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.

CDC Storytelling InfoGraphic

Britain in books

Britain is packed full of literary connections so to help you find the perfect day out, the book worms at holiday company Cottages.com have created a map of the best places to visit to immerse yourself in the worlds of your child’s favourite authors and stories.

If you’ve always wanted to explore the places that inspired your favourite authors or keep the family entertained by their favourite characters coming to life, why not use this handy guide to plan your next outing?

Mavellous Museum for Roald Dahl Fans

See the fantastical world of author Roald Dahl come alive at the museum created in his honour. Featuring three interactive galleries, find out about Roald Dahl’s school days, see his original Writing Hut and in The Story Centre put your imagination centre-stage with fantabulous activities to inspire your little writer.

Roald Dahl Museum, HP16 0AL

The Windmill

Wendover, nr. Aylesbury, Property Ref: PKKW

The Windmill cottages.com

Enjoy a unique holiday in this detached windmill, built around 1800, now converted to provide comfortable spacious accommodation over five floors with spectacular views over the Chiltern Hills from the second floor sitting room. Used as a working windmill until 1900 and then the home of an actress and a music publisher, The Windmill, now minus its sails, is located in the historic market town of Wendover. Set in a quiet location, it has an attractive enclosed rear garden.

Nestling in a gap in the Chiltern Hills, conveniently located to visit the Roald Dahl museum and Whipsnade Zoo. The area is blessed with a variety of walks through some of southern England’s most enjoyable countryside; the famous Ridgeway Path runs right down Wendover High Street.

Price: WAS £839, NOW £788 for three nights’ self-catering arriving on 21st March 2016. Sleeps 10 people and two pets.  0345 498 6900

Find Stick Man, Stick Lady and Family Three

The latest hit from favourite Julia Donaldson has been brought to life by The Forestry Commission which has created a series of Stick Man Trails throughout the UK. Not only is the trail a great way to explore nature, with a host of downloadable activities from their website, you can even have fun on rainy days!

Breathe in the stunning countryside which inspired Beatrix Potter

A visit to the Lake District is a great experience in itself, but with such a strong association to the stories of Beatrix Potter, it’s the perfect opportunity to find out more about this incredible author. Younger children can enjoy the Beatrix Potter Lake District Trail, following the clues to find her iconic characters amongst the countryside and for older children, a visit to her house is a brilliant insight into the writer’s life.

The Cottage

High Oxen Fell, nr. Coniston, Property Ref: 948

Beatrix Potter lake district

This cottage adjoins a 17th-century farmhouse on a traditional Lakeland working hill farm, once owned by Beatrix Potter, now owned by the National Trust. It enjoys a very quiet and secluded position, in a superb setting surrounded by rocky bracken-covered hills and high fells, in the heart of Lakeland. The views from all windows are across the magnificent Langdale Valley to the surrounding woods and mountains. Enjoy the tranquil splendour of this idyllic setting in a TV free cottage to enable you to relax in peace of a true away from it all holiday.

Price: £419 for seven nights’ self-catering arriving on 26th April 2016. Sleeps four people.   0345 498 6900

Wonderful Wizardry

For Harry Potter fans, there are so many places to visit across the UK, all with magical connections to the wizard world of Harry and Hogwarts. Whether it’s a trip to Alnwick Castle or Durham Cathedral to see the locations from the film or a day at Harry Potter World where you can sample Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans straight from Diagon Alley, there’s plenty to suit every J.K Rowling fan.

Harry Potter World, WD25 7LR

Alnwick Castle, NE66 1YU

Glenfinnan Viaduct, PH37 4LT

Durham Cathedral, DH1 3EH

A Bear who likes Marmalade

The classic stories of Paddington Bear, and the more recent film adaptation can be brought to life with a trip to Paddington Station. See where Michael Bond’s fictional bear was found and if you have time, why not take the Paddington Bear bus tour which takes in some of the famous locations from the film.

Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear at Paddington Station and bus tour

Spend a Day with Peppa and Friends

For fans of Peppa, a visit to Peppa Pig World is a perfect day out with the family. Have fun on the rides, meet some of your favourite characters and jump in some very muddy puddles!

