Recently, my sister bought Oli and I a National Trust membership as a belated birthday present, this is my idea of a perfect gift. There are so many National Trust properties in the Hampshire area, so many places to explore and thanks to my sister, lots of free family days out for us to enjoy. I am going to make it my mission for us to visit as many as we can before our membership runs out next March. On Saturday we decided to see what this National Trust thing was all about and headed off to The Vyne in Basingstoke for an adventure.
Nothing beats a nice, long family walk, don’t you agree? There is just something about exploring the great outdoors, soaking up nature’s beauty and enjoying the peace and freedom of the countryside that I absolutely love. Put Leo in a forest or on the beach and he is in his element, his curiosity free to run wild and his inner explorer unleashed. If you follow me on InstaGram you will know that Leo and I are always off on little outdoor adventures, splashing in puddles and navigating our way through various local woodland. Being a family that loves the outdoors, I was so excited when Trespass, one of the most successful outdoor clothing companies in the UK, asked me if I would like to review one of their products.
It was so hard to decide what to review as there is so much amazing choice for outdoor clothing on the Trespass website. Eventually, I decided this would be a great opportunity to get Leo a new rain suit. His old one has got too small and, with the amount of time this boy spends in puddles, it seemed only logical to get him a new one. The Dripdrop navy waterproof suit is £26.99 and is available from age 2 up to age 8. Leo is small for his age so the age 2/3 suit was a bit long on the arms and legs but apart from that it fits him perfectly,
To give his new suit a proper test run we spent Saturday afternoon exploring a forest 10 minutes away, one we have not visited before. I was very impressed with how easy the suit was to get on, sometimes getting a toddlers wiggly limbs into all in one clothes can be difficult but I had no trouble zipping Leo in. As it was quite a chilly day Leo had a jumper and jeans on under his suit, he said he was ‘very cosy’ and the suit slid on easily over his bulky clothes. The fleece lining helped keep Leo nice and snug and the suit is also windproof. There was a chilly wind, rattling through the trees and rustling the leaves but Leo was happy exploring, the cold not bothering him at all.
Leo sure put the rain suit through it’s paces. He was climbing over tree trunks and running down steep slopes with his Daddy. Even though the suit was a bit too big Leo had no trouble moving around in it and running through the trees. The elasticated waist means the suit fits like a dream, not too tight and not too loose, making it easy for your little one to explore in comfort.
Unfortunately, the weather has been uncharacteristically dry for the UK so we were unable to discover the full potential of the Dripdrop rain suit, We had hoped to find a stream or something in the woods but no such luck. Just by looking at the rain suit I am very confident in it’s waterproofing abilities; the elasticated wrist and ankle cuffs will effectively keep little arms and legs dry and the hood is a good size. The polyester outer coating is waterproof up to 2000mm, perfect for keeping your little one dry in a rain shower, or if they get a bit enthusiastic with their puddle jumping!
The rain suit also has reflective piping along the back, a great little feature to make sure your child is always visible even on the dreariest, rainiest walks you go on. It is really easy to roll up the rain suit and pop it in your bag if the sun starts shining and your toddler gets too warm. The Trespass Logo is stylishly placed on the front and the suit looks great, just look how cute Leo looks in it.
Leo loves his new ‘splash suit’ and I am actually looking forward to a bit of rain so we can see how it holds up during a toddler puddle splashing marathon. Even with Spring tantalisingly close, a rain suit is a must when you live somewhere with unpredictable, often rubbish weather like we have here in the UK. This boy’s rain suit makes a cosy alternative to a traditional rain coat or jacket and knowing your little one will be nice and dry, hopefully you will be encouraged to get out exploring, whatever the weather may be,
What do you think of the Dripdrop rain suit?Would you consider buying one for your little one?Do you like exploring the countryside too? It is our favourite way to pass the time 🙂
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Brr, it is getting cold out now isn’t it? The in-laws have been staying with us this week and on Wednesday morning I decided we should all go out for a nice walk and enjoy the crisp fresh air. It was really frigging cold out but there was white frost coating the grass and it looked so pretty outside, it would have been a shame to stay in. I decided to take them to see Titchfield Abbey, it is not too far away, it is free and the Abbey was bound to look impressive surrounded by a gloriously blue sky, with a sprinkle of white over the ground.
