Saturday 17 October 2020

Visiting Stonehenge with Kids

Stonehenge is one of the most recognisable locations in the world and features on many people's bucket lists. Thought to be around 5000 years old, Stonehenge is a Unesco World Heritage Site. 

Despite living in the neighbouring county to Wiltshire, we've never visited! This Summer we travelled to Wales on a roadtrip so it was the perfect excuse to make a little detour and finally see the stones. 

We pre-booked our tickets on the English Heritage Website - EH members get in for free, but also National Trust members too which was fab for us!  If you're not NT or EH members, you can expect to pay around £55 for a family ticket. 

Tickets need to be booked in half hour time slots and visitor numbers have been limited to keep everyone safe. The tickets are emailed to your phone so no need to take any print outs but don't forget to take your membership cards!

Our timed slot was 9:30am and we had no trouble finding somewhere to park. Parking is free with pre-booked tickets and there plenty of room for lots of visitors, even ones in motorhomes like us. 

Once we had shown our ticket confirmations at the Visitor Centre entrance , we decided to look at the museum first. (You can also find a cafe, toilets and large gift shop here) Due to Covid, they are restricting numbers in here but we only queued for around 15 minutes. One of us stayed in the queue whilst the other took the children to see the Neolithic Houses. Really interesting to see what life was like back then.  You can also get up close to a replica Sarsens stone and see just how huge they were. 

As you enter the museum you will find yourself in the middle of the stones, in a fantastic audio visual 360 degree view where you can watch the seasons pass, the kids loved it when the snow fell! 

I found the museum really interesting and I loved reading about the stones and how they were bought across from Wales. It's hard to get your head around how long this would have taken given the size of the stones. I find it fascinating that Stonehenge is still such a mystery after all these years. 

Stonehenge has various special exhibitions throughout the year and we were lucky enough to see the latest one, a collection of photos sent in entirely from visitors. It was brilliant seeing the different fashions over time and how photography has evolved into the selfies of today! 

Viewing the Stones

There are two ways to reach the stones, there is a shuttle bus that runs frequently from the visitors centre although currently they are prioritising for those who need it most. You will also need a face covering. 

We decided to walk to the stones, it's an off road path which is around 1.5miles long - it was quite bumpy so you might struggle if you were thinking of taking a stroller. It's a lovely walk across to the stones and the scenery is really pretty - although it really surprised me how far it is from the visitors centre. Having not visited before, I fully expected to see them right away! You'll see ancient burial mounds along the route and if you have the audio guide (this can be downloaded directly onto your smartphone), this will give you lots of information alongside the information boards. 

Once you reach the stones, it is roped off but you can walk the entire way round with plenty of vantage spots for photos. We visited on a weekday so it was definitely quieter, and the restricted visitor numbers are definitely a bonus. 

It was really impressive to see the stones up close and in real life, I can imagine how amazing it would be to be able to watch the sun rise there on Summer Solstice. 

It's worth remembering that there aren't any toilet facilities or places to eat/drink once you are down at the stones but there are plenty of spots for picnics. 

We hopped on the shuttle for the trip back and we didn't have to wait longer than 5 minutes for a bus. It was certainly a lot quicker and there were no complaints of tired legs! 

Overall we spent around 3.5 hours at Stonehenge and I think it's well worth a trip, everyone should visit at least once. I was a little apprehensive if the kids would find it enjoyable but here's what Elliot had to say "I liked seeing the skeleton in the museum and it was fun to get so close to the stones!"

For more information and tickets, visit the English Heritage website

Thursday 3 September 2020

Wales Roadtrip in a Motorhome - With Kids!

Back at Easter we were due to fly to Florida to embark on an epic 3 week roadtrip in a motorhome. Sadly due to Covid, our plans were scuppered and our trip got cancelled. Weeks/months passed, lockdown restrictions started to ease and we decided to get away for a UK holiday. We didn't fancy flying anywhere so a UK roadtrip was the obvious choice!

