Tag Archives: days out

Mini Cycling Adventures

A month ago we spent our Saturday afternoon in what can only be described as a most unusual way for our particular family. It had all actually started a few days before, when Mike’s bike had developed a persistent flat tire that no amount of minor repair work was going to fix and he finally decided to take it to our local Halfords store for a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, the prognosis wasn’t good and sadly Mike had to come to terms with the terminal diagnosis that his bike just wasn’t going to make it and it was time to think of finding a suitable replacement. Not only did Mike need to urgently replace a crucial part of his daily commute, but my Mum had also been reminding me that I needed to actively do something to buy myself the bike that she has bought me as a birthday present for 2 years in a row, and so we headed back to Halfords to see what we could find.

If I was to say that G and M were not too enthused by the prospect of an afternoon investigating potential bike purchases for Mum and Dad, it would absolutely not be an exaggeration, but they really didn’t have much of a choice and so they begrudgingly came along, grumbling all the way. When we first arrived at the shop, it seemed fortuitous that they were having a end-of-season sale, but I really should have realised that being April Fool’s Day, the joke would ultimately be on us. Mike had already done some investigating into some options for me and I swiftly settled on a purple Apollo Elyse that would be everything I needed for future family cycling adventures.

And then the fun started. Whilst Mike explored the 2 floors to see what choices he had, both children took matters into their own hands and found bikes that would suit them too. We had been briefly discussing the fact that both G and M were starting to outgrow the bikes they had at home and the unquestionable allure of some great deals in their end-of-season sales plus a further negotiated discount because we were buying 4 bikes, instead of the anticipated 2, meant an attractive offer that we just couldn’t turn down.

It took a couple of weeks to pick up the bikes as they had to be ordered, delivered and serviced before we could finally take them home. Mike’s bike was pressed into instant service and the children were keen to get theirs out for a test run as soon as was humanly possible, so the Easter holidays came at the perfect time to allow them out on some mini adventures with Mike. However, I hadn’t had the same opportunity until last weekend dawned with the most glorious weather and with no homework left to do for either child. We decided to head out in a different direction than the ones they had been in before and cycled along the country lanes winding through the farm land and fields that surround our house. We cycled to the next village and back, not a huge distance by any stretch of the imagination, but a 5 mile introduction to what promises to be some great family adventures for 2017.

Advertisements

Merlin’s Magic Wand

Most of you will know the company Merlin Entertainments, who own and run attractions around the UK such as Alton Towers, the London Eye, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds, to name but a few; but how many are aware of their linked charity, Merlin’s Magic Wand? It’s certainly not an organisation I’d ever heard of and knew nothing about until the start of 2015. This charitable organisation was set up in 2008 by Merlin Entertainments to “…deliver magical experiences to seriously ill, disabled and disadvantaged children across the world…” and focus their work in 2 main areas:

  • Magical Days Out at Merlin attractions – over 170, 000 children and their families have been able to enjoy a memorable day out through the provision of entrance tickets and, where necessary, travel grants
  • Taking the Magic to the children – recognising that some children are unable to visit due to the nature of their illnesses or disabilities, Merlin has provided areas such as a “Fantastical Castle play area” in the CHASE Hospice, Guildford and a “Legoland play area” at the Kolding Sygehus Children’s Hospital in Billund, Denmark.

At the start of this year, not long after we’d arrived back home following M’s stay in GOSH for his NG-tube and elemental diet, I heard about Merlin’s Magic Wand and decided to investigate a little further. I wasn’t confident whether M would even be eligible for tickets or not, but thanks to their incredibly informative and easy to navigate website, 20150831_073635I decided to give it a go, working on the principle of nothing ventured, nothing gained. Both children are massive fans of Legoland Windsor and had been clamouring for a visit this year, so I selected that as our number 1 choice and, without saying a word to either of them, sent back the form and sat back to wait and see.

Within a couple of weeks of submitting my application form on-line, I had an e-mail to tell me we had been successful and that 4 entrance tickets would soon be winging their way to me. Unfortunately, a slight delay in their arrival meant we couldn’t use them for our Star Wars trip on May 4th, but the problems were soon resolved, the tickets arrived and I pinned them to our kitchen noticeboard, waiting for the right time to put them to good use. A busy summer has meant that finding that right time to go proved more challenging than we expected and we finally settled on the August bank holiday Monday as something of a “last hurrah” for our summer holidays and before G started her new venture of secondary school.

