Making the most of your garden with children

I feel so so lucky to have a garden at the moment, and hope to make the very most of it! Here are some ideas on just how to do that.

Exploring Nature

It’s the perfect time to learn about the nature in your very own garden. Activities include;

  • SCAVENGER HUNT. Take a few minutes to write a list of natural things to find in the garden. For small children a quick sketch… or find numerous examples online to print off. You could also do a photo scavenger hunt- they have to take a picture of everything they find.
  • TREE APPRECIATION. It’s the perfect time to learn about the trees (or flowers, or bushes) that you have in your garden. Draw a picture. Find the seeds and learn how they spread. Do any animals, birds or mini beasts live there?
  • BIRD WATCHING. Spend ten minutes to half an hour sitting quietly, counting birds and identifying what they are.
  • FLOWER PRESS. Collect their favourite flowers and press them. If you don’t want them picking your favourites, restrict to wild flowers.
  • MINI BEAST HUNT. Go searching under stones, bricks or dig in the soil to see what you can find. Older children could make a chart; name, size, colour, no.of legs, wings, how many.
  • RUBBINGS. Try different surfaces, different leaves and bark.
  • GARDENING. Plant seeds, prune plants or even just let children dig. Try to think of some usual pots you could plant in; old wellies, egg cups, a mug. Have a competition with every member of the household to see who’s seed grows the fastest!

Eating outdoors

The possibilities are endless! We’re enjoying some fabulous weather, so have been having lunch and tea outside wherever possible… here are some other options;

  • BBQ. It genuinely is never too early for a BBQ. Enough said.
  • PIZZA! On Mother’s Day we lit our horrendously underused outdoor pizza oven… Jess absolutely loves making the pizzas. If you don’t have a pizza oven, create the pizzas, pop them in your normal oven and then eat them outside! You could even turn your garden into an Italian restaurant… spend some day colouring/ painting Italian flags for that extra touch!
  • PICNIC. Jazz up a simple lunch of sandwiches by spreading a blanket and going outside. Make it into an adventure for little ones; pack up a bag and take them on a little walk around the garden ‘Follow The Leader’ style. Can you find obstacles to walk under/ over/ around?
  • ONE POT. If you go camping with your family, you might have a camping stove or trangia that you could use to cook your tea on. Older children might be able to cook the food themselves.
  • DATE NIGHT. Three years ago my husband had the idea to build a bar in our garden. At the time I thought it was a bloody stupid way to spend money, but now I’m eating my words! We had a lovely night at the weekend wrapping up and going outside, listening to music and eating a take-away. I am well aware garden bars aren’t overly common, but definitely go for a ‘night out’!

Outdoor Art

  • NATURE ART. Make a picture with leaves, twigs and flowers that you find in the garden.
  • CHALK. Let children chalk on your driveway or patio. A great canvas, and then for the enthusiastic they can wash it off!
  • WATER PAINTING. A paintbrush and a pot of water is all you need to get some great designs on fences or patio stones. In the sunshine it will dry quickly so you can go again!
  • STONE PAINTING. If you are still going outdoors, hide them for others to find. There are lots of groups and places around that do this.

Dens and Tents

Pretend to go on a mini holiday and make the most of any tents you have, get them out a spend a day using that as your base. Or as a Wendy house. No tent? Grab a few chairs and a big sheet. Get multiple dens going, build a tent village!! Each tent/den could have a different purpose; one for reading, one for games. Or if your little ones like role play, take out your shopping toys and let every den be a different shop! Can you make shop signs?

Make use of what you have in the garden. Do you have a sandpit? Spend a day at the beach! If it’s safe to do so and your children are a little older, you could even have an overnight adventure, sleeping outdoors!

Water Play

Having recently bought a water play table for the children, who spent about 5 minutes with it before they got bored, I can honestly say filling pots and pans with water and letting small children occupy themselves is the best activity you can do.

My daughter also loves washing things, the car is her favourite, but we’ve taken out her brother’s high chair, you could do plastic toys, or outside pots. As long as she feels she’s helping, she’s happy.

If your child has lots of dolls, fill a tub with bubble bath and let them have a bath time. And of course if it’s warm get a paddling pool out!

