Archive by Author

Grow Wild. Please vote for Plymouth!

21 Oct

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Some of you may have heard about the Grow Wild Project already. There is £120,000 up for grabs in a round of funding made available to transform our local spaces into wildlife havens. The funding has been made available by The Big Lottery Fund and Plymouth has been shortlisted to the final five. With its ‘City to Sea’ proposal, the plans are to transform Plymouth from Armada Way to the Hoe.

If Plymouth wins the money it will really transform our local spaces. Watch the video on the Grow Wild Website to see the plans. The idea is to involve the whole community in this project, from start to finish.

  • 1000 pupils will be invited to help sow native wild flower seeds and bring the plans to life.
  • An orchard will be planted on Armada Way and passers-by will be encouraged to stop and enjoy the fruit
  • The site will play host to events that will inspire young people to enjoy nature.
  • A scarlet sea of poppies is planned for the Naval Memorial on the Hoe

 

Please, please, vote for Plymouth so that this vision can become a reality! Voting ends on 4th November and you can vote here

 

What exactly is Green Parenting?

20 Oct

free-range children

The other day I was chatting to a mum about my blog. She was intrigued as to what exactly green parenting is so I thought I would ramble on for a bit about my perspective on this.

For me, being a ‘green parent’ is a combination of being conscious of the environment and parenting in the most natural way that I can. I don’t embrace everything that is eco or natural, it is about what works for us as a family. For example, breastfeeding my children was always important to me and I managed this with both Lily and Thomas, fighting tooth and nail to overcome the pain and discomfort that I suffered in the first few weeks. However, some aspects of natural parenting just fill my with dread. We have never been a co-sleeping family and we never could be. Green daddy and I can barely function on disrupted sleep and I honestly think that we are able to be better parents because we don’t have a wriggly snoring child in our bed at night. That’s not to say I don’t agree with it, it’s just not how we do things.

What else do ‘green parents’ do?

Limit their effect on the environment. We buy second-hand when we can and pass on toys/clothes to friends so that they are not wasted. We never throw anything away unless it no longer has a use or cannot be used by someone else. We keep things until they are broken.

We teach our children about recycling We actively recycle at home but we also explain WHY we recycle. We encourage the children to think about passing on toys when they no longer want them, we talk about how compost is made and why we make it and we often up-cycle things that we have around the house. Basically, we try not to waste anything.

Eat organic food. OK, I will hold my hands up here and admit that we don’t shop for organic food. If money was no object then we would but it is simply too expensive for us at the moment. However, we do grow our own organic fruit and vegetables as much as possible. This means that we are helping the environment and also teaching our children about the benefits of growing your own food. As you can see in my previous post, you don’t need a big garden to grow a few veg!

Use cloth nappies As an ex real-nappy advisor, I can rant on about cloth nappies for ages but needless to say they will save you lots of money and you will not be sending hundreds of nappies to landfill. Cloth nappies can be used for 2 to 3 children, meaning the financial savings are huge! Disposable nappies take hundreds of years to rot down so the nappies you use for your children will still be in landfill when your children have grandchildren!

Limit screen time We don’t ban our children from watching television but we do limit what they watch and how often they watch it. Our children play so well using their imaginations that they don’t need ready-made entertainment on tap. They make up their own fun and their own games and I’m sure this is partly because this is what they have always been used to.  A recent report from Public Health England showed some worrying results:

  • higher levels of TV viewing are having a negative effect on children’s wellbeing, including lower self-worth, lower self-esteem and lower levels of self-reported happiness
  • children who spend more time on computers, watching TV and playing video games tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression

Enjoy the great outdoors We love getting out and about during our free time. As a family, we enjoy the simple and natural things in life. Whether that’s walking in the woods, cycling, beach-combing or skimming stones on the river.

To me, all of the above things make a ‘green parent’. I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few points so feel free to add any in the comments!

Enjoying lifes simple pleasures.

13 Oct

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The last few weekends we have been getting out and about enjoying the autumn colours and everything that the new season brings. Jumping on our bikes at the weekend and cycling through the woods instills a real sense of peace after a hectic week. The simple things in life are often the things that stay with you into adulthood and I certainly have happy memories of riding out on our bikes and being ‘free’. The two latest crazes in our house are…. wait for it….. stone skimming and playing conkers! Timeless fun that I still enjoy as much as an adult as I did when I was a child. I have to admit Thomas is better at skimming than me which is slightly embarrassing!

Tree climbing continues to be Lily’s favourite thing to do and I sometimes wonder if she was a monkey in a former life!

We have also been busy collecting sweet chestnuts and have devised various ways of opening them without getting seriously prickled! Thomas’ method of choice is to ‘whack them with a big stick’…..

Anyway, here are a few photos of a recent day out in the woods. I hope you have been able to get out and about to enjoy some simple pleasures too.

 

 

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Growing little gardeners

19 Sep

thomas - beetroot
The lovely weather this year has really helped to encourage our love of gardening. We have had a bountiful supply of fruit and vegetables and growing our own produce has definitely helped with the picky eater in our family!

