Famous Five Fun In The Peak District

21 Aug

This summer we had our first holiday to the Peak District.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, it’s not really somewhere I ever thought about going but after coming across the website for Dovedale Cottages at Church Farm I was desperate to visit! Little did I know what adventures we were to have…..

There are two cottages at Church Farm and both have received a gold award from Visit England. When we arrived we could instantly see why. We rented the smaller cottage which sleeps four and it was immaculate. I don’t think I have ever come across such a clean holiday property. Everything we could possibly need was provided for us and we were even greeted with home-made scones! A few essentials were also provided like tea, coffee, sugar, milk and cooking oil. The cottage is really quaint and is decorated beautifully. I loved the embroidered pictures that were hung throughout the cottage and may have to do some ebay searching to purchase a few myself!

Our cottage had a small garden with a table and chairs. Although it was not big enough for the children to run around in, this was not a problem as it was safe for them to play in the farm courtyard and they also played in one of the adjoining fields when there were no animals in it.



Church Farm Cottage


We couldn’t wait to explore the area and went for a long walk before tea. Just look at this view from the farm!

Cottage - view



binos sheep

We  walked down over these fields to Hall Dale and then on towards Dove Dale. It was a gorgeous walk, the children were super excited and ran on ahead.  Just on this first walk we discovered  three caves, a bridge over the river (perfect for playing pooh-sticks), and lots of wildlife. We spotted a Dipper, a Heron and a Sparrowhawk that evening which pleased my bird-spotting husband! From Church Farm you can walk for miles and miles. It would be easy to have a week’s holiday here without having to use your car.

The next day we walked from Church Farm to the famous stepping-stones at Dove Dale. This is around 3 miles and is a really lovely walk. As you get closer to the stepping-stones it gets much busier with tourists. There was actually a queue to go over the stepping-stones which was a surprise as on our previous walks we had hardly seen another person! We didn’t stay here long for this reason but it was a beautiful spot.

It was on this walk that we discovered some hidden treasure! We had watched an episode of Countryfile a few weeks earlier where they had featured the discovery of some Roman and early British coins in Raynards Cave. We decided to take Grandad’s metal detector and hunt for treasure ourselves! We didn’t find any treasure in this particular cave but we did find a buried treasure map!


We followed the directions on the map which led us to another cave nearer to Church Farm. It was here that our trusty metal detector discovered the buried treasure! £5 in new money! I have no idea how it got there……..??!! Lily’s words were “Mummy this is the most exciting thing that has happened, EVER!!”


It was pretty hard to beat this day of adventure but we did have lots more fun the following day on our bicycles. The Peak District is very popular with cyclists and there are some excellent cycle routes to explore. We tried The Tissington Trail, Monsal Trail and The Manifold Valley. They were all very flat and completely manageable for the children,  not once did we hear “are we there yet?”


Photo opportunity on the Tissington Trail

Photo opportunity on the Tissington Trail

The Manifold Way was our favourite route. It takes in Thors Cave which has a very steep climb up to it and can be slippery on a wet day. It is well worth the effort as it is a spectacular cave. At 260 feet above the valley, the view is amazing! There is also a disappearing river along this route, which as you can imagine was just like something out of a Famous Five adventure!

Inside Thors Cave

Inside Thors Cave




The amazing view from Thors

The amazing view from Thors

If cycling this route be sure to stop at the Hulme End Tea Rooms. This is a very friendly cafe which serves home-made lunches and cakes. It has a very good gluten-free menu too. The tea-room also sells local produce and has lots of useful information about the area which you can look at whilst enjoying a cuppa.  Also worth a visit is Wetton Mill. This is a lovely spot for a picnic by the river and a paddle with the ducks!



A short walk up the hills behind the Mill brings you to Nans Thor Cave (also known as Wetton Mill Rock Shelter). Lily and Thomas had a LOT of fun here! Many small tunnels come off a larger central cave and these are large enough for little ones to crawl through and come out the other side!

Nans cave

Short walk up to Nans Cave, with Wetton Mill in the background

Moving on to The Monsal Trail, this has a total of 6 tunnels along this route. They are pretty massive tunnels and generated a lot of excitement as we rode through them. They are well-lit but very cold!  There is also a large viaduct which you cycle over at Monsal Head. This adds extra interest to a route which, for me was less enjoyable than The Tissington and the Manifold routes. Although the route is flat it has a rough surface and the children found it quite hard going.  It was also extremely busy with both walkers and cyclists, which was a bit off-putting after the peaceful rides we had experienced on the other two trails. It does have some nice views but I felt it was lacking any real points of interest.

