Melanie Spills The Beans On Us

Posted on November 18th, 2011 - Anya


Melanie Clay lives with her husband and 2 gorgeous boys in Warwickshire. She has just established a successful on line business selling adorable baby and toddler products with a bias towards environmentally friendly and traditional suppliers. Many of these products would make ideal gifts if you are looking for some Christmas inspiration! . Melanie stayed here on holiday earlier this year with her lovely family and has kindly sent me this ‘grand’ review of their experience to share on my blog.

Melanie’s Story 

I took the liberty of a short break from Grand Baby recently, some much anticipated time away with my hubby and my boys, and found such a wonderful place I just had to share it with you!

Now normally I spend an age debating where to go on holiday and where to stay, but I’d stumbled into Fiona from Coombe Mill whilst networking on twitter and face book, and after taking a look at Coombe Mill on facebook, and then the website just couldn’t believe it – could one place really be so toddler & child friendly?

Cameron is  2 + 4months, and Adam 7 months, so we needed somewhere that was baby & toddler friendly, and Cameron is well, a typical boy I think! Very active, very inquisitive, loves to climb, run, race, doesn’t miss anything ever, loves to terrorise his baby bro and can be a little….dare I say it….downright naughty! When we stayed at Coombe Mill in the middle of May, Adam was just over 6 months and weaning.

So when I read that Coombe Mill was a working farm with self catering cottages and Scandinavian lodges with:

Daily tractor rides to feed the animals and more animals than you could shake a pail of food at,

An indoor play barn and three outdoor play areas,

A river and stream running through plus two fishing lakes for Daddy!

Cot’s and High Chairs provided

Home cooked food available

Stair gates as standard and the cottage’s had toddler den’s full of toys

And all this as well as being in CORNWALL, we love Cornwall! So that was it – booked.

It was great to hear so much was provided or available, we’d piled the car high when we had just one boy but with two had no idea how we were going to fit everything in.

Booking was simple and Fiona and Jill were extremely helpful in assessing our needs…cots, highchairs, the right accommodation, and called to check a few days before where the cots needed to go too. You also get the details for the local store – St Breward’s, to contact who deliver a grocery order to your accommodation before you arrive so it’s all ready. No need to take the basics or start hunting for a shop the minute you arrive.

We arrived easily thanks to top directions to find the very picturesque Coombe Mill situated in a lush valley, which is in St Brewards, Bodmin.  We checked in and were accompanied to the accommodation for a quick tour and explanation of all the facilities both in our cottage and across the farm.

We stayed in Willow cottage, with great views to the front and back, not overlooked, private toddler safe patio garden, open plan lounge and kitchen area with an upstairs balcony looking over. Our provisions including local meat, cheese and of course scones jam and clotted cream were all waiting for us and everywhere was scrupulously clean, not even a toddler fingerprint in sight, which lasted for all of 5 minutes!

Willow from the Back garden

We found all the cutlery, utensils and kitchen equipment you could need, and even a dishwasher and washing machine. The toddler den was indeed full of toys including a huge amount of wooden railway, trains and accessories which was Cameron’s favourite all week – we kept that in the very spacious lounge. Downstairs was a Jacuzzi bath and shower with second bathroom, bath and shower upstairs. 

Exploring the grounds we quickly found the first play area, river, stream, and investigated the reception area where you can borrow most anything you might need really! Wellingtons, fishing nets, toys, more toys, games, maps, books, extra toddler cutlery, plates, baby carrier, waterproof’s, and buy basics including bread, milk and home cooked food, all left for you to help yourself and complete your “IOU for” in the book, which in itself gave a lovely feeling of being welcome and trusted

Now I love food so it’s important to me, but it’s also important to me to feed my family “proper” food most of the time and Adam is weaning too. And proper food it was waiting in Fiona’s reception freezer – casserole’s, lasagnes, and cottage pies and fish dishes with home cooked puddings to choose from too.  So as well as doing a little cooking ourselves and eating out we sampled a couple of dishes across the week and can highly recommend them, in fact we’re hoping Fiona share’s all her recipes soon!

