Tag: days out in essex

The Weald Park Country Show

I have never been to a country show before. I guess I’ve never really lived close enough to the countryside for it to be a thing. When we saw the Weald Dog and Country Show advertised, I wasn’t really sure what it was all about but I thought given the bank holiday weekend it might be nice to spend my Sunday doing something other than napping. (Although I did manage to find the time to do that too.)

I was pleasantly surprised by just how much was going on at Weald. As we entered I saw masses of tents, stalls, food vans and various ‘arenas’ seated out with straw bales. The atmosphere was lively, with lots of excitable dogs running around, people clutching boxes of hog roast and children with fistfuls of ice cream. I’m not usually a fan of overly busy or packed out events but Weald is a really big, open space and this country show was very well organised.

Naturally I wanted to see the cute farm animals first so we headed over to the stalls and pens that were owned by Gemma’s Farm. Honestly, it took all my willpower not to stuff my pockets full with adorable fluffy chicks. The Silkie chicks in particular really melted my heart. I’ve always wanted to own Silkies as they are such friendly balls of fluff.
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We stopped to watch a training exercise hosted by Canine Security. If I wanted a dog before this show it was only compounded further by this and the sheer volume of adorable dogs all around us. I must admit, the smaller ones did look particularly kidnap-able (but don’t worry, I didn’t steal any dogs. This time.)

Sheep racing was another fun event that drew a large crowd of mostly excitable children who were used as obstacles.

I definitely had a soft spot for Bellini who was just five weeks old, rather small and an absolute cutie-pie.

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The Weald Country Show had a really good mix of stalls, activities and events which made for a packed itinerary. We just drifted around however, catching shows as we passed them and sampling the freebies. It was really great to see lots of local businesses selling local produce and I was particularly pleased to see the RSPB stand recruiting members.

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One stall that we found particularly interesting was the Brentwood Model Boat Association. This quirky stall was packed with realistic miniature boats that were impressively detailed. I even spotted a tiny Steve Zissou. One man was driving a model boat on the big lake and it was fascinating to watch!

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We stopped for a bite to eat before watching the Motorbike Stunt Team perform in the main arena. This team consisted of a mother and son duo and although I’m not really in to the whole motorbike thing, I found myself really enjoying the show and cheering them on. This was clearly a crowd-favourite as a huge swarm of people gathered around the sidelines.

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And of course, no country show would be complete without a birds of prey display. Sadly we missed the main World of Wings flying event, however I was pretty happy with just observing the birds. I was particularly fond of the Tawny Owl.

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Another super-fun stall was one selling hats, gloves and accessories all made from Alpaca wool. To the side of this stall was a little pen with three alpacas inside. I have seen alpacas before but none as cute as these guys; I definitely wanted to get in the pen and give them a cuddle.

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On one stall we sampled the most amazing toffee vodka and fruit liqueurs. (I’m happy to report we purchased a couple of bottles.) I was also fascinated by the stall selling Antler cut offs (and I’m kind of regretting not purchasing one now. Not that I have any use for it whatsoever.) And of course, I naturally gravitated to the stall selling bath bombs and products.

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All in all we spent around three hours wandering around the stalls and watching the displays. It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday and, as I mentioned previously, so well organised. I will definitely be looking out for more country shows to attend!

A Day Out in Southend-on-Sea (Plus a Competition!)

Please note, the following post has been sponsored by Essex Business School at the University of Essex. Please read through to the end to find out more about the fantastic competition they are running over on Instagram and for your chance to win £500 worth of Summer days out across Essex and London. All views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and Southend-on-Sea is my personal recommendation.

Southend-on-Sea holds many fond childhood memories for me. Long, sunshine-filled days spent on the beach, skipping stones in to the sea, burning my tongue on hot, salty chips and returning home on the train with hands sticky from candy floss and sand.

That’s why, when the Essex Business School at the University of Essex asked me to pick one of my favourite days out in Essex, I immediately thought of the seaside town.

A short drive from us, Gareth and I decided to spend an afternoon exploring Adventure Island and building some more recent memories.