It is great for children to be involved in gardening. It gets them out in the fresh air, helps their knowledge of science and nature and they can get a real sense of pride seeing something they have grown. Nurturing tiny seedlings into fully grown plants gives them a sense of responsibility, even from a very young age.

Here are a few tips for encouraging a love of gardening in our little ones.

1.  Let them sow their own seeds. This includes making the rows – even though they may end up a bit wonky! Let them choose which seeds they want to sow too (I sometimes struggle with this one!)

2.  Give them their own area of the garden which they can be responsible for – even if it is just their own pot, they will love being able to call it their own.

3.  Try to grow some fruit or vegetables. You don’t need a huge amount of space, you could start with growing a few strawberries or carrots in a pot. We have grown lots of vegetables for the past couple of years and they are all grown in containers.

4. Try flower pressing. Both Lily and Thomas have always loved doing this. If you don’t have a flower press just use a big thick book with some white paper between the pages. For best results, pick the flowers when they are nice and dry. They can use the pressed flowers to make cards or pictures. We love these pressed flower gifts and might need to make some more for Christmas!

5. Encourage a wildlife-friendly garden. Talk about the types of plants you have and which insects will enjoy them. Go on a bug hunt with an insect book to help with identification, or maybe even draw some of the insects that you spot.

6. Get crafty with your garden finds. Why not try these wind-chimes, acorn people or a  Cress Eating Caterpillar?

7.  Little hands need little tools so it may be worth investing in a Children’s Garden Tool Set. If they find the tools easier to handle they will be far more likely to want to use it.

We have had so much fun in the garden this summer and hopefully it will carry on well into the autumn. We are still picking bumper crops of runner beans, apples and raspberries and we are still religiously watering our sweetcorn in the hope that we will soon be enjoying a sweet, juicy crop.

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Review of the Waymarker Restaurant in Cornwall

9 Sep

building

This weekend, we had the pleasure of visiting The Waymarker near Constantine in Cornwall, in order to assess them for their listing with Approved Family Friendly. This restaurant had already been recommended by other families and I can certainly see why.

The restaurant is located on farmland in a lovely quiet, rural setting. The area around Constantine is very beautiful and a great base for a holiday. The restaurant makes the most of its location by offering a sunny terrace alongside a large wildlife pond (fully fenced off so no need to worry about any little ones falling in.)

It is just lovely to sit by the pond and watch the numerous dragonflies dipping in and out of the water. Children can safely enjoy the outside play area whilst you are waiting for your meal. Lily and Thomas made some new friends whilst playing in the little wooden house and we got to enjoy a glass of wine in peace!

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kids-outised

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On rainy days children can be just as easily entertained with the colouring, toys and games that have been provided for them inside. It is obvious that Kevin and Rhiannon genuinely welcome children and they really go that extra mile to include them. We met one family who had returned for their second visit that week. They told me that they found it quite hard to eat out somewhere that appealed to the whole family and that when they found The Waymarker they knew they were on to a winner.

Breastfeeding is very welcome in the restaurant, there are baby changing facilities and a good selection of reasonably priced children’s meals. The owner tells me that they are currently extending the children’s menu further to offer additional healthy side options. Lily and Thomas were very happy with their meal and their pudding was a real treat. They chose ice cream and it arrived so beautifully decorated. A nice change from the boring dollop of ice cream and a wafer that you usually get!

kids-pud

 

The Waymarker also offers a nature trail for families. This takes you through the farmland and is a great walk for wildlife spotting. We saw lots of butterflies, more dragonflies and some farm animals too. Just make sure you are wearing sensible walking shoes. (Unfortunately we were not!) It’s a great little route for Blackberry picking too!

blackberry

Although I was there with my ‘Family Friendly Assessor’ hat on… I couldn’t resist reviewing the food too.  Green Daddy and I are quite picky when it comes to eating out. We both consider ourselves fairly good cooks so we have high standards when eating out. In this case, we were not disappointed. The food was very, very good. We talked to the chef, who is extremely passionate about using fresh, local ingredients and this certainly pays off.

Baked Goats Cheese and Crispy Bacon Salad

Baked Goats Cheese and Crispy Bacon Salad

My starter was amazing! It was so tasty and I loved the addition of pomegranate to the salad which took it to a whole new dimension. The added bonus with my starter was that I was able to have it served on a gluten free baguette. It looked so good that I had to double-check it was gluten free!

Brie and Watercress Omelette

Brie and Watercress Omelette

My main course was a scrummy omelette, it was huge! Green Daddy chose a lovely linguine dish which he said was very tasty. It certainly looked amazing.

Crab and Scallop Linguine

Crab and Scallop Linguine

Unfortunately I scoffed my lovely pudding before taking a photo. Such a shame as it was a work of art. It was the most gooey, sticky, yummy Pavlova I have EVER tasted. I may have to make the two-hour journey to The Waymarker again just to have some more.

 

 

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.

 

Cottage

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

valley

 

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!

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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!!”

collage-treasure

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

 

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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!

Paddling

 

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!

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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.

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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!

lollies-den

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

 

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