It is worth stopping at Hassop Station – a lovely old station building which has been converted. It now offers an excellent cafe with sun terrace, a book shop, gift shops and an outdoor adventure playground. On a sunny day this is a great spot to enjoy a glass of wine whilst watching the children climb and run around! They also do a roaring trade in take-away pizzas which seemed very popular whilst we were there.

Whilst in the Peak District we also visited Chatsworth House and Sudbury Hall. These are both excellent days out but I will review these separately as this has turned into quite a long post!

For more information on the Peak District, check out the Tourist Board website

Finally, here are a few of my favourite photos from our visit which I think reflects what a perfect family holiday we had!





Home-made ice lollies – a Center Parcs Challenge!

25 Jul

P1030565We love making our own ice lollies, so when Center Parcs challenged us to make some we jumped at the chance! There are lots of tips for making lollies here.

I had seen some great recipes just recently in The Daily Telegraph so I thought we would try the Minted Milk Lollies.

Here is the recipe we used:

30g fresh mint leaves (we used all the leaves from a plant that we bought at the supermarket)

450 ml whole milk

250 ml double cream

125g granulated sugar

To make the lollies:

Crush the mint in a bowl with the back of a wooden spoon. This will help the flavour of the mint to seep out.

In a saucepan heat the milk, cream and sugar until almost boiling.


Remove from the heat and add the mint. Leave this to cool and infuse. (We left it for about 4 hours but you might want to leave in the fridge overnight)

Strain the liquid to remove any mint and pour into your lolly containers.

Freeze and enjoy- preferably in a secret den on a hot summers day!


Check out our recipe for Blackcurrant Lollies. Great if your children won’t normally eat Blackcurrants!

‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and have visited Longleat village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how


Swell UK Pond Products – review post

16 Jul

A few months back I was contacted by Swell UK to ask if I would be interested in reviewing one of their products. This came at a good time for us, we had just been tearing our hair out trying to work out how to sort out our slimy, green pond! I was put in touch with their pond expert who gave us some excellent advice. he recommended trying one of their filters and gave us all the technical information we needed to be able to install this.


Our lovely new filter arrived the next day!


Before installing the filter we did give the pond a good clean and removed as much sludge as possible. We left the new water to settle for about a week before installing the filter and in this time the water had already started to go murky and horrid so I was unsure as to how much benefit we would really get from a filter.

Installation was easy (or so Green Daddy tells me!)  and he had it installed and running in no time. After running it for a few days we noticed there was a leak somewhere but couldn’t quite work out where. Again, we got in touch with their pond expert who quickly suggested a few things that we should try. It turned out that our own waterfall was the culprit so we fixed that and now all is running perfectly.

Look at how disgusting our pond was when we started! There were about 50 fish in there and you couldn’t see them at all.




It has been just two weeks since the pond has been running and you can see in the pictures below that it has made a HUGE difference!






The service from SwellUK was excellent. Everyone I had contact with was so helpful and professional. I love how they have experts on hand to give advice and their after-sales support is also brilliant.  Their prices are reasonable, I did a comparison of filter prices and they are about average with other sellers.  Their website is very easy to navigate and full of lots of useful information. I love their page about creating a wildlife garden.

I would definitely recommend SwellUK for pond products. They also have two other sites, Swell Reptiles and Swell Pets We are SO happy with our lovely, clear pond!



Disclaimer:  We were provided with a pond filter for purposes of review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by SWellUK.

The Big Butterfly Count!

14 Jul

BBC Poster


The Big Butterfly Count is the world’s biggest survey of butterflies and is due to take place from Saturday 19th July to Sunday 10th August 2014. Taking part in the count is fun and easy and will help conservationists monitor the state of our butterfly population. It is a great fun activity to do with the children and you can do the count in your garden, at the park, in the woods or even in a school.

