Category: Adventure

A Family Day Out

I’m going to be diplomatic here; this wasn’t the best day out we’ve ever had (for reasons that will become clear later on in the post) however it wasn’t the worst. I really hate writing anything that could be construed as negative to a business; I’m not about throwing that negative energy out in to the world, but in the same vein I don’t like to lie/sugar-coat or pretend something was amazing when it wasn’t. So for those reasons I’m going to refrain from mentioning the name of the place we visited and instead focus on what we got up to. So here’s a little family day post for you!

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Menorca Holiday Diary

We have just spent a super-chilled seven days in Menorca and, whilst I don’t have any particular “days out” or “adventure” posts to share, I thought I’d post a few holiday snaps and write a little bit about what we got up to!

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Visiting The Eden Project PT 2

If you haven’t read it, please go back here to read the first part of our visit to the Eden Project. In part one I wrote about the rainforest biome. In part two I will be writing about the Mediterranean biome.

Entering the Mediterranean biome was certainly a different experience from the last. Light and airy it felt much more comfortable and a lot less wild. Created to emulate landscapes of the Mediterranean, South Africa, California and Western Australia and showcase the incredible plants that grow there, the Mediterranean biome is a huge and fascinating space.

Upon entering we were greeted with the strong smell of olives and wafting herbs. At the entrance is a patch where cacti and huge sprouting aloe veras grow. I adore cacti so I was particularly interested in this part of the biome.

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Much like the rainforest biome, there are winding paths that reveal secrets around every single corner. The Mediterranean biome had a huge and varied array of plants and flowers that I had never seen before but were certainly very beautiful.

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The carefully tended flower beds were a riot of colour, with each plant seeming to be in competition with the last. Vibrant petals, unique designs, flowers with fur and fluff and an array of South African proteas; every kind of flower you could think of, the Mediterranean biome had it all.

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Also much like the Rainforest biome, the Mediterranean biome had stone stairways winding up to higher levels to explore. However this biome did not have a tree-top walk or viewing platform at the very top (which suited me just fine.)

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In the vineyard was an assortment of amazing Bacchanalian sculptures and just past those was a large al fresco dining area. The food smelt absolutely delicious but we decided we would eat lunch at the pasty shop we had spotted on the way in so we gave this one a miss.

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We spent perhaps an hour in the Mediterranean biome, wandering around and pointing out the incredible plants to each other. This was a little less time than we had spent in the rainforest. The area seemed to have a little less to explore but in terms of plants and flowers it was more interesting and varied.

Outside we took a walk through the gardens, soaking up the sunshine and admiring the pretty views.

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We stopped for lunch at the pasty shop as I had been desperate to try my first Cornish pasty! My only complaint was that it was a 40 minute wait to be served (eek!) but nonetheless the pasty was delicious. Even the little robins and sparrows were flapping around the tables, eagerly awaiting a peck. For those who don’t fancy waiting though, there are lots of alternative options. The Eden Project has several restaurants serving good quality meals and snacks.

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After our late lunch we meandered through the remainder of the gardens, stopping to take photographs of the little water features and wildflowers.

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Our last port of call was the ‘The Core’ a little visitor centre of sorts with interactive displays.

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Inside was a huge wall of recycled fridge freezers and a ton of alphabet letters. This kept us entertained for a good while as we’re basically just overgrown children at heart.

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The Core is also home to the impressive seed sculpture by Peter Randall-Page. The seed is one of the biggest sculptures in history to be made out of a single rock. The huge granite sculpture started life as a 167-tonne boulder and took more than two years to create. I loved this sculpture because as I think I’ve said before, I really love novelty oversized things.

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All in all we had a wonderful time exploring the Eden Project. I would like to go back again and explore more of the surrounding areas outside of the biomes. I also think depending on what time of year you visit the experience will be completely different so I’d be interested to go back in Autumn!

