Monday, 30 July 2012

summer reading: james and the giant peach...

Storytelling with props. We're enjoying reading Roald Dahl stories at the moment, I gave this book to my six year old with a pack of insects and some peaches for his birthday! 

We are taking part in our local library summer reading challenge, which is great as my eldest isn't the most confident of readers, so the more practice the better. I am trying to do a few activities around the books we are reading to make it fun and to help the boys understand more about how it was written. Today we chose the main characters, the Old Green Grasshopper, Miss Spider and the Centipede and found them in daddy's wildlife identification books. We decided which species they were, based on the language that Roald Dahl used to describe his characters.  

Then we got crafty and photocopied the insects to make them bigger and then used them as templates to cut around, to make shadow puppets and ate the peaches as our mid morning snack.

The idea is to mount these species on sticks to perform a shadow play by torchlight. But after a few hours the sun came out, the baby woke and the boys wanted to go outside to play, so we'll have to finish another day! 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

tracks & trails with children...

If you're looking for summer holiday inspiration and ideas of what you can do with your children then learning about tracks and trails will not only keep them entertained for hours but is cheap too!

You will need:

an identification book (we have this one)
plaster of Paris ~ I buy mine from here
a bottle of water
a plastic container to mix the plaster of Paris in
one empty plastic bottle ~ large water bottles work well
a mixing stick

You can do this activity anywhere, from your back garden and city parks to nature reserves, river banks or large woodlands. In fact if it rains, there will be more mud to find tracks in! 

You will need to think like an animal and look for clues, does the barbed wire fence have hair caught in it from where a badger is squeezing underneath? Does the woodland have paths from where deer walk through? We found a deer slot in our favourite woodland ~ can you see it in the picture above? Two parallel tiny teardrop holes in the ground, probably made by a fallow deer based on its size. 

We cut circles of plastic from a plastic bottle before we set out, the perfect size for putting around the footprint, gently pressing into the ground. 

Then we mixed the plaster of Paris powder with some water (Warning: Avoid contact with skin) into a 'thick cream' consistency using a stick (above). Then pour over the footprint (below). Make sure you take everything with you after you finish. 

Leave to harden, which should take about 20 minutes. You should be able to take off the plastic circle and lift your footprint cast, ours was a little dirty (see below) so we are going to gently clean with a soft toothbrush, preferably old and not dad's! 

Our challenge is to find a badger and fox tracks over the summer, why don't you give it a go and tell us what you find? 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Cornwall's best beaches...

Some of the best beaches in the UK are in West Cornwall, there is nothing better than planning your day around high tide! Here are a few of our favourites...

Whitesand Bay, nestled between Cape Cornwall and Land's End is often windy, making it great for surfing. The Beach Restaurant is right on the beach and we like to get there early for breakfast and to park in the Sennen car park as when this fills up the overflow car park is at the top of the (very steep) hill! The beach is sandy and perfect for children. 

This was Stanley's first visit to the beach and he seemed quite interested in the sand! There are two other beaches nearby worth a visit, the turquoise waters of Porthcurno in the shadow of the Minack Theatre. The beach shelves quite steeply and is more of a 'gravelly shell' beach, so not the best for sandcastles, and Portheras Beach, which is a 20/30 minute walk from Pendeen lighthouse, so only attracts a few people rather than the masses, this looks tropical in colour with smooth granite boulders at the top of the beach. At both of these beaches we've seen basking shark and dolphins! 

Kynance Cove is a National Trust beach, therefore it's on every map, sat nav, roadsign and tourist radar, this means it gets very busy in summer! The beach gets totally covered before high tide so it is quite a wet beach perfect for sandcastles but quite small to accommodate everyone. You park at the top of the cliff and walk down either a steep footpath or gravel track to the beach. The National Trust have recently installed toilets on the beach, with an amazing bio-bubble sewage treatment system, before this you had to use toilets situated in the car park. The beach is picture postcard beautiful with little coves and pools to explore, perfect for children, with the added excitement of getting cut off by the tide ~ someone always does! The gem of this beach is the Kynance Cove Cafe (pictured above and below), a wooden chalet sat on a rocky outcrop overlooking the beach. The menu is huge and freshly made, we enjoyed ice-cream milkshakes and crab sandwiches for lunch and slabs of homemade cake for tea. 