You can find all the information you need from the Big Butterfly Count website. you can also download a useful ID chart from this page and log your results online. You can take part in the count as many times as you like, from as many different locations as you like. You can also check out the results so far to see which butterflies have already been spotted in your area.  There is also a handy little app which allows you to record your count on the go! You can download the iphone version here

We love getting the children involved in nature and this is a great way to teach them about different species of butterflies and about how we can help Butterfly Conservation.



Buttercups and Boomerangs

25 May



Last weekend we were tackling a big project in the garden so there was not much time for anything else. We are lucky that the children still amuse themselves well in the garden, we don’t have a lot of space for them to run around but they certainly do make the most of the space that we have. At the end of the weekend we really needed to escape from the digging and pruning and decided to head out to the woods.

P1030453 P1030461 P1030469

We happened to come across the most beautiful field of buttercups and had so much fun for a couple of hours. Luckily we had taken some Boomerangs with us that our lovely Auntie Tina brought back with her from her last visit home from Australia.  Needless to say none of us could get the Boomerang to come back! If anyone knows the art of throwing a Boomerang so that is does return, I would love to know!

Lily loved make a Buttercup necklace and the husband and I enjoyed just being able to relax and watch the children having fun. It just goes to reinforce what I have always believed. Children do not need electric gadgets and games to be able to play. All they need is the space to be free!






Finding the Boomerang was sometimes a challenge!

Finding the Boomerang was sometimes a challenge!









I am linking this post up with Country Kids over at the Coombe Mill Farm Blog. We hope to visit there one day, it looks amazing and everything my children dream of!

The great outdoors – Center Parcs Challenge

24 May

Our camera is always full of photographs and I can only hope that I will eventually get around to downloading and saving them. I really need to be more organised with this so that I can find them when I need them.  I will add it to my list of things to do!

Anyway, I wanted to share these sunny shots that I took in the beginning of May. As I sit here writing this the rain is coming down like stair rods and I have my big woolly jumper on. We certainly have some changeable weather in the UK! I am linking this post up to the Center Parcs May Challenge. Entrants can win a holiday to Center Parcs by entering this challenge. Head on over to the entry page to have a look.

Apple Blossom is always a welcome sight  after a long wet winter

Apple Blossom is always a welcome sight after a long wet winter


Talking of apples ... look at this one that we spotted at Cotehele Mill!

Talking of apples … look at this one that we spotted at Cotehele


Our Wisteria has had the best blooms ever this year.

Our Wisteria has had the best blooms ever this year.


One of my favourite flowers

One of my favourite flowers


Another favourite of mine!

Another favourite of mine!





One thing I really love about late spring is that it gives us the most amazing light. Perfect for capturing those shots that we want to keep in our minds forever. This is another picture take at Cotehele, I love the light in this one and the cheeky look on my little man’s face!

Tom Tom


‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and I visited Longleat village with my family in March. You can see my review here.  If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how http://bit.ly/1okzxJv

Butterfly Conservation – Special offer family membership

20 May
Brimstone Butterfly

Brimstone Butterfly

A few days ago I had a lovely email from Becky at Butterfly Conservation.  As a family we work hard to attract butterflies to our garden and we get quite excited when we spot an unusual Butterfly or Moth in our garden. Some months ago my husband came running into the house and excitedly bustled  us all outside to see a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. Unfortunately in my excitement, I forgot to take a photograph but here’s one I grabbed from their website.

Humming Bird Hawk Moth

Humming Bird Hawk Moth

The Butterfly Conservation website has lots of useful information on it. You can use it to identify Butterflies that you may have spotted and you can also find out how you can do your bit to encourage Butterflies into your garden. They also have a family fun page with lots of ideas for Butterfly themed activities.  A family membership with this charity is something that the whole family will enjoy. Every penny of your membership goes to helping preserve our Butterfly population. You can find more information about how your money is spent here. To get 25% off family membership, enter the code FAMILY25 at checkout. This is valid for the month of May only.

Family Membership includes:

-          A Junior magazine filled with information and activities

-          A ‘Let’s look for Butterflies’ sticker book

-          Butterfly and moth ID charts

-          A set of colouring pencils

There are lots of other benefits, check out their membership page for more information. Membership would also make a wonderful gift for someone so why not head over to their website and take a look?  They are also running a children’s competition at the moment. They would like children to design a T Shirt and the winning design will be printed onto T Shirts that will be sold in their online shop. More details are here




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