Visiting the Eden Project PT 1

Visiting the Eden Project has sat gathering dust on my bucket list for years now. I adore spending my free-time in botanical gardens, wandering around and looking at all the amazing plants and flowers. I  have even been known to lurk around a garden centre or two. Luckily for me, Gareth also enjoys spending time outdoors and had also really wanted to visit The Eden Project. Anyway, when we decided to book our holiday, we definitely had it in mind.

Entrance in to The Eden Project is £27.50 per adult, but Gareth’s mum kindly donated her Tesco Clubcard points to us so we got in for free. (Yay!)
As we entered we were greeted by the sight of those iconic biome structures, looming impressively up in to the sky. Shouldered by carved out quarry, lush green trees and nestled in the midst of carefully sculpted flower beds, the Eden Project looked beautiful. Overhead was a zip wire and as we descended the hill towards the biomes we laughed at the brave people whizzing past.

There are two main biomes at The Eden Project. A rainforest biome with tropical trees and plants and the other Mediterranean. For the sake of not overwhelming my post with around 60-odd photos I’m going to split The Eden Project up over two blogs. In this one I will be talking about the rainforest biome.

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As soon as we had stepped in to the biome the the heat hit me in a wave. Unsurprisingly tropical plants require tropical climes. That translates to a very hot and damp atmosphere, one that feels slightly disorientating when stepped in to from the cold. The other thing I immediately noticed was how tall the trees were and how wild it all seemed. Great big tangles of ferns and plants thriving and spreading out creating a very real sensation of being in an actual jungle.

We noticed a small sign that described some of the wildlife that had been introduced in to The Eden Project for the purpose of controlling damaging insects. Small lizards, tree frogs and roul-roul partridges.

I was determined to seek out these unusual creatures, no doubt lurking just below the foliage. It wasn’t long before we spotted the partridges with their funny red mohawks, pecking and scratching at the soil.

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The rainforest biome is home to many exotic species of plants and covers everything from the Tropical Islands, Southeast Asia, West Africa and Tropical South America. As we walked down the damp pathways we were surprised and delighted at every corner. The Malaysian Hut with its’ vegetable plot and paddy field was particularly interesting and looked as if it had been scooped up from a real rainforest.

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I was excited to get up close to the Titan Arum which is the worlds largest perennial herb. This exotic and rare plant looks incredible and when fully open, smells of rotting flesh. Fortunately it wasn’t open when we were there although that could have been quite a unique experience!

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Eventually we came across the canopy walkway; a series of precarious looking rope bridges weaving high above the plants below.  On one of the bridges clouds of steam curled up from below creating an interesting fog effect that everyone wanted to stop and take photographs in.

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At the heart of the rainforest biome is an impressive crashing waterfall, sending spray out across the path and pooling in a little pond below. This pond contained the most enormous lily pads we had ever seen.

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For those who are very brave, there is a swaying metal staircase that leads to a suspended platform right at the very top of the biome, affording impressive views of the entire rainforest. I was not so brave so I let Gareth go ahead without me, armed with my camera whilst I sat and watched a brown lizard crawl across a canopy. Looking at the photos he took I can tell the view was beautiful but it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.

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One of the wonderful things (and there are many wonderful things) about The Eden Project and the rainforest biome is the sheer amount of unique and interesting things there is to see. Cacoa  pods hanging from branches, bunches of green bananas growing high above, wild rubber plants and incredible pineapples springing up from the ground. The Eden Project takes the secrets and beauty of the jungle and reveals it to you bit by bit as you make your way around the 240 metre long structure.

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Of the two biomes this was my favourite but honestly I enjoyed exploring both. Keep your eyes peeled for the next post in which I will be talking about the Mediterranean biome!

Visiting Tintagel Castle

The sky was a brilliant blue and the sun shone hotly on the day we decided to visit Tintagel Castle. The perfect weather to be climbing a steep cliff!

