A summer’s day in Bristol

Last week Friday, Laurence took the day off work to hang out with us since his brother was visiting us from Thailand. We set out with not a lot planned but ended up taking advantage of a lot of what Bristol has to offer. We started off with a trip to Hoo Haa! Festival at Colston Hall to see a crazy one-man musical and make a building to contribute to a cardboard city. It was our second day at the festival and I’ve blogged about the whole thing here.

A summer's day in Bristol with White Stuff-2

White Stuff sent me this tunic and asked me to take it on a summer’s day out. It’s not something I’d normally wear but I’m converted. It’s so comfortable and while I thought I might need a belt with it (with a large-busted hourglass shape, this is usually the case) it was actually fine as is. It’s perfect for a casual day out.

A summer's day in Bristol with White Stuff-3

Laurence had heard about this new Szechuan noodle place called Chilli Daddy which apparently people had been going on and on about. It’s near to the children’s hospital so we reckon that’s good news for the staff there! It was interesting walking along that stretch as it’s a part of Bristol I almost never visit.

A summer's day in Bristol with White Stuff-4

In fact, I still struggle to believe that I’d never been down the Christmas Steps. It’s such a fascinating bit of the city with lots of quirky shops.

A summer's day in Bristol with White Stuff-5

It’s only when we sat down to lunch that we realised we’d possibly made a bit of a faux pas taking my brother-in-law for noodles when he might have preferred something a bit more western on his visit home! Ah well, he pointed out that it wasn’t Thai food and he was admirably good about the whole thing.

A summer's day in Bristol with White Stuff-6

On the way to lunch, we noticed that The Red Lodge Museum was open so we thought we’d check it out. It’s a grand building on Park Row, spanning four centuries of history. It doesn’t look like much from the outside. You could easily miss it. But inside it’s a fantastic display of perfectly preserved Elizabethan and Georgian artefacts.

A summer's day in Bristol with White Stuff-7

There’s even a sweet little Tudor garden outside. It’s only a small space but there’s a lot to take in so I’ll certainly be taking the kids back. What better way to discover history?

A summer's day in Bristol with White Stuff-8

A summer's day in Bristol with White Stuff-10

I always think it’s fun on a day out to do a bit of a meal crawl and split up the courses between venues. For cake and coffee, we headed to Roll for the Soul, a vegetarian community cafe in the centre that the girls and I have wound up stopping at quite a lot recently. Laurence had never been so he gravitated instantly to all the cycling gear on sale. I love the food there and I think it has such a friendly vibe.

A summer's day in Bristol with White Stuff-11

Days like this one make me want to get to know our city better. Laurence’s family have lived in the Bristol area for a long time so he knows it relatively well. He also works in different parts of the city so gets more exposure than I do. We’ve lived here for five years which sometimes sounds like a lot but, in many ways, I still feel like a newcomer.

Thanks to White Stuff for working with me on this post. Check out the rest of their tunic and kaftan range.


Brilliantly weird fun at Hoo Haa! Festival

We’ve spent the past few days doing two pretty random things: finding non-musical objects to make music with and singing “Do a little poo in the forest” to each other. We’ll have to blame the gigs we’ve taken in at Hoo Haa! Festival at Colston Hall in Bristol last week.

The first I’ll explain in a minute but the second definitely requires music video explanation. Do show your kiddies this. They’ll love it – and so will you if you’re into toilet humour.

On Friday we had Laurence’s brother with us (he normally lives in Thailand) so we all headed down to Hoo Haa! to check out Kid Carpet and The Noisy Animals. It was a show described as “a punk rock musical following the adventures of gorilla, bear, hedgehog and badger as they make friends, cause mischief, contemplate the world and rock out at the grand dance contest.”

Hoo Haa Festival at Colston Hall-6

It was, in fact, one of the most gloriously weird things I’ve ever seen. I knew I was going to be blogging about it because Hoo Haa! had given us tickets but at one point I leaned in and whispered to Laurence, “This is insane! How the heck am I going to write about this?!” He shrugged and said it sort of reminded him of The Mighty Boosh.

