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Posts Tagged ‘days out’

This Easter weekend we took the plunge and did something we have thought about for a while but never quite got around to – we joined the National Trust.

Our membership began at a visit to the very lovely Quarry Bank Mill – if you’ve not been there before I very much recommend that you do go, it was a fascinating old mill with the most gorgeous gardens.

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So, how much is it for a family to join the National Trust? When we went to pay it was either pay £33.75 to look around two of the three options (Mill, Gardens or Apprentice House), or sign up to an £8-odd per month Direct Debit and get unlimited access to all the National Trust’s attractions right across the country. No brainer! Even better, we signed up and they gave us back the £5 we’d spent on car parking that day, so we actually felt like we we’re in profit for that day 🙂

The Mill itself was brilliant, to be honest I’ve always thought mills were a bit on the dull side, and I’ve never really understood what the machinery you see in them does or did. But on our way around Quarry Bank Mill we were lucky enough to join in with a talk by a lady in authentic costume, showing us how they made cotton from the days of the spinning wheel right through to the bigger looms such as the Spinning Jenny.

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We’ve always been a bit put off by tours and talks – when you’ve got three young children it just adds to the complication of having to keep them quiet and stop them running off etc. But actually our three girls (now 7, 4, and 3) were really captivated by the lady giving the talk and were happy to sit and watch her whole demonstration. We all came away from it with a much better understanding of the process of making cotton and the kind of work and machinery that was commonplace in those mills. It really wasn’t boring or dull! As we live in an area that was once dominated by cotton mills it felt good to have a better understanding of what it was. And Lilly (7) was particularly interested in the fact that girls were usually expected to start working in the mills at the age of 9… she didn’t much fancy that I don’t think!

Another particularly good part about Quarry Bank Mill was seeing the watermill itself. But before you actually see it, there are lots of interactive things to try out which really explain to children (and adults) about how waterwheels work in a way that is interesting and easy to understand. The one I was most impressed with was a recreation of how the water feeds into that particular mill and what happens when you open and shut the locks to either feed water through the wheel or not. The girls found that really interesting and when we went outside and saw the weir and the channels the water takes it all made sense because we had seen it inside the mill.

After a lovely picnic by the river, we were able to take part in a Cadbury’s Easter Egg Hunt round the lower gardens (also included for free now that we were members). The gardens are breathtakingly beautiful and because they are on a steep hill they are pretty unusual too.

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All in all we had a really great day and we are now all very excited about making the most of our National Trust membership with lots more lovely family days out like this one. We are often trying to think of ideas for family days out, and especially now with spring here and summer on the way it’s good to have lots of places to go all lined up inside the pages of our National Trust handbook!

So, is it worth joining the National Trust? If you are looking for cheap family days out in the UK, for £8 a month I think the National Trust is a pretty good bargain!

 

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A couple of weekends ago, we discovered a little gem not too far from where we live, that we’ve always known about but never visited before.

The Catalyst Museum in Widnes describes itself as “an interactive science centre and museum devoted to chemistry and how the products of chemistry are used in every day life.” If I’m honest, I’ve always thought it sounded a) a bit boring and b) the kind of place much older children might go on a school trip.

We went because we were short on inspiration for a day out, and hubby had heard somebody on the radio talking about how it was really good, and it was “always empty” (a huge winner in hubby’s book as he hates crowded places!)

So off we went. And we were very pleasantly surprised. It was very empty. There were probably another six visitors there the whole duration of our visit. And with six members of staff standing around the reception desk, we did wonder how on earth the place is still open… but that’s another thing…

The ground floor of the museum is full of hands-on fun science experiments that the kids can do – and they have something for all ages, from crawling upwards. Me and Tony enjoyed having a go at lots of them! Favourites were shining lights onto planes with solar panels to make them fly, creating big bubbles in a tube of liquid, and putting Lilly’s cuddly cat under a microscope!

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It reminded me of somewhere like Underwater Street in Liverpool – which is like soft play without the soft – imaginative play but this time with science thrown in for good measure.

You then go upstairs in a glass lift to an observatory which gives you fantastic views out across the Runcorn Bridge and the River Mersey. Since we’ve recently been reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator with Lilly that was an extra thrill!

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Outside there is a great playground which the girls all really enjoyed (the experience only slightly spoiled by some pretty rough big kids hanging about with some choice language being exchanged at times).

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But overall a great little find, I’m sure we’ll be back again – and highly recommended to other people with younger kids in the area.

