Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The Vyne

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

The VyneFor the second time this year we headed over to the National Trust’s Vyne Estate just the other side of Basingstoke to meet up with friends. As on our previous trip we were treated to lots of sunshine although there was a bit of a nip in the air for the first half of the day. There is plenty to keep the kids amused whether it is the sculptures scattered around the grounds, relaxing on deck chairs on the lawn, counting (toy) rats in the rooms of the house, the bird hide, or the imaginative playground. This time we also wandered a bit further in to the woods and enjoyed the bluebells and building dens.

Birthday Eye

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

London EyeAs an early trip for Christine’s birthday, we headed up to London on Saturday. Things didn’t get off to a great start as we just missed one train and then we had to stand/sit in the aisle the whole way as the next train was parked (Saints were playing at Arsenal later in the day). The main attraction of the day was to be the London Eye. We had to queue for tickets as we were intending to use a 2 for 1 offer as a result of coming by train. It then transpired that you need to have tickets to show for both of the people. Duncan being under 5, didn’t have a train ticket but, being over 4, would have had to pay the full child’s fee. In the end the lady behind the counter took pity on use and we got our 4 for 2.

After a quick detour in to the “4D Experience” (worth a look if only at no extra cost!) we queued up again to get on to the Eye. The queue was mercifully quick and within about an hour of getting off the train we were on board. The last time I went on the London Eye was part way through my stag weekend so I was looking forward to remembering more of the experience on this occasion! Although the blue skies from earlier in the day were starting to cloud over, there were still some good views to be had and everyone enjoyed the ride.

Natural History MuseumOur second stop was the Natural History Musuem where we got to join another long queue which meant lunch was a little later than planned. As we were sat in the restaurant Duncan declared that he was going to be sick but thankfully rallied in time to eat the large bowl of ice cream, sprinkles and chocolate that arrived!

The dinosaur exhibition is usually a must but having to queue yet again and then trapse round at the same speed as everyone else took the edge of things. Duncan was starting to flag at this point so we made a quick visit to the blue whale before starting to wend our way back home. Thankfully we made it to Waterloo before the defeated Saints supporters so had a peaceful seated journey back home!

Camping en Bretagne

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

BrittanyOur second holiday of the summer was to be a trip to France. Other than having booked a ferry from Portsmouth to Caen, we had no real plans until Christine started looking at campsites in Brittany with about a week to go. We settled on a vague plan to split the 10 days between Névez and Quiberon, both on the south-west coast either side of Lorient. With our preferred campsite in Névez only taking reservations for a week or longer, we left home without any firm bookings.

We avoided the high-speed ferry this time and, combined with a calm sea, the crossing was mercifully uneventful. The drive across to Brittany took longer than I had hoped (with bikes and a new box on the roof the 130km/h limit felt too fast) and we arrived half an hour after reception was due to have closed. Thankfully, it was open all the same and we duly booked ourselves in to a nice grassy pitch.

Musee de la Peche, ConcarneauWith the exception of the arrival of Christine’s parents in their camper van a couple of days later, each day then proceeded along much the same lines: lazy start to the day, sun shone, , beach, campsite swimming pool, children cycled around campsite, campsite playground, children collapsed in to bed shortly followed by parents. No-one showed any signs of tiring of this routine and in the end we stayed 8 days at Camping de l’Ocean. The campsite was most notable for the lack of British people (a mix of French and Germans with a few Dutch thrown in for good measure). From the sound of it, most of them were in the campsite next door! We had just two nights where it rained with a grey day in between where we headed in to Corncarneau and the children had a surprising amount of fun in the Musée de la pêche.

Frisbee on Omaha BeachFor the last two nights we relocated to Normandy so that we only had a short drive back to the ferry. We randomly selected Camping La Roseraie d’Omaha from a guide book (tucked away you certainly wouldn’t have found it otherwise). Unfortunately, Emma was car sick with just 15 minutes to go to the campsite. Thankfully I’d pocketed a few sick bags off the ferry! It was a short drive from the camp site to the beach where I’m afraid we studiously avoided anything WWII related (I don’t think either of the children are yet in a position to really understand the enormity of what happened there). It was a good choice in Emma’s eyes if only due to the water slide by the pool and the ice creams in the shop!

