Tag Archives: National Trust

Big Nature Weekend at Leith Hill

Today we drove to Leith Hill to take part in the Big Nature Weekend/BioBlitz event, run by the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Leith Hill is the highest point in Southeast England and is set within the Surrey Hills. It is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The event was held in the Rhododendron Woods, a beautiful landscape created by Caroline Wedgwood, the sister of Charles Darwin.

The bioblitz began yesterday evening, when they started with moth trapping and bat surveying. This morning, bright and early, they began trapping small mammals and investigating the moth traps. They also started bird ringing. Of course, we weren’t up late enough last night, or early enough this morning to join in with these activities but we arrived at lunch time today and filled the next four hours with bugs, moths, newts and much, much more!

Our first stop after arriving was the main tent, where they had all the moths and bugs in containers, nets or on egg boxes. We saw a huge selection of different moths, from small to really huge!MothsTop left: Poplar Hawkmoth. Top right: Lime Hawkmoth. Bottom left: Elephant Hawkmoth. Bottom right: Peppered Moth.

These moths pictured made the biggest impression! I was amazed at how beautiful I found the elephant hawkmoth, and Jasmine really liked the peppered moth. Both Thomas and Jasmine got to hold one – Jasmine held a peppered moth and Thomas held a lime hawkmoth.Holding mothsNext we went to the Amphibian and Reptile Group stand where they had newts, snakes, slow worms and tadpoles to see. For most of us this was the highlight of the day because we got to touch a grass snake and a slow worm, and they had a great crested newt in their newt tank! They also had an Adder, which Jasmine asked if she could touch. We quickly explained that it probably wasn’t a good idea because adders are poisonous!

The kids spent a long time looking at, and stroking, the snake and slow worm while I chatted about great crested newts. For anyone who doesn’t know, due to enormous declines in range and abundance in the last century, the great crested newt is strictly protected by British and European law. They had to have a license just to have them on display in a tank today! So it was a real privilege to see it.Newts and snakesAfter reptiles and amphibians we went to see the birds next. They were catching the birds in large nets and then measuring, sexing, ageing and ringing them before releasing them again. We were lucky enough to get there just as they were coming back from checking the nets.

One of the lovely volunteers brought each bird for us to look at once they had collected their data and talked to us a little about it before releasing it. We saw a greenfinch, a nuthatch, 3 siskins and a goldfinch.BirdsOnce all the birds had been released we decided to have a go at the trail around the woods, so we got our map and set off. The rhododendron woods are beautiful, full of life and so much to see. As we did the trail the kids loved looking out for all the markers and answering the questions. The trail was really well thought out and perfect for the kids. Ben was getting a bit tired so he spent some time in the buggy, but mostly they all explored and discovered and chatted and explored some more!Rhododendron woodsOur final activity of the day was pond dipping. We saved the best till last! The kids all got stuck right in, and this produced Jasmine’s highlight of the day because she saw the long-awaited dragonfly nymph. She has been waiting and waiting all year to see one so she was very happy!

Again we got chatting to the volunteers and they were all wonderful with the kids. They let both Thomas and Jasmine hold the newts and move them into the pond dipping trays. They talked to them about what they had found and were just generally lovely. Sadly, by this point of the day the camera was running our of battery so I only got a few photos.Pond dippingI think Thomas and Jasmine could have stayed by the pond, dipping and chatting all day! We had several last go’s before we finally managed to get them away and back to the car!

We all had a great time today and I am really pleased we went and joined in – we almost didn’t go at one point. We will definitely be going back to Leith Hill to see more.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Fathers Day at Ightham Mote

Yesterday we went to Ightham Mote, a 14th Century moated manor house in Kent owned by the National Trust. They were running a special event for Fathers Day that included fishing in the moat, a classic car display and games on the lawn.

We went for Fathers Day last year and had a really wonderful time. It was a beautiful sunny day, we caught several fish in the moat and Jasmine developed a love of maggots! The weather didn’t look promising for this year but we were keen to go again, remembering how good it was last time.