 

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We’re not going on holiday this summer – but I have booked plenty of days off work so that we can have some lovely days out.

We started last week with three great days in the scorching weather that we’ve enjoyed for the last few weeks.

On Saturday, Tony had to work, so it was just me and the girls. After carefully considering how ambitious I could be while flying solo in charge of all three, I decided to take them to Walton Hall Gardens in Warrington.

It’s great there – they have a huge playground with equipment suitable for all ages, lovely gardens with plenty of spots for picnics, a pond full of huge fish, a free children’s zoo with rabbits, birds, donkeys, pigs, goats etc. There’s a land train, and, in the holidays, there are trampolines, bouncy slides, and a pottery painting workshop, all at an extra cost of course (though it’s free to get in, apart from parking).

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It took us forever to get out of the house – getting three children properly suncreamed takes a good 20 minutes! But once we were out we had a great time. They all loved the playground – Eve went straight for the huge Helter Skelter Slide; Lilly’s favourite thing was climbing to the top of one of those spider web net climbing frame things. A slightly hair-raising moment when Lilly was right at the top of the frame – and Eve was as far away as she could possibly be on the other side of the playground – a time when I really needed to be in two places at once! But we survived!

 

After that we had a nice picnic under a shady tree, followed by a wander over to see the fish, a game of hide & seek (modified after it caused war to be more of a hunt-for-an-interesting-object-game) and playing house under a weeping willow for quite a while.

Walton Hall Gdns 26.7.14 Walton Hall Gdns fish

Then the girls all went on the trampolines and had great fun bouncing together!

Walton Hall Gdns trampoline

Walton Hall Gdns ice creamsAfter all that fun, we relaxed with ice creams and a look around the farm. Eve was particularly interested in all the animals – she especially loved the pig which had its snout pressed right up against the fence oinking at her!

Last time we took the girls to the farm Isla hadn’t liked the noise of the peacocks and had cried wanting to go home. This time she was much better, telling me: “I’m being very brave, aren’t I?”

We had a great day and spent about four hours there in all. But that night I was absolutely shattered!

 

On Monday we met my mum in Liverpool and took the girls to The Beach at Liverpool One.

We’ve taken them there for a few years now – it’s basically an artificial beach in the centre of a shopping centre. A bit disappointing this year as they’ve taken the ‘sea’ away from the beach for “health and safety” reasons, which basically means it’s just sand. But it’s still lovely and the girls had a fantastic time making sandcastles and playing.

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It was a great reminder though of what a pain sand is! And getting three kids to eat sandwiches at the beach without getting sand in them is basically impossible!

It was really interesting to see the three personalities at work. Lilly went into creative artist mode and got very serious about making a dog sand sculpture. When they had beach games for the children, she didn’t want to join in because she was too busy with her creation! She didn’t even want to stop for lunch (but she did!). Isla really enjoyed playing with Eve and making sandcastles with me, but kept herself to herself and didn’t try to make friends with the other children. Eve had the time of her life exploring a tunnel through the giant sandcastle on the beach with the other children, and was happy to go up to other groups of children and start joining in with their games! At one stage I saw her go up to a girl of about 10 who was holding the hand of a little baby (probably her baby brother). Eve walked up to the other side of her and put out her hand, telling the girl: “hold my hand too”! And when they started the beach games, Eve was first up!

And on the last day before I went back to work, I took the girls swimming with Nanna. They’ve been asking to go for ages, and they loved it. Amazingly, Eve wasn’t so sure at first and just wanted to sit on the edge splashing her feet. But by the time we left she was quite happy to be in the water playing games and pretending to swim! Lilly was happy just doing her own thing – she really believes she can swim now and insisted in trying without her arms bands – which was when she found out what arm bands are actually for! And Isla was happy ‘learning to swim’ and playing silly games with me up and down the pool.

All in all a great three days, now I’m looking forward to my next two days off work next week… just need to come up with exciting plans to keep up the momentum!

 

 

 

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A few weeks ago we decided to have a day trip to Llandudno, to see the sea and walk along the beach. We were going to drive along the Great Orme and, unusually for us, decided we’d stop for fish and chips rather than take a picnic.

Like all great plans, it didn’t quite work out as we imagined!

First we drove through Llandudno and couldn’t find anywhere to park! So ended up deciding to drive the Great Orme first. A spectacular view as always… and we thought we’d get those fish and chips in the café up at the top.

