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.
Here at Coombe Mill one of the favourite animals with all our guests is the rabbits. I have mentioned before the problems we have had this year with rabbits thanks to the local foxes and then disease and how disappointed our guests had been to see their numbers dwindle. Finally it all came good and we had beautifully bonny bunnies and healthy parents just in time for Easter.
All the children were delighted and were allowed to stroke and hold the rabbits on the daily feed run. We encourage the children to sit down or crouch low to hold them as when the bunnies wriggle the children are inclined to panic and let go! It does no harm if they are close to the ground and over straw but can kill them if they hit the concrete from a height.
I often run an activity hour session up at the rabbits where we go through rabbit husbandry, the only downside of this is that it falls at the end of the week just before the children leave so we do run through safe care of the rabbits on the first morning feed run too.
Once a rabbit feels safe and ready to breed there is no stopping them, hot on the heels of the first litter we had another by a different mother and both were competing for space in the hutch for their nest. The second Mum had mistakenly made her nest very close to the first, a parental squabble ensued and the new litter were all abandoned in days. I think it must be the same mother who fell pregnant again and keen not to repeat her mistake made her nest in the open section of the hutch well away from the growing bunnies. This was all acceptable in rabbit parenting but left them vulnerable to human fingers.
We ensured everyone was aware on the first feed run of the week that these babies must not be disturbed. However as we ran into changeover day in the Easter holidays and the older children arrived and began to roam unsupervised on their first afternoon there was trouble. I should have kept them all locked up for the day but it was such a beautiful sunny day it felt a shame not to let them out into their yard. One of our regular visitors ran up to me in reception quite concerned to say that someone was moving the babies from their mother. I was just showing in a group of newly arrived guests but Amber had just come back and followed the helpful young boy back to the rabbits straight away. It turns out the children had seen the mother sitting on the babies and in ignorance feared she was squashing them and moved her out the way and relocated the week old bunnies into an inaccessible hutch alone. In fact the mother was feeding her babies at the time. Amber quickly moved the babies back and tried to rebuild the nest as best she could; however having been disturbed and the scent of humans all over her babies it was unlikely she would take them back.
We explained to the children the implications of their actions and that we understood they were worried for the rabbits but that they should never interfere with nature. The message was reiterated on the feed run to all the children and parents the following morning and then it was just a waiting game. The children were as good as gold at not interfering for the rest of the week but the baby bunnies were left just as we had feared; their nest abandoned and unkempt. One by one they began to die until there were just 2 remaining. In desperation I tried syringe feeding them with some of Rocky the goat’s milk. They took this but I worried it would prolong a slow and painful death as there was no guarantee this contained the correct nutrient balance.
Every cloud has a silver lining
On day two of feeding them I noticed the Mother of the larger bunnies come in and sniff my returned baby all over, lick away the milk I had given and allow the baby to huddled back in with her offspring. It looked as if the older baby bunnies had accepted their abandoned baby friends and with their scents all combined so the mother had taken them all in as hers!
Nature is a funny old thing but it is always best left alone if you are unsure.
I hope we will have more baby bunnies throughout the spring and summer here on the farm, if you fancy a holiday with us and some careful bunny cuddles do check out our price and availability page.
Here on the farm we have enjoyed a wonderful Easter holidays full of children, fun and laughter, the weather has been mixed but we are always prepared and the fun carries on regardless.
Easter give such wonderful opportunities for crafting and games leaving us spoilt for choice at Activity Hour. After a reasonably dry week it poured with rain on Friday but we were prepared with Farmer Nick’s new tent. We covered the new ping pong table with dust sheets and pulled up the benches Farmer Nick and Felix had finished making just that morning laying out our crafts as everyone scurried in out of the rain and wind.
I had spent my evenings the previous week working out how to turn a previous week’s successful pig craft from a toilet roll into an Easter Bunny. Where there is a will there is a way and my bunny was formed together with Easter Bonnet where the bunny could hop down and rest in your pocket!
The idea really appealed to the children and we wasted no time in handing out paper plates to work on our bonnets. The older children worked on the spiral cutting & ribbon pinning while the younger children settled for colouring their bonnets whole.
With bonnets decorated we began to make our bunnies. The children were great at cutting and bending to form the ears while I helped with feet and stapling to their hats, the finished results were a triumph of up cycling!
After all that concentration we had a spot of fun with guess the real egg from the cracked egg in the tray with a chocolate mini egg for everyone selecting the whole egg.
Those with the cracked eggs who lost out on the mini eggs were invited to bring their cracked egg over to lead an egg and spoon race. It was harder than you might imagine keeping the lightweight egg shell on a spoon and race but even the youngest children showed great skill and everyone ended up with a chocolate egg reward.