Sport and exercise

With Joe Wicks taking over the nation, it seems we are all turning to our living rooms for our exercise space. But remember you could do these online sessions outside! Other ideas;

  • SPORTS DAY. You vs the children. Egg and spoon, slalom, rolling races, hopping races, obstacle course.
  • TAG or if your garden’s big enough, a Hide and Seek Tag.
  • DAILY WORKOUT/ CIRCUITS. You don’t need Joe Wicks! Let each corner of your garden be a station. Star jumps/ Knee ups/ Heel kicks/ Skipping. Run in between.
  • BALL SKILLS. Passing, dribbling, hockey skills, tennis skills.
  • DANGEROUS WATERS. Basically dont stand on the grass (the crocodiles might eat you). Create obstacles that children must navigate to get from one side of the garden to the other. Super easy to set up and you can keep making it harder.

Other games and activities

  • TREASURE HUNT. Hide items all over the garden for little ones to find. Older children could be given clues or even create clues themselves!
  • BUBBLES. Endless entertainment!
  • MUD PIE. Messy play for little ones… all you need is water, mud a a few pots for the perfect mud pie.
  • PUDDLE JUMPING AND RAIN DANCING. Don’t let the rain stop you getting outside. Layer up and get involved!
  • MAKING TRACKS. Have a train set or V-tech toys? Just think of the EPIC size creation that you can make!
  • PLAYING WITH TOYS OUTDOORS. Remember you don’t have to do anything particularly special, just being outdoors if something a little different. Do what you would usually do, just outside!

Are there any activities that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

If you’re still heading out for walks, this post might give you some inspiration to motivate little legs!

Challenges we faced on our first Mexican holiday

 (And how we overcame them)

We had the BEST holiday to Mexico, and in hindsight it was perfect timing. We landed back the day before Boris told everyone to stay home. A week later schools were closed and all non-essential travel cancelled. We feel incredibly lucky to have avoided all the initial craziness, and to have enjoyed a holiday when so many others were missing out!img_20200312_083217_2583551936277443279582.jpgBut any holiday with two small children can cause difficulties, and we faced some challenges we hadn’t considered. James (9 months) had started to crawl the week before we left – not so perfect timing- and Jess had just turned four, so thinks she’s now a ‘big girl’ but hasn’t even started school yet. We had heard a lot about TUI Sensatori being really child friendly, so stayed at their Mexican offering: the Azul Beach Resort. It definitely was child-friendly, but could certainly do more. Full review here.Anyway, this post is about the challenges, so here’s what they are, and what you can do.

The Flight

10 hours on a flight. Aaaaagggghhhh. The first problem was that our flight out was actually over 11 hours; after pushing back from the gate we lost our slot. So had to sit for an hour in our seats (seatbelt signs on). Unfortunately (or stupidly) we’d put the bag of snacks in the overhead lockers, thinking we’d get them in the air. James cried and Jessica whinged every minute of that first hour. It wasn’t a great start.

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Things did thankfully improve though. We were flying on a TUI Dreamliner, the seats were comfortable and we absolutely loved the coloured lighting. We all survived, and despite the initial crying, our neighbours commented how amazing the kids were. Jess watched the inflight entertainment or played the games pretty much the whole way there, and James mixed sleeping with eating. Here are the key things to consider;

  • The food and drink situation for yourself. Having James on my knee meant that I couldn’t get the tray table down when the meal arrived. One time I was standing anyway with the carrier, so just had it when I sat down. Well actually with a sleeping James in my arms hubby fed it to me! Otherwise the stewards were happy to keep it warm, and brought it over when hubby had finished his and could hold James. Make sure you have a rubbish bag to help keep things tidy. Obviously Jess wanted the table up as soon as she’d finished, so hubby had three food trays plus drinks stacked up.
  • The children’s meals might not be what they want! On a TUI flight you get ONE proper meal and then a snacky meal. The main pasta meal was fine, but the sandwiches were cheese and onion, so we had to revert to our own snacks. And infants don’t get food provided. Also remember if like us your flight is delayed, you may need more than the allotted time.
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  • Make sure you have enough food and drink for airport arrivals. We queued for an HOUR waiting to get through immigration. Luckily we had the carrier for James but Jess was wrecked and hungry. A packet of sweets helped see her through.
  • Take a baby carrier. I’ve written about the benefits of this previously here. But it frees up hands to carry luggage (or hold another child’s hand), it’s great if you have to queue, it keeps babies contained, easier getting on and off a plane with steps, and for us, gets him to sleep faster.

