Project 365 – Week 34

Sunday 16th August. We went to St Michael’s Mount – somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, so really pleased we did it. H was a bit worried as the tide was getting close to the causeway on the way back, and we had no money as there are no cashpoints there (but the shops do cashback) – but we made it back in time! A lovely afternoon, and I had completely forgotten the story of Jack the Giant Killer was based there!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Monday 17th August. One of the biggest benefits of being National Trust members in Cornwall is the free parking – as we found when we went to tons of places and didn’t have to pay a penny. So we spent plenty in the cafe’s instead! We visited Kynance Cove and were so impressed – a beautiful beach. We bumped into friends too, and by the end of the day H had a body board (bought in Poldhu just up the road!).

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Tuesday August 18th. We knew this would be our last day of good sun, with possible appearances on Friday so headed for the beach again, this time to Gunwalloe Church Cove, another National Trust beach which was quiet, big enough to make a boat in the sand, and empty enough we bumped into our friends again and hung out with them for the day – with H getting more confident on a body board too!

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Wednesday August 19th. Making the most of our Merlin Passes we went to the SeaLife Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, where there was a Lego trail, plus additional questions which H enjoyed doing. It’s all outdoors, so not many places to shelter from the rain, but the rain wasn’t so bad. Our plans of doing two things in the same day were delayed by the rain, however. The Seal Sanctuary was wonderful – seeing how old seals are kept there, and seals are rescued and looked after until they’re ready to go back out to the wild was a real reassurance when you might have concerns about the SeaLife Aquariums (which I’m sure a lot of people do). A truly lovely place. This is H looking for Humboldt Penguins.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 20th August. This picture could have been SO much better – if only I’d remembered my camera battery. Foolish things to forget when going on holiday, your charger. So I had to rely on my phone. Which takes photos like this.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

but also takes photos like this, as after we’d been to Pendennis Castle (using our English Heritage Membership), we went to Glendurgan Gardens (using our National Trust membership) – the maze was excellent!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 21st August. Shaun’s birthday! So we went to St. Ives, which was lovely. I loved walking around, I loved going into a Seasalt shop, and I loved spending money on so many things which will be memories of our day there. I want to go back. I also don’t want to do the park and ride and get the bus down the hill, as a fiver is a right rip off, when you see what a short distance you go!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Saturday 22nd August. We left Helston, and went to The Eden Project – a wonderful day out. Again, relying on camera photos, and a full review to come – probably with awful photos. We’ll just have to go again 🙂

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Polesden Lacey Photography Competition

Polesden Lacey is holding a competition in search of their ‘Photographer of the Year’ for 2015.

polesden lacey wild flowers

The property itself is a photographer’s playground offering bags of inspiration, including sweeping views, idyllic formal gardens and Edwardian interiors crafted by the gentlemen who designed the Ritz. This year’s competition asks for photographs on the theme ‘Celebration of Colour’ capturing the vivid colours of Polesden Lacey wherever they might be found.

Ten finalists will be selected, one of whom will be named Polesden Lacey’s ‘Photographer of the Year’ and win the prestigious Spectrum Award. All finalists, including the winner, will have their work made large as photographic installations and displayed throughout the grounds at Polesden Lacey in their Autumn photography exhibition, which begins in September.

The judging panel will be made up of Polesden Lacey staff including Head of Collections, Jonathan Marsh, and one of Polesden’s top volunteer photographers, Eddie Hyde.

“People love sending us their photos of Polesden,” says Camilla Morgan, Polesden Lacey’s Marketing Officer. “Some of the photos are so beautiful that they end up in our leaflets or on the website. The competition is a way for us to showcase the work of our most talented visitors.”

You can enter the competition by liking Polesden Lacey’s Facebook page and posting up to two photos on their wall. You must include the words ‘Celebration of Colour’ in your post. You may also enter via email but everyone is advised to read more about how to enter the competition, including the rules, terms and conditions on the Polesden Lacey website. The submission deadline is midnight on Friday July 31st.

To enter, go to or for more information or call 01372 452048.

Project 365 Week 19

Sunday 3rd May.  After the hectic Saturday it was a rainy Sunday so we decided to have an easy one. So we went to Ikea then on to Carshalton Park afterwards for a bit of calm. H was wearing her Nirvana t-shirt and some denim, plus an oversized check shirt and she was in an absolute stinker of a mood – a proper emo-child. We decided it must be her chosen outfit which sent her a bit doolally, as she’s never normally as grumpy as she was.

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Monday 4th May. We went to Hatchlands Park, primarily to spend some money which would benefit Clandon Park, but also because the bluebells are out in force right now. It was packed – so much so that we gave up on eating there and decided to go to Winkworth Arboretum which isn’t just up the road, but isn’t that far away. They didn’t have much food there though, but we had enough – plus got to see more bluebells and the azalea steps. Anyway, Winkworth had one of the new ’50 Things to do Before You’re 11 3/4′ books so H got a new one.

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Tuesday 5th May. If I don’t take a photo of anything, I’ll take it of my food. So here’s my soup as made in the Morphy Richards Soup Maker (Butternut squash, red pepper and broccoli), and some bread from the breadmaker. I like having machines that do all the hard work for me.

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Wednesday 6th May. I am not vegan, but I do eat vegan food, what with having been a vegetarian since around 1983. Fry’s foods are my favourite – their curry pies are amazing. I discovered the coconut oil spray in Tesco so thought I’d give it a try – the two go well together as well!

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Thursday 7th May. Yeah, that. We did it. H said “you ONLY have to put a cross on a piece of paper?!”