Upon entering the park we were hit by the smell of smokey sausages and burgers wafting up from the food stalls, the bright lights and sounds of playful screams carrying on the wind. It rolled over me like a wave of nostalgia and I was instantly transported back to the summer I spent with a friend, gobbling up candy floss like it was going out of fashion before riding the Scorpion eight times, only stopping to empty the entire contents of my stomach, (like some terribly misguided afterthought.)

 

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Although it pains me to admit it, I’m not quite as brave as I was was back in those days. Looking at some of the newer (admittedly slightly more impressive and scary-looking) rides I wondered how I would fare. Gareth is of a similar disposition so at the very least I felt in safe company. We decided to start things off small. And when I say small, I really do mean small; we got on the Kiddie Coaster (yes, that’s the actual name of the ride!) Sizing up the miniature roller coaster I felt pretty confident. 1. There was a queue of young children waiting to get on the ride, and if a young child isn’t scared by it, than nor am I (just who was I kidding?) 2. The ride doesn’t have any loops. Any terrifying vertical drops. No stop/start element to make you feel as if your heart is going to explode. 3. It lasts all of two minutes. Max. 

It was fine, really it was. Maybe I spent the entire ride holding on to the metal bar until my knuckles were white, my stomach somersaulting as I listened to the girl sat behind me (of about four) laugh and exclaim happily as my life flashed before my eyes but… it was fine.

Anyway after that we didn’t go on any more roller coasters and the day was all the more fun for it. I was happy to discover that the Crooked House was still standing and just as crooked as ever as this was always a childhood favourite. Afterwards we stumbled in to the sunshine disorientated and slightly dizzy. I’m not sure if Gareth really got it but you can’t visit Adventure Island without paying the Crooked House a visit, it’s a must!

The Big Wheel was a gentle ride that we both greatly enjoyed, especially as it affords views across the whole park and the sea. The giant spinning turtle (Archelon) swings were another firm favourite, making us feel really rather relaxed considering we were in the middle of a theme park!

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There’s an indoor element to Adventure Island that wasn’t around when I was a kid. This space has soft play and rides for younger children. I think this is a fantastic idea as when the weather turns and it’s not so warm there’s still something to keep the kids occupied. I have to admit, I’m a big fan of carousels so I definitely eyed up the shiny, galloping horses and wondered if it was socially acceptable to have a go. As the ride was aimed at children though I thought probably not!

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The great thing about Adventure Island is that no matter what your age it will reduce you to the mindset of a small, excitable child. After a fun (albeit exhausting) morning of dashing between the rides we decided to head out and have some lunch on the beach. And when you’re by the seaside there really is no better option than hot chips, smothered in salt and vinegar. The lunch of a well-adjusted adult, I promise.

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After lunch we decided to check out the Pier which extends an impressive 1.34 miles in to the Thames Estuary making it the world’s longest pleasure pier. Naturally we opted for the train.

I have never taken the train down the pier before so I was pleasantly surprised by the experience and how much I enjoyed it. The retro-looking carriages rattled down the tracks at a slow enough pace that we were able to really take in the views.

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At the end of the pier we were happy to spot Ruddy Turnstones (which we affectionately named ‘sea-quails’ because of their resemblance to one of our button quails.)  After a little research we discovered that the RSPB were protecting the Ruddy Turnstones at Southend-on-Sea so we felt quite lucky to see them!

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All in all we had a wonderful time at Southend-on-Sea. There really is just so much to do and see; truly there is something for everyone!

Competition time!

Now you have read about one of my favourite days out in Essex, how about sharing some of yours?

Would you like to win up to £500 worth of days out across Essex and London and have a fun-filled summer packed with adventure? The Essex Business School at the University of Essex are running a competition over on Instagram to find Essex’s Best Youth Tourist Attraction. (And trust me, the prize is a good one!)

This competition celebrates the launch of the new and highly anticipated BSc Tourism Management degree in Southend-on-Sea. If you want to see the world with an international career in travel and tourism, it’s not too late to apply for October 2017 entry.

How do I enter?

