Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Summer Holiday Highlights 2016

So this time last year I was contemplating having spent the summer (as indeed I had the spring) slogging away on the new house, with the majority of my time apportioned to clearing the garden of slabs, trees, roots, stumps and the huge massed pile of rubbish that required two builders skips. My solitary week off had been decimated by poor health; firstly my own then followed by both girls having contracted chicken pox. Trips and days out were cancelled and the whole sorry thing became an exercise in hope with planning for the patio and garden work providing a solitary crumb of comfort in among the gloom of not actually being able to go outside, such was the state of our health and the state of the garden itself. Fast forward a year and much has changed. The patio and garden were completed in autumn and then spring what was a hideous, long-abandoned (and quite unsafe) jungle was turned via a herculean effort of hard graft and to put it bluntly financial investment into a clean, modern and quite attractive area in which the girls could actually play. Not withstanding the 4 week period in which we had to stay off the grass, it has proved a success, especially when the weather has been dry and many afternoons have been spent with the girls playing and actually gaining some value from the space. 

Before...



After...


Following a week’s holiday to Wales, we’ve also managed to do some stuff. Despite the fact that the traffic on the roads in and around Kingswinford can be atrocious, there is the benefit that within an hour’s drive in any direction there are a multitude of places to visit and things to do. The problem with children comes when there is even the slightest age gap and especially when one of them is very young, as pushchairs and feeding are challenges in themselves. However, with Liv a year older, we’ve managed to find enough places in which they’ve both been able to cope “off the reigns” and it’s worked out fairly well. Here’s a quick breeze through some highlights...


Dudmaston Hall...
Just a twenty minute drive up the road and a nice freebie with the help of a generously-bequeathed National Trust pass, this was a scorching hot day and started with a headache and hayfever, so my hopes were not high. However, it’s a nice location, easy to park up with a small play area in the shade of some trees. We had a picnic then took a walk around the grounds, the designated path arching around some sort of lake or stream. Nice and photogenic. Slightly marred on the final leg when the pushchair was directed through an enormous cow pat and then had to crust off in the heat of the boot on the way back home…



Weston Park...
This is an old favourite – forty minute drive up past Wolverhampton. I would put this in the same bracket as Ragley Hall as it has a great combination of lot’s of open space and paths to walk pushchairs around, coupled with a massive play area for kids of all ages. This year they have actually invested in changing some of the set up; one of the tree houses has gone, there are some new trampolines and the zip line has been upgraded. I seem to recall having to turn around with Em last year owing to rain, so this was a step forward.


Arley Arboretum...
I originally took Em here last year for a children’s birthday party, my main curiosity being centred around the term “arboretum” and to this day I still can’t really fathom why this word needs to exist. Essentially, it’s an area of parkland with lots of trees (some of which are not indigenous – hence the fancy title), a couple of very well presented gardens (including one with a water feature) and a big play area. This year there was an Alice-In-Wonderland themed treasure hunt and we also managed to find our way to the centre of the maze. Aside from all of that though was the biggest highlight of Em being occupied for twenty minutes whilst Liv slept in the pushchair, allowing me to feast on a magnificent pot of tea and slice of coffee and walnut cake.






Eastnor Castle...
This was a complete punt; a shot in the dark. I’ve driven past Eastnor before but it was a bit further out and in fact ended up being quite a trek with the M5 still full of roadworks and the sat nav sending us into traffic jams on the way back. However, it was the best of the picks from the first week off I had as there were so many things to do. There are two really nice play areas – one with tree top walks and the other enclosed in a brick walled garden – a digger park, a huge maze that we got completely lost in (that thing when you hold your right hand does work if you want to escape) and a big dipped vale in front of the castle where you can eat a picnic. The castle itself is extra to go include (it looks medieval but is actually only Victorian, having been built in that style) but we avoided that and instead when on a long walk around the grounds and lake where there are more areas to play and an ice house to explore. For value for money and variety you can’t go far wrong.





Black Country Museum...
It seemed strange that for all the time we had been living in the shadow of this place we had never visited. Of course, we had both been quite a few times as children on school trips and such like, but Em had always seemed a little young for it. As such, we had a good day and noticed quite a few newer buildings and displays, though it isn’t cheap and there are a few queues in front of the more popular shops and buildings. I took a few pictures of the canal section where they filmed some of Peaky Blinders and even managed a sneaky pint of Mild in the Bottle and Glass Inn.



Ludlow Castle... 
Let’s save the best for last! The Bank Holiday Monday was portrayed as a “Family Entertainment Day, featuring Battle Heritage and the Heritage Cup.” Thinking it sounded great, we got up early to ensure we could park in what is notoriously a nightmare town to drive through. As it turned out, parking was cheap and easy, the weather was blazing hot and the day at the castle cost only £14. For that, we got to have a go at archery (Em managed to hit the target with the medieval bow), junior jousting, full combat, the treasure hunt and a tour of the medieval village. Lunch was a picnic, complete with hot pork roll, followed by a climb to the top of the keep. The highlight though was the Battle Heritage knights who put on an amazing show – firstly in single-handed combat and then later on in a team event where they went full pelt at each other, smashing their opponents down to the ground with swords, poles and axes. It was only due to a whinging two-year old who had had enough that we prised ourselves away before the end. Highly recommended.





No comments:

Post a Comment