Mark Baker, Phil Davies and Neville Astley, Peppa Pig World, SO51 6AL

Choo Choo!

For most Thomas fans, a trip to the local train station is a great way of spending an hour, but if you’re looking for a family day out, with 12 wonderful themed rides and a spectacular indoor play area why not visit Thomas Land at Drayton Manor?

Thomas the Tank Engine, Thomas Land, B78 3TW

Step back in time with the Railway Children

A trip to the picturesque Yorkshire town of Haworth offers the chance to see the train station featured in the film versions of E. Nesbit’s Railway Children. A real glimpse into the past, the traditional station is a great introduction to the classic book of adventure. Haworth also has a wealth of literary history with connections to the Bronte sisters for slightly older readers.

Oakworth Station, Haworth

Messing about on the River

Join Ratty, Mr Toad and Badger at the River and Rowing Museum, just off the Thames. See the characters of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows come alive and learn more about the river systems and environment in the process. You can also enjoy watching the boats and rowers take on the water outside.

River and Rowing Museum, RG9 1BF

The Wonderful World of Winnie the Pooh

A.A Milne was inspired to write his endearing collection of stories by Ashdown Forest, close to his home of Hartfield in East Sussex. There are a number of Pooh Walks to help guide you through the settings for some of his favourite tales and see Pooh, Christopher Robin, Piglet and Eeyore come to life.

A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh at Ashdown Forest

The Oast House

Nutley, Property Ref: PJJX

The Oast House - cottages.com

Lovingly restored, this is an unusual detached period barn with a wealth of exposed beams nestling in the owner’s 15 acres of grounds. It has its own small garden area and is situated on the edge of the Ashdown Forest, also known the world over as the home of A.A. Milne’s character Winnie the Pooh.

This area offers 6,500 acres of open heathland on the highest sandy ridge top of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Despite its name, woodland makes up less than 40% of the total area. Sheep, cows and goats graze freely side by side amidst the walkers and motorists.

Price: WAS £971, NOW £918 for seven nights’ self-catering arriving on 19th March 2016. Sleeps eight people. 0345 498 6900

I’m Late, I’m Late, for a Very Important Date!

Why not treat Alice in Wonderland fans to their very own Mad Hatter’s tea party? At the St James Court Hotel in London, the eclectic menu of cakes and pastries include ‘Queen of Hearts’ Mango Tarts, ‘Drink Me’ strawberry potion, ‘Caterpillar’s Mushroom’ Raspberry Marshmallows and Pocket Watch macaroons. Book at least 24 hours in advance to secure your place!

St James Court Hotel London, SW1E 6AF

Famous Five and Secret Seven Come Alive

Enid Blyton is synonymous with Dorset, which with an array of beaches and countryside is a great holiday destination in itself. The town of Purbeck is a great place to start, as the area which inspired the Famous Five stories. There are a number of local activities available including a location tour and museum to learn more about the author. Make sure you stop for some fantastic ice cream and ginger beer!

See the Tartan Bear

Author Mary Tourtel wrote and illustrated the Rupert Bear stories and at the Canterbury museum, fans can see original artworks, as well as memorabilia and images of the latest animated Rupert Bear.

I want to go to York. I’ve never been and yet it’s one of those cities that fascinate me and have always held an attraction. York is one of the UK’s finest and most beautiful historic cities, known to the Romans as Eboracum, to the Saxons as Eoforwick and to the Vikings as Jorvik. I can imagine one of their evening ghost walks must be packed with spirits trying to get a word in!

Hotel Direct have a fantastic list of hotels near the city centre for all sorts of price ranges, so once you have your sleeping arrangements made the next task will be to decide how to spend your time.

I’ve had a little look around on the internet to see what there is to do and I’ve come up with my very own list of what I’d like to see and do in York.