If you’re aged 16-25, you have until 18 May to snap a photo of your favourite place to visit in Essex and post it on your Instagram. Make sure to name your attraction in the caption, and let our friends at the Essex Business School know why you love it so much. It could be anything; from your local park to the bowling alley. Maybe like me you love to spend a day by the sea! Don’t forget to use the hashtag #essexyouthtourism and tag @essexebs so they can see your entry.

The most photographed attraction will be crowned Essex’s Best Youth Tourist Attraction 2017, but the most creative, inspirational or fun photo will win the summer prize package. Follow @essexebs on Instagram to keep up-to-date with the competition and find out the winner!

For full terms and conditions please read here!

What’s the prize?

The winner will receive:

  • A pair of two day adult London Pass tickets with Oyster Travelcard 
  • Two Adventure Island Blue Annual Passes for Southend-on-Sea’s beachfront theme park 
  • Escape Live in Southend-on-Sea entry for four people 
  • Two Rollerworld Roller Disco tickets

Pretty great huh? So if you’d like your summer sorted this year, get your camera at the ready for some Insta-worthy days out!

 

 

A Spring Walk at Weald

Weald is one of my favourite country parks and for good reason; whether you’re walking in Autumn, Winter, Spring or Summer it’s really beautiful and there’s plenty to see.

On Sunday I found myself home alone and without any plans. I hadn’t visited Weald this year and with the sun shining down I decided it would be a good time to take a walk.

If you have read my Spring Appreciation Post you’ll know that this season is one of my favourites. I just love all the flora and fauna that’s around this time of year. I knew that Weald would be just lovely.

With the sun warming my skin I walked down towards the deer enclosure and the vast lake at the bottom of the hill. I always like to visit the deer when at Weald as they are such sweet little creatures. You can actually buy food to feed them with at the cafe. Lots of families had spent the morning feeding the deer though, so instead of desperately seeking out the pellets in visitors hands, the deer basked in the warmth- clearly overfed! (So I didn’t bother to buy any deer food on this particular trip.)

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After spending some time watching the deer and the ducks I decided to head back up the hill to the little cafe and get myself something to eat. The cafe sells lots of goodies; soft plush animals, books and pin badges. I purchased a cup of sweet tea and a generously sized scone with butter and jam. I took my food outside and ate at one of the benches as the weather was so pleasant.

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Weald is composed of many rolling hills and hollows, meadows and woodland. After eating and still clutching my cup of tea, I trundled up another hill and some concrete steps to reach a wooded area where the floor was littered with buttery yellow daffodils and soft green moss.

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Weald was very busy with families playing football, flying kites and picnicking. Laughter and children’s excited squeals were carried on the gentle breeze and I could feel my mood lighten as I took in the scenes unfolding around me. Blossoms had started to bloom and Weald was a riot of colour once again.

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As I mentioned earlier, there is plenty to see at Weald; all that’s required is a keen eye. I spotted lots of different types of fungi, flowers and plants. As I stooped to snap a cluster of mushrooms a young child approached me and asked me what I was taking a picture of. As I pointed out the mushrooms the child exclaimed in delight “I’ve never seen mushrooms outside before!” His mother helpfully reminded him that they weren’t edible (thank God for responsible adults.)

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I walked for around two hours, taking time to sit and soak in my surroundings every now and then. I left Weald feeling much happier and positive. More Spring walks are definitely in the pipeline and I can’t wait to get my picnic basket out again!

A Frosty Trip to Langdon Nature Reserve

The ground was thick with frost this morning, but with the brilliant sunshine beaming down and chasing away the cold it was a lovely time to take a walk. We decided to visit Langdon Nature Reserve as we have driven past it a few times but have never stopped to take a proper look, plus it is only a short 15 minute drive from our house which makes it ideal.

The Essex Wildlife Trust reserve is set on 461 acres of woodland, meadows and former plot land gardens and at the very heart sits a huge, glassy lake, filled with ducks and water fowl.

A shop and cafe are nestled in the parking lot. We did not stop to eat here but we did take a quick peek and it looked very cosy, serving cakes, sandwiches and crisps as well as the all essential garden bird feeders and fat balls.