We all got seriously wrapped up (I think Leo had about 5 layers on!), I scraped the ice off the car and we headed off down the M27 to check out Titchfield Abbey – or the Thomas Castle, as Leo insisted it was called.
|What is behind the massive door?|
|Finally starting to look like winter.|
|I want to live in a castle…|
|Facts about the tiles.|
Leo loved running around the Abbey grounds, hiding in the ancient chimney flues and opening and closing the massive door. We lost sight of him at one point, we ran around in a frenzy shouting his name only to find he had managed to get down the extremely warn away staircase all by himself. He was really pleased with himself but I was so mad at myself for loosing sight of him as he could have so easily fallen.
|Going down stairs with a worried looking Nanny.|
In the grounds surrounding the Titchfield Abbey there is a funny looking path. My mother-in-law and I decided it must have been a maze once upon a time, there was no other explanation for the way it was set out. Leo enjoyed running around the ‘track’, crunching the frosty grass as he went. We found a small icy puddle and Leo was quite confused when no splashing occurred when he jumped up and down.
|Walking around ‘the maze’.|
We were wandering around Titchfield Abbey for about 45 minutes but we were all starting to get really cold, I definitely could have done with some gloves and an extra pair of socks. We said goodbye to the Thomas Castle and popped in to the garden centre next door for a nice hot coffee and Leo got to feed the fish.
|Feeding the fish.|
Titchfield Abbey is a lovely place to visit if you are looking for something free and fun to do in Hampshire. It is open 10am-4pm from October to March and then from April to September it is open 10am-5pm. Leo really enjoyed exploring the Abbey, I think he would have stayed there for hours if we hadn’t have bribed him away with milk and biscuits!
Have you visited Titchfield Abbey before? Does your little one like castles? I can’t wait to take Leo to a proper castle, one where you can climb up twisty staircases and have lots of rooms to explore.
My lovely sister and nephew came to stay on the weekend, it is the first time they have visited us since we moved to Hampshire in September. As a late Christmas present, my sister paid for us all to go out for lunch at the River Cottage Canteen in Winchester. There are a few other River Cottage restaurants dotted about the country, my sister had tried them all apart from this one in Winchester and she said we were certain to have a lovely meal. I was very excited to eat lots of yummy food and maybe try something new.
Winchester is a really beautiful city – Oli, Leo and I have only visited once before when we went to the Christmas Market in December. Our lunch was booked for 12.30, we got to Winchester about 11 so we had a lovely little stroll around the shops and took in some of the sights.
|Jane Austen’s house – my sisters favourite author|
|Me and my lovely nephew.|
|Walking around the Cathedral grounds.|
|River Cottage canteen.|
|Oli drawing pictures to keep Leo happy.|
I think a combination of hunger and being completely knackered were the cause to Leo’s horrendous tantrum. He screamed his head off for about half an hour, nothing was cheering him up. The lovely waitress came and brought us some bread so he didn’t have to wait for us to order but he wouldn’t eat it. The brilliant waiter made Leo a warm milkshake and let him play with the card pin machine but that didn’t work either. Amongst all the kicking and screaming we managed to place our food order.
|Leo and his milkshake.|
|My very sleepy boy. Tantrums are exhausting.|
So, back to the food. Our starters arrived and they were amazing. They were a perfect size and the venison was gorgeous. The hazelnuts and cinnamon apple slices worked really well with the meat and fresh leaves. I am so glad I tried something new and didn’t just go for the soup.
For our main course, Oli and I had the pulled pork bap and my sister ordered the plaice with roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree – cauliflower is clearly easily sourced in Winchester! Oli loves pulled pork, I have never tried it but decided to put my trust in my husbands taste buds and give it a try. The pulled pork came in a yummy lightly toasted bap with pickled red cabbage, bacon mayonnaise and perfectly seasoned chips. I should listen to Oli more often, the pulled pork was so good, it was really tender and sweet. The bacon mayonnaise made a great dip for the chips but also tasted amazing spread inside the pulled pork bap. My sister really enjoyed her plaice and apparently cauliflower puree is awesome. My nephew enjoyed his fish and chips, it was a decent sized portion as well considering it was from the kids menu. The staff kept Leo’s main warm and said he could have it once he had woken from his highchair slumber.
|Pulled pork, better than your average burger and chips.|
We were feeling fit to burst at this point but when the waitress asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu, well, we thought it would be rude not too. My sister had the honey pannacotta with prunes and a spicy biscuit and I had dark chocolate orange cake with orange syrup and cardamom cream. I don’t like ice cream (I know, I’m strange) so it was nice to see the cake came with something else. I have never tried cardamom cream before but it was really nice. It wasn’t what I was expecting, it wasn’t sweet like regular cream and it wasn’t like clotted cream either. I can’t really describe it but I can tell you it worked so well with the cake and the orange syrup, the flavour combination was perfect. Oli declared himself full to the brim so he opted for a Gaelic coffee instead of dessert, who doesn’t like a little, hidden shot of whiskey on a Saturday afternoon? My nephew had his ice cream and honeycomb that was included in his £7 lunch meal.
