Caerphilly Castle

Advertisements

Camping in the forest yet again…2016 

Both of my children are asleep. They’re asleep upstairs and not on my lap, and they were asleep by 8:30. It’s some kind of miracle, so despite not really being in the mood for it I’m going to blog. 

It’s the third year in a row that we’ve spent the last week of the summer holidays in a tent under a rain cloud in beautiful North Wales. Search ‘camping’ in my search bar, and you’ll see that this was also our third camping trip this year. I really don’t think you can beat it for a family get away. There’s nothing quite like ‘unplugging’ your kids for a while and seeing them roam among the trees and play with nature rather than toys and electronics! 

We originally went to Beddgelert in 2014 because Trevor had such fond memories of camping holidays there as a kid. It’s like a trip down memory lane for him every year, in a good way I think. Although he has muttered ‘oh wow I think I have become my dad’ several times this holiday! Mostly when he was bumping his head on the lamp. 

There’s no way we could currently afford a holiday and for the dog to stay in kennels for a week, so camping is ideal for us. It wouldn’t be a family holiday without stinky Seb anyway. He’s like one of the kids. We forked out for a cattery for Margot and Galahad and that cost a small fortune. Luckily Batpig went to stay with a guinea pig loving friend and got so much attention he looked quite glum about coming home. 

Of course it rained. It always rains. 

To be fair, it rains almost non-stop in North Wales whether we’re there or not. It does feel like the rain clouds follow us a little bit though. It’s like the mountains of Snowdonia have a climate of their own. I keep my iPhone weather app set to show me the weather in Blaenau Ffestiniog all year round, and even when the sun is shining brightly everywhere else, it’s still raining there. We do virtually the same stuff every year. This year we vowed to slow down a little, do a bit less. I think we achieved it. We didn’t leave camp until lunchtime any of the days, which meant we had time for breakfast, a shower, and for the big kids to wander off to the play area for a while. It was nice. It took the pressure off. 

We always have to visit at least one castle (last year we visited what felt like about 400 castles) and this year we managed two. My favourite two. 

Dolbadarn is my favourite by far. It’s not even a castle as such. Just the ruins of one tower, high in a hill over Llanberis. Trevor and the kids always insist on having a sword battle on the steps, complete with chain mail costumes and wooden swords. You used to be able to go halfway up the spiral staircase in the tower, so it was a surprise to find out that you can now go all the way up to the top. Although this discovery did almost cause Trevor to die of shock, when the biggest kid climbed right up there and shouted “I’ve climbed right to the top!”. His “get down right now!” squeal gave away how frightened he was. He thought she’d jumped the barrier and was walking around the top of the walls! Actually you come out of the top of the staircase in a safety cage so you can’t fall off. It’s a pretty amazing view! 

Actually, as much as I like Dolbadarn, I like Llanberis for the park and the lake. We started our visit in Pete’s Eats, a pretty famous climber cafe near the start of the Snowdon path. It does pretty standard fried breakfast type food, but the kids love it there. It was slightly less fun this year as we were constantly bothered by wasps! Then we head to the lake. Seb is first to jump in, but Iris is quick to strip off and jump right in behind him. She started off paddling in pants and shirt, but it was only moment before she fell right in! It was absolutely freezing, but she doesn’t seem to feel it! After the dog and the kids had a paddle, we stopped by the play area for a while before hiring a row boat. I volunteered to look after Seb on the bank (which was a pretty easy job because he swam out and followed the boat around!) so that I could enjoy some rare sunshine while Astrid snoozed on me. Iris was chuffed to bits with her bright orange life jacket, but didn’t last long in the boat before they had to row back in and drop her off. Iris put on a performance of ‘acrobats’ in the bandstand to finish off a nice trip. 

My second favourite castle is Harlech, and I’ve never even been inside. 

