Beatrix Potter and the Lake District

This October we stayed in Cumbria, in the Yorkshire Dales. We booked a lovely AirBnb place which was situated close enough to the Lake District we could get to most places within an hour. While I knew she had lived in the Lake District, I had no idea how much Beatrix Potter and the Lake District were linked.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District are so closely linked, with plenty of places to visit. Around the age of sixteen she visited the Lake District, staying at Wray Castle. As she started to make money from her Peter Rabbit books she bought land. She wanted to make sure the Lake District remained unspoilt and stayed the way she knew it. Often she would buy land with the National Trust, and on her death gave it all to them fully. This is the Lake District as we know it today.

Around Windermere are several National Trust car parks. We made our first stop at Fell Foot Park; situated at the bottom of the lake going towards Windermere itself. Windermere is so long you can’t see from end to end and Fell Foot Park is a good place to stop and wander around. There’s also an outdoor children’s play area which H enjoyed.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - Hill Top from the outside

Mid-way up Windermere is Hill Top, the first house Beatrix Potter bought. She lived here before she married, afterwards as a writing retreat. She had bought farmland up the road and eventually lived with her husband there.

Hill Top is decorated in the style it would have been when Beatrix lived there. Changes have been made to the house, but in a good way. There is still a lot there from her time living there – it’s somewhere that comes alive in her books. Window ledges appear in some illustrations, and you can picture Beatrix sitting creating in that very room.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - Hill Top

The dolls house on show within the house dates back to the 1800s though isn’t the one featured in The Tale of Two Bad Mice. Inside you can see wonderful decorations and furnishings if you have a peep through the windows. Now I’m curious, do those furnishings date back to the time of the book?

The National Trust describe Hill Top as a house for someone who ‘never grew up’ (Beatrix’s own words). Brought up in isolation with her brother Bertram, Beatrix sought solace in art and nature.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - Hill Top

Around the grounds of Hill Top are Beatrix’s gardens – it feels like a house you would hide away from the world, yet still be very close to. You can see her vegetable garden as well as the rhubarb patch where Jemima Puddleduck tried to hide her eggs.

Outside Hill Top in Near Sawrey itself are houses which feature in the books, and indeed the area around the Stones Lane junction has several shops which feature in her books. Peter Rabbit by the red post box? It’s just around the corner from Hill Top.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - red post box by Hill Top

Entry is free for National Trust members. On arrival you get a map of the grounds with a timed entry slot for the house, where you’re free to wander around.

Up the road is Hawkshead which is worth a wander in its own right. You need to park up (paid, think it was about £4ish for two hours) and walk to the centre of the town. You will arrive at an office where you get your tickets for a few doors down where there’s a Beatrix Potter exhibition and more interactive things to do.

The office in question used to house the solicitor’s office where William Heelis, her future husband, worked. Low wooden ceilings and a really interesting exhibition ‘The Right Sort Of Woman‘ were yet another fascinating insight. There was also an original Peter Rabbit letter that she had written on show.

The exhibition features contributions from workers – for example, Beatrix never paid the men for their work, always their wives.

Beatrix set up local health care, making sure there was a doctor in the area, fully paid for by her so that locals had access to medical care. She sounded like a great employer and one who seemed in touch with what her workers needed.

The exhibition is coming to an end, so don’t miss out.

Wray Castle
Moving away slightly from Beatrix Potter, up the road is Wray Castle. It’s not a traditional castle, more a Victorian gothic mansion, but nonetheless it’s a great place to visit with lots of child-friendly things to do inside. There’s also a Beatrix Potter exhibition, ‘The Women of Wray Castle‘ which also features Margaret Dawson.

Beatrix and her family came to stay at Wray Castle one summer when she was sixteen. Maybe this is what made her love for the Lake District grow?

While at Wray, Beatrix drew lots of images of mushrooms growing there, making a name for herself in the mycology field. As she was female, her views and opinions were rejected. These days her work has been revisited and has been acknowledged as having great value.

Wray Castle Outdoor Play Area

If you’re looking for somewhere for your child to burn off some energy, Wray Castle is that place. As well as the inside of the castle, there is a big natural play area outside.

