Circus fun at Hatton Adventure World

During the February half term we were invited to Hatton Adventure World to see if we enjoyed their circus themed activities. To be honest the children were thrilled about the visit until I mentioned clowns. They all have an irrational fear of the red nosed freaks (which I share). I thought it might be a good way to help us them get over this fear. We have been there a few times before and have always had a good time. I was confident that we could make a success of this visit and enjoy the circus fun on offer.

Brrr, it’s cold outside

Wow, what can I say except that we visited on the coldest day of the holidays. Hindsight would have informed us that the beast from the east was imminent and we would definitely have worn extra layers!

Our first port of call was to feed the animals.

Feeding the goats at Hatton The goats were a huge success

Stroking guinea pigs at HattonHandling the guinea pigs was popular with everyone. Bobbins and Mr M would love a pet guinea pig but I have put my foot down and refused. They are adorable little critters but I don’t want the extra responsibility at the moment.

After seeing the animals we spent some time in the park. Some of the outdoor facilities were unavailable. I’m not sure if this was due to the time of the year or the weather. It was so cold though, that we didn’t spend too long outside so didn’t mind so much.


Circus fun!

After lunch we made our way to a huge circus tent that had been erected. The Cirque Normandie were performing. I was excited until I saw some clowns at the entrance when I actually started to panic a little. Pulling myself together, I made like I was fine and tried not to let it show to the children.

The show itself exceeded my expectations. The clowns were actually pretty funny and I could see from their faces that the children were enjoying it too. Acts included a fabulous juggler and a comical ‘lion’.

Aerial artist. Circus fun at Hatton Adventure WorldThe aerial artist was Peanut’s favourite. She performed without a net which was very brave.

Limbo dancing

The acrobats also did a super limbo challenge, complicated by fire!

Circus fun with clowns and jugglers at Hatton Adventure World

It was hard to get good photos inside the tent but there were plenty of photo opportunities afterwards. However, despite enjoying the show the children could not be persuaded to have their pictures taken with the clowns!

We had a fantastic time enjoying the circus fun available at Hatton during half term despite the cold temperatures.  I cannot say, hand on heart, that the children are totally over their clown phobias but their feelings are now much more positive. I may even see them in a new light myself!

During Easter they will have different activities available and hopefully much more clement weather!


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Country Kids

Reflections on 2017 and planning ahead

Happy new year sign surrounded by fir branchesPhoto by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Hello and a belated happy new year! I had been all set to start the new year with a bang. However, in my post Christmas haze I totally lost track of the days and really struggled to get back into a routine. My start to the year has definitely been more of a slow fizzle than an explosion of activity! Now that I’ve finally got a grip on what day it is I think it would be a good idea to share my reflections on 2017 and what we plan for 2018.

Reflections on 2017

2017 written in firework sparklersPhoto by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

The children achieved so much this year but are growing up way too fast! Hormones abound. I need a self-filling fridge to keep up with their appetites and a larger dining table is now a priority to accommodate the random friends who appear at all hours.

My hip problems continue and I have been passed from pillar to post looking for answers. It has taken over 2 years to be referred to a specialist, who I saw this week. The proposed surgery I need is risky and could potentially make me worse so I have big decisions ahead. This year I was also hospitalised twice with post hysterectomy complications and underwent genetic testing for the BRCA1 gene. It has not been a great year health wise.

A large portion of the year was spent unexpectedly removing a dangerous chimney breast and renovating our bathroom. The end result is stunning but it really wasn’t the project we wanted to be doing; plans to convert the loft had to be delayed due to this work. We also finished a few smaller projects. Renovations seems never ending!

Despite everything we did get out and about a lot this year, making good use of out NT membership. It has been lovely to visit new places and explore different surroundings. The highlights for us were Apple Day and visiting Powis Castle

Plans for 2018

2018 written in firework sparklersPhoto by NordWood Themes

To a certain extent it will be more of the same. More days out, more home renovations, more time spent exploring our hobbies. If it isn’t broke why fix it?

Middle age spread had sadly become a concern for me. I am unable to do much exercise so I need to change my diet instead. It’s so unfair that you have to eat less to simply stay the same weight as you age. I am also still struggling to find a personal style, or even indeed any style. With that in mind I hope to make more of my own clothes this year, at least then I can guarantee a good fit!

