Today I want to write about the place that definitely wins with all family attractions in Yorkshire – Cannon Hall in a Cawthorne village, near Barsnley. It’s one of the biggest farms in UK, rediscovered by us after couple of years absence. When we went there for the first time in 2012, Lily was only two years old and she was too little for adventure playground with really big slides and other challenging climbing constructions made out of wood and ropes, but I must admit, she was far more interested in big farm animals then now. Back then cows, sheep and pigs were not to be missed, now she only stroked rabbits she passed heading hurriedly for the playgrounds. But now she is big enough to go to all of them and really makes the most of it, to the point that it’s almost impossible to drag her out to see anything else. That’s why it’s best to start visit with a walk through Cannon Hall’s spectacular gardens, which is a real treat for adults, and once you hit the playground you stand no chance to convince your child that admiring nature is actually more enjoyable than running like mad from one slide to another for couple of hours. The gardens in May are simply beautiful, when all trees are blossoming and bold colours and gorgeous scents are filling eyes and nostrils with bliss and joy. It’s a great place to go for a romantic stroll and picnic (not necessarily with kids:).
At the entrance you can get timetable of all the day attractions like sheep race or cow milking. There is also ferret race which is a lot of fun. Each ferret has its own see through tunnel of a different colour, which they are suppose to run through. W e always bet between ourselves which one is going to win. Often ferrets are falling asleep at the start, or going backwards back to the start having almost reached the finish, so you really need to have strong nerves to watch that:).
In 2013 £1.5 million was invested in the development of Cannon Hall farm, 7 new farm buildings designed with the visitor in mind were built. You can watch sheep, cow, goats and pigs from a special balcony and feed them their special food through the pipes (food can be bought at the entrance or near the farm buildings in the vending machines (like with coke or snickers :). It doesn’t exactly smell the newest Chanel as you would expect with this many cows and pigs, but you can tell that buildings are very well maintained and animals are well looked after.
In case of rain just head to the indoor part of the farm – there is big soft play and a restaurant called ‘Hungry Llama’ where they serve really decent food (my favourite: jacket potato with tuna) and a beer as well. You can choose from selection of salads, variety of mains with meat or fish, so I think it’s not too bad, considering quality of food in soft plays in general, where the menu is pretty much limited to chips, sausages, pizza and cold sandwiches made out of substance resembling rubber, sponge and cardboard mashed up together. ‘White bull’ is another restaurant option, we haven’t tried it yet but the menu looks very promising.
In the farm shop you can buy fresh meat from local butchers, and other locally made products. It’s a sheer pleasure to pop in just to have a look at unique kinds of cheese and beautifully packed jams, so different from supermarkets and mass production we are used to.
Tickets are quite expensive, but after all we are at one of the best and highly acclaimed farms in the UK (Winner of The Innovation award for it’s new farmyard in 2015). Weekend prices are higher, adult and child > 2: 7.95£. During the week the price is 5.95£, under 2s: free. On weekend family ticket for 4 people costs 30£, so overall it’s not significant discount. Car park cost is 3£. If you add 2 scoops of ice cream (3.50£), lunch (8 – 9£) and coffee, beer or other beverage (3 – 4£) then the average cost for the day at the farm per person is 24£.
Unfortunately there is no exaggeration in a common belief that weather in England sucks. There should be two months in calendar instead of twelve I would say – October and November, as the whole year (ok, with some rare exceptions) passes by in a rainy, cold, autumny blur. Life in this sort of climate might be depressing at times, especially in May and June when in Poland barbecue season is in full swing, and strawberries and cherries are tempting with deep redness and low prices at every little street market. Meanwhile we are still walking under mostly gloomy sky, wearing our winter jackets (no kidding), and there is no perspective of getting cherries and strawberries any cheaper than 2£ per 200g for the whole summer. Maybe I would managed to survive in this everlasting grayness myself, but with a child it’s a bit more complicated. I often think how wonderful life must be in countries with summer all year round. You don’t need to constantly think of ways of ungluing kids from screens or look for entertainment options of a standard higher than Homer Simpson’s (which in most cases involves significant financial input). You can just head to the park, beach, or just play in the garden, as almost everything is fun when the sun is shining. Always in these little imaginations of mine, the role of paradise on earth plays Australia. By the way that’s the destination were many British people moves enchanted probably by a promise of carefree lifestyle and fed up with weather at home. Of course there is no place where you can always have rose tinted life, nevertheless I remember one of the end of December days that we spent there: families barbecuing on the beach, surfers, kids running around and laughing, some people in Santa hats or with other Christmas gadgets celebrating festive time with family – and that picture of Australia, with chill out vibe, everlasting sunshine and happiness has been in my head ever since. Wait a sec, daydreaming about Australia I drifted away from the topic, so back to English weather – we endured many gloomy days and made the most of them thanks to truly ingenious inventions – farms. Ideal for family day out in uncertain weather, because usually there is an indoor playground and a restaurant where you can hide in case of rain. Today’s post is about farm we visited recently and were positively surprised, I’ll try to write about all farms, theme parks and other cool places worth visiting in England.
