Posted on November 15th, 2019 - Anya
The Coombe Mill Halloween Fun Day is one of the farm annual highlights. It has developed and grown over the years into a day that holiday makers return for year after year. This year followed the highly success format of 2018, but with a few additions to keep things fresh.
Halloween Fancy Dress Feed Run
Our usual morning tractor and trailer ride to feed the animals was turned into a fancy dress feed run. The trailer really looked the part and even Farmer Nick joined in with fancy dress.
Perhaps the highlight of the feed run was discovering spooky Halloween chocolate eggs in place of farm eggs at the chickens
Families then had the middle of the day free while I moved decorations from the Trailer to the train tunnel and added to them and prepared the pumpkin crafts for the afternoon.
Last year we provided pumpkins for carving as part of the carts. It was so successful I thought I’d extend it to this year but instead of just handing out pumpkins I hid them in the fairy garden so the children’s first task was to go on a pumpkin hunt.
Armed with a pumpkin each the children set about designing their pumpkin and then carving. We had plenty of adults on hand to help out with this. When it came to scooping out the middle, we reserved the seeds and flesh for baking.
We made pumpkin cakes indoors, very similar to the blackberry cakes of a few weeks before, but substituting the blackberries with grated pumpkin flesh.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
This is one of my favourite things to do with pumpkins. The seeds are so easy to roast. Simply clean them in water and pat them dry, then transfer them to a roasting dish, add salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with olive oil before roasting in the oven or under a hot grill for around 10 minutes or until golden. It is worth shaking the seeds mid way through cooking to ensure they toast nicely on both sides.
The children filled jars with the toasted seeds and made spider tops from cereal boxes while the cakes cooked.
Halloween Party Games
We cleared away the baking tables and turned up the Halloween music for a bit of fun with musical statues and musical bumps. The children were so good it was hard to catch anyone out, even with a wide age range. In the end I had them spinning and bumping to make it harder for them and easier for me! There were treats for all so everyone was a winner really.
Daytime turned to night times during our games and the children were really excited for our last two events, the Ghost train and Trick or Treat. We made our way over to the train station by torchlight and everyone enjoyed at least two round of train riding in the dark with a spooky tunnel of fun.
Trick or Treat.
The evening ends in style with a huge trick or treat procession. This is totally unique and very Coombe Mill. We go from property to property as an organised group. Weonly stop if there is a pumpkin lit outside. Between the ones we carved together and extras created by families in their own time there were some real works of art
Trick or Treat challenges my voice. My trick is to keep order, keep everyone safe and ensure the little ones have as much of a chance to call at each house as the bigger kids. Excitment is full on as this is the real highlight of the evening for the children.
My thanks to all the parents for the wonderful treats and decorated properties. I think this might have been the best trick or treat ever. One little one told me as much which was totally spontaneous and adorable.
Already half the properties have rebooked half term with Halloween on the back of this year’s fun day. Do jump on board if it appeals to you and your family.
See all the fun on the short video below:
Coombe Mill Halloween Fun Day 2019
Posted on May 17th, 2019 - Anya
For our final week of Easter Holiday activities I decided on a giant Den Building mission and a campfire bringing the children back to basics with some wild garlic cooking. It was an ambitious undertaking with a large group, however with so many older children so keen to take part it felt like the right activity.
It’s all in the preparation
As always with my activity sessions, preparation is everything. Farmer Nick had been talking about moving the Den building zone for some time and this prompted the activity. The old zone had been standing for many years and the branches were becoming so dry and brittle they were beginning to snap. Since we were talking about re stocking with new trees and branches we also agreed on a new location which I knew would be popular with the children.
The Bug hotel next to the fairy garden was a bit of a white elephant. The bugs never inhabited, preferring instead the giant toadstool seats of the fairy garden to hide under. Nick took it all down and spent a morning anchoring supports for a new Den building area in its place. He then chopped a load of branches and placed them all outside ready for me to use with the children. Felix, who was home from university, set up a lovely stone fire pit and seating for me and I prepared some cheesy bread mix. It all looked so natural I was delighted.
Excited den building kids
The children all came home from their days out super excited by the den building task ahead. Everyone had been eyeing up the growing mound of branches and couldn’t wait to see where they were going to take them. One by one the children dragged the branches to Felix at the Den building zone who took them from the children and agreed with them where each would go.
In no time at all the den was forming and Felix was struggling to keep pace with the arriving branches
We were racing against the rain too and keen to get a good canopy over our den. It all worked a treat and easily housed all the children.
Felix explained to the children how to start a good campfire with dry wood and firelighters. He showed the purpose of the stone surround and let them help develop the fire once it was lit.
There is nothing quite like a campfire to excite children and they all crowded round adding firewood.
Cooking with wild garlic
Wild garlic is one of my favourite foraged herbs in spring and we have plenty on the farm. The children collected and chopped the wild garlic, then mixed it into a chunk of cheesy bread dough. Finally they wrapped it round a stick.
By the time the kids had prepared their garlic bread onto the sticks the fire was ready to cook on. The smell was wonderful and I wish I had a chance to toast one for myself!
