A Day Out At Cheshire Ice Cream Farm

My wife and I decided to take our two boys to Cheshire Farm, a local ice-cream farm.  It is something we had wanted to check out for some time so when the time came that both my wife and I had days off and didn’t have anything else arranged, we all jumped in the car and headed over there.

Lots Of Outdoor Activities

When we arrived we noticed that there was, amongst other things, a few adventure playground type areas.  We let the boy’s burn off some of their extra energy by having fun on the climbing frames, zip wires, slides and swings before we checked out the farm.  They also loved playing a round of crazy golf and racing round the Fools Gold Rush Go Cart course.  We were lucky enough to be at the farm when it was time to milk the cows and had an interesting time watching from the special viewing gallery.

Animal Corner

The animal corner was the next thing we checked out and I am glad we did as this is a place where the animals can find shelter when the weather is not as good.  There was miniature ponies and hilarious pigs rolling in the mud; while the boys enjoyed meeting and stroking the guinea pigs and rabbits.

The Ice Cream Farm’s Country Kitchen Cafe

Obviously, no visit to a dairy ice-cream farm would be complete without a visit to the cafe to sample some of the produce itself.  As well as ice-cream and homemade cakes, there is a selection of sandwiches (both toasted and cold), children’s meals, daily specials and a choice of hot or cold drinks.  While we were there, we noticed that you can book the Farm and cafe for kid’s parties which I am sure most children would enjoy as it includes the “Make Your Own Ice Cream” machine.

The Artisan Room

The Artisan Farm is the best part of a visit to this farm as this is the place where you find out more about the process behind making their gorgeous ice creams.  I must admit that both my wife and I were just as excited as the boys seeing the machine churn out the beautiful white stuff.

About The Flavours

There are far too many flavours of ice cream produced at the farm to discuss here so I will just talk about a few.  They make a lovely cinnamon ice cream, which I imagine would be delicious during the winter.  My wife’s favourite was the coconut flavour which she said tasted like heaven in her mouth.  Our kids are big chocolate heads, so both the White Choc Chunk and Choc Fudge Cookie flavours were their favourites of the ones we tried.  There are plenty more that I have promised we might buy at a different time such as the Baileys flavour and the Salted Caramel one that looked and smelled absolutely delicious.

At the end of our trip to the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm our kids were tired out and if I am honest, so were my wife and I.  However, it was a great day out and not only would I recommend it to all my friends and relatives, but would definitely take the kids there again.

A Day Out At The Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre

Both my daughters and my wife are particularly fond of shire horses; I really do think that my daughters would love if I could buy them one when they are a little bit older.  As I don’t really think that will happen, I am always on the lookout for activities that we can do together that involve this majestic horse breed.  One day I was looking online for local centres and attractions that centred on shire horses when I stumbled upon Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre.  I only needed to briefly skim the websites homepage to know that my daughters and Sophie would absolutely love a day out visiting the centre.

They recommend that you book ahead and check out special attractions and activities that are planned for certain days.  The day I planned for us to visit was going to be a good one as if you went early enough you could help the staff feed the resident polecats and otters.  I knew the girls would love that, so that had to be part of the day.

I decided that it would be my little secret and kept them in the dark about our “special” day out.  Not even Sophie had a clue where we were going when we headed in the car to the centre.  When we arrived the joyful faces and enormous smiles told me that I had made the right decision.

So the day started at about 11.15 with feeding the polecats and otters.  That was very funny as they were just as intrigued by us as we were of them.  There was one otter in particular that seemed to take a shine to my youngest daughter and she wouldn’t stop going on about how “She was the Queen of the Otters”.  After spending a good 15 minutes with those little critters it was time for my girls to meet some of the centre’s resident shire horses.

We were able to get up close to the horses and even though they are not my favourite animal, I was bowled over at how powerful, yet serene they seemed.  One of the staff talked to us and demonstrated different aspects of a shire horse’s show life.  It was actually very interesting and there were some things that even my shire loving girls didn’t know about these beasts!

