Category Archives: activity

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Great Central Railway: Winter Gala – review

Our little family loves steam trains, my grandfather was a fireman on them and hubby’s parents have always enjoyed them too. It was a big tick when husband (to be) confessed his love of steam!

The in-laws has said they were planning to visit Great Central Railway’s Winter Gala and as we hadn’t been before, and handily it was halfway between where we lived and their house (only 90 mins from Buxton), we arranged for us to all go together. It was running over three days (Frid – Mon) and we picked the Friday as we thought it would be a bit quieter.

The Great Central Railway is the UK’s only double track mainline heritage railway where you can be on one steam train and another flies past! There are four stations, with each themed around a different era of steam; a museum; cafes; shops stocked with train memorabilia; a large restoration (locomotive) shed and of course lots and lots of steam trains.

We arrived around 1140 (apologies to the lovely in-laws, we had said we’d probably be there for 10 – but two broken nights in a row had left us exhausted so the day started late) and were immediately greeted with the great view of not one but two steam trains at Quorn & Woodhouse station. We decided to start our journey there as there was plentiful parking. As it was a Gala there were plenty of trains running throughout the day, passenger and goods, toddler E was really excited! As we’d had 90 minute drive to get there, baby A wanted a feed again so I settled down in the cozy ladies waiting room on the platform. Complete with an open fire (toasty) and a leather covered baby changing table! The room with comfortable wooden benches was a perfect spot to eat our packed lunch. The station has been themed around World War II and has been lovingly restored to reflect the era, with interesting posters about how to support the war effort and the radio in the waiting room was playing some fun old tunes E danced to!

Useful Jobs That Girls Can Do - To Help Win the War
Useful Jobs That Girls Can Do – To Help Win the War© IWM (Art.IWM PST 6079)

After a feed we hopped on a train to Loughborough so that we could have a walk around the shed – a proper man’s shed with huge trains in various stages of being restored, so we could use the exposed parts to explain how steam engines work. Most of the renovations seemed to be individual projects, and there were people we could talk with to find out what they were doing.

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Locomotive Shed

Back on the train we went the length of the track, from Loughborough to Leicester North and back again. By now baby A wanted feeding again so we relaxed in a private compartment whilst I feed A and we watched the world go by – bliss! We had fun spotting animals from the train, interesting buildings – one which had a Lego man painted on the side and more trains. At Leicester E and daddy got out to watch the train turn around, I stayed on the train. The relaxing journey took just over an hour.

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Feeding A and watching the world go by

At Loughborough we got off the train and looked at some of the stalls which were selling train memorabilia, toys and other nicknacks. As we’re in the middle of a HUGE clear out at the moment we were very restrained and didn’t buy anything, though to be honest we already have quite a few train sets…

Back on the train we hopped off at our original station and I decided to top A up again so retreated to the warm ladies’ waiting room. Daddy and E stood on the platform and watched more trains.

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Just before 4 pm it was time to leave and a wonderfully helpful volunteer ran to the station’s cafe for us so we could buy the grandparents some local beer to say thank you for the day.

Though we arrived late, we had a splendid day. It cost £20 per adult and under 5s were free, normally it costs £16 but the Gala was a special event.

We’ll definitely go again, we had a superb time – it was easy to find comfortable spots to feed A – and none of us can resist majestic steam trains.

Finally, a thank you to grandpa for his wonderful photos from the day.

Here’s to our next adventure!

Michelle x

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Christmas present thank you cards

Last year I made some lovely Christmas present thank you cards with toddler E, recycling wrapping paper. They are really easy to make and I was quite proud I had designed them myself!

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It’s a great activity to do on a wet and windy day, huddled inside warm – crafting 🙂

We used plain cards, a snowflake stamp and recycled Christmas paper for the background and to make stars.

First E used the stamper on the red paper we were going to use for the background, but you could just use large pens and make dots. I then cut it up into rectangles, a bit smaller than the cards. She added glue and stuck the background paper onto the card.

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Next she used glue and chose triangles to make the stars. She really enjoyed choosing the paper combination and seeing how triangles could make the stars.

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I wrote the thank you message inside the card and she drew a picture on the other side.

We really enjoyed making these and will do the same this year.

Here’s to our next crafting adventure!

