Posted on June 2nd, 2017 - Fiona
The beautiful old market town of Lostwithiel is a tourist attraction all year round with its quaint train station, river, antique shops and quirky boutiques along twisted narrow lanes. Once a year the usual peace and quiet is replaced by LostFest, the Lostwithiel Festival held each year for just one day. We have been before and loved it, as it is only half an hour from Coombe Mill and fits nicely between the morning farm run and evening train ride here. A dry day makes all the difference and as the sun was shining we picked up a couple of Clio’s friends and Guy and set off.
I had forgotten how pretty Lostwithiel is in May with the wisteria draped over the old cottages.
Thankfully we had agreed meet up points as it was busy and the kids were off exploring while I was admiring the cottages. Delicious smells finally made everyone hungry and brought us back together after enjoying a good wander around the craft stalls with delicious smells from the pop up food stands around. Nick and I couldn’t resist buying the giant Greek olives and sweet deserts we love for supper and I fell in love with a printed reversible skirt that even came in its own pretty reusable bag.
Food is a big part of the Festival and we were spoiled for choice. Having older children with their own tastes and ideas we just sent them off with money to make their own choices while we enjoyed a Mexican feast watching the world go by down by the river. Here we reminisced on previous years when the children were younger and would play on the rope swing still hanging from a tree on the far riverbank. Guy caught us up with ice cream in hand and announced that he was going to go and join the kids in the river.
I barely had time to grab my camera and head up onto the bridge before I saw him taking over the rope and land in the river! I think at this point he wished his brother Jed had come along too; the pair of them would have been showing off for hours.
Without the girls wanting to go in he was soon out and swapping a t shirt for a hoodie and joining us watching a very clever crafter turn hazel sticks into flowers. Nick and Guy watched with interest as each flower was made in about 5 minutes. My husband is all charm and even bought me one for £2 to see if we could recreate them from our willow bush.
Meanwhile the girls had found the face painting tent and all came out with glittery moonshine faces.
However they were less than impressed when Guy took to bashing them all over the head with his newly purchased inflatable hammer!
We stopped to watch the classic Morris Dancing in the street before winding our way home after another lovely LostFest day.
Thank you all at Lostwithiel who work to bring this day together. It was a great atmosphere with some really interesting stalls and wonderful live entertainment. We are looking forward to LostFest 2018 already.
Posted on May 27th, 2017 - Fiona
Last week I couldn’t wait to share our exciting new family holiday lodge, Polzeath. A week on I am proud to say our first holiday makers have rebooked to return again next year. This is the best sign that we really found the perfect holiday home design in there. Following all the hard work of building Polzeath, my promise on Monday’s post was to try to spend more quality family time over the summer months at our holiday lodge namesake, Polzeath Beach. What I didn’t realise was that my first opportunity would roll round so fast. It was the end of a busy changeover day here at the farm and with all the guests in, and the family fed, I donned my “Mum’s taxi” hat to drive Theo’s girlfriend home. The evening sun had already left the valley when we left but was now dazzling me as I drove towards the coast and I had a sudden craving to breathe in some sea air. When I suggested to the pair in the back seats I extend their time together watching the sunset at Polzeath they were quick to agree. We parked up on the cliff top for our impromptu visit where I filled my senses with sea air and the beautiful setting sun while they playfully strolled ahead.
Polzeath Beach on a Summer’s Evening
What none of us knew as we wandered carefree across the beach were the horrors waiting to unfold at Manchester Arena. Theo’s two older brothers were at the Arena for a concert just a few weeks ago. It feels like everyone has some kind of connection, even me from my quiet corner of Cornwall. My heart goes out to all affected by events that Monday evening.
My thanks go to my lovely models who agreed to feature in my photos. Trust me there is no taking this for granted with teenagers.
Posted on May 7th, 2017 - Fiona
This is the 6th and last post in my Greece series from summer 2016. The trip was a “well done” to our older boys following the end of their GCSEs and A levels. We began in Athens, Explored the Acropolis, headed down the the Peloponnese staying at Kantia where we visited Nafplion and Epidavros before heading right back to the earliest days of Greek civilisation in the Myceanaean era with a trip to Mycenae itself.
Background to Mycenae
The Mycenaean world dominated Greece between the 16th and 12th Century BC. I can’t even get my head around how long ago that is and how life must have been. However the ancient remains of the old city at Mycenae can still be seen today.
