Category Archives: Local Community

Another visit to the Ecology Centre

Yesterday afternoon we went back to Sutton Ecology Centre for a wander around while it was a little quieter. We had such a lovely time on Saturday at the BioBlitz event that the kids were keen to go again and knew just where they wanted to look and what they wanted to find.

When we arrived they spent a bit of time playing in the teepee frame and jumping from log to log before we walked towards the meadow, stopping at the log circle to hunt for toads and newts.Ecology Centre 1We found lots of toads, both small and large but only one small newt. Thomas looked under one of the carpet tiles and found a rather large slow worm, which we were all pleased with as we didn’t see any the day before.

We walked through the meadow and saw lots of butterflies, did some minibeast hunting in the woodland, and then walked over to the pond and the kids enjoyed peering in and trying to catch things with their hands!ecology centre 2Jasmine wanted to find more grasshoppers – her latest favourite animal! – so she went off to the long grass and the boys enjoyed a run around the gardens. While the kids were occupying themselves I managed to get a couple of nice photos of a Gatekeeper butterfly.ecology centre 3As we were getting ready to leave, our friends from Caterpillar Tales arrived! They had brought nets with them so the kids enjoyed a bit of pond dipping before it was time for us to walk home. I say walk, but Thomas and Jasmine somehow managed to run almost all the way home with me struggling to keep up with them! (I had taken a buggy for Ben, knowing he wouldn’t manage the walk there and back.) I don’t know where they get their energy from, but sometimes I wish they could pass some over to me!

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Sutton Bioblitz

Today we took part in the Sutton Bioblitz at the local ecology centre.

We arrived around 11.30am and collected our recording sheets and activity booklets for the kids. The area had been split into three zones, aqua, amber and jade. As you recorded in each zone the kids got a stamp in their booklet and once you’d been to all three zones you got a free garden wildlife calender.

We started off in the aqua zone, where they were pond dipping.

As I was on my own with the kids today I decided against looking in the main pond – see here for what happened last time – so we got our nets and looked in the smaller raised ponds.

We spent quite a long time pond dipping and found lots of different animals including damselfly larvae, lesser water boatman, a whirligig beetle, a ramshorn snail, a pond snail and mosquito larvae. We were so engrossed in finding and identifying that I completely forgot to take any photographs! But I did get this one after we had put the nets away and I was trying to convince Jasmine to move on to something else.

Bioblitz 1Once I had convinced all the children we should stop looking in the pond and do the next activity we moved into the amber zone to look for bugs. We didn’t really find many today, just the odd woodlouse and snail; I imagine because all the logs had been turned over several times previously!

On the volunteers table however, we did see thisBioblitz 2Eurycantha, or New Guinea Spiny Stick Insect.

Pretty scary looking if you ask me, but both Thomas and Jasmine were very keen to hold it.

So, after holding the giant stick insect and finding no minibeasts, we headed over to the meadow to complete the final activity and collect our last stamp.

In the meadow we did some butterfly catching with nets and discovered how hard it is to catch, and then keep the butterfly in the net! I did most of the catching and got a few butterflies in the net but took a long time to work out how to keep them there! The only one I managed was a ringlet butterfly. While we were there though someone caught a small blue butterfly, the first one of the day.

As i was trying to catch butterflies, Jasmine and Thomas had found a volunteer turning over logs looking for toads. He found a couple and then as I was chatting to him all 3 kids began their own toad hunt. They did well and Jasmine brought over a small toad and Thomas found a newt.bioblitz 3It was now almost 2pm and we still hadn’t had any lunch. We went to get our calenders and wrote comments on the event tree. Thomas wrote “I found a newt” and Jasmine wrote “I found a toad”! While Thomas was writing Jasmine did a spot more bug catching and managed to catch a couple of grasshoppers by herself! Her eye for spotting and her ability to catch almost any small bug astounds everyone and the volunteers nearby were very impressed with her patience!

But then it was time to leave. I don’t think any of the kids had thought about how hungry they were while we were there because they were having so much fun. But I bought them all a cake on the way out and suggested we go to Macdonalds for some chips, and I didn’t have too many problems getting them back to the car!

We had a really great time today and each time we do something like this I see the kids enthusiasm grow and grow. We’re so lucky to have such a wonderful place nearby!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Another day, another lavender field

After a very lazy morning this morning we met up with friends at another local lavender field this afternoon.

Mayfield Lavender is a family run lavender farm about 10 minutes from our house. It is free to visit and you can walk through the lavender, soaking up the amazing smell and view. There is a shop and cafe, where you can relax with an ice cream or purchase lavender products, gifts and plants.

Today we walked round the fields, well actually the adults walked round the fields while the kids ran, wrestled and chased each other round! They hid amongst the plants, spotted bees by the hundreds, saw many different butterflies, played Fruit Salad and Duck, Duck, Goose and had a wonderful time.

It is a lovely place to visit and we will definitely be going back soon.

