Following on from my recent post of Things to do in Suffolk, after our recent visit to the Airstream Glamping park. I thought I’d turn my attention to places closer to home. The autumn and winter are the perfect time to get out and about locally. We have Pocahontas on our doorstep, along with Shorne Country Park which is a huge family favourite, Jeskyns Park and of course, our beloved Thanet where we have our caravan.

Even with all of these opportunities, I still have an enormous bucket list of where I’d like to take the girls on day trips close to home.

Things to do in Kent

Leeds Castle

Leeds castle

We have been to visit Leeds Castle on a number of occasions and we shall certainly be returning soon as there is always something exciting to see. This is also where we find our local Go Ape centre which the twins adore and want to return to soon.

Dover

Dover is high on my list as I took Thomas and Megan there when they were children and we visited Dover Castle, the Tunnels in the cliffs with a fascinating wartime history and of course, the notorious White Cliffs of Dover. I suggest taking a picnic along and making a day of it.

Canterbury

I adore Canterbury and now my niece has moved there to study at the university I shall hopefully be going down more often. Canterbury city is a marvellous place to wander, it has a powerful history to take in, hundreds of shops, pubs and restaurants to choose from, a cathedral to visit and plenty more to keep you amused and the children too. One of my favourite bars is the old Pound which sits outside the town wall. You can sit and drink in one of the cells!

Margate

shell grotto margate

How can I not mention Margate? If you are still thinking of a run-down, dilapidated seaside town you are very wrong and I strongly suggest you visit to see just how far Margate has come over the past few years. With the rebirth of Dreamland and the addition of the Turner Contemporary, Margate has become the place to be both in summer and winter. Walk the streets of the Old Town, visit the Shell Grotto, eat some delicious fish and chips and visit one of the many trendy bars and pubs that are popping up all over the place.

Hever Castle

The perfect example of an item on my bucket list! I remember visiting Hever Castle with the school when I was in junior school and it is a place I would love to take the twins. A romantic 13th century moated castle that was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, it has magnificent interiors to walk through and wonder about the time Anne herself lived there plus, award-winning gardens. Of course, the Maze is a definite visit!

If you are looking for somewhere special to stay, take a look at Kent and Sussex Cottages as they have a wonderful selection of all budgets and preferences.

Things to do in Sussex

Royal Pavillion

My great grandma used to live in Hove, just along from Brighton and we would visit her in the summer. One summer we visited the Royal Pavilion and I was smitten with the beautiful rooms and decor of the palace. I want to take the twins there so they too can experience this historical landmark.

South Downs and the Seven Sisters

Friends of mine recently posted some fabulous pictures on social media after a day trip to the Seven Sisters. I think it would be a perfect day trip with a picnic in tow. Hopefully, the sun would shine and I could grab some great photos!

Rye Harbour and nature reserve

Rye beach hut

We visited Rye a long time ago when the twins were still sharing a cot! We had a wonderful few days there and visited the town plus the local beach where I took the photo of this gorgeous beach hut. I would love to return and thoroughly recommend it to friends and family.

There are plenty of places to stay in all of the above areas but if you are looking for a cottage, that offers that little bit more, then take a look at Suffolk Secrets.

This is a collaborative post – all opinions are my own.

This summer the twins spent a fortnight with the grandparents whilst Paul and I worked (this has been the most difficult part of going full-time for me, not being able to spend the school holidays with my girls). At the end of the fortnight, Paul and I travelled up to the Midlands on Friday after work and we all spent the weekend together.

We have visited a number of places on previous visits, Sherwood Forest, White Post Farm and Newark, all of which are beautiful but this time the grandparents took us to Creswell Crags.

Creswell Crags

What is Creswell Crags?

It’s such a strange name that doesn’t give anything away, does it? But if you venture out to this beauty spot you’ll be surprised at what a great place it is for the family and especially for the kids.

map of creswell crags

The first thing that struck me was the fact that this place has been a stop off for travellers for thousands of years, we’re talking between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The limestone gorge has plenty of caves along the sides and in some of them, stone tools and animal remains have been found along with the most amazing Ice Age rock art proof of the dwellers that passed by many years ago.

Creswell Crags cave home

We are lucky to have a number of caves used in prehistoric times in Britain and walking around them brings a quick history lesson to life – not just for the children! It’s impossible to not think about how it would have been and looked all that time ago. How cold would the caves have been to sleep in? How would they have kept themselves warm and safe with no door to close?

Situated on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border Creswell Craggs has a large car park where you can leave the car all day for just £3. It is free to visit the site and walk around the lake and gorge and you can also stop off in the cafeteria and gift shop before making your way home.

There are two tours that you can book to attend The Ice Age Tour and the Rock Art Tour. We hadn’t booked anything and arrived at the wrong time to join a tour so it’s worth checking their website before you go for times and prices.

creswell crags flint knife blade

The Ice Age tour takes place in Robin Hood Cave, the largest cave on the site and you find out who lived there, why they were there and how the information was discovered.