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Pony Patch at Christmas

Festive horse rides for toddlers

Our toddler E LOVES horses; she’s a huge My Little Pony fan, so when we discovered Pony Patch is a riding school for children 2 years upwards we were sooooo excited for her!

Pony Patch (near Glossop) is a family business, that provides children age 2 and up with a non-pressured introduction to horses and horse riding.

The first time we went was just to have a try, at the weekends you can just turn up and ride during the drop in session .for a few pounds – much more reasonable than other places we’ve looked at.

For Christmas they put on special events. We booked in advance to go on the Christmas Groom & Ride and kept our fingers crossed the weather wouldn’t be too bad as the venue is rather exposed to the elements! We were lucky, it was a cold day but when we went it wasn’t raining.

When we arrived, our pony wasn’t yet free so E had a jump around on the bouncy castle – holding on to my hands as she jumped around. We had many giggles and it still makes me smile thinking about her laughing so much! By now it was getting quite cold so daddy took baby A to the Coffee Shop, it’s just next door in the Garden Centre at Wimberry Hill. Without the cafe to shelter in, it would have been too cold for us all to go.

The session started off with E brushing the horses’ body and mane, she had to use different brushes and concentrate hard! Then festive decoration, with an Elf ‘hat’, bows in the mane and sparkly painted hooves – though I think by this point she just wanted to ride the pony! The final touch was to sprinkle magic reindeer dust over her pony, Thia.

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Then we were ready for our 15 minute rein led ride out the paddock and down the lane. E loved every minute, she didn’t look happy though because she was so focused!

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E had such a fab time and I didn’t have to hang around in the cold for too long! Children get a one on one horse experience with a pony and someone looking after them. It’s a great way to introduce toddlers to horses, at an affordable price.

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After we went and joined baby E in the coffee shop, ate homemade cake and warmed up. I found a nice comfy sofa to feed baby A whilst E and daddy pottered around the garden centre. A lovely morning out, when it’s warmer we’ll be heading to Pony Patch again.

Here’s to our next festive adventure!

Michelle x

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Peak Rail: Santa Special

Steam train fun meeting Santa

Yesterday our family and friends braved the winds and rain to visit Santa, who travelled on a Peak Rail steam train specially to meet the children! Much fun was had by all…

On a wet and windy afternoon
We hurried to Peak Rail
We had special tickets to meet a man
Dressed in red, who said ho ho ho

We climbed on board and found our coach
And settled in our compartment
A cosy space for adults and bairns
With festive decor throughout

The elves came round and gave out gifts
Festive candy canes for smiling children
Mulled wine and mince pies
For slightly frazzle parents!

The train took off – choo choo it went
And entertainment began
Balloon animals, magic tricks
And festive Christmas songs

And then in the distance we heard a ho ho
And a smiley beared man appeared!
It’s Santa said the children
And they were grinning ear to ear

He asked if they’d been good
And their Christmas present wishes
Then came the gifts for all the children
Train, doggy and soft toys

We waved goodbye to Santa
He had many children to meet
And the entertainment continued
As the train steamed on and on

Much fun was had by all
A festive magic treat
We’ll come next year, we all agreed
On Peak Rail’s Santa Special

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A magical festive ride, which we finished off with a meal at the Grouse and Claret. Booking recommended as it was packed!

Here’s to our next Christmas adventure!

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Buxton Opera House: Gruffalo

Last week (wrote a few weeks ago but only just published!) we took E to her first theatre trip, we were very excited to be going to see The Gruffalo at Buxton’s Opera House.

E is nearly 18 months old and hubby was worried she might not enjoy the experience and would be disruptive, but I told him the theatre would be jam packed with kids – of course! We booked our tickets well in advance, a group booking with our neighbour which meant we saved a few pennies.

On the day the sun was shining in Buxton so we had a lovely walk through the gardens before meeting up with (what seemed like) all the children in Buxton ready to go into the theatre. We had seats in the stalls which were easy to get to, but definitely no room for a pushchair so we were glad we had carried her there.

E had her own seat, but being a little girl she sat on our laps so she could see the stage. As the lights went down and the actors started their performance she was quite glad to have us to cuddle. It took her while to relax in the new, strange surroundings, but once she did she was bouncing and clapping along to the songs.