We had one further mishap on the return ferry. For some unknown reason, Duncan headed out on to deck when I had thought he was going to join Emma in the nearby play area. He then needed a wee but couldn’t find us again and was picked up by a member of the crew with rather damp shorts… We’d just spotted his absence from the play area when the announcement came over the tannoy and Christine had to pick him up from the pedestal behind the information desk where he’d been placed in full view of the queue of passengers waiting to book a cabin. Thankfully Christine had thought to pack some spare clothes for just such an eventuality.

All in all, with the help of some fantastic weather, it was a very relaxing holiday. Christine and I have both had the luxury of a one day working week but next week sees a return to normality with school restarting on Tuesday.

Mixed Moray

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Flying to ScotlandThis year’s Scottish 6-Days was around the Moray Firth and, after much juggling of options, we eventually decided to fly up from Luton (near my parents) to Glasgow. This meant that Duncan would finally get to experience flying without the pain of long haul! It also meant we could take in some Scottish scenery, stopping in Stirling on route to our caravan site on the outskirts of Nairn. Christine’s cousin and family were staying in the adjacent caravan so the children would often disappear next door during the week. Unfortunately, due to the weather, we did really get to make the most of the nice sandy beach just 50 metres from the door.

Day 1: I had a reasonable start to the week finishing in 12th in the coastal dunes at Lossie. RouteGadget shows my main blunder was at the 8th control where, having just nipped off the path for each of the earlier controls, I actually had to do some fine navigation. A few smaller blunders towards the end at 16 and 17 where I had fallen in with Roger Goddard (interestingly, RouteGadget seems to show that he slowed down to my pace rather than my gaining from running with him!). It was pretty wet and, post run, I just sat in the car with the children waiting for a decidedly damp Christine to return.

Day 2: This time we headed west along the coast to Carse of Ardersier. I had a good run if a little lonely. Once again, RouteGadget shows a small miss at six and again at 21 although my route choice to 26 left a little to be desired as everyone else I spoke to had spurned the heather in favour of legging it round the path.

Culbin String CourseDay 3: Another nearby coastal location, this time Culbin. This was my best run of the week with a 5th place and, perhaps not coincidentally, was my first late start. This meant I got to take the children round an excellent string course which had activities at each control (bean bags in the bucket, blowing bubbles etc.). RouteGadget shows a pretty steady run except for an overshoot at the fourth control.

Fort GeorgeRest Day: We spurned all of the orienteering activities and went just up the road to Fort George where the children enjoyed the talk by a redcoat, displays, and just generally running around a working army base (complete with ‘armies’ as Duncan likes to call soldiers). We then had a fun afternoon at a JOK birthday bash.

Day 4: Loch of Boath was billed as ‘classic Highland forest’ which is always a bad sign in my books, particular when combined with another early start. RouteGadget really just shows too many fumbles to highlight any in particular and I came tumbling down to 17th place.

Roseisle String CourseDay 5: Today there was the excitement of parking on a taxiway of what was once RAF Kinloss (now Kinloss Barracks) and I got to partake in another fantastic string course with aeroplane related characters at every control in a fantastically runnable piece of mossy forest. Unfortunately this was the high point of the day at Roseisle as I had a terrible run. Thankfully I forgot my GPS so you can’t see the point at which I found control 14 when I was looking for 9 where I realised I hadn’t been to 8! That cost me around five minutes and there was more time lost just a control later. On top of which, the Inov8s that I had bought to replace my (dis)Integrators left me with a massive blister on my heel. At least things improved again with a trip to the beach at Findhorn.

Day 6: The last day was always going to be a disaster at the point at which we decided that, rather than having a late start, I should use my punching start to get out early so we could make a quick getaway. Coulmony was another ‘classic’ forest with a mix of bilberry, marsh and head high bracken. Interestingly, although RouteGadget shows some noticeable blunders, SplitsBrowser appears to show a pretty straight line so I must have been uniformly bad throughout! The only remarkable thing is that, despite taking 10 mins/k, I still had a 14th place to count towards my best four of the week and a 14th place overall.

