Summer Break: There’s a kite blowing out of control on the breeze

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The second part of our 2013 summer break was a flying visit to Ruth and Andrew’s new house in Marlow, with the main event being a visit to Legoland Windsor.

Marlow seems like a lovely town. We wandered down the high street (which was full of shops, rather than bookies and tanning parlours like so many places nearer home!), visited a lovely park with a brilliant adventure playground for the kids and even wandered a bit along the banks of the Thames, eating ice creams in the sun.

Later, once the kids were in bed, we sat in the back garden enjoying the local beer (Rebellion Beer Company is in nearby Marlow Bottom. I particularly enjoyed their Red ale) and marvelling at the red kites circling over our heads. Apparently this is a normal occurrence, and it certainly makes a change from the crows, magpies and gulls we get back home. Sadly we weren’t able to take a picture that did them justice, but they were very, very impressive to watch.

The next day began very early, not because of our Legoland trip, but because the girls were up at the crack of dawn and Gem and I were vainly trying to get them to go back to bed. Although we weren’t very successful, it actually wasn’t the worst thing in the world as we wanted to be away early anyway to be at Legoland in time for its doors opening.

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I’d read a few tips on the Unofficial Guide to Legoland Windsor, but still didn’t really know what to expect. We followed their advice, though, and made a beeline for the far end of the park, which seemed to pay off as we got on our first ride of the day, Atlantis Submarine Voyage, with hardly any queuing. And it was great! From our “submarine” we were able to watch all sorts of marine life swimming about, including a few Lego fish! The kids loved it, and so did the adults.

Other rides we went on included Boating School, Desert Chase, Aero Nomad and Knight’s Quest. The last of these was Heather’s first ever “thrill ride”, and she said it was “scary, but kind of fun too”. I explained that was kind of the point! We also watched the Pirates of Skeleton Bay show, which was fun, although getting to it quite late we didn’t have the best seats.

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Lunch was a splendid picnic next to Miniland, which is an impressive collection of landmarks from around the world, all modelled in Lego. I had a lot of fun pointing out to the girls all the places that we’ve been to in real life, either as a family or individually.

We had planned to visit the newly opened Duplo Valley splash zone, but it was quite a cloudy and cool day so we decided just to carry on enjoying the dry attractions instead, as we were never going to fit them all into one day anyway.

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Our final stop (before the gift shop, of course) was STAR WARS Miniland, where scenes from each of the STAR WARS movies have been recreated in Lego. Gem, who’s not a fan, was through this in a flash, while I took my time geeking out over all the models, and explaining to Heather what they all were. She’s seen a couple of the movies, and I think she recognised a few bits. She definitely recognised Yoda, and declared that he’s her favourite. Not a bad choice!

All in all, we had a fantastic day out at Legoland Windsor. So much so, in fact, that we’re already talking about going again next year. And why not? After all, there’s loads of stuff for us still to explore. If only it were closer to home… :(

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Silent Sunday: 2013-07-28

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This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Summer Break: Ee-I-Ee-I-Oh

Farm animals: Pigs, cows, chickens

When I first met Gem, she lived hundreds of miles from where she does now, which was rubbish in all sorts of ways (we spent a LOT of time on the phone!). That long distance relationship did have one benefit, though, that continues to this day: a reason to visit parts of the country I would never otherwise have seen.

I don’t know exactly how often we’ve driven the roads and miles to Lincolnshire, but I’d guess we’ve clocked up well over 40,000 miles in trips to Welby, and that’s only since Gem moved up here!

We figured out our best route pretty early on (in the days before Google did all the planning for you!) and have stuck to it since, but nonetheless our journey has changed over the years, mainly due to the arrival of little people. Gone are the days when a trip home started after work on a Friday – arriving at Nana’s around midnight with kids who are full of beans thanks to a few hours sleep in the car does not make for a peaceful first night. Instead, we now travel during the day, setting off first thing and arriving mid-afternoon, which means lunch on the road.

When we traveled post work, we were quite limited in where we could stop for dinner, and more often than not it would be Scotch Corner or Southwaite for a Burger King. But with more places are open during the day, and nutritional content for the kids to think about, we’ve tried out a few different places recently, and now have a new favourite stop-off: Mainsgill Farm.

Just off the A66, and almost exactly at the halfway point of our journey, it’s a wonder it took us so long to investigate Mainsgill, but we’re very glad we did. The girls love seeing all the animals (as well as cows, sheep, pigs and chickens, there are donkeys, goats, llamas and even a camel!) and Gem loves the farm shop which is stocked with all sorts of delicious, locally produced cheeses, meats, pies and cakes.

Last week we had lunch at Mainsgill for the first time, and although there’s no dedicated kids menu, we still found something for everyone and had a good lunch for under £20 – cheaper than BK, as well as healthier!

Throw in a kids play area, and some wonderful sunshine (OK, we don’t always get that!) and it was a real struggle to drag ourselves away and get back on the road. Hmmm… maybe it’s not such a good place after all!

Mainsgill Farm is located on the A66, 4 miles from Scotch Corner. They’re open 9-5, 7 days a week.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Silent Sunday: 2013-07-21

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This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Paint your pallette blue and grey

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Like most kids her age, Heather loves to draw and paint. And cut, and stick, and shape, and mould and… it’s fair to say that if they do it on Art Attack or Mister Maker Heather wants to do it too – those have been two of her favourite TV shows since before she could hold a pencil.

And she’s getting good too! Its’s been a joy watching her progress from formless scribbles, to detailed drawings that look increasingly like what she says they are.

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This week we reached a whole new level with the two drawings you can see here. Starting with the Wii U controller, and continuing with Princess Jasmine, Heather produced a couple of impressive still life drawings that I’m pretty impressed with. Gem tells me she spent ages on each one, to capture every detail of her subjects. Well, almost every detail – poor Jasmine has no hands, because by her own admission Heather isn’t very good at those, but we can let her off with that. She is only four after all!

So does a career as an artist beckon? Who knows, but at this stage I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest. I think it’s safe to say, though, that whatever Heather ends up doing, there will be plenty more masterpieces along the way.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!