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Next to the cafe/shop was a small manicured garden with benches and lots of bird feeders. We spotted plenty of plump, well fed robins as well as blue tits, great tits, sparrows and dunnocks. Areas with bird feeders are always my favourite so we spent a lot of time here, lurking around and listening to the birds.

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Walking through the reserve we spotted lots of different species of birds – some we couldn’t identify, as well as a little mouse/water vole (I couldn’t get close enough to check!) The area was abundant with wildlife with the lake being a real hub for water fowl. The lake had actually frozen over from the cold and the ducks looked quite happy to skid and flap across the ice.

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The park also has a wonderful Peter Rabbit trail to keep younger minds occupied and happy. As someone who read and adored Peter Rabbit and friends as a child, I myself really enjoyed wandering around and spotting the beautiful wooden sculptures. Mrs Tiggy Winkle was always my favourite so I was delighted to find her!

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All in all we spent an hour at Langdon Nature Reserve and really enjoyed it. The mix of open fields / woodlands and water worked really well making it a good all round country park to walk in with something interesting to spot around every corner. In the summer time there is fruit picking in the orchard with apples, pears, cherries and more – so I will definitely be heading back then to pick some fruit!

Picking Pumpkins at Foxes Farm

Ever since we spotted the sign at the side of a dirty road some weeks ago and discovered pumpkin patches exist in Essex, we were determined to go.

For some reason fate intervened week after week and for one reason or another, to my extreme dismay, we were unable to make the short trip. However, the sun shone this morning and nothing was stopping us so we finally drove down to Foxes Farm Produce, Basildon and the wonderfully exciting Pumpkin Patch.

We arrived at around 11 o’clock and the carpark was already full with families heaving giant pumpkins in to boots of cars and excited children clad in wellies. Shrieks of laughter hung on the air as families raced ahead with wheelbarrows to find the best pumpkins.

Entry to Foxes Farm Pumpkin Patch is free – you just pay for the pumpkins you take home- and you can take as many as your arms will allow.

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Upon entering the Pumpkin Patch we were greeted with stacked hay bales – which the children clumsily clambered on, and wooden containers holding hundreds of pumpkins in all shapes, sizes and shades. There was also a stall set up serving hot food and drinks. We gave this a miss as we’d already eaten.

Further on was a sprawling field absolutely heaving with pumpkins. These had all been pre-picked for ease of collection (and health and safety) and some sat precariously in huge piles. I was surprised to find white pumpkins (or corpse pumpkins as I called them) as I hadn’t seen these before and didn’t know pumpkins came in different colours! That seems funny to think of now but at the time I hadn’t considered the possibility.

There was also a field with corn in although we didn’t really explore this- we were much too excited racing around the field, finding the best pumpkins (the best pumpkin has a nice twisty stalk) and getting caught up in the excitement around us.

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The corpse pumpkins

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The atmosphere was fantastic. Lots of families, children and couples having fun selecting pumpkins and laughing with delight. If you have children, the Pumpkin Patch is an absolute must.  We easily spent around an hour there just looking around. We wanted to get one of everything we could find so in the end selected a munchkin pumpkin, a regular pumpkin, a corpse pumpkin, a small white pumpkin that looked like a garlic bulb, and a rounded red one that looks just like a giant onion! We also picked up a pumpkin for Gareth’s nephew and a tiny one for his baby niece! In total we spent £14 pound which was a complete bargain for the whole experience.

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Omelette models our haul of pumpkins

 

 

RSPB Rainham Marshes – a few shots

On Sunday we were blessed with lovely sunny weather so we decided to make the most of our RSPB memberships and head over to Rainham Marshes reserve. The marshes were absolutely fantastic and whilst I didn’t get the shots I wanted, I did get to see a lot of wildlife and my most favourite- goldfinches! For anyone wanting to visit Rainham Marshes for the purpose of bird-watching I cannot recommend it enough. It is a lovely area also so if you’re not interested in the birds you’d still get a lot of enjoyment out of the walk. When I return I will make sure to take photos of everything and review it properly but for now here are some quick shots of the kind of wildlife you can expect to find there!

