Here at Coombe Mill we never let the grass grow under our feet. 70% of our holiday business is from repeat bookings, and every year those returning remark in wonder at the changes Nick and I have made. Managing that change is a delicate process. There is an “essence of Coombe Mill” which we strive to maintain. This is along the lines of
Freedom for children within a safe environment.
Preservation of the natural features and beauty of Coombe Mill
A sense of peace and tranquillity from the moment you arrive.
However in order to maintain this “feel” we actually need to inject change to move with the times and add more of the features that make a family holiday here extra special. This includes updating and replacing and rebuilding of properties, new and more exciting play areas and equipment and maintaining and developing the whole farm experience for our holiday guests. Last year the big changes were the introduction of the Coombe Mill Railway and the Coombe Mill Gym. This year we are focussing on a new luxury cottage to sleep ten and some changes on the farm.
I gather my ideas from suggestions of those staying here and from all over the internet including my Country Kids linky here on the blog. Reading the many posts of children having family fun outdoors each week is the perfect place for me to form new plans for Coombe Mill. I have a Pinterest board for Aspirations for Coombe Mill and it is growing all the time. Sadly the funds and time restrict us from doing everything and so prioritising becomes essential. Putting aside the new build for now, I thought I would share my ideas outside for the farm this year. Watch out Farmer Nick you could be busy!
A Plan of our farm
Our daily tractor rides are just about to become a whole load more exciting. Nick has worked tirelessly for the past month creating a new and exciting path around the top lake as shown by the dotted line from the car park above. We have had plenty of boys toys on site and the older children have been helping too.
The route until now would run from the car park and stop short of the lake returning home the same way after feeding the animals. The new circuit begins this week taking in all the beauty of the lake, the river Camel and surrounding meadows and woodland and gives me a whole new possibility to implement some of my budding ideas.
Testing the new tractor route; it will be blooming by spring.
I have seen many magical Country Kids posts covering nature trails, Gruffalo walks, fairy hunts and geocaching and I would love to bring in a taste of this on the farm. In the woodland section I see a gnome and fairy den with little delights just waiting to be found and some gathered woodland food such as acorns mixed with edible glitter for the children to scatter.
Following the new tractor journey along the wooded pathway and around the lakes and along the stream I would like wildlife information boards. I believe I can create these from painted wood cut by Nick to keep the cost down and make them specific and educational to the Coombe Mill habitat; added interest for the children as they travel or later in the day to return with parents on foot.
Across on the front lawn by the train and the play boat and trampoline becomes very crowded as people congregate and play before and after the afternoon rides. Something else for the very young to enjoy and to build confidence ahead of the train rides would be the introduction of these lovely toddler roller coaster rides. I think two would look perfect and be in constant use. I can see races being set up and if they don’t watch out they will miss the train! They look safe and easy for little ones to manage which is always a prerequisite for me.
Inside our ride on play area we have a lovely play house which Nick built. However to me it still lacks the finishing touches. I would love it give it a paint and make it look like a real little fun cottage and inside replace the void space with a play kitchen and table and chairs for the children. Here they can ride outside playing the farmer and then go indoors for their lunch. A great way to spark imaginary play while the parents chill out on the chairs and watch knowing the whole area is safely fenced in.
The Play area Now
Ride on Play Area with Cottage make over
30 acres is a long way to travel if you have little ones. While an all terrain buggy is ideal, and we have back carriers free to borrow in our reception, how about the introduction of one of these choo choo trains to help little ones zoom around the farm? A Coombe Mill car sticker on the front and back and this would make an investment to be enjoyed by many.
The Fun way to Travel around the farm
I would dearly love to add these additional features to the farm over the coming season however time and money are always key.
My Financial targets to a £750 budget:
Choo choo £139.99
Toddler Train £129.99 *2 = £259.98
Play Kitchen £99.99
Play Table and Chairs £49.99
Wood and paint for the nature trail £50
New plants round the lake, fairies and gnomes for the fairy garden £150
Edible Glitter for the fairy garden food mix & brown bags to carry £20.00
Mine and Nicks skill and labour £10 per hour £3000 made with love for Coombe Mill.
This blog post is an entry into the Tots100/Activity Toys Direct garden makeover competition
After watching a lovely hangout from Maggie Woodley on Google plus I felt inspired to do something with autumn leaves. They are falling so fast here in our wooded valley it is easy to catch them as they twirl from above. Clearing the pathways is becoming a full time job in itself and a thankless task when the wind is fierce enough to blow down branches blocking the lane as happened to us this week.