Great Orme all of us Great Orme girls

Unfortunately the café up at the top doesn’t sell fish and chips… so we set off again in search of a chip shop with three hungry little ones in the back (“I’m hunngryyy!”, “Are we at the beach yet?”, “I’m starrrrving!” etc)

It seemed to be more difficult than it should be by the seaside to find fish and chips… but maybe it was because it was Sunday. Anyways, we eventually found what we were looking for, but by that time we were in Rhos on Sea, where we sat and are our chips on a bench overlooking the sea. The tide was completely in but we walked along the prom afterwards and found a little inlet where there was a beach. The girls had lots of fun throwing stones and shells into the sea and a teeny bit of paddling (the water didn’t look all that clean to us!)

Beach Eve Beach all

Not quite the day we planned but everyone enjoyed themselves and it was good to get some sea air. I think we’ll be taking a picnic again on our next trip though!

Makes me really want to take the girls on a proper seaside holiday…

 

 

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It is now only four weeks before I return to work, and Tony has finished the work he was doing during my maternity leave so that we can spend plenty of time together as a family before I officially hand over the childcare reigns to him once again!

Over the last few weeks we have thought a lot about how we will spend these precious four weeks, we’ve even occasionally got carried away with the thought of a holiday – foreign or at home – but we a reality check on cost has meant that we have returned to our original plan of plenty of lovely local days out.

We started on Sunday with a trip to Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Lancashire. Hubby had fond memories of a school trip to this Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust run bird haven, so he expected great things. On the other hand, my expectations were low – bird spotting doesn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm and I imagined vast wetlands with a few birds in the distance, viewable only through binoculars (and really, who cares what kind they are?)

In fact, there were a series of different areas which you walked through all with different geographical themes. There were flamingoes, very close up, and loads of unusually coloured ducks (well, they looked like ducks to me). The grounds were quite pretty really, not just the barren, vast open spaces I imagined. There were also beavers (allegedly – we didn’t spot any), but my favourites were the otters.

You could buy a bag of bird seed for £1 which kept Lilly amused – and not ALL of it got dropped on the floor, which was a miracle good.

Lilly’s favourite thing was the slightly hair-raising walk along the stepping stones with daddy…

My least favourite bit was when Lilly anounced she needed a wee when we were exactly half way around the route – and of course the only toilets were back at the entrance…

All in all, I was more impressed than I thought I would be, Tony was less impressed than he remembered. And it was a bit pricey – all in all for two adults and one child (Isla and Eve were free) it came to about £25. I don’t think we’ll be rushing back, but it was a good start to our programme of days out.

On Monday we visited an old favourite – Croxteth Hall Country Park.

The girls had a good play on the playground before we went for a little walk (we brought Lilly’s scooter), had an explore in the trees and a quick game of football on the grass before visiting the little farm.

The only disappointment was when we sat down to eat some ice creams (the weather was lovely!) and Lilly stepped in dog dirt. It very much took the shine off the lovely time we were having as I had to try and clean her shoe as best I could before putting it back on her to get to the car – and then discovering that the pram wheels had also gone through the dirt so I had to use many more baby wipes to try and clean them… I could rant for days about how much I HATE irresponsible dog owners!!!!!

Once we got home and I had managed to wash my hands about 10 times to banish the memory of the dog poo, the girls had a lovely play out in the garden with their water table.

On Tuesday the weather was still beautiful so we stayed at home and played in the garden. Then on Wednesday we took ourselves to Chester Zoo (where we are members) and had a lovely day in the blazing sunshine. We enjoyed a picnic in a (hard to find) shady spot and visited some of our favourites – Lilly’s being the dinosaurs which are currently there temporarily. Isla finds the dinosaurs too scary so while Lilly, daddy and a sleeping Eve were looking at them Isla and I had a lovely time together watching the penguins, giraffes and butterflies. We had a lovely day finishing up with some ice lollies for everyone.

We are starting to get used to all the things we need to take and the logistics of days out as a threesome – it seems to take hours of preparation and we have a full car load of stuff (we recently upgraded our car to a proper people carrier – just as well!) But hopefully Eve is getting a little more patient and there seems to be less screaming (except when milk is due!) so the days out have become a little less stressful.

Now we’re just hoping that the fabulous weather continues for a while – we have plans for another trip to the seaside tomorrow and our first barbecue in this house on Saturday!

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After Isla’s recent antics of playing up at bedtime, chatting, singing & purposely getting her legs ‘stuck’ in the cot bars or throwing her pillow out so that she can shout for help, we decided yesterday that it was time for Operation Tire out Toddler.

With that in mind, we headed to the coast (Southport) to visit Grannie, with the aim of a long walk along the pier and a lot of fresh air.

The Met Office app reliably informed us it was not going to rain, and they were mainly right. However, when we arrived, full of May optimism with our picnic, it was slightly too baltic to get out of the car. And it was blowing a gale. And then Eve started screaming. And it started drizzling. And the upshot of all the above was that we panicked, and ended up diving into the nearest soft play place instead.

Once Eve had stopped screaming & we all had cups of coffee inside us things were calmer. Lilly and Isla were playing so nicely together and all was well.

But then, Devil Child (aka boy toddler) entered stage left and, with a swift pull of Isla’s pigtails all out meltdown began. Because, while Isla might like to dish out the odd smack to her big sister at home, she is definitely not used to being on the receiving end.

This Devil Child was a particularly sadistic little thing. And accompanied (naturally) by the kind of parent who comes to soft play and immediately washes their hands of their kid, not caring what kind of bad behaviour they might be getting up to.

Isla was screaming and this only amused Devil Child, who then kept trying to come back for more, following Isla and trying for another grab of her pigtail. Not going to happen, Devil Child. “She doesn’t want to play with you, so go away please,” I told him. But Devil Child isn’t bothered, his mum isn’t watching, and Isla is getting more and more traumatised. I try to encourage her to keep playing, but Devil Child keeps following her, so she’s getting hysterical and we give up and go for a Fruit Shoot break.

Luckily, Devil Child & Neglectful Parent leave soon afterwards, and play continues. But Isla’s obviously traumatised because later when another little boy comes near her she crumbles into a heap of tears and throws herself down some (soft) stairs, sobbing “naughty boy!”

So, if Devil Child has done one thing, it is to put Isla off boys for a while… hmmm… wonder if it might last into her teens….

Anyway. After a few goes on the big wavy slide (me, Lilly and Isla all on one lane each – great photo opportunity missed, eh?) We decided to give the windy walk along the pier another go.

Once we got outside the weather had really brightened up, the sun was out and it was even a little bit warm. It was still windy, but it was a pleasant kind of wind, not a freezing cold drizzly kind of wind.

It was such a clear day, you could see the Blackpool Tower and The Big One

We had a lovely walk along Southport’s famously long pier. The tide was out so we didn’t see much of the sea, but it was a really clear day. And when we got to the end the girls had loads of fun looking at the old fashioned penny arcade games they have there.

Lilly’s favourite was always the Sooty and Sweep Band, who sing a nursery rhyme in exchange for an old penny. I’ve actually blogged about it before. This was the first time Isla had really been big enough to take much notice, and it was her turn to fall in love with Sooty. Quite a few of our old pennies went into this machine – it’s brilliant!

And, of course, no trip to the seaside could be complete without ice creams…

All in all, we had a really lovely afternoon. And, as for Operation Tire Out Toddler? Well, after all that excitement – soft play, pigtail pulling, long walks, meeting sooty, eating ice cream – yes, you’ve guessed it… it DIDN’T MAKE A BLIND BIT OF DIFFERENCE… she was still up for a good 40 minutes at bedtime messing about…

*sigh*

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This time last year, when Isla was only a few weeks old, we discovered the brilliant urban beach at Liverpool One shopping centre.

Today the girls and I went back to the beach, which has returned for the summer holidays, and once again met up with my mum there.

The weather wasn’t as good as last year, when it was really quite warm and sunny – today it was humid but overcast and with the occasional fine shower.

That did not put us off though – lucky I had been organised enough to pack towels, buckets, spades and an entire change of outfit for both girls as they got drenched to the skin!!!

Lilly had a great time paddling in the “sea” and playing with the other children, while Isla made sandcastles and sat on the edge of the water splashing her feet. After a while that wasn’t enough for her and she wanted to get in the sea too, wading around in the water and giggling her head off!

And we had a moment of fame as the local news crew were filming when we arrived – tonight’s news featured Me, Isla and mum building a sandcastle and Lilly running and splashing in the water. Mother in law didn’t know we were going to be on but rang up very excited when she spotted us!

Anybody with young children in the Liverpool area this summer do not miss the urban beach – but don’t forget your towels!

 

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