We set off early on that Monday morning, driving through the pouring rain, confident that, if nothing else, the park would not be too busy, or, at least, not as busy as it might have been if there’d been glorious sunshine. Our travels to Florida last year alerted us to the existence of ride access passes and we were delighted that the same exist at Legoland Windsor. Armed with a letter from our GP confirming the reasons we needed this pass, we headed to guest services as soon as we entered the park. 20150831_114557This is a “benefit” that has obviously been subject to some abuse over the years and Legoland Windsor has stringent checks in place to ensure that only those who genuinely need this assistance receive it.

Our day there was as fantastic as ever and we enjoyed all of our favourite rides (some of them twice!) as well as trying out the brand new Mia’s Riding Adventure, one that G was desperate to go on. This isn’t one for the faint-hearted and there was a slightly panicked moment when we discovered that M’s body-weight wasn’t quite enough to keep the seat back in a comfortable, but secure position for him ride. With some excellent help from the staff manning the ride, we managed to get M settled in a position that allowed him to breathe before the ride started and the screams from my excited duo began. 20150831_100610Mike watched from the sidelines as he and spinning rides really don’t get along and waved merrily to us, slightly misconstruing my attempts to flag a staff member down to help as an unusual display of my own excitement about the ride.

Disappointingly we are no longer able to eat on-site as we’ve found that the cross-contamination is too much for M’s sensitive digestive system to cope with and instead we enjoyed a rather soggy packed lunch, whilst watching both shows – the Pirates of Skeleton Bay and Lego Friends to the Rescue. The children were also able to be part of the audience volunteers at the start of each show, which they loved and which has become an integral part of any day we spend at Legoland Windsor. All in all, we had an amazing day out thanks to the generosity of Merlin’s Magic Wand. The charity depends on donations to help make these tickets available to those children who benefit from them and if you want to find out more about how you can help or show support, please visit their website:

merlin

Cornish treasure

Of course, despite rumours suggesting otherwise, our week in Cornwall did not purely revolve around places to eat and we had an amazing time exploring many of the beautiful nooks and crannies the county has to offer. This wasn’t a week for sitting on a beach relaxing as instead we crammed as many day trips in as we possibly could and spent a lot of time making some marvellous, magical memories. Just as I gave you a quick taster of the many restaurants we were lucky enough to enjoy, here is my overview of some of the best places we visited and the adventures we had during our stay:

Fowey River Trips – having arrived in Fowey in time for lunch and enjoying a great meal at the Galleon Inn overlooking the river, 20150822_144741M begged for us to take a boat trip from Fowey harbour, which sailed us past such treasures as Daphne DuMaurier’s house before heading back towards the mouth of the estuary. It was a wonderful way to see a little of the area we were visiting before our week really started and we were able to enjoy the last races of the Fowey Royal Regatta from the water too. Both M and G enjoyed the trip, which was an amazing first as M usually needs coaxing onto anything smaller than a transatlantic cruise liner! They were quick and eager to ask questions of the skipper and we were lucky enough to share the boat with some locals, who were happy and keen to explain more about what we were seeing as well as pointing out many of the birds to be spotted along the river’s edge.

Eden Project – this was M’s choice for a day out and despite our disappointment at the food offerings available and the inevitable rainy start, all in all we had a wonderful day. This wasn’t our first trip to the Project and it was fascinating to see how the environment had developed since the last time 5 years ago. The children loved spotting the different plants they knew in the biomes and M took particular pleasure in b20150824_171621eing photographed next to the rice. This summer, the Eden Project was also home to the Dinosaur Uproar, which meant there was lots for G and M to do whilst we were there. They enjoyed the puppetry displays, though both were a little nervous of the giant dragonflies when they first took flight nearby! Sadly, the wait to climb up to the Nest platform for a bird’s-eye view of the Rainforest biome was just too long for us to endure, but we did enjoy the Rainforest canopy walkway, which gave us a taste of what you could see from the very top and at least it leaves us with a good reason to go back and visit another time.

