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

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!

10 ways to entertain kids on walks

We’re doing our best to get Jess used to walking. When she was little she joined us in a carrier, first on the front then on the back. And now she’s getting really good at walking longer distances, but at the end of the day she’s only three, and so whilst we might be entertained by the scenery alone, she needs a little more to keep her going. Here are 10 things that we do on our walks to keep her entertained.

1. Pack a picnic

Jess LOVES eating outdoors, so stopping for a ‘snic-snic’ is a key part of our walk. She helps us choose where to eat and before she goes she helps make up the bag. Even on short walks we stop for a snack… she loves finding places with a pretty view for us. Make sure to pop a waterproof rug in your bag in case there’s no benches.

Quite often ducks need feeding too! Now we’re told not to take bread, you might want to buy a bag (or a few bags) or wild duck food like this one 👉 Mr Johnson’s Wild Life Swan Duck Food, 750 g One bag will last a good few visits!

2. Spotting and word games

The easiest game is good-old I-Spy. Jess isn’t great at letters yet, so we do colours with her. I’ve seen loads of games and spotting sheets for when she gets a little older, such as spotting different tree types, birds, insects. In a field of sheep, how many can you see? How many trees on a path? Get creative.

I still remember I-Spy books from my childhood, there are loads to choose from and they’re pretty cheap! This one, for the countryside could be a great one for walks.

👉i-SPY In the countryside: What can you spot? (Collins Michelin i-SPY Guides)

If they’re a little older word games could work well, you could play ‘Who am I?’, related word games, games beginning with a letter of the alphabet (can you find something that you can see on your walk for each letter of the alphabet), or memory games (I went on a walk to XXX and I took with me…….). The possibilities are endless!

3. Games-on-the-Go

When Jess inevitably starts saying that she’s tired, we keep her going with races to fixed points ahead. These don’t just have to be running races, they can be skipping, jumping and hopping.

Follow the Leader is super easy, just create actions for little legs to copy (singing I’m following the leader if you feel like it).

Playing hide and seek is another winner, with her running ahead to hide behind a big tree or rock.

And then there’s the good old reliable peg game, try and peg it on each other without the, noticing (or in our case pretending not to notice 😂😂).

4. Finding nature’s treasures

Sometimes when I’m super-organised I make a little scavenger hunt sheet up in advance with little pictures of what Jess has to find or see. It works well on walks that you’ve been on before so you know what might be likely. If you’re feeling time-rich you could even create bingo cards for all the family that you can re-use.

You can also buy a treasure hunt game like this one, which can fit in a pocket and can provide hours of entertainment!

👉gofindit – outdoor nature treasure hunt card game for families

If I want to keep it simple, I pass her a little bag and she has to collect treasures. She’s only allowed ten, so has to decide which ones she wants to keep. Woodland walks are great for this, often she’ll just collect pine cones and choose which ones she likes, the last one she found a baby pine cone, a Mummy one, a grandad one… you get the picture!

You could also set a challenge of collecting different types of things, perhaps different colours, or make it more educational and collect different types of seeds. Collecting sticks is also a favourite game, which she can then use as drumsticks on various things that we pass!

If you’re feeling creative, you could use the things you find to create some wild art too.

If you’re short of time, wait until you get home for some nature creations, your outing could keep them entertained all day!

5. Singing

Jess is at the age where she loves to sing, particularly nursery rhymes, which works for me as that’s about the limit of my singing ability. From my days working in summer camps I feel I’ve got a good selection of songs for when she’s older too (no doubt the type you might sing at Guide/Scout camps), but there’s also the option to play favourite songs from your phone. Anyone who’s been to a kids disco in Europe over the past few years might remember the classic ‘chu chu wa’ which also keeps her going!

6. Jumps and balancing

A one for the little ones really! Balancing on logs and roots and doing jumps off rocks and stones is always fun. She loves jumping over anything; small puddles, twigs, lines on paved paths!

