Writing is a life skill

November 29, 2015 at 9:10 PMCoombeMill

Learning to write

It only feels like yesterday I was trying to teach my boys to read and write how to form letters and where full stops belong. It felt such a struggle in those early days. If this is you now, searching for those on line education resources to give your child a little boost and checking school bags for pages of homework and reading books I say stick with it, make learning fun and encourage your child. It will all come good.

2 years ago I shared a short story written by my eldest son Alistair who at the time was preparing for his GCSE English Language exam. I was bursting with pride at the language used. Now I am thrilled to be in that same position all over again for my second son Felix who will take GCSE's this school year.

To set the scene, he had been inspired by accompanying his older brother to a few of the University open days, realising the grades he would need to be part of this himself we had a little chat about the effort he was putting into his course work, which was frankly below what was needed, especially on core subjects. I knew he had a piece of descriptive writing due to be handed in and sent him down to the Coombe Mill River with a pen and paper. He returned about 20 minutes later, sat at the PC and taped out the following. Now I know he has it in him to achieve the grades he needs if he puts his mind to it and stays focused.


A View of a River 


The River from the river bank at Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays, Cornwall


I sit alone on the river bank happily allowing the rest of the world to continue without me. I am content to just perch and take in what I am amongst, here at my spot along the river. It is an early hour on this dry autumn morning, my breath clearly visible as it escapes me and mixes with the cool biting air coating the river. I am wrapped up warm in my heavy black overcoat that protects me from neck to knee. My hands and face are gripped by the mean grasp of the invading cold air, both of which sting painfully when a frozen breeze invades my little space.

I close my eyes and focus on breathing. This is when I am hit by the smells surrounding me. The unmistakable scent of grass is intoxicating mixed with an earthy musky aroma emanating from the freshly churned river bed. I listen to the sound of the fast running water, crashing and turning over itself as it tumbles its way down the river. The birds in the trees above are breaking into song, each adding to the tune of the last; marking the dawn of the new day. Their chirps fill the air as they crescendo, creating a playful atmosphere.

I open my eyes and look upriver to the small caves that have been formed under the relentless assault of the current. The caves are half submerged, shadows keeping them in an eternal blackness where light dares not enter, but makes my imagination flare. A thought of hands emerging from the depths and pulling me under sends a chill down my spine. Above the water line however, a different story altogether, light leaps around, reflecting off the water to the roof of the caves and dancing along the walls. Dark and light are represented by an almost impassable line in nature, reminding me of the might of the Berlin wall.

Completely dead in the water lay a fallen tree, grey and weak as if it had been there for all time: strength sapped in an eternity of torture.  I marvel at how it must once have stood tall and proud, a force of nature now totally consumed by a stronger one. It looks like a ghost with its distorted colour and bare features stripped of all the beauty once held within. The roots have spitefully ripped up a piece of ground as though punishing the soil for failing to hold firm.

In front of me there are stepping stones to the other side of the river where the land is steep and rocky. The rocks that make this patchy pathway across the gushing water are dangerously slippery with dew. Any attempt at crossing would be a suicide mission with an ice cold hell waiting. The water converges when going through these steps, akin to infants flooding through canteen doors. There is even some of the water that becomes confused and stuck behind the rocks, not quite sure what’s going on. The river floor suddenly drops away creating a waterfall, where the current thrashes and turns sinking under the surface in a cloudy mob of anarchy.

There is a clear flat stretch of the river to my left, where the water appears serene and inviting. It is a lie of course. If I were to leap in it would freeze the blood in my veins. But it looks so peaceful with its calm slow waters. The bottom of this stretch is golden with patches of bronze, like a royal tapestry. I can see all of the colours through the pristine water as though it were liquid crystal; it is a welcome image in this world of grey. Minute insects land and hover over this spot as the river reflects the sun light, which is now just breaking through the natural canopy of leaves. The sun light comes through in beams where it can, as an enemy breaks a shield wall in battle. I am hit by one of these breaching rays, its warmth challenging the numbness that has hold.  