After that we moved from the large and intimidating Shire horse’s to a Shetland pony by the name of Heather.  I must admit that it wasn’t just the girls and Sophie that enjoyed grooming little Heather.  I did get a thrill when Heather nudged her nose against me.  The girls were taught the best way to brush her and how to plait her mane, which Heather of course loved.

There were other things we could do there, but by this time the girls were starving and we had to go to Sophie’s parents for a barbecue anyway, not that I am complaining about that.  All in all, it was a nice little day out and the staff were warm and friendly, but the animals were the real stars.  We would definitely go again.



Alyn Waters Country Park

I was reading up on Wrexham for something I was working on with my business when I came across Alyn Waters Country Park in the wonderful Alyn Valley.  I decided that the girls, Sophie and I would take a trip there and we absolutely loved it. 

It is supposedly the largest country park in Wrexham and has been accredited with Green Flag status.  There is a plethora of riverside, grassland and woodland walks that by the time you have finished you will have covered and explored the whole park.  The park is split into two halves.  We decided to go to the Llay side initially as that is where the Local Nature Reserve is situated.

The paths in this park are a great mixture of surfaced and unsurfaced ones.  We enjoyed this because when you walked along the unsurfaced and more naturally created paths you felt like you were really getting in touch with nature and it is probably how our ancestors walked round the area before the invention of roads and pathways.  However, the surfaced paths help you when you feel a bit wobbly or unbalanced.  Some of the paths are just short circular routes that you can complete in no time at all, but being the active family that we are we gravitated more towards the longer routes through the grasslands and woodlands.

Although we are happy to walk around and get lost and find our way back, there are 6 colour-coded and signposted walks for those who like known where they are and where they are headed.  The good thing about these walks is that they have been mapped and surveyed to measure the approximate amount of calories you use when you walk them.  There are leaflets that you can download from the Park’s website before visiting to work out which is the best route for you, if that’s what interests you.  We just used the signposts as a rough guide and just enjoyed taking our time and taking in the gorgeous scenery.

We didn’t bring our bikes that time, but I wish we had because there were some great cycle paths and from the visitor centre there was a sculpture trail and cycleway that looked great for families.  While we were there we heard about the Trim trail and Sophie really wanted to check it out as it had various exercise equipment.  The idea is that you go there and using the equipment will help build your co-ordination, balance, stamina and strength.

One of the most special things about the Park though was the biodiversity of the park, as a result of the sand and gravel quarrying that ruined the topsoil, while the subsoil produced a rich meadow habitat.  There are various types of plants and flowers including the common spotted orchid, the hellebores which are very rare and the bee orchids.  Amongst the species that you could see while visiting the park are animals such as bats, smooth newts, grass snakes, adders, foxes, kestrels, buzzards and kingfishers.  I was fortunate enough to see a grass snake slither by my feet.  I stayed perfectly still and just admired the beauty of it.  The girls and Sophie spotted a kestrel cleaning its wings!

It was great to go further away for a day trip, and the journey was more than worth it for everything that you can see and do at the park.  We are already planning on returning there with both sets of in-laws!  I am very much looking forward to it!

Chester Treasure Trail

Who doesn’t love a bit of a treasure hunt?  Exactly, no-one hates treasure hunts.  So when my girls said they wanted to do something like that I knew exactly where I would take them.  Starting at The Eastgate Clock, the Chester Treasure Trail is a great way to see and experience Chester in a totally different way while trying to hunt for clues.

I must admit that when we started we let the kids take over following the clues and working out where to go next.  It was almost as if we were just there to provide them with food and drink when they needed to refill.  All of the answers to the clues have been placed on permanent features and while the majority of them are very easy to work out, there was some that even puzzled our mini Sherlock’s.  There are different types of trails that you can choose from, depending what you want to get out of it.  We decided to turn into detectives for the day and solve a mystery.  The added incentive for sticking with it and seeing it through to the end is the chance to put your answers online and enter a cash prize draw.