So we packed our picnic and raincoats and set off, talking about the fish we were going to catch and the kids memories of last year.

We arrived just before lunch and decided to have a go at  fishing first. As we were waiting for a rod to become free we didn’t see many people catching fish. I think this should have told us something!

We fished for around 45 minutes and we caught one fish! Just one! It was caught during Ben’s turn at holding the rod and so he was very proud of  himself!Fishing in the moatThomas and Jasmine were desperate to catch a fish too but they just weren’t biting. We were all getting hungry and a little fed up so we decided to give up and go for our picnic, with the promise that we’d try again a little later.

By this time it has also started raining, so we headed for the Discovery Den to eat. The Discovery Den is set at the back of the pleasure gardens so once everything was eaten the kids explored the grounds for a while, trip-trapping over the trolls bridge, jumping across the stream and peering into the water.Exploring Ightham MoteWe had promised the kids a treat from the shop for their pudding so this was where we headed next. This was probably the biggest mistake of the day and set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. The kids spotted the toys and bits in the shop so I said they could go and have a look. I thought I might let them buy something small and inexpensive but Thomas saw a Bug Spotter pack for around £10. I explained that he couldn’t have it because it was too much money but asked if he would like a smaller, less expensive bug catcher on a lower shelf instead. He refused and threw/deliberately dropped the bug catcher to the ground.

I’m afraid I got rather cross at that and told him he had to leave the shop as we wouldn’t be buying anything. Gordon bought some chocolates, but even novelty chocolates didn’t improve the mood after that as all the kids wanted was to go back in the shop to get toys.

Still with moaning kids, we tried some games on the lawn to see if that would improve the mood and it did a little, but Thomas was now wound up so nothing was going to be easy. Jasmine and I played a couple of games of noughts and crosses and all 3 kids tried skipping with skipping ropes, which was quite funny!Games at Ightham MoteAnd then we went back to have another go at fishing. We thought about going to look round the house but, because the kids were getting tired and were still moaning about getting no toys, we decided that an outdoor activity would be better and surely we’d catch another fish and cheer them all up. Sadly, we were wrong and after only ten or fifteen minutes of fishing we’d caught nothing and the boys especially were getting silly. It was obvious the best thing to do would be to go home.

Of course, the boys didn’t agree and screamed the whole way to the car and for a good few minutes once we’d reached the car. It wasn’t a particularly good end to the day but Ben fell asleep about half way home and Thomas was very quiet for the whole journey so it was obviously the right decision to leave when we did.

All in all we did have a good day and, assuming the event is running again next year we’ll go back. Ightham Mote is a really lovely place with a lot more to do than we managed yesterday. If nothing else we need to go back to take another Fathers Day photograph of Gordon and the kids under the giant rhubarb!Fathers Day 2013


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A Windy Walk on Headley Heath

We woke early this morning (thank you to Thomas and Jasmine) but this did have its benefits. We got a bird feeding station from the garden centre on Wednesday and put it out in the garden on Thursday morning. There has gradually been an increase in the number of birds as they are slowly finding all the food we have put out for them, and this morning as I looked out of the window I saw a woodpecker, first in the apple tree and then on the peanut feeder! It was a wonderful sight and I was very excited! All the kids crowded into our bedroom to watch it.

Shortly after, as we were eating breakfast, we saw a jay as well! So since having the feeder out we have seen lots of blue tits, magpies, wood pigeons, a pair of collared doves, blackbirds, a jay, a robin and a woodpecker! I also saw another small bird this morning but didn’t get a very good look. I think it was a dunnock or a sparrow but I’m not sure so hopefully he’ll be back.Birds in the GardenThis afternoon it rained. There isn’t much to do in our back garden in the rain but we all wanted to get outside, so we went for a walk on Headley Heath.