The Gruffalo – what a show! We really enjoyed it, there was a level of humour for the parents as well as the children. The three actors worked their socks off and engaged with the audience through the words to the story everyone knew, snazzy costume changes and songs for people to sing along to. And at an hour in length, the timing was just right to keep the children engaged and the parents happy 🙂 It also meant we didn’t have to entertain E during an interval or pay for expensive snacks!

I was so pleased we had chosen this show for her first theatre trip. The Opera House is a fabulous building (it was restored…) It’s a great location in the middle of Buxton; there’s parking nearby or the train station isn’t far away. I’ll be checking the programme to find the next kids show we could attend.
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Thanks for reading, here’s to our next adventure!

What we liked:
* Great show!
* Beautiful theatre, perfectly formed for little visitors
* Easy to get to location

Would be even better if:
* Can’t think of anything! Um..

Peak District Mining Experience

Last weekend we had visitors to Buxton, my sister and her family with two young boys. With a wet weekend forecast we were on the hunt for indoor activities, but unfortunately quite a few are closed this time of year. After a hunt through some tourist brochures we came across an advert for Peak District Mining Experience – open, indoors and suitable for kids, result!

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We were terribly organised and made a packed lunch the night before so turned up at 1120 so we could have some grub before the midday tour. When we arrived we paid for the tour / museum and asked if there was anywhere we could have some food before heading to the mine. We were gruffly told no, there were 24 cafés down the road or sit on seats outside. We had a look around outdoors, but as it was raining we instead went back inside and asked if the children could share the table they had for drinks. The member of staff didn’t reply, but the other people at the table were more than welcoming.

Whilst my sister let her children eat, I used the outside toilets to change baby E. Not a pleasant experience 😦 It was cold, the changing unit was filthy and, as I often find, no strap so I worried about her wriggling off.

Once E was changed we headed back to the museum where we were handed a dustpan and brush to sweep up the crumbs the children had made! It felt as if the member of staff was going out of her way to make us feel uncomfortable, the adults before us who had dropped crumbs on the floor hadn’t been asked to sweep up…

Housework done, it was off to the mine!

The mine is the otherwise of the road to the museum, up a steep path. On arrival we were told that when we brought the tickets we should have been advised it was wet underfoot, lots of talking (the guide seemed put off by some other children who were starting to fidget) and lots of crouching down to get through tunnels. Nope, we hadn’t been told anything but felt we could probably cope! Anyway, I had it lucky, hubby was the one carrying baby E – with hard hat for safety 🙂

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The tour guide was a nice enough chap, stopping at various points and giving info. on how mining used to be carried out – I’m surprised anyone survived, a horrendois job – or how much gold was still in the hills. Quite a lot apparently! But excavation would destroy the local area so thankfully that wasn’t allowed, but this information made my nephews even more keen to try out the panning at the end!

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The weather had been quite wet the last few days so it was also wet in the mine, our feet and jeans got quite muddy. Mental note – wear wellies next time!

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The tour round the mine was just the right length to keep a group of small children engaged and we didn’t have to walk too far. It was tricky in places bending down and walking through tunnels – well it was for the adults but not the walking children! There were a few of us carrying children and this was tricky, it would have been helpful if we had been advised of this when booking our tickets.

When we came out there was the option for panning for gold, I declined but my nephews were very keen so we left them in the cold and walked back to the museum.

After the slight disappointment around the tour, the museum was an eye opener. There was so much to see including real artifacts, films to watch, tunnels to crawl through, pictures to see, text to read… it is fantastic! There was mining equipment that had been dug up from the depths of the ground and was on display, such a lot to see.

Once back from panning, my nephews enjoyed crawling through all the tunnels. There was a digger to sit in and lots to do – they had a lovely time!

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Overall with the museum experience as well, we enjoyed our visit. The initial attitude of staff and lack of information did taint the visit, but the explorative and engaging offer from the museum won us over. Not a bad trip for a rainy afternoon in the Peaks.

Thanks for reading, here’s to our next adventure!

Get talking with baby sign language

It’s been a good few months since I posted onto the blog, shocking! It’s been a frantic few months getting to grips with a new full time job, a commute and a daughter who still doesn’t sleep through.