Essentially it’s a man playing with some toy animals, singing some crazy songs and messing around with some audio visual tech. It’s brilliant and you could see that the kids (adults too but kids, especially) loved it. The fact that I’m merrily humming the song in the video above as I type this probably says it all.

Afterwards, the kids had some fun putting together a building for a cardboard city. There were some pretty inspiring builds. We’ll definitely give this another go at home.

Hoo Haa Festival at Colston Hall-4

The day before, we made it down with my parents and saw Paka Piki Music. British experimental folk artist Rachael Dadd played “instruments” that ranged from a banjo to a carrot to a toothbrush. Her bandmate Japanese artist ICHI wore what I think was probably an ant-head mask and played an equally eclectic range of objects. I loved that they included the steelpan in their lineup. Any opportunity for my kids to hear that instrument is exciting for me as a Caribbean migrant.

Both girls were absolutely spell bound during the performance. Talitha had lots of questions spilling out afterwards and she jumped at the chance to get play long, knocking chopsticks together. I would go see them again and again and again.

Hoo Haa Festival at Colston Hall

Talitha also got to play with some fruit and vegetables wired up to a computer, experimenting with them to make music.

There was so much more on, including a classical concert for babies and toddlers, a beatboxing workshop for all ages, a poetry battle for over 10s and a disco. I wish we’d been able to make it along to more but even the little we saw gave us all a taste of something different this summer.

This was Hoo Haa! Festival’s first year at Colston Hall and I hope it returns next year but even if not, we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for other events there. In fact, my parents have bought tickets to take the girls to see The Tiger Who Came to Tea there later this week.


Making the most of our community farm

This Saturday we ended up having my parents and one of the girls’ friends with us so we decided to head over to Lawrence Weston Community Farm. It’s a space we visit frequently. Our visit there this weekend reminded me of why I love city farms in general and what’s so brilliant about this one in particular.

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-9-2

City farms and community gardens are community-managed projects run by volunteers for the benefit of local residents. They’re usually set up in socially deprived areas and there are often opportunities to get involved if you’re interested.

We started off by taking in a bit of the “secret garden” at the farm. There’s so much growing all about the farm and, whereas I would have bypassed it all before assuming the kids wouldn’t be that interested, now that I know a little more about gardening, we take a look and talk about what we see. I’m always surprised at how the way small details hold their attentions.

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-3-2

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-2-2

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-10

Then, of course, we had to say “hello” to all the animals. We saw sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks and guinea pigs. My two can literally wile the hours away going around and around the animal village. We sometimes come along to an under 7s group on a Wednesday to feed the animals, collect the eggs and follow the sheep up into the fields.

Talitha always takes the opportunity to remind me that the chicken coop I bought still needs chickens. I’m still trying to get my head around that. Actually, the farm holds courses from wooden spoon making to beekeeping, so I really need to book onto one of their chicken keeping sessions as I’ve been meaning to do for ages.

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-5-2

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-8-2

Lawrence Weston Community Farm-7-2

Then we took a walk into the lush woodland trail across the bridge. Lots of session for kids are held here and you can see the evidence in tree stump circles and willow dens. There are lots of places to climb and a few bug hotels dotted around.

We didn’t make it up to the orchard and the bit with the climbing frame and picnic area because we decided to try out the farm’s new cafe that’s only just opened. It’s just what Lawrence Weston Community Farm needed, really.

Then, on our way out, we bought eggs from the office. I used to buy all our meat and eggs (plus some veg) from here but without a car for the last few months we just stopped eating meat much at all and started buying eggs from chicken and duck keeping neighbours. Now that I have have a car again, I’m going to build buying from the community farm back into our routine.

This really is such a calming, free place for us to go as a family. People are often surprised when I mention there’s a community farm in Lawrence Weston because, if you know the area, it’s not something you expect to find there. But surely that means it’s exactly where it should be.