Over the next few days we found two more outside play areas, the inside play barn, the fishing lakes, stream, wooded area, field’s to explore and of course all the animals.
Fishing Lake
We waited until the first feed run on Sunday morning to find the animals, we found the tractor trailer and all the other guests and their little ones in the car park, and farmer Nick ready to accept his first assistant of the day to drive the tractor with him.  My “no fear” two year old suddenly became trailer shy so we walked behind with the rest of the parents, and Adam in the pushchair while most of the children happily travelled in the trailer to fetch branches for the goats, then feed for the Chickens and Ducks and everyone piled into their pen to collect the egg’s, and visit the baby chicks and ducklings. It was wonderful to see everyone encouraged to feed them, collect egg’s and hold the chicks and ducklings at leisure – a great experience on its own for children but this was something they could do every day, as well as then (after a another tractor/trailer ride) piling into the Guinea Fowl and Peacock Pen. Then back on the tractor/trailer to the Pigs (you can save your food scraps for a treat for them) Donkeys, Sheep and Lamb’s, Alpaca, Deer and Goats. These were all spread across quite a large area so plenty of exercise for rowdy toddlers, lots more feeding experiences – you can go in all the pens. And a trek through the Alpaca’s field, up to the wood and through to chase the deer out for a very speedy appearance – but quite exciting for a little one.  And after all this – another tractor ride back to feed the rabbits – no small feat with a whole enclosure of them so the children can run round with them, and even some seating! Oh and let’s not forget the ponies.

In the ChickensHelping carry the foodMiniature Donkeys

It was amazing to find most of the morning gone when we headed back and time for lunch, and the feed run’s are 6 days a week so plenty of entertainment and all included!

And of course there isn’t just the farm, you can use the swimming pool at the holiday park just up the road, and Coombe Mill is a great base for exploring Cornwall being so central, it’s just 20-30 minutes to great beaches to the North West and South, and 1-1h 30 to St Ives. There was a great guide in our accommodation – compiled by Coombe Mill to everything to see and do in the area too.

So after feed runs, exploring, swimming, more feed runs, beach visits and even more exploring we thought we would let Daddy try out the Carp lake, so he borrowed a rod from Farmer 

Helping Daddy Fish

Nick’s shed, bought some bait from the handy fishing shop at the holiday park up the road and settled in a chair for a few hours, and a very productive few hours it was – 5 huge carp were landed, admired and let loose which the 2yo thoroughly enjoyed too, of course he didn’t see them all we couldn’t keep him still that long! And he had his own little go with a borrowed fishing net, bucket and the thousands of tadpoles that were bobbing about!



A fabulous week was had by all of us, we loved Coombe Mill and won’t hesitate to book again soon – Thank you so much Fiona, Nick and everyone for a lovely holiday! 

A favorite with the kids Every time

Posted on October 22nd, 2011 - Anya

“Lappa Valley, Oh Yes Please Mum & Dad!”

Since our children were toddlers, Lappa Valley has been their favourite family day out. We have been back year after year and still they love it even though they are all really too old now!




About Lappa Valley

Set in the site of an old Cornish mine, Lappa uses the original 1849 trackbed for their petrol, diesel and electric trains. It is now a conservation area of beautiful countryside. The whole park is safe and welcoming and ideal with younger children. Short train rides are perfect for children, all the excitement of climbing in and out and swapping trains and no time to get bored.

Diesel Train Petrol TrainSpeedy Electric Train


In between the train rides there is canoeing on the lake, crazy golf, play areas and a cafe and shop. Spend the whole day there till the children are all trained out. It is about a 40 minute drive from Coombe Mill and well worth it. Not cheap but once you are in it’s all included so good value for money as you can go on as many trains as many times as you like and hope in and out of boats at your leisure. 