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Friday 8th May. Finally after several months of trying and H getting angry and frustrated, she showed me how to tie a bow on her school dress. She worked it out at school and I’m relieved – she got so cross with herself when she couldn’t do it straight away.

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Saturday 9th May. We took H to Carshalton Athletic this morning after recommendations for football groups you don’t have to commit to. It’s really close to our house so walkable, but for her first week we drove, mainly as I was sure it was going to rain anyway – it did, but nothing to get wet with! H was paired up with another girl and really got stuck in. When she did Crystal Palace lessons she would often get frustrated by things, but today she was so much happier and confident, and got on with it. She was put in the older kids group too – and her coach said she has good skills, we just need to work on her thinking which was encouraging! The best bit of all? Girls go free. How awesome is that? So we have no excuse not to go.

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Lots Going on at Hatchlands Park

Hatchlands Park has a Sylvanian Families trail, free for kids. H did it and enjoyed it – but remember to take a pen! It’s fun and informative – and gave us a walk through a different area of Hatchlands too. It’s very suitable for little ones too – nice paths though a few trip hazards – but lots of fun!

Hatchlands Park Sylvanian Families trail

The bluebell woods are in full bloom too – Hatchlands Park is famous for the bluebells, and they never disappoint.

hatchlands park bluebells

Best of all though, Hatchlands Park has fairy doors in some trees – there are seven in all. We found five – and it was a good distraction for H who was feeling tired and hungry at this point – expect more to appear at random times!

Hatchlands Park Fairy Doors

“I don’t believe in fairies, apart from the Tooth Fairy” my five and a half year old told me. She still tried to have a look behind the doors – so there’s still some magic there.

A quick play in an empty field with H’s boomerang, and a wander around the grounds, before making our way to the play area with plenty of things to play and balance on, and H was pretty tired.

hatchlands park

Hatchlands Park was rammed when we went – but we luckily managed to find a parking space. I think a lot was due to it being the Bank Holiday, but also I think the fire at Clandon Park just up the road contributed to the numbers. The Sylvanian Family trail was quick, and follows the one track but was well suited for H. The bluebell woods have several pathways to take (hint – the ones along the bottom have the fairy doors, but the best bluebell views are on the longer pathway).

The pony trekking was there again too – but again we didn’t get a chance – next time – we’ll always go back to Hatchlands!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Clandon Park Fire

We were saddened to hear the news about the Clandon Park fire last week. We’re lucky that we have so many National Trust properties, gardens and land near here. Clandon Park need your help. Please read.

South Front of Clandon Park

South Front of Clandon Park

The National Trust today revealed a significant amount of the collection had been saved from the Clandon Park fire during the salvage operation.

Crews from Surrey Fire Brigade were continuing to dampen down the stately home, following the blaze which ripped through the 18th century stately home, near Guildford, Surrey, on Wednesday afternoon.

The house has been left a burnt out shell by the blaze and a cordon remains in place around the site.

Staff are now assessing what they have been able to save and determining what has been lost.

Among the items that have been saved are:

  • Painting depicting Speaker Arthur Onslow calling upon Sir Robert Walpole to speak in the House of Commons, by Sir James Thornhill  and William Hogarth   1730, from the Library
  • Board listing the rules to be observed in the servants’ hall at Clandon, eighteenth century.
  • Painting of an ostrich in a classical landscape, oil on canvas, by Francis Barlow (c.1626–1704), probably painted in the 1670s, from the Marble Hall.
  • Bible printed by John Basket in 1716-1717, from the Library
  • Folding screen incorporating Victorian and Edwardian Onslow family photographs, from the Library
  • A pair of giltwood side tables in the manner of John Gumley and James Moore, made in about 1725, from the State Bedroom
  • Silver, including some pieces by the noted silversmith Paul Storr, from the Speaker’s Parlour
  • The hangings of the Clandon state bed, made in about 1710. The hangings had just returned to Clandon following conservation treatment and were still packed up.
  • Set of hall chairs with the Onslow crest, from the Marble Hall at Clandon

Until a full assessment is done it will not be possible to confirm objects that did not survive.

The Trust’s Director General, Helen Ghosh said: “Although the house was pretty well burned out, the operation rescued a significant amount of the collection, and we are hopeful there will be more to recover when our specialists are able to get inside the building and start the painstaking archaeological salvage work. But there is a lot that we will never recover.

“The  immediate sense of shock and loss amongst staff working at the property has quickly been replaced by a steely determination. The team at Clandon, staff from other properties and local volunteers – have responded with tremendous fortitude, calmness and professionalism to the event.

When the overall impact of the fire is clearer, we will be able to decide on the longer term future of the house.

“I’d like to again thank the magnificent job the Surrey Fire Brigade. Their team-work and professionalism has been awe-inspiring.

“We’ve also been very touched by the offers of support, concern and good will from all over the country – we appreciate those messages.”

We cannot say at this stage what the future holds but donations raised will help Clandon Park face its uncertain future. To make a donation please call 0344 800 1895 or donate online. 

Clandon Park 2013


It is almost my favourite time of the year for wandering in woods and forests – time for bluebells! The National Trust have a list of all the best places – and my personal favourite is Hatchlands Park near Guildford – their bluebell wood is amazing! Read on for some more suggestions.

Hatchlands bluebells - NT John Miller

Bluebells have something magical about them. With their sudden, mystical takeover of ancient woodlands the flowers have long been linked to the fairy-world.

Get the family together and discover the delights of these delicate flowers that transform Britain’s wonderful woodlands. The blooming date for bluebells varies depending on the weather, but you can usually expect to see them in April and May.

