Family farm holidays in Cornwall magical for children, toddlers and babies.
Coombe Mill Blog
"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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It has become a bit of a tradition to hold a grand nature raft race at Coombe Mill on the first week of August. There are always a few scared faces when I suggest what we will be doing for activity hour, however when parents are reassured that the children won’t actually be riding on their homemade rafts parental concerns disperse and everyone looks forward to the event.
Creating and Making Nature Rafts
This has to be one of the most eco friendly activities there is. The rules are very simple, everything that goes into building the raft must be found on the farm and belong in nature, so no finding a piece of bailer twine dropped by Farmer Nick to tie things up! Family groups soon formed on the grass with some puzzling over designs while others rushed off to find potential materials. This is one where I can sit back and watch the creativity come together. I am always impressed by the standards of the rafts, creativity used and team work among the groups.
When everyone had finished I managed to grab a group photo with everyone’s rafts before they were set free in the river.
Nature Raft Race Route
We have two bridges at Coombe Mill which make a perfect start and finish line for our races. However the drop from the starting bridge is quite steep and the first hurdle for our nature rafts. Everyone lined up and with no cheating released their rafts on cue.
The biggest problem this year has been the slow speed of the river thanks to the unusually dry summer. It took 15 minutes with a little helping hand from Guy and a couple of parents wading through the water for the rafts to make it to the finishing bridge. As always there is much running, cheering and searching from the children along the river bank as they all hope theirs will be the winning raft. Finally the first rafts came into view and crossed the line to a waiting audience.
Everyone had put so much effort into their rafts I had some certificates on hand covering much more than just the winning raft so everyone was rewarded for something.
Even Guy and Clio hung around for a little river fun after the race ended pulling floating branches from the river.
Despite the slow running river the nature raft race remains one of the most popular activities here. It is not dissimilar to Pooh sticks, just on a giant scale, and that has been going strong for generations!
Usually my blog posts are restricted to activities on the farm and our personal news kept to a minimum. This wasn’t always the case, but since the teenage years have crept up on us, sharing our kids’ antics has dwindled as a natural course of events. However some things are meant for sharing and this past fortnight certainly qualifies. Felix has been hanging on all summer for his A Level Grades and Theo his GCSE grades. The exam results for both are now out and I am thrilled for them both.
A level exam results for Felix
Felix needed ABB to study Marketing Management with Psychology at Sussex University. He did just that and we have spent a busy week sorting student accommodation and finance ready for his big move out of Cornwall on 15th September. University life on campus is going to feel so different to family life at Coombe Mill but he is really looking forward to it and Nick and I are thrilled for him. He is a very capable lad both socially and academically and I hope he will do himself proud in University life.
Felix has been busy working with a local building company all summer to put some beer study money aside but still managing to join us on a few family outings.
Felix looking the part ready for life at Uni
GCSE exam Results for Theo
Theo is very different to Felix. He is sharp and witty but was diagnosed as dyslectic at primary school and always struggled with academic written work accordingly. Despite his dyslexia he didn’t qualify for any extra time in exams. We were left hoping he had ‘a good day’ when he needed it and would pull the 4 grade 4’s (old GCSE level C) including English and Maths to take the Creative Media level 3 Diploma that he wants to peruse at Collage. This week we headed to school to discover he passed 6 GCSE’s including the both English subjects and Maths and is all set to start on 6th September. We are now trying to sort bus passes and bus stops to tie in with our triplets school travel. Of course they are in opposite directions! Our mornings will be as hectic as ever ahead of the 9am Tractor Feed Run here at Coombe Mill.
Theo has had a busy summer undertaking the National Citizen Service which occupied 4 weeks of his summer holidays. That said he has a wonderful time, gains an extra qualification and a great life experience. At just £40, including 2 weeks away from home, it is a bargain and he would totally recommend it to any teen offered the chance to participate.
Theo helping out on a little veranda demolition project on a disused building.
We are thrilled both our boys are moving on to do the things they wanted.
If you have children receiving exam results this past couple of weeks, I hope they have what they need to carry them through to the next step in life. If it is all years away for you, watch out, it creeps up faster than you might imagine!