Picnic and PlayCrazy GolfIn the Canoe as the diesel train chuffs by


A Word of Caution

This is not one for a rainy day, damp bottoms are best avoided. They are also closed in winter but open for half term and at Christmas when they have some fantastic Santa trips on the train. A great treat for the kids if you are staying at Coombe Mill around Christmas time.


 Santa Express


For Us 

There is still plenty of space and lots of things to do without having to queue or wishing you had chosen to come on a quieter day. It is chilled and relaxed and a lovely slice of countryside. With picnic tables abundant we always take lunch with us and make it a full day out. 

Having just come back from another great trip this year my only concern is that I did have the oldest children there and I think they may still want to go back again next year! 

Our Day Captured in Video Highlights


If you go down in the Woods Today….

Posted on October 18th, 2011 - Anya

Cardinham Woods by Julie BermanChildren in a Tunnel of Trees


Recommended by a friend, as well as being on our list of new places to visit this year, we finally made it to Cardinham Woods last week.  Firstly, it’s very easy to find, a few minutes outside Bodmin (head towards the A38/Liskeard direction and take the first turning off the roundabout – follow the brown tourist signs).  There is lots of parking (£2 flat fee all day).  Straight away, the girls were in awe of the variety of dog breeds jumping out of the back of their owners’ cars (it is a dog-walking heaven). We donned wellies and waterproof jackets and set off armed with a map of all the trails. The day was overcast and it was threatening to rain, so we decided on the easiest 3km circular route.  It was flat for the most part so very accessible to wheelchairs or pushchairs.  I can’t vouch for the other routes but the one we took would also have been perfect for cyclists of all abilities.  There are in fact 5 different walking trails through the Woods ranging from 3km to 5 ½ km. Some of them apparently are steep in places but you are then rewarded by stunning views over the forest and (on one of the trails) of an old lead and silver mine.

 Stunning Views in the Woods

Our timing was perfect and the heavens opened just as we reached the end of the walk which brought us back to our starting point of the car park.  If, like me, you need hot liquid refreshment and something sweet to munch on at the end of a walk, then Woods Café will be right up your street.  It’s not massive inside but very welcoming, with comfy sofas, piles of magazines to flick through and toys and books to keep children occupied. It also has outside seating if the weather’s right.  The coffee was excellent and the enormous slab of cake was delicious and nearly (!) too much for one person.


I can see on a dry, sunny day that you could pack a picnic and spend the whole day exploring the forest.  There are a couple of picnic and barbeque areas along the trails and a very well equipped play area ideal for smaller children back near the car park.


Next time, we will come prepared and try one of the longer walks – and hope for better weather! 

Cardinham Woods BridgeGirls Enjoying the Woodland PathsBeautiful Old Bridge

A bit about Julie

After many years of city life, Julie moved to North Cornwall 9 years ago. In between helping with her husband’s business and acting as taxi driver to their 2 beautiful daughters, she now spends as much time as possible on the beach. I love Julie’s writing style and am hoping for more guest blogs in the future, perhaps one on our lovely Cornish beaches!

Picnics, a favourite with the kids

Posted on September 9th, 2011 - Anya

What makes the humble picnic so special?

Picnic time

 Picnics remind me of my own childhood, of freedom, fun, friends, happy times and play. I suppose this is why I am such a fan. They are a break from the routine, a chance to chill out without the formality of meals at home or at a restaurant and therefore always popular with small children. The sitting still etiquette can be wavered at a picnic introducing a fun element. My children always end up eating twice as much as they would round the table at home.


All the fun and excitement and you save a fortune compared to eating out too! No stressing over whether they like cafe/restaurant food, whether it is good for them, whether or not to let them have the fizzy drinks, and worrying that they don’t like it after you have paid and waited to be served. All the content of the picnic and the time of when you eat it can be exactly as you choose. Now I think about it that has huge advantages!


