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I'm a part-time writer, full-time mother and dog-walker living in a small English village by the sea with my husband, daughter and a dog named Doc.

All posts by Dean B

A Bluestone Adventure!

January is such a bleak month. What with the new year, Christmas decorations now gone, suddenly your house feels vacant devoid of any kind of cheer, not to mention the dreary cold weather. What’s there to like about this month? Nothing.

When we were kindly offered to stay in Bluestone Wales sometime in October of last year but had to cancel since my husband couldn’t get time off work, we thought of rescheduling it to the dreaded month of January and I’m so glad we did!

We left North Cornwall midday on Monday after dropping Doc off at the kennels. After stopping only once, we arrived in our destination before 6pm.

The Lodge:

This was our lovely home for four days.

We stayed at Ramsey lodge, which had an “upside-down-living space” which worked really well so you could view the surroundings early in the morning while sipping your first cup of coffee.

The lounge had an open plan with the kitchen fully equipped with everything you’ll ever need for your stay. It had a small fridge, a microwave, cooker/oven, and was pleasantly surprised that it had a dishwasher!

We came prepared and brought washing-up liquid with us which wasn’t even necessary since everything was provided from washing-up liquid, sponges to even 2 dishwasher tablets, which we quickly used up of course, but since we weren’t expecting the dishwasher, we just washed-up after our meals rather than get more.

There was also a big wardrobe complete with iron, ironing board, vacuum cleaner, clothes drier, and even a broom.

The Bedrooms:

We were really impressed with the bedrooms, both came with an en-suite (handy for bigger families). Again everything was provided, even a hair-dryer!

After settling in and having a quick dinner, we decided to go down the village and explore a bit in the dark. We ended up in the pub (as you do) and found ourselves in conversation with a lovely Welsh couple who gave us tips on what to do and where to visit in Wales.

First Day:

While we don’t don’t do new year’s resolutions, we however aim to try and do more outdoor activities like biking as a family, especially since T received a new bike from Father Christmas this year. With that in mind, we took her bike along with us, knowing that we could rent bikes for my husband and I for the duration of our stay.

And there’s little T standing proudly with her very own bike as we rented bikes for the whole of our stay.

If you’re an active family, I strongly recommend hiring bikes instead of a buggy to get around Bluestone. It’s cheaper and your kids will love it (T did!). Don’t worry about being not fit enough, I’m certainly not. And I wasn’t embarrassed to get off my bike when I had trouble cycling uphill. To see my daughter and husband have so much fun, was so worth it!

The first day was just spent cycling around the village, not really exploring yet but just getting our bearings.

In the afternoon, we excitedly cycled to the Blue Lagoon for some fun in the water.

Slides and flumes at Blue Lagoon seen from outside.

After cycling all day, we found what they called the “lazy river” really relaxing. It took you all the way out into the cold air (but it didn’t matter because the water was really nice and warm) and back into the indoor pool of the blue lagoon.

The pool also had the usual artificial waves and showers which came and went, all the kids loved it. T surprisingly opted to keep doing the lazy river than the slides. I guess after so much biking, she just wanted to relax.

Second Day:

Beautiful and colourful houses in Tenby.

We spent the next day in Tenby as recommended by the lovely Welsh couple we met in the village pub at Bluestone. And since we really enjoyed our visit at this lovely seaside Welsh town, I think it deserves a post of its own.

Third Day:

Since this was our last day, we planned to explore and bike as much as we could around the park. First stop was Camp Smokey.

We had to leave our bikes behind since they weren’t allowed inside the camp and besides, it is a bit of trek to the campsite.

Understandably Camp Smokey is closed during the winter months and will open after the half-term break in February. I can imagine though in the summer, this will be a really good place to just hang out and enjoy a barbecue.

For those who are not afraid of heights, you can book try out their tree-climbing and zip wire through the lovely forest.

We biked through their Archery and Clay shooting yard, where one can book if you’re into this kind of activities.

If you’re a really keen cyclist, they have different bike trails, depends on what kind you’re after. We of course, chose the easiest trail. And at this point, we were headed for the ruins of Castle Coch.

As usual, I feel behind again and T was way ahead of me.