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I don’t know how we managed to skip Hesketh Farm for so many years, during which we’ ve been to all the other nearby farms at least couple of times. One day Lily went there on school trip and liked it so much that she convinced us to go there again just a week later. The weather was unusually beautiful, and my sister came over from Barcelona, so we wanted to take her somewhere nice and see something new ourselves. And we weren’t disappointed – the farm is situated in picturesque Yorkshire Dales and we could admire juicy green Ilkley Moor in the background of the farm’s playground. The farm itself is rather small but very well maintained, besides horses, cows, pigs and sheep, there are also lots of small animals: rabbits, baby chicks and about a billion of guinea pigs, kids go crazy about them. They’ve got small mats/beds laid on the bales of hay, kids can stroke and comb them with little brushes as long as they wish. There is a special board with photo and name of each guinea pig and it’s fun guessing which one is which. We spent about 2 hours just by the guinea pigs stand as Lily couldn’t stop cuddling them:)
Children can also feed baby cows milk from a bottle at certain hours. Indoor we have hay maze, sand pit, tractor slide, ride on diggers and tractors and a cafe.
There is a playground outside, not big and rather basic, but on the splendid piece of land and with a gorgeous view. We also have go-karts and 2 giant tortoises wandering around the fields, to complete this extraordinary landscape (great pics guaranteed). I’d say Hesketh farm is aimed at younger children, but I’m sure older will find something for themselves and will enjoy it too.
Under 2: 1£
Under 1: free
Another treat of that day was Bolton Abbey, which is just 15 minutes walk from the farm. Ruins of this 12th – century Augustinian monastery situated right next to the river make perfect spot for summer picnic.
Hit of that day, even bigger than guinea pigs was crossing the river. There are stones laid across from one bank to another, it’s just above the knees deep so it’s not dangerous in case of the fall, but you need to take quite big steps and not to loose balance, and the risk of falling into the water when everyone is watching makes it exhilarating and fun. Lily crossed the river about 20 times and probably could have 1000 more, if we didn’t have to go back.
To summarise, the strongest points of Hesketh farm are: beautiful location, proximity to Bolton Abbey and well maintained farm buildings. Small outdoor playground and not too many animals overall would be a minus, but on the other hand cosy character of that farm may be an advantage, depends what you like. If you live in Yorkshire or just passing by it’s worth visiting – great family day out guaranteed.
I love Usborne books literally for everything, their illustrations, graphics and educational content, presented lightly, funny without being too overwhelming. Just wanted to show you some of the titles, which I chose from their rich and versatile offer. These books present knowledge and facts in the form of flaps (sometimes multiple), it may get you thinking that they are for smaller children because of that, (they also have thick, hard pages), but as you read on you quickly realise that it’s advanced enough to challenge 6, 7 year olds and even older kids.
Look Inside Your Body, Look Inside Science
Cute and colourful little anatomy and science handbooks, of all of them these are the easiest and you can start reading even with 5 year olds. Did you know that we sleep around 22 year in life, or that newborn’s brain weighs as much as two apples, and adult’s as much as 10? Or that there is enough blood in the whole body to fill a bucket and if all the blood vessels we unfolded they could wrap around Earth? This really speaks to child’s imagination, I also still enjoy reading these sort of random and suprising facts.
