Saturday, 25 July 2015

McLauchlans of Boxted PYO + Orchard Farm Alpacas

12 minutes drive from the Centre of Colchester there are 2 great places to visit, practically next door to each other.  McLauchlans of Boxted PYO and Orchard Farm Place. McLauchlans is a wonderful fruit farm where you can pick your own, Strawberries, Raspberries, Gooseberries, Blackcurrants and Redcurrants and then 2 minutes up the road, there is Orchard Farm, home to 34 Alpacas! Both really great places to visit of you have small children that you are hoping to tire out.

The shop where you collect your tub for putting your fruit in and where your fruit gets weighed for payment when you have finished. 

Fruit currently available to pick.

The farm also grows sunflowers.

The shop also sells vegetables, frozen fruit, Local Ice Cream...

... and beautiful cut flowers.

Our haul. With the flowers and a lot of fruit, it came to £17. Almost all the fruit has gone into the freezer to be put in smaller bags which we can use as and when. I've never been to a PYO Farm before but we'll definitely be back. A great, relaxing experience for energetic children and stressed out parents alike!

Then on the way home, we popped into Orchard Farm. This great little place only opens to the public on certain days of the year so you should check their website before you make a trip but my son loved it. It is free entry but they like you to buy Alpaca feed (£1 a bucket) and maybe have a Tea, Coffee or Cake from the shop. Alpacas are so sweet, I think they have taken over from the French Bulldog as my favourite animal.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Suffolk Foodhall, Ipswich, Suffolk IP9 2AB

There's a small chance I have written about this place before, but since I have no capacity for remembering anything since my son was born, I can't quite remember. Everything is clouded in a strange mist. Anyway, we popped into the Foodhall this morning for brunch. Its about a 20 minute drive from Colchester and very close to Jimmy's Farm (which is also excellent).  Check it out.

Suffolk Foodhall sits next to the impressive Orwell Bridge.
There are cows here too but due to the wonders of perspective you can't see them very 
well in this picture.

Outside the hall is a kids play area with this awesome sort of bouncy airbag and climbing area.

It's essential after a hard mornings bounce to recover with a Raspberry Ripple Gelato 
courtesy of this little Ice Cream hut.

The hall, jam packed with tonnes of local produce.

The hall also has an interiors / gift area...

...and a very well stocked garden centre outside.

View from the restaurant.

Colchester Carnival 'Heroes + Villains'

I think that one can safely say that yesterday's  'Heroes + Villains' themed Carnival in Colchester was a major triumph. Organised by the Colchester Round Table and the Ladies Circle of Colchester, it was a day of family fun in the most glorious sunshine. I have never seen so many people in the Town. Proof if proof be need be that Ye Olde Colchester is on the up. Next year, however, they may want to make sure they don't organise it for the same day as the Essex Food and Drink Festival.  I think the lure of John Torode and James Martin hanging out at Cressing Temple was too tempting for all the great local foodies here as the food options were very thin on the ground. But my son met Spiderman and got to hold a real life Soldiers gun so he wasn't remotely bothered by the lack of artisan sausages.

Anyway, here are some snaps:

The Castle with it's very smart new bridge. I don't think I'll ever get tired of taking pictures of this.

Hollytrees Museum

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Maldon Promenade Splash Park, Park Dr, Maldon, Essex CM9

Kids. Aren't they great? Just when you think you've cracked it another phase comes along to pull the rug from under you. We are currently experiencing sleep issues. After 3 years of an almost clockwork child, who pretty much went to bed at the same minute each night, he has turned into a complete fiend when it comes to bedtime. It happened when the clocks changed and has been a nightmare ever since. He won't go to sleep without me laying next to him. So tonight, like all other nights for the last few weeks, I have spent the last hour wrestling a 3 year old to sleep. And tonight I was supposed to be at my friends 40th birthday. (Perhaps it's for the best though, my liver will be less pickled if I stay in. Again). I don't know what to do about it and with no helpful Grandparents to offer advice/take him away and only a handful of local friends I am finding myself on a  very lonely road again. I have no idea how to tackle this phase.

So my new daily challenge seems to have changed from 'How to keep a small child alive' to 'How to knacker a small child out'. 3 hours of Soft Play didn't even touch the sides on Tuesday and a day at the park on Wednesday did nothing. So on Thursday I upped my game, I brought out the big guns and took him to Maldon Splash Park.

Maldon is about 15 miles from Colchester towards London. It's a medium sized Town and like a lot of places round here has some beautiful old buildings and a very pleasant High Street. Its also home to the famous Maldon Salt. But the juicy bonus of Maldon is the amazing outdoor play area they have for children which runs alongside the Blackwater Estuary.

The Blackwater Estuary

It costs £2 for 25 minutes in the water fountains but as it wasn't busy when we were there we were told we could stay as long as we like! Great knackering out opportunities thought I. Alas, the small boss informed me the water was cold so we only stayed here 15 minutes... (Make sure to take spare clothes and a towel if you go).

However, all was not lost as behind the water fountains lies a huge wooden Galleon for clambering all over and sliding down. Great.

Then we found these little beach huts by a Tree House, Zip Wire and another sandpit.

By this point I knew I was winning the fight. The child asked if he could go home. Yay!  Maldon had beaten him! But then as we left the Splash Park, we found another Park. And the child found a second wind. We then spent another 90 minutes here, but as it was so beautiful I didn't mind.

This little park was a 'Sensory Park'. Lots of lovely, smelly flowers, little rides to climb on, noisy things to play with but also a maze, a wildflower garden, a pond and a little vegetable patch. All parks should have areas like this, it was wonderful.

So we really had a great day, and I would definitely recommend it. And as for the sleep issue. It definitely did the trick and wore him out. However, he was so tired he slept all the way home, woke up as bright as a button as we got home and didn't sleep for hours that night :(