Actually, for most of the afternoon (after we’d left the house of course) the rain held off, but it was incredibly windy.

We took a new route around Headley Heath today. As we entered through the gate, one of the first things we saw was what we *think* was a badger sett. It was definitely an animal hole and we couldn’t see any evidence of rabbits nearby. There was also a large area of cleared soil, which is what made me think of badgers.

A short walk into the woodland and we found another hole. This time we did see evidence of rabbits so we think this was a rabbit hole. Animal HomesAs we continued our walk the kids did the usual climbing trees, balancing on fallen logs and bug catching. We took a net with us to sweep the ferns, but we didn’t find much today, even in the undergrowth and under logs. We did see a millipede, a lacewing and what we think was a soldier beetle.Headley Heath in JuneToday was mostly just about getting out and walking. It was so windy there wasn’t much to see; even the birds were hiding away! But we still managed to fill almost two hours and have a really wonderful time.


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Continuing our National Trust week

Yes, today we visited another National Trust property; our 3rd this week! Today we went to Polesdon Lacey in Bookham.

With its stunning views of the Surrey Hills, large grassy areas, woodland walks and adventure playground, Polesdon Lacey is a great place to go for a day enjoying the outdoors. We have been a few times before and we have found something new to see and do every time we’ve been.

Today we went with Caterpillar Tales mummy and youngest so we stuck to a walk we have done before, knowing it was child and buggy friendly! We actually walked the route of this years Easter Egg Trail.

In our usual way we arrived at lunch time so the first thing we did was have our picnic. Once sandwiches, crisps, veggies and cakes had been eaten it was time to explore. The kids couldn’t wait for us to tidy and pack away so they found a nearby rhododendron that made the perfect den for them to play in.Rhododendron DenOnce we managed to coax them away from their den we headed down Admirals Walk. Along the way we balanced on logs, clambered over tree stumps, admired the bluebells and hunted for bugs. We also stopped off in the bird hide but for the first time ever we didn’t see any birds. I don’t think the kids were that bothered really, but I was disappointed because previously we’ve seen a lot of different birds there.Admirals WalkOur next stop was Squirrels Corner, an adventure playground made from natural materials. All the kids had a great time here and went round the course several times each! They also found the chalkboards and some natural chalk to do a spot of drawing.

Squirrels CornerWhen we left the playground we walked back to the house over the lawn and through the woodland. I showed the kids how to pull grass seed off the wild grass growing high, something I used to love doing as a child! They spent a long time picking grass and spreading the seeds and blowing Dandelion Clocks on the lawn! Then there was more climbing and exploring in the woods.Lawn and WoodsWe ended our day at Polesdon Lacey with the ever popular rolling down a hill! This will never fail to entertain my kids and is quite amusing to watch as 2 of them haven’t really got the hang of it and end up going sideways most of the time!Rolling downhill

Today we completed 1, possibly 2 new challenges from the 50 Things on the National Trust list; we rolled down a really big hill (#2) and we went bird watching (#44) although we didn’t actually see any birds.

Next time we go I want to have a go at Geocaching. Polesdon Lacey is a popular place to do this it seems and they have recently added more caches. I really don’t know much about it at all (other than it is a high-tech treasure hunt)  but it is on the 50 Things list and sounds fun! Anyone want to give me any hints and tips please?

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Wednesday Fun with Friends

Today has followed the pattern of Monday and Tuesday. We spent the morning indoors and then went out this afternoon, this time to Morden Hall Park with our Home Education Group.

