This summer seems to have gone by in a bit of a blur as we have been so busy. I usually enjoy the holidays as many of our term-time activities stop and we have more free time to play with, but it’s been a bit different this year. The first part of the holidays was dominated by our kitchen being redone, which was very stressful, though the results are definitely worth it. What with that and a couple of weeks of holiday clubs (not altogether successful), there wasn’t much time to relax. From the middle of August, things improved as Suburban dad had two weeks holiday, of which we spent a week at home and a week at my parents’ house.
We did our annual day trip to France which is always good fun, and considerably cheaper and easier than many other family days out. The children love going on the ferry, and we bring a breakfast picnic (the remains of which are eaten on the way home for supper!) This year we went to Wissant, a village just south of Calais, and we spent the morning on the beach. We had a late lunch in a restaurant then drove back to Calais just in time for a supermarket sweep of Carrefour before getting back on the ferry.
We went swimming twice which is something we seem to find ridiculously difficult to fit into our term-time schedule. When the children are older, I’ll be able to take them myself but for now it takes both of us to do it, and it’s hard to find the time. The children loved it of course, and we have good intentions of trying to go more often, but in case we don’t I have booked them all in for lessons (to add to the logistical nightmare that is next term’s schedule.) It’s only taken me a year since the local swimming pool closed to find an alternative.
Another easy family day out was the Cotswold Farm Park. We went there a lot when the big boys were little, and I wanted to give the little ones the same opportunity as well. They all enjoyed it, especially the sandpit, climbing frames, ride-on tractors and bouncy pillows. They quite liked the animals too! We watched a cow being milked, bottle fed some goat kids, and fed grass pellets to some of the other animals. I suppose it is a little bit commercial but as these things go it is pretty good. I didn’t know how lucky I was growing up with grandparents who owned a farm. I can’t give the same experience to my children, but the farm park is better than nothing. Owl has just come to me now and asked “If a cow is grown up when it is 8, is it a teenager when it is 6?” So he remembered something from the milking talk!
Also this summer we finally took the children to Thomas Land at Drayton Manor. It was much less stressful than I imagined and I wished I had taken the big boys there when they were at the height of their Thomas phase a couple of years ago. However they enjoyed it anyway and so did the little ones, so it was a good time to go as it appealed to all four of them. It felt more organised than some theme parks and though it was busy it was somehow manageable. There were plenty of rides that all four could go on, as well as a few that just the big three did with daddy. They went on a rollercoaster (albeit a fairly small one) for the first time and all enjoyed it. Owl and Rabbit are very keen to do it again. Monkey is not so sure but is pleased that he did it!
We spent a lovely peaceful morning at the Rollright stones near Long Compton on the Oxfordshire/ Warwickshire border. It is a complex of three Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, called the King’s Men, the King’s Stone and the Whispering Knights.
Part of the King’s Men stone circle
We also went to Warwick Castle which was alright, but a bit too much of a Merlin “attraction” for my liking. I suppose I should have seen it as a warning sign that the website describes it as Britain’s “Ultimate” Castle. We saw (through the crowds) eagles and jousting, and the firing of the trebuchet which was amazing, and looked around the state rooms. But it was cold and wet and we had optimistically gone without coats. The little ones had had enough by mid afternoon so we decided to leave, which upset Owl who still wanted to see more. So for a little while no-one was happy. But then we called in on the excellent Toy Shop in Moreton-in-Marsh and suddenly everyone was happy!
Much more to our taste was Chastleton, a small National Trust property. I love the description from the website: “With virtually no intrusion from the 21st century, this fascinating place exudes an informal and timeless atmosphere in a gloriously unspoilt setting. There is no shop or tea-room, so you can truly believe you have stepped back in time.” And even better, the church next door have spotted this gap in the market so we got tea and cake after all.
We spent the Bank Holiday weekend at home, had a delicious lunch out at an Italian restaurant and visited our local Environmental fair. After all that excitement we needed a quiet week at home, and it has been good for us all. We have been trying to sort our house out and get rid of stuff (well we are always trying to do that, but recently with a bit more success, I would say, although there’s a lot still to do.) All in all it has been a good summer, if a little busy, but now I am looking forward to settling back into our term-time rhythm and enjoying Autumn, my favourite season.