Tag Archives: Family friendly holidays

Cycling holidays with children

10 Aug

skim-3Cycling holidays needn’t involve weighty rucksacks and endless cries of “are we there yet?” Cycling with children can be so much fun. It takes the stress out of holiday traffic, will save you money and will guarantee that the children will sleep well at the end of the day.

There are holiday companies who will arrange a cycling holiday for you. They will provide bikes, maps and accommodation and will pick you up at the end of a day’s cycling to take you back to your hotel. There’s no need to break the bank though. If you are on a budget you can organise your own break using some of these tips.

Find a good base. Whether that is a tent, a cottage or a holiday park, ensure that you are in the right location for all the best bike routes. A good way to research this is to look up cycle routes and then find a base that is centrally placed. This Sustrans Book lists all the best routes along with an idea of the level of expertise required.  It will also point out good places to stop along the way, or detours that you can make to extend your day.

Plan your days out. Agree as a family on where you would like to visit, how many hours you will spend cycling etc. Do some research on your chosen cycle route. Are there cafes or playgrounds that you can visit along the way? Will you go via a beach where you can eat a picnic? Are there some lovely gift shops in the area where the children can spend some pocket money?

Know your limits. Stick within your capabilities as a family. You may yearn to go racing off on a 20 mile coast to coast but if your 3 year old is still plodding along on a balance bike then you just know that is going to end in tears.

Have the best gear that you can afford. Pannier bags are a great investment. It takes the strain off your back and means that you can load up with lunch, snacks, drinks, spare clothes, nappies, maps, more snacks.. you get the idea.

Use suitable bikes. Children and adults need bikes that are the right size for them. If you are not sure ask at your local bike shop. Your leg should be almost fully extended when your pedal is at the lowest point, otherwise you will start to feel the strain.

Balance bikes are a great first bike and we cannot recommend them highly enough. They teach your child from the off that cycling is all about balance. Stabilisers will just give a false sense of security and when you take them off they will have no idea how to balance.

For babies, the Weeride or a similar front-facing seat gives your child the best views and enables you to feel more connected to them during your ride. We also felt much safer with this frame-mounted seat as it does not affect your center of gravity and cause you to topple over.

weeridecollage

Weeride bike seat

Be prepared. Make sure that you carry with you a puncture repair kit, mobile phone and first aid kit plus enough food and drinks to fend off any child/adult meltdowns.

There are some areas which we have tried and would recommend. The Peak District is a fantastic base and my blog post from a couple of years ago has lots of information on this. I would also recommend basing yourself near The Camel Trail in Cornwall. This is a very flat, family friendly route and is great for days out to Padstow. Exeter is also a good base. This cathedral city offers everything you need for a fun day out with a huge choice of amazing restaurants. The City Museum is definitely worth a visit! From Exeter you can take the Exe Estuary Trail to Dawlish or Exmouth. A really lovely route, some of it is on quieter roads.

We’re heading to France this year and basing ourselves in Burgundy with access to many cylce routes via the Canal du Nivernais. We will let you know how we get on! Which family cycle routes would you recommend?

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Lavender Cottage, a family friendly holiday in Appledore

19 May
Lavender Cottage is the middle housse

Lavender Cottage is the middle housse

As an assessor with Approved Family Friendly, I was recently asked to visit Lavender Cottage in Appledore.  We were quite excited to visit a part of Devon that we had not previously visited.

The cottage is situated in a quiet residential street, it takes less than 5 minutes to walk down to the village and the quay. We loved wandering through the small streets (thankfully, pretty lacking in cars), exploring all the little nooks and crannies and discovering wonderful little cafes, galleries and other treats.

Although it obviously caters for tourists, Appledore has a real community feel about it. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming and it’s a very unspoilt little place.

appledore collage

Lavender Cottage is the most wonderful family home from which to explore the area. The owners have renovated the property with children in mind. They have lowered all of the door handles in the property, the original ones were far too high for children to reach. They have provided a cot and high chair and have left a list of other items which are available from the owners should anyone need them. children’s plates, cups and cutlery are also provided which makes life much easier if you have toddlers. Books, toys and DVDs are all available for children to enjoy. Both Lily and Thomas loved the whole ‘seaside’ theme throughout the house. The highlight for them had to be the little porthole window between the sitting room and kitchen!

porthole

The beds are SO comfortable. The single beds all have double duvets which makes them lovely and cosy. The double bedroom has a king size bed which I think is always a nice little luxury. The mattresses are very comfortable. when Thomas was tucked up in bed on the first evening he said “Mummy this bed is glorious” which did make me giggle. All of the beds are made up for your arrival and there are plenty of soft white towels too.

bedroom collage

 

View from the two back bedrooms

View from the two back bedrooms

 

The garden has also been designed with children in mind. As well as a lawned area, there is an ‘imagination area’ where children can make up their own games using stepping-stones and painted logs that can all be moved around to set the stage for any adventure. Lily and Thomas spent many hours playing out here and we enjoyed soaking up the sun with a glass of wine on the benches that are provided.

