Friday, 26 August 2011

Ashdown Forest and Poohsticks Bridge

Ashdown Forest, near Poohsticks Bridge 

We ended our visit to Sussex with a visit to Ashdown Forest. A.A. Milne fans may know this is the real name of Hundred Acre Wood, where Winnie the Pooh and his friends had their adventures. By the time we reached the forest, Emma had given up and fallen asleep, so Mark stayed with her in the car and I took Tom and Lily on the walk through the woods to Poohsticks Bridge. When Mark and I came here B.P (Before Podlings), we struggled to find any sticks near the bridge, so this time we had the foresight to gather a bag of sticks at Wakehurst Place. The Podlings and I enjoyed a lovely woodland walk and had great fun playing Poohsticks. We snacked on some ripe blackberries we found by the path before heading back to the car and the long drive home.

Pooh Corner in Hartfield, the village where A.A. Milne lived.

Tom and Lily in Ashdown Forest, or Hundred Acre wood as they persisted in calling it.

On Poohsticks Bridge

 Before playing our first game of Poohsticks

 Playing Poohsticks

The path near the bridge was lined with wildflowers and was quite breathtaking.

Wakehurst Place

On our last day we visited Wakehurst Place, which is maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Mark and I came here many times 'back in the day' and loved the peace and tranquility of the gardens. It was somewhat less peaceful and tranquil with the Podlings, but the garden was just as beautiful as we remembered. We had a quick look inside the Elizabethan house (looking round National Trust properties with Podlings is very stressful!), but spent most of the time in the garden. We didn't get to see very much this time as the Podlings were too tired to walk far, but we enjoyed what we did see.

We were greeted by this wonderful carpet of cyclamen as we entered the gardens.

 The Podlings looking like butter wouldn't melt! Tom is sporting Mark's cricket hat.

The Podlings and me under one of the magnificent Californian redwoods in the garden. I'm just under 5' 2" if you want to get some idea of just how tall this tree is.  

 Tom and Mummy!

 "Cower" (Emma's word for flower)

 Tom and cannon

 One of the stained glass windows in the chapel of the house

 The sundial was surprisingly accurate, though obviously didn't account for British summer time

 "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow". The English Oak is my favourite tree and I have seen some magnificent specimens during our visit to Sussex.

 It seemed only fitting to get a picture of Lily by the lily pond

Lily and Mummy!

Thursday, 25 August 2011


After our visit to Bodiam Castle we drove to the coast for a fish supper. Mark and I are both from coastal counties, so we grew up being able to choose what fish you want when you go into a fish and chip shop. We assumed this was the norm until we moved 'up north'. We have found that where we currently live, you can buy "fish" and chips, but rarely can you get a named fish. On the rare occasions that the fish are named, the choice is somewhat less than we are used to. One of the things on our list of things to do in Sussex was to get "named fish" and chips. We particularly wanted Huss as you just can't seem to get that in Staffordshire.

We chose to go to Eastbourne as we figured it would quieter than Brighton. We enjoyed our Huss and chips at dusk on the beach as we looked across to the pier. The Podlings had fun playing on the beach and Lily and Emma even went paddling with Daddy in the dark (crazy people!). We ended off the day with a walk along the pier. Opened in 1870, the pier still maintains much of its Victorian charm. There was even a Victorian tea room on the pier I would have loved to visit, had it not been nine o'clock at night and decidedly closed!

Huss and chips...yum!

 Eastbourne pier

Eastbourne beach at night. Lily is showing us her favourite rock. She collected LOTS of pebbles from the beach!

Bodiam Castle

On the second day of our visit to Sussex we took the Podlings to Bodiam Castle. Mark and I came here many years ago and we really wanted the Podlings to see it. As Mark says, if you want to see a castle that looks exactly like you would expect than Bodiam is the place to be! It was built in 1385 and most of the exterior wall is still intact. Enough of the interior survives to give you a good impression of how it would have looked and we had fun climbing the spiral staircases and exploring the battlements. We all enjoyed our visit, but Tom was especially excited about the castle. He and I went off and explored the bits that would have been too hard for Emma while Mark took the girls to see the video about the castle. Lily was full of little tidbits of history when we all met up again.

 We bought the Podlings swords and shields at Legoland and they were very excited to take them to storm the castle. Emma has got it slightly wrong and is holding her hood aloft instead of her sword, but she does her best to be like the others!

 An extremely rare photo of all five of us!

