The weekend of September 2nd to 4th, we’ll be donning our wellies and heading to beautiful Chew Valley in Somerset for Delilah’s first festival, Valley Fest. We won’t be camping since she’ll only be six weeks old but the valley is in such easy reach of Bristol that getting there and back each day will be just fine. I’d love to wake up to a view of the Chew Valley lake, though, so that may be a plan for another year.
We are, of course, looking forward to the music and a look at the lineup confirms there’ll be plenty to make my folky heart exceedingly happy. With a good range of acts covering funk to ceilidh and three stages, the outdoor Lake Stage in the daytime, Tipi Valley in the night and the acoustic stage at Village Green, everyone’s covered. Certainly, we’re all well up for a jig in a field in some stunning countryside.
Speaking of fields, for us a huge draw to Valley Fest is its commitment to organic produce and ethical farming. Not only does this mean excellent food is on the menu but messages about appreciating the land and valuing sustainable practices underpin the festival. The Communal Sunday Picnic features cooking stars of the South West and organic partners like Riverford offer us the chance to get intimately involved in the food’s behind the scenes, from farm tours to cooking workshops.
As a small festival with lots on for kids, this looks like a great first for us. The Run Wild area promises storytelling, circus skills, craft sessions and lots more. With a baby change and nursing area, Delilah and I will be able to take it easy if it all gets a bit much.
If we all need somewhere quieter, we may well retreat to Village Green. Spa treatments, listening to speakers and discussions may be out for us this time around but we could take in the art installations and get involved in one of the art projects. For some serious chill time, we might hit the Film Field for a family film. It’s about time I introduced Talitha and Ophelia to Labyrinth.
It’s also our anniversary weekend and with a six-week-old in tow, there’s no chance of a child-free celebration so this sounds like a brilliant way to celebrate instead. After all, two of us made the promises that started our family seven years ago, right here in the Somerset countryside.
Adult weekend tickets are £80, £40 for children under 16, plus booking fee. Under 6’s go free. A family weekend ticket with 2 adults and children is £200. Maybe see some of you there?
Valley Fest has given us tickets in exchange for coverage on my blog.
A few weeks ago, the girls and I enjoyed a day out with Trunki at the Wild Place Project, a Bristol family attraction that offers nature trails, adventure play and a chance to see animals in the outdoors and contributes to animal conservation around the globe.
The focus of our visit was the Wild Place Project’s giraffe house appeal and Trunki’s contribution to it. The project is currently trying to raise money for a huge giraffe house in connection with protecting giraffe populations in Africa.
For every sale of their Gerry the Giraffe pull along suitcase, Trunki will donate £5 to the Bristol Zoological Society to help support the conservation work their team are carrying out.
Trunki is offering one Beautiful Tribe reader a Trunki of their choice* and a family pass to Bristol Wild Place. To enter, check out the Trunki range, leave a comment telling me which design you’d like to win and enter the Rafflecopter widget below.
Our family holiday in Madeira back in November now feels long ago. It’s still fresh in our minds, though, because Talitha keeps asking, “When can we go back to Madeira?” and “What’s the weather like in Madeira now?” I think she’s quite ready for winter to be over too! It hasn’t been an overly cold one here in the south west of England but, my, it’s been a seriously wet and windy one. No wonder she’s craving sunshine, warmth and a place where she got to go swimming every day.
Laurence’s parents have a timeshare in Madeira so they invited us to come along with them for their November break. Loving that we could take advantage of home educating by travelling during term time, we were, of course, thrilled to go. I didn’t research much about Madeira beforehand. The whole thing wound up being a beautiful surprise.
I was amazed that I recognised much of the flora. I kept showing Talitha flowers like hibiscus and bouganvillea and telling her that they grow in Trinidad and Tobago too. Of course, that also meant that we had a fresh supply of the fruits I grew up with like papaya, passion fruit and mangoes. There were also the distinctively flavoured easy peeler citrus fruits that we actually call “portugals” in Trinidad – that should have been a bit of a hint as to a historical connection, I guess?
I hadn’t expected to recognise a lot of the architecture either. Clearly, Trinidad has more Portuguese influence than I’d realised.
Some days it was downright hot and we had to be ready with hats and sunscreen. Others it was just cool enough for a cardigan to be a welcome addition.