So as I sit here in this place and open my mind to its beauty, time has moved on.  While I have been sat, day has broken and the sun has invaded my shaded spot on the river bank. The birds’ song has retreated as they busy themselves with their day. The dew is leaving the rocks and grass, taking with it the smell of morning. The gentle numbness in my fingers is dissipating as I stumble to my feet preparing to leave I stop to take in the whole scene, untouched by man it is becoming an increasingly endangered site. It is of course just my view of a river. 

By Felix Cambouropoulos

It may not be perfect, but I'm sure when I was 15 I would have struggled to deliver a piece as good as this. There is something very magical about our river and I am grateful for it's beauty everyday, seeing it appreciated and expressed through the mind of one of my teenage boys makes me incredibly proud. 

As for those online resources, we have a whole national curriculum supported section on our website developed with twinkle UK especially to supplement learning here on holiday which covers the early years to key stage two.  


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Acting the goat

November 28, 2015 at 9:10 PMCoombeMill

Weekly Farm Photos

I've been revealing spring planning here on the farm this season. So far I've shared Rambo the Ram who has been receiving a new lady friend each week in hope of spring lambs, the deer that are in 'The Rut' and hopefully will produce fawns in June and this week I'm sharing our cute pygmy goats. The nanny goats are very friendly with the children who visit the farm as well as being playful, full of character and forming strong friendship bonds with one another. I often spot the same ones close together and do wonder if the term 'acting the goat' comes from their fun personalities? 


 Playful goats who form strong friendships at Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays, Cornwall


For most of the year Billy goat gruff remains separate from the ladies. He looked longingly into their field on passing after his horn operation and shortly after was rewarded with a lady friend in his pen.  Now that we are closed for November and Billy poses no threat to the guests he has been  allowed into the girls field where there is more grazing for winter and he can freely spread the love. He has really made himself at home and enjoying this time surrounded by females. Gestation periods are similar to sheep so kid goats should be arriving here on the farm from early March onwards.


 Billy goat happy with the nanny goats for winter on the farm at coombe Mill Holidays, Cornwall


Only Rocky is slightly put out, he is our hand reared kid from the spring who Farmer Nick failed with the castration band and left him growing as half a Billy with one Testicle! Poor Rocky is not at all amused by the arrival of his manly farther into the field and happily trots over to me each day for a cuddle instead.  


 Rocky the hand raised pygmy goat at Coombe Mill Holiday Farm in Cornwall trotting over for a cuddle


If you fancy a family farm holiday with playful pygmy goats to feed all year do check out our availability for 2016. If you arrive in spring you may even see a newborn kid while you are here.  

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill

November 27, 2015 at 11:00 PMCoombeMill

Tin can games

 We had a wonderful crowd of guests to finish the season and I knew I had to come up with something imaginative and fun for activity hour that would suit age 1 to 13.  The children had been making their own entertainment during the week with plenty of games running into the night after the evening train ride so I took my cue from them.


Tin Can Games


I had been washing and saving tin cans for some time knowing that I would put them to good use in time. Inspiration struck and if I used them for the bases of some fun and games.  We began by involving the littlest on a Toddle Bike race.  This was more of a challenge then you might imagine as the tots really had no idea about the concept of racing from one set of cans to the next.  Yet with a little encouragement they all made it over the finish line.  The bigger children were desperate to join in and gave these sturdy little bikes a run for their money.


Toddle Bike Race

Over on the grass we set up tin can alley, thankfully the wind was minimal and the tins stayed in place for everyone to take a turn at knocking them down with a windfall apple. We used extra tin cans to create starter markers from where the children could throw their apple depending on age.


Tin Can Alley


Next up was the high jump using a long cane from Farmer nick's shed.  Everyone joined in as the cane was laid on the ground, then can by can we raised the cane laughing at the effort and imaginative techniques at leaping over the ever ascending barrier.