The interior of the castle, taken from one of the battlements

 Tom on a battlement, with the Sussex countryside behind him

 Bodiam Castle is surrounded by the most magnificent oak trees.

 Mark carried Emma to the top of one of the battlements and she enjoyed looking down at the ground below.

 We were enjoying ourselves so much we stayed till the castle closed.

It is a truly splendid castle!

Legoland Windsor

Lego Leuven (in Belgium). The building on the right is a replica of the town hall, which Mark and I have seen a couple of times. It is a truly magnificent building in reality and the Lego version is pretty impressive too!

Our Legoland Discovery annual pass allowed us one free entrance to the much larger Legoland attraction in Windsor, so we planned to surprise the Podlings with a trip here during our visit down South. Tom was very excited when he recognised the Legoland sign as we drove past it! We had a slightly rocky start thanks to tired and cranky Podlings, but everyone settled down and we had a lovely couple of hours exploring Miniland and some of the other attractions. This place is massive and we barely scratched the surface of what there is here, but since Mark and I aren't big on theme park rides, we weren't too upset about that! We would have liked time to take the Podlings to Duplo Land, but hopefully we can fit that in next time.

 Tom exploring Lego Scotland

I was a Girl Guide and later a Guider in my younger days and I loved our Guide camps, so I couldn't resist taking a photo of this rather sweet Lego Guide camp. 

 This Lego tableau was rather appropriate as we had broken down on our way down to Sussex and needed to call the RAC out. Mark suddenly noticed that the car was losing power and when we pulled into the motorway services and got out of the car we saw diesel pouring out from under the bonnet all over the car park...yikes! They were able to fix the problem, but not until the following morning so we had to stay in a nearby hotel and complete our journey the next day. Thankfully we didn't drive into a river!

 Emma was too tired to enjoy Miniland, but she rallied after resting in the pushchair for a while and enjoyed the remainder of the visit. This is a typical 'tired Emma' pose, with her dummy in her mouth and the corner of her muslin by her nose.

 This rather intimidating Lego dinosaur sprayed water out of its nostrils, accompanied by some rather scary dinosaur noises. The Podlings loved it and spent ages playing underneath it and getting very wet!

 Tom waiting for the dinosaur to spray him again!

Mark, Tom and Lily on the Sky Rider. They had to queue for over 30 minutes to get on this ride, which lasted about three minutes. Thankfully Tom and Lily considered it worth the wait. Meanwhile, Emma and I went for a wander and discovered the source of the Lego bricks at Windsor...

 Apparently, the Lego bricks are mined by moles beneath the site of Legoland Windsor! Emma loved this little animated tableau and I had to keep taking her back there.

 Emma and Lily both really enjoyed trying to make Lego bricks stay on this moving platform. The aim is  to build a Lego building that can withstand the Lego 'earthquake'.

 Lily on a Lego biplane

 The Podlings enjoying (very expensive) icecream.

 Given that we are heading to the Highlands tomorrow, I thought this little Lego Highland Games rather fitting!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Sussex bound

Mark in Ashdown Forest (aka Hundred Acre Wood) in 2004

We're off on a short holiday to Sussex tomorrow. Mark is from Sussex, so he has a natural fondness for the county. My love of Sussex came from the many weekends we spent exploring it during our 'courting' days. We were studying in Guildford, so after a week in the lab it was lovely to hop in Mark's car and drive around the neighbouring county on summer weekends. We enjoyed the South Downs, the coast and many of the historic towns, castles and stately homes in the region. I have many happy memories of the times we spent there.

This is the first time we have visited the area properly since having the Podlings and we are looking forward to sharing some of our love of the place with them. We will be returning on Wednesday night and then I will have a frantic laundry and packing session as we are then off on our 'main' holiday on Friday. We will be driving up to the Highlands for a week, staying in the same place we went to last year. It is going to be a fun-filled couple of weeks, but there probably won't be much time for blogging. Don't worry if the blog is quiet for a while...I'm sure I will more than make up for it with masses of photos when we get back!

Who's in the Wendy house today?

Emma loves the Wendy house. It was given to Lily by her grandparents on her second birthday, but she currently refuses to go in it "because it has spiders". Consequently, Emma regards the Wendy house as her own personal abode. She was particularly pleased today as she had a visitor.

 Emma wants you to come inside and see who she managed to drag into the Wendy house with her...

Daddy! Not a lot of room for Daddy in there, but Emma doesn't mind sharing!