Our family microadventure: pin the spot on the map

A few weeks ago I published a post suggesting some family microadventure ideas. One of the ideas was to randomly pin a spot on a map and then visit the location without using a car. Last week we attempted this, read on to find out how we got on.

Waiting for the (delayed) train

Waiting for the (delayed) train

My son had the job of choosing the spot to visit. Blindfold on, he marked the map with a pencil to indicate our target….a field between a couple of villages in Oxfordshire. On first viewing our destination didn’t look that exciting and my initial thought was to get my son to have another go. But that would have been cheating!

Our trip started with a train journey to the village of Cholsey. I was glad my son picked somewhere relatively near a railway station as I wasn’t sure how good the bus services would be in the area. The station was still a few miles from our intended spot so I planned a walking route to take in our destination.

Cholsey

Cholsey

Whilst checking out the area beforehand I’d found out that the crime writer, Agatha Christie, had lived locally. She is buried in the graveyard in Cholsey so we made a brief visit to her grave (after I’d spent some time explaining who she was to the kids).

I also discovered that Cholsey has lots of geocaches, including a trail of them named after Agatha Christie books. Yet despite searching for several in the village, and on the walk, we never found any. I blame the nettles!

The never ending field!

The never ending field!

We were soon heading out on the road, in this case literally, as there were no footpaths out of the village that took us where we needed to go. Fortunately the road was quiet and it wasn’t long before we reached our path.

The footpath led across a seemingly never-ending field. We walked through the golden cornfield in the heat of the day desperately wanting to reaching the other side. Eventually  we emerged with scratched legs and slightly frayed tempers on to a much nicer track. There were plenty of grasshoppers around us so we spent a few minutes catching them, and we even managed to take some photos before they jumped off.

Our destination (almost)

Our destination (almost)

At lunch we stopped for a picnic next to a stream. There were loads of dragonflies flitting by but they weren’t as obliging as the grasshoppers and zoomed off anytime I got close to them with my camera.

We reached our ‘spot on the map’ just after lunch. It was in the middle of a field on the opposite side of a deep stream and I knew we wouldn’t be able to get to the exact spot as there was no public footpath access. Instead we contented ourselves with a photo in front of the field.

In the fields around Cholsey

In the fields around Cholsey

The rest of the walk was pretty uneventful although I’m glad that a bunch of inquisitive  cattle we met were safely on the opposite side of a fence. I’m not sure how we’d have coped if we’d have had to walk through their field.

So what did we think of our microadventure? We all enjoyed the challenge of finding the spot and it meant we went somewhere that we wouldn’t really think about visiting. We’ll definitely do this type of microadventure again but I wouldn’t repeat the actual walk as it was a bit of a trudge!

Our day trip to Weston-super-Mare

A sunny day in the summer holidays; perfect weather for our annual day trip to Weston-super-Mare. Weston is a traditional bucket and spade resort, with donkeys and a pier, and we always have a fun day out.

Weston - tide is out as usual

Weston promenade

As usual, the tide was out when we arrived and we were greeted with an expanse of golden sand and mud. Nobody ever seems to mind, I think I’d be disappointed if the tide was actually in!

Crazy Hills putting

I had initially planned to take the kids to the water park but when we saw how busy it was we decided to give it a miss and head next door to the crazy golf course. We’ve played here on previous visits, and nothing has changed over the years.

There are 18 holes to conquer, some with features such as a windmill with moving sails, others with mounds or hollows in them. It’s an enjoyable way to waste an hour or so although the kids got miffed when I won, despite blatant cheating from my son.

Crazy golf course in Weston

Crazy golf course in Weston

It was a blazing hot day, and although I love the heat it was pretty tiring. Fortunately ice cream does wonders to revive hot kids so we stopped at PJ’s Ice Cream parlour on the seafront. There were loads of flavours to choose from; I enjoyed rhubarb and custard, my daughter had banoffee whilst my son had his usual favourite of vanilla!

Weston Sand Sculpture festival

We really enjoyed the sand sculpture festival on our visit to Weston last year so I had been looking forward to seeing the new exhibition. The 2014 theme is ‘Once upon a time’, which is all about stories. Over 4000 tonnes of sand have been used to create the sculptures which are made from just sand and water.

