Tag Archives: Out&About

Happy Happy Half Term

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I’ve decided a happy post is way overdue. Although the memory of half term is already fading, I wanted to share with you a couple of the fun things we got up to. Half terms are always particularly welcome for me seeing as I work in education. The first half term is always the hardest in my line of work, so by the time the break in October arrives, I am ready for some time off.

It was Dylan’s first school holiday, which was exciting for him, although given that he has absolutely LOVED his first half term at school, I think he was a tad disappointed not to be donning his uniform as normal. Thankfully the weather gods were beaming down on us for the first few days. I was off work Monday to Wednesday and the sun shone every day. No rainy day activities needed….. hurray!

Bolton Abbey

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We visited Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire, about a 30 minute journey for us. My parents brought me here a lot when I was younger, but it was our first visit with the boys. I wished we’d brought them sooner because they absolutely loved it. It is a huge estate on the banks of the River Wharfe with a ruined abbey, woods, waterfalls, open fields and picnic areas. We only explored a little bit with them so plenty of reasons to return.

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We took part in the Halloween Pumpkin walk, which was a trail through the woods counting sparkly pumpkins suspended from the trees and finding ‘coffins’ with Halloween related things inside e.g. spiders, toads, ghouls etc. There was a quiz which we had to complete and for the first time, Dylan carried the worksheet and (with our help with spellings), wrote down some of the answers. It was a real ‘wow, he is growing up’ moment. Jude had been asleep in the car so took a while to get going, but eventually perked up and loved opening all the coffin doors and running after his older brother.

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Afterwards we had a picnic by the river. Picnics definitely rate highly in the list of Dylan’s most favourite things to do. Winter picnics are often better, with no wasps or flies to spoil the fun. It was so warm that even in the shade we sat with our coats off. The colour of the trees was stunning. It reaffirmed why Autumn is my favourite season by far.

Pendle Hill

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Anyone who lives in, or has visited our beautiful corner of East Lancashire knows the local landmark hill, Pendle. We see it every day on the drive to school and Dylan loves being able to name it (although he shouts out that every other hill in the area is also Pendle, so we have a bit of work to do there). Jude went up last year in the baby carrier, but Dylan has never ventured up. A couple of his friends have climbed it, so he was keen to give it a shot.

We had decided to keep Jude in nursery for one of his scheduled days. He was in the process of moving from the baby room up to Toddlers, so we didn’t want to break his routine. After we dropped him off we drove straight to Barley, the village at the bottom of the hill.

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Dylan would make it to the top. But he was an absolute star. Once we got on the steps on the path up, he was like a little mountain goat. I kept asking if he wanted to rest (not that I wanted to!?!) but he kept saying he was fine. We managed to get him to stop for a bit to have a drink.
Again being another beautiful, clear day, the views were amazing. You can see for miles and miles. Dylan made it to the top of the steps all by himself. We allowed him a bit of time on Adam’s shoulders whilst we made the final short walk from the stairs to the summit. A few homemade chocolate and banana buns at the top and we were ready to go back down. One of my favourite photos taken was of Dylan trying to play hide and seek at the top. It is pretty sparse up there, but he managed to find some long grass to cover him. Pity his hat was bright red and gave him away!!

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At the bottom, we treated ourselves to a pub lunch and sat by the log stove. I thought Dylan would be wiped out for the rest of the day but he wasn’t. Me? I was ready for bed by 3pm!

I’m hoping the weather will stay nice for us at the weekends to still get out over winter. I know we can still wrap up in waterproofs and wellies, but it is much nicer when the gloomy rain gives way to winter sun. Some more wonderful memories in the bank for us and hopefully for the boys, Dylan at least, to treasure. Happy days indeed.

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Those moments

Does anyone else ever get those moments? The ones where you just stop, take in your surroundings and realise just how incredibly fortunate you are? I’ve had a few recently. It probably helped that we went on holiday a couple of weeks ago and I’ve taken some leave this week too. The stresses and strains of daily life have on the back burner. I have stepped off the work treadmill for a short while and actually feel relaxed (well as much as is possible with a 4 year and 18 month old in tow).

So one moment in particular was on a steam train heading up the side of a mountain in Wales. Sitting with my husband and two boys, I looked at them and in that moment appreciated how lucky I really was. I wished I could travel back in time 5 years and show the newly bereaved, but also newly pregnant me what life would be like. I couldn’t have dreamed I would be so blessed.

