Posted on September 7th, 2018 - Fiona
Our closest beach is just 15 minutes from Coombe Mill by car. It is one of my favourite beaches yet we hardly ever visit. The main reason is it is tidal and only accessible for a couple of hours either side of low tide. It is also a 10 minute hike down a steep cliff path once you park so no use at all with surf gear and too much kit. That said if you pack light, wear trainers and judge the tide right you are in for a treat. Our last visit to the secret beach was back in the drizzle of winter and we promised ourselves a return visit in the sun. One glorious summer’s evening we kept that promise.
A Stunning approach
The scenery is nothing short of spectacular as you approach. I can never resist a few photos as we head down the rocky steps.
A dip in the sea
The walk and cliff top scramble means we don’t bother with wetsuits. This usually means I don’t go in, however with the amazing summer we have had the sea was beautiful and even I swam, without being cold, at 8pm!
A sandy beach perfect for sport
The perfect way to warm up after a dip in the sea is to take advantage of the sandy beach space playing football and outdoing each other on acrobatics. Even I managed a few cartwheels and then regretted it as my hips grumbled!
Wine for the Mums
My friend who came with us had packed a bottle of wine, Felix agreed to drive home and so we found ourselves watching the sunset and over a glass or two while the teens explored in and out of the caves.
A driftwood campfire
We were all chilling down as the sun sank low and built ourselves a great campfire with the matches and firelighters I’d packed and driftwood from the beach.
We picked mussels straight from the rocks and cooked them on a makeshift hot stone oven we created on the campfire. Naturally seasoned by the salt of the sea they were totally delicious.
Marshmallows on sticks were the sweet treat to end.
Beaten by the tide
3 hours raced by in a flash, it was only the tide lapping at our feet and the darkness falling after the sun had set that finally prompted us to leave our toasty fire to the waves and head back up the steep cliff path to the car.
It was such a wonderful and spontaneous evening. We have managed a couple of visits since to the secret beach, taking advantage of the warm sea temperature before winter sets in.
So where is the Secret Beach.
It is a little cove just a mile around the coast path from Trebarwith Strand towards Polzeath called Tregardock. It is only signed when you are already there and on foot towards the beach, hence the secret bit. The lack of facilities and difficult access make it unsuitable for under 5’s and anyone not safe on their feet, however for an able bodied person it is a beach worth discovering.
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Posted on September 1st, 2018 - Fiona
Here at Coombe Mill we have the gentlest little pigmy goats. They really are a delight with many of them having been hand raised. Even our youngest guests can safely go into their field without being afraid. They are so full of character and keen to eat from your hand. This makes them one of our most popular stops on the morning tractor feed run. This week we have had a wonderful group of regular guests who meet up at the farm here each year. As they children grow up they are always on the lookout for a new challenge. This time they took it up on themselves to try goat carrying. I think it’s fair to say the goats turned out to be heavier than they expected. However they did really well learning how to hold them safely and even hanging onto them long enough for me to grab my phone and capture the moment.
Prince Charles our smallest and youngest goat.
Attempting to lift Queenie, Prince Charles’s Mother.
Sprout is a favourite with regular guests who’ve known her since she was a hand raised kid.
Making carrying Sprout look easy.
Goat carrying championship winner with carrying and feeding.
Having so many hand raised goats was never our intention, but goats can be such poor mothers it often ends up this way. On the plus side it makes them very loving and tolerant with the children who love to feed them, mother them and carry them if they can.
I wonder what this group will make as their challenge for next year.
Posted on August 31st, 2018 - Fiona
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!
Highlights from the 2018 Nature Raft Race
Posted on August 24th, 2018 - Fiona
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!
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.
Posted on August 17th, 2018 - Fiona
Activity hour fell on the most beautiful day and I had wondered it all the families staying might just have headed to the beach forgetting to come back and join me. I needn’t have worried; there was a steady gathering of little ones eager to discover pond life with me.
As everyone gathered I explained all the things we were going to do, beginning with a little frog explanation. Our farm path had been overrun with froglets that had fascinated the children, and so exploring the frog life cycle seemed a good starting point.
Next we had a look in our ‘where animals live’ book for photos of animals and creatures we might see around the pond.
With pond life identification sheets, fishing nets and magnifying glasses we headed over to the top lake on the farm. There is a little slipway there with easy access to the lake and the children cast their nets in to see what they could find.
I had a large tub prefiled with lake water at the ready and we added any catches to this from our nets. From the safety of the slipway the children could peer into the tub and study the pond life inside. We could see water boatmen and smaller creatures darting across the tub.
Damselflies were all around us with their vivid blue bodies hovering over the water and sunning themselves on leaves and rocks.
When everyone had tired of seeing the activity on the water we began to fill our collecting trays with nature around the lake. Only foxgloves were off limits as they are poisonous to eat and little ones have a habit of putting fingers in their mouths. These were the prettiest flowers around the pond but we found plenty more things to fill our tubs.
Back over the river I taped a giant piece of plain wallpaper to the path and asked the children to re create the lake and it’s surrounding using the paints and the nature they had collected. Even though the ages went from under 2 to 7 everyone joined in and creativity flowed.
I was so delighted with the finished result I tried for a team photo before hanging it in our games room.
It was certainly a creative way to explore pond life and a perfect introduction for the children.