St Ives – G’s pick for the holiday was to visit an art gallery and what better place to go than the Tate St Ives? Thanks to a top tip from my ever-trusty hairdresser, I was also keen to take a peek at the fascinating sculptures at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and thought it might provoke some interest in both G and M too. We parked at the fantastic Lelant Saltings park and ride to travel into St Ives via train and not bus as we’re more used to doing in our home town. The Tate St Ives had organised a children’s art trail between the Barbara Hepworth house and the Tate itself, which asked them to identify 12 pieces of art from the partial images given and note down the artist, the name of the artwork and where they had spotted it. Two pieces were taken from the route between the two sites and provided a great opportunity to explore the art on display at each. Having found 11 of the 12 works, we stopped for G and M to take part in the creative workshop, which asked them to create sea-themed art of their own in clay.

20150825_133355 20150825_133547

We must have spent a good hour there as their creative juices flowed and they created stories behind what they had made to share with the volunteers running the workshop. G recreated her pinch-pot “werefish” she had first made during the first week of the summer holidays and M gave his interpretation of a sea serpent – “…but it’s not Nessie Mummy…” I’m still not convinced I’m a fan of modern art – give me the National Gallery any day – but it was a great way for the kids to access it and start to develop their own opinions.

St Michael’s Mount – in what now feels like a lifetime ago, I sang with my cathedral choir at the awe-inspiring St Michael’s Mount and have fond, though somewhat vague memories of that whole trip. It is a place that none of the rest of the family had been to and so was the perfect place to go back and visit whilst in the area, so to speak. 20150828_113744M was fascinated by the nature of the local tides, which means that the Mount is accessible by foot for part of the day and by boat for the rest of it and was desperate to experience both – a wish that was easy to fulfil. We arrived at the Marazion car-park fairly early and were thrilled to be able to walk across the sands and then the causeway to the Mount. The children were curious about how the tides would cause the walkway to disappear later in the day and keen to see it happen.

We started our visit at the Castle, having spotted the Giant’s heart stone on our way up the steep and rocky path. The views from the top were amazing and we discussed how difficult it would have been for anyone to successfully scale the rocks to attack. Inside the castle itself, G and M decided to attempt the quiz and were interested in talking to the numerous guides dotted around the rooms to find out more about what we could see on display. M was particularly taken by the story of the 7-foot man banished from the mainland, who took refuge with the monks and is now convinced that 20150828_131826he is the “truth” behind the story of the giant, which we later heard told by the storyteller in the grounds. Before we headed back down to the beautiful gardens, we watched from the top as the waters began to cover the walkway and commented on those brave few who were still venturing across by foot. G and M could easily have spent hours exploring the gardens surrounding the castle as they clambered up and down the winding, narrow pathways and stairs that led to nowhere. The WWII pill boxes that surrounded the coastline also captured their attention and our day there turned into an unexpectedly educational trip! We returned back to the mainland by boat at the end of the day, tired out, but delighted by our decision to visit.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan – our final day in Cornwall was spent exploring the Lost Gardens of Heligan, uncharted territory for us all and Mike’s fine choice for our adventures. I found the history and story behind the Heligan gardens really interesting and you can read more about it here. Yet again, we were thrilled to find a whole host of children’s activities available and started with the sculpture trail that led us past the stunning20150829_124054 Giant’s Head, the sleeping Mud Maiden and the ghostly Grey Lady. Pausing briefly for lunch, G and M then enjoyed time in the hammocks that had been strung between the trees before coaxing Mike and I into helping them build a den in the woods from the vast supplies available to use. They were understandably proud of the den they designed and worked on together and were disappointed to have to take it apart before we headed on to the next section.

Having dismantled and returned the building equipment, and having even enjoyed a toasted marshmallow or two courtesy of M, we wound our way through the “jungle” towards the Burma rope bridge. I wasn’t quite brave enough to stop halfway across to take photos of my intrepid duo who were following close in my footsteps as I was too worried about dropping my faithful tablet into the depths below, but was impressed that neither child was phased about crossing the jungle floor which was a 100 feet beneath them! We finished our day by the Steward’s house, enjoying the rope swing and traditional garden games that were on offer.

As you can tell, we had the most amazing week away from home, experiencing just some of the Cornish treasures that are on offer. In M’s words, “…it was almost as good as Portugal…” and he’s already clamouring for a return visit next year.

