F is allowing me the perfect opportunity to show you a stunning part of the UK which I visited recently for the first time. Devon, a county in the south-west that bulges at the seams with beauty, quaintness and quintessential Englishness.

We were staying in Torquay on the English Riviera and although it was late summer, September, we did benefit from some gorgeous sunny days along with the odd rainfall and grey skies that us Brits are so used to. When visiting a new area I love to do a bit of research before I leave on internet, asking friends who have already been there and picking up thousands of leaflets from reception on arrival to read whilst dinner is cooking the first night.

The first holiday snap I share with you is one of a fishing boat in Torquay harbour, I really like this photo even though Paul was standing in the background asking ‘Why are you taking a photo of that?’

An overall recommendation was Dartmouth, a beautiful, picturesque village at the mouth of the River Dart and apart from the boutique shops, fabulous eateries like Cafe Alf Fresco for example I was fascinated and taken back in time when I saw the car ferry being pushed and shoved by a tug boat back and forth over the River continuously. I just had to share this bizarre ferry with you.

The ferry is being pushed by the tug boat

arrives on the other side

One coming, one going

…and yes I did convince Paul to take us back via that tug pushed ferry just to try it out! Amazing the skill Captain Tug had, he made it look effortless.

Finally’ fuel’ to finish off with the F’s this week. Tea is my fuel, a good ol’ English cuppa with milk and no sugar and as we cannot survive without fuel especially after a day of sightseeing, walking around the town center and visiting the amazing art galleries, we jumped in the car and headed back home. As always is the case the girls were really grumbling and we still had a good half an hour to go, so we stopped off at Paignton beach and headed for the Cafe on the seafront for quick refreshments, isn’t it absolutely gorgeous? A typical British seaside cafe, advertising all their wares on blackboards and brightly coloured letters on the woodwork. I love it and couldn’t refuse it. I probably paid double for my tea and the crab sandwich was extortionate but hey, nice photo for a lovely memory.

These are my ‘F’s for Alphabe Thursday over at Jenny Matlock’s blog go and have a look what everyone else comes up with for the ‘F’ Fiesta today

boats fishing nets

Well, it’s taken until Sunday this week to find time to write about our trip away as the past week has flown by.

It’s a good spot to drive to from North Kent as it took us just under 5 hours. In fact we arrived early at our Parkdean site and although check in is not until 4pm, you’ve got to try haven’t you?

So off we all traipsed to reception, the girls happy to be let loose at long last, where the lady on duty there told us quite abruptly that housekeeping wouldn’t be ready till 4pm. And that was it. No alternative, no map of the site passed over, no mention of the cafe, the soft play area, the restaurant, the swimming pool. Not a peep. So I asked for a map, tilting my head in the girls direction trying to give her a clue that we had two hours to kill with little ones in tow. You’ll get one in your welcome pack.

playing with bricks

Bessie the builder

‘Yes, thank you for that but I need one now?’ ‘Please?’

She did hand over a map but it was obvious that we were breaking from her tightly run reception rules. She was hard work and funnily enough later in the week I noticed a form to fill in on reception asking ‘Have one of our staff walked in your shoes this break?’ Please tell us who and when. Well obviously she hadn’t thought about a long journey two tired, grumpy toddlers and two parents in need of a suggestion or two. It’s not rocket science is it?

We did get settled in, housekeeping were marvellous and had all the statics done by 3pm so we were able to move in early and settle ourselves in. Our new home was lovely, a three bedroom, one bathroom with a galley kitchen and a large dining/lounging area which the girls filled immediately with toys.

torquay

Cafe Alf Resco, Dartmouth

Our first outing was into Torquay itself which if I am truthful left me a little disappointed. It may have been for the rainy weather but I don’t think so, you see the words “English Riviera” had evoked a beautiful image in my mind and that’s not what I saw. I saw a large seaside town like many others, the British high street and a harbour. I had imagined boutique shops, eateries, cafes and beauty all around.

I did find these things the very next day when we ventured on to Dartmouth. Exquisite settings and the novelty of getting a ferry both there and back. There were two ferries to choose from so we took one there and the other back. My favourite has to be the tug pulled/pushed ferry, see my photo below. Dartmouth is full of gorgeous shops, art galleries (one with Rolf Harris’ art in it) , fabulous restaurants and beautiful scenery and houses to look at.

torquay

Tug pulled/pushed ferries, Dartmouth

We also visited Pennywell Farm and had a marvellous day out there which was so lovely to see the girls enjoy. We watched the goats being milked and got up close. We collected the chickens eggs still warm and were allowed to hold them, we then fed them to the pigs along with apples from the surrounding trees, the girls were fascinated with the real noise of a pig’s snort being louder and harsher than that of Daddy Pig’s in Peppa Pig! There was a large play area with picnic tables and an enclosed space with sit on tractors which they both adored. We watched a trainer flying a falcon and we stroked an owl he held for us, I was surprised at how warm he was (the owl that is!) and interested to learn that owls are really dumb, so dumb they don’t know how to hunt but wait for something to pass under them and go in for the catch. Talk about lazy!

torquay

Egg collecting – Pennywell Farm, Devon

Pennywell Farm was a brilliant day out for us. We took a picnic but there are a few places on site where you can buy and eat food and many more activities to do than I have listed here.

So would I go back to Torquay? Probably not but I would go back to that area again and try to visit Salcombe a little further down the coast from Dartmouth.

