Home Farm at Temple Newsam, Leeds

On the first day of the half term, perhaps it was asking for trouble letting Jess choose our activity. The choice was Temple Newsam Farm (well, she asked for ‘the one with the pigs’ to be precise, but luckily, I knew what she meant). We needn’t have worried, it was absent of the throngs that I had imagined, and as usual, was a great visit.

At the risk of sounding like a tight Yorkshire (wo)man, one of the biggest positives of this farm is the price. Children under 5 are free (and over fives are only a few pounds), so taking my two alone is a great cheap day out! Parking is also free, as is access to the large play area (with a fun slide and zip line) next to the car park.

Inside the farm, there’s another play area for the under 8s, which is a great place for a stop and a snack half way round. There are good hand washing facilities everywhere, including at the play area. Is anyone else’s kid obsessed with washing hands? I suppose there are worse things to get into… but slightly worrying that she was more impressed with the hand washing stations than some animals!!

I absolutely love the range of animals here. It’s one of the largest Rare Breed centres in Europe, so you might well spot some breeds you’ve never seen before! And even though many animals were cosied up inside, there was still plenty to see… including lots of baby animals!! Piglets, kids and calves were a-plenty, hopping about and getting into mischief. Although not today, often piglets are running loose in the courtyard, which is great for the children to see!

If you are planning on heading there this half term you might spot some brand new little piglets, this sow looked seriously ready to pop bless her! Takes me back to how I was feeling this time last year….

In and around the farm buildings there is lots of educational information, teaching you about what life was like on the farm. Some of this is interactive, which keeps little ones entertained!

And after you’re finished you can go for a walk round the estate, visit the house or take a rest at the cafe. It’s a fab day out!

Visiting Morpeth, Northumberland

Northumberland is truly a spectacular place to visit; beautiful sandy beaches, stunning castles at every turn, and historic towns to explore. And yet with all those visits, I rarely hear of people visiting Morpeth.
Just 20 minutes from Newcastle and 20 minutes from the golden sands of Druridge Bay, it’s not only a great base to see the region, but also a destination in itself. As an added bonus, you might bag some bargain accommodation compared to the tourist traps of Bamburgh or Alnwick.


Things to do and places to see in Morpeth

The Walk to explore Morpeth Lady Lucy’s walk along the river is beautiful to see, and can be made into a circular route by looping behind the Abbey remains and back to the town via a spectacular viewpoint. A good description of this walk is over on the great Rucksack Rose blog here (the second walk of the short routes). Just be aware that the paths can get extremely muddy, and part of the route passes through a residential estate where I definitely thought we’d taken a wrong turn. If you want to stick to the highlights, keep to the river path, the castle remains and viewpoint.

The Full Day Out If you’re a regular reader of my blog, or follow me on social media, you might be aware of my pure love of Cragside, the best National Trust property in the country. It is simply amazing, so if you’re visiting Northumberland DO NOT MISS IT. Rather than me bang on about it again, read this blog before you go. Because you ARE going, right?

The Family Farm Our daughter LOVES a good farm. And Whitehouse Farm is a great one. There’s a wide range of animals (with ample opportunities to handle and feed), as well as indoor and outdoor play areas. So it’s a good choice for a miserable day!
The Beach Now I’m sure, being a Northerner, that I am biased, but there is nothing quite like a Northumberland beach. Absolutely nothing. And wherever we go in the world, looking at a beautiful beach, a little voice inside me is always saying “it’s not a patch on Northumberland”. Just miles and miles and miles of golden sandy beaches. You’ll often be able to find your very own peace of paradise, and be the only one on the sand.Just 20 minutes from Morpeth is Druridge Bay; a stunning seven mile stretch between Amble and Cresswell. There’s plenty for little ones to discover; and take your bucket and net for the rock pools! If it’s a windy day, you can also visit the country park, where there is a lovely walk around the Lake. Details here.

The Place to kill a few hours
Plessey Woods Country Park is just south of Morpeth, and is probably one of the best places I can think of to explore woodland. There are lots of activities for children, and I don’t just mean the play area. Fairy doors, the ogre’s swamp, a wooden drum kit and outdoor games are just some of the fun things they’ve got going on. I really love it here, and it is perfect for a time filler between bigger trips, or to get some (more) fresh air at the end of the day.


And finally… the shopping! It’s a market town! Don’t forget to drop in to Market day on a Wednesday and soak up the atmosphere. The Sanderson Arcade should also be on your itinerary, which is home to some luxury stores, as well as some well known stores. So there you have it…. some of the best things to do in and around Morpeth. It’s definitely worth considering a visit. Other blog posts covering days out in the North East include;

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.

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!

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?

Calverley/ Apperley Bridge Circular (4.5 miles)

A great walk which follows the easy canal path and back in the other direction along the river Aire. With decent pubs at Apperley Bridge and Calverley you have a choice of places to enjoy your well deserved drink or meal!