So I will admit it. Although Tintagel Castle is surrounded in history and legend, I really wasn’t aware of its’ existence until Gareth decided we were going there. The main lure for me was that it’s an English Heritage site and we get in to those for free. I wasn’t expecting much.

Situated in the picturesque village of Tintagel, the iconic castle is famed for its’ links with King Arthur (Geoffrey Monmouth named it as the place King Arthur was conceived.) The ruins sit high up on a cliff overlooking the sea. There’s a small beach there too, with the famous Merlin’s cave tunnelling in to the rock face.

Gareth laughed at my need to stop for a cappuccino at a homely looking cafe. And for then clutching on to it for dear life as we descended an impossibly steep hill on the footpath to the castle. (Obviously London, he poked fun at me.)

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As we rounded the corner we were greeted with the welcoming site of the sea. Shouldered by rolling hills, the path down to the sea and beach was a very pleasant walk.

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As we reached the ticket office it turned out I had failed to print out the necessary coupons to gain free entry. (I didn’t know this was even a thing.) Luckily entry to the castle is very fair at just £8.50 per adult.

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We decided to explore the small, stony beach first as the tide was out and that meant we would be able to venture in to Merlin’s cave.

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In the cold, damp of Merlin’s cave we heard pigeons cooing overhead, obviously discomfited at our intrusion. We had fun clambering over rocks and stones to peer in to the small rock pool with a dark glossy surface.

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Outside on the beach I marvelled at how blue the sea was (a million miles away from Southend!) and we ambled from rock pool to rock pool. I was so desperate to find a star fish. I’m sad to say I didn’t find one. I did however, come across lots of little fish and curious jelly-like creatures.

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From the beach we began our ascent up the cliff. A winding stair case goes all the way up which makes it easy enough to get to the top. But make no mistakes, your calves will start to feel the burn once you are done with all the stairs.

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At the top, the ruins of the castle are accompanied by little plaques describing what each room is. I found the ruins to be interesting but the thing that really captured my attention was the view which was nothing short of beautiful.

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We sat for awhile just taking in the views (and catching our breaths.) It really was lovely to be up there in the sunshine. I can imagine that if it had been raining it would be quite a different experience.

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All in all we spent 3 exciting hours exploring Tintagel Castle ruins and the beach. I am so pleased we went as it was truly stunning and unlike anything else I have experienced before. I would say this is the least child-friendly of the locations we visited due to the amount of steep hills, stairs and general climbing. (So it’s a good job we don’t have children!) Just something to bear in mind if you’re looking for a family day out.

Lost Gardens of Heligan

On the day we decided to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan it was positively dreary and had been raining all morning. I hadn’t done my usual research so I wasn’t sure what to expect, I just knew that a bit of drizzle wouldn’t dampen our holiday plans.

Situated in St Austell, Cornwall, the Lost Gardens of Heligan is both historic and mysterious. Described as a ‘genuine secret garden’ because it was lost under overgrowth for decades, the Lost Gardens is set on 200 acres of woodland, ‘jungle’, fields and gardens. Admission is a very reasonable £14.50 per adult.

As soon as we entered the Gardens I started to feel quite excited. Exotic-looking trees loomed ahead and swallows darted around weaving in between the outside cafe tables, chirping noisily.

We decided to walk through the woods first. Upon entering we were greeted by a signpost that read ‘The Giant’s Woodland Adventure’ and a rather large head curiously peeking up from the ground.

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The woods are a truly magical place to walk through at this time of year with the floor carpeted in brilliant bluebells. As we walked we came across the Mud Maiden, a giant sleeping sculpture. She looked so peaceful laying there on the damp, mossy earth, her hair made of daffodils and ivy hugging at her shoulders.

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Eventually we came across a peculiar bee hive. Not a real, functional one but an oversized version with lots of fun facts and images of bees plastered to the walls inside. It felt as if the more we walked through the woods the more interesting and unique things we saw. It truly captured and sparked my imagination. I can’t help but think this would be the most enchanting place to visit for children.

