Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A beautiful Spring day out

You know those days when you're just desperate to get out of the house and eat cake? Today was one of those days. 

First, I finally managed to get into the garden and clear the veg patch. It seems that Adam has just reached the stage of being happy to lie on a blanket for a bit and look at the trees; Daniel, meanwhile, had found some pavement chalk and was testing it on the conservatory floor while I pretended to myself that I didn't know what he was doing. 

No photos until I've dug it over properly but it is hand-cleared; i.e. I've pulled out all the weeds. As it's had a couple of years of good maintenance now, that was all that was needed for virtually all of it. The stakes marking it into sections are still there (I planted them pretty deeply) so just need new string between them and we'll be good to go. I'll also get some manure to dig in as the weeds have probably leeched a fair bit of the goodness out of the soil. 

By the time I'd done the clearing (at lightning speed because I knew my time was limited) Adam was making it clear that he'd finished chatting to the trees and was getting fed up. I was on a roll and really resented having to stop, so I felt pretty grumpy too, hence the out+cake plan. 

Trying to think of somewhere that wouldn't break the bank for lunch but would do decent (and decent-sized) cake, I decided a National Trust property was probably our best bet. We're NT members so entrance and parking are free. We have 3 quite close to us and have been to two of them quite recently, but Castle Drogo seemed a good bet. The thought of the woodland paths around it was quite appealing too. 

So off we went! I know I've visited the place before many years ago but it's been a long time since I got further than the cafe. In an ideal world we'd have taken a picnic and saved the cost of a cafe lunch but it was already quite late when we left home and I wanted to go before anything else cropped up. That can be a resolution for next time.  

WHAT a revelation! You walk through the gardens to get to the castle and they are big enough to satisfy big people but small enough to be manageable for little ones. There's a nice mix of woodland and formal areas and they have a (slightly weird) thing for children at the moment where you have to spot the jelly moulds hiding in the garden. Random but it does keep up the momentum with a toddler!

The castle itself is currently encased in plastic as it was only built 100 years ago and some of the building materials used haven't stood the test of time very well. They're making the best of it, though. They have a portacabin on the way in that turns out to be set up like the site office from 100 years ago, with lots of buttons to press and things to try out. 

Inside, there is a system of envelopes in each room containing photos of some design element that the kids have to find (e.g. a close-up of a fish in the corner of a portrait). A bit simple for older children but perfect for Daniel. In the tapestry room they also have a spinning wheel and hand loom that you can try out, which went down very well. What is it about things that go round? All the guides were lovely and very patient with 3 year old exuberance. We'll certainly be back because we didn't even come close to exploring everything as thoroughly as Daniel wanted to. 

On the way back Daniel waved to the motorised buggy thing laid on for people who can't walk through the gardens and the lady driver beeped to him, then stopped and invited him on board to have a go at beeping himself! For a child his age who is developing a deep interest in all things transport- and noise-related, life doesn't really get much better than that!

Except life did get a bit better, because we ended up back at the cafe with chocolate ice cream instead of cake. That was a very good call! When Daniel finally finished his he announced "I won!" Well, yes, but the ice cream put up a pretty good fight :-D 

One very sticky but happy boy, one less sticky but equally happy mummy, and a baby who was content with slingy cuddles and a bit of a munch on the wrap while he contemplated life!

Oh, and a VERY tame lady pheasant. 


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