Here’s a selection of the top National Trust places and events where you can enjoy bluebells in all their glory:

Buckland Abbey, Garden and Estate, Devon

The woodland armada, 2 May – 6 June, 10.30am – 5.30pm

When you visit Buckland, you follow over 700 years of footsteps; from the Cistercians who built the Abbey and farmed the estate, to seafarers Grenville and Drake who changed the shape of the house and the fate of the country. This spring, discover over 100 ships decorated by visitors as they set sail across the bluebell sea in The Great North Wood.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Spring walks, 7, 10, 14 May, 1pm – 2.30pm

Discover the emerging bluebell displays, ransoms and many other wild flowers in the Great North Wood. Join the estate ranger for a two mile walk around the estate to see some wonderful spring delights.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Basildon Park, Berkshire

Basildon Park, a Georgian mansion surrounded by parkland, was lovingly rescued by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid-1950s. Expansive countryside surrounds Basildon Park with great views towards the Thames and the Chilterns. Enjoy a walk in the 400 acres of parkland and woodland, take in the breath-taking views and at this time of year enjoy the changing colours of the landscape.

Beautiful bluebells, 1 April – 31 May, 10am – 4pm

Keep an eye on the Bluebell Watch on the Basildon Park website where you’ll be able to find out when they’re at their blooming best.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Hinton Ampner, Hampshire

Visitors can explore acres of recently opened ancient woodland surrounding this quintessentially English landscape. Stroll slowly through glorious beech avenues and soak up the bluebell phenomenon that appears here. Hinton welcomes picnickers in its woods, and there are woodland ‘sofas’ carved out of fallen tree trunks where you can sit and admire the blue view.

Spring woodland walk, 2 & 13 May, 1pm – 3pm

This spring, enjoy a guided woodland walk taking in the bluebells and the beautiful woodland at Hinton Ampner. Take a stroll in the carpets of Bluebells lining the woods, followed by scrumptious afternoon tea in the tea room.

Price: ÂŁ10 (booking essential)

For more information, please call 01962 77130


Blickling Estate, Norfolk

Visit Blickling in April through to May and discover one of the best places to see bluebells in the country. Follow the winding paths through the Great Wood and pass through swathes of the dainty blue flowers.Late April to early May is usually the best time at Blickling to see bluebells as they carpet the woodland floor.

Runnymede, Berkshire

Seen by many as the birthplace of modern democracy, this picturesque open landscape beside the Thames was witness to King John’s historic sealing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago on 15 June 1215. This historic landscape of picturesque meadows and rolling hills is perfect for a relaxing walk. Take in stunning views, soak up some history and see if you can spot the Bluebells in the woodlands.

Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House, County Londonderry

Visit this stunning landscape and beautiful gardens where you’ll find magnificent clifftop walks, affording rugged headland views across the awe-inspiring North Coast. The striking eighteenth-century mansion at Downhill now lies in ruin, but the offering of beautiful gardens and stunning coastal walks makes this is a fantastic place for all the family to visit – especially during bluebell season.

Behind the scenes: bluebell walks, 2 – 3 May, 12pm – 4pm

Come along for an afternoon stroll around the Bishop’s Gate gardens and glen to see the bluebells in full bloom. Join the estate ranger who will highlight the latest developments around the wider demesne and show off the hidden gems in the gardens.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

Hardcastle Crags Bluebell cascade Credit Drew Marsh

Nymans, West Sussex

Rumoured to bloom on St George’s Day (23 April), there are carpets of delicately scented bluebells throughout the ancient woodland surrounding Nymans. Described as a garden lovers’ home for all seasons, you can enjoy an extensive yet intimate garden set around a romantic house and ruins this spring. Inspired by the setting and the soil, the Messel family created one of the country’s great gardens in the late nineteenth-century. The garden and nearby woods are perfect for walking, picnicking and spotting bluebells.

Art Workshop with John Thompson: bluebell woods, 28 – 30 May, 10.30am – 3.30pm

Local artist and tutor John Thompson returns with more of his popular painting workshops. John takes inspiration from the seasonal changes on the landscape and gardens of Nymans and this month’s theme is bluebell woods. Visit for a full day of relaxed and empowering art making in the Potting shed. Learn easy techniques working with acrylic paints on board (be prepared to get messy), making various marks and building textures. All painting materials provided.

Price: ÂŁ60 (including materials and refreshments, booking essential)

Lanhydrock, Cornwall

Lanhydrock is the perfect country house and estate, with the feel of a family home. The estate is well worth exploring, with ancient woodlands and tranquil riverside paths. You can take the bikes out on the off-road cycle trails, with special routes for families and novice riders. This fascinating country estate has gorgeous gardens, including a brilliant collection of spring-flowering magnolias and woodland areas blooming with waves of daffodils and bluebells.

Bluebell tour, 2 May, 10am – 1pm

Join the Head Ranger for a stroll through the stunning bluebell woods, followed by lunch in the restaurant at 12pm.

Price: ÂŁ15 (includes lunch, booking essential)

Osterley Park and House, Middlesex

A short hop from central London by tube but a world apart lies Osterely. Surrounded by gardens, park and farmland, Osterley is one of the last surviving country estates in London. Take a seat in the deckchairs on the temple lawn and watch the world go by, take the woodland walk and uncover the forgotten boathouse or wander back through the ancient meadow, bursting with wildflowers and butterflies.

Bluebell walk, 30 April, 6 May, 2pm – 3.30pm

The bluebells at Osterley Park are true wildflowers, on display in the ancient woodland. They have a delicate scent, intense blue colour and flowers that droop down like a bell along one side of the stem. Join a guided tour of the gardens with the ranger as you take in the carpet of colour; learn about the spring flower and its wider role in the management of the estate.