Countdown to Cornwall

This time last year I had holiday-planned to within an inch of my life and had experienced amazing support from the folks at Virgin Atlantic. We had arrived at Disneyworld Florida, were impressed by the positive approach to M’s restricted diet shown by all and were loving our days in the sun. It really was a trip of a lifetime and we’ve all been reminiscing a lot about where we were and what we were doing this time last year.

Our plans this year have been much less grandiose and much closer to home. When we first started thinking about our summer holiday plans back in November, all we knew was that M was going to be going elemental sometime soon and would have a NG-tube in place. We didn’t know if it would still be there by the time this summer rolled around and had no idea what he’d be able to eat or how we’d all be coping with the change. We toyed with the idea of a holiday in Portugal, a favourite destination of us all, but just weren’t sure how confident we would be if we needed to travel abroad with a tube in place.  20150812_172857Of course, with the benefit of hindsight and nearly 9 months experience, I am sure we would have coped just fine, but the uncertainty of all we’d be dealing with meant that instead we opted for staying in the UK and so we are now on our countdown to Cornwall.

Our front hallway currently resembles a storage facility as I pull out ready for packing, not just clothes and beach essentials, but safe food supplies for both G and M and, of course, everything we’ll need for M’s tube feeds. We have each chosen a day-trip we’d like to do whilst we’re there as well as researching the beaches surrounding Fowey, our base for the week. Mike has spent time looking at various “wet-weather” options as there’s no guarantee of sun in the UK, even in August, and we have been able to pencil in a day with G’s godmother, Godmama C and her lovely family as they will be holidaying there too. We might be staying in a self-catering apartment, but we’re also hoping to venture out to eat and my time has been spent trawling the internet looking for allergy-friendly restaurants and emailing to find out whether they will be able to accommodate M’s current food needs. cornwall-mapThe great news is that a couple have already replied to tell me that they are up for the challenge and I can’t wait to try them out and share our reviews of just how well they did for both M and G with you all. Even better, thanks to timely posts from fellow bloggers such as The Intolerant Gourmand and dedicated websites like Can I eat there?, I’ve been given some great top tips for making this a holiday to remember.

 

The Dr Who Experience

20150725_094348The same weekend we dipped our toes into the Wagamama dining experience, we also visited the Dr Who Experience in Cardiff. This was a trip that has been a long time in the planning and which was the result of M winning the Grand Prize at the Big Bang Science Fair that we attended at the NEC earlier this year. There has been a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing to settle on a date that suited all involved, but finally the day arrived and the whole family, plus one extra excited 9 year-old, started on our way. We arrived at Cardiff Bay bright and early and meandered our way in the glorious Welsh sunshine towards the purpose-built centre, following an eager M, his friend N and a slightly less certain G.

 

Our visit started with the interactive tour, which led us on an intergalactic adventure to help 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, save the universe. It starts in the Gallifrey Museum and weaves it way through various unmistakeable Dr Who locations before reaching its thrilling conclusion. DWS8LondonCapaldiPix2.jpgDespite the initial reluctance of both M and G, neither of whom are fond of loud noises, darkened rooms or unexpected surprises, we made our way through unscathed and N, a much more avid Dr Who fan than M will likely ever be, eagerly took up the challenges we faced. The experience asks that no photos or filming is done during the interactive tour to ensure there are no spoilers out there for future visitors and we were more than happy to oblige.

Adventure completed, we headed into the exhibition hall, which is a veritable feast for any die-hard Whovian who is lucky enough to visit. I could quite happily have spent a couple of hours perusing the costumes, props and other pieces of memorabilia from the past 50 years of this cult TV classic. I was thrilled to see an original Dalek and various incarnations of the Cybermen, the best-loved classic enemies of the Doctor, placed sympathetically amongst their more modern counterparts. There was a fantastic array of costumes featuring not just those of each of the 13 Doctors seen on our screens, but also a selection from some of their ever-faithful companions. Awaiting discovery around every corner were unimaginable treasures including K9, multiple sonic screwdrivers and the iconic Time And Relative Dimension In Space (better known as the TARDIS to you and me) – both inside and out. We spent a happy hour or so exploring all that was on offer, everyone enjoyed the visit and I think I possibly proved myself to be the biggest Dr Who geek of the family!