We had watched our lovely alpaca Caramel be sheared at the start of the week. This is a once a year event and a bonus for our holiday guests if it falls on their stay. Colin our shearer has come to expect an audience at Coombe Mill and now talks everyone through what will happen and encourages the kids to come forward and watch. We finish with 2 big bags of alpaca fleece for Kay our local crafter. However I like to hold a little back for activity hour here. By the end of the week the kids had almost forgotten alpaca shearing at the start. But it soon came flooding back as I introduced our alpaca craft for the afternoon with the real fleece.
Alpaca craft formed in stages
I had a full house with 15 signed up to join us in making little alpaca. That left me with a few hours to work out how best to make them. I finished up with two designs split by age, a simple flat design for the under 3’s and a 3D Alpaca for the 3 and over. The first job was to search the fairy gardens for sticks to make legs.
These were poked into a toilet roll, a peg added for a neck and an egg box section tied on for the head.
The children were inpatient to move to the next step of sticking on the fleece but it took a while with so many to get everyone’s alpaca constructed. Finally we were ready and moved over to the grass where one by one I sprayed each with glue and the children stuck on the wool to transform their model into an alpaca.
An interactive alpaca quiz
When everyone had completed their alpaca we set them on one side to let the glue dry and the children gathered on the grass for a little fun quiz. I had researched some fun facts and made up some rubbish ones, the kids had to jump left or right depending on which answer they thought was correct. It was a great way to get a little learning in and I’ll use this idea again. We explored alpaca history, habitat and sociology finishing with what they like to eat.
Creating alpaca homes
Armed with their new knowledge the kids were ready to make a home for their alpaca with all their favourite things to eat.
The children were deservedly proud of their finished alpaca in their homes, though I felt sorry for the parents trying to pack them safely into card to go home the next day!
Elmer the Elephant Alpaca
With creative minds still running I left the children colouring alpaca that reminded me of Elmer the Elephant!
I think I may have created the most knowledgeable 2 – 8 year olds on alpaca in the country! The best part was that they loved every minute and never knew they were learning at all.
If you have a child with so much as a passing interest in history, culture or art they will love the adorable new title from the Frances Lincoln range of Quarto Kids books: Treasure Hunt House. Think the best of the National Trust and English Heritage properties all bound up in one fantasy book with real history and learning woven inside. Read on to discover more and for your chance to win a copy.
About Treasure Hunt House
As the title suggests the reader is taken on a huge treasure hunt room by room in Great Aunt Martha’s magnificent house. Follow the children as they try to solve the clues. Lift the flaps on all the interesting furniture in the rooms to reveal their purpose and find the one that solves the clue for that room. From the contents of the kitchen fridge and how food was kept before they were invented to the history of toys in the playroom, the reader is kept engaged on every page.
We loved the book and can see it being a great read ahead of a visit to one of the country’s great stately homes or to inspire creating your own house treasure hunt or grand house from a Cardboard Box.
So this week it feels as though the heat wave is over and England is back to standard summer weather. Here on the farm we have had the usual mix of sun, showers and comfortable temperatures for being out and about. For our guests, there is plenty to do both indoors and out and the farm run resumes a leisurely pace as we no longer try to beat the rising temperature of the day. The animals are up and about and happy to greet us instead of lolling around in the shade and it is back to wellies for the guests with flip flops reserved for the beach. The grass has responded and begun to grow once again, a relief for feeding the animals, though a hay shortage in making is concerning.
Hay shortage implications for Coombe Mill
The heat wave meant the grass stopped growing and left the farmers unable to make hay. While it is now growing again, it is doubtful there will be enough to cut, dry and bale for the animals this winter. So far we haven’t found anyone in Cornwall in a position to sell locally produced hay. Farmer Nick is getting creative on our 30 acres moving animals around the fields with our little helpers and contemplating silage as a backup for some. Thankfully we should have enough land to see us through to spring with careful grazing, but I fear not every farm will find it so easy with the hay shortage. Just as well the animals themselves are content to just live day to day in the safe knowledge extra food will arrive each morning with the sound of the tractor.
Morning Tractor ride to feed the animals
4 new fawns this summer will add to the hay shortage dilemma.
The goats are very happy with their maize breakfast supplements
The ponies will always beg for carrots however much grass and hay they have.
Listening to Farmer Nick on how to help move the sheep to the next field.
On the plus side our holiday bookings for 2019 are looking encouraging on the back of the heat wave this summer and all the animals are currently looking in excellent condition.
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares life on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. Step into our beautiful 30 acres and experience nature close up with farming and educational crafts in stunning North Cornwall. Family, fun and adventure start here.