Pretty much as soon as we finished dessert Leo decided to wake up and, to everyone’s relief, he was in a much better mood. He asked for chips as soon as opened his little eyes and the waitress went and grabbed his food from the kitchen. It was still lovely and warm and had been put in a little box so we could take it with us. As the meal was a Christmas present I don’t know exactly how much the food came to. The starters were about £6 each and the mains varied in price but I would say the average was about £13. Considering the high quality of the food and the excellent service, I think the menu was very reasonably priced.
|This is his ‘I’m sleepy and eating chips’ face,|
|Lovely sister and nephew,|
Apart from Leo’s tantrum when we first arrived, we all had a really lovely time at River Cottage Canteen. I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for somewhere a bit different to eat in Winchester. The food is amazing, you can really taste that it has been freshly made to order, and the price is not extortionate. There are also a selection of soft drinks made of locally sourced produce as well as a selection of ales and ciders. I was concerned it would be a bit too upmarket for a family meal but the staff were so, so lovely (I really can’t stress that enough) and the children’s menu had a few good options to choose from. I would definitely go again but maybe next time Oli and I will go on a date night, that way we are guaranteed a tantrum free meal!
‘The Stick Man lives in the family tree, with his stick lady love and his stick children three..’
Has anyone else’s little one become a bit obsessed with The Stick Man, another brilliant creation from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler? Leo got the book for Christmas and he loves it. Obviously, he has also watched the BBC animated adaptation of it about a hundred times since Christmas day.
You can imagine how excited I was when I stumbled across a Stick Man Trail in a forest not too far from us while I was browsing online for fun walks to do in Hampshire. The trail has been running in Moors Valley Country Park since the beginning of December and yesterday we all got our wellies on, jumped in the car and set off to have some fun with The Stick Man.
As soon as we parked up we headed to the visitor information desk to grab a Stick Man activity pack for Leo. The pack was £3 and included a list of things to find along the trail, a sheet and crayon to make a bark rubbing, a sheet of games to play as well as two pipe cleaners to help you build your very own stick man. Oli and I both attempted making one for Leo, he seemed to fair pretty well considering Leo kept dropping him and chucking him in to puddles. If we went again I wouldn’t bother buying the activity pack as Leo is a bit too young to understand the games and activities, we only used the pipe cleaners!
|This boy is never happier than when he is in a puddle.|
The trail is very clearly sign posted and there are lots of little information boards to find and read along the way. Each board has a different illustration from The Stick Man book on it and interesting facts about woodland wildlife and habitats. Each board also featured an idea for a stick related game, these included pooh sticks, building a stick house and seeing who could throw their stick the furthest. Leo couldn’t really be bothered with the games, he was having too much fun splashing in puddles and attempting to shove his poor stick man into ‘caves’.
|Leo and his ‘map’.|
|Checking we were going the right way.|
|One of the information boards.|
|It’s the Stick Lady Love!|
|The Family Tree.|
|We did it!|
|Obligatory family day out selfie.|
We all had a lovely day exploring The Stick Man Trail at Moors Valley Country Park. If you have a little one who loves the story of The Stick Man then I am sure they will find this trail really fun and exciting. The trails can be found at several Forestry Commission woods and forests, you can find your nearest one here.
Have you been on a Stick Man trail or something similar? Do you think your little one would enjoy something like this? Leo had a great day and kept saying that he had lots of fun, he loves a walk in the woods and I think seeing one of his favourite story characters there made it even more exciting.
|A face of pure wonder.|
|That little face.|
|The Dino Trail.|
|Riding on Percy. Leo had his mouth open in amazement most of the day!|
|Driving Harold the helicopter.|
|Diesels Locomotive Mayhem.|
|Flying at Jeremy’s Jet Flying Academy.|
|Waiting very patiently for their turn.|
|I didn’t manage to get a photo of the real Fat Controller.|
|Pretty Christmas tree.|
|Christmas lights at Sodor airport.|
|Thomas looking very festive – blurry!|
|Rocking his 3D glasses|
|Thomas the Reindeer?|
|Snoozing with his new cuddly Thomas.|
Oli, Leo and I have not done much exploring since we moved to Hampshire. This weekend was our first opportunity to spend lots of quality family time together and yesterday we decided to go for a walk in The New Forest.
