks! This path can get extremely muddy here, you have been warned!!

After crossing a footbridge the path leads up through woodland back to the car park. If you have older children there are some good boulders to climb on the way back.

It’s a lovely family walk, but if you fancy something a little more challenging then you might enjoy the fantastic 3 mile circular route of Mam Tor!

Mam Tor Circular Walk

If you’re looking for a challenge that young children will find manageable, climbing Mam Tor (the Shivering Mountain) from a car park only 50m from the summit could be the ideal choice!

Distance: 3 miles

Accessibility: The Walk starts with lots of steps… some muddy slopes can make for tricky walking in wet weather.

Route: The National have provided this route guide; https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinder-edale-and-the-dark-peak/trails/mam-tor-circular-walk

Parking: National Trust Mam Nick Car Park

The walk is easy to follow and the steepest climb starts from the car park, so it is over nice and early on!

The initial climb is on stone steps (can your little ones count how many?). There is a trig point at the top of Mam Tor, so it’s great for photos, with a beautiful 360 degree view. If you do this walk in finer weather you’ll likely see the masses of hand gliders taking flight from the top.

From here it’s a straight walk along the ridge to Hollins Cross, a cross roads in the dip of the ridge, and another great spot for 360 views. Be warned, it can get pretty windy along the ridge so if you’re walking in winter make sure you’ve got lots of layers! I think being so accessible there were many families who had come unprepared; it might be a family walk, but it is still a peak at over 500m so don’t get caught out!

The return walk passes under the Mam Tor peak, where the lovely views over Castletown continue. If it’s a colder day, you may prefer to choose this path for a picnic/ snack stop as it tends to be a little more sheltered than the ridge. Until you meet the road, and the path from the caverns back to the car park can get pretty muddy and slippy, so make sure you have appropriate footwear, especially in wetter weather. Whilst there is some uphill it’s not as steep as the start, and being on the way back to the start helps spur on reluctant walkers! If you need some ideas on how to encourage little ones to walk read this blog.

Back at the car park there’s often a catering van offering hot drinks, or you can drive down to Castleton with its excellent variety of pubs and cafes! We also like the Cheshire Cheese Inn in Hope, which does great food.

For future walks, or if you’re after a more challenging walk, the 61/2 mile circular from Castleton is a great one, taking in much more of the ridge and the glorious views!!

Five Reasons that I love Cragside (National Trust)

Or reasons to make a visit to Cragside in 2020 a priority.

Cragside is, in my humble opinion, the greatest National Trust property in the country. And I’ve been to loads of them. Let me explain why.

1. The Family Friendly Walking Trails

Our favourite family walk here is Nelly’s Moss Lakes Walk, which is just 1.5 miles long. It’s flat and is just perfect for picnics, with loads of benches on the way round! It’s a circular walk that starts at the playground, so a great bribe for little ones. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk, red squirrels can be found in this area. If you need to take a buggy or chair, there’s an accessible version of the route.

The 2 mile Armstrong Trail is another family friendly route, which takes in the main sights of this side of the estate and is a good choice if you don’t want to do the drive (even though you should, you definitely should).Other walks at Cragside can be found here.

2. Driving your car is amazing

Yep, you read that right! Who knew I’d be encouraging you to drive!! The 6 mile drive around the estate starts by going through the impressive arches of the house, and then shows you the best that Cragside has to offer. If you park at the Crozier car park to try the playground, you’ll end up doing this route on the one way drive.

3. Family fun a-plenty!

As well as a good sized play area, there are a number of fun activities under the 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4. My favourite activity is the barefoot trail (again, up by the playground), definitely fun for the whole family!

If you’re a fan of mazes, Cragside has one with a difference; Labyrinth is a network of paths and tunnels in a rhododendron forest!

4. The House and Gardens are spectacular

National Trust homes tend to be rather beautiful… but this is really something else. It’s position on a crag makes the house look breathtaking, and inside each room is a pleasure to see.

The gardens, that in many places we pass over in favour of parkland or the wider estate, are a true highlight here. The stream that runs from Tumbleton Lake through the gardens provide’s interest from the Achimedes Screw and Pump House (Cragside was the first home in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity), a picturesque setting for the Iron Bridge, and a pretty accompaniment to a walk through woodland in the garden. Absolutely gorgeous.

5. Enjoy the views from outside the tea rooms

Obviously, even if you take a picnic you’ll want to need to stop for a piece of cake. There’s not many tea rooms that will have better outdoor seating, either in the courtyard with the crags towering above,or take out your treats to the picnic benches overlooking the lake.

And there’s so much more!

This lists my favourite things… but there’s tons more to do, you really can spend hours here exploring. If it’s your first visit you might want to start at the visitor centre to help you plan.Our most common itinerary is to start at the Crozier carpark for the play ground and walk around the Lakes, before driving the rest of the estate drive back to the main carpark to explore the house and gardens.I really, really hope you get a chance to visit here because it’s just awesome!!!

**Other NT properties that we enjoy in the North East are;

Great walks for Christmas with a country pub!

Amidst all the craziness of shopping, nativities, wrapping and parties it’s easy to lose sight of what we should be treasuring over Christmas; families! What better way to enjoy time with families than with a festive walk… finishing with a mulled wine at a country pub.

We love a good Christmas Day walk, it’s a great way to spend time after breakfast and presents… and helps you build up an appetite for Christmas Dinner!! And if you want to avoid the chaos of Boxing Day shopping, take the opportunity to get out and into the fresh air- and walk off all the stodge!

Here’s some suggestions of good walks around Leeds with a pub (although mulled wine is not guaranteed 🤣)! Most pubs are open Boxing Day, Christmas Day hours are given below.

