I would like to go there!

Unique and inspiring travel destinations

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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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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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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I’d like to go to the seaside

I’d like to go to the seaside

One of this week’s news stories reported that spending time at the seaside had a more positive effect on people than the countryside or urban park. The reasons are unclear but most of us look forward to spending time on the coast. Perhaps it’s the unending views out to sea, the vast expanse of the coastline or maybe the reality that we as people are so small when contrasted with nature and the power of the sea.

At Easter we were in Filey on the coast in North Yorkshire. We are so lucky that my in laws live on the beach front. My girls are in their element here. Quite simply- they love it!

When I think about what I want from time spent with my children, quite often I want them to experience a place or occasion as I did when I was a child. I

know it seems like we look back at our own childhood’s through rose coloured spectacles but things did seem more simp

le then and I think that is what I want my girls to experience- simple pleasures.

I meet many people as part of my job and when I mention Filey to them most people have fond memories of this seaside town, whether it be childhood holidays or more recent trips. Filey seems to be the perfect English seaside town with something to suit everyone.

The beach is a vast expanse of sand that runs for miles in either direction. It has been awarded

the EU Blue Flag for cleanliness. In summer there is a section of beach on which dogs are not allowed ensuring that you can happily dig and play on the super clean sand.
Apart from playing in the sand there is so much to entertain your family. There are traditional donkey rides, mini golf and miniature carousel, swing boats and bouncy castle. A free paddling pool for children to play in out of the sand is just above the beach. Along the seafront promenade brassy shells have been randomly placed onto the pavement which creates a good spotting game. There are a few cafes and ice cream sellers on the beach for refreshments to suit for hot or cold days. In winter my girls find it hard to resist the smell of freshly made donuts and in summer we always have to have our daily ice cream!

One of our favourite ways to spend some time on a wet day is putting 2p coins in the games at Filey’s amusement arcade on the cobble landing. Children of all ages seem to be attracted to playing these machines, me included. Perhaps it’s the sound of falling coins that inspires you to keep putting more 2p coins in or watching the coins balancing precariously on the edge about to fall believing that your next 2p will topple the pile into your hands!

A walk along Filey Briggs when the tide is out is great for going rock pooling. As with any coastal walk its really important to look a the tide timetable before you head off. If you are lucky it’s possible to spot seals in the sea just off the rocks. The beach and Brigg are both great places to go fossil hunting. Over the years we have gathered quite a good collection of small fossils we have found on the beach.

Filey town has quite a few small shops selling

all sorts from beach buckets and spades, an old fashioned chocolate shop called Sterchis, an art shop with great pictures (see my photo) and a few cafes. Our favourite cafe is Bramwells, it has a lovely selection of homemade cakes and is a great place for a cup of coffee if the weather is not great.

Overall Filey has everything you would want from a British seaside town in perfect proportion. It is unspoilt from major tourism and retains its charm as a popular family seaside destination. It reminds me of seasides how they used to be. If you are planning a trip to the Yorkshire coast then make Filey top of your list to visit. You won’t regret it!

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Great gardens for children

Magical footsteps

Can you remember when you were a child how magical and entertaining a garden could be? I’m sure if you went back to visit the garden you’re thinking of then it would have shrunk in size since you were last there thirty odd years ago!

I remember a garden of a school friend who lived round the corner from me. My memories of it are as a vast garden with so many parts to it – lawns, overgrown areas, paths through the plants that grew so tall above our heads, places we could hide (and think we couldn’t be found!) but best of all it had a stream with stepping stones! To me this was and probably still is the pinnacle of any garden in which you would want an adventure.

I truly believe that children sometimes just want to be children! No computers, games consoles or television. Just to play. To transport themselves into whatever world takes their fancy – fairy lands, jungles, treehouses, dens or even as my girls have done this holiday they turned the garden into their office! Hours can be spent in their imaginary worlds all based in a garden.

I have been thinking about the places where my girls have had their best ‘garden games’ and I have come up with my list. Obviously there are an infinite number of places but these are my favourites!

1. Roundhay Park, Leeds.

In the Canal Gardens there some stepping stones over water right around the back of the ‘canal’. There is a summer house type shelter and a perfect tree to pretend you are riding a horse!

In the main park the three bandstands can provide cover for an imaginary game on a wet day or a walk up to the old folly.

2. York Gate Gardens, Adel, Leeds

This one acre garden looked after by Perennial, The Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society is truly magical. It has streams, numerous paths some half hidden in the dell, pergolas and benches dotted around. Each year they put on a lovely Easter egg hunt for the children which is just perfect as it feels unspoilt by the commercialism that you can find at such events.

3. RHS Garden Harlow Carr

I have lost track of the number of afternoons we have spent here just letting the children indulge themselves in imagination games (whilst we indulge in a take away coffee from ‘Betty’s Tearooms‘ which we can take into the gardens with us!)

4. Newby Hall and Gardens, near Ripon, North Yorkshire

There is so much to do at Newby Hall ranging from the huge adventure playground areas, my lifelong favourite miniature railway, water fountains to play in, a great picnic area to the fabulous gardens. There is a really magical part of the gardens where numerous paths crisscross and there are ponds and water features. As a child I truly believed that this was where fairies lived!

When you’re stuck for ideas of where to go remember that your children will be perfectly entertained exploring and playing in a garden.

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