Tag Archives: swimming

A Wonderful Holiday in Wales

It has been exactly three weeks now since we went on holiday to Wales – yes, it has taken me that long to sort through all the photos for this blog post!  We went with Granny and Grandpa (my parents) and stayed at St Brides Castle in Pembrokeshire.  After a long journey, we arrived late in the afternoon and the children couldn’t wait to get out of the car and explore.


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The first stop was the play area, and then the little ones ran down to look at the sea – the view was amazing!

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After playing outside for a while, we went to check out the indoor facilities – there was a games room, a library, a mini gym and a swimming pool with sauna and steam room.  We were too tired for swimming on the first evening, but we made use of the pool eight times in the following six days!


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We spent Sunday morning in the games room and swimming pool, and then in the afternoon Monkey, Tiddler and I walked down to the small beach nearby with Granny, while Rabbit and Owl stayed with Daddy and played tennis.

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The tide was high so the beach was small, but it had some great rock pools to investigate.  I think I was more excited about that than the boys, though they did enjoy it.

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It was very rocky but there was just enough sand to make some sandcastles.

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I really enjoyed watching the boys work together.  Monkey was frustrated at first with Tiddler’s attempts to “help” but once he managed to explain what he wanted him to do they were a very good team.

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At the end of the afternoon, we took the big three swimming again, while Granny looked after Tiddler.  After supper, we went to the games room for a little while, and returned just as the sun was setting.


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Monday was a quiet day.  In the morning we spent quite a long time in the games room, playing table tennis, pool and board games, and then Daddy and Granny took the children swimming.  In the afternoon we did some food shopping with Monkey and Tiddler, while Owl and Rabbit went to the little beach with Granny.  We were back in the games room again in the evening, but managed to get the children to bed just in time for Mummy and Daddy to fit in a game of Scrabble – look at that, not a laptop in sight!  There’s something to be said for having a very poor Internet connection when you are on holiday.


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Tuesday was our castle day.  We always like to visit a castle while we are on holiday if we can, and as we were in Wales we were spoilt for choice.  After much consideration, we settled on Pembroke Castle and we were not disappointed.  In the morning we got everything ready for our outing, while Granny and Grandpa looked after the children.  We arrived at the castle at lunchtime, and had a picnic on the grass outside before going in.

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We had a brilliant time exploring the castle and admiring the views.  It was a bit scary seeing the children so close to the edge, but they were very sensible.

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We enjoyed looking at the exhibitions too, with waxwork models showing scenes from castle life at different times in history.

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We also spent some time relaxing in the sunshine in the central area where there is lots of space to play…

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… and read your Horrible Histories magazine too!

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After taking a break, we continued looking round the castle as there was so much more to discover.

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Next we went down some steep steps into a huge cavern where people took shelter in the Iron Age – they were the first humans to dwell on the site.  (That was another of our National Trust 50 things: number 29 – explore a cave.)

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Back above ground, we had another quick walk round to discover some parts of the castle we had missed earlier, but we all wished we could have stayed for longer.

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We went back to look at some parts of the exhibition we hadn’t seen before, and Owl was pleased to find a room dedicated to the history of the Pembroke Yeomanry, including their part in the First and Second World Wars.

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We finished up in the room in which Henry VII was born, and then left via the shop where we bought some really good books and a stick of rock each for the children.  Rabbit in particular loved this treat and has been asking when she can have a “sticker rock” again ever since!

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After a brilliant day out, we went back to the holiday house for supper, a late swim and a very late bedtime.


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Wednesday was our big beach day, and luckily it was also the warmest day of the holiday.  We dithered a bit about where to go, then decided on Broad Haven beach – and it was perfect.

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After a picnic on the grass at the top, we went down on to the beach.  I had fun making a sandcastle with the children – in previous years I’ve been the one feeding the baby or chasing the very small toddler, so it was nice to be able to join in with them this time.  I was quite pleased with our efforts, but Daddy was not impressed.  Our castle didn’t have a mound so it wasn’t historically accurate enough for him.  It did, however, have the benefit of not taking too long to make, which suited the rest of us!

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While Daddy set about the long task of making a perfect replica of Pembroke Castle in sand (with a little help from the team on and off), there was plenty of time for channeling water into the moat of the first sandcastle, random digging, playing football and paddling.

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Tiddler enjoyed getting as messy as he possibly could, and even Monkey (who normally prefers to keep clean) soon got stuck in.