We wandered through the wetlands and peered into several pools spotting tadpoles, water hog louse and leeches. We played Pooh Sticks, had fun in the natural playground and ended the afternoon chasing and popping giant bubbles.Wednesdays adventuresAll in all, a great day 🙂

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Garsons Farm and Claremont Landscape Garden

After another very lazy morning this morning – I hardly saw the big 2 as they were playing LEGO upstairs – we had an afternoon outdoors at our local Pick Your Own farm and then Claremont Landscape Garden, another National Trust property, 5 minutes away from the farm. I say local, but Garsons Farm is around 30 minutes away from us by car.  I love it there though so try and go as regularly as possible during the time it is open. It opened, for the first time this year, last Friday for Asparagus picking and I have been more than keen to go but after only 2 days, the fields were closed again for regrowth. They opened them again today and I didn’t want to miss out this time! The fruit and veg we have picked in the last 2 years has always been delicious and there is nothing better than field to plate in just a few hours!

Initially the kids weren’t keen on picking the asparagus, which is why I said we’d go to Claremont afterwards, but once we got there they loved it and I’m sure we picked far more asparagus than we needed!Asparagus

Once we had our asparagus we drove over to Claremont.  I knew it would be beautiful at this time of year and I wasn’t disappointed. The bluebells are stunning and the Rhododendrons are starting to open in places. It is also teeming with new life and as we walked round the lake we saw goslings, ducklings and coot chicks. We also saw a Tufted Duck, a Shelduck and the resident Black Swan.Animals

While I was busy taking pictures (!) the kids had a great time exploring. They ran up and rolled down the mound, collected feathers and sticks, found a “secret cave” in the bushes and splashed in puddles. They loved seeing all the baby animals but weren’t that keen on the hissing geese when they got too close!  Exploring ClaremontFinally we walked round to the play area, which is also fantastic! Inspired by the history of Claremont the play area offers a modern take on several features of the garden and includes a castle with ladders, a climbing wall and slide, a playhouse and a bridge. The kids loved it!Playing at ClaremontToday we only walked around the lake and I know there is much more to discover at Claremont. Thomas declared it his “favourite place” as we walked back to the car! We will definitely be going back soon.Claremont Landscape Garden

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Pooh Sticks, Scary Beasts and Daisy Chains

I had two ideas of things to do today. The first was go into London and meet some home educating families and the other was to go to Claremont Landscape Gardens for a stroll around. With Gordon at work and rain threatened I decided against London (one day I will brave it on my own with the kids!), and then Claremont was postponed for another day as well when we decided instead to go to Morden Hall Park and meet up with Caterpillar Tales to complete some of our National Trust 50 Things challenges.

So after a lazy morning and lunch we put on our waterproofs and headed out, late of course!

We started off by walking through the Rose Garden, playing Pooh Sticks as we crossed the little bridge to reach the other side of the garden. The Rose Garden is beautiful and such a wonderful place to spot all sorts of plants and animals.WildlifeIn the Rose Garden we made daisy chains and found a great tree to explore. It was hollow at the bottom and the kids enjoyed squeezing inside it!50 Things #16 and #22As we headed back to the path, the kids saw a fallen tree that was just waiting to be explored. Actually it has been on the ground for some time and is in several pieces, and we have explored it several times before, but that doesn’t stop them! We looked inside the largest bit and lifted any other piece we could to see what was underneath. We had a very successful bug hunt today and found woodlice, centipedes, worms, slugs, beetles, earwigs and spiders. Jasmine was chief bug catcher for everyone. She really is getting to be quite the expert these days!Bug HuntingOnce we were all explored out we made our way to the natural playground where Jasmine formed a secret club in the bushes, Ben jumped and ran and Thomas climbed and swung. We ended the afternoon with one last go at Pooh Sticks before it was time to go home.

Playing at Morden Hall

Today we completed the following 50 things challenges:

16. Make a daisy chain
19. Play pooh sticks
22. Explore inside a tree
30. Hold a scary beast (although in all honestly my kids do this daily!)
31. Hunt for bugs (again, we do this daily!)

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Another Day at the Fayre

After our trip to the May Fayre at Morden Hall Park on Saturday (with the shockingly overpriced ice creams!) I found out from a local mum’s group on Facebook that our entry ticket was valid all weekend.

So with nothing else planned for today, and because our friends from Caterpillar Tales were going today as well, we headed back there this afternoon.