But I’m determined to continue with this as a reminder of all the wonderful things we do together over weekend and holidays – especially now E is in nursery during the week and I miss her so much.

Here’s some reflection on a wonderful activity we did back in May. I’ve only just got around to writing this up!

We moved to Buxton a month before I started my new job so that we could take part in some of the local baby activities on offer. Top of my list was baby sign language and I was pleased to discover it was run at the welcoming Alison Park Hotel (place of many a NCT meet up) by Julie Parker as part of the Tiny Talk franchise.

I’m the lucky aunty of four five (congrats sis!) nieces and nephews and I was always impressed by how they could communicate using sign language, before they could even talk, so I really wanted to try it out with baby E. It must be really frustrating for babies when they want to ask or tell you something and they can’t, so I was willing to give it a try.

Julie was incredibly welcoming to us as newbies and let us come for just a few sessions (she even let my mum join in on one). The session takes place in the hotel’s lounge so there are nice comfy sofas to sit on in a relaxing setting.

Julie structures each session really well, there’s a clear introduction to the signs that are covered and of course lots of songs! Signs are always repeated so its easy to pick them up and when sung to a catchy tune, such as The Sun Has Got His Hat on, they stick in your head.

Julie and her signing helper

I was able to ask about more useful signs too, such as ‘more’, ‘all gone’, ‘nappy’ and ‘milk’ – now I just need to remember to use them.

I particularly enjoyed that we were signing with the baby and including them in songs. Too many times I’ve seen people signing frantically to heir babies who just look bored or are looking somewhere else! With Julie’s approach the children are always involved.

After signing and songs the children get to play with some toys and the parents get a cuppa and biscuits – and there were dairy free options!

Elizabeth enjoying the toys

I really enjoyed the Tiny Talk sessions we were able to attend and will miss them. It’s a way to get to know other parents, relax in a welcoming atmosphere and learn to communicate with your baby.

In summary, we liked:

* Alison Park Hotel – relaxing atmosphere
* Julie – thanks for being so welcoming 🙂
* Toys for baby E and a cuppa with dairy free biscuit for me!
* The way the session was for parents and babies, I didn’t feel like I was signing at baby E, but with her
* Boobing friendly – comfy sofas, relaxed atmosphere

Would be even better if:
* It was easy to get Tiny Talk books, the local library just has American baby sign language books which are different

Thanks for reading, here’s to our next adventure!

Walk up Solomon’s Temple

We’re lucky enough to live in Buxton within 10 minutes walk of town and, in the other direction, 10 minutes walk of gorgeous greenery and the Peaks.

When I first came to Buxton hubby took me up to the folly Solomon’s Temple which gives the walker wonderful views across Buxton and beyond. Recently, with it being my mum’s first visit to the area, it was top of my list of places to take her.

The walk to Solomon’s Temple starts from the car park by Poole’s Cavern and after a climb up some steps it’s a gentle walk up the hill through Grin Low woods.

I’m not a very good walker, but I found the terraine quite easy. It’s not really suitable for a pushchair so hubby put baby E in the Baby Bjorn and off we went.

It’s obviously a popular place with families and dog walkers. Once we came through the woods towards the summit of Grin Hill there were many excited children and families running up and over the mounds of kilns from limestone mining.

Solomon’s Temple was built in 1896 to replace an earlier building erected by a local landowner and farmer Solomon Mycock. Excavations have proven that it’s not a true folly, as it does have a purpose – it’s built on the site of an ancient burial mound. Several Bronze Age skeletons have been found, alongside later Roman items.

The new (!) tower has a spiral staircase you climb to get to the top, with handrails all the way along and at the top a parapet you can look over. All this meant my scared of heights mum was persuaded to climb and look out from the top! She even obliged with a cheesy photo of baby E, hubby and myself.

Michelle, hubby & baby E at the top of Solomon's Temple
At the top of Solomon’s Temple

After a good airing and hubby pointing out all the local points of interest – such as the impressive dome of the University of Derby – we took a leisurely walk back to Poole’s Cavern to try out the cafe.

Hubby carrying baby E

We picked a corner of the cafe so I could feed E, though to begin with she was more interested in the birds just outside the window, attracted by all the bird feeders. I felt a bit exposed, even in the corner of the room, but the lady needed feeding!

