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.
What do you do to entertain an eager group of children age 3 to 12 on a soggy Friday afternoon? I had struggled all week to come up with something and knew the forecast was at best mixed. I dug back in my mind for inspiration from birthday parties with my own children here on the farm over the years and decided the three things that were always most popular were water fights, DIY piñata making and treasure hunts. I ruled out the water fight with the different age ranges and thought on the other two. Finally I decided on the Piñata but with a twist, instead of using recycled materials as we had in the past, we would use nature. It all fell into place in my mind as I created an example nature piñata to show the children.
Setting the nature piñatas challenge
I split the group into two teams with a mix of ages, girls and boys. Each were given a sealed box with sweets inside and a long piece of string out of one end, a pair of scissors and a length of wool. I showed them the example nature piñata I had made and challenged them to go between the rain showers in search of nature to do the same or better. As an extra incentive to make them try their hardest to make them secure I told them they would swap piñatas at the end and have to try and crack open the other team’s work.
Collaboration and team work
It took a little while for the teams to begin to work effectively, but with a few tips and pointers they began to organise themselves. Some ran off gathering resources while others considered how best to secure them with the limited resources available. The more they worked together and listened to one another the better the progress. It became quite frantic and competitive as each watched the other team and I began to count down the time to stop building.
I hung the finished nature piñatas up from the games room veranda.
Then the children had to think how they were going to knock them down. A stick was the obvious nature choice and they dashed off in search of the biggest they could manage. Just to spice it up again I made them give their chosen stick to the opposite team to use, though we swapped half way to ensure no one had an unfair advantage.
Ready to play
Excitement was bubbling by this point but the children all lined up for the agreed 3 whacks each before moving to the back of the queue. This rule was essential so that no one was excitedly standing in whacking range!
The nature surrounding the boxes held fast for a good few minutes before the boxes were finally reached and hacked and the sweets came thumbing out. With a little reminder to share with their team mates the team leaders ensured everyone in the team had their share of sweets.
It turned into one of my most fun activity sessions and in the excitement of it all no one cared about the showers, though having the veranda to build under was certainly a help.
Recreate Nature Piñatas at Home
This would be a fun activity to recreate with a group of children for a play date or birthday party.
What you’ll Need
Nature collected from a walk keeping flexibility in mind to wrap.
A measured length of string at least a meter long
A box with wrapped sweets inside and a good length of string secured around it.
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.
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.
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.
While the biscuits cooked, we put the rest of the blackberries through my old fashioned hand held cheese grater to create blackberry ink.
Sticky fingers were washed and the children ran off to find sticks they could turn into pencils in the fairy gardens.
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.
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.
The only thing left to do was to sit back and sample our 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)
Cooking health and safety and lessons
The opportunity to explore writing through the ages
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
The rock stack photo I originally planned
Creating illusion and exploring perspective as Jed threatened to photo bomb my rock stack photo.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally there was a break in the rain and everyone dashed off in search of colourful memories of Coombe Mill to decorate their boards.
We used double sided tape for the children to fix their nature into position and felt tip pens for any writing.
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
String, tape and hole punch
Cardboard (we used cut up cereal boxes)
Colourful ribbon (optional)
The opportunity to discover nature in any one season
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.
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares life on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Emma and our 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.