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.
So how did I make the leap from alpaca shearing to Garden fete? Well the guests staying last week were treated to the once a year spectacle of seeing our two Alpaca lose their winter coats. This is an education in its own right that I will share on a separate post. However it is fair to say the children were quite taken with the whole process and I promised them we would make something with the wool for activity hour at the end of the week. As I sat playing with the wool in my hands it reminded me of crazy hair and an idea began to form. We could make toilet roll people with crazy white hair. These could be used as skittles, which became the basis of my Coombe Mill Garden Fete, a replica of a typical local village, school or church fate hosted in summer.
Garden Fete Bunting
I had some triangles of old sheet left from previous crafts and the children painted these up to make some bunting as a back drop to our Garden Fete.
Garden Fete Challenges
Next we made the crazy haired skittles that began my theme. The children took turns to try and knock down the skittles with a snooker ball in a cardboard box alley with Amber while I hid a trail of ones I made earlier to the front lawn.
Walks are always more fun with something to collect and search for along the way. By the time we reached the lawn we had a growing collection of our little characters. We lined them up along the bank to be the audience for our garden fete fun challenges.
We started with an obstacle race at just the right level of difficulty for our little ones. They had to crawl under a sheet, play a tune on the nature xylophone and throw Freddie Frog through the netball hoop before running to the finish line for a chocolate.
Two sticks then became the river bank and the children had to cross the river without stepping in the middle where Freddie Frog was lurking; after each clear round the sticks moved further apart. The children were so good at this racing round and round laughing each time.
Farmer Nick was turning out his old socks. The washing machine in our house eats socks, or it could be that our growing teen boys pinch them! Either way he had a stack of odds heading for the bin. I was sure I could put them to good use. Playing around with a sock, a stick and some wool I soon had a hobby horse. It was a short jump from there to a whole activity hour theme on knights and dragons.
Our knights began by choosing themselves a cape out of the dressing up box before turning their hand to making their horse. We wrapped wool round the stuffed sock to create the facial features and reigns, finishing off with some googly eyes.
With horses complete our knights went off on a nature hunt to find jewels for the perfect crown or helmet.
Next up we turned cereal boxes into Knights shields with floristry ribbon crosses on the front.
We still had swords to make but my little warriors were flagging and keen to start the knights and dragons hunt I’d promised. We handed out colouring sheets containing the dragons we were off to find on our mission to pull the famous King Arthur Sword from the stone in Jurassic Park. There was just time to fuel up on chocolate dragon eggs before we set off.
This was the part that really excited the children. In full fancy dress they had their eyes wide open looking all around for the dragons. They were triumphant each time one was spotted and before we knew it the trail had led us to the gates of Jurassic Park.
Once inside the children were convinced that with their new magic powers from their outfits they would be able to pull the illusive sword from the stone. To their disappointment Farmer Nick’s cement won and they reluctantly admitted defeat.
They soon bounced back at the idea of returning to the craft table to make their swords and enjoy another dragon egg.
We swapped dressing up capes for white knight bag capes so that the children could take their whole outfit home with them. The knights and dragons theme had really inspired them and as we left we saw them play fighting with their new swords and setting off to show family members, who had missed the fun, where the dragons hid.
It’s amazing how much creative fun came out of Farmer Nick’s odd sock collection!
Learning about Farm animals is something the children do each day here at Coombe Mill. Without even knowing, kids are discovering new things right from the tractor feed run on the very first morning. Not only is this a social event and a chance to make friends, but the endless questions to Farmer Nick confirm that the children are naturally interested and curious about the animals they are helping to feed and care for. This week I decided to cement some of the learning with a few fun tasks at our Friday activity session.
Activity Hour learning about Farm Animals
We began with a cute little story about a baby deer and her Mummy who embarked on an adventure across a stream and up a hill. It could so easily have been at Coombe Mill and the children were soon enthralled after meeting our baby deer in the mornings.
That was enough sitting time for my little tots so we headed out on a scavenger hunt. Each child was tasked with finding 4 twigs and the most interesting flowers and leaves they could find ready for our animal themed crafts.
Relocating to the outside craft tables we spread PVA glue on our bunny and chicken shapes and stuck on the collecting nature treasures.
The black and white ones were just like our Jacobs sheep here on the farm while several children chose to make some’ Bah Bah Rainbow Sheep’ using some of the fun duck tape colours.