What to expect at Mycenae
Visiting on a hot July day I was rather glad of the elevated position to pick up a little breeze and make our sightseeing bearable. Parking like a true Greek under the shade of a tree in the car park, we headed up though the famous city gates with its impressive Lions overhead set into the stone. How back then they constructed and carved such things is quite beyond me; however it is wonderful to saunter through and marvel at the possibilities from this ancient civilisation today.
To be fair, the city gates to Mycenae are the most impressive structure still standing. There after there is much left to the imagination with a selection of crumbling walls, passageways and tombs remaining. There are some helpful reading signs along the way to give you a sense of direction and history. The excavations continue today but life is believed to date back on the hill to the 3rd millennium BC.
The Mycenaean acropolis dominates the surrounding area of the Argive plain and controlled communication routes in and out of the Peloponnese into mainland Greece. The views from the top are quite spectacular reaching right down to the sea near Nafplion.
The flood plain below must have been a source of food for the ancient city and olive and almond trees are still prevalent right up the hillside.
The Lion tomb is still intact with a vast entrance you can walk down to. This was separate from the bulk of the tombs though I failed to establish why.
We finished our trip with a visit to the museum sharing more of the artifacts that had been recovered and replicas of what would have been used. This was beautifully clean and modern thanks to EU funding and well worth a look around.
I was struck by how few tourists were visiting given the size of the car park. The new town below was packed with inviting yet empty looking tavernas and I worried for their business. It rather feels although touring as we did is becoming a thing of the past and that local business is beholden to the larger coach trips choosing to make a stop at their destination.
Tips for visiting Mycenae
Prices were very reasonable to enter at 12 Euros for adults and 6 Euros for children.
I would say this is a trip for a half day only which suited us perfectly.
The entrance fee covers a separate treasury and tombs as a nearby site which we missed out on. As the boys had had enough and were in search of lunch by then.
Fresh water taps to refill bottles are provided so no need to carry too much
There are clean and well kept toilets
Sensible footwear is recommended as they steps are uneven and worn making them slippery in parts.
Be careful following a map or Sat Nav as the Greek translation into English is spelt in several different ways; we found ourselves heading to the wrong place a few times and having to turn around.
Posted on March 17th, 2017 - Fiona
Down on the south coast and commanding a great position overlooking the sea and town, Fort Newhaven is a must visit for anyone with an interest in our war time history. Built originally through fear of French Invasion in Napoleonic times, the Fort has undergone a number of war roles and is now listed as part of our English heritage.
We arrived on a cloudy and cold February day, despite this the views from the car park were rather impressive. We took in the surroundings, read the information boards and made our way to the entrance. I thought £25 for 6 of us to go in was very fair.
No sooner had we entered into the fort than the children were given quiz sheets to work though and met by a local volunteer with a table full of war memorabilia for the children to examine.
The poor volunteer looked rather taken back that Guy knew just how to operate the air rifle, I felt obliged to explain that we lived on a farm in Cornwall.
We joined one of the cinema viewings of the history of the Fort which was excellent and kept the kids enthralled.
There are a number of rooms leading off the main square each kitted out with different war time functions. The children are all enjoying history at school and studying world war one so the visit felt like perfect timing.
Interesting as the history was, it didn’t take the kids long to spot the playground. This was new since we came with our older children a few years ago and a welcome break from the educational aspect of the day and a perfect way to warm us up too.
No visit to Fort Newhaven can be complete without a visit to the big guns. There are a number of paths, steps and tunnels that all interlink to the top. The kids took great pleasure in running up and down them, jumping in and out of the bunkers and around the guns.
Despite the murky day, the views from the top stretched for miles out to sea and inland.
The sea looked a long way down. Yet there was a secret passage with more steps than I care to count to take you right down to the beach. Exploring down here was one of the highlights as the children were sure if they looked around hard enough they would find a door or window without padlocks where they could climb out onto the beach.
The secret entrance eluded them but they did discover a great spy game I may have to try and replicate at Coombe Mill. Coloured string was criss-crossed in a tunnel to represent electric wire and the challenge was to pass over and under the string without rattling the bells attached at either end. Fluorescent lighting added to the fun and kept them entertained for quite some time.