There is also a barbecue area and a picnic table which is separate from the play area. This will give peace of mind to anxious parents (like me) who get totally stressed when there’s a lit barbecue within 10 feet of children! Charcoal, fire lighters and matches are all provided for guests to use.

garden Collage

The owners have left lots of useful information in the cottage, including recommendations for days out, restaurants and local attractions. We discovered the wonderful Coffee Cabin in Appledore which serves freshly cooked, locally sourced food for breakfast and lunch. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop for lunch but the smoothies and cake were scrumptious!

menu

Tempting treats from the specials board

There is a passenger ferry from Appledore over to Instow which makes for a nice day out. Pack a picnic or visit one of the eating spots in Instow, you could also pick up some food from Johns Deli which has been awarded The Best Food and Drink retailer in Devon.

view collage

Appledore and Instow

We travelled a little further afield for our last day and visited the beautiful, historical fishing village of Clovelly. I remember visiting here as a child and loving it, Thomas and Lily felt exactly the same.

Lovely Clovelly

Lovely Clovelly

Lavender Cottage is a stunning, spacious property from which to explore North Devon and I would highly recommend it if you have children of any age. We can’t wait to go back for a longer visit. Check out their website for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Juliot’s Well Holiday Park

23 Aug

receptionYou may have seen my previous post about becoming an Approved Family Friendly Assessor. As my first assessment I visited Juliot’s Well in Cornwall. The park has lodges, caravans and a touring field and is in a great location for exploring the north Cornwall coast.

The park is very well set up for young children, with a nicely heated outdoor pool and lots of space for them to run around and be free.  Although the park is comprised of 33 acres, a lot of this is fields and woodland so the main accommodation area does not feel vast or sprawling and is great if you are worried about children wandering too far. The site is very safe for children to ride around on their scooters or bikes.

The park is a great base for a holiday and I understand from staff that most people tend to explore Cornwall during the day and head back to the park in the evening.

The Coach House restaurant serves excellent evening meals. The children’s menu is varied and has a good selection of ‘side orders’ although the portions are so huge it is unlikely that children would need to order more! During high season they do have entertainment on some evenings. Whilst we were there the children really enjoyed a children’s disco and Michelle who led this was really good at getting them all involved in the games.

coach house

The Coach House Restaurant

steak and chips

Best steak and chips I have ever had!

We stayed in one of their new caravans which was amazing. Definitely the nicest caravan we have had the pleasure to stay in.  The caravan had a decking area so that you could sit and enjoy a meal in the sunshine and a really nice touch was that the decking area had a lockable gate. Nice to be able to leave the children playing outside without having to worry about them wandering off.

We arrived to find the beds all made up (so nice not to have to take your own bedding) and a nice soft towel in the bathroom. It’s these little touches that make a difference I think.

From the park, there is a lovely walk down to the ancient ‘Juliot’s Well’. Many years ago this was a well-known resting place for pilgrims and is still believed to have magical powers!

There are some lovely places to visit near here. Boscastle and Tintagel are the closest but also, further afield is the Eden Project which is not to be missed if you are coming to Cornwall.

Here are some photos of our visit.

Posh caravan!

Posh caravan!

well-walk-collage

Walking to the magical Juliot’s Well

boscastle-collage

Picnic in Boscastle

The Eden Project

The Eden Project

The Eden Project

The Eden Project

My new role as an Approved Family Friendly Assessor!

20 Aug

Approved Family Friendly

Have you heard of Approved Family Friendly? It’s a new scheme which assesses holiday parks, restaurants, soft play areas, hotels and party providers to make sure they really are ‘family friendly’. Once they have been thoroughly checked out by one of the Family Friendly assessors – me included now! – they will be awarded the AFF mark, seen above. It means that these organisations and service providers really will have to live up to their claims, giving parents and families peace of mind.

