This month we took a long overdue family trip to Essex in the South of England to visit my family and friends. It is always a rather eventful time visiting my family, mainly because they are all totally dysfunctional, but also because they are all rather wacky… and loud. Poor Mr. C never knows what has hit him when he is faced with my rowdy teenage sisters, my quirky Mum and their petting zoo. Sorry I mean house.
During every visit, we tend to be introduced to whatever animals my youngest sister has ‘saved’ from whatever terrible life they were leading. During this visit we were introduced to the Pygmy hedgehog, 3 rats, a new puppy and a tadpole. Yes you did read that right. My youngest sister has a pet tadpole, that she stole (sorry I mean saved) from her school’s pond. This tadpole is quite possibly the most pampered tadpole in the entire world and is actually cooked lettuce and cabbage every night for dinner.
Anyway, moving on.
We split our eight day trip into two parts, the first five days were spent in Essex and for the remainder we headed to Suffolk to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins.
The Tower of London
During every visit down south we try to visit to at least one London monument and this time we decided to go to the Tower of London. A slightly ambitious endeavour for a pregnant woman with a pushchair, but then I didn’t carry the pushchair up any of the stairs. I’m obviously too pregnant.
We made a point of taking Bear to the beach a couple of times, as living in the Cheshire countryside means it isn’t always the easiest to take a trip to beach. Partly because it is at least an hour’s drive to the nearest beach, but also because sunny days are a rarity up north.
There is lots to be said about British seaside holidays. First of all, it is a wonderful adventure trying to find a bit of sandy beach among the pebble beaches that line a lot of the Essex coastline. Second of all, the beach giftshops along the seafront sell the most wonderful, cheap and tatty toys that children (and some adults) just love. After buying some freshly made donuts, we invested in a wonderful windmill that kept Bear entertained for the entirety of our walk back to the car.
There are a great row of cafés along Southend – on – Sea’s seafront that serve amazing English breaskfasts. It was here we introduced Bear to his first taste of orange and cranberry, which I’m not entirely convinced he was sure of. Right next to this line of cafes is a Rossi’s ice cream stand, this is a rather magical place that sells – quite possibly – the best ice cream. It was here my mother had the bright idea to buy Bear his very first ice cream right before our trip to the sandy beach. Thank goodness for wet wipes!
During our stay in Essex we took a day trip to Marsh Farm in South Woodham Ferrers. I have fond memories of Marsh Farm, one of which is the time I tried to steal a chicken when I was five. I was apparently trying to save it from ending up in a pie. A lot has changed in the 20 years since my last visit, for starters you now can’t walk around the chicken pen.
This doesn’t stop you having a great day out with little people at this attraction, there is entertainment throughout the day, a playground of different toy vehicles that children can play on, a tractor park, lots of fun inflatables and of course the assortment of farmyard animals that you can stroke and feed. Marsh farm even have Reindeers, which may slightly confuse children who are wondering why they aren’t with Santa in the North Pole. I guess you can always tell them that they are having a summer holiday and Rudolph is actually in the Caribbean at the moment working on his suntan.
The wonderful thing about Marsh farm is how interactive it is, there are lots of activities and shows from tractor trailer rides and pony grooming to shows about birds of prey. There is even a chance to learn how to milk a cow at a milking demonstration. There is also a walk through aviary, where the birds fly really close to you and an area dedicated to the care of household pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and ferrets. One of the staff were kind enough to get out one of the ferrets for everyone to stroke, while he told us all about how to care for them properly.
A day out with Thomas the Tank Engine
During our stay with my aunt and uncle in the Suffolk countryside, we took a trip to Colne Valley Railway in Castle Hedingham for their ‘Day out with Thomas’ event.
Bear absolutely loves Thomas the Tank Engine and so this day trip was perfect for us. There were lots of different engines that are made to look like Thomas the Tank Engine characters. During our visit we met quite a number of them, including Thomas himself. Even the fat controller was wandering around meeting the passengers on his railway.
There are lots of interactive elements to the day, from being able to clamber into an old steam engine and pretend you are driving it to looking around miniature and model railways. Imagination station was a good pit stop as you get to listen to a Thomas the Tank Engine story read by the Fat Controller himself. He actually sang a few songs about his railway as well, which he encouraged all of the children and parents to get involved in too. There was even a re-enactment of a Thomas the Tank Engine story, where Thomas ran out of water and needed to be filled up again. This was particularly good for older children as they got to help fill Thomas up with water using water buckets and an old water pump. If all of that wasn’t enough, there was even a fire engine there that the children could explore.
There was an opportunity to take a ride with Thomas, as a parent I would advise you avoid doing this at all costs. This experience was complete hell on earth. We left our buggy in the buggy park on the platform and boarded one of Thomas’s carriages. We sat down in a booth and were delighted to see that colouring crayons and Thomas the Tank Engine pictures were set on each table so the children were entertained during their 30 minute train ride.
Only there was a delay with our train and we didn’t even leave the platform for 30 minutes, then we endured the 30 minute train ride. Now imagine for a moment, being stuck in a booth with a one year old who only has colouring crayons to entertain him for an hour. AN HOUR! After walking up and down the carriages a few times, supplying Bear with copious amounts of food and then enduring the tantrum of all tantrums, we finally got back to the station and were able to get off the train. I can see why passengers were always moaning about the Fat Controllers railway now.
Despite the horrific train journey and the slightly expensive price tag, the rest of the day was great and Oliver really enjoyed himself. It was a lovely family day, with lots of things to do for children of all ages. If you are interested in Visiting Thomas the Tank Engine and friends at Colne Valley you can visit the website for upcoming dates and admission prices.
The Simple Life
After our trip to Colne Valley, it was time for a bit of relaxation in the sunshine before we headed back up north. We decided to take a trip to the local park so Bear could run around with my littlest cousins. Mr. C and Bear even clambered into my aunt’s hot tub for a bit, I wouldn’t be surprised if I come home to find one in our garden at some point soon. We also took a trip to my aunt’s local park, so that Bear could run around with my littlest cousins. He had so much fun, it just goes to show that you don’t need to spend a lot of money – if any at all – to make sure your little ones have fun.