My Shirley Valentine Beach Moment in Cornwall

Posted on August 11th, 2018 -

The heat wave continued in Cornwall last week. When I say heat wave, we haven’t experienced the mid 30s of the South East, rather a very pleasant mid 20s  and perfect for being out and about and enjoying the sunshine. I have been promising the kids a beach visit for weeks and just found work and life has pushed it endlessly to “tomorrow”. Finally, fed up of not managing to go I agreed on an early supper and an evening visit to an old favourite of ours, The Secret Beach. Unlike Polzeath, our usual go to beach, The Secret Beach is secluded and almost deserted even in midsummer. This is probably because it is only accessible by a coast path hike and a scramble down steep cliff steps. It is actually our closest beach being just 15 minutes drive from Coombe Mill. We really should visit more, but it’s biggest drawback of this lovely Beach is that it is only accessible for around 4 hours surrounding low tide. That was perfect timing for a mild summer evening visit and so my Shirley Valentine moment transpired.  

As well as taking the kids, we scooped up my good friend too who came armed with a bottle of wine. It was one of those perfect evenings that turned into a special night we will all remember.  I’m going to share more of the evening in a separate post as I took so many photos of our 3 hours there before the incoming tide finally forced our retreat. But for today, I just wanted to share a couple of moments I remember fondly as I sipped wine in the most beautiful setting in between laughing with family and friends. Full credit to Felix who offered to drive home as I sank into my second glass of wine. Grown up kids really do come with added benefits!   

Our beautiful secluded local beach.

Evening on the secret beach


My Shirley Valentine Moment on the beach in Cornwall.

Wine on the Beach among the mussels

A memorable evening.

Shirley Valentine Moment on the Beach with Wine


Retreating as the tide encroaches.

pink reflection in the sea


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Studying Caterpillars and Butterflies for The Big Butterfly Count

Posted on August 10th, 2018 -

In mid July when the buddleias are at their peak, the butterflies flock around the farm. We have the most beautiful bush up behind our Pencarrow lodge with a perfume so sweet and distinctive. An unappreciative Farmer Nick was about to chop it down as it isn’t so easy to mow around, but I was up in arms as the butterflies adore it and I had plans for our activity hour around the scented bush. Thankfully I won, the bush remained and we had a beautiful afternoon butterfly hunting there for the Big Butterfly Count.


Studying Caterpillars and Butterflies as part of the Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly Watch for The Big butterfly Count 

We talked about how shy butterflies can be and the need to creep up to the bushes to spot the different varieties. We had been on stealth patrol earlier in the day and taken photos of all the different butterfly types landing on the Buddleia and surrounding ground. These were complied in a table with labels for the children to tick off when they saw them. The children did a great job on all but being very quiet and managed to spot them all. I was slightly concerned about the lack of Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral this year, though there were lots of Silver-washed Argynnis Paphia which I’d not seen in the past and the Common Blue and Small White are reappearing in numbers again.


Big Butterfly Count at Coombe Mill

Creative Caterpillars

Butterflies spotted, the children were keen to see what crafts I had planned for them. I wanted to vary things from our butterfly studies in previous years and came up with something quite original. We began by making caterpillars from card circles and pine cones joined with paper clips and wool.


Making caterpillars


The really fun part was painting them. I’d brought out the spray paints to let everyone make their caterpillars unique with splatter colour.


Spray painting DIY home made caterpillars

Butterflies on boards

While the caterpillars dried in the afternoon sun we turned our attention to butterfly boards. My big bag of material scraps was used to create colourful butterflies. Simple rounds or rectangles were pinched in the middle and stapled onto cardboard. A felt pen completed the butterfly bodies and antenna. The results were quick and impressive which was perfect for the time we had.

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It was a lovely way to look at butterfly varieties, talk about their lifespan, habitat and create our own crafty butterfly varieties.  If you fancy joining in The Big Butterfly Count it is running till 20th August and there are some great downloadable identification sheets. I wish I’d checked this out before making my own!   

The Big Butterfly Count and Crafts:

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Paddington Sightseeing Adventures Board Game  

Posted on August 6th, 2018 -

The marmalade eating bear that has captured the nation’s heart is now available as a wonderful family board game from University Games. Paddington sightseeing Adventures see’s our friendly bear take to the streets of London for a grand tour of all the key attractions. It is a wonderful way to get to know our capital city ahead of a family visit and a great way to enjoy some screen free family time over the holidays. Read on to discover how to play and for a chance to win Paddington sightseeing adventures, the board game, for your family to enjoy.  

Paddington Sightseeing Adventures Board Game

The Object of the Game

To be the first Paddington Bear to reach 32 Windsor Gardens, having collected at least 4 selfies from 4 different London attractions along the way. Watch out as things don’t always go according to plan with Paddington, and who knows what might be in the Marmalade mystery cards!


Paddington Sightseeing Adventures Ready to Play

What we liked

The game is fun for all the family and takes a modern look at life with the scrapbook collection of selfies. There are enough twists and challenges to keep things interesting especially with the marmalade cards: we had some laughs over having to “growl like a bear” and “give your best Paddington Stare”.  Take a sneak peak at our game in action in the video below:


Need to Know

RSP £21.99
suitable for  Age 6 upwards
Players Needed 2 – 4

Contents 24 Marmalade mystery cards.