We found a local company who rent motorhomes and we were really lucky to secure a last minute 10 night rental. With only a couple of weeks to wait until our holiday it was full steam ahead to plan plan plan! Being peak season, and especially busy with more people holidaying in the UK it was really important for us to get campsites booked asap.

We decided to head to Wales - there are so many lovely places to visit there and it was a tricky job narrowing down our trips to squeeze them into our 10 days!

The Motorhome

The company we hired from are located less than 6 miles from our house so we were able to collect the motorhome and drive it back home to pack. This definitely worked in our favour because it meant we didn't have to pack the car up/unpack/repack the motorhome etc. It also meant I could do a food shop in the morning and load this straight into the fridge. (Although next time I won't buy so much food, I forget that the fridge/cupboards would be smaller than home so it was a bit of a mission finding homes for everything!) . After loading on what felt like half our house, it was time to leave and head to our first destination....Stonehenge!

We weren't able to collect the motorhome until late afternoon so rather than making the long drive down to Wales and get in late, we decided to stop off in Wiltshire and visit the famous stones. We also had our first experience of "wild camping" - rather than park in a campsite, we parked up in a pub not far from Stonehenge. We found details of this on - it's important to know that you can't just pull over anywhere for the night but surprisingly, there are lots of places that let you stay in their carparks. I was a bit apprehensive but it felt very safe, and we had a fantastic meal in the pub too. The kids were excited spend the first night in the van and went off to sleep surprisingly quickly!

The next morning we made the short drive to Stonehenge and spent a brilliant few hours exploring the visitors centre and then walking down to the stones. We've never visited before and it was quite cool to see them up close and think about how they came to be there.

We were able to book tickets using our National Trust membership so it made a nice cheap start to the holiday.

From Wiltshire we headed into Wales and parked up at our first campsite of the holiday which was located around 20 miles from Cardiff. It was good to park up and get hooked up to electric for the first time and see how everything in the motorhome worked.

 The next morning we spent a few rainy hours fossil hunting at Llantwit Major Beach before driving to the Gower. South Wales is one of my favourite places and it always brings back fab memories seeing Swansea Bay and the Mumbles in the distance. We didn't stop in Mumbles this time as it was really busy and we struggled to find somewhere to park the motorhome - one of the downsides of having a large vehicle!

Instead we headed straight to our home for the next two nights, Three Cliffs Bay. This lovely campsite is perched high on a cliff looking down at one of the most beautiful beaches in Wales and is very very popular. We were extremely lucky to get a pitch right on the edge of the campsite with perfect views to the beach below and the cliffs in the distance that gives Three Cliffs Bay it's name.

This was a great campsite with a well stocked shop and the cleanest, poshest shower blocks I've ever seen. It's no wonder it's so popular! You can even hire fire pits which came in handy for marshmallow toasting...

We were able to explore the beach the next day and it was just as beautiful down on the sand. The walk down however was quite a steep one and definitely not buggy friendly! The sea is quite dangerous to swim in here with unpredictable riptides but the kids had lots of fun paddling in all the little lagoons that were left as the tide went out.

Our next campsite was located in Cardigan Bay so it was a couple hours of driving. We did plan on exploring the Gower a little more but when we left the campsite the weather was pretty rainy and we decided to just press on to our next stop.

The rain cleared a little on the way so we stretched our legs at Cenarth Falls. It was a bit soggy for any walking but we had some lunch in the cafe and admired the falls. It's a nice little stop but the carpark was £2.50 which is a little expensive if you just wanted to pull over and take some photos!

Our next campsite was located at Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park - another family friendly site with stunning views. The camping field was located right next to the farm park and we had a lovely afternoon exploring. There were lots of animals for the children to see, plus we walked right up the headland overlooking Cardigan Island and spotted seals!

