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

H Got a New Bike

H keeps growing. She’s going to be a tall girl, this we already know – but I had no idea a tall girl would go through two bikes in a year due to growing so much. Another one of those things they don’t tell you when you’re thinking ahead. We went for a cycle in Beddington Park in January where I took this photo. Later on we were looking at it and had an ‘uh-ohhhh’ moment. Look where her knees are.

Apollo Pom Pom bike

We knew it was time to shop for a new bike, less than a year after getting the Apollo Pom Pom bike – a 14″ one. On looking at all the 16″ options, one thing stood out – no stabilisers. I know my daughter well enough to know that she’s not ready for two wheels yet, she doesn’t have the confidence. We’re in no rush, but for the first time in a long time we’ve had to really think about the kind of bike we’d like her to have.

Argos have a good range of bikes – I liked the Zinc range but don’t feel we’re quite there yet as far as getting a bulkier outdoor bike goes – so opted instead for the Silverfox Glitz. I could have done without the girly pink (which is why the Zinc range appeals with reds and purples), but spotted our chosen bike comes with mudguards. You can fit a parent handle onto it which could help with H’s confidence too (we need to buy it separately, Halfords have some for under £20).

We picked up the bike yesterday, all packaged in a box ready to be assembled. The tools were included so last night Shaun assembled it, and H had a good play on it today, working on balance. She finds two wheels scary at the moment so we’re lucky she hasn’t outgrown her old bike yet, just almost. I’m hoping by April she’ll be on two wheels and confident.

H's new bike first run

Given she’s moved into larger helmets recently, I’m hoping this bike will last for more than eight months – keep your fingers crossed! The balancing on two wheels updates will be happening from time to time on here – we’ve never had a balance bike so we’re going cold turkey. Wish us luck….

This post is in association with Argos, all opinions are my own

Outdoor Play

This week is flying by. H is now in school and loving it, and we’ve had a few days of outdoor play this last week. We’re joining in with Country Kids, and I figured we could roll three posts into one.

Reigate Fort

Saturday we headed to Reigate Fort – a local National Trust place we’ve always fancied but never managed to get to (and it’s silly, it’s easy to get to and there’s plenty of parking for free as well). We got to the fort which is as you’d expect – various deserted buildings dug into the hillside overlooking a vast area. Trying to explain to H that it’s there because sometimes countries fight with each other proved a bit difficult. Hopefully school will help give her a better context!! You had views all the way to Gatwick which was good – we spotted loads of planes landing and taking off. There was a big grassy area, perfect for a picnic and playing tag with Daddy – before we headed back towards the car park.

There’s a walk from the car park at Reigate Fort which goes along the South Downs way, taking you to Gatton Park, so we started that one, but had to turn back after a short while – H was tired and not quite right and we didn’t want to tire her out too much before school. We like to get outdoors and she was trying out a pair of shoes for review that we chose which are perfect for outdoor use, with plenty of grip and support. I figured that if she has some good shoes for outdoor play she’s less likely to tumble over; most of her shoes have minimal grip and when you’re climbing trees you need a little bit.

Cane Hill September 2013

H felt sleepy, so we drove home hoping she’d nap in the car – and went past Coulsdon on our way. I’ve had a bit of an obsession about the former hospital Cane Hill and hadn’t been near it since I’d heard about it being demolished. It just so happened we drove past Cane Hill on our way home so I got out for a wander, with my camera of course. I was in for a shock; what was once an old derelict hospital is now grass, land with just the chapel and a tower (not the clock tower) that have survived. Cane Hill was an amazing building and I recommend you do a spot of googling on it – and now it has gone. If you see it now, you’d never know what was there. We got some photos of it back in 2008 when it was still intact just from the outside, and seeing what is left now really shocked me. I want to go back with Shaun and H properly and get around the other side – last time I was there it looked something like this. An amazing building left to rot until a fire in 2010 (ish?) which led to most of it being demolished.

Mayfield Lavender

The following day she felt much better so we headed to Mayfield Lavender. Rain was due so we knew it would be a flying visit, but we still got to walk or run up one length of the field and make it to the cafe/shop area before the skies opened – luckily we were under cover, and I’ve noticed H is running much faster with proper running shoes too, although she still likes to check what her competitors are doing (and then fall over). We’ll work on that one…

a play in the park

After school on Wednesday we headed out, stopping in the park for a run around. H is mastering the big girl swing and getting her co-ordination sorted out (she takes after me I think). Being outdoors is good too, as I feel like we’ve not done enough of it since school started; we’re all so tired. I’m letting go and letting her be on the stepping stones and watching her gain confidence on the ‘older’ things in the park. I’m not quite ready to do the climbing wall – maybe with her new shoes when she has a bit of grip!

So that’s our week. This weekend looks like it should be quieter, all being well, but rainy. Sigh!

