Walk on the wild side

April 26, 2015 at 9:40 PMCoombeMill

Back in January I shared my plans to create a wildlife trail here at Coombe Mill. I had bought the animals for the trail and had in my mind to develop a fun map giving guided clues. Turning the idea from a plan into a usable trail turned out to be a more involved project than I had anticipated but the finished results have exceeded my expectations and it has passed the ultimate test in that I see new guests out following the trail every week.

 

The New Wildlife Trail

 

The first obstacle was creating a map which looked fun but was also detailed and usable enough to follow. By using Google maps as a template for scale and perspective we simplified the detail and made it colourful and eye-catching.  It soon became apparent that the fields required names, however many of the animals rotated fields during the year so stating "walk through the sheep field" could be leading the user on the ultimate wild goose chase! The only answer was to label the fields with memorable and permanent names and have Farmer Nick carve and fix the plaques on the gates.

 

Field Name Signs

 

With the fields marked up we created our route which lasts just over a kilometre, this is an ideal length for young children and a good challenge for toddlers. Securing the wildlife into place became the next challenge, we used some special expanding wood and resin glue which I had my doubts about but Nick looked confident it would work. On the face of it Nick was right, but it didn't take much, in fact a quick cuddle of our wooden rabbit on a test run with The Boy and Me revealed the glue was never going to do the job. The next day Nick decided to use stronger glue only to find the rabbit had actually been stolen, with no trace of it anywhere. This was a real shock and having bought a new rabbit Nick took the job more seriously and, drilled, screwed and nailed everything into place. Nothing was going to be moving now!

 

 

Animals around the Wildlife Trail

 

Meanwhile Amber and I in the office were working to perfect the trail sheets and create the clues that would lead explorers around our trail introducing the 14 animals. We did plenty of trial runs on my triplets to see if the clues were too difficult to understand before designing the sheet and presenting it in a fun way with footsteps and colourful bubbles.

 

Wildlife Trail Clues

 

On the reverse we printed our newly designed map with fresh field names and tick boxes for each animal found. 

 

 Wildlife Trail Ticklist and Map

 

Then the problem dawned for our hopeful trail users of how to make the sheets of paper more substantial for carrying round the farm. I'd always wanted a laminator and this seemed the perfect time to buy one. With the new laminator we were able to print the map and bubble clues back to back, laminate them for strength and durability and place a few in reception in a DIY stand ready to be used, returned and reused.

 

Wildlife Trail Reception Box

 

There is also an audio guide to the wildlife trail on the Coombe Mill website which can be downloaded and replayed on a smart phone along the walk instead of the laminate cards.

 

 

Finally we added specially designed signs to reassure trail walkers of the route.  These are located at all major decision making points with helpful guiding arrows, another use for the new laminator together with a borrow of Farmer Nick's trusty staple gun.  

 

Wildlife Trail Arrows Around the Farm

The finished Wildlife trail has all come such a long way from my initial ideas and taken a huge amount of effort to make it feel truly usable and fun, but when I see family groups out on the farm chatting over their laminated clues I know it has all been worth it.

 

Taking part in the wildlife trail

 

The wildlife trail is just one part of the Wild Adventures activities here on the farm. this is a growing area for Coombe Mill and I have plenty more ideas still to come such as a mud kitchen, nature music area, barefoot walk, pond dipping platform and a bug hotel. I hope to be back to share at least one of these here on the blog this summer. 

 

 

 photo 4d06e438-4e6a-4f3b-88b2-0c1093350397_zps361ad0e9.jpg     ANIMALTALES

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Silent Sunday / Project 52 / My Sunday Photo

April 25, 2015 at 11:40 PMCoombeMill

 

 

Triplets with Rocky and Sprout the Coombe Mill bottle fed goats

      Silent sunday   TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky  OneDad3Girls

Posted in: On the Farm | Weekly Photo

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill

April 24, 2015 at 11:40 PMCoombeMill

Raft Racing

Every week for activity hour I try to tailor the things we do to the average age range of the children, it is not always easy but somehow we manage. Raft racing has become a bit of a tradition with the guests staying this week, in fact I think it now extends into its 7th year of Coombe Mill bridge to bridge challenges.  There were a few new guests this week for which this was totally new and this is the first year we have formalised the event within activity hour.

Raft Race from Natural Materials

Guy and I went hunting in the deer field and woods for suitable sticks to use and I had spent all week collecting all manner of plastic containers and bottles. This together with bailer twine from Nick's shed and some heavy duty duck tape, colouring pens and paper all descended in the ping pong tent ready for our raft builders to assemble.