For the majority of the trail we were walking over pavements and it apparently takes most people around 2 hours to complete and covers a distance of 2 miles.  However, our little sleuths really dragged out the day and took an easier and more laidback approach to it; with no complaints from either Sophie or myself.

Regardless of whether you want to batter through it and do it as quickly as you possibly can or if you want to just amble along slowly and gently as we did, you will have a lot of fun.  I was really impressed with how the educational elements of the trail have been woven in seamlessly with the more fun and action packed aspects of it.  I remember sitting in the restaurant we stopped at around half way through the trail when one of my daughters started telling me all these interesting facts and figures.  It took me a few minutes to figure out that she had picked this knowledge up as we had been hunting high and low for those pesky clues.

It was quite a good little day out that we had and was fairly inexpensive, well if it wasn’t for the lovely cafés, restaurants and pubs that lined the trail.  I would recommend it to anyone who just wants a bit of fun with their family, but perhaps bring along some of your own food or a picnic so that you can stop and take a break from sleuthing and clue hunting to refresh, without having to spend too much out.  Although, as a treat I would thoroughly recommend stopping and having a cake and coffee as a way to pat yourselves on the back, especially the adults!

Foraging In Cheshire

As both Sophie and I have grown up in and around the countryside and still live in a fairly rural part of Cheshire, we have always been keen to make use of local foods and produce rather than getting things from the supermarket.  As well as saving on the extra you have to pay for the supermarket’s fancy wrapping, it is also more fun. 

Although we do grow some of our own vegetables we also do something that is becoming more popular nowadays – foraging.  Often at the weekend, we will take the kids out to the local fields and woods and look for edibles ripe for picking, take them home and then use them.  We read an article once about a local man called James Woods who foraged for free food and we know it was something we had to give a go.

Almost anywhere in the UK is good for foraging, but we are fortunate to live in Cheshire were you can get things like elder, berries, nettles and other types of leaves.  Although we do it more when a lot of the naturally occurring fruits and berries come into season, that doesn’t stop us during the Autumn and Winter months from picking fresh blackberries.

You do have to be careful when picking things, particularly mushrooms and some berries, as some of these things are inedible and can make you seriously ill.  There are plenty of books available though, and the internet is a good resource for knowing what to pick and what to leave for the birds.

In much the same way as when you go fruit picking or have your own chickens that provide your eggs, things seem to taste much better when you have looked for them and picked them with your own hands.  The girls love it and often we will make an afternoon or morning picking up what we can find and then head home and clean everything up to marvel at our pickings and put them to good use.

I would say though that if you go in with an open mind and don’t have high expectations, foraging is always a good experience.  Even when we have particularly slim pickings, Sophie, the girls and I can at least take stock that we were out and about and spending quality time together.

That’s the point really – I am not saying that we don’t like getting fruit and vegetables for free, because we do.  But rather than seeing foraging as just a money saving project, we prefer to see it as a great way to enjoy the countryside and each other’s company.  It has helped us to grow as a family.  I did ask the girls if they wanted to stop foraging and they just turned to me and said “No, daddy that is when we smile and laugh together the most”  They put it better than I ever could – foraging is the what we do when we want to laugh and smile together.

i-Survive –A Natural Adventure Playground Area In Cheshire

Although for the most part my girls are girlie girls, they don’t mind a little rough and tumble.  Which is why when I read online about i-Survive, an adventure forest school based at the outskirts of Chester, I knew I’d have to take them along. 

i-Survive is for kids of all ages, from 7 to 70 as stated by the website.  There is so much to do there it was unbelievable.  It is essential a massive adventure playground, where kids and adults can go and learn outdoor skills safely and in a fun environment.

It is set within a natural and very beautiful forest.  However, the beauty of the forest masks the challenges that lay ahead of anyone entering it.  If you have ever watched an episode of a Ray Mears show, then at i-Survive you can actually experience a lot of the things he demonstrates.

While we were there we learned how to start a fire, build weatherproof shelters and other essential bush craft skills such as outdoor cooking.  The thing we were all looking forward to was trying out the Confidence Course.  The Confidence Course is a huge and natural obstacle course.  Kids from 7 to 16 are challenge with various muddy, wet and very exciting obstacles including ropes, tunnels and scramble nets.  Fans of the old ITV series The Krypton Factor will know exactly what I mean when I say assault course.

