Blackberry Biscuits and Stick Pencil Writing  

Posted on September 21st, 2018 -

Every year when blackberry season comes round I can’t resist a little baking fun with the kids here. However I have made our yummy blackberry muffins so many times I was keen to try something new. My other easy to make recipe is biscuits and I figured a few blackberries squished in would add a new dimension to a classic recipe.  To this we added a little fun pencil making and blackberry juice ink for some creative nature writing.

Blackberry Biscuits and Stick Pencil Writing  

Blackberry picking

Before any of the activities could start we needed to go blackberry picking. I knew all the best places that had escaped Farmer Nick’s careful pruning this summer and we headed off with collecting punnets.

Blackberry picking

We washed the blackberries. Next the children helped to shape the dough into rounds and place them on baking trays before pressing blackberries into the dough balls.

Making blackberry biscuits

Our mix made 2 large trays which went into the oven to cook.

Making blackberry buscuits

Blackberry Ink

While the biscuits cooked, we put the rest of the blackberries through my old fashioned hand held cheese grater to create blackberry ink.


Making blackberry juice

Stick pencils.

Sticky fingers were washed and the children ran off to find sticks they could turn into pencils in the fairy gardens.


collecting sticks in the fairy garden


Decorating pencils was great fun. We used coloured floristry ribbon and wool and then took them to Theo who whittled the ends with his penknife into a nib for writing. The smaller sticks fitted into a pencil sharpener which was even easier.


Whittling and decorating stick pencils

Blackberry writing on recipe cards

Then came the fun part; Everyone took a piece of card and stuck the biscuit recipe in the centre, before dipping the decorated pencil nibs in the blackberry ink to add writing and pictures. Some ribbon around the edge completed the cards and made a lovely keepsake and holder for the pencils.  


Blackberry ink recipe pictures


The only thing left to do was to sit back and sample our blackberry biscuits.   


Blackberry biscuits

Recreate Blackberry biscuits and stick pencil writing at home

This would be a fun and educational activity to recreate from a family blackberry picking walk.

What you’ll Need

Blackberries and a pencil shaped stick collected from a walk

Biscuit ingredients: Flour, butter, sugar

Something to squish the blackberries for ink (we used an old fashioned cheese grater)


Sharp knife or pencil sharpener for the stick.

Card to write on (we used a cereal box cut up)

Educational Benefits


Cooking health and safety and lessons


The opportunity to explore writing through the ages  

Suitable ForAge 4 – 12



The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle

Posted on September 17th, 2018 -

You have to love a good story with a real moral behind it. Lincoln Children’s Books, part of the quarto Group, have brought a real tear jerker to market with the Bear, the Piano, the dog and the Fiddle. Written by David Litchfield, this book is a follow up to his award winning book, the Bear and the Piano. If ever there was a case for true friendship lasting the test of time then this story is it. A dear story, a fun plot and a real test of friendship that children and parents will adore.  Read on to discover more and for your chance to win a copy.

The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle

Story Overview

Friendship is put to the test when the old fiddle player feels his moment to make it big time in music has passed him by in favour of a rather famous bear. However his little dog has a trick up his sleeve. The Fiddler is astounded at his little dog but also feels a pang of jealousy and doesn’t always do or say the right thing. However they are best of friends, and in the end friends look out for each other, even if years have passed in between.

Pages from The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle

What we thought.

We loved the storytelling with the special bond between the Fiddler and his dog. The story is backed with beautiful and numerous illustrations throughout to lead you through each scene and is the perfect length for a bedtime story with a happy ending and a morale tale.

Need to Know

Format Hardback, 40 Pages
Size:8.661 in x 11.811 in / 220 mm x 300 mm
PublishedSeptember 6, 2018 by Quarto Knows
Retail price£11.99
StockistsQuarto Online, Amazon, Wordery, Waterstones


Win your copy of The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle

For your chance to win this heart warming tale, simply follow the instructions below. Good luck to all taking part

The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle Book Giveaway


We were sent our copy of the book for the purpose of this review. Out copy can be found in the Coombe Mill games room library for our holiday guests to borrow. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

Creating Illusion and exploring perspective at the beach

Posted on September 15th, 2018 -

I can’t resist a little beach art when I have time on my hands at our local beach.  Simply stacking rocks and pebbles creates a fun photo and is a great balancing act. Initially I planned to just photograph the rock stack, before it became a shooting target for the kids. However an idea came to me as Jed was hovering in the distance. He is often the one who ends up photo bombing my pictures but this time he gave me a great idea. Perspective was something he had struggled with as a child and I really wish I’d thought to do this with him then. However this was my chance to demonstrate that mystifying concept of perspective again and create a clever illusion at the same time.  