Mayfield Lavender

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Lavender Picking

This weekend was our local lavender harvest fair. We went for the first time last year and really enjoyed it so we were keen to go back this year.

We arranged to meet our friends from Caterpillar Tales there but we were so late with everything this morning that we ended up arriving just as they were leaving! We chatted for a few minutes and they invited us over to their house once we had finished instead.

We collected out bucket and scissors from the Carshalton Lavender stall, and found a good spot in the field to start cutting our lavender.Lavender HarvestWe had been there about 20 minutes and collected about a handful in the bucket when all of a sudden Ben was crying and holding his hand. There was a lot of blood and he had obviously cut himself with the scissors. We rushed him to the first aid area and they did a great job of bandaging him up and keeping him calm. At this point we hadn’t managed to stop it bleeding so really thought we were going to have to take him to A&E to get it seen to.

Gordon went to pay for the lavender we had harvested and the lovely ladies who did the bandaging gave all 3 kids a lavender cake for being so good! We kept Ben’s hand elevated and walked back to the car.

Ben had calmed down quite a lot by this point so, knowing how busy A&E could be on a hot Sunday afternoon, we decided to go to Caterpillar Tales house as they only live 2 minutes away from the fields, and have a better look at the damage Ben had done. If it was still bleeding we would leave Jasmine and Thomas there and take Ben to A&E, but if not we would clean it and dress it again ourselves, knowing Caterpillar Tales would have a fully stocked First Aid box!

Thankfully, it had stopped bleeding. Once we’d cleaned it up a bit It didn’t look as bad as I had feared either. It is a bad cut, but not quite as big as I first thought, so we bandaged it up again and he went out and played happily with his friends for the afternoon. Poorly FingerWe enjoyed a lovely afternoon with our friends and Ben was only slightly disappointed that he couldn’t play in the water! He did play in the sand pit though so when we got home we changed the bandage for the third time and the cut looked much better still. I think as it is such a clean cut it will heal very quickly. Fingers crossed anyway!

I still don’t really know how he managed to cut himself. He uses scissors regularly at home and has never come close to doing this sort of damage! He did tell me just before he went to bed that he was “being silly and the scissors snipped me” so maybe it wasn’t quite as accidental as it could have been.

I guess sometimes they just have to learn the hard way don’t they, especially as a headstrong 3 year old! I don’t suppose he will do it again in a hurry!




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A Toddle for Charity

Most Tuesday mornings I take Ben to toddler group. It is at our local Salvation Army and I have been going since Jasmine and Thomas were a year old. It is a lovely group and I have made some wonderful friends there.

A few weeks ago, during a Wednesday session, a man named Andy Peddle visited the church. He is walking over 9,000 miles to every Salvation Army Centre in the UK and Ireland to raise money for The Salvation Army’s Homelessness and Anti-Human Trafficking work.

The lovely leaders at the toddler group were so inspired by Andy that they arranged a sponsored toddle for the group to do, to help Andy on his way to raising his £100,000 target.

This morning we toddled from Morden Hall Park to Deen City Farm with several other families.Toddle 1I have to admit that because we have done the walk several times before we didn’t stay with the group (who followed the signposts to the farm) and we walked through the wetlands instead. I love the wetlands as there is so much to see and today it was teeming with butterflies, damselflies and more.Toddle 2Once we reached the farm the kids were each given a certificate to say they had taken part, and an activity sheet to complete as we walked round. Jasmine particularly liked this and ticked off all the animals as she saw them.

We had arrived just in time to see Edna the Barn Owl have her daily flight session.Toddle 3Once we had seen most of the animals and had a look round the garden (where the kids enjoyed the maze) we went indoors to have a go at the craft activity that had been set up for us and the kids each made an animal mask.

We had our picnic lunch and then walked back to Morden Hall Park, with an ice cream to help us on our way! We saw more butterflies and damselflies and finally we found some caterpillars!Toddle 4*If you want to sponsor us for completing the walk please let me know!

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The Village Fair

On our last full day in Sheffield, on Saturday, we went to the annual fair held in my mum and dads village.

The Stannington Carnival has been running for as long as I can remember (and it is a while since I lived there now!) but has got much bigger over the years. It is held in the village hall and 2 big fields full of stalls, games and rides.

When we arrived we wandered round the first field and the kids spotted the “Win a prize every time” hook a duck and fishing games so they had a go on each of these and won themselves some prizes. In the second field we stopped at the Sheffield Fire and Police Museum stand and had a look round some fire engines and a police car.Carnival 1When we were ready to move on to something else I think Thomas got distracted with one last look at the fire engine, but he didn’t tell us. As we walked round the corner I suddenly realised he wasn’t following us and we couldn’t see him. We had a very scary few minutes searching round for him. Gordon looked round the fire engines again, I looked round the neighbouring stalls but for a few minutes we had no idea where he was. Luckily the volunteers who run the fair are wonderful and had seen him and spoken to him, and we spotted him as he was being taken to the Lost Children tent. I’m not sure who was more scared, me and Gordon or Thomas. It was a horrible few minutes, but at least that was all it was and we found him quickly!