A walk around a park The superb Roundhay Park has surfaced paths (perfect for pushchairs), two lakes, play grounds and woodland! For a quieter stroll, head up the Secret Gorge for a picturesque path along a stream. Finish for a drink at the atmospheric Roundhay Fox, open on Christmas Day 11.30am- 6pm.

Along a canal The beautiful canal stretch between Woodlesford and Methley has a path both sides for a circular walk. There are no stiles, but it can be really muddy on the stretch between Lemonroyd Marina and Methley, so make sure if you take a buggy it’s suitable for off-road paths! The Boundary House in Methley is just a little walk off the canal, and is one of my favourite pubs, open for drinks 12-7pm on Christmas Day.

Around a lake Newmillerdam Country Park is absolutely beautiful anytime of year, but in winter if you’re lucky the frosty views are spectacular! The paths through the woodland and around the lake are mostly buggy friendly, and the cosy Fox & Hounds is a great way to warm up after (open 11am-2/2.30pm on Christmas Day).

Exploring woodland Hackfall Woods in Nidderdale are a great place to explore with little ones, be careful if it’s icy because paths are narrow and could be slippy! Warm up with a drink at the nearby Crown Inn at Grewelthorpe- there’s a path next to the pub that leads straight to the pub.

Away from it all One of Yorkshire’s favourite walks has got to be the Burnsall to Grassington route, about 3.5 miles each way. Maybe a little far for little legs, but it could be a good choice if you’re lucky enough to have a baby in a carrier! The Red Lion at Burnsall is famous for its warm welcome, great food and good atmosphere.

Something longer For a full day walk, there is a great moor from Ilkley across Ilkley Moor and over to Addingham. You can take the return leg along the River Wharfe, it’s about 11km in total so not a one for little walkers! We did this a few years ago on New Years Day- the perfect way to walk of those festive drinks and a great way to start the New Year! The Fleece in Addingham has just been given a new lease of life, and perfect for a mid-way lunch!

This year we’re spending Christmas up in Newcastle, and are planning to head to the truly fabulous Cragside for our Boxing Day outing! What are your plans? Do you have a favourite walk at Christmas time?

My Breastfeeding journey

This is a bit of a personal post for me… and I’m actually still a little emotional about it all. But a few days before James celebrated his six month birthday, our breastfeeding journey came to an end. Let me share my story…

Firstly some context. My daughter (who will soon be four) was super relaxed with any type of feeding; we did mixed feeding for about five months. To be honest I can’t remember the exact dates because it was so much of a non-issue! Breast/ bottle/ formula… she took anything, anytime. I chose when to stop when I returned to work, I know many people successfully breastfeeding after going back to work but that wasn’t for me.

James could not have been more different. He absolutely refused to take a bottle for the first couple of months. I know I could have tried harder, but it was so disheartening to spend time expressing (especially as it took me time away from properly playing with my daughter), only for us to have to pour it away when he refused to take it.

But breastfeeding isn’t easy, right? Apart from the tiredness of always being ‘on duty’, I had so much pain that I had never experienced with a Jess. It seemed to come and go in phases, but aaagggghhhh when it was bad, those first few sucks after latching on were soooo painful! And every so often when I looked down and saw blood on his mouth- it was actually pretty traumatic!!!

There were positives though, I think I was much more relaxed breastfeeding in public with James (and was really proud when someone gave me a ‘Yes Mumma’ card- if you haven’t heard of them go look it up). Maybe because I had already got the knack of being discreet with baby one I was much more confident!

Eventually, with the appeal of a break getting bigger and bigger we persevered with formula. Every night for about two weeks we tried, and eventually he started taking the bottle, woooohoooooo! I headed straight to bed for an actual nap and left my husband to it!!

After that we started giving him a bottle or two of formula every day. Those of you who followed me on social media when a James was first born may remember his screaming. Constant screaming. Well, once he started taking bottles he calmed right down! He actually seemed satisfied! It was like having a different baby.

So I was quite happy mixed feeding, and had thought that like my daughter I would be able to continue this until I decided to finish it. But James had different ideas. Whilst he was quite happy breastfeeding through the night and in the mornings, he would cry and arch his back through the day time. So we settled into a sort of routine… and I was pretty happy breastfeeding at night, it was so much easier at 2am when you get up without having to make up a bottle!

But he started refusing breastfeeding more and more. In November, we went on holiday. On the plane, I had planned on breastfeeding him during take off. He refused, and that pretty much set the tone for the holiday. I think he was going through a growth spurt or something because every night he was waking up every hour and screaming, but would not take anything other than formula. And so that was that. I returned from holiday having not breastfed for a week, and had completely dried up. Just like that my breastfeeding journey was over.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Yes, once he started taking bottles it probably would have been a good time to try expressing again. Yes, I could have tried breastfeeding again once we returned back from holiday, and probably still could. But to be honest it’s quite upsetting seeing your baby screaming when you try to feed him and I don’t really want to have to see it again!

I think my friend unwittingly hit the nail on the head when trying to think why I was so upset about it all; I hadn’t realised that the last time I fed him would be my last time. With Jess I made the decision myself, I was able to enjoy those last cuddles and treasure them. James took that away from me, and I can’t remember the last time. I don’t remember the last post-feed cuddles, the sleepy milk-drunk yawn and snuggle. My last feed was probably a 3am grump, where I was willing him to hurry up so I could get back to sleep. I probably didn’t take the runtime to enjoy it.

I really didn’t think I’d be emotional about finishing. To be honest I thought I was ready, and the upset was really unexpected!

So we got to nearly 6 months. Cut shorter than I wanted, but longer than Jess so I should be happy. Let me finish by saying, breastfeeding was my choice. It’s not for everyone and not possible for everyone. So let’s make sure any comments on this, as well as discussions about feeding in general are positive. After all, FED IS BEST.

Rachel x