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Finally exiting the woods we were greeted with a narrow, gravelly path, flanked either side by lush green ferns, towering trees and unusual plants.

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We walked down a steep hill, past a murky pond that was framed with flowers and plants. This part of the gardens is known as ‘The Jungle’.

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As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t done my usual research. So I didn’t realise that the gardens had a rope bridge. Personally I’m not a fan of heights, particularly not ones of the ‘this doesn’t feel safe, my body is actually swaying’ variety. But the rope bridge, stretching across the pond, looked incredibly adventurous. Plus a tiny little child was doing it so I’d have looked pretty pathetic if I backed out. I clung on to the rope with white knuckles, managing to avoid looking down and taking small steps. I have to admit, it was actually pretty fun and made me feel like I was really in a jungle. (Apart from the bit where the man behind me over-zealously swayed the whole bridge with his clumsy steps, causing me to feel sick and the child in front to scream out… that wasn’t so fun.)

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Off of the bridge and back on to solid land we began walking down hill across a wooden path way that weaved in and out between tall trees.

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At the bottom of the hill we came across a curious structure called ‘The Witches Hat’. From here there were several paths we could have taken. We opted for the one that led down to the ponds and Kingfisher Walk as we had been told by employees that Kingfishers were regularly spotted there.

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Peering in to one of the ponds I was delighted to see lots of tiny black tadpoles darting about. Although we sat for awhile in the bird hide we didn’t catch the glossy orange and blue feathers of a kingfisher. Just a lone robin and the calls of crows overhead.

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From the ponds we walked up a treacherously steep hill (Cornwall is just basically a hill it seems) and towards the manicured gardens. The first we stopped at was the Flower Garden which, curiously enough, didn’t seem to have that many flowers in at all. Regardless it was still very picturesque and charming.

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From the gardens we walked to the farm. The strange thing about The Lost Gardens of Heligan is that it almost feels as if you are cramming several days out in to one. Just as you become immersed in woodland you are in the jungle. Just as you are exploring the jungle you are in the gardens. And as soon as you’ve taken in the neat greenhouses and carefully planted trees you’re in the middle of a farm! Yes, the Lost Gardens of Heligan is a curious place and time does feel a little irrelevant there. I think that is certainly part of the fun though.

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On the farm I was pleased to spot more chaffinches. I love these little birds but rarely get the chance to see them up close. In a pen outside we saw chickens and ducks scratching at the ground. In a barn we saw adorable piglets playing and chasing each other, sheep, lambs and cows.

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From the farm we took a dusty path and exited in to what felt like more jungle. Beautiful pink blooms flowered on the trees and it was a real pleasure to walk among them, listening to the bird song as we went.

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We came across unexpected surprises at almost every turn; little trickling water features and incredible plants and flowers like nothing we had ever seen before. This for me was pretty impressive as we have explored many gardens together.

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When we finally reached the end it felt as if we had been in the gardens for an entire day. It was actually closer to three hours. I honestly could have spent more time there though, just wandering around and taking everything in. If I ever have the chance to go again I will most definitely; the Lost Gardens of Heligan was the highlight of our trip for me and the memories of it will last forever.

 

Cornwall Bucket List

I have always wanted to visit Cornwall. Growing up, my mum had shared lots of fond memories of her own childhood holidays there. I wanted to see the sights for myself!

Prior to visiting Cornwall I had made a little ‘bucket list’ of things I wanted to see and do. We have just got back from a wonderful trip and so I thought I would share that list.

Please look out for more blog posts as I should be posting one each day this week. These will go in to more detail about some of the wonderful places we have visited!

Stay in a cottage

Nuthatch is a small and cosy cottage nestled at the top of a very steep hill, surrounded by dense woodland to one side and vast, open farmland to the other. At the heart of Bodmin, this cottage was the perfect location for us to ferry to-and-fro across Cornwall. Plus just look at it, it’s charming!