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Owl and Rabbit were the most confident in the water, but after a while Tiddler and Rabbit joined in too.  They had a brilliant time splashing and playing, and were all very excited when they “caught” a (dead) crab!

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It was such a wonderful combination of joyful children and a beautiful beach in the late afternoon sunshine that I took rather a lot of photos…

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…and then I took a few more!  You can just about see that Monkey and Rabbit were holding hands as they ran in and out of the waves 🙂

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We stayed for longer than we had planned because it was just so perfect.

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Meanwhile, Daddy finished reconstructing Pembroke Castle to his satisfaction.  Eventually we managed to get the children to leave by promising to take them to a cafe.  We had some really excellent ice creams, and also ordered fish and chips which we took back to our holiday house for supper.  We ended the day with another very late swim.


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On Thursday we swam in the morning, and then spent the afternoon at the little beach with Granny and Grandpa.

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It was low tide this time, so there were even more rock pools to explore.

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This time I wasn’t the only one who got excited about it, as Rabbit was just as keen on exploring the rock pools as I was!

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On the walk back up, we had a wonderful time flying our Butlins kite.  Owl chose it when we were at Minehead for Spring Harvest last year and it is much better than any of the other kites we have had (and we’ve had a few!)

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In the evening we went to the restaurant which was just outside our holiday house.  It was a very nice meal, though it took quite a long time to arrive – so that was another late night.  I quite enjoyed the lazy mornings as the children all woke up late every day, though it hasn’t been easy to get back to a normal schedule since then.  We have just about managed it now, but thank goodness for the flexibility of home education, because it has taken us a while!


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On the last full day of our holiday we decided to stay on site to make the most of the excellent facilities.  In the morning we all went swimming together, then Daddy, Grandpa and I tried out the pitch and putt while Owl went to the games room with Granny.  We joined them there and then said goodbye to Granny and Grandpa who were leaving that day, as they had arrived the day before us.  We spent the rest of the morning playing pool, table tennis and Junior Monopoly.

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In the afternoon we played bowls on the pitch which was right outside our holiday house.

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Then we played quoits, and Owl took a photo of me just to prove I’d been there!

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We went back inside – to the games room again – and Owl stopped on the way to play the piano.

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We went outside again to play croquet in the late afternoon sunshine on the lawn with a beautiful sea view – perfect!

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After another quick play in the games room we had some supper and then finished the evening with a very late and very long swimming session.  We had the pool to ourselves for most of it, and it was lovely.  And by the end of the evening, Monkey and Rabbit had both learnt to swim without armbands.  Owl had also completed his self-imposed challenge of swimming ten lengths alternating front and back stroke, and Tiddler was totally confident about swimming on his own with armbands.  This was definitely one of the holiday highlights for me – a very proud Mummy moment!


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In the morning we had to pack up and leave our holiday house.  The children were very helpful, and pushed several trolley loads of luggage to the car – as well as riding their beloved Trunkis of course.

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We weren’t in a hurry to leave, so we played tennis and then visited the play area, and of course the games room one last time.

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We finally set off when it was nearing lunch time because we wanted to get some of the driving out of the way before stopping.  After lunch we visited some friends that we met at Spring Harvest last year, and then set off for Granny’s house.  As we were leaving Wales there was a perfect double rainbow which seemed to sum up what had been a truly wonderful holiday.


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

An eventful swimming lesson

Today I took Tiddler to his swimming lesson.  I really enjoy spending time with him by himself, and he likes having the extra attention.  He loves swimming and is becoming more confident and independent.  He swam by himself today, with armbands and was very proud of himself.  We had been in the pool for about 15 minutes, which is half way through the lesson time, when the fire alarm went off.

We had to leave by the exit which is right next to the teaching pool, and as I walked out I could see our towels hanging up about a metre away the other side of the barrier but couldn’t get them.  As we lined up by the door, we were given foil blankets, but I only got one which was quite small and didn’t go round both me and Tiddler.  So obviously I wrapped it around Tiddler and managed to get it round my shoulders a bit, which meant that I had to walk out and round past the main entrance of the building and across the car park with rather a lot of the rest of me on show!  I was glad that I had my decent Boden swimming costume on (at least it never happened when I was wearing my old baggy maternity swimsuit that had done four pregnancies) but even so I wasn’t particularly impressed.