|Leo in his splash suit and beloved Minion welly boots.|
Not natural hikers or experts on the forest, we just decided to go for a wonder (without a map!) and see where we ended up. It was great fun! Walking across the fields to the woods we found lots of muddy puddles for Leo to jump in. There was one puddle definitely capable of causing a splash of Dawn French in The Vicar of Dibley proportion if Leo had stepped in it, thankfully I noticed how ominously dark it was before he jumped in.
|Leo in the massive puddle!|
|Weird pink mushroom, I doubt this one is edible!|
Leo absolutely loved being able to roam and explore without his reins on or being confined to the buggy. We walked through squelchy bogs, climbed over crunchy bracken and Leo even asked to climb the trees. When he got tired he jumped on his Daddy’s back and we made our way back to the car.
|Piggy back ride.|
|Pretty colours, trees look cold though!|
|Big boys love puddles just as much as little boys, apparently.|
|It’s the puddle monster!|
If it weren’t for the very real threat of rain, we could have stayed out exploring for hours. Leo was tired though so we got back the car, a mere 10 seconds before the massive downpour started. I can’t wait to see more of The New Forest and to do some more exploring with my little family – Oli picked up a map from the tourist information so next time we can follow a proper route.
|A fun family day out.|
We had a fantastic afternoon in the woods, have you ever been? Can you recommend any good things to do/walks to go on in The New Forest? Does your toddler love exploring too?
There is nothing like a good book. If I had a motto or a catchphrase, this would probably be it. I have loved books since I was a child and to my delight Leo loves them too. Children’s books in particular are so very special, they help develop our children’s ever growing imagination through exciting stories, funny rhymes and wonderful illustrations. Of course books are key in developing children’s all important literary skills too.
Leo and I spent this weekend with my sister in Oxford and on Saturday Leo went on his first ever museum trip. After being recommended by friends to my sister, we all went on a visit to The Story museum, a place that celebrates the amazing world of books.
My first impression of The Story Museum was that it didn’t feel like a museum at all. As soon as we walked through the door we were greeted by lovely staff and a very quirky little cafe. We paid for our tickets and sat down for a drink before we went in to the museum to check out the exhibitions. The children enjoyed drawing on the blackboard table tops and my sister and I were able to enjoy our teas in peace. Instead of pictures of art or photographs, the cafe walls are decorated with upside down tables and chairs, it all feels very Wonderland-esque. A magnificent ‘preserved’ cake, made by Winnie the Witch herself (!) stands tall on display in the cafe, my 10 year old niece was very impressed by this, the younger boys on the other hand were upset they couldn’t eat it.
After our tea break we headed into a separate building where all the exhibitions are. Illustrations decorate the stairwell and the feel of the building is very far away from any art gallery or museum I have visited before, but in a good way. Our first stop was the Draw me a story exhibition, a large room featuring original prints and artwork from children’s book illustrators such as Quentin Blake, Emily Gravett and Mini Grey. As well as all the pictures on the wall, there is a treasure hunt game for the children to play, making the experience more interactive and fun for kids. There is a board at the entrance covered in little pockets and in each pocket are some small objects, you then have to go and find the picture where these objects belong. My niece and my nephew who is 5 enjoyed the treasure hunt, Leo was too busy exploring the vast amount of space to get properly involved.
|Museums are fun!|
The lovely volunteers at the museum handed out little drawing books to the children which encouraged them to draw their own story. A room was set up with tables and chairs, lots of colouring pencils and even a professional sketching illustrator board. Although Leo had a bit of a tantrum to start with, all four kids enjoyed sitting down and getting some serious drawing done, Professional illustrators regularly visit The Story Museum and are put to work in the Illustrator Zoo, a room where you can watch a professional at work and have a chat with them as well – you can find a list of illustrators visiting soon here. This is a great opportunity for children to find out more about becoming an artist or just a chance to meet the people behind some of their favourite characters.
|Drawing a story.|
Next we moved on to The Changing Room, a room full of more fancy dress clothes than you could ever imagine. This room is home to the only talking throne I have ever seen and we spent the majority of our visit dressing up, creating crazy names for ourselves, sitting on the throne and listening to it announce us. My nephew and his friend had great fun using all the boards to create silly names and my niece loved trying on loads of different clothes. Leo wasn’t really sure what was going on but he enjoyed attempting to scale the massive throne and trying on lots of different hats – hats are awesome but fairy wings and cat ears are not! My sister and I joined in on the fun too, who doesn’t love fancy dress?