Our favourite beach is Gwithian, part of a three mile stretch of sand from Godrevy to Hayle. A short walk and flight of steps from the car park to this sandy beach with rock pools. Gwithian boasts an impressive 'estate' of beach chalets, some beautifully shabby, whilst others have been renovated and extended to resemble distant New England style beach houses. We were fortunate enough to stay in one of them last year, Driftwood. We hire wetsuits (pictured below) and book surf lessons at the Sunset Surf Cafe, opposite the car park and quite happily spend hours on the beach until the tide chases us up to the pebbles!

These are just a few of our favourite beaches, where are yours?

Monday, 23 July 2012

there's more than just pasties, a brief guide to west Cornwall...

We have been visiting West Cornwall for years now and I lived there after graduating from Uni for a short while. Here are a few of our most favourite places to visit and things to do...

Buy a Cornish pasty from McFadden's Butcher's in St. Just and take it to Cape Cornwall (a few minutes drive from St. Just) where there is a sea filled swimming pool on the rocks. Go for a quick dip and enjoy a warm pasty when you get out. 

Hop on the Penwith Explorer Open Top Bus - service number 300 - that hurtles around the peninsular, stop off at the Tinner's Arms in Zennor or the Gurnard's Head at Treen for lunch. 

Go to the Beach Restaurant in Sennen for breakfast, before hiring a bodyboard and heading down to the beach to surf some waves! 

Discover the history of the Cornish Tin Mines at the new Heartlands visitor centre (amazing adventure playground) or Geevor Mine

Buy a fishing net and go rock pooling at Gwithian Beach or Godrevy Beach. 

A friend told me that Penzance Farmer's Market on a Friday was fantastic but I have yet to visit. 

Marvel at the Minack Theatre an open air theatre carved into a cliff. Dress up warm if you go in the evening, there's no shame in taking a lap blanket to this windy venue!

Stay in a beach chalet, like the one we stayed in last year with Forever Cornwall. 

Saturday, 21 July 2012


We have had some great holidays over the past few years, in bell tents, tipi's, beach huts, camper vans and even a railway carriage, but this year with a tiny baby I was looking forward to spending our annual jaunt in something more luxurious, and actually having a proper bed! Being creatures of habit we returned to Cornwall, staying with the same holiday company as last year 'Forever Cornwall' who own 'Driftwood' beach chalet.

The holiday started off as predictably as usual, with my husbands annoyance at how much I expect him to pack in the car. Now bearing in mind we now have three children and I needed to take the moses basket and pushchair, and we haven't updated our car and still have a most un-child friendly hatchback vehicle - as the husband thinks buying a people carrier is 'giving up' as a friend so eloquently puts it! We eventually pack and literally squeeze everything in, setting off two and a half hours later than planned, in time to hit Bristol on the M5 at rush hour on a Friday. Somewhere the traffic gods are smiling at us and we sail to Cornwall in record time, despite a minor catastrophe en route - I found my first grey hair *insert loud wail here* somewhere around the Weston-super-Mare junction after gazing in the car mirror.

Wildwood was easy to find, and we quickly made ourselves at home, thanks to the welcome pack left for us, compromising the local newspaper, tea, coffee, bread, biscuits, milk, a lovely bottle of wine and a huge bunch of flowers. The boys rushed to find the rope swing mentioned on the website and hurtled into the neighbours garden like two springer spaniels as we opened the car doors, in contrast I settled down with the paper and a cuppa.

The house prides itself on its green credentials and despite its size - it sleeps eight - was warm and cosy thanks to underfloor heating generated by both a wood burner and solar panels on the roof. The decor was a palette of Farrow and Ball natural greys and blues set off by cushions and blankets that reminded me of Ilse Crawford's interior designed rooms at The Olde Bell in Hurley.

Staying in Wildwood was more like staying in a boutique hotel than a holiday cottage, with sash windows, large fluffy towels, and a 'snug' with a large TV with HUGE beanbags, perfect for hanging out in with popcorn on drizzly days. I would certainly recommend staying here, it is ideal for taking the grandparents with you, or holidaying with friends or just like us rambling about in on your own.

And there is still availability this summer if you would like to book Wildwood too!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

launching Bradshaw & Sons...

*photograph by the fantastic Anne-Marie Randall

Welcome to the new blog 'Bradshaw & Sons' - had you noticed the name change? I thought now that I'm the proud owner of three little men, it would be good to refresh the blog to reflect this. I won't be blogging as frequently but will still be sharing our adventures with you and adding a few new bits, such as reviews, and eventually a shop too!

*A lovely new friend offered to take a few pictures of the boys and I, a few weeks before Stanley was born. Anne-Marie Randall takes photographs throughout the Cotswolds, of families and corporate portraiture, you can find out more about her work on her website here
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