The Rock Art tour shows the only Ice Age Rock Art known in Britain. It was discovered in 2003 and consists of engravings of animals, birds and motifs. The engravings are estimated to be 13,000 years old making Church Hole Cave the oldest in Britain.

Cresswell Crags pony ride

We chose to walk around Creswell Crags under our own steam. The walk is a leisurely one with the girls scrambling up every rock face they can to peek into the caves – which incidentally are closed and only opened by the tour guide. The photo above is down at the bottom of the gorge working our way back up to the centre. We also collected a bagful of wild blackberries on our way round and added them to our roulade pudding that nonna prepared that evening.

Cresswell Crags

There are lots of informative signs as you go round which the twins loved reading. I don’t think they could quite understand the extent of how old it all was but they found it fascinating and I know it’s the kind of information that stuck.

reswell crags

Down at the bottom of the gorge, we got caught in some light rain and the pair of them danced around having a good laugh and enjoying being outside in the fresh air.

creswell crags

Sometimes it’s when you least expect it that you get a really good photo. I love this one of Alice in the tree whilst we were waiting for the rain to stop.

Once we had completed the gorge, we worked our way back to the centre where there is a large green area with games for the children to play on – slides down the mammoth’s tusks and climbing frames. There are also some picnic tables, where we stopped for lunch and as you get to the top there is the gift shop full of fossils, semi-precious stones and plenty of other merchandise to tempt you.

If you don’t have a picnic, the coffee shop has snacks and drinks and there is also an exhibition that you can pay to enter too.

A great family day out enjoyed by all.

 

beach hut southwold

We recently had a weekend away to Suffolk and stayed the night in an Airstream glamping campsite which was a fantastic experience. We managed to get out and about and it quickly became apparent that there is a lot to see and do in Suffolk, so much so that we plan on returning as soon as we can. Whilst we were there, we picked up some great leaflets giving ideas of things to do in Suffolk so I thought I’d write them all down in preparation for our next trip.

Things to do in Suffolk

Aldeburgh

Aldeburgh shell on beach

We stopped off at Aldeburgh and walked along the beach as a swimming race was taking place. There is a fabulous sculpture of a scallop shell on the beach made by Maggi Hamblings with the words, ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned.’

Apparently, there are two fish and chip shops in Aldeburgh both owned by the same company but everyone seems to think that one is better than the other. You can tell which because of the queue waiting outside the shop. We have to return as we didn’t manage to try the famous fish and chips.

Helmingham Hall

Helmingham Hall is a beautiful manor house surrounded by a moat dating back to 1490. It is still owned by the same family, the Tollemache’s and Lady Xa Tollemache is a renowned gardener having won many medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, in fact, people come here to visit the gardens as much as they do the historical building.

Framlingham Castle

Famous for being the base from which Mary Tudor rallied her troops and set off to claim the throne in London. Framlingham Castle is part of the English Heritage and offers a great family day out. Walk the walls, visit the workshop, the cafe and of course the shop plus picking up a lot of history on your way. It is said that a walk around the walls of the castle offers some of the best views to be had in Suffolk.

Thorpness

house in the clouds

We visited and walked around the quiet seaside village. We walked as far as The House in the Clouds, a famous building for its tall structure and seemingly house in the sky. Opposite was an old windmill that featured in the CBeebies programme, Grandpa in my pocket. We walked around the pretty boating lake but it was too cold a day for us to take a boat out so we popped into the restaurant The Kitchen and enjoyed some freshly made pizzas and a crab salad.

Southwold

under southwold pier

I was quite excited about going to Southwold as I had heard lots about it. We parked up at the pier and walked Baxter along to the end. It’s amazing as there are so many curiosities and shops to visit. The Quantum telescope, The Waterclock and the Wacky Walk of Mirrors being a few. The Under The Pier show is a must, an arcade about half way along which has some completely mad machines.

southwold pier

Lavenham

Known as England’s best kept medieval village, Lavenham is chocolate-box pretty with half-timbered merchant’s houses, winding streets, a 15th century church and a long list of listed buildings including the 800 year old Swan Hotel. Lavenham’s more recent claim to fame is being the village where Harry Potter was born. Lavenham was used as Godric’s Hollow in the filming of The Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2.

Visit a brewery

Of course! Suffolk is the home to Greene King, Adnams and Aspall plus a range of smaller breweries too. the most picturesque possibly being St Peter’s Brewery in South Elmham. I have to go back just to buy some Adnams gin.

The list of things to do in Suffolk is infinite and one place to look for more inspiration is on the Visit Suffolk website where they give a list of 50 things to do in Suffolk!