For 3 almost teens who were quite indifferent to the prospect of a fort as a day out, they all reluctantly admitted that it was actually really rather fun and worthy of abandoning snap chat for a few hours!
Tips for visiting Fort Newhaven
- Fort Newhaven is well signed on brown tourist signs as you enter the town
- There is a height restriction to the car park, but our 9 seater mini bus just snuck under.
- Family tickets work out best value and OAP rates are available too. I thought £25 for 6 of us was very fair.
- It is worth checking the official website for any special event days.
- There are toilets and a very adequate if not modern or glamorous cafe.
- The steps make it unsuitable for wheelchairs and difficult with a buggy, though there are ramped alternatives to many of the key areas.
- It is windy and exposed on the cliff top so dress accordingly even in summer.
- I would say the Fort is most appreciated from age 8 upwards.
- It is an educational day out but highly visual and a fun way to a little about our past.
Posted on March 12th, 2017 - Fiona
If you have been following my Greece series on the blog, this is the 5th post recounting some of the places we visited last summer taking our older boys on a post GCSE and A level trip. We began in Athens, Explored the Acropolis, headed down the the Peloponnese staying at Kantia where we visited Nafplion before heading out on a historic journey to Epidavros. It is the the power of the Gods in Greek mythology and the healing powers of Asklepios that brought Epidavros to our attention.
Ancient Greek civilisation and their belief in the power of the gods are responsible for so much of how Greece was developed. Between chilling out on the beaches of the Peloponnese it was a golden opportunity for us to explore some of the impressive history of the area. Epidavros is right up there as a top cultural destination being home to one of the most impressive ancient Greek theatres remaining today and it was only a 40 minute car journey for from our base at Kandia.
I arrived at Epidavros with very little prior knowledge, but a helpful leaflet and signs all around the site soon bring a lay person like me up to speed. The Epidavrians founded the site as a centre for healing based on its fresh water springs and influence of the gods. The healing powers of the gods at Epidavros actually dates back to the Myceanean period when the sanctuary was first established. However having been overthrown twice it is Asklepios who really developed the healing qualities and reputation for the sanctuary into a vast community by the 6th century BC; the ruins of which can still be seen today.
Visits to the sanctuary became big business with a whole welfare program for the ill who paid to stay. Healing rooms and recovery rooms can still be seen. Myth has it that the gods would visit patients in the night and they would wake either healed or knowing the treatment they needed. Snake venom was a common ingredient in medicine and the snake became a sacred symbol depicted with Asklepios. Having a beard was also seen as a mark of power and intelligence. From the number of olive trees I’m sure olive oil had to be involved too.
Typical treatments were carved into stone so that they could be followed by healers. Instruments recovered from the site suggest that the healing moved from myths and belief to basic surgery over time.
Wellness of mind was considered an important part of the healing process and a whole running track and seating can still be seen. Major athletic events were hosted here.
Without doubt the highlight of the ancient sanctuary is the well preserved theatre. This is still in use today and a play had been shown the evening prior to our arrival. There was clearly a hanging involved as the props for this were still there. I would love to have seen the theatre all lit up at night. It is said that if you drop a penny on the central stage you will hear it at the top of the theatre thanks to the amazing natural acoustics of the arena. To be fair we failed that test but could hear a basic hand clap with ease.
Despite being THE centre for healing, the site pays little regard to catering for disabled visitors with steps everywhere. Even in the theatre, there are some token wheelchair seating marked up to the 5th row. Quite how those in needs might access this is far from clear; a little lie down in the healing room to wait for divine inspiration first maybe?
Tips for visiting Epidavros
- Avoid the middle of the day in summer as it is very hot. We set off early retreating back to the beach for lunch time.
- Entry prices: 6 euro for Adults 3 euro for children.
- Do visit the museum before you go round the ruins to make sense of what you are seeing and see the reconstructions of how life was in the sanctuary.
- Only take a small bottle of water, there is a fresh water tap to refill there and we had no trouble all week drinking tap water where ever we visited.
- Wear sensible shoes, as the surface is rough and in places slippery around the ruins.
- Do brave the steps to the top of the theatre, looking down is the most amazing sight and you are rewarded with a good breeze at the top.
- Parking is easy and free.
- Toilets are well serviced.
- Wheelchairs and prams are not practical.
- A visit is a half day excursion at best.
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