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A lone goldfinch

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A dunnock feeding on the ground
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A great tit feeds whilst a blue tit looks on

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A lovely greenfinch with his grey cheeks
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Greenfinch, goldfinch and a sparrow

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A trip to Tropical Wings

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a proper day out. When we were living in London we spent almost every weekend ferrying ourselves in to Essex and beyond for big adventures but since moving to Brentwood we have been enjoying a slower pace of life and the ample countryside around us. Yesterday however we had the itch to explore and because I have wanted to visit Tropical Wings for awhile we decided it would be a good destination.

Tropical Wings is a small zoo with a family focus and it is located in South Woodham Ferrers. It’s very reasonably priced costing £10.95 per adult and £8.95 for kids. Of course, we unlike most at the zoo, did not (and do not) have kids…but I just really like wildlife and getting the opportunity to use my camera! So don’t be put off of going if you don’t have children.

The zoo itself is quite small but it’s a good size. You can get around all of it (at a moderate pace) in around an hour to two hours (we were there for the latter) and there’s a lot of really interesting animals there. If you want to see the bigger animals such as lions, zebra and hippos this probably is not the zoo for you. However it did have a plethora of interesting creatures including wallabies, Capybara, birds of prey, otters etc as well as farmyard animals and the more traditional ‘pet’ animals such as rabbits, guineapigs and chickens. The animals are really well kept too with ‘natural’ enclosures and plenty of space which was nice to see. The grounds are well maintained, everything is clean and it’s a really great place to visit. With some of the smaller zoos the upkeep isn’t always great, but Tropical Wings was really nice.

We started out in the butterfly house. In there it was very warm and there were hundreds of gorgeous butterflies floating around and landing on unsuspecting visitors! This was a highlight of Tropical Wings for me. We even spotted some quail (and as you may know, I love quail!) and some exotic birds which I couldn’t identify. I love having the aspect of walking around with animals and insects flying about doing their thing. Although some of the parents in there were rude and it made me cringe when one man in particular pushed a buggy out through the doors releasing at least two beautiful blue butterflies in to the cold. I hope those were put back in – and I’m sure they were, it just annoyed me a little to see someone be so inconsiderate!

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An exotic bird in the butterfly house

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From here we moved on to the birds of the world section. Naturally this was always going to be my favourite, but when I saw there were zebra finches I was even more excited! I know what you’re thinking. I have a whole charm of the creatures myself at home/why would I pay to see them. And yes, that’s true but zebra finches are amazing little creatures and it’s really interesting to see a big aviary of them together. There were a lot of chestnut flanked zebs in there too. I could easily have taken a pocketful of them home. I didn’t though!

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A Harris Hawk – there are some flying displays throughout the day. We caught a glimpse of one.

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Whilst wandering around we came across a great many unusual creatures, some of which I (sadly) couldn’t identify. Luckily for us the animal enclosures were all accompanied by signs that identified the animals and highlighted some interesting facts. I really should have jotted these down for the more unusual creatures however being the organised person I am, I didn’t!

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This is one of said creatures I couldn’t identify! It was really large and adorable.

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Blending in with our surroundings and being oversized kids
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Improvement?

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As we walked around we came across a North American Turkey that was really friendly. He came right up to us and seemed very interested in my camera! If you visit the zoo make sure to say hi to him. Turkeys aren’t necessarily the most beautiful or exotic of animals, but this little guy had a big personality and it really shined through.

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The picture is blurred but this little guy was the best!

The zoo also has a wallaby/Mara walk-through. This was particularly fun and it was lovely to see a wallaby with a little baby stuffed in her pouch!

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A mara and wallaby having a relax in the hay

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Close up of the baby – Gareth took this photo!
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A capybara and her babies – look how adorable they are! Just like oversized guineapigs!

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Finally we ended up in what I’d call the pets/farmyard corner. As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of chickens, goats, rabbits, guineapigs etc. I believe that they have a corner where you can experience the animals and hold them (don’t quote me on this!) But that wasn’t an option when we were there. If it was I would have definitely snuggled the bunnies!