The plan was to meet our friends before lunch so we could all have a picnic and then look round together. In our usual way though, we were running late and by the time I had made the picnic, remembered I had a machine full of clothes that needed to be hung up to dry outside, and then finally got everyone in the car only to realise half way there that I had forgotten the ticket so needed to go back home to get it, it was almost 12.30pm by the time we arrived! It didn’t matter too much though because our friends were even later than us!

Obviously the first thing we did on arrival was eat our lunch! But the kids already knew what they wanted to do next.

The Peg Perego Jeeps are as popular with my kids as the Bumper Boats are! They love them! I like them as well because Ben can ride alongside as a passenger. Everyone is happy!

After the Jeeps we went to see a Punch and Judy show. I wasn’t sure the kids would stay and watch the whole show but they loved it. Thomas joined in all the shouting “Oh no it isn’t”, “He’s over there” and Ben made sure I was joining in as well! When the show had finished the kids wanted to go on a little train ride that Ben and Gordon had been on on Saturday.

Just as the train ride finished our friends arrived so we went to meet them by the entrance, stopping for some Candy Floss on the way.

We found our friends in the National Trust area, so we headed in and had a go at #41 on the 50 Things challenge “Plant it Grow it Eat it” Both Thomas and Jasmine made a plant pot out of newspaper and planted some Rocket seeds. Unfortunately these seeds won’t make it to the grow and eat stage because the pots fell out of the buggy later in the day :-/ Bad Mummy I am for not paying enough attention. But we have all planted lots more seeds in the garden this year so we will still be able to complete this challenge!

As it was by now getting quite late, and very very hot, we decided on one more walk round before going home. We went to see the rabbits again, then Jasmine brushed one of the Miniature Ponies, and then I decided we’d have one go on a Fun Fair style game. I chose the nearest, you picked x number of tickets from a bucket and if you could make them add to 21 you won a prize. I paid for 10 tickets and we got opening. Of course, most of the ones we opened were even numbers so no hope of making 21, but then Thomas opened a “21” Instant Win ticket! We are now the proud owners of a rather large cuddly dog! He has been names “Fire Dog” because of his red hat and the intials on it!

We had another great day at the Fayre today.

I’ve just got to find somewhere for this large dog to go now!

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May Fayre at Morden Hall Park NT

After Jasmine’s gymnastics class this morning we packed up our picnic, raincoats and sun hats (don’t you just love the English weather!) and headed over to the May Fayre at Morden Hall Park

We went to the May Fayre last year and had a brilliant time so we have all been really looking forward to going again this year.

We arrived just before lunch and both Jasmine and Thomas immediately made a beeline for the Bumper Boats. They loved these last year and I think they loved them even more this year!

Bumper BoatsI have to admit they do look fun and I think Gordon was a little bit jealous that he couldn’t go on!

When the Bumper Boat ride had finished we went over to the Totally Falconry Marquee where they had several different owls and four Harris Hawks. I have always had a fascination with Birds of Prey and I think Jasmine is developing the same, although all the kids liked seeing the birds.

BirdsAs we were looking at the birds they started loading them into their boxes and I realised it was time for the Falconry display in the arena, and therefore lunch time for us! We found somewhere to sit for our picnic and watched the display.

The highlight of the entire day for me was during this display. Towards the end they asked if anyone wanted to take part and I got to put on one of the gloves and hold a Harris Hawk!


After lunch the kids managed to get on a ride each before it started raining – a lot – and we had to shelter for a while. We were just beginning to lose hope and thinking of going home and then just as quickly as it has started, it stopped and the sun came out again!

Whilst we were sheltering I had spotted the Medieval Reenactment Village, so we headed over and spent some time chatting to the man making chainmail and the people with the swords, which the kids particularly liked!

Rides and moreAfter several minutes chatting, the kids were desperate to go on another ride but, for reasons I will explain in a minute, we had run out of cash so decided on another favourite.. the rabbits!