Close to Hawkshead and Hill Top is Esthwaite Water, another inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s books. It’s an unspoilt area where yet more of the books featured.

Tarn Hows is also nearby, a large man-made Tarn which has wonderful views, though was somewhere we didn’t have the time to visit.

View from Wray Castle looking towards Windermere

I think we need to go back – three days wasn’t long enough to do everything we wanted to!

Country Kids

Clandon Park is Open Again after the Fire

It was the 29th April 2015 and news started to come in – Clandon Park near Guildford was on fire. Beautiful Clandon Park – a Grade I listed mansion. But there’s good news – Clandon is being rebuilt.

Clandon House 2013

Clandon Park is a mansion near West Clandon, near Guildford. On the 29th April 2015 a fire gutted the mansion, all bar one room. The fire started in the basement and spread to the upper floors.

Fortunately several things were saved and retrieved before the fire took hold. However, a lot was lost – including the inside of the house. Clandon Park is just a shell.

Clandon Park fireplaces that survived after the fire

As National Trust members, we’ve combined Clandon Park and nearby Hatchlands Park in a single visit. When H was a baby Clandon was the better of the two for little legs. It has now reopened, and things are changing.

From January 2019 work will begin on restoring Clandon. The ground floor will be as close as possible to how it was, with the upper floors having an exhibition area which will continually change. On the top floor there’s talk of a dining area with spectacular views across the Surrey Hills.

Hi vis and hard hats to see inside Clandon Park

We were given hard hats and hi-vis vests and had a look inside the house.

There is a walkway through a section of the house, and it’s fascinating. Obviously it goes without saying it would be better the fire never happened, though because it did, the people who volunteer at Clandon have learned so much about how the house was built.

Clandon Park after the fire Royal Bedroom and doorway

For example, in the Royal Chamber; a room which was always ready for any passing Kings or Queens to stay, should they need to; it was discovered the walls had several layers. Initially wood was nailed into the walls which were then covered in hessian. Wallpaper was placed over that, leaving what everyone saw up to 2015. But now you can see the layers underneath.

Clandon Park after the fire - 1930s fireproof solution and looking up to the roof
How about some 1930s fireproofing? There is a tiny section which hangs across the upper floor. Sadly ironic, it’s the only part which still stands up there.

Incredibly, the marble fireplaces remain intact. The staff at Clandon Park found that pillars thought to be marble were in fact painted to look that way – and were just plaster. On the first floor statues (again, marble) are intact. You can see smaller fireplaces which survived as well.

What H thought would be a boring hour or two ended up being a really fascinating hour or two. Seeing the structure of the house, how thick the walls are and seeing where wood and stone staircases once were is really interesting.

If you visit Hatchlands Park, I’d recommend a trip to Clandon Park as well. It’s just up the road, the grounds are open too. I wish it wasn’t interesting and that we were visiting as normal (the cafe in the basement was always one of our favourite National Trust ones), but love that H came away asking different questions about the build of the house.

Clandon Park Dutch Garden and Newt

In the gardens we spotted loads of newts in the pond in the Dutch Garden – with the glorious sunshine it was a lovely day to get out and enjoy being outdoors. Looking across the bulb meadow to the house there was a hint of sadness, though knowing things will change in the coming years means this view will happen again.

To visit Clandon Park, please check their opening times. You can turn up to visit the house, you don’t need to pre-book. Spending money at Clandon Park also helps vital funds needed for this rebuilding project.

Clandon Park after the fire. Before and after

Country Kids
 

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground

Since we took out Historic Houses Association membership last year, we’ve made several visits to Hever Castle. It’s about 40 minutes from us and there’s always plenty to do.

Hever Castle
We visited on the Bank Holiday weekend, and were delighted to see the Hever Castle Tudor Towers adventure playground is now open – in fact, it opened last October.

Hever Castle Tudor Towers adventure playground is situated in the main playground area within the grounds.

It covers a large area. Or as H said “this is bigger than our house!” – something that isn’t too difficult, mind. There are three floors to it, with so many things on offer. Have you been to Leeds Castle? We visited there for the first time, there’s a similar one there. The only thing is, Hever Castle’s is far superior according to H.