Price: Adult ÂŁ6, Child ÂŁ3 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

Godolphin, Cornwall

Discover Godolphin, rich in archaeology and wildlife and travel back in time as you wander around the sixteenth-century garden, one of the most important historic gardens in Europe. Get lost in the tranquil and mysterious woodland, where the years of mining have left an unnatural, undulating landscape. Go for a stroll along the river and don’t forget to stop for a refreshing cup of tea and slice of home-made cake in the tea-room.

Save our native bluebell, 10 May, 11am – 12.30pm

Join an informative walk and talk with Godolphin’s gardener on the current threats to our native bluebell from the Spanish varieties, and walk through the sea of blue in Godolphin’s far orchard.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

Wander through Sissinghurst Castle Garden for inspiring ideas or simply soak up spring and enjoy the rich, warm colours of the Cottage Garden. Also known as the Spring Garden, the Lime Walk is one area where former owner Harold Nicolson controlled the design and planting. Long beds of tulips, fritillaries and hyacinths are marked out by an avenue of pleached limes, scattered by generous terracotta pots, every inch bursting with colour during spring.

Bluebell and wildflower walks, 26 April & 1 – 2 May, 1pm – 2.30pm

Come and see the woodland at Sissinghurst at this beautiful time of year on a guided walk with the ranger team. Afterwards finish the walk off with a cream tea in the restaurant.

Price: ÂŁ12.50 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire

Dinefwr Park and Castle is an iconic place in the history of Wales and is the perfect place to take a relaxing stroll through some of Carmarthenshire’s most beautiful areas of countryside. It’s the only designated parkland National Nature Reserve in the whole of Wales, where you can discover ancient trees, rare lichen and fungi and some of the best examples of British wildlife you’re likely to see.

Bluebell display in Castle Woods, 1 – 31 May, 10am – 6pm

Don’t miss the spectacular Bluebell display at Dinefwr – a real treat for the senses. It’s difficult to predict exactly when the Bluebells will in full bloom but we know for sure it will be in May and the best place to see the biggest display is in Castle Woods.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex

Sheffield Park and Garden is a horticultural work of art formed through centuries of landscape design, with influences of ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton. Four lakes form the heart of the garden, with paths circulating through the glades and wooded areas surrounding them. Running across the bottom of the estate is the River Ouse and flood meadow. During the spring and summer months the meadow is covered in wild flowers, butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies.

Bluebell walk, 29 April, 11am – 1pm, 6 May, 2pm – 4pm

Join a guided walk through the estate to see carpets of bluebells in the garden and woodland.

Price: Adult ÂŁ5, Child ÂŁ2.50 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

Strangford Lough, County Down

Strangford Lough is a unique and wonderful place of immense international importance for nature conservation. It is the largest sea lough in the British Isles, covering an area from Angus Rock at its mouth on the Irish Sea, to the vast sand-flats. It’s one of only three designated Marine Nature Reserves in the United Kingdom. Nugent’s Wood, at Portaferry, is one of the last refuges for the native red squirrel and is the perfect place for discovering bluebells.

Bluebell walk in Nugent’s Wood, Portaferry, 2 May, 10am – 12pm

Learn more about local history, wildlife and work that Rangers do on the estate and around the interesting woodland in Strangford Lough.

Price: Free event

Dunham Massey, Cheshire

At Dunham Massey stroll down camellia walk to see over 10,000 plants in the cyclamen grove, the bluebell meadow and yellow meadow. Take a walk and enjoy a beautiful display of the protected English Bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta on the estate. You can find the largest collection of flowers under the Oaks and Witch hazels next to the Bog Garden.

Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire

Bluebells are the undisputed spring highlight at Hardcastle Crags where they carpet the woodland. At their peak, usually in May they form an almost unearthly blue haze through the woodlands and fill air with their sweet perfume. This wooded landscape is often known as ‘Little Switzerland’ because of the valley sides, pathways and river and in spring the woodland is awash with bluebells.

Hatchlands Park, Surrey
Situated on the edge of the beautiful Surrey Hills and surrounded by charming villages, this peaceful location is just 45 minutes from central London. Hatchlands Park is one of the largest country estates in the county, including ancient woodland and open parkland, with views of the historic house and Surrey countryside. Wix’s Wood is home to carpets of bluebells which will appear in late April and early May. For latest updates on when the bluebells are out visit

Bluebells in garden at Rufford Old Hall NTPL

Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire

Rufford Old Hall is set within 14 acres of glorious gardens and woodland, laid out in the style found during the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods. Enjoy a walk among the small woodland awash with a variety of native trees as well as a carpet of bluebells and crocuses in springtime. The best time to see them is in late April and early May in Beech Walk and the North Woods – see if you can spot the honey and bumblebees visiting the bluebells as well.


Project 365 Week 15

Sunday 5th April. We headed to Hatchlands Park near Guildford to do their Easter Egg trail as we’ve done most of the National Trust properties near here and wanted to do a different one. Every time we go to Hatchlands or Clandon Park we end up taking a stupidly long route which is brilliant – but we almost always forget it’s just up the road from Polesden Lacey. So I’m hoping if we type this we’ll remember when we go back to see their bluebell wood. Anyway, it was loads of fun and had a Robin Hood theme, ending with H bouncing on a space hopper on their front lawn. They even had archery and pony trekking for the Easter weekend, as well as a craft area to make your own arrow – loads of fun and it even cheered up Shaun and I after the rubbish news the day before.