We finished up walking over to the rabbits, each child carrying a carrot for them to eat. The rabbits duly obliged and came over to the children to nibble on their offering and allowing them a final cuddle of the day. The children had a wonderful time whilst recapping learning about farm animals from the week.
The summer weather has brought out so much wildlife on the Coombe Mill lakes and river I was keen to run an activity hour session introducing a little pond dipping and river life into our play. Glorious sunshine in May and early June had given way to rain this week, thankfully it dried up in time for our activities but any study of the river was out of the question as it was racing through Coombe Mill at close to flood levels.
Undeterred I had a plan of activities using the more tranquil lake and a DIY safe pond whilst talking through river safety.
We began with a sweet little storybook about a fish and his friends.
From here we set off on a scavenger hunt for bracken, sticks and sticky weed to play nature fishing. This is something I did a couple of years ago and knew it would be perfect for toddlers.
Our story rug was transformed into a pond with bracken fish. Sticks became fishing rods with stick weed as the line. It is such a simple activity but perfect for preschool age as it encourages creativity, imagination and counting.
When every fish had been caught we put together our pond scopes. These were simply made with plastic bottles, cling film and loom bands. With these, some identification sheets of things to look out for and a fishing net each we set off over the river towards the lake. Crossing the footbridge everyone took a look at the raging river, but this was as close as we dared go.
Our two lakes are a fair size and ideal for serious fishing. However Nick built a launching pad for HMS bath tub last year and this was a perfect spot on the slipway for our pond dipping. We could see boatmen and pond skaters zipping across the surface and the nets gave the children a chance to trawl a little deeper.
I had prepared a little micro pond for our pond scopes to avoid anyone peering into the lake and toppling in. Felix had helped me in advance to fill a paddling pool with buckets of lake water, then launched me off in HMS bath tub to trawl deeper in the lake. I knew we had some water mini beasts for the children to find in our micro pond.
The excitement of turning stories and play fishing into real pond dipping and finding waterlife was palpable. I was thrilled with how well the pond scopes worked and when the children found something in their nets they took it over to the micro pond for a closer look under their pond scopes.
Once everyone had found something on their pond dipping sheets we headed back towards the games room. My final activity was painting trout. We have fresh water trout in our top lake where we were pond dipping as well as in the river. On a calmer day we could have watched the trout swim through under Coombe bridge. I had pre-cut the trout shapes and stuck them to paper plates. The children then painted on the river or pond and pulled away the cut out fish to reveal their trout.
It was a very busy afternoon for the children with so many activities, but they never once looked like they were flagging.
With Father’s day almost upon us Father’s day crafts felt like an obvious choice for a theme to our Activity hour this week. The children were all quite young so I wanted to keep things as simple as I could whilst still creating something worthwhile and fun to make.
Father’s Day Crafts
We began by making cards. Each child chose from my lovely stash of colours paper and then glued on their choice of Father’s Day Messages. From here it was into the paints for a spot of colour play and creative designs.
What Daddy doesn’t appreciate a Number I Dad Medal? The children set to work painting and colouring our pre cut circular medals. I had a plan for these but we needed to allow the paint to dry first.
While our medals and cards were drying we set off on a nature hunt through the fairy gardens. Farmer Nick had just finished trimming back the overgrown branches and mulching them for the fairy garden pathways. It was looking very green and spacious in there. The children were able to easily pick out some fallen purple Rhododendrons and their choice of leaves for the next Father’s day crafts.
We worked our way along the river bank picking daises, red campions and buttercups. The children compared their favourites and held up the buttercups under chins to see who liked butter!
When we reached the Mud kitchen we set to work making Father’s Day pies with some of our collected treasures.
With pies safely cooking in the oven for the Daddies the children took the opportunity for a little free play. Clambering aboard the tractor, they re-enacted the feed run each claiming they were Farmer Nick. They would jump off, telling us which animal they were feeding next, have a little play and hop back aboard the tractor again. This was all quite spontaneous and not in my plan, but I was happy to go with the flow and watch their game develop.
Finally the last imaginary animals were fed and we continued with our remaining nature treasures back to the craft table. Here we made nature ties with pretty flower designs.
While the children finished their ties I laminated the Medals and threaded wool through. They each finished up with a fine set of gifts from our Father’s Day Crafts and enjoyed their afternoon out in the fresh air making them.
“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.