Just when I thought I had lost both T and my husband because I was cycling really slow. I saw this…

There’s nothing much written about the story behind the ruins of Castle Coch. All I could find online was that it’s a manorial hall house built in the 14th century. That’s about it. But what really struck me was the stunning beds of snowdops infront and on the sides of the ruins.

The snowdrops made the ruins look magical and fairy-tale like.

T had so much fun taking her own photos!
T’s dad showing her where the second floor would’ve been.

It definitely was worth getting lost to see this forgotten ruin. Next stop was the lake!

T went round and round the lake…

One can book a canoe if you’re into canoeing or strolling around the lake is actually enjoyable too.

The Light Experience is definitely something to watch out for especially if you have young kids in tow. The attention to detail is just amazing, especially the Fairy Village where one can peek through the windows of each fairy house or shop and see miniature furniture fit for fairies! We came to see this at night after dinner and it was so worth it!

After cycling, we came down to the village to have a quick lunch.

We wanted something light so chose the lovely coffee shop which served amazing milkshakes!

Bubblegum flavoured milkshakes anyone?
Then T had a little play at the playground as you do when you’re a child.

After a quick rest back in the lodge, we went back to the Blue Lagoon to relax in the calming lazy river.

Did we like Bluestone?

I asked T and the husband whether they enjoyed Bluestone. T of course shouted YES! I NEVER WANT TO LEAVE BLUESTONE!

The husband who isn’t easily impressed also agreed with T. He said what really impressed him were how helpful and nice all the staff were.

As for me, I also gave a resounding YES just like T. Let me count how much…

1. I loved the lodge where we stayed and how well-quipped it was.

2. I loved cycling around even though at times it felt like I was going to have a heart attack.

3. I loved how there’s something for everyone whether you’re an active person or not.

4. I loved the little village with it’s shops and restaurants. I loved everything! Would we come back? Definitely!

My husband and I found this on the wall in the village and it sums up what Bluestone is all about:

We especially loved:

Bluestone believes that when you look at life through the eyes of a child it’s amazing just how much you can learn.

With a manifesto like that? How can one go wrong?

Have you been to Bluestone? If yes, did you love it as much as we did? If it’s a no, is this the kind of place you’d love to visit as a family?

Disclaimer: We were kindly offered accommodation to stay in Bluestone for 4 days for the purpose of this review. However, all views and photographs on this post is by yours truly and my little family.

A Simple Life

Christmas came and went. I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas break. Ours was a relaxed one which was what we wanted, so all good here.

2019. A new year. I used to make New Year’s resolutions when I was younger. I haven’t made one in ages although I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wanted to change in my life and I’ve come up with only one thing:

I want to lead a simple life.  

I’m not really religious but Pope Francis Christmas message did hit a chord with me. He said:

Forego the greed, gluttony and materialism of Christmas and to focus instead on its message of simplicity, charity and love.

I’ve seen photos of children on social-media opening presents and they had piles and piles of presents, more than they’ll appreciate. I saw a toddler sit in front of a pile and the child didn’t even know what to do with the tons of presents in front of him.

How much does a child need to be happy on Christmas day? Do we really need that much? Do we really need expensive presents to make us happy? Thank goodness I’ve never been brand conscious and designer clothes/bags have never appealed to me. I don’t want to sound self-righteous but I don’t think I’ll be able to justify to myself spending that much on something knowing that other people have nothing.

At the moment, I want to do a massive clear-out of all the stuff we don’t need. We have loads of crockery courtesy of my in-laws. Every time they get rid of stuff, without even thinking whether we need it, my usual response is “We’ll take it!” when they ask if we want it. As a result, we have more dinner plates I’ll ever need. We have more than a couple of gravy bowls, milk jugs, as if we’ll ever need more than one. My husband says “But you break things, Dean”. True and when I do, we’re lucky there’s always something to replace it with. But do we really need all that stuff?

I’ve resolved not to buy anything unless we really need it. I resolve not to buy anything just because I want it. That will be my mantra. Hopefully, I’ll stay true to my word. After all, as I’ve mentioned, how much stuff do we really need? Surely we only need the basics?

What about you? Do you also aim for simple living?

The Bird Feeder

But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods…for their glory terrestrial had departed and their glory celestial of spirit and purity and whiteness had not yet come upon them.”