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Monday 6th April. H was unwell overnight – the bug Shaun and I had, so it was an easy day – a 2am wake up and looking after her the following morning meant our plans to go to Legoland were put on hold. It did mean we could work on her box garden for her home learning at school, which looks pretty ace! There’s cress growing in the middle!!

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Tuesday 7th April. 48 hour exclusion applies, and so I worked remotely looking after H. There was quite a lot of work to do and I got most of it done which was a relief. I’m lucky that I’m able to do that with my job – especially when you’re dealing with a slightly bored five year old who can’t go to holiday club.

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Wednesday 8th April. Back to work, back to Holiday Club, H had a trip to Battersea Park Zoo today which she enjoyed. I got a delivery of Mr Kipling’s cakes from Britmums which cheered my day up – THEN I realised it was Mum Friendly’s fourth birthday. So Happy Birthday to me.

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Thursday 9th April. Just work, holiday club and being happy as Shaun is working in Croydon at the moment so gets home nice and early every night for a change! Having said that, we’re tired out – so it was nice to settle with potato wedges and a Fry’s Curry Pie (and they’re delicious and vegan too) after H had gone to bed. I’m so glad I bought an Actifry at Christmas as I’m finding it really handy for making meals quickly and healthily.

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Friday 10th April. Shaun didn’t need to go in to work today so worked remotely from home, and didn’t bother taking H into Holiday Club for her last day – so he worked and played until I got home from work, and H seemed happy enough playing outside and watching Annie. We did our walk down to the Honeywood Museum and around Carshalton and felt happy and lucky to be living where we do.

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Saturday 11th April. Legoland! It was pouring with rain in the morning, but I’d checked forecasts and it was meant to be very warm and sunny by 10am, but with a breeze. We got to Legoland by 11am, and most rides had a 15 minute queue which meant we did loads! Afterwards we headed into Windsor, parking by the Thames for free (hurrah!) and right by the castle, trying to find somewhere to eat. We found a lovely local family-run restaurant Viva L’Italia where we got some pizza and pasta which was WAY cheaper than all the chain restaurants nearby. Yum! Afterwards we watched it get darker as Windsor Castle lit up and the Jubilee Fountain got pretty.

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TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

The Best National Trust Gardens to Visit This Spring

As the days get longer and winter starts to fade, spring arrives in fresh bursts of colour and new life.

From the carpets of delicate bluebells in the gardens of Blickling Estate in Norfolk to the sheets of brilliant tulips at Sizergh Castle in the Lakes, a stroll in a National Trust garden is sure to dazzle and amaze.

It’s also a great time to experience nature springing back to life. Don’t miss the laburnum arch, a shimmering tunnel of golden blooms in late spring at Bodnant in Wales, or the aroma of azaleas and magnolias at Stourhead in Wiltshire.

Here are some of the top spring gardens and seasonal events to enjoy:

Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill, Cambridgeshire

Visit the grounds of this quintessentially English house for captivating views, vibrant colour and delicious scents in every season. Explore the picturesque working watermill and the wildlife discovery area. In spring, drifts of daffodils flourish throughout the grounds and over 4000 hyacinths emerge in the meticulously maintained flower beds of the formal garden. A sea of delicate tulips will emerge in the mystical Himalayan Silver birch grove to welcome the arrival of spring.

Blickling Hall ©NTPL Matthew Antrobus

Blickling Estate, Norfolk

Four centuries of good husbandry have made Blickling’s 55 acre garden one of the greatest in England. It changes through the seasons and has evolved over the centuries to reflect different fashions. Visit in May and follow the winding paths through the great wood, and pass through the carpet of dainty English bluebells in spring; it’s one of the best places to see them in the country. At the heart of the garden, discover one of England’s great Jacobean houses. Don’t miss the fragrant beds of the parterre and inspiring double borders. You’ll find hellebores, daffodils and bluebells, azaleas and rhododendron, wisteria and peonies as well as quiet places to sit and enjoy the view. If you fancy getting active there are around 500 acres of parkland and woods to explore on foot or by bike. If you want to get away from it all try and find the secret garden – a great place for quiet contemplation and to listen to the spring bird chorus.

Bodnant Garden, Conwy

Marvel at plants from all over the world grown from seed and cuttings collected over a century ago. Created by five generations of one family, this 80 acre garden is located with wonderful views of Snowdonia. Its grand terraced lawns, renowned collection of rhododendrons and a gloriously romantic waterfall make it one of the most celebrated gardens in Wales. In spring don’t miss the Dell; hidden deep within a wooded valley, with the river Hiraethlyn chattering through it’s a riot of colour and a haven for wildlife. Spring is also the perfect season to visit the laburnum arch, which will be in full bloom by late May.

What’s On: The Far End is now open

The Far End will open for everyone to explore for the first time this spring. One of the oldest parts of the garden, it was originally laid out by Bodnant’s Victorian creator Henry Pochin. Pochin began by creating paths along the riverside and planting conifers, some of which are now Champion Trees. His successors continued planting trees and shrubs from all around the world along the banks of the River Hiraethlyn. The area was never opened to the public but over the last few years gardeners have been renovating banks, beds and paths, creating a new circular walkway and bridge which will give you an easy access, level route around this beautiful part of the garden. Now, three years on, the Far End has been completely rejuvenated and is open for everyone to enjoy.

Sissnghurst Bluebells ©National Trust ImagesJonathan Buckle

Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

Wander through Sissinghurst Castle Garden for inspiring ideas or simply soak up spring. Enjoy the rich, warm colours of the cottage garden and on the Moat Walk discover a bank of bright yellow azaleas. Also known as the spring garden, the lime walk is one area where former owner Harold Nicolson controlled the design and planting. Long beds of tulips, fritillaries and hyacinths are marked out by an avenue of pleached limes, scattered by generous terracotta pots, every inch bursting with colour for about four weeks. Early spring sees this garden become a carpet of colour: pink chinodoxias, scillas and white anemones, looked over proudly by a Magnolia salicifolia and a big, bold mauve rhododendron.