A massive plus point for this campsite was the play area in the park, probably one of the best ones we have found. The kids didn't want to leave! Even the lure of a slice of cake and a hot chocolate wasn't quite enough for them to stop playing.

The next stop on our Welsh roadtrip was Barmouth - a lovely seaside town in the southern part of Snowdonia. The drive up the coast was stunning with mountains and streams all around us, then the beautiful view of the Barmouth Bridge running over the estuary as we drove towards the town.

We stayed at Hendre Mynach Campsite and we picked this as it was walking distance to the town. As lovely as it is to have a stunning campsite high up on a cliff in the middle of no-where, sometimes it's nice to be able to walk to a pub!

Things have probably changed over the last few weeks but we did notice that it was really quiet around the town and things seemed to close quite early. We had some fish and chips near the beach and there were more seagulls than humans!

I really liked Barmouth though, the beach and harbour were so pretty and there seemed to be a good mix of quirky shops in town. I shall putting this one of the list of places I'd like to return to.

The next morning we left Barmouth and carried on up the coast to Harlech Beach. Overlooked by the impressive Harlech Castle, Harlech Beach is a 4 mile stretch of flat, golden sand that seems to go on forever. It's also one of the cleanest beaches I've ever seen.

The weather wasn't too sunny but this didn't deter the kids, they were straight in the sea despite the temperature! We had a fantastic time playing on the beach and building sandcastles, the kids also loved the surrounding sand dunes. These made good slides!!

One of the great things about traveling in a motorhome is having everything with us - when we got back to the carpark, we just showered all the sand off the kids and it was 100 time easier than getting them clean on the beach.

Venturing deeper into Snowdonia, we headed onto our next campsite Coed-Y-Llwyn where we stayed for two nights. It was a great base to explore the area and there was a brilliant pub just 5 minutes walk away!

We spent a bit of time in Porthmadog and it's a nice little harbour town to stroll around. You can also find the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway hubs here too. When we visited, the Covid rules were just starting to change and not all attractions were fully open yet so unfortunately we weren't able to experience any of the trains or castles - maybe next time.  Luckily the scenery more than made up for the closed attractions!

Betws-y-Coed is another nice place to visit if you are exploring the area. Known as the gateway to Snowdonia, it's a bustling little village with plenty of outdoor shops to kit you out for your expeditions! We loved walking over the historical Pont-y-Pair bridge and going for a paddle in the river below. Be careful though, the stones are very slippery and the water is icy cold. Very refreshing on a hot day though.

After leaving Snowdonia, it was time to start heading South again as our holiday was almost over. On our way to Brecon we stopped at the Elan Valley Reservoirs which made for some impressive scenery. The reservoirs are a chain of man-made lakes that provide drinking water for Birmingham.

If you are visiting, the Visitors Centre is a good place to start and here you can find bike hire, plenty of walks, a cafe, shop, picnic areas and a fab children's play area. The staff are all very friendly and knowledgeable too, the gentleman we spoke to gave us lots of info about driving around the area to see all the dams and reservoirs, and put our mind at ease with regards to driving down narrow roads!

From Elan Valley, we made the short drive to the town of Brecon where we were booked into a campsite for the next two nights. It was a really clean site, with great showers and within walking distance of the town centre which was handy. We were also able to order a takeaway to be delivered directly to our campsite which are one of the bonuses of being close to town!

The walk into town took us along the canal and it was a really pretty route, the kids enjoyed waving at the barge boats! Brecon is a nice little market town with lots of shops and pubs. It's also a great base for exploring the Brecon Beacons National Park.

On our last full day in Wales we decided to treat to the kids to a day out at Cantref Adventure Farm , not far from our Brecon campsite. With spectacular views over the Brecon Beacons, Cantref was a great day out to end our holiday. The kids had lots of fun in the play areas, seeing and feeding all the animals, whizzing down a giant hill on sledges, going on a tractor ride, we even met a dinosaur!