Where to stay in Suffolk

There is a wonderful range of places to stay in the county, take a look at Suffolk Secrets who have all kinds of accommodation from contemporary through to rustic cottages and many of the properties are pet-friendly too. Whether it’s a couples retreat or a big family reunion there is something for everyone.

This is a collaborative post.

Things to do in suffolk pin

Happy Days Retro Vacations

Last weekend we packed our bags, jumped in the car and drove up to Suffolk to a small town called Saxmundham. Just outside the town is a small campsite run by Jenni and Kevin who set up there about three years ago after transferring from Dorset. But it’s not just any campsite, it’s an airstream glamping park and as you pull on the breaks and turn to look at the field, you are greeted by a spectacular sight of 6 beautiful airstreams, carefully brought back to their original glory, standing peacefully in the park, waiting to give you a weekend break like you’ve never experienced before.

At this point, I can hear Jenni entering the conversation and reminding me that one of the trailers is actually an Avion.

These guys are super passionate about what they do and how they do it. They spend months searching the internet for airstreams for sale. They buy them, import them from the States and drive them from Southampton, where they arrive on a ship, up to the quiet Suffolk countryside.

Happy Days Airstream

But they’re not just any Airstream offered up for hire. No, they are all furnished and decorated as closely as possible to the original state, lending a marvellous vintage air to them. On top of that, each trailer is named and the names are delightful – Betsy, Dee Dee, Nettie and Gloria are some examples. You will even hear Jenni referring to her airstreams as ‘she’.

We were incredibly lucky to be invited up for a weekend break at Happy Days Retro Vacations to try out the experience for ourselves, as a family and we were allowed to bring Baxter with us as a few of the Airstreams are dog friendly.

Airstream galmping

Inside an Airstream

We were given Dee Dee for our stay who is one of the first trailers you pass in the field. Standing brightly with a wooden table outside she looks really inviting. I really liked that the area in front of the Airstream was artificial grass, what a great idea as it saved a lot of mud being dragged in but was still in keeping with the field. We also had some colourful outdoor chairs to relax in too dotted around our pitch and flamingos too.

Airstream living area

The door opens into the living area with a table to the right, the kitchen sink and hob/oven in front and the fridge to the left as you climb the steps. The shelf over the fridge has a TV (for watching DVDs as there is no television connection) and a radio. Parents will be pleased to know that the WiFi connection is very hit and miss, we really embraced this as the girls were off out exploring from the word go but more about that later.

Airstream bedroom

As you turn left into the airstream, straight after the kitchenette you enter the bedroom with a single bed on either side of the walkway which leads down to the bathroom. The bathroom has a portable toilet, a shower, a sink and a cupboard for storage.

Airstream kitchen

Each window has beautiful handmade curtains to make a cosy evening and shut out the light. The table has a PVC cloth and the benches are covered in cushions in wonderful retro prints.

It Is Gorgeous.

As you settle in to your vintage Airstream, you find all sorts of delightful surprises that make you smile and from the word go I can guarantee a happy-go-lucky feel about your weekend (or longer) stay.

Once the children were in bed, we sat and chatted a while before turning the table area into a comfortable double bed. You simply remove the table top which slots across the two benches on either side and store the leg under the bed. The cushions all go into making the mattress – and it was very comfortable indeed.

You can either take your own bed linen or hire it from Jenni.

Bathrooms

Happy Days Retro vacations

Don’t panic there are some very accommodating bathrooms onsite, not gender specific and also large enough to get the family in. Heated, spacious and beautifully decorated too. Definitely shower here rather than in the Airstream!

Entertainment at Happy Days Retro Seaside Glamping Holidays

You may be thinking, ‘What will we do in the middle of nowhere?’ and to that my first reply is, “Relax!” You are in the midst of nature at its best, surrounded by a peace that can only do you the world of good. Take the time to recharge and treasure the moment.

However, Jenni and Kevin have also put a lot of thought entertaining all members of the family.

Airstream glamping

There is a wonderful park with a ‘secret garden’ kind of entrance that leads to an old army truck which our kids loved playing on. A trampoline and a wonderful area of grass, fields and trees, all hedged in so the children can play safely until their heart’s content. We came home with a bag of apples and pears!

Reception is in a furnished shed and has games, DVDs and a jar of sticks for marshmallows too. There are books, leaflets to take away and plenty of ideas to keep you amused.

Then there is the Red Shed. The Red Shed is a place that can be used for parties, there are sofas to sit on and a dance floor. There is a DJ booth in the corner and a glitter ball. Kevin will be installing a fire this autumn so it can be used in the colder months too.

Jenni told me that the whole park can be hired out for special celebrations, birthdays, hen parties, anniversaries. I agree it would make a wicked venue for a family get together.