Weston-super-Mare 2014 sand sculptures

Weston-super-Mare 2014 sand sculptures

There were a wide variety of sculptures, from ‘The Hunger Games’ through to one of Aesop’s fables, ‘The lion and the mouse’. They didn’t disappoint, the detail that the sculptors had managed to carve into the sand was amazing.

This year there were more photo points where you could be photographed as part of the scene, for example, seated at the Mad Hatters tea party.

Weston-super-Mare 'Once upon a time' sand sculptures

Weston-super-Mare ‘Once upon a time’ 2014 sand sculptures

If you’re in Weston over the summer do look out for the sculptures; I definitely recommend them.

Our visit to the festival was followed by a session spent feeding 2p coins into arcade machines. Much to the kids disgust they lost all of their money but at least they learnt one of life’s lessons.

All in all, another successful day out at Weston!

More info:

  • Crazy Hills Putting in Weston costs £3 for adults, £2 for children aged 11 and under. The course is along the promenade, next to the water park.
  • The Weston sand sculpture festival costs £3.50 for adults, £2.50 for children aged 3-15. A family tickets costs £10. It’s open from 10am-5pm until 5th October 2014.

Campsite review: Henry’s campsite, Lizard, Cornwall

A few weeks ago we stayed at Henry’s campsite on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. It’s taken me a while to write up the review, but I think that just reflects the laid back and relaxed vibe of the site (for holidaymakers at least, the owners work hard).

I’m a Trip Advisor junkie and like to check out places before we visit so as usual I read up in advance of our trip. The word most often used to describe Henry’s campsite in the reviews was ‘quirky’. Now that we’ve visited I agree it is definitely the best description of the site.

Henry's campsite entrance

Henry’s campsite entrance

The campsite is located on the edge of Lizard village in Cornwall. The village isn’t much to write home about but it was handy to have the local amenities, including an excellent fish and chip shop just a short walk away. However the Lizard peninsula is a fantastic part of the country to visit and there’s lots to do in the area, including some great coastal walks straight from the campsite.

Our pitch at Henry's campsite

Our pitch at Henry’s campsite

Our pitch was great. Located on a small flat terrace it was surrounded by shrubs which offered some privacy. The campsite is full of these type of pitches; hidden amongst sub-tropical plants with flowers spouting out of walls. We had a view of the sea from our pitch and were treated to a couple of great sunsets.

Seating area, Henry's Campsite

Seating area, Henry’s Campsite

There’s lots of artistic touches around the site. I particularly liked the wooden seagulls and the bench and seats. There are sculptures hidden in little nooks and crannies and murals on the toilet buildings. There’s lots of recycling in evidence, many items appear to be made from something else.

Free wi-fi is available near the reception and shop area but I felt a little guilty using it; it’s definitely the kind of site where you should abandon all technology.

Seagull art

Seagull art

The campsite shop was legendary. Whilst it was only small it was one of the best stocked camp shops I’ve ever come across and it always seemed to be open. Even better, you could buy items individually. One marshmallow toasting stick for 4p, a peg for 10p, a slice of bacon for 40p or a single egg for 25p. Jugs of Rosie’s cider appeared to be rather popular in the evenings!

Campsite shop

Campsite shop

The campsite has plenty of animals. Newly hatched ducklings and chicks were in kept in cages up by the shop area, whilst the older ones just wandered around the site. There was a lovely affectionate dog too.

The alpaca field - and football goal

The alpaca field – and football goal

The football field is shared with the alpacas which is a little unfortunate as it meant you couldn’t just send the kids off for a football game; they had to be supervised by adults whilst in the field. It was also home to a couple of Houdini goats who managed to unhook the latch on the gate several times during our stay.

Sea view from Henry's campsite

Sea view from Henry’s campsite

There is a relaxed festival feel to the campsite. During the season they have live music at the fire pit a couple of times a week. It’s undercover which is great if the weather is dodgy. Alternatively you can hire a brazier and light your own camp fire.

The toilets and showers are split across 3 buildings; a couple of them were shack like but they were always clean. The only negative was that they were unisex toilets and showers. Call me a prude but I don’t want to share bathrooms with the opposite sex. If a lady is hogging a washbasin you can jump in to wash your hands quickly, but when it’s a man having a very long wet shave it’s a bit more tricky!