Jet lag

Luckily, none of us really experienced Jet Lag on the flight there; the first night we had a few wake-ups but on the whole it went well. The way back was a killer though… leaving 4pm Mexico time and arriving the next morning at 6am with only a few hours sleep. Don’t make any plans for that day! We arrived on a Sunday so had the rest of the day to recover before work on Monday. We slept until lunchtime and then stayed up until normal bedtime. It definitely took the children a few days to readjust, and they were sleeping in past nine for the following few days (absolutely not a problem for me ha).

Lack of baby-proofed rooms

Yikes, we really hadn’t thought about this. Jess was never a big ‘explorer’ as a baby… but James is. Big time. And with the new excitement of crawling and pulling himself up to stand you needed eyes on him at all times. The room was all tiled and sharp corners, there wasn’t many places we could put him. It also had some low level lighting which he was obviously fascinated by (and we were unaware to their existence until he pulled out the lightbulb and wires!!!!! Luckily off at the time). So if they have a travel cot, make sure you take enough toys to put him in there and let him entertain himself whilst you get dressed. Our balcony was also one of the best places to put him down for us; nothing sharp for him and no gaps to fall out of! 20200303_185018122593729511636697.jpg

Being outdoors with a baby

Unless you’re sitting by a splash park, it’s really difficult to put babies and toddlers down where they aren’t going to eat sand or crawl into a swimming pool. We took a sun shade, similar to this one; Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter with UV Guard – Blue/White (affiliate link). It was great to have somewhere to put him where he was sheltered and could play without me having to balance him on a sun bed. And being the sun worshipper that I am, meant that I could still sit outside of the tent in the sunshine! Jess loved it too, when she wasn’t in the pool, she enjoyed making it her shop.20200307_1025448404375575191111656.jpg

Packing for four

We had a lovely big luggage allowance from TUI, but that doesn’t help with the logistics of getting all the cases-and two children- in and out the airport! Transporting the luggage is one of the key things to think about (as well as getting it all-and you- in the car to the airport)! Some suggestions;

  • Nappies. These were the biggest space stealer! Unfortunately they were pretty pricey to buy them from the resort shop, so they were essential! Only take what’s necessary. It might be easier to take them out the bag and spread them… but remember they’re packed nice and tight in the packaging so it might be best to leave them in there!
  • Baby milk. Because we were fine on weight and James has dropped the number of feeds, we were able to fit his milk quite easily into the checked luggage. But if you have a younger baby and you aren’t breastfeeding, you might want to consider pre-ordering from the departure lounge. Just remember to take a bag to carry them easily in! More on this previous post.
  • Buggy issues. You can keep a buggy with you until you board a flight, but remember you don’t always get them immediately when you disembark, and it might be a long walk to the terminal/ baggage hall to get them. As well as a long wait through immigration. Think about how much hand luggage you have, and if you will have the capacity to carry a small child if needed. We borrowed one from the hotel.
  • Hand luggage. Our four pieces of hand luggage were as follows; Me- I had the change bag. As well as the usual nappies, wipes and bags etc, I took PJs, a blanket for James and change of clothes. Hubby- our bits, electronics, and the important stuff. Passports, tickets, phones, camera, iPad, headphones, kindle (yes that was ridiculously optimistic). Jess- her own ‘holiday bag’ of toys and games for her holiday and flight. I mean she did think bringing her Elsa shoes was essential, but otherwise she chose a good selection of stuff. I also brought along some new sticker and activity books. She actually played very little with all this on the flight, preferring the entertainment. James’s piece was the food and drink bag. As described before lots of snacks and an extra meal for children. Pouches and snacks for James.
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Sharing one room

We had two double beds and a cot in our room. The balcony meant we could sit outside once they’d fallen asleep. We made sure we slept in the middle so they couldn’t see each other as they fell asleep. In the mornings when James woke up at the crack of dawn, I’d take him to play out on the balcony to leave Jess to sleep a little longer. Make sure to use the blackout curtains.20200303_1849046438175736459692783.jpg

Staying awake for evening entertainment

On holiday we make a deal with Jess, she’s only allowed to stay up late if she has an afternoon nap. Clearly the thought of that is so exciting she agrees. Although some afternoons I’d take the two children back to the room for a nap (so I could wash my hair), we tried to get Jess to nap outside. One day at a theme park, she napped in James’s buggy whilst he was in the carrier. Other days we used a Bali bed. It was a good piece of time for us to relax, have a drink and enjoy the sunshine.