Despite having already confirmed her 3rd place on W35L, Christine still managed to pull out a win on the final day! We didn’t stay for the prize giving though, instead setting off West to head down towards Glasgow via Loch Ness, Fort William and Glencoe. Unfortunately the rain had returned in force and we only stopped for a couple of short leg stretches on the way to our B&B. The return flight from Glasgow the following day was pretty uneventful, Emma being engrossed in the in-flight magazine for most of the journey!

All in all, it was a good week with enough sunshine to make you forget the rain and (some) excellent areas. Most importantly, the children enjoyed themselves!

Midsummer on the Gower

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Emma leads Katy and Ella out to seaLast weekend we’d decided to go to the Midsummer on the Gower orienteering event, persuaded Christine’s parents to go, and persuaded our visiting Australian friends and family to meet us there. Needless to say, the forecast for at least the first half of the weekend was therefore rain and strong winds. All the more fun given that we were camping! Our new tent (Vango Halo 400 – a lot lighter and quicker to pitch than our monster holiday tent) stood up to the challenge though and there was always the in-laws campervan to retreat to in search of a solid roof and walls.

The Saturday’s event was a fun 2×2 relay on nearby Whiteford Burrows. It was a bit of a trek down to the start for the kids but, after a slow start, the children were all eventually playing together. Christine and I formed a team. I quite enjoyed the short loops round the dunes and we finished in a respectable fifth place.

Unfortunately the rain returned in force as we returned back to the car but had abated again by the time we arrived at Rhossili where we regrouped with Andy, Nat and family and headed down to the beach. It was a bit windswept but in the shelter of the cliff we had fun building a sandcastle and the girls tested out the temperature of the water.

Children of DuneOn the Sunday, it was another short drive to Broughton Burrows. Christine and Nat ran first so Andy and I took the children up in to the dunes along with Vanessa and her two. The children had great fun taking it in turns to race up the dunes. And then when they were done with the sand, there was always the children’s playground handily located next to the car park.

I had a reasonable run. Not particularly fast through the terrain and my routes could have been more direct but no great mistakes either and I had my second fifth place of the weekend.

It was great meeting up with Nat and Andy again after so many years. It was the first time we’d met Ella and Katy and, being much the same age as Emma and Duncan, it was lovely to see them all playing together. Through their blog, I felt we already knew them so well (and you can find out what they thought of the weekend there!). We’re looking forward to meeting them all again before they head back to Australia.

Birthday week

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Emma at her 6th birthday party Emma’s birthday this year was spread over more than a week. Due to half term and the Bank Holiday, she had her party a week early. We switched back to home as the venue this year as, although it was a bit crowded at times with fifteen children, there are more options for amusing them. Despite the forecast, the weather was kind to us and we were able to send them out in to the garden to run off some energy half way through.

Beforehand, Christine had the bright idea that I should offer up my services with the face painting kit that Emma had been given before Christmas. Suffice is to say this kept me occupied for most of the duration of the party. Most of the girls followed Emma’s lead with a bunny face (there was a general animal theme to the party) with the odd cat and mouse to provide some variety. The boys followed Duncan’s lead as a bat only they required fangs and dripping blood to go with theirs! That is all except one who quietly asked if he could have a bunny face…

For the birthday weekend itself, a combination of Christine and the forecast of sunshine eventually persuaded me that we should make the effort to go camping down on the Isle of Purbeck. After a bad start failing to find camping gas and sitting in long queues of traffic we eventually arrived at our chosen (on the way there) destination of Downshay Farm. This provided no-frills camping with great views (albeit on a gradient). We were there in enough time to make a trip to the beach at Studland Bay before dinner (just enough gas left).