Are there any community farming or gardening projects near you? Are you involved in any? I’m always intrigued to hear what’s happening in different towns and cities.


Upfest

Weekends like the one just gone, I love living in Bristol. It’s an endlessly creative city, hosting a string of festivals in the summertime.

upfest-2

upfest-4

upfest-5

On Saturday we took the kids down to Bedminster to check out Upfest, Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival. I think we only ended up sampling a small bit of what was an offer – it was pretty packed and we wanted a chilled day – but what we saw was seriously impressive.

upfest

upfest loch ness littleloves

I was surprised by how much the kids took it in. Talitha spent ages fascinated with Loch Ness in action. Loads on today if you’re in Bristol and want to make it down there. Otherwise, catch it another time.


A nostalgic weekend in Exeter

We’d been planning to head over to Exeter for ages. It’s Laurence’s university town and so, an important part of his life, but I’d never seen it. The chance to visit together came up when First Great Western gave us a weekend there a few weeks ago. It made a great city break and a chance to connect as a family before Laurence headed off to start working in London.

exeter-2

We made the journey over there at night after Laurence finished work so it was an exciting “past bedtime” train journey from Bristol to Exeter. We each slung a kid and they conked out.

From the time we left the station for the hotel, Laurence was clearly hit with nostalgia. I was intrigued, listening to his stories, that there’s a side of him I’ve never met, a whole life lived that I’ll never fully picture. It’s hard to imagine.

exeter be a great westerner-2 exeter be a great westerner-3

After breakfast in the morning, we set off to look around the city. Apparently it’s changed. We stopped off at a vintage store that was once a surf shop and walked past a nightclub on the quay no longer in operation.

Walking around the quay was probably particularly surreal. He’d only ever been clubbing around here yet we spent most of the morning dipping in and out of craft shops along the waterside.

exeter-4 exeter be a great westerner-4

We spent a lot of the day on or around Cathedral Green, a great spot for the kids to run about while we relaxed. There’s an amazing vegetarian spot there called The Plant Cafe. They made me fall in love with salads all over again!

exeter be a great westerner-5 exeter-3

Exploring some more we checked out Pincesshay shopping centre, which wasn’t there in Laurence’s uni days and stumbled upon the 15th-century almshouse ruins smack in the middle of the city – a real surprise!

exeter be a great westerner-6

What struck me about walking around Exeter is that there’s something comforting about exploring a city of this size. It’s much smaller than Bristol so you can pretty easily get by with walking most places and it feels more knowable. It’s also kind of a folk-mecca. Folk music is everywhere.

We made the most of our visit by meeting up with family and friends who live there, which made it a real treat. We even managed to sneak in Sunday lunch at Harry’s, the restaurant where Laurence and his parents celebrated on his graduation day.

exeter be a great westerner-8

I’m really glad we finally made it over there. It’s a pretty straightforward journey, actually, so I’m sure we’ll do it again.

Now that we’ve been there, I feel like I’ve got to know Laurence a little bit better. Is that strange to say about someone you’ve been married to for nearing six years? Six years isn’t that long, really.

In some small way, we’ve made some history in this city there together. And now I feel a bit attached to Exeter too.

exeter be a great westerner-10

Thanks to First Great Western for giving us a weekend in Exeter as part of its #BeAGreatWesterner campaign.


WWOOFing with children – our first time

For the past year we’ve been talking about traveling as a family. How we could afford it? When would be the best time in terms of our children’s ages? What we might do? Where we might go?

Then Laurence discovered World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), an organisation which links volunteers with organic farms. We began to think about WWOOFing as a potential way of traveling while keeping costs down and experiencing the reality of places rather than just going in for the tourist version.

We also wanted to learn more about organic farming and low impact lifestyles as we’re dreaming together about what we might like to do in the future. And we figured it could be an amazing outdoors experience for the children and time together as a family doing something productive and different.