The staff at i-Survive were superb – they engaged the kids and adults alike masterfully and were able to impart even the trickier techniques of bush craft to the biggest novices in the group that we were amongst.  There are 10 small areas set aside deeper into the woods, so that you can properly perfect your new skills.  Sophie struggled with starting a fire and the instructor was very patient and kind with her and didn’t seem to mind that she would take in what he said only for it to seemingly head out the ear on the other side of her head!   When she eventually got it, he seemed genuinely proud of her and was not short on giving all of us “bush craft newbies” praise when we successfully attempted one of the new skills.

I would definitely recommend this as a great day out for anyone who lives in Chester, the surrounding area or is holidaying there.  A word of warning though, you should bring a change of clothes or at least waterproof yourself up as it can get quite chilly and very wet.  There is absolutely no pressure to take part in anything, so you can pick and choose the things you do and the things you sit back and observe.

Kayaking Course In Cheshire

One of the things that Sophie, the experienced diver in our family, was particularly interested in trying was kayaking.  We did some research and discovered that Cane Cheshire was the closest canoeing and kayaking course provider to our home.  As a special surprise I organized a course for all four of us and we had the most amazing time.

The course was unsurprisingly called an Introduction To Kayaking.  Now, as it was a surprise, only the kids and I knew were we were heading when we set off early in the car.  I had checked and made sure we had any additional gear that wasn’t covered by the cost of the course.  When we got closer to where the canoe club was based, I even stuck a blindfold over Sophie’s eyes so that she was totally in the dark.

When I took the blindfold off after we parked; a big smile formed on her face as she saw the sign saying the words Welcome To Canoe Cheshire.  She gave me a kiss and excitedly got out of the car.

The course, although just an introduction to the sport, was actually rather extensive and covered everything from selecting and fitting the right equipment, the basic safety procedures that you should always follow and the key elements of kayaking.  Despite having no experience as all previous to the course, Sophie picked up the basics like a duck to water, pardon the rubbish pun.

I, on the other hand, seemed to end up in the water more than actually moving over it.  The major differences between canoeing and kayaking, for anyone who is unaware is that you use a paddle that has two blades when kayaking and the boat usually has a spray deck that stops water getting into the boat.  To be perfectly honest, even our girls did better than I did.

Although my first time experience was not as good as Sophie’s, I do think that we will all give it a go again in the near future.  It is an amazing mix of adrenaline, beautiful scenery and cold water!  If you want unique views of British coastline then kayaking is one of the best ways to experience it.  We had been told, though sadly had no first-hand experience, that often seals in the area become very intrigued by the strange “beings” in their water and will often come up to the kayaks and investigate.

The helpful and kind instructor told us that if we took it on as a more regular hobby that there was one place we should visit to get the best experience of kayaking in the country.  Scotland is apparently the place all kayaking enthusiasts head at least one point in their life, if not many times in one year.  He told us that although he believes that you can have a fun experience kayaking anywhere in the UK, that the waterways and seas off the coast of Scotland is where the real kayaking mecca is.

I know that Sophie is desperate to get up there and give it a go.  I am sure it will happen at some point in the near future and when it does I am sure I will post to this blog about the experience.

Our 10 Favourite British Beaches Part 2

This is the second part of our list of our favourite British beaches. 

Lundy Island Beach

When we visited Bristol for a couple of days we stopped off at Lundy Island Beach and I am really glad that we did.  There is no sand, but that is not really a problem as this beach offers a difference experience from a sandy beach.  We followed trails and it seemed like we walked miles, exploring the various cliffs and as Sophie is an experienced diver she checked out the marine reserve and took lots of underwater picture of the various wildlife while the girls and I checked out the various onshore wildlife.  There were Soay sheep, Lundy ponies and Silka deer.  It has to be said that we both loved the sheep the best.

