I’d really been looking forward to getting away for some family adventuring. We’d waited for the right slot in work schedules and other diary commitments and the week just passed was it. Although we waited, it still feels good to have the freedom from working around school timetables and just working around our own lives instead. Here’s what we’ve been up to…
Our first destination, Somerset. An easy drive down, passing Stone Henge again on the way. We set up camp easily at Nettwood Farm with a great view down across a lake/reservoir which instantly reminded us of our time in Lake Vinuela, Spain. It wasn’t nearly as breathtaking or dramatic as our view in Spain and of course not as warm but it still made the connection for us nonetheless.
We were the only ones there for the first night except for the Alpaca in the field next door. Another couple came along for the second two nights but other than that it remained an extremely quiet and secluded spot. Eating by BBQ and Fire Pit was the general food format plus of course we had roasted marshmallows. There was an incident with a cow chase. What I mean by that is Twin Dad, A and W being chased by cows and having to slip under the fence quick sharp.
From base camp the next day we travelled to our first interest lead destination – The Dr Who Experience in Cardiff. For the record, we were extended the educational rate which I booked over the phone with no trouble and no requirement for a Home Education Card. A relatively easy drive to make, over the toll bridge and into Cardiff. Far better than making the journey from Portsmouth.
The *Experience* itself was good fun. Can’t give away any secrets about the interactive first part in case any Whovians intend to visit but the second half, the museum/exhibition part was most excellent. Enough photographs were taken to fill an entirely dedicated Dr Who prop and costume album. I won’t fill the blog with photos so as not to spoil the excitement but will just add a couple to tempt. L has said he really enjoyed it and came away with the first Dr Who series which he watched in the tent that evening on our portable DVD player. It’s in black and white. He said it’s quite weird and how easy it was to spot how they set had been made. The differences in filming special effects back then to now very obvious.
The following day we headed for our second interest lead destination, to see the Gorilla at Bristol Zoo Gardens. The car journey there gave us The Clifton Suspension Bridge. L already knew about the bridge (I didn’t!) and was able to tell us what he knew. We continued to make more connections with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and our current home location of Portsmouth.
Anyway, the Zoo. Absolute treat to see the beautiful apes. The 180 degrees enclosure was totally irrelevant to us because we were in time to listen to a talk during feeding time so they all came outside for us to observe. Jock, who was the Silver Back was huge. Pretty certain he was bigger than the Silver Back at London Zoo. Although we went specifically for the Gorillas, the Zoo is all round a great place to visit. The Bug World was particularly interesting as was the opportunity to see Capybaras (at Marwell Zoo they are quite far away to see properly and we always just point and say *oh look the giant guinea pig!*). Feeding the Lorikeets was a definite highlight as was the fruit bat enclosure whereby Twin Dad just missed out on being peed on by bat perched overhead! Oh and I want to say that W took to using the camera on this trip and we have a ton of photographs.
The third day was a pack up camp day and head off for our next destination – Cornwall. It made much more sense to drive from Somerset than from Portsmouth given the distance, saving just the one long leg for the return journey home. We woke to misty weather but it cleared by the time we set off so we took a drive through Cheddar for some dramatic scenery.
We detoured the journey to cross Dartmoor for some more scenery. It was misty and mysterious. At one point we stopped with the sheep and told the children we had arrived and were going to be camping in the true wilderness. Funny thing is, they didn’t look that surprised. I think they know that anything is possible.
On arrival at the camp site in Cornwall (Court Farm) which was pretty much empty too (the benefits of travelling outside of school holiday time) the weather was looking a little grim. Still the site was nicely located for what we needed with good clean facilities so can definitely recommend. We chose our spot and launched ourselves into the second tent erection of the adventure. We have the whole set up and dismantle pretty well mastered now but it’s a big job with the equipment we have for 6 of us. This time around due to our change in vehicle, we had a trailer in tow. Not a fan of the trailer. Just complicates matters and it’s not very practical for us at all. However, it did the job and we have learned that swapping our current vehicle in for something similar to our old red bus is definitely our next priority.
Fortunately, we woke the next day to sunshine so decided to head off to the very reason we wanted to visit Cornwall in the first place – The Eden Project. Oh it was soooo worth it. I could have stayed in the Rainforest Biome all day. Definitely would like some jungle adventures for real. It was at times a little too warm and humid for the children but the waterfall cooled them down and the learning exhibits as you walk around kept them very engaged and happy. S was content with spotting ants of which there were quadrillions – she is a great ant spotter! It was great to play home in the Bamboo House particularly as we have recently watched videos about building with Bamboo in Bali. W (8) wants to live in a Bamboo house.
The Mediterranean Biome was much more familiar to us having spent a lot of time in Spain and still favourable to us over our UK temperate climate. There was a storyteller in action whilst we walked around and S (13) chose to sit and listen.
Outside the geodesic domes, the grounds are just as wonderful. Lots of places to stop and sit and take in the plants and trees that surround you. The WEEE Man is worth a look to see if you can spot various items of household junk. There was also a bare foot walk but to the children’s disappointment it wasn’t muddy like the one at Kew Gardens.
The core is full of displays and information and was our last stop before taking the land train back to where we started. It’s a full on walking day but well worth the trip. We were fortunate enough to receive the educational rate on the door too and we spent what we saved in the gift shop.
After another night in the tent and being granted another sunny day, we decided to check out the beaches of Cornwall and fishing villages, eat Cornish pasties, Cornish ice-cream and Cornish fish and chips. You could almost mistake the English Riviera for a Greek beach except for the weather. It’s the missing ingredient. Those truly hot summer days are so few and far between and inconsistent here in the UK that you can’t quite pretend. It gave us Weaver Fish Sting number 3 – this time A – and a stop at the RNLI first aid shed for a bowl of hot water. It soon eased off but these things are really painful.
We had thought we might stay on for a couple more days but we collectively agreed that we were ALL camped out and ready to return home. So one last night in the tent and we woke to damp cloudy conditions giving us the final sign that it was time to pack up camp and quit while we were ahead.
The drive back was a long one (6 hours) but everyone was great. The Tay Bridge from Cornwall to Devon gave us more Isambard kingdom Brunel connections as we spotted the name on the Great Western rail bridge running alongside. The bridge also brought about royal discussions, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Wales and then in Dorset we spotted the town of Poundbury giving way to more Royal chatter. This soon turned into land ownership and further back in history with talks of Normans and Saxons and goodness knows what else.
Twin Dad despite driving was able to point out lots of sites that may have been forts/settlements engaging L in more Historical conversation. L was in the back of the car googling where necessary and before long we were talking about foreign languages. This is how our learning happens, naturally through life as and when it happens.
For the girls (A and W) there were many questions about signs and number plates. Does this say that and what does that mean?
Aside of the attractions, camping, exploration and car conversations there was much learning taking place that perhaps we forget to highlight. So many different social situations and new experiences to handle and for some of us these situations are more challenging than others. Stepping out of comfort zones is the way forward for personal development and growth and whilst our family dynamics do not always run smoothly and at times can be enormously exhausting, we still mange to achieve so much.
Until the next adventure…..I reckon we have a jungle adventure in us yet!