Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Days out in Devon // Haldon Forest

When we were looking for days out in Devon, Haldon Forest popped out at us as it had all the wildlife and woodlands of a forest with the amenities of toilets, a cafe and a playground so we loaded up the car and headed there in the morning.  Entry is free but you pay for the carpark which was about £7 for the whole day and less for a shorter time, quite reasonable for a day out.  In non-Covid times there is a Julia Donaldson trail and we were a bit upset that it was closed during our visit as the children would have loved it.  The office was closed too but there was a map of the trails on the wall and a sign encouraging you to take a photo on your phone to use instead.

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Everything was well sign posted and the queues for food and the toilets were socially distancing well/  We decided to do the mid length walk as the children have a tendency to go off path exploring regularly and so any walk takes us a long time.  There were separate trails for cycling and running, everything colour marked along the way and some paths were available for either.

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Our path led us through the woodlands and there was so much to explore as we went.  The forest was full of man made dens of varying sizes and we loved discovering them as we walked through.  You could go quite far off the tracks but there were boundaries in place to make sure you didn't get completely lost.  Along the way we found plenty to play with including a huge wooden xylophone which the boys couldn't get enough of.  The day we chose was overcast and misty with light rain at times but it didn't bother them one bit.

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

At one point we found signs explaining everything in front of us including a beautiful white tower but the fog was so low we couldn't see any of it!  I imagine the views are beautiful on a clear day though!  There was plenty of insects to observe along the way and spots of colourful flowers amongst the trees.  In the main area all the dogs were on leads but as we went into the forest we realised that dogs were allowed to roam free which did cause a few issues for us as some super friendly dogs bounded over and two of the boys are very afraid. I would say the forest isn't the best place for dog-fearing children as the most friendly dogs usually didn't have an owner in sight.  For most of our walk this wasn't a problem as despite the main area being quite busy, the walks were not, possibly due to the number of choices.

The forest is really well looked after and some areas were cordoned off as the new trees are growing and need to be protected from humans and animals.  There was also lots of information about how sustainable the forest was and how much timber is produced which was fascinating.  

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest is a beautiful and well looked after area with plenty of trails for walking, running and cycling. The kids loved exploring the dens and getting off the track and I would love to visit the Gruffalo trail when it is back up and running although I think two of the boys need to stick to places with dogs on lead policies for now.  You can find out more about visiting Haldon Forest here. 

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

Haldon Forest, Exploring Devon, Forestry England

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Monday, 7 September 2020

Days out in Kent - Bearsted Woods

This summer has seen us discovering more of the county we live in and one of the places we have visited recently and enjoyed is Bearsted Woods near Maidstone.  Also known as the People's wood, the area is a good size for exploring with small people as the walks are all a shorter length and there is a lovely play area too.  We took a picnic and found a great choice of tables to sit at and during the hours we spent there, I think we only saw one other family!Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
We crossed over a lake and saw a field of friendly goats and there were signs around the area telling us about insects and nature we could spot on the trails.  We found a maze mown into the ground and although it wasn't tall enough to get lost in, the kids loved finding their way through it.  One of their favourite features was a line of painted rocks that extended for many metres and we wished we had brought one with us to add to the snake of them along the side of the path.  The paths were wide and well maintained and the kids loved going off route to explore their own short cuts (which were usually much longer).
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
We planned our day so that the playground was at the end of our walk.  All through the woods there are 'trim trails' which are stations with instructions for specific exercises, like the monkey bars, balance beams and spots to do star jumps.  The main playground was great though and there was something for all ages.  If you live locally, it is a lovely place to spend an afternoon but there are no amenities in the woods so you do need to bring enough water and use the toilet before you arrive.  There is a small shop not far from the playground if you need to stock up on anything (we went on a very hot day and ran out of drinks before the end of it).  For any Pokemon Go enthusiasts, there are also lots of Pokestops and two gyms within the woods!
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
Bearsted Woods, the peoples woods, maidstone
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Saturday, 5 September 2020

5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Glamping Stay at Blackdown Yurts

I have already written about our (press trip) long weekend at Blackdown Yurts but it turns out I always have too much to say and I always take too many photos so I wanted to do a second post with my top tips for making the most of your family stay.  We have glamped many time before and lots of these apply to any glamping trip but these are some of the things that made our stay smoother and easier as well as more fun for everyone!

1) Embrace the wildlife. 

The beauty of glamping or camping is that you are surrounded by nature. The sounds, sights and smells and Cora especially loved discovering the wildlife around her.  In the fields in front of us were sheep that we could walk through to see the ponies.  The nearby farmer's cat loved to come and join us as we sat around the campfire and we crept down to the barn at night to see the owl that lives above it.  We found a little frog in the showers and the chickens roamed free.  For young wildlife lovers it was a fantastic place to get close to them naturally.  Katie offers guided bat walks in the evenings too which we didn't manage to fit in - maybe next time!