Setting up the Craft Table for Raft Making

I did a blue Peter "one I made earlier" which I tested in the river just to check it would float!

 

Coombe Mill Raft in the River Camel

Happy with the result I was on hand for the hour to help some of the younger children struggling to design and build their raft foundations. The tent had a frenzied buss to it and children and adults bound, twined, taped and tested their ships to perfection spilling out into the car park and grass beyond.

 

Building the Rafts in the Craft Tent

 

By the time the last fastening were in place and sails raised it was all I could do to hold the children back, they were so excited to start the race. I did just manage to group them all for a team photo before they climbed up the bridge ready to launch their master pieces.

 

Team Photo and Ready for the Start

 

With no cheating everyone released their boats on my countdown and the race began to wild shouts and cheers. Guy and Jed waded into the river for me to free up any ships that ran aground in the reeds or became wedged behind boulders and ensured everyone's boat was in with a chance.

 

Guy and Jed rescuing the Stuck Rafts

 

The children all raced along the river bank shouting excitedly for their boats and gathered at Coombe Bridge to see who would be first to cross the line.

 

Following the Rafts Downstream

 

By the time all the boats were safely through I think there were more children in the river than on the river bank, all gasping and screaming at the chill of the water but running in for more!

 

Playing in the river after the Raft Race

 

Having rescued all the boats I set about clearing up the tent while many of the children stayed to play on the rope swings, their bodies slowly adjusting to the temperature of the water.

 

Swinging Over the River

The races made a perfect end to a week of fun and friendship here on the farm, even the train was running late as my drivers like everyone else were wet through! It was so much fun we ran the same event the following week. My children were back at school but joined us on their return to help out save rafts. Guy of course stole the show making everyone gasp as he jumped off the bridge in full school uniform to save the rafts. I was very grateful as it saved me from a welly load of  river water. 

 

Week 2 of the Raft Races

 

 

Joining in with Country Kids

If you have been enjoying some fresh air and fun outdoors please come and join me. All out door activities are welcome from crafts, to learning, playing and exploring. Nature has so much to give if children have the imagination to enjoy it. Please do grab the badge and check out some of the other posts here. It might just be the inspiration for your next outing.

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A few of my favourites from last week:

Ruggles Leisure spent Easter here at Coombe Mill and tell of the wonderful week they enjoyed here on the farm. 

One Blue One Pink also made the most of a lovely week in Cornwall getting out and about to see many of the local attractions

Keitha's Chaos had a wonderful home 9th birthday party with plenty of outdoor fun and games

Happy Homebird ventured off into the land of Narnia in shropshire for some wilderness and imaginative fun. 

A spot of geography in this world map craft play from Adventures of Adam

Mumm and More showed how to play a tune at a National Trust day out.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

   

   

Ordnance Survey Branches Out

April 20, 2015 at 11:40 PMCoombeMill

Technology is great but....

In the modern age of programming in the Sat Nav and following the "turn left, turn right" instructions, we don't always appreciate the old skills of map reading. For me opening a map is like reading a paperback book, it doesn't suffer from breakdowns or technical hitches and there is something tactile and tangible that I really enjoy. I will admit I favor the Sat Nav for long journeys through busy cities but for afternoon drives, country walks or bike rides locally being able to ponder over a map and see the coastline, gradient and points of interest all marked out comes into its own. Maps can really help to plan an outdoor adventure and teach children some great skills.

 

Sat Nav vs Map

Create your own bespoke Map with Custom Made from Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey have just undergone a redesign and included in this is a wonderful new concept of maps made to measure in the area of your choice with your very own cover design. You choose the central point and send in a high quality photo and they do the rest. Base your map on a favourite holiday destination or your local area. Priced from just £16.99 and despatched  within 2 working days I think they would make a wonderful bespoke Father's Day gift or a super birthday present to anyone who enjoys an outdoor adventure from kids to grandparents. It is such a clever idea to make these personalised, I'm really taken with the concept.

Ordnance Survey Custom Maps

We have our very own Custom Made Map here at Coombe Mill centred on the farm with our choice of photo, there were so many I could have picked but settled on this one capturing our daily train ride with our holiday guests.  

 

Signals at the Train for Map Front Cover

 

The Maps are based on 1:25 000 including detail needed for walking and cycling. Our Map extends from the coast including details of how to reach the beautiful Secret beach at Tregardock and all along the Camel Trail to Wadebridge as well as up into Bodmin Moor covering the Rocky outcrops of Brown Willy and Rough Tor. You can pick up our copy from Reception to borrow for the day here on holiday.