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The times when we were on holiday when I had ‘those moments’ were in situations where we were either doing something different and special (boys + steam trains = absolute joy or boys + castles = bliss). Or we were just enjoying our company as a foursome (Jude insisting on spending most of a meal out high-fiving the three of us in between grabbing mouthfuls of food). Being on holiday allowed me to just concentrate on being with the family. Forget about the ironing and what was on the never ending to-do list at work. The most important decisions are centred on which beach to visit or whether to buy an ice-cream mid-morning or mid-afternoon!

I know in an ideal world we would spend more time appreciating the good things in life and counting our blessings. I forever see posts on Facebook about cherishing the little moments, making every moment count and that each day is a gift. I’m not against these at all, I understand the point that is being made. It’s just that reality does get in the way and sometimes it can be hard to cherish a toddler tantrum, a fussy eater or whingey moods.

I like to think that I am an appreciative person. That I am, in general, an optimist and a glass half full character. I do wonder sometimes if my loss has made me more thankful when it comes to parenthood. Do I hug them just that little bit tighter on occasion? That’s something I will never know.

Whilst having ‘those moments’ does make me think of Ewan, that’s a good thing. It’s important he remains an active part of me. It also makes me look at my rainbows, my rays of joy after the storm, and be truly thankful for every day, the bad as well as the good. They helped me to heal, smile and laugh and enjoy life again.

I’m off now to buy my lottery ticket for this week. I want to be on holiday all the time!

 

Another Place

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I don’t need Facebook or Timehop to tell me what I was doing 5 years ago today. Adam and I went to Crosby Beach in Liverpool for the day. I’m not 100% sure what prompted us to go as it was the first time we had visited it together. It was a beautiful (but cold) sunny day and we wanted to get out and blow away the cobwebs. Get some fresh air and feel the sun on our faces.

In the car on the way, I received a text message from one of my close friends. She told me of the arrival of their third baby, William. I couldn’t help but well up. I was so happy for her, but it just brought back those memories of what could have been. It was hard, probably because it was our first experience of someone we knew welcoming a baby into the world, after our baby was no longer with us. Because it is William’s 5th birthday today, that is how I remember.

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Anyone who has been to Crosby will know that there is a permanent art installation by Anthony Gormley called Another Place. There are 100 cast iron figures embedded into the sand, looking out to sea. It really is an impressive sight, made even better on a crisp, clear day January with the low afternoon sun.

I wanted to share our day out, partly because it is a day where I have some good memories. I love to look back on the photographs. During a difficult time it feels like the day represented the first shoots of recovery. A day where we decided that we needed to participate in the world rather than existing in our own little bubble. It did us the world of good to get out there. I wonder now if we chose Crosby knowing the likelihood of seeing someone we knew would be very slim (it is over 50 miles from where we live). We could attempt to start socialising again, but with a bit of added protection too in that we probably wouldn’t have to talk about our loss.

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We returned a couple of years later with Dylan. He hadn’t long been walking and absolutely loved running up and down the sands (paying very little attention to the statues). Just writing this now makes me want to go again, this time with Jude. Maybe we’ll go in half term if (fingers crossed) we get a nice day. I won’t ever be able to go without thinking about our first visit. But we can continue to create some good memories there with our rainbows, all the time our angel watching over us.

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Stateside and Steam Trains

This is my first Out and About post. One of the aims of writing my blog is to document (partly for me to read in years to come!) but also share the various fun things we get up to as a family. I love to write about places we visit and if we go on holiday, I’ve barely unpacked before I’m on Tripadvisor uploading photos and carefully composing my reviews.

So I am starting with our jaunt into Yorkshire last weekend. We are only 7 miles from the border so it isn’t too far or adventurous! We first paid a visit to the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam railway and then moved onto Billy Bob’s Parlour for food and play.

Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam railway

This was the perfect trip out for Dylan. Like most boys aged 3, he absolutely loves trains. Any type of train really. Steam, diesel, electric, miniature, toy. He isn’t fussy. It wasn’t our first ride on the railway. We visited 18 months ago for the Santa Special. Dylan was a tad too young to fully appreciate the experience and was more interested in trying to run up and down the platform than board the train. Oh and he cried when he met Santa.

Fast forward to Sunday and he was definitely much more interested in the build-up. Typically he had fallen asleep in the car but quickly bucked up at the sight of the train yard. Aboard the train, we sat in one of the old-style carriages (with a corridor) facing each other. It wasn’t too busy so we had one to ourselves. The seats were plush and velvety. We delighted ourselves in plonking down Jude on his own (only for a few seconds, he can’t sit up yet!). He looked so adorable.

