Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Our biggest littlest adventure yet!

Feeling brave a few months ago we decided to book a holiday abroad with our little one. Feeling not quite that confident a couple of days later we decided, despite not really being the 'package holiday kind' (if there is such a thing), to book through a company. We did this for several reasons, not least to take some of the hassle out of organising a holiday when also trying to look after a small person and work, but also because we got extra baggage allowance, no cost for pushchair or buggy and we felt that the hotel would be fairly tried and tested. We fixed on Greece and booked with Thomson.

In a nutshell, it was great. From start to finish the holiday company and hotel were fantastic. (I'll put links to our hotel at the end of this post).

Flying was an experience, I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to do over 3 hours! However, everyone was really helpful. In fact, we got to go through the 'Business Class' security checks in Greece, "because it would be easier for us". The Thomson representatives in the airport helped carry our bags for us too as we had our hands full. Changing a nappy on a plane was not something I'd repeat if I had to! Avoid, if at all possible! The air stewardesses were great and stood and chatted to me whilst I tried to settle little one (failed miserably) until the 'Fasten Seatbelt' sign came on when predictably sleep happened!

The staff in the hotel were welcoming and friendly and absolutely adored having our little one in their hotel. They honestly couldn't do enough for us. We ate at a different taverna every night, and again they were brilliant. Not everywhere had a highchair, but most did. Little one ate pretty much what we did, only protesting mildly at feta cheese and majorly at ice cream! The hotel catered mostly for adults, but did have a nice garden complete with slide, playhouse and rocking horse. It also had a large pond and no children's pool, so we did have to have eyes in the back of our heads for the week!

I basically packed as much as I possibly could just to cover every eventuality! I'll share just a few things that were the most useful, just in case it's of help to anyone else:
  • secret toy stashed in hand luggage for aeroplane distraction (we bought a Vtech baby laptop that has become an instant hit - it has volume control and an 'off' switch!) 
  • chocolate - wise words shared with me before I traveled by a seasoned traveller - "do not be afraid to use chocolate as encouragement (bribery) when on a plane with a grumpy child!")
  • Dettol wipes - yep, I'm a clean freak - I'm pleased to say they were barely needed, but I wouldn't travel without them!
  • Milton steriliser tablets 
  • Pushchair parasol, cotton sheet as extra shade  and mosquito net
  • a bucket that squashes down flat (from Early Learning Centre)
  • Loads of snacks - just in case the food didn't go down well or we got stuck on the plane
  • Drinks - obviously the advice changes all the time, but so long as we tasted the liquids we brought for little one the security staff were happy
  • Plastic plates, spoons, cups & cutlery (Reduces paranoia of food time plate hurling)
  • Swim suit that provided Factor 40 plus protection and matching hat (from Boots)
  • Spray on sun cream (Factor 50) Much easier and quicker to apply than the tubes of cream.


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Canon Hall Farm, Near Barnsley

Spurred on by friends who have recently visited, today we went to Canon Hall Farm near Barnsley. It was a freezing cold day but even the coldest of beings couldn't fail to be warmed by the gorgeous baby animals cosy in their pens at Canon Hall Farm. We saw sheep with their lambs, fabulous Highland cows resplendent with huge horns and cute calves and lots of guinea pigs and rabbits. My favourite were the pigs - always so much bigger than you ever imagine - but helpfully making all the correct "oink" noises to show little ones that their parents are not entirely mad when they make that noise to show what a pig says! There were some really young piglets too.

Parking is £2.50 (with £1.50 redeemable in the cafe) and entry for adults is £4.25. Children under 3 are free. The farm is entirely pram or pushchair friendly and our little one was delighted as a pygmy goat kid popped up to say hello.

Being slightly neurotic about cleanliness I was really impressed with the number of hand washing stations and information about washing hands after handling the animals. The farm is obviously a working farm but my wellies weren't really needed as the paths are clean. There are some big improvement works being done too; the greatest of these will be a playground that, judging by the pictures, will surely have me wishing I was young enough to go down the slides - opening later this year it is something I will remember for when my little one is older.

We warmed up with a nice cup of tea and piece of cake in the cafe - plenty of highchairs available along with a microwave to heat up milk if needed. There is a farm shop next to the cafe selling local food which was really busy.

Canon Hall Farm clearly know who their visitors are and the place is well set-up for children and babies. The countryside in the area is really lovely and I'd like to explore more of the Canon Hall estate. On a final note, as feeding the ducks is something I mention a lot in my blog I really ought to say that on our way back to the main road, in the Canon Hall estate, there is a great duck feeding spot. We'll definitely be back; hopefully in warmer weather!

Fairburn Ings

We've had 2 visits to Fairburn Ings; one in summer and one in winter. Located just to the east of Leeds, next to Castleford, the site is an RSBP run nature reserve. On our most recent visit we took our little one and the pram.

The main car park is just near the village of Fairburn (see location map below) where there is a visitor centre and facilities. The site charges £2 for parking. The visitor centre is small with not much to offer, but there are some refreshments available and toilets which include a baby change. Just near the visitor centre are a couple of feeding stations which attract lots of familiar garden birds. Paths around the reserve stem from the centre where we set off. On the walk there are points of interest for children and the bird hides we visited had useful information about birds recently viewed and examples of others that could be seen from the hides.

Although most of our walk was suitable for the pram as we tried to loop to the larger stretch of water we got horribly stuck in thick mud and had to turn back. In drier weather a pram or pushchair would be fine; this time we wished we taken our baby carrier. Obviously it's pretty difficult to spend long stretches bird watching when you have a baby or toddler, so it is hard to fully appreciate all that is on offer at Fairburn Ings, but it is certainly somewhere I would take older children.

A definite plus for smaller children however are the ducks! Those with small people know that duck feeding is a preferred activity which creates much excitement. As duck feeding venues go, Fairburn Ings is impressive! Just off the main car park there is a boardwalk over some reed beds where ducks and geese congregate waiting for food. Even better, if this is just the purpose of your visit then the first 30 minutes in the car park is free. Now I just need to research good food places nearby to make this visit a proper day out!

RSPB website for Fairburn Ings http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/f/fairburnings/
Click here for a Google map of  the site

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Eccup Reservoir, Alwoodley Leeds

Eccup Reservoir is on the very northern edge of Leeds, just south of the privately owned Harewood House estate. It is a Yorkshire Water managed area and we used their website to search for a pram friendly route. It is possible to walk the whole way around the reservoir, except to do this our little one would have needed to be in a carrier or a confident walker. As we decided to use the pushchair we were limited as to how far we could walk. 

There is no designated car park but we easily found a place to park on a side road just off Alwoodley Lane. The footpath is well signposted, just after Sandmoor Golf Course. The first part is a tarmac drive which leads to a beautiful house. At the house, if using a pushchair, you need to bear to the right. The path is muddy, but not impassable. We met other families with pushchairs and small children and a family group with one wheelchair user. The walk we did skirted the golf course and the reservoir. Red Kites circled overhead while the ducks got to grips with the iced over water. We followed the path over the dam and then turned back. The nicest views are from this section, stretching out over the water and through the valley on the other side. Other areas that we walked are a bit enclosed.

Another time we would leave the pushchair and do a full circuit of the water. In total our walk was 4.6 miles long and took us 1.5 hours. We joined our walk up with lunch in Chapel Allerton; a perfect Sunday really!

Link to Yorkshire Water website
Link to map of site with footpaths shown

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Nostell Priory

One very wintry day a friend and I decided to take our little ones and search for some snow. I had visited Nostell Priory once before and hadn't made it much further than the cafe so felt I should visit again and see the grounds. Given that we really didn't plan our visit, we just turned up, it was of little surprise to find it absolutely deserted apart from people doing building and restoration work! Despite this, we paid our £2.50 to park (free to National Trust Members) and followed the tarmac path to the house. The house is impressive and imposing and there is a real sense of peace in the grounds that I like. Sadly the gardens were all locked so we were limited in our roaming. Instead we followed the path around to the right of the house and over a bridge. At this point, the path splits. To the left it curves back to the house around the side of the lake. We chose to leave the path and join a muddy track out into a field and headed towards a folly on the horizon. The folly turned out to be a gate house of sorts and marked the edge of the estate. We turned back here and retraced our steps. We managed it all with pushchairs, which given the mud was not bad at all! Also given that the temperature was definitely below zero we had a good brisk trek! It took us about an hour to do this walk. Sadly the cafe was closed this time so we couldn't have a warming cup of tea. With the cafe and the house all closed there weren't any facilities available. Not a problem for us this time, just something to bear in mind. Prices vary too - parking costs, costs to access the gardens (including the cafe) and then a separate cost to visit the house as well. Full details are on the National Trust's website. Maybe next time I'll make it into the house itself!