Parking: Roadside parking is available at Calverly Bridge, but be aware it can get busy and some spaces are for residents only.

Route: Starting at the Railway pub, walk along the canal to Apperley Bridge. Climb the short flight of stairs onto the main road, navigating through the grounds of Woodhouse Grove to pick up the river path (more on this to follow).

Access: Whilst the canal path is suitable for pushchairs the river path is not, being extremely muddy and you’d need to carry the chair up the stairs or continue further along the canal to come off. The walk to Apperley Bridge and back could be a nice option, particularly if you have lunch at one of the lovely pubs there. If you have an off road buggy you could potentially try the route if it is dry in summer.

Facilities: There are good pubs at both the start and mid-way points. At Calverly there is also a picnic area.

Vlog on walk: (be prepared for my ramblings) https://youtu.be/DXvBU_ae-rM

If like me, you’re doing this walk in winter, be prepared to get muddy! I’m not great at walking over a couple of miles in wellies (my calf muscles suffer), so I tend to stick to walking boots and avoid the mud where I can!

The two halves of the walk are nice and different. The first half is straight up to the canal, the path is surfaced and so easy walking and easy navigation. A train line accompanies you on the walk, so you are frequently greeted with the passing of trains. There are some beautifully picturesque parts that make you eager for more!

On arrival in Apperley Bridge you pass under a bridge, continue for another 100 yards and you’ll come to another bridge. To your right, take the stairs up to the main road.

Turn right and walk along the road until you reach the entrance of Woodhouse Grove School. It isn’t immediately clear how to get onto the river as the route has recently changed, but some friendly groundsmen gave me directions. On entry to the grounds head on the right hand road towards the pavillion. Just after this you’ll see a small path straight ahead that follows the other road. When you reach the wall turn right and head towards the 5 bar gate that takes you onto the riverside path.

The path takes you along the side of the River Aire and is a really lovely stretch.

Eventually the path leads away from the river, along the side of a field to join a little lane.. be aware this part can get really muddy!

If like me, you have an older map you may find yourself having to use your phone to navigate the streets of a new housing estate back to the start point. Essentially the easiest way on leaving the lane is to go straight ahead until you reach Calverly Lane. Turn right to take you to the bridge that takes you to your starting point.

The best end to the walk is to enjoy a home cooked meal at the Railway pub! It’s a really lovely route with plenty to see on your way round. Enjoy!!

The Muddy Boots 2020 Family Challenge

As the time to make some New Year resolutions nears, let me introduce you to a family challenge that gets you out walking at least once a month… as well as showing you some of the best family walks Yorkshire has to offer.

The concept is simple. 12 of my favourite Yorkshire family walks to complete in 12 months. I’ll be suggesting the months to do each walk on my social media, but feel free to mix them up if needed! Whilst some of these routes are buggy friendly, encourage your little ones to walk as much of the routes as possible (read this blog post for help).

You might be able to identify some of the walks from the pictures… but if not here we go!!

The Gnome Roam at Newmillerdam. At just under two miles with loads of activities on the route, this is a great starting walk to get little ones enthused about getting out and about. A pub at the end can get you warmed up from the cold.

Nature Trail at Oakwell Hall. This two mile route has two loops, so half way round you can stop off at the cafe to refuel… and the pull of the play area gets your little ones to restart!

Golden Acre and Paul’s Pond is 5.5km… and is suitable for buggies that don’t mind mud! Refuel and warm join the scrummy cafe.

Ilkley and Middleton woods is best done April/May to see the glorious bluebells. With views over Ilkley and a walk along the river, this has a little bit of everything…

Up in Nidderdale lies the fantastic Hackfall woods. You might catch the bluebells here in May, but if not take a picnic and allow yourself to explore this gorgeous woodland.

Aaaahhh Heath. A summer visit means picnics on Heath common or drinks in the lovely King’s Arms beer garden. So summer is the perfect time to try this short circular walk.

One of Wakefield’s most popular family walks is the Room on the Broom Trail at Angler’s Country Park. Pack a picnic and some bird seed and enjoy following the trail round the lake.

Bolton Abbey is just picture perfect all year round. But on a sunny day you can enjoy a leisurely picnic as well as the views!

May Beck and Falling Foss. Walk away those September blues with a trip to the coast. Combine a visit to Whitby with this amazing and magical walk. Waterfalls, woodland and probably the best tea garden on the planet.

Damflask Reservoir is a great circular route with a great cafe stop on the way round!

Stanley Ferry and Southern Washlands Nature Reserve combines a canal walk with woodland.The Stanley Ferry Pub is well placed for a family friendly meal afterwards, so you might want to keep this as a winter walk.

The National Trust always does Christmas well, so why not leave a walk in the beautiful Nostell parkland until then, before enjoying the Christmas spirit at the house and gardens.