Either way, it was such a pleasant temperature in November. Even though I’m from the Caribbean, I really don’t like being too hot unless I’m going to spend most of my time on a beach or by a pool.
We flew from Bristol Airport and the flight was only about three hours. We then took a 30-minute taxi ride to Funchal, where we were staying. How crazy that we could get somewhere dramatically different, in such a short space of time. For us, this would be a real pro of visiting Madeira again.
We were only there for a week and I was limited in what I felt able to do, being in the throes of the first trimester, but we still managed to pack a lot in (in between a lot of swimming for the kids).
Visit the marketplace
One of our first ports of call was the Worker’s Marketplace (Mercado dos Lavradores). On reflection, it would have been better to walk around, take a few pictures and go find somewhere a bit smaller and less touristy to buy from (we accidentally spent a bomb there!) but it was a fun experience tasting all the different types of passion fruit. I had no idea there were so many.
It’s definitely an experience to take hold of when you’re there. There were even people dressed in traditional Madeiran costumes while we were there as it was the market’s anniversary.
Have lunch outdoors in Old Town
To be fair, have lunch outdoors almost anywhere. Just enjoy the beautiful weather if it’s not too hot when you go. However, we loved having lunch in Old Town because of its eye-catching street art and narrow cobbled streets.
I wish I’d taken note of the name of the restaurant we dined at because it was literally the best meal of our trip – and we ate a lot of outstanding food that week. They didn’t have a baby seat but were very accommodating, offering cushions before we asked and had a baby change too. Generally, we found people extremely welcoming and friendly towards our children throughout our stay.
Going up the cable car
You can take a cable car up into the mountains, which is bound to thrill the kids and most adults. I admit I struggled with it because I get quite stressed with heights but even I enjoyed doing it, if mainly because the landscape made me feel like I was overlooking Trinidad. The view is well worth it.
Take a toboggan down
Once again, this is something I wasn’t naturally up for but, in the interest of keeping up with the group and pushing myself to try new things I went along with it. As we were already up in the mountains having taken the cable car, we took these old school toboggans down. Laurence had Ophelia in a front carry in the toddler carrier and Talitha sat between her grandparents.
It was, admittedly, a gentle pace though it still managed to set me on edge (I’m a wimp!). I won’t say I personally got that much out of it but everyone else found it so delightful, I’m really glad we went for it.
A short Levada walk
Madeiran levadas are narrow water carriageways that run along the mountains, dating back as far as the 16th century and ingeniously making mountainside plantations, gardens and hydro-electric power possible. Taking the paths along them offers stunning views and the chance to experience many different aspects of the Madeiran outdoors from rain forests to waterfalls.
We decided to take a rather short walk for Talitha’s sake as well as mine. Looking back, I should have just stayed back at the hotel. I was battling heavy nausea that day and just wasn’t up to much of a walk at all. Talitha enjoyed maybe an hour of walking and then wanted to go do something else.
I reckon that if I hadn’t been there, she would have sat for a bit under some shade and been happy to continue, hence my regret. We’d booked a taxi who met us at the halfway point and spotting the driver kind of spelled the end for us. I’d love to go back and try again.
A friend asked which walk we did, keen to find a child-friendly one. I’m sorry to disappoint but we don’t remember! We just asked the driver to take us to one that was a gentle and a couple of hours long, and he did so I reckon you could do the same.
I’d love to return at some point. I think we all would. Laurence had a brilliant mountain bike through the rain forest and I’d like to attempt another Levada walk when I’m more up to it. Maybe we’d try another holiday there when Ophelia is walking more too (which won’t be long, to be fair!) so there’s just one baby to carry. Or maybe we’ll wait a few years so all the kids can take advantage of the many sporting opportunities Madeira offers.
“Shall we go to this?” Laurence’s text read. Cue a photograph of the flyer for a local Wassail. He’d never heard the word before but I had. I used to list them for a little online ‘zine I worked for some years ago in the quirky town of Lewes, where amusing British traditions never die. I’d always thought they looked like great fun so I penciled it in.
Wrapped up in all the layers (I wax evangelical about my knitted wool socks and merino thermals I bought from Cambridge Baby. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have been subject to this), we grabbed some ribbons and headed to the community orchard where it was all going down.