Wwoofing with kids-3

Before we committed to going for a longer stretch, further afield, though, we wanted to try it out closer to home. So, we signed up to WWOOF UK and contacted a host family with a small sheep farm near Fowey in Cornwall.

Caitlin (who blogs at Spewing Mummy and Adventures of Muma Dean and runs Pregnancy Sickness Support, a UK charity that supports women suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum) was very encouraging of us coming to visit.

I offered money towards food as I knew our 14-month-old and 3-year-old would likely slow one of us down but she insisted all would be fine. I was still nervous, hoping that we’d work enough to make it worth them having us.

Wwoofing with kids-11

The Deans have a beautiful farm with forty ewes (which were all heavily pregnant when we got there!). They also keep pigs, chickens and are getting a vegetable patch going to feed their WWOOFers and themselves. Their house is solar-powered and they are semi self-sustaining.

On reflection, we got very lucky to have our first time WWOOFing with them. I’m not sure how well our time there reflected what it might be like to work and stay elsewhere. For a start, it was incredibly sunny.

They admitted that the accommodation they provided was better than what they’ve experienced when WWOOFing themselves and I could easily believe it. They put us up in a static caravan, which was very comfortable and in good nick.

They provided us with bits for breakfast and lunch in the caravan. Suppers we had with their family in their home. We took some extra food too because Laurence is wheat and dairy intolerant – which could have been problematic except that one of their children is dairy intolerant.

Wwoofing with kids-2

They were also really laid back and understanding about the kids slowing me down in terms of what work I did. I think I managed to do five hours work most days but it wasn’t always five hours’ worth of work! At fourteen months, Ophelia is at a really tricky age where she doesn’t want to stay in the sling all the time but can’t entertain herself or join in like her big sister can.

Wwoofing with kids-7

Laurence tried to work more to compensate. It was pretty clear that his labour was more useful anyway. I’m not sure how it would work somewhere else, whether we’d take it in turns to work our required five or six hours sans kids, whether I’d occupy the kids while he’d work a long day or whether we could find a scenario where we all work alongside each other. I suppose we’re pretty clear now of what questions we need to ask, should we try WWOOFing again.

Wwoofing with kids-6

Wwoofing with kids-9

A couple of days we managed to arrange the work around going somewhere. One afternoon we went into Fowey for lunch and a seaside ice cream. Another, we went to explore The Lost Gardens of Heligan. The rest of the time, we were pretty happy just to be on the Deans’ farm.

Both of us got a bit of a farm experience. I mainly did things that I need to be doing here at home like clearing a veg patch and sorting out a chicken coop. On the last day, I was fortunate enough to see the first of the lambing in an assisted birth. Laurence was in his element being outdoors, doing physical work. I won’t talk much about what he got into because he’ll blog about it on Chasing Wilderness soon enough.

Wwoofing with kids-13

It felt worth it just to meet Rob and Caitlin and their children. They were so welcoming and generous and we came away inspired by their lifestyle. We were also more than a little envious of how free, strong and confident their children are, growing up in that space.

Talitha loved playing with them on the weekend and when they got home from school. It was a little tough going during the day, though she was mostly happy to join in with whatever I was doing or to entertain herself.

I found it quite difficult at times being on my own with the children for long periods of time. It made me realise that although I’m technically a stay at home mother, we spend a lot of time with other families. That’s something to think about, too, should we try WWOOFing as a family again.

Wwoofing with kids-8

All in all, I’m really glad we did this. It was one of my 30 things to do before I turn 30 and has given me a bit more confidence to try to live more sustainably. In many ways, it’s one of the best holidays we’ve had together as a family, even if we were apart for much of the time. It’s given us a bit more to think about in terms of how we might travel and what we want to try in the future.


Ten things to do on a family holiday at Bluestone in Pembrokeshire

A few weeks ago we headed down to West Wales to stay at Bluestone National Park with Laurence’s parents. It was truly a holiday to remember. We’ve even made a little video to capture the special time it was.