It did however give me an idea. We have lost, broken or misplaced all our kites over the years so I thought it would be fun to try and create some of our own. The kids are always up for an experiment especially if it means some quality time with me and an excuse to run around outside.
We scoured the farm for straight lightweight sticks
Then selected our favourite two sticks and made a cross using the end of a ball of string. The children opted for the lightest dried reed sticks to give their kite more chance of flying.
Next I cut a plastic bag to just larger than our cross sticks and the children taped them round the sticks to hold them securely in place.
Then we searched for large decorative leaves pooling on the car park floor and stuck these round the edge for effect.
A wool tail gave the counter balance our kite needed with leaves threaded through it for effect and weight. All that was left was to try it out:
And so the fun began
I can’t pretend it was effective as the shop bought ones, but it was fun to make and kept the children running round the farm till it finally broke. It was certainly a good use of a blustery and showery day.
Country Kids is simply about getting outdoors and having fun in the fresh air. It is great for kids and good for us parents too. If you are feeling uninspired by the wet autumn weather, do take a look at some of the other posts linked up here. Every week I am amazed by the imagination and enjoyment from simple ideas to exciting days out. Grab those wellies and go have some fun. Then come back here and share, together we can inspire one another through the winter weeks to come. Grab the badge, link up and check out the other posts here.
A few of my favourites from last week:
Fun as a Gran because I know how special one on one time is with children
Peakle Pie for a wonderful story full of magic and imagination behind this country walk
Fab Forty Mum for reminding me how much fun we can have clearing up the autumn leaves, and we have a lot to clear!
Diary of the Evans Crittens for packing so much country fun into a birthday treat.
For our handsome lead buck deer this means a surge in testosterone to the point where all he will focus on for the next three weeks are his lovely lady does. Serving and protecting them becomes an instinct above all other, including eating! Right now he is at his strongest and most handsome after a long lazy summer in our lush fields. But in a few weeks time he will look exhausted, thin and like any of us after too much partying and not enough sleep!
Already he is holding his head high and gathering the deer around him, when we enter the field he is more on guard than ever before and his penis has turned dark at the end. All this puts us on alert.
Early in the year when he arrived at our farm he was barely beyond a pricket. This is the name for a buck in his second year of life with just the beginnings of antlers appearing. However we hoped he would mature over the summer and be just the right age for his first rut by the autumn so we are delighted to see all the signs are there.
Arriving last winter after the 2012 Rut
Generally on the morning feed run we encourage a tour of the deer field to flush out the deer hiding in the trees and bracken and are more than happy for responsible visits into the field at any other time of day. There is after all a public footpath across the field. However just for the next three weeks we need to ensure our guests and the general public are extra careful. It is still fine to enter the field but for our guests we now say only on the morning feed run and with Farmer Nick who can keep everyone together to ensure the deer do not feel threatened or surrounded in any way.
Deer are by nature shy and will run away, but if the stag feels scared in to attack he is a heavy beast and can do some serious damage with his antlers. This message is particularly important as the rutting season coincides with the half term school holidays where we have many older school age children on the farm who are allowed to explore and play around Coombe Mill without their parents. The morning tractor ride pep talk will have important reminders to all about the deer at this time. As a further reminder the children helped me make signs at either end of the field where the foot path crosses to alert any walkers to take extra care at this time.
The stag will feed up again over the winter months helped by a cornflake mix from us each morning with our visiting guests and plenty of hay in their feeders. This is necessary as the lush summer vegetation dies back and the cold of winter stilts the natural growth such that there is just not enough to sustain the herd.
As spring returns so will the green shoots and bracken and hopefully we will be rewarded with fawns. The mothers have very few defence methods for their young. They rarely look pregnant or in labour, give birth in a camouflage hiding place and leave their young there alone, returning twice a day only to feed them. The young instinctively know to lie very still and not move even if someone or something comes very close relying on their camouflage to keep them safe. Only when they feel the game is really up will they run. This is how I manage the beautiful close up shots.
Their other defence, which is very clever to us humans, is the ability to delay their birth. If the conditions are not correct they will carry the babies inside for longer. This year the spring growth was weeks behind after the long dry but cold burst from February to May and we were worried we were not going to have any fawns from our old stag, however as soon as the weather warmed and the bracken shot up so out popped 3 lovely fawns all within a week of one another.
Last week I wrote about planning ahead for the sheep and the goats and this week the deer. Our farm calendar is building nicely so of you are considering a family holiday with us in 2014 there should be plenty of scope to choose a time with lots happening here on the farm to delight all the family.
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