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground outside

The Hever Castle Tudor Towers adventure playground has tunnels too – H’s favourite is the one which goes from the back of the house to a well outside. It took me longer to walk around from one entrance to the outside part than it did for her to crawl from one to the other.

There are fireman’s poles, plenty of slides, and the best thing? It’s suitable for 7-14 year olds. At the moment there are younger kids having a go, though this will change when they have their own one built this year.

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground

Three towers are at the top of the castle, Astor, Waldegrave and of course, Boleyn, named after Anne their most famous resident. Each has their own adventure to discover within. The second floor has some sections with speakers which randomly pipe out music which is suited to the Tudor era.

At the very top of the castle is a tunnel you can crawl along – high up so not for the faint hearted.

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground upper tunnels

It’s tip top great fun though – and somewhere H is already asking to go back to.

There’s enough room on a rainy day and enough inside that keeps it sheltered. Hever Castle are sensible enough to make sure there’s a coffee machine outside selling reasonably priced tasty coffees for us parents. There are plenty of benches too.

Even better, you can get to most areas yourself should you need to. Shaun might have even tried one of the slides….

Hever Castle Tudor Towers Adventure Playground is open now. Allow plenty of time there too. Final entry is 45 minutes before the grounds close. The final exit being 15 minutes before they close.

Country Kids
 

Coombe Mill – Our Summer Trip to Cornwall

This summer we went back to Cornwall for a third year, and decided we’d stay at Coombe Mill. We join in with Country Kids as much as we can, and enjoy the outdoors. Just follow Coombe Mill’s Instagram and you’ll see the beautiful scenery and fun on the farm.

Coombe Mill is in St Breward, near Bodmin. It’s a working farm, something I had a lot of questions about, because I’m a curious person who likes to know stuff. I’ve often wondered if owning a farm and rearing your own animals means you could eat them. We soon found out that the animals without names were the ones which went! H was doing her Brownie ‘Friend to Animals’ badge there and learned a lot of facts which helped too.

Coombe Mill Scandinavian Lodges, Coombe Mill at Christmas

We stayed in Trebah, a Scandinavian style lodge which was cosy and comfortable and had everything we needed. You have a washing machine and a dryer which came in handy as we had a lot of rain. We also had a wood burning stove which kept us really toasty on the more chilly nights.

Two doors down was The Boy and Me gang so H had a playmate, and over by the train tracks was Jo from Mummy Needs Wine. It was a proper blogger get-together!

So what does Coombe Mill offer? For H, freedom. We live in London and I get twitchy enough her going to post things at neighbours houses. We joined the feed run every morning, and H got to drive the tractor with Farmer Nick twice which she really enjoyed.

driving the tractor at Coombe Mill

She learned facts about the animals, picked them up and by the end of the week was way more confident with them than at the start.

cuddling hen at Coombe Mill

Bear in mind as we rent we can’t have pets, and she has never spent a chunk of time around animals this was a big deal for her. By the end of the week she was picking up hens and rabbits without a care. At the start of the week there were a few strops when they didn’t just magically come to her!

catching rabbits at coombe mill

Coombe Mill is in a great location with several places close by. As ever we ran out of time to do everything we wanted to. We discovered the fabulous beach at Perranporth and are trying to plan next year’s holiday. That may be a part of it…

Coombe Mill is a great place to stay. It’s somewhere you could stay through the day and still have plenty to do. Aside from the feed run there’s the daily train ride from Coombe Halt which H insisted we HAD to go to. H even got a circuit on her own!

We loved watching the wild deer every morning on the feed run.

I loved opening the doors and listening to it all. The river, the birds, the animals. I started to breathe again, to relax. But then all of a sudden our week was over – it flew by! I wish you could bottle it up so I could have some to remind me of the calm.

The thing I loved the most was meeting parents every morning on the feed run and chatting. Everyone was so friendly – and H made new friends. She’s sending a Christmas card to a girl she met at Coombe Mill as they swapped addresses and write to each other.