I was also annoyed about having to walk across the car park which seemed to be rather unsafe.  I couldn’t help imagining what it would have been like if I had been with all four children – and even worse, what it would have been like three years ago if I’d been there on my own with a 5 year old, a 4 year old, a toddler and a baby.  I suppose that’s like a weird kind of reverse disaster planning, worrying about how bad things might have been if they had happened when the kids were younger.  But of course it could happen to someone in that situation now, so I really think that they need to rethink the location of their meeting point.  The other problem with it was that there were a lot of cars moving around and leaving the car park at once – presumably all the people who had all their possessions with them (and their clothes on) when the alarm went off – so it was even more dangerous than usual.

I was very lucky that as soon as we reached the meeting point, we saw Granny and her friend (our neighbour) who had just arrived for a swimming session that was due to start just after Tiddler’s lesson.  They kindly lent us their towels so we were able to warm up and cover up a bit, which was good because it was about 5 minutes before a member of staff came to offer me an extra blanket.  It was a nice sunny day, but we had got very cold in the first few minutes after we came outside so it took us a while to warm up.  I don’t want to imagine what it would have been like in the middle of winter.  After 15 minutes the fire brigade arrived, and 5 minutes later we were allowed back into the building.  Tiddler had by then missed the rest of his lesson, so we just had to get changed and go home.  It was rather disappointing and confusing for him, but it least he got to see a fire engine and four firemen!

Paralympics, Select Committee and other stuff

It’s been a busy week.  We had a fairly quiet day on Sunday, with church in the morning and another peaceful afternoon at home.  Granny came here for supper and stayed to read lots of stories to the children at bedtime which was lovely.

Then, on Monday, we went to the Paralympics.  I was feeling a little daunted by the prospect of travelling on busy trains and standing in queues for ages, but it was much better than I thought it would be.  We managed to get an early train and so it wasn’t too crowded, and we had time for breakfast before going into the Olympic Park.  We didn’t have to queue for too long, everything was quite efficient and all the volunteers were really friendly.  The children enjoyed the experience, though the three hour session was too long for the little three, and it was quite hard work occupying them.  We just about survived with the aid of chocolate buttons, crisps, apples and ice creams!  Owl was especially interested, and for him it felt like not quite enough.  We were watching Athletics, and saw a variety of track and field events (we had a brilliant view of the long jump) and several medal ceremonies, culminating in local boy David Weir receiving a gold medal which was brilliant.

Afterwards we escaped the heat and went to John Lewis for lunch.  It was rather busy but not as crowded as the Olympic Park.  We spend a long time there, without accomplishing a great deal, apart from a new pair of shoes for Tiddler, and some Olympic merchandise, but it filled the afternoon up easily and we got the train home in time for supper.

On Tuesday, we had a quiet day at home with a lot of Lego, playing in the garden and other things I have now forgotten.  I did some knitting with Rabbit and she also did some of her new Maths and English sticker books.  In the afternoon, Owl and Monkey had swimming lessons which they enjoyed, and we stayed for supper at the Leisure Centre cafe (which is cash only and I hadn’t planned ahead – they weren’t that impressed with macaroni cheese, tap water and nothing else!)

Wednesday was another big day.  I was asked to give oral evidence at the Select Committee on Support for Home Education after writing a submission for their consultation recently.  We all went up to London by train, and then took a taxi to Portcullis House.  The children wanted to come in with me, so we all went through security and were then directed upstairs.  I met the other witnesses and chatted while we waited.  The children went off with daddy, and after some delay the proceedings started.  I was an observer for the first half and then on the panel for the second half.  As I watched and listened, I found it very interesting, though I couldn’t help thinking I would have enjoyed it more if that was all I had to do.  When it was my turn, I found it pretty stressful to find the right words to say at the right time, particularly as the other witnesses had plenty to say for themselves (well, that’s home educators for you!)  However it was quite an experience and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to put some points across (though there was so much more I could have said.)  I should probably write something about what was discussed, but I haven’t really processed it all yet.  I need to come back to it, I think.

After the session finished, the children and daddy came back.  In fact, as it overran, they were back a little before the end.  I know because I could hear them, and I saw someone go out to tell them to be quiet!  Owl was very excited to come in at the end, and to meet one of the MPs.  When asked if he had any questions, he said “I want to know the meaning of the law”, by which I think he meant all of it.  We agreed he would think of some more specific questions to ask by email, though I think he would do just as well asking Grandpa.  We then left and went to buy sandwiches and fruit to eat by the river with some of the other witnesses.  The children had been to the National Gallery in the morning, which I think they enjoyed, but there was something else that had made more of an impression on all of them.  Owl said “We’ve made a new friend”, and they described a young man who had one short arm and “his wrist was very close to his elbow” (Monkey’s words.)  Owl had asked him if he was in the Paralympics, and the man said no but he was going to be running in a marathon soon.