I loved staying in this little cottage, even if it was impossibly cold in the evenings. Inside were traditional wooden beams, a spacious bedroom, a bath tub and a small but perfectly formed kitchen/living room area. The kitchen window overlooked a field of gentle cows. We would rush to that window every time we heard the metallic calling of a pheasant, who would strut down the lane past the cottage every evening.

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Visit Tintagel

An English Heritage site, Tintagel castle is iconic with its’ links to King Arthur. We visited on the warmest day of our trip, the sky a brilliant blue and the sun beaming down from high up in the sky.

The site itself is absolutely stunning and exceeded all of our expectations. From the stony beach with it’s dark Merlin’s cave and rock pools filled with mysterious creatures to the castle ruins and impressive cliffs- everything was simply wonderful.

There’s lots of walking up steep hills and endless staircases though, so if you’re planning to make the trip I can’t stress that sensible footwear is key.

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Visit The Eden Project

The Eden Project has long since been on my ‘To Do’ list and was one of the major reasons I wanted to go to Cornwall in the first place.

The iconic honeycomb-esque biomes are even more impressive in person than they are on TV or the internet. The vast structures loom up high and are surrounded by tall quarry walls which frame them quite picturesquely. Inside you become immersed in rainforest or mediterranean climes. My personal favourite was the rainforest with it’s curious lizards and partridges lurking in the foliage. The rainforest biome is also home to the Titan Arum which is an absolutely monstrous perennial herb with the largest collection of flowers in the world.

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Visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Probably the highlight of our entire trip, the Lost Gardens of Heligan delighted, inspired and sparked my imagination to its fullest.

These historic gardens are set on 200 acres of land and are truly impressive. Personal highlights for me were the incredible giant structures and the swinging rope bridge which had me feeling like a forgotten character in an Indiana Jones film. Seriously though, the Lost Gardens of Heligan is an absolute must if you’re going anywhere near Cornwall.

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Eat a Cornish pasty

Of course you can’t go to Cornwall and not sample a traditional Cornish Pasty! The first one we ate was at The Eden Project where we had to wait a (harder to digest) 40 minutes for it to be served! After that we stuck to the traditional bakeries where pasties and cakes are incredible and seem to (scarily) become a staple part of the holiday diet.

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…and Cornish ice cream!

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Go to the beach

I had heard good things about the beaches in Cornwall but even so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on one filled with golden sand, not a pebble in sight!

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…and look in rock pools!

I’m not sure why but I have always been fascinated with rock pools and peering in them to see what strange creatures dwell there. Even now at the old age of 27 I still want to stick my nose in them and see what I can find. I definitely spent more time than is probably acceptable just walking from rock pool to rock pool. I had hoped to see a Starfish but unfortunately that was not to be. I did see a lot of other interesting things though!

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Visit fishing villages

We really wanted to explore the fishing villages/villages of Cornwall and get a taste of what life is like on the coast. I think we actually did pretty well as on this trip we managed to see Port Isaac, Padstow, Fowey, Perranporth and Newquay! (Not bad for a Monday-Friday.)

Port Isaac is famously known as being the location for the TV program Doc Martin (although I didn’t personally know this when we went there.) Funnily enough when we visited they where filming a scene for this show and, as we rounded the corner Martin Clunes was just standing there which was pretty surreal. We were ushered to the side whilst filming commenced. Coincidentally Port Isaac is very picturesque.

In Padstow we ate the nicest fish and chips I have ever tasted and managed to locate a lucky pixie for my mum. In Fowey we ate hot pasties from the bakery and shopped in the independent little shops selling quirky mugs and bits and bobs.

It seems to me as if Cornwall is just one gigantic hill! Every village was treacherously steep to climb and certainly a workout for the calves.

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All in all Cornwall is a beautiful part of the world and I throughly enjoyed our little holiday there. I would definitely go back!