High Jump


If height was an advantage on the high jump it was probably a disadvantage for limbo dancing.  Gradually we lowered the bar as the children chanced their luck at limboing underneath.  The rules were modified as the game continued so that hands touching the floor became the only restraint as the children slithered their way under the bar.


Limbo Dance


After all the acrobatics we moved on to some relay races.  The children lined up in height order and declared they wanted to have a girl's verses boy's race.  Each were given a tin can and on the word go the first in line ran to the finishing line put down their can then raced back to release the next team member who then ran to the finishing line adding their can to the previous can.  The winning team was the first back to base with all their cans stacked in a tower at the finishing line with their team members back over the starting line.  After two turns the boys resorted to cheating unable to beat the girls so we mix the teams up for a few more tries.


Relay Races


We played a further round of variations on the relay game until they were all puffed out.  Our hour was nearly up that everyone and was still in high spirits so we handed out on the new welly walk challenge with the laminated sheets and felt tip pens. From pooh sticks to rope swing they worked their way through the sheet as activity hour turned into 2 hours and Guy had to rush back for the train.


Welly Walk to Finish It Off


I miss the buzz of excited children now that we are closed. Roll on Christmas and more fun on the farm.




Joining in with Country Kids

I'd love you to come and share your outdoor fun with me here on the linky.  All posts are welcome from playing in the garden to days out.  All I ask is that the post is predominantly outside, away from screens and enjoying some fresh air.  I'd be delighted if you would take my badge or link back here and please remember to check out some of the other posts, it might just be the inspiration for your next adventure.

Country Kids is around in these communities, I'd love you to join me: 

Pin on the Pinterest Board Just ask for an invite to pin and include Country Kids on your pins for me to stop by on your boards too (no need for a hash tag in Pinterest)


Follow Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays's board Country Kids  from Coombe Mill on Pinterest. 



Join the Google Plus community page  for Country Kids and add #CountryKids to your tag elsewhere for a +1 from me 

Share your posts on  Instagram and Twitter with #CountryKids for a like or a re-tweet


A few of my favourites from last week:

Footprints in the garden from Little Hearts, Big Love is a great idea for a winter outdoor craft 

Exploring Cornwall by Train from Coombe Mill  Bug, Bird & Bee visits St Michael's Mount 

Beautiful photos from Hannah Hall Photography on a new camera from a woodland walk 

Buxton really know how to kick Christmas off for the locals as Happy Homebird discovered

Busy working Mummy shared treasured from Rufford Abbey 


Win a pair of Muddy Puddles Wellies with Country Kids

Muddy Puddles Giveaway with Coombe Mill Country Kids November 15 


I am delighted to announce that Muddy Puddles have joined with Coombe Mill to sponsor the Country Kids link up. My favourites each week will be considered for a pair of Muddy Puddles Wellies at the end of the month; the perfect way to enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather throws your way.  If you are not already familiar with this wonderful outdoor children's range please do take a look at their website where they have everything needed for year round country kids. The wellies we offer may change each month but are always high quality, comfy and stylish so keep an eye out here on Country Kids to see which designs are up each month. For more more information on the Muddy Puddles wellies on offer with us and terms and conditions to win see here   


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall



Create your own reusable Advent Calendar

November 23, 2015 at 10:00 PMCoombeMill


We all know how exciting Christmas is for children, the countdown, the excitement and the endless "how many more sleeps" questions. An advent calendar is a great way for little ones to visualise the Christmas countdown and manage their excitement. Combine this with a creative way to express themselves and space for a treat and you have Eat Sleep Doddle's gorgeous Advent calendar bunting.

Eat Sleep Doodle Advent Calendar

The 2.7m long bunting had the required 25 mini stockings to ensure your Christmas countdown is complete. The pack can be bought at Prezzybox for £18.95 and includes a set of washout fabric pens.The days are numbered on each stocking leaving the rest a blank canvas for you and your family to design your own Christmas pictures.