Despite the toilets it’s a great campsite and, whilst it’s not for everyone, I’d happily recommend it to friends who would appreciate its quirky side.

More info:

  • We paid £31 per night for our tent, 2 adults and 2 children. One minor gripe was having to pay an additional 20p for a 2 minute shower. I’d prefer the cost of showers to be included, so much easier than scrabbling around for 20p pieces.
  • Further details available on Henry’s campsite website.

Family days out in the 2014 summer holidays

Need ideas for a family day out over the summer holiday? Look no further as this bumper post contains a suggestion for every day of the English school summer holiday. Whatever your budget or interest, I hope you’ll find something of use in the list below:

summer

Saturday 19 July

Big nature count at the Nature Discovery centre in Thatcham, Berkshire. How many species can you spot? Tree walks, pond dipping, dragonfly walks, butterfly spotting; booking advisable. Free event.

Sunday 20 July

Festival of history at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire. Historical re-enactment on a huge scale! Two thousand performers taking part in recreations of battles, jousting and family shows. Family ticket £61 per day (£35 for English Heritage members).

Monday 21 July

Become a nature explorer at Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire. There’s a different theme every week of the summer holidays, activities may include pond dipping, moth trapping or a mini beast hunt. Family entrance charge £34.50 covers cost of activities.

Tuesday 22 July

Improve your biking skills at Brockhole, Lake District Visitor Centre near Windermere. Free event, bikes and helmets provided.

Wednesday 23 July

Seaside science at the Scottish seabird centre, North Berwick. Learn survival skills on the beach or take part in an environmental art workshop. Family entrance charge of £25 covers cost of activities, free to members.

Thursday 24 July

Time Travellers at the Museum of Liverpool. Archaeology arts and crafts, free drop in event. For more things to do with kids in Liverpool read our blog post here.

Friday 25 July

Roll up for the Big Cheese Festival in Caerphilly. Street entertainers, fire eating, music, fireworks and the Great Cheese race! Free event.

Saturday 26 July

CBeebies Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Music and presenters from CBeebies programmes. Tickets £6-12 plus booking fee.

Sunday 27 July

St Andrews Highland Games. Caber tossing, tug of war and highland dancing. £6 adults, £4 concessions.

Monday 28 July

Bournemouth carnival week starts today. The programme kicks off with a sand building competition, treasure hunt and a duck race. The glamorous granny competition takes place later in the week! Small charge for some events.

Tuesday 29 July

CSI Classics: become a detective and uncover the culprit at the University Museum of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge. Free event, booking essential.

Wednesday 30 July

Dangerous Science of Mining show at Snibston Discovery Centre in Leicester. Interactive family show covering the interaction between science and mining. Family ticket £24.25

Thursday 31 July

Culdrose Air Day, Cornwall. Visit a working military Naval Air Station, includes ground and aerobatic displays. Family ticket £35 in advance.

Friday 1 August

Have a go day at Crawfordsburn Country Park at Helen’s Bay, County Down. Try out new activities from mountain boarding to zip wires. There is a charge for some activities, pre-booking required.

Saturday 2 August

Vikings Attack at Lindisfarne Priory, Northumberland. Explore a Viking encampment and witness a deadly battle. Adults £6.50, child £4.50. English Heritage members free.

Sunday 3 August

Saving nature day at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, near Stowmarket. Meet rescued hedgehogs and find out about badgers, bees and bats. Family ticket £25, 50% discount for local residents.

Monday 4 August

Marvellous Marine Day at Reculver Visitor Centre near Herne Bay, Kent. Go rock pooling and take part in other marine activities. Suggested donation of £1.

Tuesday 5 August

Robin Hood Festival at Sherwood Forest Country a Park in Nottinghamshire. Costumed characters, woodland walks, craft stalls and activities. Free event, £5 car parking charge.

Wednesday 6 August

Wild Wood Wednesdays. Make boggarts and clay faces at Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire. Free event.

Thursday 7 August

The first day of the Bristol balloon festival. An evening display of balloons lighting up in time to music, followed by fireworks. Free event, charge for car parking. Ascent is weather dependent.

Friday 8 August

Watch a fireworks display, the Red Arrows and a RAF Typhoon to celebrate Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight. This is, of course, in addition to all of the sailing! Free event.