I love how the children were drawn back into the den to enjoy their garlic bread.
A pack of marshmallows finished off the session. After all who can resist toasting one of these on a campfire?
It was such a busy afternoon but one the kids all adored. Each took home some happy memories of fun on the farm with Farmer Nick and wild den building and campfire cooking with me.
Posted on September 21st, 2018 - Anya
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
Suitable For||Age 4 – 12|
Posted on June 15th, 2018 - Anya
Clio told me back in February, as we wandered around the lake, that the bright yellow flowers on our gorse bush were edible. I’ve been thinking about how to use them ever since. Then I saw a lovely post from Annette at Four Acorns who used them to make ice cream and I knew I had to try something. Ice cream sounded delicious but would take too long to set on an afternoon with the children here so I decided to bake wild gorse flower cakes with them instead. I tested a batch out on my own children first, and then happy that they were going to be popular with the holiday guests, I formed our afternoon activities around this idea.
We began with a walk over to the lakes where I knew there were a few bushes for us to raid. It was May and the flowers were nearly over. It was tricky to pick the flowers without getting prickled so the older children and grownups were in charge while the younger ones played on the lakeside play equipment.
Off foraging round the lake
We found a gorse flower bush
Ouch they are prickly!
Carefully pulling the flowers
A good haul
Back home to get baking
Back at the craft table with hands and gorse flowers washed the children helped me add all the ingredients into a big mixing bowl.
We divided the mixture into little cake tins and placed them in the oven.
While the cakes were cooking, the children created a little recipe cards. These had the cooking instructions and a few pressed gorse flowers.
Then they sat on our new picnic rug from Prezzybox and began to colour in the fun designs.
I think they could have been colouring away for hours if they hadn’t spotted me bringing out the trays of perfectly risen wild gorse flower cakes. I placed a plate of cooled cakes on the picnic rug and colouring pens went down as everyone tasted their baking.
I think its fair today they went down a treat. Foraging for edible flowers is a great way to encourage children on a country walk. Remember to take a container to bring your flowers home. Here is the recipe if you fancy giving it a go.
Recipe for Wild Gorse Flower Cakes
All the fun of our foraging and baking afternoon on video
Posted on May 25th, 2018 - Anya
In early May the farm is teaming with wild garlic. Big green leaves, white bulb roots and pretty white flowers. I was keen to run an activity hour that would take us out on a nature appreciation tour searching for garlic and making something with it. Last year we made some delicious cheese and wild garlic scones, this year I thought we’d try my super easy pasta sauce. Since I knew it was very quick and easy to make I had a couple of extra jobs on the farm for us to do with the animals, and then nature obliged with a few more so that we totally overran our time, but no one was clock watching and tummies had been filled.
We began with a little sensory game. The children each sniffed a little wild garlic, rosemary and mint and tried to say what they reminded them of. Some of the things were so funny with the likes of strawberries and honey, but I was really impressed with the little girl who said roast potatoes on smelling the rosemary. I checked with her Mum and like me she adds rosemary to roasties!
Nature Appreciation through making Wild Garlic Pasta Sauce
Having seen and smelt wild garlic we watched my little video on how to make wild garlic pasta sauce.
Then we set off onto the farm to look for some wild garlic while Clio cooked a pan of pasta for us.
On our return we saved a little garlic to add to our recipe cards which were laminated for the children to take home then washed hands and garlic before setting to work on our sauce. The children helped me carefully chop the wild garlic including the leaves, flowers and bulbs and place them in the food mixer. Then we added olive oil and seasoning, replaced the lid and whizzed it all up.
Clio brought us out the steaming pasta and we put some into bowls with the sauce and grated cheese for the children to try. Despite the parents reservations on whether they would taste it, every child gave it a go and most really enjoyed it. Curiosity had the better of the parents and they all tried some too!
Nature appreciation with animals.
When everyone had finished their pasta we had a few farm jobs to do.
Our first job was to release an emperor moth. I had found her sunbathing on our doorstep just before activity hour and she was sure to be trodden on merging into the paving stones so I brought her along for the children to see. Carefully we freed her onto the grass next to a bush.
Our remaining jobs needed a walk back to the farm. Lambo needed her bottle, I had carrots ready as edible toys for the rabbits and Farmer Nick had made a sign we needed to put up to protect the nesting wild duck sitting on her eggs. We headed off over the fields with everything we needed and stopped first to add the sign and show the children the duck. She was pretty well camouflaged and we only found her in the first place when farmer Nick nearly mowed her down cutting the lawns!
Over the bridge and a hungry lamb was waiting for us.
Jessica, Sophie and Peanut the chicks had come off the heat lamp and we moved them into a much larger home where they could roam and see the world whilst being fox proof and dry.
Finally we took our sliced carrots into the bunnies and hung them from their toy. Grabbing their treat keeps the bunnies entertained and full up!
No wonder the time ran away, there is so much to do on the farm at this time of year and it’s lovely to have the children wanting to help. You might have thought they would be worn out after all their nature appreciation and chores, but there was still time for a play in the ford on the way back. It just goes to show that nature’s playground is pretty cool too!