What’s On: Bluebell and wildflower walks, 26 April & 1, 2 May, 1pm – 2.30pm

Come and see the spring woodland at this beautiful time of year on a guided walk with the ranger team. Finish the walk off with a cream tea in the Granary restaurant.

Price: ÂŁ12.50 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

For more information, please call 01580 710700

Make a weekend of it: Stay in the Priest’s House, which sleeps six, and spend evenings relaxing in the grounds and gardens at Sissinghurst once everyone else has gone home. The cottage sits on the edge of the White Garden and is an absolute must-stay for garden lovers.

Morden Hall Park, London

With diverse landscapes and hidden histories, Morden Hall Park is a green oasis in suburbia. The river meanders through the former deer-park, creating a haven for wildlife. The 2.5 acre garden is the perfect place to relax with friends and family. When you step through the gates, you’d be forgiven for imagining yourself to be in the middle of the English countryside. Surrounded by meadows, trees and the gentle sounds of birdsong and running water, the park offers a rare sense of discovery and a chance to get away from it all. From late May until early September, wander around the 38 flowerbeds on both sides of the stream and take in the wonderful scent of roses and dahlias.

What’s On: Guided walk – a Victorian estate, 5 May & 6 June, 2pm – 4.30pm

Discover the past history of Morden Hall Park on a gentle tour of the estate. This will be followed by homemade seasonal soup or tea and cake in the Potting Shed Café.

Price: ÂŁ9 (Includes tea and cake, booking essential)

For more information, please call 020 8545 6850

Summer garden party, 27 – 28 June, 11am – 5pm

Visit Morden Hall Park for a delightful two days in the rose garden to kick off the summer season. Wander around an array of artisan food stalls and be tempted by the delicious treats and produce on offer. Stop and watch one of the many cookery demonstrations or entertain the little ones with vintage games and rides. Why not bring along a picnic rug and simply relax amongst the roses.

Price: ÂŁ4

For more information, please call 020 8545 6850

Nymans spring borders©National Trust ImagesJohn Miller

Nymans, West Sussex

This twentieth-century garden has an amazing collection of rare and important plants, bursting with colour in spring. Spot displays of camellias and magnolias and drifts of daffodils. Walk around the garden at your own pace or join a daily introductory talk or guided tour. One of our best spring highlights is the perfumed, flower filled walled garden. Full of daffodils, wild flowers and blossoms, a walk through the wall garden is a treat for all the senses. Watch out for camellias, magnolias, bluebells and rhododendrons throughout the estate and take a walk in the woodland and wild garden to see all that Nymans has to offer particularly at this time of year. Inspired by the garden lovers’ home there is a large shop and plant centre with a special collection of plants grown on site.

What’s On: Head gardener’s spring highlights walk, 16 April, 11am – 12pm

Take in the seasonal highlights of the garden and Arboretum with an exclusive guided tour with the Head Gardener. Find out what is at its best this season and what to look forward to in the following months. Hear about the garden projects and practises and have your questions answered. Finish off your walk with a warming beverage in the cafe.

Price: ÂŁ5 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential, includes tea and coffee)

For more information, please call 01444 405250

What’s On: Introduction to gardening, 7 May, 11am – 12.30pm & 2pm – 3.30pm

Join a free introductory to gardening tour with the rangers discussing the Magnolias and Camellias at Nymans. Discover hints and tips each month that you can apply at home and learn more about how they garden at Nymans. Suitable for novices and enthusiasts.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies, booking advisable)

For more information, please call 01444 405250

Make a weekend of it: At the heart of Nymans Woods is the out of the way retreat Woodlands Cottage. With space for up to four people, it was once home to the estate’s game keeper. This is a real out-of-the-way retreat surrounded by beautiful woodland with walks and lakes, within an hour of London and 30 minutes from Brighton and the Sussex Coast.

Hidcote, Gloucestershire

You’ll see a richness and diversity of plants from around the world at Hidcote. Lawrence Johnston was passionate about plants. He went to endless trouble and expense to find unusual varieties that would bring colour, scent, shape and texture to the garden. The garden is divided into a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, each with its own character. The formality of the ‘rooms’ melts away as you move through the garden away from the house. Lose yourself in a network of beautiful garden rooms waking from their winter slumber. Enjoy drifts of narcissus and later aquilegias and Welsh poppies in the Pillar Garden, and the blossom filled orchard with emerging wild flowers. Magnificent magnolias are filling the skies with a warm pink glow so make sure you don’t miss them this spring.

Stourhead Apollo statue ©National Trust ImagesClive Nichols

Stourhead, Wiltshire

This world-famous landscape garden has at its centrepiece a wonderful lake reflecting classical temples, mystical grottoes, rare and exotic trees and offers a day of fresh air and discovery. Stourhead house is set amongst ‘picnic perfect’ lawns and parklands, which are filled with beautiful blooms and colour throughout the spring months. The succession of azaleas, magnolias and rhododendrons bursting into flower brings the garden to life with subtle fragrances.

What’s On: Spring blooms garden tours, 1 – 31 May, 11.30am – 12.30pm & 1.30pm – 2.30pm

When Stourhead first opened in the 1740s, a magazine described it as ‘a living work of art’. This spring, experience Stourhead at its blooming best on a free guided tour.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01747 841152

Make a weekend of it: Just outside the gates of Stourhead garden, 89 Church Lawn is a pretty eighteenth century stone cottage which sleeps seven.

Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall

Lose yourself in the three valleys of Glendurgan Garden – full of fun, natural beauty and amazing plants. Described as a little bit of heaven on earth this sub-tropical garden blooms with magnolias, wild flowers and woodland flora, including drifts of bluebells during the spring months. There are exotic trees and shrubs dotted around the valley garden. In the spaces between, wildflower areas have been developed over the last twenty years. Enjoy them at their best in spring and early summer. The magnolias are stealing the show at the moment; enjoy their magnificence and spot many other spring favourites on a walk through the valley garden. Glendurgan was created with family entertainment in mind. The maze, giant’s stride swing and beach are all waiting to be explored.

Make a weekend of it: At the foot of the valley that is home to Glendurgan Garden are three beach side cottages, The Old School House, Quay Cottage and Beach Cottage in the lovely hamlet of Durgan. Tucked away in the woods is a tiny timber built, thatched cabin for two, called Wood Cottage.

Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall

Traditionally known as the National Trust’s earliest flowering spring garden, there are breath-taking displays of magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias throughout the spring at Trengwainton, along with a beautiful walled kitchen garden full of ideas for your own growing space. Follow winding, wooded paths, find picnic spots by the stream or sit in quiet corners and breathe in the peace of this special place. The lower walled garden contains plants from around the globe and now is the perfect time to see the flowering magnolias in all their glory. The shelter of the brick walls, and west Cornwall’s mild climate, provide the conditions for more tender species to survive outdoors.

What’s On: National Gardens Scheme open day, 26 April, 7 June, 10.30am – 5pm

Discover exotic plants, an inspirational walled garden and beautiful sea views from the Terrace.  Free guided tour at 11.30am.  All entry proceeds and any donations for the tour will go to the NGS.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01736 363148

Make a weekend of it: Stay in spacious the Nanceglos House, on the boundary of the garden at Trengwainton. With original features including its own well, this large cottage is ideal for gatherings of friends and family, sleeping nine.

Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire

With 3,800 acres of parkland and gardens, peaceful woodlands and a magnificent lake to enjoy there is plenty of space to explore and relax with your family and friends at Clumber, especially in spring when the woodland is alive with birdsong and a shimmering carpet of bluebells. The beautiful walled kitchen garden is famous for growing hundreds of varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs, and has the biggest collection of culinary rhubarbs in the country. Clumber Park also boasts the longest avenue of double lime trees in Europe. Planted around 1840 to line one of the main entrances into the Park, the majestic Limetree Avenue is over two miles long.

What’s On: Rhubarb weekend, 9 – 10 May, 12pm – 4pm

Indulge in all things rhubarb in the Walled Kitchen Garden at Clumber Park including tastings, demonstrations, games and rhubarb-themed tours. Pick up some rhubarb for sale to enjoy at home and celebrate Clumber’s National Rhubarb Collection.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01909 544904

Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

Tucked away outside of Kendal, Sizergh Castle has beautiful gardens and 1600 acres of estate to explore. You’ll find real variety in the garden – from the formal Dutch garden to the wilder landscape of the magnificent limestone rock garden. Sizergh has been allowed to evolve and expand gradually over 300 years and is still being developed to this day. During spring see the brightly coloured tulips on the top terrace, walk beneath cherry blossom in the Dutch garden and enjoy the spring colours in the rock garden. There are lots of frogs, newts and numerous species of birds to spot, as well as bees and hens in the apple orchard.

Make a weekend of it: Holeslack Farmhouse is a perfect country cottage. The farmhouse is on the Sizergh Castle estate that stands at the gateway to the Lake District and is set in 1600 acres of limestone countryside. Grade II listed it has many original features including a spiral staircase and seventeenth century oak cupboards. The farmhouse sleeps eight.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal (Water Garden), North Yorkshire

Explore the ruins of the twelfth-century Fountains Abbey and spot dainty spring flowers breaking through this stunning landscape. The water garden is just as spectacular with its moon-shaped ponds and classical statuary. Studley Royal Water Garden was the breath-taking vision of John Aislabie and his son William. In the early eighteenth-century John Aislabie had great plans to impress visitors to his Yorkshire estate and turned the wild and wooded valley of the river Skell into one of England’s most spectacular Georgian water gardens. Amazingly the garden you see today is little changed from the one that would have impressed Aislabie’s visitors 200 years ago. Look out for primroses and wood anemones and catch the scent of wild garlic in the woods around the abbey.

What’s On: Water Garden tour, 9, 29, 30 May, 2pm – 3.30pm

Travel back in time to Studley Royal in the elegant Georgian era. Hear how the creative genius of the Aislabie family produced this World Heritage Site garden.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01765 60888828

Make a weekend of it: With eleven holiday cottages on offer, including apartments in the luxurious Fountains Hall and five cottages converted from a group of eighteenth century farm buildings there’s plenty of choice at this World Heritage Site.

Bridge at Wallington, ©National Trust Images Matthew Antrobus

Wallington, Northumberland

Discover Wallington, a much-loved home to generations of the unconventional Trevelyan family. The Trevelyans loved being outdoors and close to nature and the house is surrounded by an informal landscape of lawns, lakes, woodland, parkland and farmland just waiting to be explored. Soak up the atmosphere of the tranquil East Woods, alive with the sound of birdsong and discover the beautiful walled garden, a colourful haven of tranquillity in the springtime.