Saturday 9 August

Archaeology open day at Silchester Roman Town, Berkshire. Tours, talks and children’s activities at the excavation site. Free event.

Sunday 10 August

Flying displays at Blackpool Airshow. See the Red Arrows, Falcons, Typhoon and many more at this free event. How busy are the Red Arrows this summer?!

Monday 11 August

WW1 discovery day at the Staffordshire Regiment Museum near Lichfield, Staffs. Tour the trenches and find out what life was like for soldiers in the Great War. Adults £4, children £3, pre-booking essential.

Tuesday 12 August

For children that like big bangs and can stay up late, there’s the British Fireworks Championship in Plymouth, Devon. Funfair and entertainment on the Hoe from early evening. Free event.

Wednesday 13 August

Make your own plaster scarab beetle at the Ashmoleum Museum, Oxford. Free event, connected to the Discovering Tutankhamun exhibition. Exhibition runs from 24 July-2 November, £10 for adults, children under 12 free.

Thursday 14 August

Kite making workshop at Birling Gap, East Sussex. Fly your creation on the Downs afterwards. Children £3.

Friday 15 August

Nature night walk at Godolphin garden and estate near Helston, Cornwall. Meet nocturnal residents, including bats and owls. Adult £4, child £2, booking essential.

Saturday 16 August

World pipe band championships in Glasgow. Listen to thousands of pipers from >150 bands. Also includes Highland dancing and Highland games. Advance family ticket (online) £27.

Sunday 17 August

Roman weekend at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. Throw a pot, watch a falconry display and find out what it was like to be a metalworker. You can even get your hair done Roman style! Garden admission charges apply, National Trust members free.

Monday 18 August

Science at South Foreland Lighthouse near Dover, Kent. Learn about light, colour and the moving image. Family ticket £12.50 admission charge (free to NT members) plus £5 per science kit.

Tuesday 19 August

Celebrate Augustus the Roman Emperor at the National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon, Gwent. Wear a toga, make a head wreath or Roman coin. Free event, drop in.

Wednesday 20 August

Make a miniature Japanese zen garden at the Oriental Museum in Durham. Family ticket £3.50.

Thursday 21 August

Find out about herbal medicine at Chelsea Physic Garden, London. Make your own ointments and syrups. Pre-booking required, adult ticket £11.90, child ticket (age 12+) £8.60.

Friday 22 August

Victorian Delights at Wrest Castle in Bedfordshire. Meet Queen Victoria and discover Victorian inventions and toys. Family ticket £23 (free to English Heritage members) plus £1 per activity.

Saturday 23 August

Sand sculpting at Millisle, County Down. Get tips from an expert and learn how to create sand sculptures and castles. Free event.

Sunday 24 August

Grasmere sports festival in Cumbria. Includes tug of war, wrestling, fell racing and a dog show. Advance family ticket (online) £20.

Monday 25 August

Big Bang at Royal Gunpowder Mills near Waltham Abbey, Essex. Rocket launching and explosions, bigger and better than the usual experiments! Family admission ticket £30.60.

Tuesday 26 August

Family stroll from the Lulworth Visitor Centre in Dorset. Learn all about the geology, ecology and ancient history of the area. £1 adult, 50p children.

Wednesday 27 August

Twilight bat walk around St Fagans Natural History Museum in Cardiff. £4 per person, booking essential.

Thursday 28 August

Pond dipping at Holkham, Norfolk. Find out what’s in the water at Holkham lake.  £2.50 per child.

Friday 29 August

Falmouth Tall Ships regatta. Visit the sailing ships in dock before they start their race on Sunday. Free event.

Saturday 30 August

National Paralympic Day at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. Watch wheelchair basketball, swimming, boccia and goal ball. Tickets for events £5 each, lots of free entertainment throughout the park. Click here to read about our recent visit to the Park.

Sunday 31 August

Bunkfest, family festival in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. Folk music, dancing and a beer festival for the adults. Most events are free (charge for camping, boat trips and workshops).

Important:

Some events run across more than one day. Information is correct at time of publication but please reconfirm all details, particularly timing and booking requirements, before you visit.

I hope you’ve found something of interest. You can also check out my microadventures for families post which has lots of suggestions for local adventures.