Blackdown yurts, family glamping trip

Blackdown yurts, family glamping trip


2) Do a shop on the way

Blackdown Yurts is around a 15 minute drive from the nearest shop so the best thing to do is either bring food with you or do a big shop on the way.  Each yurt has its own fridge in the barn as well as storage space in the camp kitchens so we could stock up on everything we needed for a bbq, different meals and all the breakfast milks (we drink three different milk varieties between us!).  It was so easy to be able to keep everything fresh and cool and to avoid the shops for a few days once we were settled in.

Blackdown yurts, family glamping trip

Blackdown yurts, family glamping trip


3) Bring some good games

We were sent Shake Off from Smyths before we left and it was a perfect campsite game.  Each player has a counter attached either to their wrist, ankle or waistband and they earn more points the more they move.  It was great for getting out any lingering energy before putting them to bed and didn't require any fiddly parts (do remember to put batteries in the timer before you leave though!).  This is definitely a game we will be taking on all family trips.  We also played lots of card games both with the kids and once they were in bed.

Blackdown yurts, family glamping trip

Blackdown yurts, family glamping trip


4) Watch the Stars

Being so far from the street lights and cities means on a clear night you can see everything.  Part of the joy of glamping is to get away from every day stress and nothing is more relaxing or humbling that spreading a blanket on the ground, grabbing a warm blanket and watching the sky.  We saw thousands of stars including a couple of shooting stars and the kids were all amazed at how clear the night sky was.  It is one of those activities that just completely relaxes you and I would recommend doing it whenever you can.

Blackdown yurts, family glamping trip


5) Check out Katie and Mark's recommendations.

I made a big list before we arrived full of local attractions and ideas based purely on the list of recommendations and we loved every places we explored.  Katie and Mark know the area well and they have reviewed lots of local places on the Blackdown Yurts website.  They were also more than happy to offer any more recommendations whilst at the site.  I will be writing up everything we did so come back to see a post on Haldon Forest, The Bear Trail and Canonteign Falls!  If you have already booked a stay then check out the website for local restaurants, attractions and landmarks.  


Blackdown yurts, family glamping trip


Some of the Yurts are open until October and you can grab a discount with the code MUMMY10


Blackdown yurts, family glamping trip






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Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Days Out in Devon // The Bear Trail

As a child, I don't think there is anything more irresistible than a muddy puddle to jump in, and when we visited The Bear Trail in Cullompton, Devon there were enough muddy puddles for everyone and no parents telling you not to splash it up your trousers!

We were invited along and given our tickets in exchange for sharing our day on Instagram but we had such an amazing experience, I wanted to write it on here so I can look back whenever I want to.  We arrived dressed in our oldest and most stained clothes (including an old school tshirt for Archie that was so grubby it wasn't going to be worn again) and old shoes, with a bag full of clean things ready for afterwards.  The course was self explanatory and we understood we should stay apart from others not in our household when queuing for the busier sections.  The course was big with plenty for everyone though and once we realised the queues were due to everyone wanting to start in the same place, it became easier to stay away and not worry about them.

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The children all started to get muddy slowly, first the feet which made them squeal, and then a little splash onto their trousers and within half an hour Dylan was lying in a mud pit pretending to swim.  All four of them took on the huge slide which you accessed by climbing up a netted hill and all disappeared behind the mud as they came hurtling down.  There were all the obstacles you would expect from balance beams to zip-lines to climbing walls and it was easy to avoid anything you didn't fancy attempting.  At just turned 4 and petite for her age, Cora had no problem getting involved and loved the obstacles, but I would say Dylan and Archie at 7 and 9 years old were the most engaged with it all and had to be dragged away after our allotted 3 hours were up.  Most families had given up before than and headed to the outdoor showers and the pizza cafe but our children were determined to keep going until the very end!

It was an experience we won't forget in a hurry, I tried every single obstacle myself and towards the end it was a lot of parents giving it a go whilst the exhausted children rested! The boys have tried to convince me it is worth an 8 hour round trip to go again and we will definitely visit next time we are in the area.

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

When you have finished there are outdoor showers to hose off and indoor changing rooms and I was pleased that I had remembered the bin bags to put all our filthy wet clothes in! The organised parents had buckets - definitely a good tip for next time!  The cafe serves food and we were hoping to get a pizza but after queuing for half an hour they told us at the counter that the people in front of us were the last to be served hot food so if you want to eat you need to order early or eat elsewhere.  There was a pub directly opposite which served a lovely lunch though so we didn't have to go far!

The Bear Trail site is all outdoors and there was information about staying Covid safe.  It was easy to stay distanced from others and we were impressed with how it was all handled.

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon

The Bear Trail, family assault course, Cullompton Devon
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