Wet weather is perfect for puddle jumping, and as long as Jess is wrapped up warm we’re happy for her to splash away. Her puddle suit from Mountain Warehouse is fleece lined so keeps her nice and cosy in Autumn (link below if you fancy something similar).

👉Mountain Warehouse Spright Printed Rain Suit – Breathable Autumn Suit, Waterproof Coat, Quick Dry, Taped Seams Kids Raincoat, Fleece Lined, High Viz – for Travelling Pink 18-24 Months

7. What’s that shape?

Shapes and pictures can be seen everywhere you look! Look at the clouds, puddles, bark on the trees, patches of mud, piles of leaves!

8. Stone throwing

Stones, acorns, pine cones or conkers, we see who can throw them the furthest (obviously in a safe space!!). Sometimes we go a bit crazy (ahem) and do kicking instead! If you’re headed on a path with a stream or river you could play Pooh sticks, or find things that you think could float (which lasts the longest?).

9. Storytelling

Adventures are EVERYWHERE when you go on a walk, and you can let your imagination run wild. In the woods can we see the three bears? What about the fairies? If we can’t why not? What are they doing, where must they be? Near a river we hunt for crocodiles, over a bridge Jess checks that there are no trolls underneath. Have some trees been pushed over? Maybe it’s bears in the woods… we’d better try and hide!

Some family walks have trails and activities as you walk, so we make the most of them and add stuff as we go along.

10. Tree hugging

Jess randomly started doing this herself one day at Golden Acre Park, we try to find trees that she can reach round herself, and then bigger ones we try it if we hold hands.

Other ideas

So there are our top 10 things, but there are loads of other things you could try, how about taking paper and crayons for interesting rubbings? Or if they’re a little older stopping to draw a picture of something interesting they can see?

Weather can also help with entertainment, rain provides puddle jumping, sun provides shadow tag, and if you’re lucky, snow creates snowballs!!

What else do you do on walks to keep little ones entertained?

*I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Beach holidays with a baby and pre-schooler

How we make holidays to Sunny Spain work!

A bit of an unusual (and rather long) blog post for me, but after walking, I suppose my next favourite hobby is holidays! I just love being in the sun, eating all that fabulous food, relaxing by the pool, and at three, Jess is currently on her 10th beach holiday (all mainland Spain or the canaries). ‘Holiday chat’ is the sort of thing that comes up when talking to other mums, so I thought I’d share some of our top tips for enjoying holidays! Obviously every child is different, and so is every family, so what works for us won’t necessarily work for you, but here it is anyway in the hope it’s of some use to someone .

Booking Accommodation

We’ve stayed in a variety of places abroad with our little ones, from hotels and apartments, to villas. I think in reality this will come down to where you can afford, but I’d try to get as much space as you can. One room in a hotel is definitely do-able, but you’ll find yourself overflowing with ‘stuff’, and after bedtime it restricts where you can sit and enjoy a drink in peace (hope for a good balcony). We’d rather pay for a bigger room in more basic accommodation rather than be cramped somewhere swish. Again, that might be preference. On this most recent holiday we got a two bedroom apartment, so Jess had her own room, we could put James in the travel cot in our room and enjoy using the kitchen and dining room, and living area to make drinks! If you’ve got a really little one try to stay somewhere with kitchen facilities so you’ve got a proper fridge and sink (although more advice to follow).

Make sure you check the stair/lift situation before you book too! In some villas we’ve stayed in the stairs have had open bannisters, so even stair gates haven’t helped, and some hotels have lots of floors with not so many lifts if you have a buggy! One apartment we’ve stayed in was built into the side of a hill, so we had to get four different lifts between reception and our room… there was no quick returns to the room.