Our last night we had an outdoor barbecue with the bloggers, and it was a lovely end to a lovely week. The kids all played around us, their age differences didn’t matter as they all got stuck in and enjoyed each other’s company. You can’t beat that as far as holidays go.

The Coombe Mill website is here.

Obviously we’re linking in to Country Kids again!

Country Kids
 

Castle Howard – We Finally Visited

For a large chunk of my life I lived in York, though now reside in London. So why did I never visit Castle Howard, other than to drive through the grounds in the areas there are roads? As Historic Houses Association members we put this to rights and paid a visit during our recent stay up north.

Castle Howard looking back from the hill that leads to Ray Wood

Castle Howard situated in the Howardian Hills and is approximately 15 miles from York. The grounds are large and you are able to drive through sections. You often face gateways at the top of a hill where cars only see each other at the point of give way. It makes for a careful, cautious driving experience.

Castle Howard

Castle Howard is part of the Historic Houses Association group, however has changed its rules recently, only allowing one visit on membership a year. They now have their own scheme which you can sign up to.

Castle Howard dome from inside

So what is there to see? There’s the Castle Howard building itself – not a castle, just a stately home built on the site of an old castle. It’s very grand with displays of china from around the world. You can find a room dedicated to the filming of Brideshead Revisited, both the TV series and the film. There is another room dedicated to what happened during the war at Castle Howard. It’s interesting stuff, and I loved how it brought that period of time to life in H’s eyes.

There is a section which had a fire last century which was used as a spooky room (which was pretty good!), with a small shop outside selling all kind of spooky things and sweets!

Castle Howard Children's Play AreaMore recent filming done at Castle Howard includes the first series of ITV’s Victoria, where it doubled up for Kensington Palace when she was born. I might have to re-watch and see how much I recognise especially now they’re on DVD!

Castle Howard Ray Wood walk

As it was nearing Halloween we took part in the Castle Howard trail. This took us up to the main woods – Ray Wood, and over to the Boathouse Cafe near the Children’s play area (suitable for all ages).

Castle Howard lake from Boathouse Cafe

We caught a land train back to the house. The views are spectacular.

My favourite part of North Yorkshire is as you head towards the North York Moors. Castle Howard is near to Whitwell on the Hill on the A64.  The road starts to become really hilly before you reach the most beautiful countryside you could imagine.

Being at Castle Howard gave me a sense of how grand it must have been to live there. Inside the volunteers had a lot of information for us about the house. It was somewhere I’m kicking myself for never having been before.

H spotted loads of Roman Gods on the various statues inside the house. The volunteers were more than happy to help her find more, telling her what to look out for.

H and the Minerva statue inside Castle Howard

Castle Howard is open all year. There are always activities on, and fabulous grounds to walk around. Their website is here.

Country Kids

Alnwick Castle – Harry Potter-like fun and more

At half term we headed north, staying just outside of Alnwick. As Historic Houses Association members we get free entry to several properties across the UK over set periods during the year. Alnwick Castle was open, and was our destination!

Alnwick Castle state rooms from outside

Alnwick Castle is difficult to miss. It dates back to the early 1000’s, and has been (one of the many) residence of the Duke of Northumberland for many years too. When the Duke is away, us mere muggles can visit.

I didn’t tell H about the Harry Potter connection until the morning we went – I wasn’t sure how big a deal it would be. She’s a bit obsessed so I wanted to make sure I was careful. So instead we watched the first two Harry Potter films before leaving London – as all outdoor scenes were filmed at Alnwick Castle.

Alnwick Castle State rooms

It meant when we got there we could say “ooh, remember this bit?” “this is where Harry learned to fly” and thanks to a mistake on my part have to walk all the way over to the ticket office which is inside the castle to get our HHA tickets. Fortunately this was next to the area you get a ticket for a timeslot to do broomstick training.

Alnwick Castle Falconry display

We wandered around the grounds and learned about the history of Harry Hotspur, a gentleman whose name inspired our football team of choice. Add to that there was a Halloween Trail and actually, there was loads to do. Falconry displays were on all day, and you could pay an additional amount to do some archery.