Back in the tent we shared some of the website letter forming worksheets for the younger children and farm word search for the older children as created for us in partnership with twinkl educational resources. After a week on the farm all the children could easily place the lifecycle pictures for a hen in the correct order too.
It was a wonderful use of a rainy afternoon on the farm whilst still benefiting from some fresh air and a lovely way for the children to spend their last afternoon together. The tent is conveniently located right next to the train station so there was no chance over running, everyone piled out to join Clio our driver as the train drew into the station and rain cleared just in time.
Joining in with Country Kids
If you have been enjoying some outdoor fun over the holiday period please come and join me on the linky. All outdoor posts welcome from crafting to exploring. Time away from screens enjoying the wonders of nature and freedom of outdoor space is healthy and fun for all ages, even us parents! Please grab the badge and remember to check out some of the other posts here, it might just be the inspiration behind your next adventure.
Country Kids is around in these communities, I’d love you to join me:
Pin on the Pinterest Board Just ask for an invite to pin and include Country Kids on your pins for me to stop by on your boards too (no need for a hash tag in Pinterest)
This is what every business wants to achieve and I am proud and delighted beyond belief that Coombe Mill is currently Number 1 on Google for “Kids Farm Holidays”.
I don’t check any of my website or blog statistics very often as I think I could become obsessive about them. However every now and then I do like to ensure that I am on track.
The key statistic for me is where our holidays rank in Google or our Search Engine Optimisation level (SEO ranking). I try typing in specific wording and pull back to more and more generic searches to see how we do.
So for example if I were to type “Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays in Cornwall”, “Coombe Mill Holidays Cornwall” or even just “Coombe Mill” I would expect to come up first. However, let’s face it, anyone typing those searches in already knows about us and it just looking up our details to make a booking or follow up a recommendation to us; great in its own right but not a way for new potential holiday makers to find us.
If I now I broaden the search out to “Cornwall farm holidays with kids and animals” then it is much harder to come at the top as Google has many websites to choose from all using some or all of these key words on their websites. Featuring top here is where I get really excited, especially when Google says it searched 6.7m sites to bring Coombe Mill up first. Anyone searching this term is looking for a holiday that really matches what we offer; they probably haven’t heard of Coombe Mill and are just seeing what is out there. Being first on the list I am more likely to be clicked on and once on my website it is then up to me to sell the Coombe Mill dream in the first five seconds of glancing at my homepage. If the homepage isn’t attractive to my target market in an instant then I’ve wasted all my efforts in being at the top of Google and the discerning shopper will be back to Google and clicking on number two. This is a huge subject in it’s own right, for now I’m going to concentrate on Goggle Searches and assume my website does the job once there.
I try broadening the criteria again and hurrah I’m still number one for “Cornwall farm holidays with kids”.
And again for “Farm holidays with kids” on a search of a whopping 156 million sites. This is a great result for me.
So how do I do it?
Content is key
First and foremost, make sure your website illustrates and says the most important things in the fewest words. Less is more. Set the tone visually on the homepage. From here make sure posts are relevant, interesting and engaging. Know what your website or blog is for and write and illustrate to this.
For Coombe Mill the website tells the holidays facts while my blog within this takes a behind the scenes look at our family life running the business including the “oops” moments and success stories as they unfold.
Interaction & Social Media
Your posts can be genius but they need to reach out to an audience and be read, work out who your market is and connect with them, talk with them on forums or social media read and interact with their site and they will be sure to visit you too, oh and watch out you don’t just get sucked in for hours here, it is easy to be sociable and chat too long, I’m guilty!
When I began my blog my target market for Coombe Mill was Mums and Dads with young children. Four years later I consider myself a fully fledged parent blogger myself with good friends I’ve met online and at blogging events, many of whom now holiday at Coombe Mill and have been kind enough to write about their visits. I now have a Pinterest Page just for Coombe Mill blog reviews.
As for which social media sites to use, I'd recommend doing whichever you are most comfortable with, in essence they all work if you put in and don't just take out. By that I mean give feedback and support to others there, build friendships and they will most likely visit your site to find out who is behind the friendly words. My personal favourite is Twitter, I hang out here every day but also use Instagram, Google Plus, Facebook and Pinterest to a lesser extent most days.
Use keywords you want to be found for on Google in all web and blog site tags from the organic photo label on your pc or lap top right through to the content within a blog post. Focus on Key words in your headings where possible. For example every photo I save to my Website or Blog has a description for the photo and ends with "at Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays, Cornwall". If I or anyone else then pins this photo on Pinterest this phrase will appear on it.