This is because the dog isn’t allowed in, and somebody has to sit outside on the grass drinking takeaway coffee in the sun using the snoozing dog as a pillow. Without any kids. That somebody is me. Poor me. My short break outside Harlech castle was spoiled a bit this year by a loud and angry man who sat by me and shouted at somebody on the phone. Trevor and all four kids were having a great time inside though. Trevor was wearing Astrid in a sling, which meant Iris had to walk around and she handled it pretty well with a bit of help on the narrow spiral staircases. We followed up the castle visit with ice creams with flags in the top. 

The other thing we really love to do while we’re in North Wales is to travel around by steam train. Camping in the Forest is a great campsite for this, as it actually has a steam train station in the campsite! Our pitch was right by the station this year, which meant we had an excellent view of passing trains and we spent rather a lot of time waving at strangers as the trains chugged by. We caught the train from our tent to Beddgelert one afternoon, then visited Gelert’s Grave and had dinner in the Saracen’s Head before walking back in the dark. Iris rode on Trevor’s shoulders and decided that wearing a torch on your head is the most exciting thing ever for a two year old. 

I highly recommend the Saracen’s Head if you’re ever in the area. It’s hard to find somewhere that is accepting of toddlers, babies, noisy children and a wet muddy dog. The food is excellent too. I could eat the veggie burger every day and not get bored. The kid’s menu is great, and the desserts are just delicious. 

Our other favourite place to eat is Tan y Bwlch train station. We drove to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where Iris got upset and could only be cheered up by spending her pocket money on a wooden cat called Gringo in a lovely shop called This and That. We had a long wait for the train so got cakes and milkshakes for the kids in a cafe, before strolling over to the station and finding a carriage. This is our third year, yet Seb’s still not keen on the trains. He settles once he’s on, but he stays under the seat and won’t look out of the window. Iris is the opposite, and it’s a big job just to make sure she keeps her hands and head inside the window! As well as great food, Tan y Bwlch station has a little train themed play area. Although they’ve enjoyed it in previous years, the novelty of it is wearing off for the bigger two. Which is a shame in a way as Iris has just reached an age where she really appreciates a good play area. Once we’ve eaten and had a play, we like to head down the hill to the lake. Another lake! Guess what Iris wanted to do? 

The biggest kid insisted on actually changing into a bikini and getting in. Why don’t kids feel the cold? A little while later we had a bunch of wet shivery kids and only a few minutes to get back for the last train! We’re that sort of family. The kind that leaves everything to the last minute, but it’s usually because we’re too busy having fun.

We made a decision to use our last whole day as a campsite day. We’d have to walk the dog but we wouldn’t take the van anywhere or go anywhere specific. It was lucky we hadn’t planned much because the rain was absolutely torrential. It had kept us awake all night and it was relentless until mid afternoon, when it finally eased up. Everything was drenched. We hung out in the tent quite a bit, but the rain was so loud we could barely hear each other, and we were a bit worried it’d continue into the next day and we’d have to pack the tent away in it! We finally decided we’d just have to face it, so we all put our waterproofs on. We were one pair of trousers short, so poor Trevor had to brave the downpour in his jeans. We took the long forest walk and ended up walking all the way into Beddgelert. I had Iris in my back in a carrier. She was wrapped up really warm and in waterproofs, and she slept for most of the walk. In Beddgelert the kids spent the last of their holiday pocket money in a gift shop, and then we headed back the short way. On arrival back at the campsite, most of our waterproof gear had failed and we were all drenched through. Iris was still in my back but was looking pale and was shivering! I thought we’d made her poorly with our daft walk in the rain and I felt so guilty. I took her straight to the shower block, stripped her off and put her under the warm water. Iris has only just got over her fear of showers, but she would not be convinced to get out and get dressed! She just kept pressing the shower button again and again while I waited. Not long after she returned to her usual colour, she decided to get out. Immediately she began to shiver again, so I wrapped her up and we snuggled under the covers in bed for a while. She was fine once she warmed through, although both her and Astrid developed a cold the next morning! And that was that. One last meal at the Saracen’s Head, one last night, and one more breakfast in the forest. Time to pack up. We were all a bit gutted. Actually, we’ve been back over a week and I’m still gutted. I’d been anxious about taking Iris away when she’d just decided she doesn’t wear nappies anymore. She had quite a lot of accidents because she didn’t really know where she was or where she could go to the loo. We carried a potty everywhere with us and she did use it a lot. However, it turned out to be a very good time and place for her to learn. Her accidents all happened outdoors, mostly on the forest floor! I’m already looking forward to next year. It’ll be the best one yet, I reckon! Astrid will most likely be walking, and Iris will be three! It’ll be the week before she starts at school, and the week before the biggest kid moves to high school. How exciting! 