You can search their website for specific services in your area and discover exactly what makes a provider family friendly. All members of AFF are independently assessed by parents/bloggers. so you know that you are getting an honest and impartial view of the provider you would like to use. Each provider has a full listing on the AFF website which includes a detailed review from the assessor plus a full list of family friendly facilities offered by each provider.

I am really passionate about this new scheme and am proud to be a part of it. I think it is going to be invaluable for parents. In order to receive accreditation, providers must prove that they provide facilities such as baby changing, equipment must be accessible and safe for children, accommodation must be appropriate and comfortable, they must be breastfeeding friendly (something I am a particular supporter of), they must meet certain health and safety standards and lots more….

I shall be doing my first assessment tomorrow and am really looking forward to it.

Have you any good recommendations for family friendly providers? Do please leave a comment below to let me know about them.

Back to school blues

15 Apr

As the Easter Holidays draw to a close, mums around the country breathe a sigh of relief as that first day back at school looms ever closer.  As much as I like to get back into a normal routine, part of me dreads the end of the holidays.  Yes, there’s no doubt it is chaos in my house at the moment.  I have hardly touched the housework in two weeks and my Green Mums work has been very neglected BUT we have had so much fun!

We haven’t been out and about every day.  I’m a firm believer that children should have time to invent their own play and my daughter is definitely a child that needs time for this.  She loves to draw whilst listening to audio books and to make up games with her little brother so there has been a fair bit of that during the holidays.

Here are a few of my favourite moments from Easter. I haven’t recorded any photos of me scoffing chocolate but I guess that would come into this category too!

Cotehele House in Cornwall

We have had National Trust membership since before we had children. We think it is great value for money and they put on some lovely activities for children during the holidays.  Of all the properties that we have visited, all over the country, Cotehele has got to be our favourite.  It has a fantastic orchard which is a great space to run around looking for wildlife. The gardens are gorgeous and very varied. With a formal terraced garden, croquet lawn and a sloping garden that meanders its way downhill there is something for everyone. You can also walk through the woods to a working mill and on certain days the children can try their hand at making bread.  During the holidays they always put in a lot of effort into children’s activities.  On the day that we were there they had a family workshop making miniature gardens.  Both Lily and Thomas loved this and got so engrossed with creating their little patch of Eden.

Two very happy children with their miniature gardens!

Enjoying the spring flowers at Cotehele in Cornwall

We went to Dorset for a few days with our parents. What a beautiful place (not quite as beautiful as Cornwall but then I’m going to say that, being a cornish lass!).  One of my favourite spots would have to be Lulworth Cove. It is such a dramatic place and yet so peaceful (despite all the crowds).  It has a surreal feel about it and it’s not like anywhere else I have ever visited.

Lulworth Cove

Another of our favourite spots in Dorset was Abbotsbury. This is a beautiful little village but it’s main appeal are the three tourist attractions located just on the outskirts. We visited two of these, The Subtropical Gardens and the Children’s Farm. There is also a Swannery but we didn’t get time to visit this one.  The Subtropical Gardens are 20 acres of  hidden paradise containing many rare and exotic plants.  Just beautiful, even in spring.  I would love to go back in the summer too.  They had an Easter Egg Hunt on when we were there which was a great way to keep those little toddler legs moving around the garden!

The Abbotsbury Children’s Farm was a big hit with the children. It is advertised as being for under 11’s and I would say they have pitched this right.  It is a small compact little farm and perfect for younger children.  Lily fell in love with a baby goat and wanted to bring him home. She still talks about him a week later…. They have two lovely play areas outside and an indoor play area for those rainy days.  Thomas loved driving the toy tractors and we all had a good bounce around on the space-hoppers.  There were even adult sized ones, so no excuse not to join in! The cafe on site serves local produce and was very family friendly and tasty too! We would definitely go here again if we return to Dorset.

A special moment for Thomas. His first time on a pony!

It’s not just the days out that I will remember though.  I want to remember the little things like lying in our fantastic den that we made whilst reading ‘ The Folk of the Faraway Tree’ and spending time in the garden looking for tadpoles and frogs followed by a picnic lunch on the lawn. We’ve enjoyed the lazy lie-ins and not having to rush off for the school-run. We’ve had time to paint, bake and make lots of mess and I wish it didn’t have to end. Bring on the summer holidays!

What have been your favourite moments of the holidays?