There was singing and recorder playing a-plenty. So merry, in fact, that I considered for one mad moment that maybe I would be OK with teaching Talitha to play the recorder. Reality hit me on our way home so no such thing has been purchased. Visions of my four-and-a-half-year-old and 23-month-old fighting over a glorified whistle, indiscriminately tooting the day away still make me cringe.
Meanwhile, the children all got stuck in with decorating two of the apple trees that were being “blessed”. A Wassail is essentially a celebration in hope of a good harvest. It now remains an opportunity for communities to get together, get outdoors and connect with the seasons.
We took a break to grab some cake, mulled apple juice for the girls and I and mulled cider for Laurence. Then the morris dancing started. I have to admit, I love a bit of morris dancing. I get irrationally excited over it – the sight of it, rather, I actually can’t do it at all.
In fact, I went along to a friends morris dancing side’s practice to try it once and discovered that I was particularly inept. It looked so simple and like so much fun but alas, I wound up rather confused. I still have a real soft spot for watching it, though, and luckily the kids found it fascinating. Talitha was particularly interested in the accordion they were dancing along to.
A bit more ribbon tying, playing with a random child (I love how kids do this!) and we decided we better head off and make supper. The girls absolutely did not agree and in retrospect, we should have stayed a bit longer, maybe cosied over by the fire, struck up a conversation with a few more people and let them run around some more. Ah, retrospect. Next time.
A couple of weekends ago, we spent a few days off-grid on the edge of Dartmoor. Visiting Dartmoor was on my list of 30 things to do before I’m 30 because I’d heard so much about how desperately beautiful the moorland is and because a lot of Laurence’s childhood memories were created there.
We’re also always curious about what a living more simply and sustainably could look like. So, when Canopy & Stars, the quirky glamping company, invited us to stay in a safari tent on Eversfield Organic Farm, it was the perfect opportunity to combine all these pursuits.
We were greeted by Anna when we arrived. She helped us cart our things down a hill on wheelbarrows to Haytor, the safari tent we’d be staying in. It was effectively a cottage made of canvas on a platform directly overlooking a peaceful private lake.
A quick look around confirmed that it was far more fully equipped than I had expected. In fact, the shower and toilet rooms are better fitted and more comfortable than our bathroom here at home! In a tent!
The kids made themselves right at home, lounging on the bean bags on the veranda and climbing up into the little shed that became Talitha’s bedroom for our stay.
Talitha wanted to eat every meal outside, to look out at the lake, but we had to insist that it was a bit cold for breakfast. Looking out the windows and opening the front flaps sufficed in the end.
Canopy & Stars spaces range hugely in terms of experience. There’s always an outdoor connection and something a little bit different but you could end up staying somewhere at the height of luxury (think a yurt with a dishwasher and Georgian furniture) or somewhere where you’re very much camping but in style. This stay was on the latter end. Eversfield Safari Tents fall into the off-grid collection.
So, we’re talking no electricity, except for a central point where the freezer is kept, full of packs to keep your cool bags going. We didn’t have phone reception either, which was quite liberating (though maybe a little less so when Laurence couldn’t find out what the score was between England and Wales in the Rugby World Cup).
We enjoyed chatting by candlelight and hurricane lantern as well as cooking our meals and heating the tent with a wood-burning stove. The stove presented a bit of a learning curve. At first, we underestimated how much wood needed to be chucked in to get it hot enough to cook anything but that was soon sorted.
Similarly, we were freezing the first night until Laurence got up and got the wood-burning stove going again. The second night he fired it up before bed and topped it up once during the night (what a guy). We were all toasty and warm. I also had the profound satisfaction of building my first fire to heat the water for my shower.
The first morning we were there, we took a little paddle around the lake. I promise, Laurence literally only turned the boat around for this picture, then I put the camera down and got in with them!
An animal farm, there’s lots to see and do on Eversfield Organic, including walks and animal feedings. We really wanted to see Dartmoor itself, though, so we went further afield.