The journey from Embsay to Bolton Abbey is 15 minutes. Ok, it’s not very long. But for the attention span of a 3 year old it was perfect. Jude sat on our knees for the journey and seemed to be taking in the passing scenery with great interest. Dylan delighted in shouting out everything he could see – cows, sheep, fields, trees, rivers. Unfortunately there weren’t any tunnels (his absolute favourite) but there were a few bridges which kept him more than happy.

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Bolton Abbey is a bigger station so we got off to have a bit of a walk, look inside the ticket office and watched the engine chugging back to the other end of the train. We decided to get the same train for our return journey. Jude paid less attention on the way back as he announced his hunger and demanded feeding.

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The ticket office at Bolton Abbey

The railway is run by volunteers and all those we met were friendly and welcoming. The guard who came round to check our tickets was happy to talk to Dylan and explain what he was doing. We didn’t use the buffet car (we’d brought our own snacks) but the prices seemed very reasonable. Both stations are in great condition given that they were built in the late 1800’s. I’m not sure if they were ever in a bad state of repair, if they were then they have been lovingly restored.

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The beautiful Yorkshire countryside from Embsay Station

The visit definitely got the thumbs up from both boys (even though Jude was less aware!), and given it is only half an hour away from home, I’m sure we will make a return visit, maybe at one of their themed events.

Billy Bob’s Parlour

A confession. Billy Bob’s is one of our favourite places at the moment. This was our sixth visit of the year so far, and is unlikely to be our last! Given its proximity to Embsay station (less than 2 miles), it would have been simply rude not to have combined the two in one trip.

After our first visit last year, I wrote a Tripadvisor review giving it 5/5 and said that it managed to combine two things that rarely go together – fantastic kids play area and amazing food. Usually soft play areas are great for the little ones, but offer up the usual fair when it comes to food – sandwiches, pizza, chips and the like. Alternatively you can find a great restaurant with fab food, for both kids and adults, but there is nothing to do to keep them entertained. Billy Bob’s can do both with ease.

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Starting with the play areas. There are two – outside and indoor (the barn), so you can visit in all weathers. We have been in July and January and Dylan has had an equally good time. I’ve no idea how much all the play equipment cost (probably a lot) – it looks amazing and appeals to both boys and girls. All carefully crafted by wood there is a plane, bus, train, digger, pirate ship, ark, castle (the list is not exhaustive!). There are swings outside and a huge slide in the barn (which the children have to climb huge bales of hay to get to the top), as well as an area for mini tractors and trailers. There is a separate area in the barn for older children too. Obviously I haven’t spent much time there yet but at a quick glance there are plenty of rope swings and more hay bales. There are plenty of places for adults to sit and observe, although of course they can always get stuck in with the kids on the equipment.

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And now onto the food. Excuse me while I drool for 5 minutes. Oh the food is amazing. Adam and I are busily working our way through the American themed menu. So far we have sampled pancakes, nachos, the Coney Island hot dog, burgers, pulled pork, onion straws and our current favourite, the Brooklyn Deli-wich (New York style bagel with pastrami, pickles and a tonne of other wonderful toppings). Every time we over-order, although we are getting a little bit better. The portion sizes are huge! Dylan tends to opt for pancakes or a puppy dog off the kids menu. The boys also fill themselves up with a huge banana milkshake. I have still yet to leave room for one of the amazing sounding desserts and only once think I have managed some ice cream (the parlour is the home of the Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream Company).

The diner itself is what I imagine most 1950’s American eateries looked like. There are booths that fit up to 8 adults and it has also recently been extended and houses a yellow American school bus… which you can dine in! We have yet to experience the this – maybe we will tackle it when we don’t have car seats, buggies or high chairs to contend with …. that’ll be in about 3 years then! The service is super quick and always with a smile.

We often arrive early, let Dylan have a play for an hour, eat and leave time for another play before heading home. On Sunday we took a risk, didn’t book and luckily we nabbed a table for 4pm. However usually I book via the website, which is a great new-ish service they offer.

We trundled back into Lancashire, full to bursting and happy with our afternoon’s adventures. Well almost everyone was happy. Jude cried solidly for 30 minutes which was a tad traumatic for us all (mostly for him). Bless him, he just wanted a cuddle!