We have been sent the Adidas shoes for the purpose of review and promoting outdoor play, all opinions are our own. Linking up to Country Kids as well.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

My 99p Summer

We received £10 in vouchers to spend at 99p Stores, to see what we could buy and have a bit of fun with, doing the ‘My 99p Summer’ challenge.

A 99p Summer may not be something you’d think about, but actually there’s a lot of choice in-store. 99p Stores are one of those places I can always find something to buy – so when we were accepted for this challenge I was more than happy to give it a go. When we went summer was very much with us (unlike this slightly foggy grey morning we have today) and one thing we didn’t have a lot of were water toys – as in, water pistols, water bombs, a fishing set, an ice-cube tray and of course some bubbles. I know, I don’t know why either.

We found £10 goes a long way in 99p Stores – there’s a lot of choice for outdoor fun – so much so we had £9 worth of goods and H demanded a doll which we let her have as we felt we had plenty.

Here’s what we bought for our 99p Summer :

99p Summer Challenge

There’s quite a bit there – so, the verdict!

The water pistols were good – they had good range, especially important as Shaun was so much better at it than me.

The water bombs were AWESOME – they come with an attachment you can hold to the tap to fill it which is tricky but worked – I found that they were good to burst when you needed though would often just bounce! Not the end of the world as you don’t want poor quality ones when you need to surprise unsuspecting rivals and need to carry them a distance. These made me giggle the most too – I found my inner child again getting Shaun and H!

The Sparkly Windmill lives in H’s plants and makes it look pretty. We’ve found when it has been really windy it has blown apart but generally it has stayed together and is still going strong – it hasn’t broken (when it has blown apart we’ve rebuilt it easily).

99p Summer Challenge

Silver trays and serving bowls – ideal for barbecues and when you’re eating outside. We’ve never had any little bowls where you can put a selection of snacks, I was pleased with them as they’re the right size and clean easily.

Fish and a fishing rod – this is fun, H will spend ages trying to hook the fish onto the rod – really simple and loads of fun while also being good for her co-ordination skills. We’ve got her old toy tub and filled it with water for her to do a spot of fishing – good for those moments when she needs to have a bit of quiet(er) time too!

The biggest surprise of all were the bubbles – we didn’t think they’d be as good as they are – really big bubbles or loads of small ones with the attachment added – we spent a good hour just playing with them, after all you can’t beat trying to pop them can you?

In summary, we’ve had a lot of fun with our 99p Summer. You don’t have to spend much at all to have a good time – we were pleased with everything we bought and would highly recommend you have a look in your local store!

We made a little video of our 99p Summer fun day – we hope you like it. As you can see Shaun seems to get me the most as far as water goes, though I’d like to think I got the last laugh….

We received a £10 voucher to purchase these items, and we’ve had a lot of fun! This is our entry for the ‘My 99p Summer Competition’

Poppy Cat Partners With The Woodland Trust

Poppy Cat logo

From April 19th 2013, The Woodland Trust is teaming up with Poppy Cat, launching an outdoor campaign for pre-schoolers. On the Woodland Trust website there’ll be some special Poppy Cat Mystery Trail Adventures to download and try – we’ve had a sneak peek and there’s some great things to do, which are similar to things we already do (so that’s a good thing!) – looking for certain colours, or things while you’re out in the woods (in our case usually stones, sticks and feathers with occasional pinecones thrown in).

visit woods logo

VisitWoods.org.uk hosts information on over 11,000 UK woods that are open to the public – take a look and you’ll probably find woodland near you that you never realised existed (or that you constantly forget about – like us and the nature reserve down the road) then a car ride away is Banstead Woods, another favourite and great for wandering around. In fact, this time of year is great for bluebells.

To celebrate the launch of Poppy Cat with the Woodland Trust, Nick Jr will be broadcasting some nature-themed Poppy Cat episodes from the 18th April at 7.15pm. You can also find additional support materials at visitwoods.org.uk, nickjr.co.uk and poppycat.com – and don’t worry if you’re a bit older – there’s more age appropriate activites at the Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives initiative over at naturedetective.org.uk

Simone Ashley-Norman of the Woodland Trust says, “You are never too young to visit a wood and our partnership with Poppy Cat will enable families across the country to get outdoors this spring and make the most of our beautiful native woodlands. Visitwoods.org.uk makes finding and visiting woods as straightforward as possible, for all ages and abilities, so there’s no excuse to stay indoors!” Michael Dee, Director of Content at Coolabi the producers of Poppy Cat adds “Poppy Cat is an adventurer who is often embarking on journeys to the woods with her friends. This provides a natural link to VisitWoods and we are pleased to partner with the Woodland Trust to provide exciting content for children and families to make their everyday adventures extraordinary!”

Poppy Cat

Me personally, I’m craving getting out of the house after the wet and cold start to the year – and can’t wait to try a nature trail or two. Head over to the sites above for more information and downloads!

We were sent some a Poppy Cat goody bag for our help promoting this, all opinions are our own.