H also helped the Alnwick Castle Alchemist make some Dragon’s Blood.

helping the Alchemist at Alnwick Castle make dragons blood

I found the most fascinating part of being there was being allowed to enter some of the State Rooms. The actual living quarters of the current Duke of Northumberland and his family. Their main library area and living area was several times the size of my house. Wealthy people have space…

Alnwick Castle

It wasn’t like walking around somewhere like, say, Hampton Court where there are artefacts from significant people who lived there or visited in the past. It’s someone’s actual front room! (with lots of other things because of this wealthiness and space)

However, the thing we enjoyed the most had to be Broomstick Training. Get over to the area to book a slot – at 10.30 we got a 2pm one. For the Potter-mad fan it’s fun. H saw it initially and declared it was “too babyish” for her which is utter nonsense. By the time she was doing it her face was like this – pure joy!

enjoying broomstick training

The broomstick training session lasts 20 minutes, then you get 10 minutes to take some great flying pictures. Let’s just say, people I thought would get it don’t at all (which is quite amusing). It’s cleverly done and tons of fun.

Alnwick Castle Broomstick training

Alnwick Castle is a great day out – plenty of walking to be done and things to learn and discover. If you have the time (and energy) then a trip to Barter Books up the road is worth your time too – even just to sit down and take in the amount of books there!

The website is here. Alnwick Castle is currently closed until next year.

Country Kids
 

Osterley Park and House – and Our First Time in a Canoe

It was a sunny day so I suggested we travel to West London to try Osterley Park and House – our National Trust membership has just renewed for an eighth year so I wanted to use it as quickly as possible.

Osterley Park and House is over in West London, around an hour for us in the car. You arrive and you wouldn’t feel like you’re in London at all, apart from being underneath the Heathrow flight path, so you see a plane every minute or so.

Osterley Park and House

Osterley House dates back to Tudor times – we ran out of time to investigate so we’ll have to go back. We were going to combine a trip with Syon House but ran out of time – there was way more to do than we thought.

The National Trust website mentions sports activities in Osterley Park, so we headed there as it sounded like something fun to do. Little did we know it would be a LOT of fun. H has played badminton twice now, so any excuse to find some space to have a proper game, right? (and they provide racquets too)

Osterley Park and House badminton

 

In conjunction with the National Trust, a local canoeing club offer you a 30-45 minute canoe around the pond there. At £6 per person we thought it was pretty reasonable – the main issue for me was how deep was the lake?

It isn’t that deep at all, probably up to H’s shoulders, so we could have stood comfortably in there had we fallen out. Nonetheless, we wore life jackets and I instantly wondered what on earth I was getting myself into.

Canoeing at Osterley Park and House

The canoe sessions are running until October, and are definitely worth doing! For the more experienced canoeist you could take one on your own. If there are just the two of you, there are plenty of two man canoes. Ours holds three people so we didn’t get wet (you do in the canoes for two). My feet still ended up soaked but oh my, it was GREAT fun! We went around the lake twice, and ended up exhausted – it took a short while to get our rhythm as well as making sure none of us shuffled around too much.

But that’s not all, because Osterley Park has a trail – a natural play trail. How cool is that? If you head for the long walk around the grounds you’ll find it. There are plenty of bits of wood marked like this

Osterley Park and House arrow

You come across wooden features like this

Osterley Park and House wooden climbing natural play

and this

Osterley Park and House natural play 2

or this

Osterley Park rope swing

and even this

Osterley Park and House Rope Swing 2

until you reach the really big natural play area with this

Osterley Park and House giant swing

and a tree you can climb which is a really good tree for climbing, with a ‘climb chime’ half way up.

Osterley Park and House Chime Climb

and this – but of course who needs an invitation when it comes to building dens?

Osterley Park and House den arena

We could have spent far longer at Osterley Park and House, which means we’ll just have to go back. Next time we’ll combine it with that trip to Syon Park we didn’t manage to get to.

Here’s their website.