So there you go! At the start of each month I’ll be sharing a bit more about these walks for you. Make sure to share any walks with #muddybootsfamilychallenge. Good luck!

A Day in Rydal, Lake District

With friends over from Holland, this weekend we needed to find a good spot that both showed a glimpse of the beauty of the Lakes, as well as providing easy paths for the three little walkers we had with us. Rydal proved to be the perfect choice… and if you fancy a day here, let me suggest a good itinerary.

Spend the morning discovering Rydal Hall

Brochure: https://rydalhall.org/cms/resources/rydal-hall-2019.pdf

We had read about Rydal Hall from the rather brilliant Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District blog and decided we should give it a go! We parked in the gardens, you are able to leave your car all day for £5 with a permit from the Main Hall. The grounds aren’t huge, but that suited us fine, and we followed the little route suggested on the brochure. We loved reading the little informative signs dotted about to learn about the trees, and there were plenty of things of interest to keep our young children entertained, including waterfalls and sculptures. In the centre, behind the cafe, are toilets and a baby change.

Enjoy lunch in beautiful surroundings

There are a few options for lunch; the cafe at Rydal Hall is pleasant but doesn’t have the best options for children. You could enjoy a picnic, there are plenty of picnic benches in the grounds or you could head down to the Lakeside and find a spot.

The Old School Room tea shop is also a short walk away and is in stunning surroundings too!

Walk up to Rydal Caves

Another fantastic suggestion on the Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District blog. We used to walk around here frequently pre-children, so it was great to spot a walk in the area that was suitable for our three year old. We crossed the road from Rydal and across the little footbridge to take the path that joined the White Moss footpath. It’s not suitable for pushchairs, but a relatively short distance.

Remember when you get to them, that the first cave isn’t the main one. Keep going round the corner and climb to see the huge mouth of the cave. Entry is by stepping stones, or scrambling over the stones at the side of the cave- which was our choice with me and the baby carrier and our little one. We were massively lucky to find a choir in the cave itself, and enjoyed the music for a little bit. Just up from the cave was a great viewpoint over Rydal Water, and we took obligatory family photos before heading down.

Finish the day with a wander around Grasmere or Ambleside.

Grasmere is much smaller than Ambleside but has gift shops and cafes to mooch around, whereas Ambleside is much larger with more choice. There is a wide range of cuisines and many leisure activities to choose from.

If you’re in the Lakes for a few days you might wish to visit Grizedale, a fantastic forest with lots to enjoy. There are so many walks to enjoy around the area, if you have difficulty getting your child motivated, read this blog post for tips to keep them going!

RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate

What a treat to get some sunshine for our visit to Harlow Carr today. These beautiful gardens were able to show off their spectacular Autumn colours, and we could enjoy them at our total leisure! Jess was entertained throughout with an Autumn I Spy activity, so was on great form… meaning we all had a great day.

Website: https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/harlow-carr

Parking: It was a busy day, but there was plenty of parking in the three free car parks. Alternatively, you can walk through the woods from Valley Gardens in Harrogate; map here 👉https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/pdf/harlow-carr/harlow-carr-map-of-walks.pdf

Pushchairs: There are surfaced paths around the gardens.

Facilities: Good facilities, although be warned to two Betty’s tea shops had long queues.

Things to see

The gardens are predictably gorgeous, with lots of different areas to explore. The kitchen garden is a great place to start, and it’s lots of fun guessing what everything is (to be fair me and hubby struggled at times!)

Another highlight is the woodland walk, not least because of the beautiful colours at this time of year. This part is not marked as wheelchair accessible on the map, but was fine for our pushchair. After the recent rain there was also plenty of opportunities to jump in the mud!

Around the lake and the Lakeside gardens are just stunning. Until 10th November, Harlow Carr are hosting Seventy Days of Sculpture, and the lakeside provides a focal point for some of the fantastic pieces on display.

The Streamside walk is lovely to take in and wonderfully calming!

Activities for children

On entry we picked up an Autumn I Spy leaflet which was fantastic for Jess, keeping her entertained the whole way round the gardens. We didn’t have a pen to tick off the things she saw, so we just used mud rubbed in the boxes (which was an activity in itself)!

The play areas are small, but enough to keep little ones entertained, with obstacles to climb, balance and swing on.

Dotted around the gardens there is plenty to keep interest and to look at!

If like us, you enjoy a good picnic, there are picnic benches around the two play areas, and covered benches at the Teaching Garden. I’d definitely recommend taking something with you if you go at a weekend. We had stuff for Jess, but had planned on enjoying Betty’s… but the queues looked pretty long and with James screaming we couldn’t face waiting!

So overall, a lovely day! Whilst entry isn’t cheap, if you plan on returning, annual membership works out a decent price, and with changing activities and events throughout the seasons, it would be a good investment.