Another tip if you’ve got a walker is staying somewhere with a splash park. Chances are you’ll be enjoying your pre-schooler holidays outside of school holiday time whilst you can, so we’ve always found these places relatively quiet when we go. The splash park of where we’ve regularly visited is really shallow and separate to the pools, so you can watch your children play in the fountains from the safety of your sunbed. In other places it’s deeper, it still keeps them entertained more than a pool would but you need to stay next to them.

Packing

If you’ve gone for a package holiday or scheduled flights you’ll probably have loads of luggage allowance, lucky you. Just don’t get too over excited, you’ll still need to move it, and a pushchair, car seat, hand luggage and children!

In the age of budget airlines this is our strategy; we have one big case. In there goes nappies, toiletries and kids clothes. We have a cabin bag each for our clothes and we pack light.

Hand luggage; one of us carries our personal possessions such as electronics, books and snacks. Another bag is the change bag. Jess’s bag (at three she now also pulls this herself) is for her toys, which means she gets them for the flight. I usually buy her something new for the flight too- a new book, stickers or magazine for example. And I download A LOT of episodes of Peppa and Blippi on the iPad.

If you’re considering a Trunki, make sure you’ve got spare arms to carry it if (when) they get bored of it.

Planning days out

Urgh. I hate the word planning on holidays! At home we don’t really do routines. But on holiday we absolutely do, we find it massively helps us get some much needed adult time!

Firstly, naps. An early afternoon nap is really important to us. Up until last year Jess was used to naps and would nap anywhere, so after she’d had her lunch we would strap her in the pushchair and she’d fall asleep whilst we walked to a nice restaurant and enjoyed a child free meal. Now, she doesn’t really do naps at home, but on holiday we let her stay up later if she goes for a nap. We put her down in the room whilst we sunbathe on the balcony with a glass of wine. I guess you take what you can get!

Bedtimes. When Jess was younger we used to get her pjs on normal time, give her milk in the pushchair and then have an evening out with her asleep next to us. Again, now she’s older this has changed. We go out earlier with her and, if we’re not in a villa etc, are back in time for the kids disco. We put her to bed after this then sit out with a takeaway if we’ve not eaten and a drink. Back to the earlier point about making sure you’ve got the right accommodation.

Contingencies. One of the problems with beach holidays is that if it’s not sunny the resort comes to a standstill. Sure, if it’s still warm you can still play on the beach, but if it’s rainy you can’t just go and get drunk like we did pre-children 😂😂 Make sure you do your research before you go and have a few places to visit in your back pocket if the weather turns. Animal parks and city visits have always worked well for us.

Baby and child equipment

Firstly, don’t stress about this. I suspect you’re not planning on visiting a third world country. So most places will have most of what you need. Travel cots will be available from pretty much everywhere that you would want to stay. Hotels will have high chairs in their restaurants (as will restaurants when you eat out), and the villas we’ve stayed in have often had highchairs, toys and even stair gates. So whatever you think you might need, make sure that you ask before you go. Our apartments even have a stash of pushchairs that people have left behind.

Having said that, most places only offer a travel cot for baby sleeping (albeit often with a proper mattress). So if you have a newborn it might be worth getting them used to a night or two in one before you go.

If we aren’t renting a car we haven’t bothered about a car seat… I know this might not be everyone’s preference. On coach transfers we’d put baby on knee and in taxis we’d do the same. Often private transfers offer car seats for young children; again, just ask. Car seats are quite pricey from car rental companies, so try to find one where it’s included or you could take your own (just think about logistics in the airport).

If you don’t mind spending the money, we also regularly rent equipment. The places we’ve stayed in Spain have always had pretty hairy stairs so we’ve rented stair gates for our stay. When Jess was first out of a travel cot we rented a bed guard. This time round we hired a bouncer for James so we had somewhere to put him down in the apartment, as well as hiring a double buggy (we didn’t think we could fit cases, us and a buggy in the hire car!). We’ve found these companies are often run by expats and it’s quite an informal system, but we’ve never had any problems. Just Google baby hire in the area your staying and hopefully something will come up!