We went in late March and, as you can see from how bundled up we were, it was freezing! Pembrokeshire is such a beautiful part of the world, though. If you’re going to be outdoors in cold weather, it’s exactly where you want to be.

Leading up to it, I kept collecting tips from friends who had been so we could make the most of our week there. Paying it forward, here are my ten things I think you should do if you choose to holiday at Bluestone.

Bluestone-6

Invite the grandparents
I was actually a bit nervous about inviting Laurence’s parents to join us for this trip, not knowing what it was actually going to be like. When we entered our lodge, I breathed a sigh of relief. It really did feel quite luxurious and there was just so much space! We could more than comfortably all settle in without getting on top of each other.

With the “village” nearby, complete with cafe and pub, we could easily have gone out for a drink and left the girls with their grandparents. I say “could” because when it came to it, we were too tired to be bothered! Romance is alive, eh? We did split up and let them go off with Ophelia at one point, though, so Laurence and Talitha could cycle in tandem and I could “try” to cycle (that didn’t really happen either).

Take your bikes
But, if you are the cycling kind, then do take your bicycles with you or hire some because the grounds are pretty for cycling around and nowhere really is that far away.

Bluestone-7

Hire a buggy
That said, it may be worth hiring a buggy if you have small children with you or anyone with mobility issues, if it rains or even just for the fun of it! The resort is car-free most of the time. We loved that. It felt safe, quiet and just a bit isolated.

Head down the big slide
For Talitha, the highlight of staying at Bluestone was going to the swimming pool! The pool area was massive, beaming with natural light, well-designed, warm and well-kept. We were pretty impressed. Talitha loved the wave machine and being carried through a trail by a gentle current. Ophelia was more a fan of the toddler pool. Laurence, however, went down the big slide, which apparently stops off at two pools along the way and I hear it was rather impressive.

Bluestone

Take your own pillow
As I said, we were impressed with the digs. However, I found the beds really uncomfortable. I think I’ve finally come to that stage in life where I need to walk with my own pillow, and possibly something to line mattresses with. My experience doesn’t seem to be universally shared, though, so it may well just be me! I ended up asking Laurence to sleep in Talitha’s room so Ophelia and I could get to the centre of the bed where it was a bit less springy.

Bluestone-2-3

Bluestone-3-3

Have lunch at Camp Smokey
There’s a stunning walk down to one of Bluestone’s eating joints, Camp Smokey. The food is sort of ranch fare, pretty tasty though the portions are a bit small. The log cabin feel can’t be beaten for charm, though, and we had fun roasting marshmallows on their fire for pudding. Do make sure that you use the loo before going down there as you’ll be port-a-looing it otherwise.

Bluestone-5

Follow a woodland trail
The grounds themselves are pretty and have a wilderness feel. It’s definitely worth getting lost one afternoon.

Bluestone-4-2

Bluestone-5-2

Go to the beach
I feel like this is so worth it, it needs to be said again. Go to the beach! Pembrokeshire has desperately beautiful coastlines. For Laurence, this means a chance to surf. For the kids, it’s an opportunity to play in the sand and explore rockpools. For me, it’s taking in the jagged rock, the fresh lash of the wind, the great expanse of the ocean. I’ve really come around to temperate beaches.

Bluestone-4-3

Roam around a castle
We didn’t do it this time around but there are quite a few castles in the area. A couple of years ago, we had a picnic in the grounds of Carew Castle. It’s truly impressive and you could spend ages there.

Bluestone-2

Check out other nearby attractions
The staff at The King’s Arms pub in Pembroke were keen to tell us about sights in the area. Had we been there for longer, we may have checked out Picton Castle or Folly Farm. Instead, we visited a National Trust property on our way back to Bristol.

It was such an easy place to be – a true break. In fact, we might look at going again when my parents next come over from Trinidad.

Thanks to Bluestone for inviting us to stay