A little trip to Cardiff Bay

There’s not much that Iris likes more than all the different forms of transport at the moment. Wherever we go she’s squealing “look mummy, a plane/van/lorry/some other vehicle”. Luckily the narrow street we live on is not only a bus route, but also leads to lots of farms so we get a lot of passing tractors! When my mum suggested we get the train to Barry with my very pregnant sister and my little niece and nephew, Iris was excited. As we waited for them at Treforest station yesterday morning the sky was grey and it kept drizzling, so we decided to head somewhere other than the beach. Cardiff Bay is the obvious choice. Easily accessible by train, tons to do, and Techniquest to play in if the weather gets really bad. By the time we’d got off the train at the bay though, it was perfect beach weather. Oh well. For Iris, the train journey is the best bit of the day anyway so weather is unimportant! 


There’s a ‘beach’ set up in the bay at the moment, with a splash pool, huge sandpit and loads of fairground rides. The kids are all a bit little for most rides, but my mum took them on a couple. I was surprised Iris liked them. She quite often asks to go on those little rides outside supermarkets, but then starts crying when they start moving. Maybe seeing her cousins enjoy it gave her confidence? I hope so! I love seeing the three of them interact and play together. Soon Astrid will be old enough to play too, and then my sister’s new baby will join in. It is difficult to imagine day trips like this with five of them running around! Just these three were exhausting. Why do they always want to run in different directions? The only time they stayed still was during lunch, and they spent most of that hiding from each other in a storage cupboard belonging to the hot dog bar! 

Being 37 weeks pregnant, my sister needed frequent loo stops. Starbucks was an obvious choice, and the kids all enjoyed a babyccino. My nephew did enjoy it and was first to finish, despite what the look on his face says! 

When we visited Cardiff Bay on Iris’s birthday we took a boat trip round to Bute Park, so we decided to do that again. That boat wasn’t leaving for half an hour though, so we jumped on a different one. It took a 45 minute guided tour of the whole bay, and the views were lovely. The kids did a bit of boat and duck spotting. Me and my sister tried to resume our games of Pokemon Go (Cardiff is so much better than Pontypridd for Pokemon!) but it didn’t really work on the water. It just looked a bit weird! 

The boat took us back to the exact spot it left from and we went for another wander. Carrying some weird blue dolls they won on Hook a Duck, Iris and my niece spotted not an ice cream van but an ice cream bus! We’ve chased the ice cream van down our street enough times for it to be familiar to Iris, and she was very excited. Her chocolate cone was gone before the rest of us had barely started, and she finished off my nephew’s blue bubblegum one too. Greedy little thing! Astrid ate most of mine. You have to share everything when you’ve got kids! Not fair! 


Then the day was done. We squeezed in to a really overcrowded train back to Cardiff, then another one back to Treforest. My family all headed off home to Bristol while Trevor picked us up. It wasn’t much, but it was a great day for us. We don’t see my family even close to often enough, and I miss them so much. Seeing the little cousins play together is my favourite thing. I can’t wait for there to be five! 