Luskentyre Beach

Although Britain isn’t particularly famous for brilliantly white sand, this what we found when we went to Luskentyre Beach on the Scottish Isle of Harris.  It was relatively quiet and there was quite a breeze when we were there, but the beautiful scenery of the Outer Hebrides hills and the sparkling sea water made it worth putting up with the colder climate.  The girls especially loved going to this beach as it involved a ferry ride to land on the island.

Priory Bay Beach

I had always wanted to visit the Isle Of Wight, even if only to say that I had.  So when I was planning a family holiday I decided that it was time to check the beautiful island out.  While we visited there we came across the Priory Bay Beach.  As well as being one of the nicest beaches on the island, it was by far the quietest.  When we were finished exploring and playing on the beach we enjoyed a nice lunch at the oyster bar that overlooks the beach.

St Ives Beach

I have some family in Cornwall so I make regular trips down there, sometimes without my girls.  However, one of the best holidays we had was when we visited St Ives and spent most of the time on St Ives Beach.  A visit to St Ives is like a trip into the past, but we all had a lovely time and the locals were welcoming.  As well as the bay and beach, there are 2 excellent art galleries when it’s a rainy day and just walking down the cobbled streets and trying some locally sourced and very strong scrumpy was good fun as well.  The girls said that their mummy was more affected by the alcohol than daddy, which made me laugh.

Slapton Sands Beach

Although the fact that this beach is not sandy would put most families off visiting it, we still gave it a shot.  I am so glad that we did as there is plenty to do on this beach off the coast of Devon.  It is a very serene and calm place and any stress you are carrying with you when you visit it, will disappear almost immediately.  We enjoyed looking at the different sides of the beach.  At one end there is the encroaching sea and at the other a beautiful freshwater lake.  It is by far the best shingles beach we have ever visited in the UK.

Our 10 Favourite British Beaches Part 1

As a family there is surely no better way to spend a nice day than on the beach.  Sophie and I have gone on countless day trips to different beaches up and down the country and we would like to share with you our top 10, in no particular order over the next couple of pages.

Barafundle Bay Beach

Although it is difficult to choose just one beach in Wales but this beach on the Pembrokeshire coast was absolutely sublime.  It was an adventure itself to find the beach as we had to walk along this cliff path from Stackpole Quay and walk through a stone built archway before arriving at the beach.  It almost felt like we were off on an adventure to Narnia.

Bamburgh Beach

As a family is fair to say that we like the more dramatic beaches and the most dramatic is the beach that sits with the very foreboding Bamburgh Castle overlooking it on the coast of Northumberland.  The bonus of visiting Bamburgh Beach is that if you walk along the low tide causeway at Holy Island, you will find the Lindisfarne Priory and even more golden sand beaches that are not overrun with tourists.

Camber Sands Beach

No rundown of our favourite British beaches would be complete without giving mention to Camber Sands in East Sussex.  The beach there is 7 miles long and is around 1/2 a mile when the tide is low.  There were so many activities available when we visited this beach, while we holidayed there.  The girls enjoyed the horse riding, while I tried surfing.  Although I imagine that the weather won’t be good all year long, when we visited there in the summer it was very sunny and comfortably warm, even if there was a slight wind coming from the water.  Even though it gets quite busy, we were still able to enjoy flying a kite and building huge sand forts.

Cley-Next-The_Sea Beach

A couple of years ago we went on holiday to Norfolk and stayed in the lovely town of Holkham.  While we were there we made regular visits to the Cley-Next-The-Sea beach.  The views from Blankeney Point were stunning as you could see nothing but sand, sea and windy marshes.

Littlehampton Beach

We had heard about Littlehampton Beach because of the cafes actually.  They were designed by leading architects and are certainly two of the main attractions to the beach.  Despite its fame, it is apparently one of the quietest beaches in the South Coast of the country.  The fish and chips that we had for lunch there was to die for and I would thoroughly recommend anyone in the area to stop off if only for the food.  The beaches are beautiful though as well and there are other activities in the area such as exploring the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne.

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