 

Points of Interest on the Coombe Mill Map

 

Guy and Jed took our map with them on their Coast to Coast scout expedition to plot their journey and really enjoyed searching for landmarks they recognised as they passed near Coombe Mill.

 

Guy and Jed leaving for Coast to Coast

 

We have also used it for walking and cycling trips from here taking advantage of the footpaths, bridleways and points of interest through Coombe Mill up to the village and across the moor. It is such a handy scale I'm tempted to buy another.

 

Out and About with the Coombe Mill Custom Map

Win your Custom Made Ordnance Survey Map with Coombe Mill

 

Go Exploring Locally with a Custom Map

 

For your chance to win yourself, a friend or family member one of these useful maps just follow the instructions below. We have two to giveaway to the first two entries drawn so start thinking of a photo and an area and enter here, best of luck to all taking part.   

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was sent my copy of a customer made map to review and to set up this giveaway, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mother Nature is a Curious Thing

April 19, 2015 at 11:00 PMCoombeMill

Learning the hard way

Here at Coombe Mill one of the favourite animals with all our guests is the rabbits. I have mentioned before the problems we have had this year with rabbits thanks to the local foxes and then disease and how disappointed our guests had been to see their numbers dwindle. Finally it all came good and we had beautifully bonny bunnies and healthy parents just in time for Easter.

 

Mother Nature Knows Best

 

All the children were delighted and were allowed to stroke and hold the rabbits on the daily feed run. We encourage the children to sit down or crouch low to hold them as when the bunnies wriggle the children are inclined to panic and let go! It does no harm if they are close to the ground and over straw but can kill them if they hit the concrete from a height.

I often run an activity hour session up at the rabbits where we go through rabbit husbandry, the only downside of this is that it falls at the end of the week just before the children leave so we do run through safe care of the rabbits on the first morning feed run too.

 

Activity Hour with the Rabbits

Once a rabbit feels safe and ready to breed there is no stopping them, hot on the heels of the first litter we had another by a different mother and both were competing for space in the hutch for their nest. The second Mum had mistakenly made her nest very close to the first, a parental squabble ensued and the new litter were all abandoned in days. I think it must be the same mother who fell pregnant again and keen not to repeat her mistake made her nest in the open section of the hutch well away from the growing bunnies. This was all acceptable in rabbit parenting but left them vulnerable to human fingers.

Rabbits growth stages

We ensured everyone was aware on the first feed run of the week that these babies must not be disturbed. However as we ran into changeover day in the Easter holidays and the older children arrived and began to roam unsupervised on their first afternoon there was trouble. I should have kept them all locked up for the day but it was such a beautiful sunny day it felt a shame not to let them out into their yard. One of our regular visitors ran up to me in reception quite concerned to say that someone was moving the babies from their mother. I was just showing in a group of newly arrived guests but Amber had just come back and followed the helpful young boy back to the rabbits straight away. It turns out the children had seen the mother sitting on the babies and in ignorance feared she was squashing them and moved her out the way and relocated the week old bunnies into an inaccessible hutch alone. In fact the mother was feeding her babies at the time. Amber quickly moved the babies back and tried to rebuild the nest as best she could; however having been disturbed and the scent of humans all over her babies it was unlikely she would take them back.

Hutches the rabbits couldn't reach 

We explained to the children the implications of their actions and that we understood they were worried for the rabbits but that they should never interfere with nature. The message was reiterated on the feed run to all the children and parents the following morning and then it was just a waiting game. The children were as good as gold at not interfering for the rest of the week but the baby bunnies were left just as we had feared; their nest abandoned and unkempt. One by one they began to die until there were just 2 remaining. In desperation I tried syringe feeding them with some of Rocky the goat's milk. They took this but I worried it would prolong a slow and painful death as there was no guarantee this contained the correct nutrient balance.

 

Syringe Feeding the Bunnies

 

Every cloud has a silver lining

On day two of feeding them I noticed the Mother of the larger bunnies come in and sniff my returned baby all over, lick away the milk I had given and allow the baby to huddled back in with her offspring. It looked as if the older baby bunnies had accepted their abandoned baby friends and with their scents all combined so the mother had taken them all in as hers!

Nature is a funny old thing but it is always best left alone if you are unsure.

 

Baby bunnies in their new nest

 

 

I hope we will have more baby bunnies throughout the spring and summer here on the farm, if you fancy a holiday with us and some careful bunny cuddles do check out our price and availability page.  

 

 photo 4d06e438-4e6a-4f3b-88b2-0c1093350397_zps361ad0e9.jpg     ANIMALTALES

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"Tales from the farmers wife" shares the funny and interesting happenings on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. A behind the scenes look on balancing family, farming, the holiday business and cooking for all. 


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