Swanage RailwayOn the great day, Emma opened the selection of presents that we’d brought with us, many of which were well suited for another trip to the beach. This time we made the short walk down the hill and took the steam train to Swanage. Once there, Emma enjoyed an ice cream, Punch and Judy and the fun fair on a delightfully sunny day. Christine couldn’t quite manage a whole day at the beach so we returned to the campsite before heading in to Corfe Castle for dinner out (no gas left).

KIngston LacyOn the Monday we packed up our tent (dry for once) and decided to stop at Kingston Lacy on the way home. It was a shame that the play areas were closed due to wind damage in the surrounding woodland but the children still found plenty to amuse them in the extensive grounds and even enjoyed the tour of the house thanks to the teddy hunting that had been laid on. After a much swifter journey than on the way down, we eventually made it back home for Emma to open yet more presents. Plenty to keep her busy for the rest of half term!

Proctor wedding

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

From Monmouth, we relocated to Buckland Hall for the wedding of our university, orienteering friend and one time IBMer Hedley Proctor to Lisa Dawe. Buckland is a suitably imposing country house on the edge of the Brecon Beacons and the following morning we woke to beautiful views across the River Usk to the snow topped hills beyond. In keeping with the bride and groom, the hall is a vegetarian establishment. Thankfully it was vegetarian food done well and we were well catered for throughout the weekend.

As best man, I was privy to the big secret for the weekend. The rings would be delivered to me during the ceremony by barn owl! The owl had its own plans once freed of the rings and took a tour of the room, taking in the photographer’s head amongst other stops. After the photos, we were then treated to a display outside included the owl, a hawk and a falcon courtesy of Hawksdrift. I particularly enjoyed the part where Hedley was chased down by one of the birds. There was, of course, the small matter of a speech to give as well. It seemed to go reasonably well although it remains to be seen whether Hedley will talk to me again!

Hedley and Lisa made a lovely couple and we wish them the best for their future life together.

Family fun at half term

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

It was half term last week and we started by heading down to Cornwall to see our new niece: Isla Ashton. The journey down was as slow as you’d expect at the start of the school holidays. We were staying at the nearby Premier Inn to give Ian and Sarah a bit more space. We dumped our bags there and headed over for a Halloween party which the children enjoyed immensely. Emma particularly enjoyed ‘pass the pumpkin’ (anyone would think she didn’t get sweets at home) and the doughnut on a string competition! It was great to meet Isla although, at only three weeks there wasn’t much interaction. I’d forgotten how light young babies are, until you’ve held them for more than five minutes!

Unfortunately Duncan was then sick in the night (nothing to do with the doughnuts – he hadn’t eaten any!) and proceeded to sleep for almost the entirety of the next day. In the morning, Emma and I went swimming with Ian and Megan and then, in the afternoon, Christine went out with them on their bikes. Duncan rallied at dinner time, shortly after we hadn’t ordered him any!

On Monday, we headed to the beach at Porthtowan in the morning. In the afternoon, as the rain arrived we headed in Truro and, whilst I went shopping, the others went to see The Enormous Turnip at the Hall for Cornwall theatre which was a hit with the children.

Duncan was sick again that night but ate his breakfast. Still, we decided not to risk the 45 minute drive over to the Eden Project. Instead, we walked/scooted to the local garden centre/pet shop/Xmas decoration outlet. After lunch, we ventured a bit further to Heartlands. There was a slightly bizarre exhibition in the art centre with stalls from lots of local health providers/charities all seemingly running activities completely unrelated to their usual work. For example, the children potted up some bulbs with a voluntary services organisation! The massive adventure playground certainly went down well even if it was busy.

By Wednesday it was time to move on. We dropped Christine off at Exeter St Davids (she was going in to work on Thursday) and continued on to Monmouth to spend the next couple of days with the in-laws. We had a fun day out in Pontypool on the Thursday. The location was selected by hospital appointment but we then went swimming and for a stroll around Pontypool Park in the sunshine. Friday was freezing but thankfully the rain moved on as we took the children out for a go on their bikes. Duncan wasn’t in the mood but Emma finally got the hang of getting herself moving. I finally went for a run before lunch as the sun was shining and then Sue took the children to the playground whilst I did some shopping. Christine was reunited with us before the next step of our journey…