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All in all we both had a great time at the zoo and I couldn’t recommend it enough. If you’re thinking of taking a visit, you can find the website here

This last picture is not from inside the zoo, but just outside. I absolutely love sparrows and there was a great many of them flying about and making nests. The whole site feels very natural and that’s just one of the reasons it’s so lovely.

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Thorndon Country Park

It was a grey weekday- and as we rolled through the car park, gravel crunching satisfyingly beneath the wheels of our car, I noticed that Thorndon country park was just as busy as it had been the weekend before. I wondered to myself if it was always as busy, or if everyone was there out of guilt from overindulging over the festive period.

We parked the car and stepped out in to the chilly air. This time we came prepared. Instead of flimsy trainers and battered chelsea boots, we were clad in (definitely not cringe-inducing) matching black wellies. I delighted in striding purposely through the murky puddles and to my favourite bird-snapping spot just outside the cosy little shop that sells hot chocolates and pin badges.

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As I did last time, I stood frozen to the spot just by the bird feeders. At first I watched the blue tits and great tits squabble over the best places to peck at the peanut granules, but then unable to resit I grabbed my camera and took some photographs. I stood there for a long time, my fingers growing numb and tingly with cold, my nose positively glowing. This time I managed to capture some of the beautiful blue tits I love so much – darting around in that frantic manner they adopt when you stand just a little too close, fighting off bigger birds to defend their territory. I took a lot of photos of the birds – not wanting to spam this post (too much) I have created another just for the birds (so go check it out.)

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Determined not to miss out on the rest of Thorndon like the last time however, I eventually managed to tear myself away from the feeders and take the muddied path in to the woods. The first thing that struck me about Thorndon was the beauty of it. The paths although slippery and littered with an obstacle course of branches and puddles were wide and open – allowing the woods to feel safe and well-traversed. That said the trees and shrubs were magnificent in size and gave the feel of wilderness. I’m not sure how a place can feel so open and familiar yet leave you with the impression that you could get lost for days, but somehow that’s the feeling it imparted on me.

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For those that haven’t visited before, the woods have a very popular Gruffalo trail for younger children. I often saw wooden sculptures with small children clinging to them, grinning gleefully at the cameras their parents clutched. Thorndon is a great place to take children if you have them. Even if you don’t, (like me) it’s still a wonderful place to take a walk.

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We walked for a long time, following signposts for squirrel and bird trails, stopping every now and then to listen to the bird calls, or to take a photograph of something beautiful and wild. The woods were thriving with squirrels that bounded playfully from treetop to treetop – and I must have counted at least six robins singing their distinctive song. I was surprised to see so many. Along our way we also saw a chaffinch, a bullfinch, nuthatch, multiple tits and a tiny green bird that we couldn’t identify from our position down on the ground.

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Throughout the woods there are clearings. Some spaces created with benches to eat at and gates to keep dogs from bounding in. One clearing we came across did not have these gates or benches but the ground was soft and mossy and damp with raindrops. Small ponds had formed in places and reeds had gathered around them. The thing that struck us most about this clearing was the beautiful smell in the air – like incense curling in the sky and snaking its way up our nostrils. Of course it wasn’t incense at all. It was the smell of wood smoke combined with the dewy grasses and trees. I wish I could have bottled up the scent and taken it home with me – it was very enchanting.

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As we rambled further in to the woods we eventually found ourselves off the beaten path. We began to realise that we hadn’t seen or said a cheery good morning to a stranger in at least 20 minutes and no bright-eyed dogs were in sight. The bushes and brambles became thicker, wild and tangeled…much less manicured than they had been when they framed the paths we had taken earlier. We came to realise that we were completely lost. How funny that we could even find ourselves lost and unable to find our way back in such a relatively small space (500 acres.) Using my partners GPS we managed to find our way back through the woods and to the cabin where we drank lemonade and poured over the photographs I had taken.

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I haven’t visited Thorndon in the summer but I imagine it is just as (if not more) beautiful during that season. I am looking forward to exploring even more of the green spaces that surround me but for now, Thorndon is my favourite.

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