Things to do in York

  1. York Maze – not any old maze but a giant maze made out of maize! there are over 20 different rides and attractions that will keep the kids amused for ages.
  2. York Castle Museum –  this looks like a must too showing every day living in the Victorian and Edwardian times
  3. The Shambles – the name given to a street in the city centre that used to be the butcher’s shops but is now one of the most visited streets in the UK. I love the name!
  4. York Minster – who can resist a step back in time to appreciate the architecture and art of time gone by? And the famous Rose Window.
  5. Clifford’s Tower – supposedly giving the most fantastic views.
  6. The Bar Convent, established when it was illegal to be Catholic eek!
  7. A YorkBoat river cruise as there’s nothing more peaceful than being on the water watching the world go by.
  8. Haunted – a REAL haunted house where visitors claim to have felt icy fingers and screechings from the attic.
  9. The Blake Gallery –  I love art and would love to see the sculptures, art and more held here in this gallery
  10. I’ve also heard they have some great events throughout the year like the Jorvik Viking festival or the Carnivàle

What to eat and drink in York

Ale! I’d have to try a York ale maybe from the York Brewery which is the only traditional brewery within the city walls.

I’d have to visit Betty’s, everyone is talking about the place and advising to try a Fat Rascal which sounds brilliant to me.

Oh dear Lord they also have a chocolate industry, it says whilst the rest of the country were concentrating on wood and steel trades, York decided to focus on chocolate – I knew I’d love this place.

In fact York is home of the York Food and Drink Festival, Britain’s largest, held in September and running for 10 days! Bang goes that diet again eh?

I’ve also discovered there is a York pass which allows entrance to 30 top York attractions including the National Railway museum and the York Dungeon too if spooky takes your fancy.

Yep, I think it’s best to visit York over a long weekend as there is so much to do plus it looks like a family friendly city too with so much history for the kids to discover maybe a visit to Dig, offering the chance to dig up your very own historical artefacts and discover who lived and walked the streets of York in time gone by.

Disclosure: This is a post in collaboration with Hotel Direct

Bring on tomorrow 11 pm as I cannot take anymore of this election drivel.

One thing for sure is I’d like Gordon Brown out as although he may be a very nice man with a lovely wife and family, he doesn’t do politics for me. Which of course leads to the next important question…Then who?

I’ve only voted twice in the UK, my 1st vote back in 1983 went to Mrs Margaret Thatcher. I wasn’t very politically aware but from everyone I spoke to she was the way forward, so I followed and added my vote. I was quite pleased when she won and felt assured I had helped Britain onto the right track. Then I buggered off to Italy for 18 years and never voted once in all that time. I didn’t know about the postal vote and lived too far from Milan or Rome where the embassies were.

I remember thinking though, had I been ‘at home’ I would have voted for Tony Blair in 1997 as the country needed change and he was the ticket to change at the time.

My second vote in 2005 was for the Conservative party again. Once again we were at a dead-end, Tony was slacking, I didn’t agree with the Iraq War nonsense and believed we needed a clean start again. Conservative did win in my area and a couple of years later Tony hung up his apron and we were left with Gordon to fill his shoes.

I wasn’t convinced.

We’ve spoken before about feelings for people and situations and Gordon just wasn’t/isn’t it for me.

Then we heard about the MP’s expenses scandal, more war with no arms, Broken Britain, benefit frauds and untold illegal immigrants all claiming our hard-earned pennies too! Madness.

So again, once the election was called I started to ask around. My grandmother (90 in August) said she was going for UKIP or praying for a hung government.

‘You can’t do that!’ I replied my eyes popping out of my skull. The very word ‘hung’ doesn’t give much hope at all does it?

‘I can and I will’ came the firm reply.

She has seen so many swaps from Labour to Conservative during her life she’s now convinced neither can do anything to lead us honorably and they’re all just full of lies and broken promises…who can blame her?

I watched the debates, well ok, half watched them and followed what was being said after them in the newspapers and on TV. Liberal Democrats were making a noise for the first time. I can remember Dad years ago, mentioning them but no one has ever taken them very seriously, have they? Is it their time now?

Then the Greens, the BMP (no thanks!) (Or as Jean points out BNP!) and all the other smaller parties who make up the ‘others’ but would my vote do anything if I gave it to them? I don’t think so.

I don’t know, but David Cameron is the man who will most likely be getting my vote tomorrow. I like that he is eager to get on with ‘the job’ that he has tripped Gordon up on so many occasions and he has what seems to be a convincing team behind him. I may be wrong – I hope not – but one thing I do hope is that whoever wins tomorrow they drag us out of the swamp we are immersed in and lead us into a cleaner, clear-cut future.