Since Ben was born, we’ve spent a week on holiday somewhere in the UK with my parents, sister and brother-in-law. Last year we went to Northumberland, and the previous year, we went to Essex. I love it because we all get to spend a long period of time together. We live nearly 250 miles away from my parents and sister, so we don’t see them very much. The holiday is a way of counteracting this.
This year, we stayed at the Cotswold Water Park, on the Clearwater lake. The property we had was through Orion Properties, and was ideal for us: 4 bedrooms, including one on the second floor so Mum and Dad could shut themselves away from the children waking up at 6am. We were also able to have one dog with us, so Mum bought her dog Petra. It was obviously owned by a family with younger children – there was a high chair, and a box of toddler toys, which were really well received. The house itself didn’t have a garden, but the decking just outside looked out onto the Clearwater Lake itself, which was stunning.
Unlike our previous holidays, the weather wasn’t amazing – in fact, the first day we were there, the Saturday, was probably the best for most of the week. We went to the main part of the Cotswold Water Park, where the boys had a great time paddling, and we took out a rowing boat onto the lake. Even though it was a Saturday in the Summer holidays, it didn’t feel too crowded or busy at all.
Sunday was a bit miserable, weather wise, so we stayed on-site in the morning and went to the swimming pool. Our house came with a few passes for the Spa, and the swimming pools there were amazing: one large indoor pool, a large heated outdoor pool, and an unheated lake-pool are complemented by a sauna and steam room. While some of the men sweated it out in the gym, Ben and I had a great time in the pool.
In the afternoon, we braved the downpour and headed into Cirencester to the Roman Corinium Museum there. This was a really good museum, with lots for children of all ages to do there. I think we spent a good 2 hours there, and Ben wasn’t bored at all.
On Monday, while my parents headed off to a National Trust place, Tim, Laura, Simon, Ben and Sebastian (10 months) headed off to Roves Farm. There are several farm parks in the area, and this one has a great soft play area, which was ideal with the unpredictable weather. Ben wasn’t too interested in the animals, although Sebastian was fascinated, but both boys really enjoyed the soft play, which is huge. Smaller children are well-catered-for, and the canteen/tea room was excellent. We took our places on the tractor ride after lunch, which also, somehow, involved a hunt for an escaped dinosaur. Ben thought this was absolutely brilliant, and all the children on our trip were captivated by the antics of the ‘dinosaur-keeper,’ who convinced them that the ‘Swindonodon’ had escaped somewhere in the park. Tractors and dinosaurs? What more could a small boy want?
By Tuesday, we were all pretty ready to do our own thing. We hung out at the complex for the morning: I had a gorgeous solitary swim before the family session. Being alone in a swimming pool is a really wonderful experience, and one I definitely hadn’t had since giving up my gym membership in 2013. I love swimming and it is one of the few forms of exercise I enjoy. If you’ve seen the #thisgirlcan campaign, you might have seen the dimming poster with the caption, “My headspace is 25 meters long.” I definitely feel that way about swimming.
For the rest of the day, we hung out at the complex. Tim went fishing, and Ben and I went to the Water Park again, where we built an epic sandcastle complete with turrets, towers and a moat. Can you tell I’m a bit proud of the sandcastle?
We try to do at least one day out which will include us all at some point. This year, we went to the Cotswold Farm Park, made famous on Countryfile. I had thought this would be huge, with massive areas to walk around, and very expensive. In fact, it was reasonably priced, and perfectly laid out for an almost-3 year old to walk around. There was a lot happening during the day, and we were lucky enough to bottle feed both sheep and goats, to pet rabbits, guinea pigs, chicks and a goat and to go on a tractor ride tour around the farm. These are pretty ordinary things for a farm park, but each was done to a really high standard. There were also talks on the rare breeds on the farm, and Ben loved feeding the bigger animals with grass pellets.
The highlight for Ben, however, were the extensive play areas. Tractor driving courses, impressive climbing frames, 2 air pillows (basically an industrial bouncy castle), one for the under 6s and one for the over 6s, a big sandpit, a maze… I think there were a few bits that we missed, and we were there all day!
The facilities were good, particularly the cafe, where I had a really good cauliflower and horseradish soup. The only thing I thought was a bit disappointing were the toilets – Adam, you need to upgrade the very basic ones!
I think, considering we had to entertain people between the ages of 0 and 60, this was a pretty good choice. I had expected the prices to be steep, but actually they were very similar to most farm parks. The other thing that surprised me was how small it was – when you see it on Countryfile (which isn’t that often), it looks huge. In fact, you could walk around the whole place in about half an hour. This isn’t a bad thing – everything is packed quite closely together, so even little toddler legs can cope. There is a longer walk as well, but none of us did that.
On the final day of our holiday, the boys took the children, and the girls went into Cirencester shopping. We’re not amazing shoppers between us, and it’s normally a recipe for serious tension. However, Cirencester does have some really nice shops – Sea Salt, Joules, House of Fraser, as well as lots of gift shops and nice interiors shops – so we decided to risk family arguments for the sake of getting some decent things. My sister needed a dress for a wedding she is attending in September. I have to say, the lady serving in the Dickens and Jones concession in House of Fraser was excellent, and Laura was very pleased with her bargain dress. I proved that I am definitely well into the mum-dressing by buying a mac that will pack into a little bag – a slightly stylish pac-a-mac, if you will. We got back in time for a birthday lunch for Ben, who turned 3 just after our holiday. I love this photo of 10 month old Sebastian in his party hat.
During the afternoon, Tim went fishing while my parents and I took Ben for a long walk, including pond-dipping. The Cotswold Water Park has a treasure-hunt set up, with different codes for opening treasure chests at various locations around the park. This would be a great activity for older children, but Ben was very happy to go pond-dipping and find a tiny fish, a shrimp and some water snails.
On our last evening, we went to the on-site restaurant. Now Ben is a bit more flexible with his routine (he used to be terrible if dinner was past 5pm and bedtime was past 7pm), and Sebastian is a really easy-going baby, we were able to book for 5.30pm and take the children with us. The restaurant was only a 3-minute walk down the road so that was a bonus! All in all, it was a lovely way to end our holiday.
Each holiday has been very different, mostly according to the ages of the children, but on the whole, I’d say the Cotswolds was very successful. We came home relaxed (and it was lovely to have a Friday-Friday holiday as we then had the weekend before Tim went back to work). We had spent lots of time with our family, and had a good time. That’s all that matters, really.
Once again, I’m linking up with What’s Happened? What’s Happening?