24 Selfie picture cards.

6 London attraction pieces.

4 Paddington Bear playing pieces.

4 My Scrap books.

1 Playing board.

1 Die.

1 rules sheet.

Produced by  University Games
Stockists Amazon, Argos, John Lewis



Win your Paddington Sightseeing Adventures Board Game with Coombe Mill and University Games

For a chance to win this fun family game simply follow the instructions below. Good luck to all taking part.

Paddington Sightseeing Adventures Board Game Giveaway


We were sent our game for the purpose of this review; it can be borrowed by Coombe Mill guests from our holiday games room. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Caramel the alpaca loses his winter coat

Posted on August 4th, 2018 -

Caramel is our only remaining alpaca. Once we had Coffee, Toffee and Caramel, but today just Caramel remains. Alpaca are herd animals and poor Caramel is very lonely having recently lost Toffee through old age. Currently we are on the search for some new playmates for him and following up a couple of local leads.  Alpaca owners are proving to be very passionate about their animals and not keen to part with any, but listening to Caramel calling for his mates in the field is heartbreaking so our search will continue.  In the meantime he is making friends with the sheep who are turning into a fair substitute. Perhaps it is the common ground of losing their winter fleece that bonds them.  

Our shearer comes each year but we have to wait our turn as he covers the whole of the south of England and northern Europe. Thankfully the dry weather in the lead up to his arrival meant Caramel’s fleece was beautifully dry and ideal for shearing. To us Caramel can be shy and standoffish; however to Colin the shearer he is as good as gold. Colin walked straight up to him and brought him into the barn where we had a group of eager guests waiting to see the expert at work.

Colin is used to being watched at Coombe Mill and takes time to explain to the children what will happen and how he is going to tie Caramel down. By explaining that this is for the safely of Caramel and us and doesn’t hurt him everyone is more relaxed.

The process is so nimble and quick it is a delight to watch and in no time the children are stroking Caramel and touching his shawn fleece. Meanwhile Caramel has his teeth and toes filed wormer and fly protection administered before happily strolling out in the field with his friends the sheep.  

As for the 2 bin bags of fleece, we give them to local crafter Kay. She made wonderful shoulder bags with our Jacob sheep fleece, I wait to see what comes back from the soft alpaca fleece of Caramel.   

Caramel the Alpaca with full winter coat.

Caramel the Alpaca with winter coat


Colin the shearer explaining how the shearing will happen.

Alpaca shearing explanation


Children watching Caramel the Alpaca being sheared.

Shearing Caramel the Alpaca


Helping bag up the Fleece. 

Kids feeling alpaca fleece

Caramel the alpaca back in the field with his friends the sheep.

Caramel Alpaca and Sheep

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Campfire and bark rafts down the welly walk.

Posted on August 3rd, 2018 -

So what to do with a group of preschoolers at the end of a week on holiday in the heat wave? The group was boy heavy and I knew crafts in the sun weren’t going to excite them. They needed to be active and somewhere cool. I knew just the place where we could light a campfire, make and sail bark rafts and be at one with nature. 


Campfire and bark rafts down the welly walk.


I prepared a back pack with everything we would need and we headed off to the farm to follow the Welly Walk Trail.


Welly Walk adventure

Bark Rafts

A walk is always more fun with a little challenge. In this case the children were looking out for a tree with loose bark, a twig and a large leaf to make little sailing rafts. I have to say credit for the idea goes to an Instagram photo from Louise George.


Welly walk collecting bark and spotting frogs


The children hung onto their raft pieces as they came through the bamboo tunnel out into the open clearing at the end of the welly walk.


Bamboo Tunnel on Welly Walk


Here we assembled our rafts and floated them in the stream under the shade of the trees. It is such a beautiful cool place to be on a hot day.


Sailing Bark rafts at Coombe Mill

Many faces of an old oak tree

Next we made nature faces on the tree with pieces of air dry clay as the base. Sticks, moss, acorn shells and leaves gave the faces their unique features.


tree faces


The children settled to a little colouring of our lovely picnic blanket and bag while we lit the campfire. I must say in all the time I’ve been making campfires this was by far the easiest thanks to the long dry spell we had been enjoying.


Campfire and colouring


The sight of the marshmallow packet soon had pens being dropped and children crowding round.  There is nothing quite like a campfire to spark imagination. One little one told me as he left this was the highlight of his week!


All that marshmallow eating is thirsty work. Thankfully I had anticipated this and brought squash and cups along.


Drinks in the shade on the Coombe Mill Welly Walk

Catch those bubbles

Revived the children jumped up to chase bubbles.

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While the Grandparents sat and watched the stream


Grandparents watching the stream


There was even time for a little turn on the rope swing before heading back for the evening train ride.


rope swing on the Coombe Mill Welly Walk


It was a perfect way to spend a hot afternoon shaded from the heat of the sun on holiday. The cooling stream for a little paddle when needed was an added bonus.



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