What’s On: Ranger walk – Wallington’s swan lake, 12 May, 10.30am – 12.30pm

Visit for an exclusive tour of Rothley Lake and discover the wonderful wildlife that lives in this hidden site. Rothley Lake was originally designed by ‘Capability’ Brown to be a fishing lake but is now one of the top spots for wildlife on the Wallington estate and home to red squirrels, otters, crayfish, wild flowers and, of course, swans. Take a minibus trip to the lake and join a special guided walk to look for wildlife and find out about the history and archaeology of the lake.

Price: ÂŁ4 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

For more information, please call 01670 773606

Rowallane Garden, County Down

Rowallane contains a treasure trove of exotic plants from around the world and spring time is one of the most exciting times to visit. This is when the enormous and much-admired collection of rhododendrons burst into colour. The magical walled garden is also a must see for the magnolias, daphnes and azaleas.The garden was created by Reverend John Moore in mid-1860s, planting woodland and using interesting stone ornamentation to sculpt the informal landscape. His nephew, Hugh Armytage Moore, continued his work from 1903, mingling exotic species with native plants – giving the garden a dramatic atmosphere.

What’s On: Spring plant fair, 2 – 3 May, 11am – 4pm

A wonderful opportunity to purchase plants from a range of specialist plant stalls, as well as from Rowallane Garden.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 02897510131

To find out more about booking a holiday cottage please visit:

National Trust Easter Egg Hunt

It’s that time of year again – when the shops are overloaded with chocolate and you’re pressured into buying them. Well, okay, I’m not but really the M&S Darth Vader Easter Egg looks damn good. Fortunately the National Trust Easter Egg hunts are back, and once completed you get a Cadbury Egghead at the end. That suits me!



The National Trust Easter Egg Hunt with the Cadbury’s is back again! We go to our local National Trust places for their Easter Egg hunt every year. Last year it was Morden Hall Park, the previous year I think was Claremont Landscape Gardens, and I know we did Polesden Lacey the year before.

They’re always loads of fun, there are several clues to solve, and at the end you show your completed puzzle and get a Cadbury’s Egghead in return. What’s not to love?

H loves doing it every year, and now she can read we can just follow her as she goes from clue to clue – and help if she ever gets stuck. The trail starts at the Base Camp and if it’s anything like last year you’ll have a hat and a book to log things as you follow the Eggsplorer trail.

National Trust Easter

Depending on the weather we’re thinking we might do Hatchlands Park this Easter (it’s quite out in the open, and worth it for the bluebell woods – though they’re more likely to look amazing by May) – decisions, decisions. (edited to add – Hatchlands have a Robin Hood themed hunt this year – excellent!)

You can search for a National Trust Easter trail near you over here – they run from the 3rd to the 6th April. They usually cost around ÂŁ1 to do, and it’s a fun way to get outdoors and be rewarded with chocolatey goodness at the end. Of course for us older types, you mustn’t forget the obligatory hot chocolate and slice of cake afterwards in the National Trust cafe in the place of your choice – yum! See you there…

Limpsfield Common

The National Trust have lots of lovely houses and gardens, and it’s often forgotten how much land is owned by them too. After the National Trust – Surrey Hills Facebook Group posted a photo last weekend of a mysterious Peter Rabbit’s Post Office, a few of us bloggers tried to work out exactly where it was. Luckily someone posted on the group where to find it, so a week later we headed there to find out more – to Limpsfield Common.

Limpsfield Common Owl House

Limpsfield Common is east of Oxted – take the A25 and drive towards Limpsfield Chart on the B269, but turn left before you get there and drive down Ridlands Lane. You will find a car park called Ridlands Grove, which is the best place to park.

Limpsfield Common Hedgehog Hall and Peter Rabbits Post Office

Limpsfield Common is quite a large area, and I felt this was a good place to start. H really enjoyed looking for the five little homes within the wood – most of which are fairly easy to find – though we struggled with the Fox Villa – there’s no clear trail but that makes it even more fun. The little homes have been put together by the Friends of Limpsfield Common who keep it maintained. We popped some cash into the little post box at Peter Rabbit’s Post Office as a way of saying thank you. Each shelter had enough H had a good explore, and the area they’re all situated was enough for a good hour wandering around outside.

Limpsfield Common Fox Villa

Limpsfield Common also has an Air Raid Shelter. It has been renovated, there are six shelters in total, though only one is occasionally opened to the public. (the last time was Mother’s Day last weekend) The other five are used as bat nesting sites. This is situated back on the A25. We parked on a road in Limpsfield village and it took no more than ten minutes to walk there. They are situated near the British Legion building, around the back of Limpsfield Infant school.

Getting H to imagine how it was in 1940 as the Battle of Britain was happening, with the whole of Limpsfield Infant school spending most days in the shelters was quite an eye opener for her. The children were alerted to an attack by siren or the headmaster ringing the bell and had to run to the shelters. If they didn’t make it in time they had to lie flat on the ground – and it’s quite a run to the shelters.

Limpsfield Common Air Raid Shelters

Next to the shelters is a restored Spigot Mortar – one of five that once existed in the area. From the National Trust information “The gun was extremely heavy, weighing in at about 350lbs. It fired a 20lb high explosive anti tank mortar bomb propelled by black powder. It had an effective range of 100 yards. It was also capable of firing a 14lb anti personnel bomb approximately 500 yards, although the gun was found to be most effective at shorter range.

Really hard to get your head around these days, but an important reminder of how it was.

We had a brilliant day anyway, and would recommend Limpsfield Common – it doesn’t cost to go there and there’s easily a good couple of hours worth of things to do, and wander around. Limpsfield itself looks like a lovely village too, although all the shops were closed when we were there.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall