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Bivouac – a genuine getaway from it all break

Tucked away in the beautiful countryside of the Yorkshire Dales, close to the market town of Masham, “Bivouac” hides away from the stresses and strains of daily life.

Bivouac is a unique place situated on the Swinton Estate where there are luxury bespoke wooden shacks hidden away in the woodland and yurts in a meadow. It’s not just about the accommodation that’s here (which by the way is fabulous). It’s an experience which provides the feeling of being so far from the day to day pressures of home and work in a peaceful and beautiful part of the world.

We went to Bivouac with some close family friends and together the seven of us stayed in ‘Cuckoo Hollow’, one of the handmade wooden shacks. The standard of the accommodation was superb. The shacks are all made from local wood that has been sustainably sourced. It really was a luxury shack and I always base my judgements on the bathroom, which in its eco friendly way was an equal to the many lovely bathrooms that I have seen in hotels. We had a mini kitchen with everything we could need including a great terracotta ‘fridge’ which when topped up with a little water can keep food and milk fresh for up to a week!

The sleeping areas are on three levels in the shack- a double luxury bunk on the bottom, 3 very generous singles in the middle and at the very top a kingsize with a velux window to stargaze through at night. All the beds were super comfy with lovely thick duvets.The kingsize bed is up a tall ladder and is not for those afraid of heights. I was the only one out of my family who I could trust to sleep there on the edge! There was a tree trunk between me and the drop down so it was very safe.

There is no electricity in the shack which at first took a bit of adapting to. We initially felt that we wanted to turn the lights on! Very quickly we forgot about the lack of electric light and we used our camping lanterns once it got dark. It surprised me how the lack of electricity has shown us that we don’t really need to use so much energy! We were able to charge our phones up in the cafe and reception but to be honest we didn’t really need to use them!

The children had the best time playing in the woods and roaming freely. All the wet weather had created a mini muddy pond/bog near to our shack. The girls spent hours playing in and around it, making stepping stones across it and of course falling in it! They had the best imaginary games which went on for hours. It was such a pleasure to see the three of them so equally happy in their world of play or just being on their own in the woods exploring nature. 

The cafe at Bivouac which is set in a converted barn is fantastic. The home cooked menu is delicious and varied. There are special children’s dishes or they can have half portions of the main menu. We ate there a couple of times over the weekend and I would really recommend the breakfasts- yummy bacon sandwiches and really creamy porridge, a big treat!

Bivouac have built a couple of fire pits where guests can have their own barbecues. Together we made a fire and the girls enjoyed finding twigs and small branches for us to burn. It was the first time my girls have had a campfire and the sausages and marshmallows (that we toasted on twigs) tasted all the better for it!

Our long weekend at Bivouac was such a success we will definitely be planning another trip. The opportunity to spend time with friends and family in a place where we could all relax and enjoy quality time together. The children had the freedom of being able to play and explore whilst we could relax knowing they were safe and content.

Bivouac have created a very special destination. It is clear to see the time, passion and energy that has been put into the whole project. I am so very pleased we have been because it means that we can return again!

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Lake District … Swallows and Amazons … something to aspire to.

We’re off to Keswick, in the Lake District as a whole family over fourteen of us from three generations! My husband grew up here- he was a typical free range kid- open spaces, outdoor adventures with his sister, being free to be a child and get up to all sorts!

My children have never been to the Lake District so to set the scene for them I bought ‘Swallows and Amazons’ by Arthur Ransome for our bedtime reading to get us in the mood. This was one of my favourite stories as a child. The story of children roaming free – sailing, camping and having their own adventures away from a world where grown ups could keep a close eye on them.

The simplicity of life back then is something of which we would all wish for our own children now. Has it been irrevocably lost or do we think in a different way now? Is it society that does not allow us to relax when our children are out of sight? I’m pretty sure there aren’t many parents who would allow their children at the age of 7years to go camping on their own for the summer holidays on an island on a lake! I know it’s just fiction that I am comparing the present day against but let’s say for sake of argument that the children were to be perfectly safe, how many of them would have the skills needed to survive?

In the attempt of giving my girls varied life experiences I often come up with ideas of things to do that either myself or my husband did as children. The things we choose are uncomplicated, simple pleasures from which we feel the girls will gain life skills, experiences and probably most importantly great childhood memories that they will want to share with their children when the time comes.

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Casa Mia, Leeds- a great family meal out

If you know North Leeds then I’m pretty sure you’ll have heard about or been to Casa Mia in Chapel Allerton. If not, then this is one place to fix a date in your diary to come and visit.

My girls keep Casa Mia at the top of places they like to go and eat. It’s a family favourite of ours. The ‘coffee shop’ in Chapel Allerton can be many things to many people. From breakfast with delicious fresh croissants, a stop for great coffee mid morning, lunch with friends or an evening out. Our favourite time to visit is tea time on a Sunday, a lovely way to finish the weekend. All the staff are very friendly and welcoming, more than happy to have the whole family eating together. On a warm and sunny day the outdoor seating is perfect for enjoying the weather. Remember your sunglasses!

The food is of an extremely high standard, serving genuinely delicious Italian fare ranging from salads, pastas, pizza, meat or fish main courses. Today there was a barbecue from which the tempting smell was drifting all over Chapel Allerton. If we hadn’t already been on our way this would have tempted me through the doors without doubt!

At the end of each meal my girls look forward to their ice creams, sometimes they are even invited behind the counter to make it! We look forward to our coffees. I truly rank them as Leeds No.1 for the best latte!

If you are in Leeds city centre and can’t make it to Chapel Allerton there is also a second Casa Mia in Millenium Square – so don’t miss out!

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Cycle the Solar System in York

As our family gets older and our children move on from the ‘little children’ stage we now have a whole range of new activities and days out that we can now spend our time doing.

We can all ride bikes and have been on bike rides near to our house but these are all relatively short or can include some steep hills. We decided to venture to York after a good friend recommended a trip cycling through space!

Just outside York on the old East Coast main railway line is a 10km cycle trail alongside a scale model of the solar system. Every 100m on the cycle trail is equivalent to 57 million miles in space and the speed that you cycle along it is about 10 times the speed of light!

We invested in a bike rack for the car although finding one for 4 bikes was a bit tricky.  We parked our car at the site of the old Escrick station a little way from the village of Escrick. The station is not there anymore just a car park  on the left of the road which is not sign posted and we drove past it at first.

Escrick is a little way into the trail and we cycled towards York. The planets along the way are not only to scale in the distance between them but also in the size of the planet itself.

At first the planets are quite spaced out but the closer to York you get the more frequent they become. It was excellent motivation to keep cycling and my girls kept peddling on in an attempt to be the first one to find the next planet!

There are a couple of pubs on the route which serve food but we stopped at the old Naburn station where they serve giant slices of really good cake along with sandwiches and coffee. I also took snacks with us in case our girls or us ran low on energy. The secret to keeping my younger daughter happy is keeping her energy topped up!

After we reached the sun which is a huge golden sphere suspended above the trail we turned round and cycled back towards the car. Between Mars and Jupiter there is Brunswick Organic Nursery which has a little shop selling ice creams along with organic produce and plants.

If you are looking for your first family cycle out or a trail which is on the flat the Solar System Cycle is fun, educational and a lovely day in the countryside.

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I would like to go there … is now on twitter

 

So far on my blog I have been sharing ideas for days out and breaks that I have been on and enjoyed. However I am continually searching for unique ideas and come across some really lovely looking places that I would like to visit … these are place I would really like to go there!
I will share these ideas on Twitter so if you would like to receive these ideas follow me on Twitter @idliketogothere or #iwouldliketogothere
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Cornwall – a great family holiday

Set in a hidden valley on a private 30acre estate is a secluded hamlet of holiday cottages, Scandinavian and riverside lodges. Close to Bodmin but a million miles from the hustle and bustle of daily life is Coombe Mill. This family run collection of holiday accommodation on a working farm is so special that we have returned each time we have been to Cornwall.

The drive to Coombe Mill sees you driving deep into the Cornish countryside along picturesque country lanes and eventually down steep valley sides into lush woodland where you come across the farm of Coombe Mill. The unique setting is so far removed from the tourist trail that can be found in parts of Cornwall.The selection of accommodation is all of a lovely standard. We have stayed in the Scandinavian Lodges and one of the cottages. There is so much space for the children to run around and be free. With playgrounds, sand pits, indoor play areas and grassy areas they could really just enjoy themselves, making friends with other children who were also staying.

The highlight of each morning was Farmer Nick’s tractor trailer ride to feed the animals. The children loved feeding all the animals (we saved our left overs to feed to the pigs) and our daily favourite was the goats. So much so that ever since our children still ask us if we can have goats as pets! Not easy in our small suburban garden!

Wellies are an essential item whilst at Coombe Mill! However if you forget to pack yours there is a selection to borrow from in reception along with overalls to keep the mud off. In reception you will find a freezer full of home cooked meals and puddings- the puddings are a particular treat.

Our trips out from Coombe Mill were very varied. Here are some of our best days:

We all hired bikes from Wadebridge and cycled part of the camel trail to  Padstow where we  indulged in take away fish and chips from Rick Stein and ice creams. Beware of the seagulls who attempt to steal ice creams from unsuspecting tourists – swooping down on the cones from above!

One morning we went for breakfast at Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen‘. The views over Watergate Bay are superb and the breakfast that goes with it even better. If like me you love eating out in great restaurants then holidays with children in tow can make great restaurants tricky if not impossible. At ‘Fifteen‘ the staff welcomed the children and we had a great meal. The coffee was especially good, on my list of ‘Top Ten Lattes Ever’!

Our all time favourite Cornish beach is Polzeath. This is easy to get to from the farm. The beach is huge and has very shallow water if you are brave enough to get in the cold water! There are great little cafes and shops close to the beach and you never have to walk far as parking is on the beach. Polzeath is unspoilt and a great trip for a beach day out. We first came to Polzeath before we were married and I expect we’ll still be heading there when our children get married.

If you are looking for a great place to stay to escape from busy everyday life then Coombe Mill is worth a great deal of consideration – we’ve loved it!

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A trip to Valley Gardens, Harrogate

Today seemed to be the day for all of Yorkshire to head outdoors because the sun was shining. The sunshine was deceptive as it was still only 10 degrees but a large proportion of visitors were trying to believe it felt more like 20 degs! I think everyone is becoming impatient that we are still waiting for our summer to start!

We decided to have a valuable morning at home in our pj’s. I was baking for the rowing club fun day for tomorrow and the girls were involved in an imaginary game for the whole morning.

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This afternoon we headed to the Valley Gardens in Harrogate. The park is right near the centre of Harrogate and has so much to offer. If you live in HaImagerrogate you will know all about it and if you are not familiar with Harrogate then it’s a great place to go on your next visit.

There is so much to do in the park from a brand new playground which has such a varied range of play equipment including a zip wire. There is crazy golf, pitch and putt and a traditional boating pond where for £1.50 you can captain a radio controlled boat for 5mins. My girls loved the boats and they could easily manage the controls by themselves. Ripley Ice cream has a cafe here and we had coffees and ice creams to take away. We found a sunny sheltered spot and if the wind dropped we could almost believe it was May Bank Holiday weekend!

On a hot summer day the Valley Gardens is a great spot to spend a few hours as in the playground there is a huge paddling pool. Heaven for anyone who likes to paddle or like my girls who choose to fully immerse themselves! Bring your picnic rug and towels and an afternoon here on a hot day can feel like the Med (well almost!)

So if you fancy a break from shopping in Harrogate’s great shops have a wander across to The Valley Gardens. You’ll be surprised and your children will love it!

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Floating Picnics

Floating Picnics

After what seems like endless days of dark grey skies pouring never ending rain onto the sodden gardens, it’s hard to believe that it’s May this week! By this time as a family we normally have enjoyed a picnic or two! I’m desperate to get out my picnic rug, cool bag rucksack and my list of picnic places that I’ve been thinking about all winter, itching to enjoy the better weather when it was supposed to arrive!

Sadly the weather has evaded us but I will start to share some of the best picnic ideas in anticipation that things have to get better (don’t they?).

Row, row, row your boat

Quintessentially English. A beautiful, sunny summer day spending time by a river. My picnic idea is to take your hampers onto a rowing boat. We did this last year in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire on the River Nidd. It turned out as one of the best picnics we’ve had.

My husband Josh is a very keen rower, proper rowing boats a la Steve Redgrave (he also wishes he could be the Steve Redgrave type of rower as well!) We set off expertly rowed by Josh and the girls and I were perfectly placed so the boat was well balanced. At a quiet spot we pulled over to the river bank whilst we ate our lunch.  My girls were so thrilled we were eating on the river! The people in other boats looked at our ‘floating picnic’ with longing eyes. Drifting a little as we ate we had a lovely lunch. It made us feel as if we were part of ‘Wind in the Willows’ and we wouldn’t have been surprised to see Mole or Ratty in a passing boat!

The ‘floating picnic’ is now an annual trip to Knaresborough. We combine our picnic on water with an ice cream from the famous Brymor Ice Cream shop. Brymor ice cream is made with milk from Guernsey cows in the Yorkshire Dales and is delicious. There are over 35 flavours but my favourite is unchanged from my childhood- rum and raisin. We have to earn the ice cream as the shop is up a lot of very steep steps from the riverside up to Knaresborough Castle but it is so worth it! The castle dates back to medieval times and is another good place to explore (there is parking at the top of the hill as well if you can’t do the stairs).

We take our ice creams to Bebra Gardens, where in June, July and August there is a paddling pool for the children so make sure if it’s hot and sunny you take swimming costumes and towels. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours here just letting the children splash in the water. It’s also a great spot for a picnic and to meet friends.

There aren’t that many places in Yorkshire to hire rowing boats but when looking over the country as a whole there are plenty. My list of other ‘floating picnic’ destinations where I would like to go is as follows:

Henley- the ultimate rowing destination.
Oxford or Cambridge- this time have the picnic whist punting on the river.
Durham- with views of this historic city with cathedral and castle.
Stratford upon Avon- rowing out into the countryside.
Hyde Park, London- on the Serpentine at this Royal park way from the crowds.
Lake District- rowing on Windermere, Derwentwater or Ulswater with incredible views of the hills.
Norfolk Broads- there are so many places to row here the selection is huge!

So if you’re dreaming of the summer to come and thinking of somewhere to go try a ‘floating picnic’. You will all have a super time messing about in boats!

 

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Books, books and books brought to life

Books, books and books!

 
I was sitting at home this morning in the quiet after everyone had left for school and work thinking about what I would write about today and my idea was ‘Seven stories’ in Newcastle upon Tyne. It is the national archive and gallery which celebrates children’s books. Then a coincidence happened, I was watching BBC breakfast news and Julia Donaldson  (author of ‘The Gruffalo’, ‘Room on the Broom’ amongst many others) was on the sofa talking about her new exhibition at ‘Seven Stories‘!
 
I have a love for Newcastle upon Tyne. It is an incredible city for which I have a great fondness. I was at university there for 5 years and my sister has lived there for years until very recently. Obviously the advantages that I take from Newcastle are very different now from my student days but that’s what makes this city so great. It has so many different sides to its personality, something for everyone.
 
We have visited Seven Stories many times and always had a super time. It really is an interactive children’s museum of books. The building is actually seven storeys high and is set in Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley. This is just out from town but easily reached by the yellow Quaylink bus (Q2) from The Haymarket in town.
 
Seven Stories has regular exhibitions. At the moment it is Julia Donaldson and Jacqueline Wilson. You can meet a full size Gruffalo,  climb into Cave Baby’s cave and perform on a stage in costumes of Julia’s most popular characters.  A few years ago there was an exhibition on Judith Kerr who wrote’The Tiger who came to Tea’. My girls still remember the full size Tiger and sitting in the exact kitchen from the book which had been recreated in the exhibition, even down to the pattern on the plates and cups which was exactly right! Creating memories like this is priceless!
 
There are arts and craft sessions for children every weekend, creative writing workshops for the over 11′s and even events for adults! The cafe is great for a coffee or lunch and you can watch out over the water of the River Ouse.
 
The bookshop here is fantastic. I love children’s book so much and luckily both my girls love books too. For me personally this is so important. My eldest daughter is severely dyslexic and my younger daughter will most likely follow in her older sister’s footsteps. They both have a passion for books and stories and if my eldest is asked what she would like to be when she grows up what she she will answer ‘an author’. I am so proud of their positive attitude towards books and reading, it is something I have tried so hard to encourage. I still read to both of them every night. This enables them to enjoy stories and books which would otherwise be hard work for them.
 
This bookshop is heaven for them, they would buy piles of books if they could! On occasions I have come back to Seven Stories on my own just to enjoy the bookshop, to browse at my leisure rather than follow very excited children round the shelves! (you can just come to the bookshop without paying admission to the exhibitions)
 
If you love books and your children do too or if you want to encourage a love of books then this is a super place to visit and I would really recommend that you find time to come. The best places to visit are often hidden away as is ‘Seven Stories’. Find your your way down to the Ouseburn Valley and you will pleased you came to ‘Seven Stories’.
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50 Things to do before you are 11 and 3/4 at The National Trust

We decided to make the most of The National Trust‘s free weekend yesterday. Even though the weather was a bit hit and miss we packed our wellies and rain coats and headed up to Beningbrough Hall near to York. We were lucky to miss the heavy rain showers and were able to experience everything that the NT had to entertain us.

My girls loved the adventure playground which was where we headed first but there was so much more on offer for them to have a go at.

They learnt how to climb a tree in probably the best tree I have ever seen for learning such a thing. It is a tangle of branches quite low off the ground that spread really wide. Even I didn’t feel too nervous watching them attempt to go from branch to branch. Their very green hands at the end was the only evidence of their new-found skill!

Den building was made easier for them with precut branches and with a bit of advice and guidance children were building many dens in the woodland, under the instruction of their dads who were obvious experts in this field!

National Trust have launched a summer activity called  ” 50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4“. It is a list of simple pleasures for your children to do whilst spending time outdoors. My girls were keen to start ticking off some of the things on the list so tree climbing and den building were our first two tasks achieved. They like the look of making a mud pie and taking a canoe down a river so we will plan these into our summer.  I too am looking forward to trying a few things I never got round to before  I reached 11 and 3/4!

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