When and where to Picnic

We are huge picnic fans and take every opportunity. We have even been known to carry a picnic to the play area or front lawn at Coombe Mill and indeed I have seen many of our guests do the same. The If you are not staying with us then a picnic in the garden with a sun tent or in the local park can be a great half day activity. The beach is another favourite for us, all that running around building sandcastles and paddling and the kids are always ready to eat an hour earlier than usual! A quick hand rinse in a rock pool and they are ready to tuck in! Any day trip is worthy of a picnic, in Cornwall we have so many family attractions which make a great day out and every time the picnic wins for us. Having 8 in our family makes finance a big factor but for all the convenience and fun factors already mentioned I think we would choose a picnic anyway!

Picnic in the GardenPicnic in the Garden

Picnic on the beachPicnics away with friends

What to pack for a picnic

I always vary my picnics to keep it interesting but have a few golden rules:

Never pack chocolate in the summer or anything else you are worried about going off or melting

Make more sandwiches / rolls than you would at home, kids will eat more outdoors!

Pasties, sausage rolls or toasted sandwiches wrapped in foil are good alternatives to sandwiches for a change

Use the picnic as an excuse to have some of the treats you don’t always allow at home (crisps are a winner with mine, they are a real treat food normally and they don’t melt or go off)

Bought little cakes or biscuits are popular with us as I always bake my own at home

Dried fruit like raisins and apricots or carrot batons travel better than fresh fruit

Pack plenty of drinks, water or squash but they will drink more on a picnic too.

On colder days a flask of hot chocolate goes down well


For a real last minute picnic simply drop into your local supermarket and buy everything en route, no hastle at all, all the fun and still much less money than eating out!

A few extra tips from experience

  • Always know where the nearest toilets are to your picnic spot – kids always eat then need the loo!
  • Wet wipes for sticky fingers
  • Use disposable containers – I recycle ice cream tubs – then you can throw it all away afterwards
  • Don’t stress about making and packing the picnic, simple and quick is fine or it becomes a chore
  • Remember the picnic rug or blanket
  • Chill and enjoy your family time

Picnic fun

I first wrote this blog for multiplemummy Kerry. She has 3 lovely youngsters and is keen on the benefits of picnics. You can see her blog and my original post here

Family Time at the Camelford Show

Posted on August 10th, 2011 - Anya

The sun shone all day for one of our favourite family days out. There is so much to occupy the children that it’s always a winner for us. Today it clashed with our return from Sussex, after a lovely week with Farmer’s Nick’s Mum, but not to be beaten we set off at 4am to ensure we were back in time to check all was well at Coombe Mill and head on out to the show!

Striding out to the action

Many of our guests this week are regulars and know it makes a great family day while others saw my daily update on the wi fi and followed the recommendation.

This lovely family remind me so much of us a few years ago, they have 5 boys under 6 yrs old with twins for number 4 and 5!

So takes me back!

The children headed straight for the big tent and all the free circus equipment where they met up with our guests and local friends. I think they must have spent nearly the whole day here riding penny fathings, juggling, plate spinning, tight rope walking and much more!

Watch out Clio you are about to fall!

Happy faces all round!

Generally we bring a picnic on all our family days out. Eating out with 8 of us is an expensive exercise, more than the £25 entrance fee for the 8 of us!

Lunch with friends
(You can read more on my picnic tips on multiplemummy’s site where I guest blogged on the subject last week)

Today I am fraid I broke my own rule! After arriving home this morning to an empty kitchen we did splash out on a very unhealthy pasty and chips combo to keep us going for the day. It will definitely be back to the picnic’s next time (pocket hurting)!

At 2pm the big tent fills to overflowing with children for a comedy act of magic tricks and circus stunts. Guaranteed to make them laugh every year and a great way to keep them occupied at any age for hour or so!
I have compiled all the highlights into a fun video of the day. Well worth a watch!