Country Kids

Banstead Woods Narnia Trail

South London into Surrey can feel like an area where it’s difficult to breathe. We’re so lucky having open space nearby. As it’s a gloriously sunny day we headed to the Banstead Woods Narnia Trail.

Banstead Woods Narnia Trail has been in the woods for a couple of months now. For now it’s a pleasant enough walk without any tricky bits. I’d even stick my neck out and say it’s buggy-friendly too. As long as you’re happy dealing with mud.

Banstead Woods Narnia Trail

Banstead Woods has many different routes around it, but you can’t miss Lucy Pevensie and the lamp post if you enter the woods from the Holly Lane car park. Keep walking and you’ll get there.

You’ll also spot some cute wooden carved signs which point out things that could be spotted around the woods, and are apparently good for nature rubbing (we’ll do that next time).

There are only three carvings at the moment on the Banstead Woods Narnia Trail. Let me try and describe the route we took…

After getting to the Lucy Lamppost, walk down the track to the side of the woods, out in the fields. In August the main thing to do here is foraging. We headed through the gate at the end of this field, through the bluebell woods (the bluebells long-gone).  We walked up to the area I call the ‘train track’. In my head, it probably has never ever been a train track, it’s just very straight, defined and disused train track-like.

We walked along there back to the big slope which leads back to the car park. Turning right there we headed to the top of the hill and made our way as far as the little pond.

Once there, we turned back towards the bluebell woods, or at least in a direction that felt like it was. Eventually we made it back to the train track, when lo and behold! There was the wardrobe complete with wooden clothes inside. You can walk through it and it’s fabulous!

H was being pretty grumpy around now as she moans if she walks too much. Having said that, we found plenty of sticks which double up as Harry Potter wands so she just expelliarmus’d us a few times.

After walking through the bluebell woods we hit a single track, a bit more foraging and a giant great big Aslan at the end! By then we were near the car park again on the big slope.

So that’s the long way to do it. The short(er) way would be to walk up the slope a fraction and turn at Aslan. Walk through the bluebell woods and follow the track which goes diagonally across them, then train track and down.

The Banstead Woods Narnia Trail is fun. I’m hoping we’ll get more of these wooden sculptures, after all, the woods need a Mr Tumnus.

The wood carvings are by Ella Tree Pirate. To visit Banstead Woods costs nothing, with free parking on Holly Lane in the big car park. Rumour has it that Anne Boleyn once owned Banstead Woods. Maybe one day she’ll make an appearance? (in wood, of course)

Banstead Woods wood carvings

Country Kids

Our Short Essex Family Break in August 2017

Short Essex Family Break Woodpecker Yurt, Essex
Last weekend we had a few days off work and holiday club, so headed away for a few days. We had a short Essex family break – getting away from it all.

A short Essex family break isn’t the first thing you’d think of when planning a few days away. Initially we were looking around Europe for something within the £500 range, but soon gave up.

Hands up, who has never been to Essex properly ever? Me. I don’t know why. There are lots of places in this country I have never visited properly, and Essex is one. It’s also one of the closest to where we live, M25 traffic permitting.

To celebrate Shaun’s birthday (as his is two days before H’s), we headed to Mount Hall Woodpecker Yurt as a little getaway for the three of us. After our previous brilliant but noisy Yurt experience, I was hoping for something a little more quieter and we got it.

Short Essex Family Break Woodpecker Yurt, Essex

Mount Hall is just outside Colchester, again another place I had never visited. I mean, without knowing anything, the name Colchester doesn’t sound like somewhere you would actively visit, right? But oh, so wrong. The history!

H’s first topic in Year 4 is the romans, and as we couldn’t make it back to York, Colchester is as good a place for some proper Roman history. Colchester Castle is really interesting and worth visiting too.

Fancy a half hour drive? Then you have Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze, both have piers you can walk along. The Walton Pier is massive, and a quite decent long walk out to sea whereas Clacton’s Pier is full of amusements. Both are good places to use up your spare 2p’s on the machines in the arcades.

clacton on sea wind farm

Out to sea is a windfarm which covers the skyline. I think we’ve seen it when coming in on flights as you line up with the Thames Estuary – you can’t miss it.