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I think that’s all the main ones! I’d love to know any more advice or suggestions that you might have!

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;

A Keswick Mini-Break

We love to get away for a mini break at the end of January! It blows away those January blues, and gives us something to look forward to in that post-Christmas lull. This year we stayed for three nights in a lodge just outside of Keswick in the Northern Lakes. If this is something you fancy, read on!!

Accommodation

Where: For the first time, we stayed in a Hoeseasons Lodge at Keswick Lodge Retreat.

What: We chose a Wainwright Log Burner Lodge, which had two bedrooms and two bathrooms

Cost: Three nights here (Friday-Monday) were great value at £290. There were cheaper and more costly (with hot tubs) available. We booked only a few weeks before, which may have meant we got a good rate, but looking at other dates you can also get a bargain.

Verdict: Ooooooooh we just LOVED it here. From arrival in reception where we received a glass of fizz, to finding a wine fridge in the lodge kitchen. The lodge was clean and spacious and had everything that we needed. The standard and spec was far higher than we anticipated, it really felt like a treat to stay there. When I think of some of the grotty city centre hotel rooms I’ve stayed in for well over a £100 a night, staying here is exceptionally well priced. The kitchen is well kitted out, there wasn’t any equipment we felt we were missing. You could quite happily eat in every night, cooking to your hearts content.

The site was peaceful with some great views.You can hire high chairs and travel cots for your stay, but we saved pennies by taking our own. At reception there was a small shop that sold essentials you might need for your stay, as well as extra wood and kindling for the log burner (which they are also happy to deliver for you).

The on-site bar and restaurant provided good food, we particularly liked the bar, and on Saturday night there was a live singer. We let the little ones stay up as a treat, James was absolutely mesmerised by her. The best babysitter we could ask for!!

Highlights Keswick and the surrounding area

1. Walking. Obviously one of the main appeals of the Lakes is to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Luckily you have LOADS to see nearby. If you want help getting the kids on board, this blog might help.

My favourite walks in the area are;

Whinlatter; this forest park is super close to where we stayed. It is honestly AMAZING and should be on your itinerary whatever the weather. This actually should be a highlight itself it’s so so good. There’s lots to do for children, including an adventure play and themed walks. We recently visited on a pretty miserable day but had a fabulous walk; details here.

Catbells; one of the most loved fells in all of the Lakes. It’s great fun with super views, and not without some challenge! If you fancy trying it with children make sure you read this blog post.

South of Lake Dewentwater, Castle Crag is a great climb for children. This blog from one of my favourite blogging sites, Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District gives a good description to follow.

Parking at the National Trust’s Great Wood carpark, there are a number of routes perfect for children, and make sure you visit the gorgeous Ashness Bridge, one of the most photographed spots in all of the Lakes. If you fancy going a bit further, continue onto Surprise View and Watendlath. Superb.

2. Keswick Launch. Obviously this can be combined with a good walk, but a trip out on the beautiful Derwentwater is unmissable.

3. The Lake District Wildlife Park. On the doorstep of our accommodation is this great park, which holds many fond memories of my childhood. It includes animal encounters, an adventure playground and indoor soft play. Website: https://www.lakedistrictwildlifepark.co.uk

4. Mirehouse and Gardens, on the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake also takes me back to my childhood. Unfortunately the site isn’t open in winter months so check the website before you go. There’s some truly fantastic adventure playgrounds as well as family walks.

5. Castlerigg Stone Circle is half an hour’s walk from Keswick, with spectacular views. Be careful that the Threlkeld Railway path is currently closed for repairs (Feb 2020), so check routes carefully before you start.

And finally, a top tip..

Sometimes, sadly the weather is just too tough to handle with children. If you’re struggling to find somewhere, try Keswick Leisure Centre. It’s got a water slide, wave pool and a few bits for toddlers and is a good way to spend a couple of hours when getting outside really isn’t possible.

There you have it, my personal highlights but there is soooooooooo much more to do, and as much as I love a good mini break here, it always makes me want more!! We’re already looking to when we can book again.

Any more suggestions? Questions? Leave me a comment!

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!

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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;