Nappies. Available in all supermarkets, but we’ve found are pretty pricey abroad so have tended to take a big pack with us, then we can just top up if needed when we’re out there.

Carriers. When Jess was a baby we never took her baby bjorn away with us, and just used a pushchair. But this time we took it and it was SUCH a help. Firstly, we’ve always taken the pushchair around the airport and left it until the last minute to hand over. But actually it’s a lot easier without it. AND it means you have the carrier if you have any wait in customs before you get your pushchair back. Babies get heavy really quickly. It’s also come in handy on market day when you need to push your way through crowds! So now we take both.

Food and Drink

If you’re breastfeeding, brilliant! Super easy for you! Just be mindful that maxi dresses (my go to wardrobe on holiday) are not always breastfeeding friendly so you might need alternatives. I’ve fed without any cover all over and no ones ever said anything.

If you’re still on formula we find the easiest thing to do (although not the most environmentally friendly) is to use the ready made bottles. These are not widely available in the rest of Europe, but you can order them in advance from Boots or Superdrug in the departure lounge before you go. Just make sure you’ve thought about how you’ll carry them on along with children and hand luggage. But we’ve ordered 30 bottles a time and a tub of formula for longer holidays!

If you’re happy on powder make sure you know how much you’ll need. You’ll probably need to buy bottled water to make up the formula which have a low sodium and sulphate content, but otherwise it’s the same as doing it in the UK. Whilst you can buy powdered formula abroad, the brands are different,so it depends how fussy your child is. That said, some brands are just operating under different names so might be worth doing a little research. Sterilising tablets are probably the easiest thing to use to sterilise bottles abroad, but be aware in some hotel rooms the sinks are quite shallow so you might find yourself out buying a mop bucket at 6am on the first morning (yes, that is the voice of experience there). Cheap children’s beach buckets also work well, but probably only fit 1-2 bottles in at a time.

A cheap beach bucket can also be used for sterilising

If your child is older than a year and on cow’s milk, this is readily available from supermarkets, either fresh or long life. If you’re in a hotel we’ve got it when down at breakfast, and in the evenings just asked a bar to fill her sippy cup.

Top tip; In Spain we’ve found most children’s menus offer pop or pure fruit juice to drink. Fruit shoots aren’t really a thing, so unless you’re happy giving your pre-schooler coke with every meal you’ll be ordering lots of still water. We fill up a small bottle with squash from the supermarket and just top it up (she’s not a massive fan of too much water).

Eating out? Expect to have a lot of children’s meals consisting of pizza, pasta and chips. I’d just say chill, it’s their holiday too. A quick trip to the supermarket can stock you up on fruit to make you feel better. We’ve found that pouches of fruits and yogurts are widely available in Spain and the Canaries. And if you’re self-catering you can usually find something healthy to make yourselves!

Right, prepare for what I imagine is a controversial comment. Often we eat our evening meals separately. Early evening we’ll go out with Jess, give her a kids meal and enjoy a drink. Then later we’ll either do a takeaway with her in bed, or choose a nicer restaurant where she just has a drink or snack. Obviously this only works if you’re self-catered. Whilst we’re eating we have tried to get James asleep and give Jess the iPad to keep her entertained (I know this isn’t for everyone- my thoughts on this are covered in this blog post earlier this year). It’s an altogether less painful experience- which is the point of holidays, right?!

☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️

So there you have it. A pretty good description of how we’ve made our holidays work for us. We love them and have our next ones booked already 👍👍 Any other advice and good ideas? Please share them! I’ll add them onto the bottom of this blog (obviously will credit them to you!)

Rachel xxx

Ponderosa, Heckmondwike

This was one of the best surprises I’ve had in a long time. For a small zoo, there is loads to keep you entertained, and it’s got great facilities. It’s been miserable weather today and I almost caved to Jess’s pleas of soft play this morning, but I held strong and it was the best decision ever… even better there was a soft play there which we had to ourselves so Jess got her wish too!!