After lunch, we walked around a bit, looked at Westminster Abbey, decided it wasn’t worth paying to get in at that time of the day when the children were tired, and repaired instead to the Methodist Central Hall.  Suburban dad found it by searching on his phone for free toilets near Westminster Abbey!  As well as the toilets, it had a nice cafe, and we all felt revived by tea/ juice and biscuits and a comfortable place to sit.  Next we decided to head back to the Parliament shop, but on the way we walked past the Supreme Court and noticed they had an exhibition on Sport and the Law so we popped in.  Owl and Rabbit drew some posters on the theme of “fair play in sport” and were presented with certificates, and we looked round the exhibition and watched a little bit of the Paralympics which was being shown in the same room.  We then headed back to the station via the Parliament shop, and caught the train home.


On Thursday, Tiddler had his swimming lesson first thing and, as I have to go in the pool with him, the others went to Granny’s house.  I collected them mid-morning and had just enough time for a quick cup of tea before heading back to the same pool for Rabbit’s lesson (after lunch in the cafe, again with not enough food because I didn’t have much money!)  After the lesson, we went to a Home Education group meeting and the children played very happily while I enjoyed time to catch up with the adults.

On Friday, Owl and Monkey had violin lessons early in the morning.  Owl has been learning for two and a half years, but it was Monkey’s first lesson.  After that, we had a free day at home and the children spent most of it playing.  I did some more knitting with Rabbit, and she and Tiddler did some painting.



Monkey made a crown for his baby doll, and Rabbit decided to make one for hers as well.  Tiddler wanted one for his baby, so Monkey helped him to make one.  It was lovely to watch them, and they hardly needed my help at all (apart from finding the end of the sellotape!)  They played in the garden a lot, made dens in the playroom and played with Lego.

This morning we started our latest version of Saturday madness, with a slightly different and yet more hectic set of activities.  I took Tiddler to Dramabuds and Rabbit went to ballet, while Owl and Monkey played tennis with daddy.  Then it was Owl and Monkey’s turn for ballet and tap, while Rabbit went to her Dramabuds session.  I hope this term will be a better chance for Monkey to try out the dance lessons, in an older age group, with Owl, and with a male teacher.  I don’t mind whether they continue next term, or go back to football (unfortunately they clash), but I’m glad for them both to have the opportunity to try.  I wish there were some other boys doing it though, but sadly that is not the case.

We had a very nice lunch at our local deli, before going home to face up to the housework while the children spent most of the afternoon playing in the paddling pool.  We enjoyed our last barbecue of the season in the evening – it will have to be the last because the gas bottle has run out!

I haven’t asked them to do any particular work this week, as it has been so busy with outings and first lessons of the term, but as usual I have been impressed with their creative learning and play which is, of course, at its best when I leave them to it.  I can’t remember it all, but in addition to the things I have already mentioned, one little scene stands out in my memory.  One evening, I’m not sure which, after supper, Owl came to me and said “I think I need to practise adding up numbers so I will be able to work out how many Lego bricks I need for my building plans.”  I offered him a worksheet (adding two-digit numbers) and he did all twenty questions very quickly, with a just a little help and encouragement.  At the same time, Monkey sat down at the table with us and read a story to Rabbit.  I think that shows we don’t need to worry that Owl isn’t always enthusiastic about Maths, and Monkey doesn’t want to read aloud very often.  When they see a purpose for doing it, they have no problems at all.

Another lovely moment (on Friday evening, I think) was when Monkey was practising the long jump in the garden.  The group we watched doing the long jump at the Paralympics on Monday was the athletes who had an arm, or part of an arm, missing.  Inspired by this, Monkey had one arm inside his T-shirt and at one point he turned to us and encouraged us to clap by clapping his “good arm” onto the opposite shoulder, as he had seen one of the athletes do on Monday.  During the Olympics, I was glad that the boys were interested and inspired, and I think it has renewed their enthusiasm for sport.  If anything, the Paralympics have been more inspiring, and I love the fact that they now have people with disabilities among their heroes.