Rabbits are a favourite with all of us, me and Gordon included, so we spent a long time with the rabbits. They are so cute!


After the rabbits there was just time to nip into the National Trust bit and pick up our new 50 Things booklets and hunt for some treasure.Treasure Hunting

And then it was time to leave because , as I said above, we had run out of cash. The crazy reason for this was because we bought Ice Creams, 5 of then at £3 each! £3 for an Ice Cream! See, crazy!

I have read on a local site on Facebook this evening that our entry ticket to the Fayre today allows us entry all weekend and I really hope this is true. I’d love to go back on Monday and meet up with some friends that are going, and let the kids go on a few more of the paid attractions now I know not to buy Ice Creams!

Once we’d left the Fayre, there was just time for a few turns on the Zip Wire in the Natural Play Area before we headed home. Zip Wire





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Reading and a Spring Walk

Thomas woke up this morning and wanted to read. So he did. Almost all morning he was either reading a book or reading something on the computer!

His reading has come on leaps and bounds recently. He is past the basic CVC word reading and has been doing “smile and squeeze”, soft C and soft G on Reading Eggs. (For those confused, smile and squeeze is what I used to know as “magic E” – bike, smile, make, late etc). These new “rules” have made him more aware that not everything can be simply sounded out one letter at a time in the order they are written in and he is decoding words really well now.

The other thing that is encouraging his reading massively is our DK Readers Star Wars collection. All 3 kids love Star Wars at the moment and Thomas has now realised that he can read almost all of the level 1 books we have by himself with minimal help, and quite a lot of the level 2 books as well. Today he read “Star Wars What is a Wookiee?”  and “Star Wars The Adventures of Han Solo”

It is amazing to see his confidence growing as he reads. The more he reads independently, the more he is learning for himself. If he is unsure of a word and has to ask me, when that word comes up again I have noticed him checking back to see if it is the same and then reading on happily. He is also learning to read on a little bit, to see if he can work out a word he is he is unsure of that way. A great example of this is when he sees the words Death Star and Darth Vadar. He has been getting these mixed up as he was reading the first word and then assuming the second word, but he was sometime getting the first word wrong and was reading Death for Darth and vice versa. Easy to do as they are very similar words! Today he started checking the second word to get the first word correct!

Bizarrely however, with Thomas progressing to these new “rules” of reading on Reading Eggs and gaining confidence and independence Jasmine has now decided she does not like Reading Eggs! I can’t decide whether this is because she is nervous of playing the games with the new reading rules in or if she doesn’t want to play her games of CVC words because she wants to move on to the ones Thomas is doing. She does watch Thomas when he is doing his games and she understands the new rules as well as he does, so I am thinking the latter is more likely, but I guess only time will tell!

So, after a morning of reading and computers, this afternoon we took scooters and bikes out and went for a walk/scoot/ride from Morden Hall Park to Deen City Farm, along the Wandle Trail.

We have been to both Morden Hall Park and Deen City Farm numerous times, but have only walked from one to the other twice before. I really have no idea why! It is a lovely walk, only about 20 minutes and there is plenty to see along the way. We walked through the Wetlands at Morden Hall Park and saw ducks, ducklings, coots, a centipede and frogspawn. The frogspawn was the highlight of the day for Thomas and Jasmine and I know I am going to be asked frequently over the next few days if we can go and see tadpoles yet!

Once we reached Deen City Farm we wandered around and saw all the animals before having an ice lolly, our first of the year. I know I have said it before, but it does finally feel like spring has arrived!

The walk back was a little more stressful as the kids were getting tired, legs didn’t want to work, scooters were too slow, bikes were wrong. You know what it is like! But we made it and by the time we got home and I asked the kids if they had enjoyed it, they all said yes 🙂

We ended the day with bubbles in the garden. Today has made me even more hopeful that this nice weather will stay put for a while longer. I am really enjoying it!

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