  • L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars

November can be a bit of a drag.  The days become shorter and the temperature drops making it colder.  At least with December, we have Christmas to look forward to.  But November?  The only good thing about this months is that it leads to December and then it becomes a blur.  The countdown to Christmas always becomes a blur, especially if you’re a parent and before you know it, you’ll be taking all the Christmas decors down.  Which reminds me, I really want to put ours up.  But I promised the husband that I’d only start decorating in the first day of December.

I’ve digressed, I wanted to write about the bird feeder my husband bought (as mentioned on the previous post).  We hang it outside our bathroom window so our cat and the squirrels won’t reach it.  Birds make the husband happy.  He likes feeding them left over bread and crackers.  I call him Cinderella.  I keep waiting for him to break into song, so far he hasn’t … yet.

Armed with my camera, I was determined to catch some birds in action.  But wasn’t so sure I’d be lucky since Doc followed me out and soon, Boots was there too.  To my surprise I didn’t have long to wait.  I spied one blue tit on the roof.

I knew it was watching me, Doc and even Boots.  And then when it realised that it was safe it decided to go for it… slowly.  I watched its every move through my lense.

When it felt bolder, it finally made a move.

After a few pecks it flew away.  But before I could even put my camera down, two of them came by.

It was just lovely to watch them feed.  From below, Doc was busy chasing his tail and Boots?  She was on the hedge… watching.

I’m so glad the bird feeder is way up there.  And in the winter, our cat likes to spend it mostly asleep on top of the boiler where it is nice and warm.  She’s like her humans who gain a lot of weight on the colder months, even if she could reach the bird feeder, somehow I doubt very much if she’d be quick enough.

During these short cold days, it’s the small joys that really matter, like watching the birds feed, enjoying the lovely autumn light through the window, and blue skies against beautiful winter trees that are slowly losing its leaves.

What are your small joys?

Afternoon Light

It’s mid November.  Surprisingly, the temperature is still mild, although if the weather forecast is correct, it will turn cold next week.

We’ve been having lovely weather lately.  Everywhere you turn is beautiful especially in the afternoon autumn light.  I’m currently loving autumn leaves.  When the light is lovely, I rush outside with my camera in hand and click on whatever catches my eye.

Let me share some photos with you.

My husband hang a bird-feeder outside our bathroom window.  It’s lovely to see the birds feed from it.  But I’m never able to capture it.  I think the birds know when I’m holding my camera or my phone as soon as they see it, they fly away.

The autumn afternoon sun amazes me.  Sometimes I just sit on the floor and watch it form shadows on the wall, or watch the way it beams from the window and explodes inside a room.  If I’m lucky it stays that way for more than a couple of hours before it darkens and everywhere you look it is gloomy.  Then without warning, the temperature drops and I feel the cold in my bones.  Thank goodness for warm, fluffy socks!  Days like these, I hold unto the small joys.

What about you? How’s your autumn going?

Autumn in Canons Ashby

While Summer is by far my favourite season, Autumn is dear to me too.  As mentioned, I love the rich changes of the colours of the leaves.  It’s nature weaving out its magic in its finest, isn’t it?  What’s not to love about Autumn?  Yes, it’s definitely colder, but it’s also an excuse to wear lovely chunky knits, and warm over-sized coats!

We went over to Beds to see family during the half-term break.  It was also T’s grandfather’s 90th birthday.  We’re pleased to see him really well and strong in mind.  He has a youthfulness which I hope will always stay with him.

While over there, we also had the chance to visit Canons Ashby, a National Trust house in a small village with the same name as the property.  Built in the 16th century, it’s been home to the Dryden family for over 400 years.

Highlights from the visit – finding medieval doodles on the wall.

According to one of the guides there, in the 80s, when this particular bedroom was stripped off its rotting panels, they found lovely etchings that dates to medieval times.  If you peer at the photo above closely, you’ll see a child-like doodle of a girl obviously made by a child.  The next ones (as seen on photos below) were obviously done by someone older.

All on this wall:

T enjoyed poking about in the small rooms in the house.

While Canons Ashby doesn’t have a large garden like the other National Trust properties, it was still a joy to walk on, or in T’s case, skip about.

The vibrant autumn colours were in full boom in Canons Ashby.