A quick peek at Cefn Mably Farm Park 

This afternoon we found ourselves at the birthday party of one of Iris’s little buddies. I still can’t believe that so many of her friends are turning two, and that her turn is not very far away. We planned to go into the farm early, before the party, to have a bit of a wander around. It didn’t work out like that. We spent the morning at the outdoors playgroup Iris goes to once a month, then followed that with lunch in the supermarket. By the time we got to Cefn Mably and waited for Iris to wake from her van nap, the party was about to start. 

The big two spent some time exploring the big indoor soft play area while Iris partied with friends, but I didn’t even take a look. The kids seemed to enjoy it though. When the party finished we only had an hour before the whole park closed. We crammed quite a bit in! 


There are a lot of different animals to see! Iris is a real animal lover, and loves to chat away to them. She’s completely unaware that they don’t understand her. “Oh hello little horsey, you’re a nice horsey, your feet go nick nock nick nock”. They’re all really used to people and pretty much every species were at the fences, trying to get our attention. So late in the day, we had it almost to ourselves. I like it like that. 


There were pony rides too, but they’d finished for the day. Plus loads of play equipment. Even old farm equipment and tractors for kids to explore. The kids had a lot of fun swinging and sliding, but we just didn’t have enough time for them to do it all. 

Astrid was upset about the heat (it was scorching here today!) so I spent much of the time sitting in the shade trying to calm her down. Actually, I rather like being able to sit back and know that Iris can run and climb and she’s safe with her dad and sisters. That’s the best thing about the weekend! 


We’ll be back, with more time and better planning, and I’ll write a proper review of the place. So far, we love it! 

Our week in pictures #13 

 Wow, what a week! I’m so tired I feel like I could sleep for a month. 

On Friday last week the health visitor came and then Trev went to pick up the big two. Then on Saturday we were up early and off to Bristol, where we spent the afternoon in Bristol Aquarium. More about the aquarium here. Afterwards we had dinner in ZaZaBazaar to celebrate my mum’s birthday, which was extra lovely because my best friends came along with their two little ones. We were supposed to pick up Iris’s bag from another friend in Bristol (we left it behind at her house last week!) but we only remembered this when we were half way home! Oops! Being forgetful is just another symptom of never getting enough sleep. 

Sunday was quiet. We stayed at home, took the dog for a walk and played on the swings, and ate a roast dinner. I was tired and feeling frazzled and grumpy, so Trevor took the big two back to their mum on his own while I looked after the little two. 

On Monday I attempted to get the house in order by writing a to-do list and actually got most of it done! Even though both of the girls wanted cuddling all day, I still managed to be pretty productive. I left some big jobs (like putting things in the loft) for Trevor, who did them on Tuesday while me and the girls went to playgroup and had lunch in the cafe. We were joined by two of my friends and their kids, which was really nice. It’s so much easier when Iris has somebody to play with. 

We skipped crochet club on Wednesday as I was shattered after a rough night with Astrid. Also, Iris has been sleeping in her cot for most of the night, but wakes much earlier than when she’s in our bed. I’ve been downstairs at 5am with a toddler demanding toast way too many times this week! 

On Wednesday evening, my mum and my sister arrived with my niece and nephew for a sleepover! Trevor was working away, and they wanted to keep me company. The little ones were all still up and running around at 11pm! It was very tiring but a lot of fun! 

We took the two buses from home to Caerphilly on Thursday, and went for a walk around the castle. I’d heard there were ducks, and have been meaning to take the duck-obsessed Iris there for a while. Had I realised it was so close and such an easy bus journey, we would have been many times before! Although there were a handful of ducks, there were hundreds of huge geese and lots of swans! My mum and sister are both frightened of birds, so it was a nightmare for them. For Iris, who adores all kinds of birds, it was the best thing ever! She’s never had the chance to feed ducks before and had the best time giving them a load of stale bread. I’ll definitely be taking her back there lots in the Spring. After a late lunch in a supermarket cafe, we were back on the bus. Two of the three toddlers slept, and it was a peaceful journey home. Then they all set off back to Bristol and it was just us three again. We headed up to bed early, after a quick dinner of beans on toast, to get some sleep and wait for Trev’s late return. 