A Grand Day Out

granddayoutIf you’re a sports fan, then last weekend was the weekend for you:  Wimbledon finals, the Tour de France in Yorkshire, World Cup quarter-finals and the Formula 1 British Grand Prix.  Under normal circumstances, I’d be trying to grab glimpses of the tennis whilst dealing with the never-ending demands of homework and food, admist the cries of “Do we have to watch the tennis?” from G and M.  This year however, saw a break from the norm and instead Saturday found me browsing the shelves of Milton Keynes’ library on my own as Mike and the children spent the day at Silverstone.

20140705_164656This amazing opportunity to watch the qualifying races for the British Grand Prix was thanks to the GOSH events and charity team, who work with Bernie Ecclestone and his team at Silverstone to fundraise for the hospital.  They have been working together to raise much needed money for 10 years, raising a whopping £4million for the hospital.  Each year they offer 30 GOSH patients and their families the chance to visit the race track over the 3 days of the Grand Prix event.

I first heard about the event on Twitter, where 140 characters offered parents and family of GOSH patients the opportunity to contact the charity’s office and apply for tickets for the event.  I wasn’t convinced we’d get the tickets given there must be hundreds of children who’d love to attend, but I came to the conclusion that there was nothing to be lost in making the application.  I filled the form in, contacted M’s gastro team to ask for an email supporting our request and confirming that he was fit and well enough to attend the day and emailed the completed form back in with my fingers tightly crossed.  I hoped we might have a good chance as M said he wanted to go on the Saturday as 1) he wouldn’t miss school on the Friday and 2) he didn’t want to go on race day itself as we weren’t sure whether there’d be as much to do during the day.

20140705_161022

20140705_105949We didn’t have long to wait and were delighted when Mike got the phone-call to say the application had been successful and 3 tickets for the Saturday were ours.  M was very excited to be going and the opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time for him as he’s been struggling with some big flare-ups from the EGID recently as well as the introduction of 3 new medicines to his daily regime, which has been challenging for us all.  The day had become a real focus for him and he was determined to have a great time there.  It was also fantastic to be able to include G in the day out as she rarely benefits from M’s illness and is frequently relegated to second place as we try to deal with him.  She was as excited as the boys and I hoped she would enjoy herself as much as I knew Mike would!

20140705_112530So, whilst my lucky trio spent their day meeting the likes of Eddie Jordan, exploring the Paddocks and the garages, polishing a F1 car and experiencing everything that Silverstone had to offer, I spent a quiet day on my own in Milton Keynes.  I explored the shops, enjoyed lunch at John Lewis and spent a few idyllic hours peacefully writing my blog and reading in the library.  The children have hardly stopped for breath since Saturday, telling me tale after tale about their grand day out and it’s all thanks to the hard work and generosity of those at both Silverstone and GOSH.

20140705_113143

 

A Quintessentially English MayDay Holiday

Picture, if you will, the scene:

Glorious sunshine in a brilliant blue sky with the merest wisps of cloud floating overhead; the gentle strains of traditional music playing in the background; and the company of good friends, all set against the idyllic backdrop of an English stately home nestling in the quiet beauty of the Cotswolds.  What better way to spend the May Day bank holiday than this?

20140505_133421

And, in all truth, the reality didn’t differ too much from this perfect setting.  So, we might have experienced some moments of bitter winds interchanged with the glorious sunshine and the sky might have more frequently been grey than blue.  It’s also true that the music may have been drowned out on occasion by the non-stop giggling and high-pitched squeals of my terrible two and their companions; but the day was fantastic.

20140505_114627We celebrated May Day in a traditional Victorian manner at the amazingly beautiful Sudeley Castle and it encompassed everything your quintessential English May Day should; after all, where else in the world could you combine Morris dancing, chimney sweeps, Punch & Judy, Penny Farthings, Maypole dancing and cups of tea in such a seamless way?  We spent the day visiting with G’s wonderful godmother, C and her fantastic family and enjoying everything Sudeley had to offer.

 

20140505_113720

 

Who knew that M would prove to be quite so adept at dancing round the Maypole, astounding and delighting the Morris dancers, who couldn’t quite believe he’d never done it before: and we couldn’t have picked a better place to visit for G, who was enthralled with the Tudor history as it’s her topic for the term.

We enjoyed a peaceful and amazing day discovering this hidden treasure and wouldn’t hesitate to make a return visit when we’re next in the area.