Would I use Parkdean sites again? Yes. I would. this is our second Pardean trip the first being to West Bay also in Dorset. At this particular site I was very impressed with their indoor swimming pool which the girls adored, their clubhouse with entertainment for the little ones – we had some very wiggly bottoms on the dance floor – and the shops and restaurants on site. I did have to buy a bottle opener but now every time I travel I shall pop it in my First Aid bag and never ever be without again. Phew! Thanks Francesca for that tip :)

Torquay.

I’m very excited. Torquay is a new destination for me, the English Riviera as it is also known and with a stroke of good luck we will have pleasant weather too. We’re going to be staying on a Parkdean site. We chose this for its indoor swimming pool and clubhouse with evening entertainment – including Baby Dance for the girls :)

We’ll be staying in a mobile home or static caravan as it’s otherwise known, a little more comfortable than our camping trip a fortnight ago. In fact we are on one of the infamous Sun Holidays for £9.50 per person. Amazing price isn’t it?

We’ve been on quite a few of these breaks now and thanks to The Sun and their wonderful initiative we’ve been to Cornwall, Devon, South Wales, North Wales, Rye and the Isle of Wight! We’ve even been to Spain with them and discovered the park we stayed at this year in Lake Garda is also part of their fabulous offer!

For £9.50 per person we manage to add another two holidays to our yearly stack and have the pleasure of discovering beautiful places around the UK.

For families they are perfect, there are activities organised to keep the children happy, bars to keep the parents happy, restaurants, take aways and supermarkets on site and the reception is bursting with leaflets advertising all of the local excursions.

On our last vacation to this area our travels took us as far as Lyme Regis so this time we’ll drive further on down the coast and visit Paignton, Brixham and Dartmouth, each resort a thrown back to time past. I also hope to take the girls on their first zoo trip in Paignton.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll have tons to tell you as the week progresses and photos of the sites we see.

 

Do you remember that? Hi de Hi, classic TV from my childhood and I can’t go near a camp site without hearing her voice.

bar

We weren’t going too far afield Just In Case. So we headed off towards the North Kent beaches and Paul decided we’d try out the Two Chimneys campsite as he used to go their as a child. 

However, tent up, bedrooms ready it was time to hit the beach and take the girls to their Peter Pan party. 

tent

We returned around 6pm and ordered dinner from the take away on site, they’d run out of fish and chips already (?) but 2 x chicken nuggets, a chicken Kiev and scampi and chips they had. We watched the poor lady work on her own to get it already whilst there were others in the queue waiting. A bit slow but we made it and headed back ‘home’ for our meal. 

paul and girls

Afterwards, we took the girls to an excellent play area and on to see the swimming pool which was quite handily next to the clubhouse. It was disco night and so we stopped for a drink and took the girls to cut some carpet for their first time. 80’s favourites, I was in my element! 

So would the girls sleep in their new fun bedroom? Noooo, we had screaming, tears, ‘No daddy! No mummy! No na’nights’ and eventually they sat in Pauls’ lap whilst I read them The monkey with a bright blue bottom by Steve Smallman and eventually dropped off. We separated them, one in each bedroom so they wouldn’t wake each other up. 

dancing

Dancing queens

A bottle of wine later (This is Mari’s idea of camping Paul!) I crawled into my sleeping bag in full pyjamas as I wasn’t taking any risks. Had I known I would be sleeping in the girl’s room with Bessie I would have blown that mattress up to its max as well, as it was, “It’ll be ok for the girls”, clearly wasn’t enough. I slept like a banana, my bottom to the floor, my head and legs higher, so infinitely more difficult to turn and get comfy. 

I didn’t sleep well, admittedly the atrocious amount of wine didn’t do me any favours either. Alice was awake and sparkling at 6am on hearing a flock of seagulls shriek overhead and Sunday was born. 

Even the delicious ‘Full English breakfast baguette from the take away did nothing for my head and after a walk around the park to check out the static caravans we headed home, camping for this year crossed off the To Do List. 

Do you like camping?

At the end of April we went on a family outing to Godstone Farmwith our 21 month old twin girls. A short drive from the M25 brings you to the farm in the Surrey countryside where an ample ‘green’ car park awaits.

godstone farm

The total entrance fee was £8.00 with no time restriction and as we passed through the gates we immediately came across a map of the farm and large posters inviting us to wash our hands after viewing the pets.

There is no set course to follow but wide paths lead you in between the various animal enclosures where through wire fences you can spot turkeys, goats and even llamas. Further on, is a large shed where from a balcony you can see the lambs and calfs in pens. A blackboard listed the births and all around were information posters with information on gestation and the growth of the animals.

godstone farm

On leaving these enclosures there were child sized sinks inviting everyone to wash their hands with warm water, plenty of soap and paper towels. For our girls this was just as exciting and quickly became a highlight of their trip around the farm!

godstone farm

The restaurant on site has a fairly priced menu that covers most tastes and the souvenir shop is full of ideas from cuddly farm animals to jigsaws and pictures to hang on the wall.

Other animal enclosures include guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs, ducks and donkeys, each full of explanatory posters on their life cycle, their feeding habits and even their names, some can even be held under supervision.

godstone farm

Once the children tire of the animals there is a large soft play area with a small cafeteria where they can let off steam, a huge sand pit full of buckets, spades and diggers. A very well equipped park with ships to play on alongside the slides, swings and climbing frames.

Godstone Farm may ring a bell as it was the focus of media attention last September following an outbreak of E Coli resulting in 36 children being affected and the hospitalisation of a few. The farm was shut down temporarily and these issues have since been thoroughly dealt with.

Hygiene is of paramount importance and members of staff can be seen touring the farm constantly. A little common sense and extra care washing small hands after visiting the pets and I can promise you a fun packed day with some delightful memories for your little ones.