Of course Elliot was in his element with all the goats to feed too :)

Those views though! 
We had a brief stopover in the Forest of Dean and then it was time to head back to Dorset via our favourite farm shop, White Row Farm in Frome. We always seem to stop here if we are passing through - it's a great place to have some lunch (the fish and chips are lovely) and the kids love the playarea. The farm shop is brilliant too, the yummy home made cakes and pastries are just too tempting!

White Row Farm play area
Spending 10 days in a motorhome with two young children probably isn't for everyone and it was definitely a steep learning curve getting used to the small space! The best thing was to be as organised as possible and keep things tidy, although that was a challenge in itself with the kids and all the bits they had with them. Next time I think we could definitely pack less and I'd make more use of the laundry facilities at campsites rather than packing outfits for everyday.

We really enjoyed covering lots of miles and seeing lots of different places and this is a definite plus point of having the motorhome. However it is a bit restrictive if you want to drive anywhere once you have hooked up a campsite. I can see why a lot of larger motorhomes tow a car on the back now.

Wales has so much to offer and it's a fantastic place to holiday with children. It's a shame we were a bit restricted with days out due to Covid (no castles open and boat trips hard to find) but we made the best of the situation and I think the kids enjoyed themselves!

Friday 21 August 2020

Visiting the Sunflower Picking Patch in Hampshire

Today we visited a beautiful sunflower field in Hampshire, an instagrammer's dream! Sunflower Picking Patch is located in Fordingbridge and they are open to visitors throughout August. 

I've been to a pumpkin patch before but never sunflowers (the same company run both from the same location!) so we thought it would be a fun visit for the kids and something a bit different. 

You can book tickets in advance or pay on the gate, however they do limit numbers so I would definitely advise booking online. We booked in advance and just had to show the email at the front gate. The cost is £6 per person, however under 4's go free. 

Parking is free and plentiful and the Sunflower Picking Patch is very easy to find if you are coming from the Ringwood direction. It's on the main road and you can't miss it! 

Once you get inside you can head straight for the sunflowers, although a friendly member of staff advised us to leave that until last. You might want to pick yourself a bunch of sunflowers so it makes sense not to have to carry them around with you. 

There are crafts available to purchase and we saw some lovely looking sunflower pails that children were painting. We opted for a tin can bee/ladybird kit and handily this was all contained inside the tin so it was easy for us to take home without having to do it there and then. One to save for a rainy afternoon! 

There was an ice cream van on site, plus toilets and also a fab little play area which our kids really enjoyed playing on. The noisy cars were a big hit! There was a lovely swing that is perfect for having your photo taken on. 

The Maize Maze on site is really impressive and is over 4 football pitches in area with almost 2000m of path! (We got lost and I'm certain we covered every one of those metres!). The maze has been designed with Covid in mind and has nice big pathways so there is plenty of room for social distancing. It's a bit uneven underfoot but you could definitely take a buggy round - my friend did just this and had no issues. 

The maze is bee themed and features 9 fact boards along the way with a surprise in the middle which you might spot peeking over the top of the maize plants. We loved getting to the middle and it was reassuring to know we weren't completely lost! 

The sunflower field was our last stop of the afternoon and it was a sight to behold - hundreds and hundreds of bright sunflowers swaying in the wind. We walked around the entire perimeter of the sunflowers and found the best flowers over the nearest side. Alot of the flowers on the far side were already starting to droop but to be honest, there were so many that you wouldn't have any problems finding the perfect sunflower! 

If you choose to purchase some sunflowers, they are priced at £1 per flower of 6 for £5. You can bring your own secateurs but they do have spares you can borrow. 

There are plenty of perfect spots for photos and lots of little pathways through the sunflowers if you wanted to go further into the field. 

We had a lovely afternoon and really enjoyed our visit. If you want to pick some sunflowers of your own, be quick because you only have until the 31st of August. It's definitely worth following them on social media too because they will update on bad weather closures. And it's definitely nicer to visit on a sunny day! 

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