I want to spend more time as a whole on my hobbies. My book case is brimming with novels waiting to be opened. My sewing to-do list is ever expanding and my vegetable patch is standing barren, waiting for me to get into gear. I think sharing a monthly update on my craft projects and my gardening endeavors will help to make me accountable for my time and give me something positive to focus on.

I am aware I need to spend time on my mental health this year. Last year I struggled so much with my lack of mobility and ever increasing pain levels. Whilst not depressed, I was very low for a good portion of the time. I felt flat and had very little to say. I feel that the fog is lifting now but it is something I have to work on rather than waiting for things to change on their own.

The big event for the year will be my Mom’s wedding in early March. She is still battling ovarian cancer so this is a much needed chink of sunshine for us to look forward to. Hopefully the great British weather will either give us a wonderful snow filled day or one brimming with sunshine. Nothing in between will be acceptable!

Bring it on 2018!

So there it is. A few reflections on 2017 and a snippet of what we plan for 2018. I am sure that with a little positive thought and a lot of hard work we can make 2018 a wonderful year!

What are your plans for 2018?


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Christmas at Calke Abbey

We love visiting large country estates whenever we get the chance. There is always something to appeal to everyone and plenty of outdoor space for the children to explore. Last weekend we used our National Trust membership to see how they celebrated Christmas at Calke Abbey.

Being a little disorganised, our first port of call was the cafe to make sure the children were all fed and watered. Hungry children can be relied upon to complain for the whole afternoon! Once they were fully recharged we wandered to a large vintage craft fare being held in a large stable block. Before we knew it I had persuaded Mr M to invest in some wonderful decorations from the 1940s and 50s!

Our next stop saw the children completing various craft activities. They made Christmas cards, paper chains and angels for our tree. This was really enjoyable and it was refreshing to see that all the activities were free. In the past we have been places where they find a way to charge you extra at every possible opportunity!

Christmas at Calke Abbey

Our next port of call was the Abbey itself. We have never been inside before. In fact, it is now closed for the Winter so they can clean and restore the property. They had opened a small portion of the house so we could see it’s magnificent tree and more importantly, so we could access the tunnels.

The dressed Christmas tree inside Calke Abbey Apologies for lots of grainy pictures ahead. My camera doesn’t do well in low light but I hope you get an idea of our surroundings.

Stuffed bulls head adorned with baublesEverything had been given a festive edge. Even the bulls head had baubles dangling from it’s horns!

Inside the tunnels at Calke AbbeyWe were soon guided to the tunnels that would have been used to store beer and grains. The children were given lanterns and there was just (only just) enough light to stop us falling over!

A Christmas display in the tunnel All the nooks and crannies had been given a Christmas theme

After navigating the tunnels, which we all thoroughly enjoyed, we went to the park while we waited for it to go dark. The estate normally closes at dusk but today it was open late so everyone could enjoy the grounds when they were lit up as dark fell.

Calke at dusk

The Christmas tree inside Calke Abbeys churchAs the lights came on we saw a series of lanterns creating a pathway leading to the church. We walked through the forest, spotting lots of different light installations along the way. To be honest by now I was beginning to flag and the children were pretty tired too. Thankfully the church was worth the wait and was beautifully decorated.

Bauble inside a marble fontEven the marble font had been blinged!

Calke Abbey lit up with Christmas lights

The walk back was lovely and the view of the Abbey, all lit up, was wonderful. The whole afternoon had been a great success and everyone had a different favourite part of the day. I am proud of myself for staying on my feet (or should I say my crutches) for so long. I paid for it when I got home but it was totally worth it!

If you get the chance it is well worth going to see how they celebrate Christmas at Calke Abbey, or indeed at any large country house.


Country Kids


Autumn in Powis Castle gardens

Last weekend we visited to Wales on a mini break. We used our National Trust membership to visit Powis Castle gardens. The multi layered gardens, which are over 300 years old, are arranged over a series of terraces leading down the hillside towards the formal gardens. They are renown as one of the best surviving examples of Baroque garden design in the United Kingdom. I knew that looking at flowers was not necessarily going to be a huge hit with the kids so we visited while they were holding a hunt the pumpkin event.