Big Picture Book – General knowledge
Interesting not only for kids, the only one that hasn’t got flaps, filled with little known facts from such categories as natural wonders, food and drink, buildings, space, music, sport and general knowledge in general, give it a go if you want to show off in front of your friends and ask them question they wouldn’t answer in a million yearsJ. And if your kids just like my Lily are desperate to know why there are sometimes cracks on the pavement, how many buses is in England, how many grains of sand there is on the beach, what is the smallest dot and how many zeros google plexion has (to quote just some of her difficult but how fundamental for a wholesome existence questions) then this book will definitely come handy. Just to give you a little taste a couple of facts from the book to fill in the gaps in your general knowledge:
the animal that has the thickest fur is otter
the most often fruit eaten in the world is a banana
no musician or band has sold more records than the Beatles
the mammal that can bite the hardest is hippopotamus
jungles cover 2% of the Earth’s surface but they are home to more than 50% of all known living things
around 70% of all the world’s fresh water is frozen as ice over Antarctica
about 70% of human body is water
Rembrandt painted 90 self portraits
the Statue of Liberty fingernails are the size of A4 page
Telling the time
Clear and to the point instruction of telling time both on traditional and digital clocks, rules of using am and pm, and telling minutes to and past the hour. At the beginning we find simple and logical explanation that time is a way of dividing everything that happens into hours, minutes and seconds. It also takes us through rules of telling larger periods of time such as days, weeks and months. Kids may find particularly interesting flaps with notes how long some of the common activities take and a game at the end. I recommend this book for children who are learning the clock and aren’t very passionate about it. I know what I’m saying because we are digging our way through this daunting task in sweat and tears at the moment. My patience is almost failing this test and that book is my light in the tunnel. There is also a clock face with movable hands which is very helpful in torturing testing child in time telling. So with this book I am hoping for a happy end to our clock adventure :).
See inside Where food comes from
Despite common kids’ beliefs eggs, milk and ham don’t come from supermarket, and this shocking fact and many others will be revealed in this book much to their astonishment. So what is the journey of the food that ends up on our table, what’s made out of milk and how to process it to get yoghurt or cheese? What comes from farm and what grows on the field, what food do we get from the sea? There is a world map on the last page and children will discover countries of origins of most popular types of food. The most common crop in the world is wheat and it’s products are eaten most often of all.
See inside World religions
Now this book is a little more difficult because of the terms and exotic names, but I think you can start reading it with a 7 year-old. At the beginning simple definition of religion and an overview of world’s biggest religions with illustrations and descriptions of beliefs and rituals, churches, celebrations, priests, God/gods. Children will learn about different imaginations of life after death and most important stories and readings (as it turns out common for Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism is a story about big flood and Noah’s arc, put in different words and with different names of course in each case.
Questions and answers about science
Another book filled with scientific facts, beautiful illustrations and flaps make it easier to remember such words as chlorophyll, atom, gravity. First dose of biology, chemistry and physics knowledge in a friendly and form that speaks to imagination. Children will get familiar with names of famous scientists, also will find out why the grass is green, or why polar bears aren’t ever cold, and that in fact their skin is black and only their fur is white. How it actually happens that our bodies grow, what causes hurricanes and why rainbow sometimes appears on the sky and many many more clever answers to fascinating questions are packed in this book.
Soon I will write about Usborne activity books that kept us company during many flights and travels and proved to be worthy substitute of iPad, so stayed tuned if you are looking for non grey matter reducing ways of spending time during long journeys :).
I always have mixed feelings when looking for sunny destination for holidays in Europe in May. Temperatures are usually quite decent but it’s not yet hot enough to swim in the sea, and it might even be to cold for a swimming pool. There is nice summer weather in Canary Islands all year round, but we’ve already been there and wanted to try something new. So this year we chose Majorca in for two reasons: Lily’s school in the end of May and also my 6th month of pregnancy, which put us a little bit off from far away destinations especially after reading Zika, dengue and other health alerts on WHO website. I don’t usually exaggerate these type of messages, and know that the real risk is relatively low, but in these special circumstances just wanted to have a peace of mind.
My expectations were not the highest to say the least, I always imagined Majorca as a rather mediocre place with not so divine beaches, where hordes of people fly for hen and stag do’s and start their non stop 3 day party as soon as their plane takes off. Just the stereotype I had in my head. But as it turned out much to my surprise, if you stay away from famous party spots of the island, like for example Magaluf, you really can find peaceful and quiet places, with beaches that actually really look like on Google Images. First we bought our flight tickets, checking and comparing prices for a couple of days to get the best deal, then we started looking at specific places and hotels. We landed in Palma de Mallorca late in the evening, spent the next day there and in the afternoon we headed to Cala Mesquida. After three amazing days there we went to Alcudia for a week, stayed in Playa de Muro in brilliant Iberostar Albufera Playa hotel). Our original trip plan was a bit different, I’ll get to that in a moment.
Undoubtedly the best thing about all three places we visited were the beaches and the sea with perfect water – warm and shallow even long distance from the shore. I try to avoid putting my leg above the knee in the water of lower temperature than the water in my bath tub (so far I found it in the Maldives and in Australia, of which the latter was probably even hotter than the bath tub), but the waters in Majorca felt pleasant even to me. Beaches in Palma and Alcudia were really vast and long, water just perfect for much loved by kids jumping through the waves game. Beach in Palma, despite it being public, city beach is really awesome, I’m not sure if it’s always like this but the water there was the warmest, and there is lots and lots of shells of different size, colour and shape, we absolutely loved searching for most perfect ones, and then comparing, who’s got the best collection.