Website: http://ponderosa-centre.co.uk

Facilities: Excellent; lots of toilets and hand wash stations. Play areas indoor and out. Coffee shop and restaurant. Even a welly wash.

Pushchairs: Excellent for access, all entrances are level. So perfect for pushchairs. We only came across one set of steps all day, with ramp alternative!

The animals

It’s a small zoo, but it’s got great variety.

Indoors there’s a reptile house and small mammals. On a weekday there were two encounters. Despite Jess being happy in the past to stroke snakes, spiders, you name it, today she had the fear of stroking a tortoise shell 😂. So no pictures, sorry. Interesting fact- they can feel the touch on their shell!! Mind. Blown.

Outdoors we struggled to spot some of the animals, I think the wet weather was forcing them inside, but those that we did were interesting and well kept. Jess liked seeing the ‘kitty’ aka the serval, and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t stroke it!

The Play Areas

On a dry day I think there would be enough here to keep you entertained for a full day. There are two fab play areas as well as a giant ‘beach’ that would be perfect for picnics. The play barn is an indoor soft play area, which I thought was great,but signs are up saying it’ll be closed from November so I’m excited to see what it’ll have in its place!

Food and Drink

There are picnic benches around all the outdoor play areas, as well as a covered area near the outdoor handling area, so plenty of space for you to bring your own. There is also a coffee shop on site (offering disposable cups for you so I could take my drink into the play barn) which sells a great variety of ice creams. The Lakeside restaurant is happily situated, see pics below, and although we didn’t go in looked to have a decent menu.

I think one of the best things about this place is that despite it being a really quiet day, everything was open and available. It’s one of my biggest frustrations when you head somewhere and half the facilities are closed off.

So try it, I’d really recommend a visit. I can’t wait to see what’s coming to replace the play barn and I’m looking forward to returning on a drier day to take full advantage of the play areas!

Sundown Adventureland, Retford

We had THE BEST day at this amazing theme park for the under 10s! We’d been last year, and had a great day but left feeling the park was a little tired in places and needed some tlc. Since then there’s been some updates and improvements.

Given it was a sunny Sunday in July, it was great the park was busy but queues remained small and fast moving.

The park consists of a number of areas with themed rides and play areas. There are also small towns, with lots to explore and buttons to press! With a couple of indoor soft play areas there is lots to do in all weather 👍👍

At three, Jess was able to go on all but one of the attractions, and I was able to take James (7 weeks) on most things too.

The rides were definitely the highlight for Jess, her favourite was the water ride which was a pirate themed raft ride which squirted you as you went past! She liked driving the tractors on that ride; great that with four seats our whole little family could get on. Tip: the tractor ride has been the one with the longest queue on both visits so get there early.

My personal favourites were the flying pigs and ostrich ride!

The play areas are fab; we loved the fort with all the slides and Captain Sandy’s Play Cove which is based on a huge sandpit.

There are picnic areas all over, but there are plenty of food places too (if a little pricey). There’s a great ice cream shop!

If you have small children I honestly can’t recommend this place enough! We spent the full day here and still didn’t cover everything. I think the ticket prices are great value compared to other days out, particularly if you pay in advance!

o

4km circular walk along Ilkley riverbank and through Middleton Woods

The bluebells of Middleton Woods have been calling me since the first pictures started appearing on Instagram! So today we combined this with a visit to Ilkley Riverside Gardens (mainly to include the play area).

Distance: We shortened the suggested route (below), and map my walk recorded over 4km, but the full route is down as 4.8km so either we walked a bit less or their’s is a bit further.

Parking: If you haven’t been this way on a sunny day, be warned it gets really busy to park. The good news is it’s free- we parked outside Ilkley Riverside Hotel (and it was fairly quiet).