I hoped that a challenge would keep them engaged. A series of clues led you to pumpkins hidden throughout the grounds which had letters carved into them. Once you had collected all the clues you had to rearrange the anagram to form your answer. Bobbins and Peanut, ably assisted by Mr M were soon busy running around trying to solve the puzzle.

Getting ready to solve the clues and find the pumpkins at Powis Castle

Since I am still on crutches Junior and I took the accessible slope to the bottom and went very much at our own pace. Junior is very keen on photography and had taken his camera with him. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to take pictures, explore and chat together while the girls followed the pumpkin hunt.

I was struck by how parts of the garden were still full of glorious summer blooms and other parts had turned the wonderful russet hues of autumn. It seemed surprising that the 2 seasons should exist next to each other.

Powis Castle gardens in pictures

Autumnal trees that have turned glorious shades of red and orange in Powis castle gardensA beautiful autumnal scene

Red flower headContrasting with a glorious red bloom

Dried hydrangea headsDried hydrangea heads

Yellow flower headJuxtaposed against beautiful orange flowers

Holly leaves with some smooth and some spiky eavesHolly berries ready for Winter. Notice how half the leaves are spiky and the others smooth


The girls were thrilled when they solved the anagram. They did become a little frustrated after that so I gave them my phone and sent them off to take pictures, which soon did the trick. After that they had a good run around on the huge lawns. I think children need a good run everyday. When they were tired enough to stand still I managed to get a few shots of them. How hard is it to get them all looking in 1 direction? A steaming mug of tea encouraged them to smile for the camera!

My 3 children all looking at the camera for a change3 wise monkeys

Holding a bunch of wine grapesPeanut, having been caught munching on a bunch of wine grapes

From the bottom of the gardens you got a really good view of the castle and the terraces. I don’t think we had appreciated the true size until we looked from this angle.

Powis castle gardens in autumn

We spent a couple of hours in the garden and despite a few misgivings the children really enjoyed themselves. Next time I will go prepared with some little cameras for the girls. I was surprised how good some of the pictures they took were and it’s a hobby I would like to encourage. We didn’t have time to explore all of the grounds or the castle itself. We will revisit at a later date and rectify that! Powis Castle gardens are a truly stunning site to behold in autumn. I wonder what winter will bring to the gardens?


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Country Kids

Country Kids

Apple day at Calke Abbey

Apple day is an annual celebration of apples and orchards held throughout October. Apple day aims to highlight and celebrate this versatile fruit and to raise awareness of the varieties we are in danger of losing. It also serves to make us mindful of the provenance and traceability of the food we purchase and consume. It is celebrated in various villages, markets, Wildlife Trust and National Trust properties throughout the UK. We recently visited Calke Abbey to celebrate apple day in their huge walled gardens.

Calke Abbey apple day. Tasting the apples

Apple Day

I was sure that I would find the day interesting but I wasn’t so sure that it would engage the kids. I needn’t have worried (I also needn’t have fed them beforehand!) When we arrived in the garden we were faced with a large variety of tents and stalls, all with different activities and produce. Junior and I made a bee line for the tasting tent. It was full of varieties of apple for you to try, each with a description of taste, history and ways to use them. I had no idea there were so many types! Junior soon started sampling and we both picked our favourites.

Trying out the different varieties of apple at Calke Abbey apple day

The girls really enjoyed using an apple press and squeezing freshly pressed juice. The appearance left somewhat to be desired but the taste was divine! We also got to try an apple spiraliser and to eat our newly peeled snack. We all loved this part and an apple spiraliser is now firmly on my wish list.

Apple spiraliser at Calke Abbey Apple Day

The gardens

There were lots of stands and apple in many guises, from cake to coleslaw, to sample and to purchase. We had a busy few hours which we rounded off by exploring the rest of the properties’ gardens. There was a vast abundance of produce both in the vegetable patch and in the many greenhouses and hothouses.

Pumpkins in the vegetable patchThere were huge pumpkins in the vegetable patch

Scarecrow in the vegetable patchA not so scary scarecrow

Trellis growing squashes and pumpkinsA trellis full of varieties of squashes

The children really enjoyed the whole day and did not complain once, which is always a sigh of a successful day. So successful in fact, that we purchased a little apple sapling for our garden. We were advised that it may be a year or two before we get round apples. I am very excited to see what grows!

There are events running up and down the country so I am sure you can find an apple day near you. It really is a fun and informative day out for the whole family!

Country Kids