Cala Mesquida is a rather small beach, but its turquoise, clear water like in the Maldives (almostJ) is sure to take your breath away. It really is beautiful, perfect for families with small children, who are a vast majority of all the visitors here. Cala Mesquida is located in a bay, that’s probably why there are no big waves here, you can walk and walk and water is not getting much deeper, which is a brilliant for kids. If you are planning to go there I highly recommend the hotel we stayed in – Viva Cala Mesquida Resort & Spa. It’s very convenient for pushchairs, and there are lots of fun places and attractions for the little ones. There are 2 soft plays, kids swimming pool with pirate ship and slides. I don’t think older kids will be bored either, after all big swimming pool, the beach and the sea are great attractions themselves, aren’t they? Lush vegetation, well maintained hotel grounds, delicious food makes the stay there a blissful experience, it’s nothing like typical all inclusive hotels, where everything is pretty much average, and you are more likely to get depressed there than get some rest.
I would encourage you not to stay at one place for the whole duration of your holidays, splitting your time between different location makes it so much more interesting and gives you the chance to see more and get to know the island/country better. And if you end up in not exactly postcard pretty spot it won’t be a disaster because you know you moving somewhere else in let’s say 2 days. That’s how we changed our plans and didn’t stay in Puerto Pollensa, which we booked for a week, because as it turned out when we got there, there wasn’t a proper beach, just narrow shoreline with big stones (not enough time for a proper research). Instead we decided to go to Alcudia for 5 days, and to Palma for the final night and day. If you use websites such as booking.com, hotels.com etc. to book hotel, always go for free cancellation option if available, it will allow you to move freely and change plans even in the very last minute. Also if you are planning to move around a lot it’s best to examine closely all your suitcase content and ask yourself that difficult question: do I REALLY need it, or will I with high probability survive couple of days without it? Sensible packing is a skill I am yet to master. I struggle with not stuffing my suitcases to a breaking point, so that the only way to close and zip them is to sit on them. I am at risk of total embarrassment, because in the event of an airport staff requesting to open my luggage, it’s sure to explode and cover the terminal surface with all my personal belongings. This time was no different as I packed half of the house, convinced we were staying at one place. As we unexpectedly changed plans, we ended up cursing our giant suitcases weighing what seemed to be a tone, every time we had to move them from the car to the hotel and back. So my piece of advice to myself and to you is to reduce number of suitcases to a minimum. You can always wash your clothes, and I heard it’s been scientifically proved you can actually survive couple of days without body lotion. So rather than getting irritated every time you unsuccessfully try to find something, go for minimalistic option (proven soothing and relaxing effects) and don’t waste half of the holiday on rummaging in your bags.
While we were staying in Palma, we visited two small beaches, hidden in the bay – Cala Comtessa and Xinell. I wouldn’t bother to go there, because despite being really pretty they are so overcrowded it’s impossible to find room to put your stuff, let alone to lie down and sunbathe, if you don’t mind being your limbs being stepped on and having sand thrown into your face by fellow beach goers. Besides if you’ve already been to Cala Mesquida, any other beach cannot really compete with it.
Hidropark and Aquarium in Palma are very popular attractions for kids, for cooler days it’s worth visit Jungle Parc on the way to Cala Comtessa i Xinell, an adventure park with zip lines which would be perfect for cooler days.
Before you book your hotels and decide which places you want to visit, check it first on Tripadvisor.com. To me it’s the most valuable source of knowledge and I always check reviews, rating before I book anything. Based on number of positive reviews you can make informed decision if the place is worth visiting or not and be sure you’re not making a mistake. People upload real raw photos, so you can quite easily pick up things not necessarily mentioned anywhere else, i.e. that your apartment is not exactly right at the beach, as the official photos might suggest, but actually you need to cross couple of roads to get there. So the thorough research is a must, but anyway reading reviews and browsing through photos is really interesting and absorbing. I promised myself not to go to the same place twice, but to visit something new every time (until I see the whole world, then I choose the places I want to go back toJ), but I think we will go back to Majorca one day, maybe even sooner than later. It’s relatively cheap, close, warm, safe, kids friendly, it’s a dream destination for a spontaneous, not requiring much preparation holiday, so if you discovered any other beautiful spot in Majorca let me know, I’ll add it to my list of things to see next time.