Today we’re waiting in for a health visitor, yet again, and rebuilding after having three toddlers work together to get out every single toy we own! We don’t have the big kids this weekend and don’t have much planned. Maybe we’ll have our first quiet weekend since Astrid came along! I could do with the rest. 

Have a good one! 

  
   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

    
  

   

  

            
  

Bristol Aquarium

 I used to work at Bristol Aquarium, back when it first opened. Although it didn’t turn out to be the right job for me, I had some really good times working there. I made some friends that I still consider to be some of my besties, and I adored the creatures! I’ve been back to visit several times since I left, and always enjoy the trip down memory lane. I even took Iris when she was still a tiny baby, when we took our first trip together on a train. 

At the weekend we were in Bristol for dinner to celebrate my mum’s birthday, so we decided to go a bit early and visit the aquarium again too. It’s a bit of an expensive day out for us, as the tickets are a bit steep and there are so many of us. Plus it’s quite small and you definitely couldn’t kill a whole day in there. On the whole it’s still a pretty fun place to visit, and Iris in particular had a wonderful time. She even asked some of the fish if they’d like a ‘cuggle’! (None of them did)

I’m not going to write a review. It seems like a strange thing to do when I used to work there. Instead I just thought I’d share a few pictures from our trip. 

  

    
    
   

Cattle Country 

Way way back in September there was that weekend that was almost a complete disaster. Every little thing went a bit wrong and I was left feeling a bit deflated and crap. It wasn’t all bad though.

Cattle Country is in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. It’s just 15 minutes from my mum’s house so I’m a bit amazed we’ve never thought to go before. While me and Iris were staying with my mum (so that Trevor could finish the decking without Iris under his feet) we decided to finally pay it a visit. My sister and her two little people came along too. It’s always lovely to get the little cousins together for the day. They are all so sweet together.

We arrived around lunch time. After entering through the shop, we found ourselves in an open green space surrounded by play areas. There’s even a water play splash area, but we didn’t have swimming stuff. It was a pretty warm day though, so a few children were in it splashing around. We headed for the wooden play area instead. Iris napped while the other two played, and then when she woke we ate the sandwiches we’d bought along. There may well have been cafe, but I didn’t even notice. There was enough just in the first play area to keep the little ones amused for an hour or so, and they especially enjoyed the swings.

We soon moved on, to a big wooden castle. The ladders were probably designed with older children in mind, but we managed them with the little ones. Once at the top they enjoyed just walking around and around the upper level holding hands and waving at Nanny who was on the ground looking after pushchairs.

We found a big slide that went down the side of a hill and into a different area. We could make out guinea pigs at the bottom.

From there we found loads of animals to wave at, talk to, stroke and even feed. Goats, cows, more Guinea pigs, little ducklings (that Iris adored!), rabbits and loads more. There’s not much my kiddo likes more than farm animals. My mum held a guinea pig and the kids all stroked it, then Iris managed to get herself bitten by a duckling. It can’t have hurt much though, as she poked her fingers straight back in!

We followed the path around the animal trail, which was incredibly difficult with a pushchair and I won’t take it if we go again. It was a nice walk though. Iris would probably do better now, but hadn’t been walking long at the time and it would have taken about 4 years to let her walk it. We were saddened to find that the little train ride we’d heard about was out of action because it had derailed! The  great big bristly-coated pigs more than made up for it though, and we all had fun tickling them.

There were ducks and chickens everywhere! My mum and sister are both quite frightened of birds. Actually they’re terrified. Not Iris or her cousins though!

Although the little ones were still full of energy, the grown ups were exhausted. Thankfully Cattle Country has some pretty good soft play. We took it in turns to go in with the children and made the most of the benches.

After an ice cream in the sun and a trip to the gift shop for toy tractors, we were done for the day. I can’t wait to go back next year!