We also visited the13th century Abbey nearby.

Like all National Trust properties, the place is steeped in history.  Our link to the past, or if you’re an 8-year-old little girl like T, a place to skip and jump about.

So far, I haven’t visited any National Trust or English Heritage property and was disappointed in the end…. Have you?  Do share.

Autumn Photographs

It’s been a while since I took my camera out for a spin.  Did just that today.  It started out in the garden and then T, Doc and I decided to go over the neighbouring field for more photos.

Scenes from our garden:

 

“It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler of crust of brown sugar and cinnamon” – Sarah Addison Allen, First Frost

 

A touch of colour (photo above) and bat girl and her dog in the field beside our house.

Don’t you just love autumn photographs?

The Flowers of Castle Drogo

I must have flowers, always and always.  – Claude Monet

And it’s no wonder that the famous the French artist went on and created paintings of them one after the other.  I’m no artist.  I knew that as an early child when mum hired a local artist to teach my brother and I how to paint. He did well.  I did not. I cannot paint flowers but I can certainly photograph them.

But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass, since she’s the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

I have a friend who can name every single flower there is.  She tried to teach me once, but I’m afraid my memory retention is bad and it’s only going to get worse (hopefully not!), so I’m afraid I won’t be able to name any of the flowers above apart from the roses.  After all, who can’t?

These beautiful flowers can be found in Castle Drogo in Devon. They were taken in the summer so I’m not sure if they’ll be as colourful and beautiful as they were in those photos, but still worth a visit.  The castle is still surrounded by scaffolding but the gardens are definitely worth visiting especially if you love flowers.  If you find yourself in the area, do drop by and visit the flowers of Castle Drogo.  They have wonderful grounds too, perfect for autumn walks.

What about you?

Are you good at identifying flowers?

S is for Surfing

And as Storm Callum ravages the UK, I sit here on my desk, warmed by the heater and sipping a mug of hot tea looking at these images of little T surfing over the summer and wishing I could could go back to those moments on the beach, watching my little girl as she misses a wave and has to do it all over again with that determined look on her face I love so much.

After several tries, she manages to pull herself up and ride with the wave.  I asked her once what it was like, she said it’s like being on top of the world!

And she loves it.  She absolutely loves it and it’s also a thrill to watch her from ashore.  I don’t worry about her, because my husband is never far from where she is.  Admittedly, the waves here in Widemouth Bay in North Cornwall can be very rough, but he’s never far and we also make sure that there are lifeguards around.

If you happen to find yourself in North Cornwall next summer and you think you or your kids would be interested to learn how to surf.  Do contact Miles, little T’s coach.  He was brilliant with her and her friends.  He had them all standing by the end of the first lesson.  Click here to find out more about him.  He is the best coach in the area.

Back to reality, as I hear the winds thrash our house and the surrounding trees in our garden and I’m reminded that summer is indeed over and that I’m wearing wooly socks to keep my feet warm from the cold.

Wouldn’t it be great though if we could step into these photographs of our summers on the beach, lighting our old rusty bbq, and staying till sunset and till the last of the surfers are gone.

Summer on the Beach …

… that’s the theme of our whole summer of 2018, although to be fair, that’s an ongoing theme in our family life since we live close by to the beach. You’ll find us there whether it’s summer, autumn, winter or spring.  This is a part two of what we’ve been up to in the warm months, you can click here if you want to check out part one.

We did think of going abroad, but with the “heat wave” a close friend said “Why go abroad when it’s as good as anywhere here when the weather is as warm as this?”.  And that’s exactly what we did!  We didn’t even go very far.  Just over the border, into Devon…

Lyme Regis

Charmouth Beach

We’ve been to Charmouth before, but I’ve never seen this much fossil hunters on the beach!

, Our friend was right, when the weather is great, spending summers here in England is as good as going abroad.

What about you?

Did you go abroad this summer?

Our 2018 Summer in Photos (Part 1)

Hello again.  It’s been a while since I’ve last posted anything here on Little Steps. I’ll be honest, I’ve lost my blogging mojo and I’ve been trying to get it back.  In the mean time, I’ll try to say it in photos and hopefully the words will come…

Porthleven

Perranporth Beach in the fog:

And then the fog lifted …

To be continued…