The cafe has recently refreshed their menu, focusing on a wider range of local produce and good coffee. Being a breast feeding mum I was quite peckish, but unfortunately there wasn’t anything dairy free I could eat. I settled down with a decaf black coffee (as did mum – she prefers skimmed milk) and hubby had a white coffee. We all agreed that the coffee should have been stronger, it was a bit disappointing. (Update: hubby has since been back and reports that his filter coffee was much better the second time around).

View of cafe interior
View of cafe

After her feed we entertained E with a selection of the toys available – very child friendly! Mum checked out the toilets and they do have changing facilities, though we didn’t use them.

Toys
Toys

As the weather was still sunny we decided to go for a walk into town, rather than go into the cavern so that’s saved for another day.

Baby friendly overview:

  • Gentle, short walk suitable for baby carrying with the pay off of amazing views at the end.
  • Large car park.
  • Cafe with baby changing facilities.
  • Toys to entertain children.
  • Large outside play area and picnic tables.
  • Plenty of space for pushchairs.

Would be even better if (in the cafe):

  • Coffee was made a bit stronger!
  • Some dairy free options on the menu.
  • Comfy / cosy chairs for more discreet breast feeding.

In summary; a lovely walk, amazing views, child friendly cafe but the coffee needs to be a bit stronger!

On a rainy day we’ll be back to explore the cavern and I’ve heard it’s THE place in Buxton to see Santa!

Thanks for reading, here’s to our next adventure!

Baby Yoga with Pure Bliss

I was looking for a way to bond more with Elizabeth so was delighted when I discovered there were baby yoga classes in Buxton. Katherine from Pure Bliss Yoga is a yoga practitioner with over 12 years experience who specialises in yoga for families. You can tell she’s pretty cool – just look at her socks!

Stripy socks
Funky socks

The other week was our third session and baby E and I were starting to get the hang of some of the poses and songs! My mum even came along to and joined in, it’s a real family activity. The sessions are held in the United Reformed Church in Hardwick Square, which is an easy walk from my house.

Each session starts with a chat about how the previous week has been, it’s lovely to be able to share with other parents the highs and lows of parenting and ask for advice on topics such as weaning (which we’re just starting).

Then, after asking baby E’s permission to carry out some yoga with her, it’s onto the session. During the hour there’s a lovely mix of stretches and loosening up poses for the parents (such a relief from being hunched over when breast feeding), close contact and movement with the babies and of course some songs!

I’ve really enjoyed the sessions because of the gentle pace, and that it’s aimed at me and baby E. We both benefit and baby E is definitely chilled at the end of a yoga session.

Snoozing baby E
Snoozing baby E

Also, due to an accident a few years ago, I have a slightly wonky leg which doesn’t do everything I want it to. When I was pregnant, living somewhere else, no class would let me join pregnancy yoga. In comparison Katherine has been completely welcoming and helped me adapt movements where necessary. It’s made me feel much better as I get fed up being told I can’t do things and don’t want to think of myself as a cripple!

After all the relieving stretches and songs that make E giggle, it’s time to wind down and chill. I’m not the best person in the world at relaxing (understatement) so it’s really important to me that I’m learning how to consciously relax. Either I do so with E, or if she’s particularly wiggly Katherine entertains the babes.

The social aspect at the end of a session is as much of a benefit, particularly as I don’t know many other local mums. I enjoy the cuppa, fruit and nuts and if she’s hungry E gets a feed in a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

Tasty snacks beside a yoga mat
Tasty snacks

We’ve both thoroughly enjoyed the yoga sessions and I’m really going to miss them when I start work.

In summary we loved:

* How the activity is for families all together, not just the babies
* Relaxing location, plenty of pushchair space and baby changing facilities
* Adaptability – Katherine adapted the session for me and my nervous mum
* Professionalism – a yoga practitioner who knows her stuff!
* Social side – a rounded holistic approach to parenting

Would be even better if:
* Hubby had been free to some along as well, I think he’d have really enjoyed bonding with E
* Weekend classes – just because I won’t be able to attend once at work!
* Prompt sheets with stretches / movements – because I forget what to do. I’ll have to ask Katherine for some book titles…

I thoroughly recommend baby yoga and hope to be able to attend sessions in the future.

Thanks for reading and here’s to our next adventure!