Walton-on-the-Naze has an entire hill full of beach huts all beautifully coloured which you can see from the pier.

Beach huts at walton on the naze

The best part of our short Essex family break was the location. You’re not far from the A12, there are shops nearby for supplies but it’s still quiet. You are under the Stansted flight path which doesn’t make it completely quiet, but it’s still quieter than our previous stay.

Short Essex Family Break Woodpecker Yurt shower block and kitchen

Woodpecker Yurt has its own shower and kitchen block, as well as games for the private garden area. We could also borrow cycles. H enjoyed having a go on an adult bike while I fear she’ll need another bike already as it only felt like yesterday that she got her last one… she grows too quickly.

bike riding Woodpecker Yurt, Essex

Around the Woodpecker yurt are apple and pear trees, with grapes growing on a side wall. We didn’t hear the woodpecker, but could still hear the chickens and horses just over the wall. H’s new found love of animals since she went to Coombe Mill meant she went to feed the horses some grass every day we were there.

Short Essex Family Break H feeding horses at Mount Hall, Essex

Every night we had a BBQ. It’s quick and easy, in fact, the most difficult thing was finding somewhere that had vegetarian food. The local Co-Op had run out so we had to drive to a Tesco in Colchester. The joys of arriving on a Sunday when the shops had closed. On the second night we toasted marshmallows at the fire pit.

Toasting Marshmallows on an open fire

It was a lovely relaxing stay, and I feel like I want to discover more of Essex. I don’t know why we’ve never ventured out there. It’s so pretty!

Mount Hall Apple tree

I found our yurt for our short Essex family break via Canopy and Stars.

Of course, what this now means is we’re going to look into getting camping gear, and get into the camping lark properly while the weather is still good. This may be a bonkers idea, but right now it feels like a REALLY good idea!

We’re linking up to Country Kids this week, it has been a while – it seems only fair as H and Shaun are in the Coombe Mill blog this week!

Country Kids

Lullingstone Castle and World Garden

Lullingstone Castle isn’t a castle. It’s a big house, a great big manor house – it was named a castle way back when it was an impressive thing to do so. It’s a fun place to visit and there’s plenty to do.

Lullingstone Castle

Lullingstone Castle is situated in Lullingstone, close to Orpington, Kent. It is a big manor house where you can join guided tours which last approximately an hour. The tour was interesting, though involved a lot of talking.

I would suggest if you have an impatient child younger than 7-8, skip the house tour and go straight to the World Garden – but make sure to pick up the trail questions from the house before you do.

Lullingstone Castle World Garden

The World Garden is pretty amazing. Tom Hart-Dyke who is the son of the current owners of Lullington Castle is an explorer, a plant hunter. He has an interesting story, and has featured on tv programmes about the garden.

Lullingstone Castle World Garden sign

The World Garden is split into continents, each has plants and flowers from all over the world. There is information in each area from simple stories about the plant hunters who inspired or helped build the garden.

Actually, there’s no point in me describing it – here’s some of my photos that we took. It’s worth going to visit, is open every weekend and we can get in free with Historic Houses Association membership.

Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 1 Lullingstone Castle World Garden view with wire tree Lullingstone Castle World Garden Australia area Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 2 Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 3 Lullingstone Castle World Garden America area Lullingstone Castle World Garden totem pole Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 4 Lullingstone Castle World Garden flower 5 Lullingstone Castle World Garden cacti Lullingstone Castle World Garden cacti 2 Lullingstone Castle World Garden spot the penguin

Add to that a couple of greenhouse areas which include the most poisonous plant in the world, and you’ve a fascinating afternoon wandering around. Once you’re outside the World Garden, there are grounds too, including a carp lake.

Over that is a bridge – perfect for Pooh Sticks.

Lullingstone Castle World Garden pooh sticks

We were there for almost four hours, popping into nearby Lullingstone Roman Villa up the road, some fascinating ruins which are part of English Heritage. That’s one for a follow-up post I think!

Lullingstone Castle’s website can be found here. It’s fascinating visiting other people’s houses and having a nosey around a small area – especially when they’re still living there. Definitely worth a visit!