Link within your site to past articles where relevant and to outside sources. There is much debate over the use of "follow" and "no follow" links. As a rough guide use a follow link in your own site and anywhere where the content of the linked site is directly relevant to your post. so for example I will always use a follow link to reference an article about Coombe Mill on another website or blog. Google likes links when they are genuine so use them and encourage them to your site too.
Where next for me?
I would be delighted to hold my position but you have to keep moving to stand still and if I am honest with myself standing still isn't really what I want. I need three of the following keywords to appear at the top or near the top on a goggle search.
Holidays, Cornwall, Farm or one from Kids, children, toddlers and Family,
By reducing to just two of these and searching my presence falls off a cliff, I now want to work on some secondary keywords that might be used instead of these such as UK, England, Cottages, Lodges and Self Catering. I currently rank much lower searching by these alone. There is no magic, I will carry on doing what I do but perhaps tag, UK on the end of Cornwall in posts descriptions, and drop cottage or lodge into my posts and picture tags more often. January is the big booking month for me so I really want to hold my own and increase the odd search for then.
Know what you want your site to be ranked on and use these words carefully, by this I mean strategically without spamming your own site, Google can penalize you for over use of a key word.
A word of warning
SEO is great to be aware of but never let it govern your writing, relevant interesting content is key, SEO must fit around this and not drive it or posts can become contrived and dull. For me it is a once a month reality check at most to see what is working and on a day to day basis slots in rather like a spell check when I edit a post. If I can use a word I want to improve my search I will but I never force it.
I am not an SEO specialist
I am just sharing what has worked for me, if you are interested in what I've said here and would like to know more based on my own experience please let me know in the comments as I could happily expand on any of the areas I've touched on in this post.
Enjoy your website and or blog, have passion in your writing, be mindful of SEO but don't let it rule your work. If all this seems like too much effort there are companies out that only to keen to do it for you at a price, but watch who you choose, I am inundated with emails each day like the one below and would be very wary of dealing with them (click on the image to enlarge if you want to read the detail here):
I enjoy blogging and my daily social media interaction, it is part of my everyday life and the SEO benefits are a very handy spin off allowing me to invest the money I've saved elsewhere in Coombe Mill. To be successful it needs to be a passion you enjoy otherwise you may resent the time and energy it takes.
A farm holiday with us here at Coombe Mill is widely regarded as educational for children and often parents too, however the educational side of our stays are always dressed up as fun and play. With no effort what so ever a stay at Coombe Mill is guaranteed to bring new learning experiences from the moment you board the tractor and trailer ride to saying goodnight to friends at bedtime. Learning is best when it is fun to do.
There are times when as parents you may like to support and stretch the natural learning from a holiday here. For this reason we are proud to have teamed up with the on line education experts at twinkl UK to help re launch our education pages on the website. We were lucky enough to have Heather from Twinkl to come and holiday with her family back in the spring. This experience fully equipped Heather to understand what we do and how to extend the natural farm learning with her up to date teaching resources at twinkl.
Together we have spent the summer developing and approving worksheets which are both supportive of the national curriculum and totally in keeping with everyday learning here on the farm. Just like our holidays at Coombe Mill the worksheets are fun and challenging but most of all interesting and relevant.
The worksheets are divided into three groups: The early years from age 3 – 5, key stage 1 for our infant school visitors from age 5 – 7 and even some carefully thought out key stage 2 sheets for our juniors at age 8 – 11 years old.
From here you can click through to any of the three key stages that best suits your child.
The worksheets are all individually labelled and colour coded on each key stage page
Click on any you like the sound of to download them to your PC or print out.
The sheets would be perfect for helping familiarise your child with the animals we have and a little bit about farm life before your holiday, or taken around the farm whilst staying as an activity during the day, like the sensory worksheet, or even completed in quiet time reflecting on a busy day here such as the diary activity. Other sheets might be best worked on after the holiday to bring everyday learning and holiday memories together, e.g. some of the pen control or math sheets. The resources are here for you to use them as works for your children. Please use as many or as few as your children enjoy.
Already we have been putting the worksheets to good use here at coombe Mill by combining them into our activity hour. The children happily engage in completing a worksheet as part of their craft activity and we select them by age and theme to fit our focus for the session. I hope you will find them useful too.
We are committed to maintaining and updating these worksheets to keep them relevant to changes on the farm and the national curriculum over time. I am thrilled to have twinkl as our education partners in this and hope you will find the new worksheets as exciting and engaging for children as I do.
“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.