Facilities: We started at Riverside gardens which has a playarea and public toilets. Be warned the toilets in the hotel are customer only and they’re pretty strict about it. Riverside cabin does hot and cold takeaway food and drink.

Route: We followed the route 👉here, BUT we did it anticlockwise (so heading towards the lido first), and after exiting the Woods came straight back down to the river path along Harding’s lane. We also started and finished at the hotel (where I had a hot chocolate with marshmallows mmmmm).

Accessibility: Not suitable for buggies

We started by a quick stop at the play area. Rightly or wrongly if one’s available I find it’s an excellent bribe to keep Jess motivated to get round the walk for when we return! It’s a decent one with a good selection of activities and equipment.

From here we walked through the gardens to climb the stone steps up to the bridge, after crossing we dropped down onto the path that passes the skatepark and skirts the rugby club. We briefly stopped to skim stones in the river, always fun!!

The path climbed past the lido and we crossed Curly Hill to enter the woods. If you’d followed the route provided, this would all be downhill… but we find Jess walks better uphill when there’s lots to keep her interested!

I’m not convinced we took the right track up through the woods, but we knew to head in a North East direction and eventually met up with the path I think we were meant to have taken. It’s probably easier in this since sense coming from the other way. The bluebells were just magnificent. Truly gorgeous… I think I took close to a million photos!! 😂😂 Jess kept herself entertained with her usual stick collections and playing hide and seek.

On leaving the woods we passed through a field with great views over Ilkley… and even more excitement; lambs in the field!

Rather than continuing along the route past the monastery we decided to head back along the road (Harding’s Lane) to rejoin the river. At just over 3 weeks until my due date I don’t want to push it too much with walking distance! If you decide to do the same be warned there’s no path for most of this road- but only three cars passed us and it’s a pretty road down with good views.

We picked the route up where the electricity sub-station is marked on the map, and followed the pretty path back along the river to where we started.

I think this was one of my favourite walks that we’ve done- maybe because of the bluebells which are such a treat to see! But as with all woods, every season brings something new to look out for, so I’m sure it would be special anytime!

Rachel xx

Thorp Perrow Arboretum, near Bedale

Easter Saturday was our first time to visit here- and what a visit it was! Absolutely gorgeous woodland to explore and there was loads to keep Jess entertained. The weather showed it at its best, with brilliant colours and sparkling water, we were so glad we tried it!

Website: https://www.thorpperrow.com

Facilities: cafe, toilets, gift shop which also sells drinks and ice cream, adventure playground

Access: paths are decent, there were lots of buggies and wheelchairs around.

Despite it being sunny and the Easter weekend, we found it lacking the hoards of people you sometimes find on holidays. There was a sense of tranquility as soon as you walked through the gates, which is saying something given we were there with a three year old.

On entering, you meet the tea room- looked nice although we didn’t eat there. There is a picturesque beck, which does have a designated area that you can paddle in and lots of picnic benches.

A short walk from the entrance is the adventure playground. It was a fabulous space- and we were the first ones there, winner! There’s a sandpit and zip line in addition to the usual equipment, so certainly enough to keep little ones happy!

We headed towards the Birds of Prey and Mammal centre, with some gorgeous spots along our way- including the incredibly pretty lake.

We timed it well to watch an Owl display- half an hour long which worked well for the children watching, and totally captured our interest. The birds on display around the centre were pretty spectacular in their cages, there was a fantastic range of birds.

We shared our bench during the display!

The mammal centre is small but it’s often quality not quantity, and this held true as we walked into the Wallaby area and were able to pet and feed them (food available to buy in the gift shop).

We spent some time exploring the woodland and snacked at one of the many benches dotted about enjoying the beauty.

So, if you find yourself in search of somewhere to visit on a sunny day, you could do a lot worse than Thorp Perrow. I hope that I’ve encouraged you to visit, let me know how you get on if you do!