Once we were all back together we stopped and got everyone a drink while we recovered!

Jasmine then spotted a large bouncy castle slide and her and Ben asked to go on. Thomas thought he might have a go as well so I paid for all three, but he changed his mind so Jasmine and Ben got a couple of extra go’s each! Despite the look of terror on Ben’s face on the photographs they both loved it!Carnival 2After several turns on the slide we walked over to the classic cars and had a quick look around them before going to get an ice cream for everyone.Carnival 3Next to the ice cream van, the Punch and Judy show was about to start so we stayed to watch that for a bit. Just before it started there were some circus type toys for the kids to play with and Thomas and Jasmine both had a go on some bucket stilts. They were pretty good on them!Carnival 4It was boiling hot on Saturday and after about 20 minutes of the Punch and Judy show we were just too hot so decided to walk back and do one last “prize every time” game before going back to my mum’s house loaded with plastic toy prizes!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Saturday Stuff

After losing the plot a bit yesterday my aim for today was for it to be relaxed, easy and stress free.

I took Jasmine to gymnastics this morning and Gordon stayed home with the boys. When we got back they had been busy building a train track.Train Play They haven’t played with the trains and track recently. I always find toys go in cycles and usually a stressful day signals a change is needed. As yesterday was a stressful day, it was nice to see a change in toy choice!

They played really nicely with the trains and track for the rest of the morning while I got on with some laundry and other stuff.

After lunch I suddenly remembered there was a local church fair on today that I had planned on going to. It was at the church that Caterpillar Tales attend and is a really good event.

We got there some time around 1.45pm I think and, of course, went straight to the toy stall! I was determined not to get anything too big or too random, but as usual I failed because I find it so hard to say no to both the kids and a good bargain! Ben and Thomas got some perfect stuff for them. Ben chose a toy landrover and a dumper truck and Thomas got a selection of modelling kits (make a plaster of paris ant hill, some meccano and a Science Museum kit). Jasmine spotted a ride on toy that she has wanted for a very very long time; a Wheelybug. Several of our friends have one of these and it is always her toy of choice at their houses so I knew she’d want it. I asked how much it was (secretly hoping it would be too much!) but it was only £2.00! So she is now the very proud owner of a tiger Wheelybug!Church Fair PurchasesJasmine and Ben also got a soft toy each. Jasmine got a tiny cat and Ben found a really cute rabbit, who he promptly named Chocolate!

After toys, we went and got a cake and a drink each, had a go on various tombolas and lucky dips where we won far too many sweets and a good selection of books, had a glass of freshly pressed lemonade and came home.

The rest of the afternoon was spent building with the Science Museum kit and the meccano, and riding around on a Wheelybug!


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A Favourite Place

We all have our favourite places to go and this morning we went to one of ours.

Heritage Farm Nurseries is a wonderful, family friendly business based in Wallington, Surrey. They started out in December 2004 as a specialist marine centre. Through the years they have expanded and diversified and today a visit to Heritage means seeing not only marine fish but all types of fish, lizards, snakes, a caimen, a barn owl,  free roaming poultry,  and finally enjoying a delicious hot chocolate and cake in the Tropical Garden Cafe complete with huge dinosaur figures and a Thomas and Friends Model railway! Fish, reptiles, dinosaurs and Thomas the Tank Engine – you can see why my kids love it can’t you! In the summer months there is a large sandpit outside, which the kids will happily play in all day. For those rainy days there is an indoor play area full of toys. Oh, and just as a little extra, they also sell the live Daphnia that our pet Sticklebacks eat!

I love Heritage, the kids love Heritage.

Today there was lots of talk about the  large Triggerfish we saw in a tank with a big sign on saying “I can bite”

Clown Triggerfish

and lots of talk about the Bearded Dragons as usual!

Bearded Dragon Chat

However, today there was also lots of talk about why Heritage was closing. I’m not sure who was more upset about this sad news, me or the kids.

For the last 2 years the owner has been in negotiation with the council regarding a new lease for the premises. They are now threatened with eviction if they do not pay a 167% increase in their rent. They simply cannot do that. The last day of trading for the cafe is Sunday and the aquatics centre will follow shortly after.

This is extremely sad for us, for our local community.

I do have hope however. I have hope because our local community does not want Heritage to close. Our local community is doing everything possible to keep Heritage open.

Local Mums Online have started a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #SaveHeritageFarmNurseries. Edited on 12/01 to #SaveHeritageFarm

I have NO idea how Twitter works, so this blog post is my part in the campaign.

My one and only wish today is that we can continue to enjoy Heritage Farm Nurseries for a long time to come.

To follow Heritage on Facebook and keep up to date with the news, click here

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