What's in the box


The fabric pens work really well although you have to be careful not to press too hard as they can run further than you intend. I'd suggest having a little practice try on a spare scrap of fabric first to get a feel for them.  I left our bunting out on the kitchen table having started the first few to see if my children would take to it after school. Sure enough school bags were dropped and pens were soon in hand. It is a lovely way to spend an hour together, and a whole 25 days to admire your handiwork!  


Kids Drawing on the Stockings


I filled ours with a mix of healthy fruit bars and fun mini Haribo packs, both of which fitted perfectly, but any single size chocolate bar or sweet packet would work.


Colour and fill yourself


If you are not keen on filling with sweets, try some festive sprigs from the garden or even a secret message, or even a new small toy each day, the options are endless.


foliage advent calendar decoration

I plan to take ours into our Ping Pong tent for the festive season and perhaps add to it in our Christmas craft hour with some homemade festive bunting and other decorations ready for our Christmas Eve celebrations.

The bunting itself is all washable fabric so at the end of the season you can wash and put away your calendar ready to start all over again next year. A great way to recreate the magic year after year and extra pen sets can be purchased if needed.

Win your Eat Sleep Doodle Advent calendar Bunting

Your chance to win with Prezzybox and Coombe Mill just follow the instructions below.

Good luck to all taking part and remember you can buy these creative stocking calendars from the Prezzybox website.

Eat Sleep Doodle Advent Calendar


I was sent my advent stocking bunting for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.  


How to Make a Fairy or Elf Christmas Post Box

November 22, 2015 at 8:00 PMCoombeMill


Imagination and Christmas go together, with elves, Father Christmas, reindeer and fairies all featuring dancing in our children's mind creating a festive build up of excitement alongside the traditional Christmas story.  Have you ever stopped to think who writes a Christmas list for the fairies? Here at Coombe Mill we have a Christmas Post box in our reception for any worried little ones concerned that Santa may not know where they are staying, however our Fairy Garden is full of fairies also wanting to post their messages.  Now they can with our easy to make toilet roll post boxes at perfect fairy size! A fun craft for fairies living inside or outside your home.

Fairy & Elf Post Box

What you will need

  • A toilet roll
  • Red, black and White Paint
  • Black ink pen
  • Scissors
  • Cereal box or other card
  • Stapler
  • PVA Glue

What You'll Need Postboxes


  1. Cut into the top of the toilet roll about 1 cm deep

  2. Fold out each tab at the top of the toilet roll

  3. Draw a circle on a piece of cardboard the size of the splayed top and cut it out.

  4. Staple the circle of cardboard to the splayed top.

  5. Draw a long thin rectangle about 1 cm from the top to make a letter box.

  6. Cut the rectangle out, trying to keep it as neat as possible.

  7. Paint your toilet roll red all over, making sure you paint the underside of the top where it folds out and leave to dry.

  8. Paint a black line around the base of the toilet roll.

  9. Paint a white square under the rectangular cut out and leave to dry.

  10. Write your special Christmas message in the white box.

  11. Paint over the entire post box with P.V.A glue, being careful over the writing so that it doesn't run. this will help make it water resistant for outdoors. 


Post Box Step by Step

  1. Cut out rectangles of cardboard making sure they're the right size to fit through the post box hole.

  2. Write your special Christmas messages. 

  3. Post it through the letter box for the fairies and elves to read. 


Fairy Post Step by Step


A few additions you could try

  1. Pop cotton wool on top to look like snow 

  2. Add some festive paint or sticker decorations

  3. Make some Pipe cleaner Fairy Folk to go with your post box.

  4. Put it next to a dolls house, fairies like to gather in here!

  5. Pop a battery tea light inside and use as a Christmas ornament

  6. Hide a few in the garden or house and make a Christmas Trail


On my first day of Christmas shopping in Plymouth and I spotted this one in the shopping centre, complete with snow effect and extra decoration ideas. 


Christmas Post Box in the snow


How to make a Christmas Post Box Vlog Tutorial






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Coombe Mill

"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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