After a quick stop in Tavistock to get hats (it was chilly and this was the one thing we’d forgot to pack), we had lunch at The Dartmoor Inn. The food was your basic pub food but it was amazing to sit outside, surrounded by the moor. We then found an easy tor to walk up. Laurence and Talitha tried their hand at geocaching. They were unsuccessful but it was still a fun jaunt and we finished it off with ice creams, sitting outside.
The next day, we decided to have lunch at The Castle which is a few minutes’ drive from the farm and recommended by them. It was easy to see why. We dined outside in a sweet little garden and had the best roast dinner I’ve had in years – maybe ever!
The real highlight of that day was wild swimming! This is another of my 30 things and I’m glad I ticked it off before it got any colder. We wanted to find Shilley Pool, a known wild swim spot and somewhere Laurence’s family frequented in his childhood. We ended up having to park by guess and walk up a little aimlessly, hoping we’d find it.
It was so interesting seeing Laurence suddenly remember where we were, showing Talitha the little cave that was pointed out to him as a child and having the memories flood back when we found the little pool. The water was so clear and fresh! And I actually summoned up the guts to get in – we all did! Exclamation points a-plenty because it really was that cold!
We came away with so much to remember and think about. We’re still unpacking some of the questions it raised for us about the way we live and what we’d like to do more of. Laurence has written a bit more about that in his post Coffee, canvas, caching and childhood revisited on his blog, Chasing Wilderness. Talitha keeps talking about it too. We’d certainly return.
Starting at £134 a night, sleeping six people, it’s reasonably-priced too. For booking enquiries visit the Canopy & Stars website.
Canopy & Stars invited us to stay two nights in an Eversfield Safari Tent free of charge for the purposes of this review.
On our way for a weekend in Dartmoor, we stopped off at Castle Drogo. We try to plan stops at destinations rather than service stations when we’re going on longer journeys and our National Trust membership has helped perfectly with that. I also thought it would be a good time to photograph the iCandy Raspberry pushchair that we’ve been trying out for the past few weeks.
The main reason I agreed to review the iCandy Raspberry is that you have the option of making it parent-facing. In fact, it’s really easy to turn the seat around either way in just a few seconds. I’ve even done it with Ophelia in the seat, though it’s definitely easier to sort it beforehand.
We are a babywearing family. Even now that Ophelia is nineteen months, we wear her in a sling or she walks most of the time. However, I’ve found that she naps so consistently in a pushchair and will stay asleep in there for longer than she will the sling these days, so the iCandy Rasberry is a good addition, especially as it reclines flat, completely and easily. It also has a very generous sunshade which Ophelia pulls down herself, which is great when she needs a dark space to just shut off from everything.
Also generous is the shopping basket. I’ve never come across a pushchair with such a roomy basket. I can easily fit my bag and then some in there and it’s separated into compartments too.
I found putting the iCandy Raspberry together a breeze, taking it out of the box but it just wasn’t that intuitive figuring out how to collapse it. Once I’d worked it out from the instructions, though, it was incredibly simple and quick. That’s been fine off and on buses and trains.
It’s been a dream to push around, steering comfortably and accurately. Laurence and I both love that the handle extends quite a lot.
The only downside for us is that the seat is too small. Ophelia is a big nineteen-month-old, granted, but there’s no way it’s going to last her until three without taking the seat liner out.
But all in all, I’ve really enjoyed using it and it’s a no-brainer passing on the last pushchair we had, especially as this one fits so well in the tiny boot of our Skoda.
Thanks to iCandy for sending me the iCandy Raspberry. If you’d like to know more about this pushchair, check out the Pushchair Expert review.
Last month Talitha went for a weekend with all of her grandparents. It was her first time away for two nights (her request) and our first time having a whole day with just Ophelia. We racked our brains trying to think of something we could do with an eighteen-month-old that we couldn’t normally do with a four-year-old and finally decided to give cycling a go.
Cycling as a family isn’t something that’s possible for us at the moment because I can’t ride a bike and we only have one baby seat. So we went to the Wye Valley in Wales for me to practise cycling. Learning to cycle is one of my 30 things to do before I turn 30 in seven months’ time. It was also a chance for Ophelia to have her first ride with Laurence. I’ve put together a little video of the experience.
I still have a way to go before I can confidently cycle but it feels like a definite possibility now. More recently, Talitha has started learning to ride a bike so let’s see who gets there first!