|Dressing up fun…|
|Tantrum avoided, thank you hats!|
Once we had finished dressing up we headed on over to the Time for bed exhibition, this was by far the children’s favourite part of the museum. On arriving at the exhibition, we were encouraged to get cosy in one of the dressing gowns provided and the children all chose a book from the varied selection available, grabbed a cuddly toy and snuggled up on the biggest bed I have ever seen..ever. All six of us fit on it with loads of room to spare. The whole room is inspired by award winning children’s book, The Baby who wouldn’t go to bed. There are drapes over the ceiling, fairy lights, a small bed with baskets around it where you can lay your teddies down for a rest, as well as a smaller room with a sensory wall and lullaby’s playing in the background. It was nice to cuddle up and read to Leo and the whole atmosphere calmed down the very excitable older children. We spent the last of our visit in this amazing bedroom, all wishing we could fit a giant bed into our own rooms at home.
|Everyone loves a bedtime story.|
|I need this bed in my life!|
Ahh Swansea, how I love thee. It may not be the prettiest of cities and it may desperately be in need of a massive cash injection but this city is surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches Wales has to offer.
Swansea bay beach is only a 5 minute walk from the city centre. Quite often if me and Leo have been shopping we will just pop across the road and go for a long walk in the sand, collect shells and run away from the waves. Yesterday was one of those days.
|Leo loves the beach.|
After an impromptu trip to Boots to buy Leo a potty (more about that soon), we decided to head on down to our favourite place. As we hadn’t planned a trip to the beach I was not very prepared, we had no bucket for collecting shells and my pathetic excuse for a picnic was two oranges and a couple of goodies snacks for Leo. We sat down on my cardigan (no picnic blanket either, so unorganised!) and ate our so called lunch. The sun was shining and Leo was in a lovely mood, there is nothing Leo likes more than a run around on the beach.
Leo was in his element, splashing in the ‘puddles, mummy!’ and climbing over rocks. I was of course a nervous wreck and there were a few trips and stumbles but thankfully no harm done. Once I realised Leo was ok just wondering around the rock pools, I started to relax and enjoy this experience with him. It was so amazing watching him explore and getting so excited every time he discovered something new. I remember exploring rock pools as a child and finding it really fascinating, I have always been a bit of a beach bum!
When we had finished our search for sea creatures and shells in the rock pools, we carried on down to the sea. Leo was a bit dubious at first, as he always is, but then he ran on in and started stomping in the waves. Normally he would stay by me at the waters edge but yesterday he was feeling adventurous, inspired by the fun of the rock pools. In no time at all we went from happy Leo to a full on tantrum all because I wouldn’t let him run off to sea, how evil of me. Like I said, I was not prepared at all for this trip so I had no wellies and I am pretty sure converse weren’t designed for walking in the cold sea.
|Definitely not waterproof.|
He soon cheered up and after another walk through the rock pools Leo was ready to go, ‘Home mummy, bye sea!’. The beach is definitely my favourite place to take Leo, we always have so much fun and he really enjoys the freedom of just being able to run around. The only down side was that I had to carry Leo all the way back to the car, as I always do – that was something I was prepared for!
|Mummy and Leo beach time = the best times!|
*UPDATE* – Since writing this post my family and I have relocated to Hampshire. I really miss living by the seaside and having walks on the beach. There really is something special about living by the sea. Hopefully we will find a new favourite place in Hampshire soon.
The sun was shining on Friday and as Oli’s weekend starts on a Friday we decided to go do something different. One of my lovely mum friends had told me that a farm near us was open to the public for fruit picking. As it was such a lovely day we couldn’t think of a better way to spend the morning.
|The view from Nicholaston Farm.|
In true Reynolds style, we got lost trying to find the farm. Luckily the Gower is a beautiful place so we just took in the lovely views until eventually we found Nicholaston Farm. Once we parked up the car we got two empty punnets and headed off to the fields.
|Ready to go pick some strawberries!|
The fields were full of black and red currants, gooseberries, raspberries and of course strawberries. Leo struggled to pick any currants, every time he pulled one from its branch it just popped in his fingers, very messy and fun!
|Concentrating very hard here!|
Once it was clear no currants were going to make it in one piece into the punnets we walked down to the main event, the strawberry field! Leo found this a lot easier and enjoyed eating masses of strawberries as we worked our way through the field.
|Caught red handed!|
|My boys hard at work.|