It’s just an illusion

I explained what I was trying to achieve. He began by just reaching out with an arm. I showed him on playback and he chuckled at the illusion of him adding the last rock to the stack. Tickled by the effect he was game for trying a little more. We opted for climbing the stack. While the end result isn’t perfect, it gives the idea.

Jed adding the final touches to my Rock Stack

Jed finishing rock sculpture

The rock stack photo I originally planned

Creating Illusion and exploring perspective at the beach

Creating illusion and exploring perspective as Jed threatened to photo bomb my rock stack photo. 

Illusion of Jed climbing rock sculpture

This little bit of fun photography has inspired me to experiment further in the future with perspective and illusion. I have wound perspective into our activity hour sessions with the children staying here in the past and separately tried rock stacking in the river. I think I will revisit both again next year with a little photo illusion fun added too.

Have you ever tried creating illusion and exploring perspective with photography?   

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Creative Nature Boards in Stick Frames

Posted on September 14th, 2018 -

I had one of those sun and showers afternoons where everyone was on site and looking for something to entertain the children. Suddenly sign up for my Activity Hour soared, but I had predicted this and was ready with a great activity that would work from little ones to teens. Creative nature boards in stick frames gave enough scope for everyone to make them as detailed and bespoke as they chose. The idea was to collect the things that reminded them of the nature around them at Coombe Mill, strung together in DIY frames decorated in their own personal styles and colours.


Creative Nature Boards in Stick Frames


As we all gathered and I explained what we would be making the heavens opened. Undeterred we headed out in search of sticks to form our frames. The Fairy  Gardens was a popular hunting ground as the canopy of trees kept us sheltered from the rain and there were plenty of fallen branches ideal for what we needed.


collecting sticks in the fairy garden

Stick Picture Frames

Back under the veranda of the games room we began to form frames from our sticks overlapped in a criss-cross design and tied up with wool. The older ones could do these themselves while the little ones needed help.

stick frames for nature pictures


If help was needed forming the frames, it certainly didn’t extend to decorating them. From the very youngest there was a clear direction on colours and patterns for decorating the frames. It was a great way for everyone to add their own individuality to their frames.


Decorating stick picture frames

Nature Boards

The nature boards were cut from cereal boxes, with a whole punch on each side through which wool was thread and tied to the stick frames.


Creating Nature boards in frames


Finally there was a break in the rain and everyone dashed off in search of colourful memories of Coombe Mill to decorate their boards.


Collecting nature from the farm


We used double sided tape for the children to fix their nature into position and felt tip pens for any writing.


Nature Pictures in Nature Frames


I was thrilled with the results from all the children. It was a lovely use of a showery afternoon on the farm with some great keepsakes to take home.  


Recreate a Nature Board in Stick Frame at Home

This would be a lovely activity to recreate from a day out in the countryside at any time of year.

What you’ll Need

Nature collected from a walk

4 Sticks

String, tape and hole punch

Cardboard (we used cut up cereal boxes)

Colourful ribbon (optional)

Educational Benefits




The opportunity to discover nature in any one season

Suitable ForAge 4 – 10



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Piglets for September on the farm

Posted on September 8th, 2018 -

We are thrilled that after months of waiting, Sally our sow has finally had her piglets. For the past 3 weeks I have been telling our holiday makers that theirs will be the week it all happens. An eager group have peered into the pig pen each day in anticipation, only to go home having missed them. I was rather hoping they might be born before the end of the summer holidays when we were at our busiest, however nature had the last say and they arrived the morning of back to school. Not ideal timing as we grappled with 2 school runs and farm checks all ahead of the 9am tractor ride with the guests. However there is nothing quite like the prospect of piglets to make me jump out of bed and grab my camera at silly o’clock.

Giving birth alfresco

I was convinced on Tuesday afternoon that Sally was in fact in labour; however we have had so many false starts I didn’t want to get my hopes up. It has been a glorious warm September day and Sally was out in her garden, trampling down a good nest and panting away in the middle of it all.


Lapping up the September sun in early labour.

Sally the Pig in Labour

The night was clear and cold and as I woke to look at the starts shining in the early hours I wondered if Sally was still outside. By morning the answer was clear, she had indeed spent the night under the stars and given birth to 7 bouncing baby piglets that were now all squeaking and snuffling trying to bag themselves a nipple. I didn’t have long to stop and watch as the school runs were calling.


We have been returning to check up on Sally and her brood all week and I’m delighted to say they are growing before our eyes and looking healthy and well protected.


Sally allows us a little piglet cuddle while she eats her breakfast. 

Piglet cuddles


Piglets bring smiles all round.

Piglets on show


Piglets are curious by nature and off to explore whenever Mum isn’t watching! 

Piglets born 6th September 2018


If you fancy an autumn break we now have space and flexible dates. We’d love to see you here enjoying the farm and meeting Sally and her piglets.

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