Happy Days polytunnel

There is also a polytunnel which the previous owners had used as a greenhouse. If we were looking for the twins they were in the polytunnel playing table football! There was also a super-sized Connect 4 game and a table with lots of chairs. Oh and another glitter ball, why not?

fire pit

Lastly, I must mention the firepit and marshmallows. As sun falls and dinner has been served, Kevin did a round of the Airstreams taking huge buckets of wood and firelighters to his guests. Using an old washing machine drum which works perfectly as a firepit, we lit a fire, pulled some wonderful hand crocheted blankets around us and whilst we toasted our marshmallows (on the sticks found in reception) we looked up and saw a sky full of stars. I managed to point out the plough but I soon realised it was the only formation I knew!

Places to visit close to Happy Days Retro Park

There is plenty to see in this part of the world and both Kevin and Jenni are full of top tips to pass on. We went to visit Southwold which was lovely. We walked along the pier and beach. We stopped off at a pub on our way back to Happy Days called The White Heart, also home to the  Famer and Fisherman restaurant which had a delicious menu. We weren’t there for food but we tried a couple of the local Adnams beers – I spotted that Adnams also do gin but failed to find some to buy. We sat in the pub garden where the girls fed the ducks and walked alongside the lake picking wild blackberries.

On the Sunday we visited Thorpness and walked to The House in the Clouds and spotted the windmill from Grandpa In My Pocket tv programme. We also visited Aldeburgh where apparently there are two marvellous fish and chip shops which we are going to have to go back and try as we got hungry in Thorpeness and went into the Kitchen where Paul and the girls had a homemade pizza and I had a fresh crab salad.

Airstream Dee Dee

Local shops

Each Airstream has tea, coffee and sugar but if you do want to shop for food and other bits there is a Tesco and a Waitrose in Saxmundham. A five minute drive away.

I’m not sure if you understand just how much I enjoyed our weekend at Happy Days  Retro Vacations? I am hoping my enthusiasm is coming over through my post because it was one of the nicest experiences I have had this year. I would thoroughly recommend it and the girls arrived home asking if we could go back again.

Thank you, Jenni and Kevin, for a very special experience.

Disclosure: We were weekend guests of Happy Days Retro Vacations for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

camping at chessington with the brownies

One of the highlights of the past year for the twins has been going to Brownies on a Tuesday evening. They are in a group of around 20 – 30 girls and under the watchful eyes of three owls (Tufty, Eagle and Little) they get up to all sorts of activities including, craft, singing and playing football. Each term they work towards a new badge – much to my delight when it comes to sewing them on – and now one arm of their jackets is more or less covered!

At the beginning of the year, forms were sent to the parents talking of an annual camping at Chessington trip along with the other Brownie groups and the Guides in July. There was a lot of excitement in the house and dad and I knew it was a ‘must’ for the girls, plus it was planned for the weekend just before their birthday so would go nicely into being part of their present.

As the time drew closer, kit lists were sent out and dad and I realised this was proper camping! We were going to have to learn how to make bedrolls and make them easy enough for the girls to carry.

Girl Guiding does its best to keep costs to a minimum and there wasn’t going to be a lot of kit that needed to be bought but a few bits that sprung to mind were, a mattress to roll the sleeping bags on, a thermal mug to drink hot chocolate around the camp fire and a torch for the midnight feast of course!

Who do you turn to with any camping related question – Millets of course! I told them what we needed and the important reason  – Brownie Camping trip to Chessington – and they were delighted to help out; camping is their forte.

camping mattresses

They sent along two fabulous mattresses and we practised rolling and unrolling our bedrolls (something that will need practising again before next year, apparently there were a few tears walking back to the coach on Sunday with a bedroll that kept on unravelling…)

thermal camping mug

They also gave us two thermal mugs which were nice and light to carry and did the job perfectly according to the twins (only the hot chocolate wasn’t very nice mummy)

small torch

And lastly, two torches which were small and light. Now, I spent a lot of time telling the girls to look after these torches and showing them a special pocket on the rucksack PERFECT to put them in so we wouldn’t lose them but of course, one twin came home without hers. *sigh*

Dad and I dropped two VERY excited little girls off on Saturday morning at 7.30am and collected two very happy but shattered little girls on the Sunday at 4 pm. We did our best to get some conversation from them; just an idea of how it went, what they got up to but they were so tired we got barely anything other than, ‘It was great, can we go again next year?’

Bedding roll for camping

They had a lot of fun and if you are contemplating your little ones going I would whole heartedly say yes, send them as it’s a life memory and fantastic for confidence building. Bessie said she went on all of the rides whereas before departure she was sure she wouldn’t be doing some of them.

Thank you very much Millets for coming to our rescue with all of our camping equipment. I think we did very well only losing one torch considering what could have gone missing!

Disclosure: Millets sent us the products mentioned above for the purpose of this post – all opinions are my own and Brown Owl is writing a long list of necessities for next year ;)