Badger Moot 2016 – Part Two

If you are reading this, I trust that you have read Part One, if not please click here first.  If you have, welcome to the second half of the Badger Moot 2016.  The first instalment retold the Bagnall’s experience of the Badger Moot until our evening meal on the Tuesday evening.  This is the remaining story of our time down in deepest darkest Dorset.

We decided that our Wednesday trip would see the Bagnalls head to one of our favourite haunts along the South Coast: Lyme Regis.  We have been to Lyme Regis many times and although it is a relatively small town it never ceases to delight us. Halfway between Dorchester and Exeter, Lyme Regis, overlooking Lyme Bay sits on the Dorset-Devon border and is part of the world famous Jurassic Coast, famous the world over for its fossils.  For the first time this week we took Nanny with us and so the six of us headed down the A35.  It is always surprising how busy Lyme Regis is but we found somewhere to park and walked into the town.  It was lunchtime so we headed to one of our favourite little café’s and had a quick homemade sandwich (finger fingers and mayonnaise for me – just to make you all feel jealous).  Then we took a stroll around the town.

Famous for fossils means that Lyme Regis has a plethora of fossil shops.  With the Baguettes new found interest in the palaeontological it was welcome attraction, especially considering it had a life-size replica Tyrannosaurus Rex skull in the window.  Time spent in the fossil shop gave Nanny and Mommy time to have a look around a couple of other shops.

I had to nearly physically drag them out of the shop (it was a good job they had already spent their pocket money for this trip otherwise I think we would have been in there for hours while they tried to work out what prehistoric paraphernalia they wanted to purchase) when Nanny and Mommy arrived.  It was the lure of an ice-cream – what do you mean it is the end of October, we are on holiday by the seaside and we are English, therefore we can definitely have an ice cream, regardless of the weather – that finally convinced them to leave.

We said goodbye to Lyme Regis, but not for the last time this year – more on that later – and headed back to Berwick Manor.  The Wednesday evening meal was also a celebration of all the ‘big’ birthdays that the greater Badger clan have celebrated during 2016.  I won’t embarrass anyone by naming and shaming, suffice to say that the total of these ”big’ birthdays was 415 and that was the number in candles – not 415 candles I hasten to add, that would be a serious fire risk, just a ‘4’ a ‘1’ and a ‘5’ candle respectively –  that adorned the joint birthday cake that was the evening’s desert (along with jelly and ice cream and selection of other sweets).

Party hats were worn and party poppers fired and after the meal it was time for PieFace.  If you are unaware of the game a mechanical arm will plant a cream (squirty cream) ‘pie’ in your face after a ‘random’ number of turns of the handle.  You roll a die to see how many turns of the handle you have to perform.  The larger the number on the dice, the more turns of the handle and thus the more chance that you will be ‘pied’.  That is the theory anyway.  The Baguettes were in bed and so missed out on the fun, but everyone else, except (strangely) the youngest members of the greater Badger clan (Baguettes notwithstanding, being asleep is a good excuse) took part delighting in the misfortune of others.

As you may recall we paid Auntie Margaret and Uncle Ray a visit on Tuesday.  We mentioned that we drove through Abbotsbury and along the coast road and Auntie Margaret mentioned that the Enchanted Illuminations at the Subtropical Gardens were well worth a visit.  Without a plan for Thursday we decided that could be somewhere to take the Baguettes.  Therefore on the return journey from Auntie Margaret’s we stopped in to the Subtropical Gardens to inquire.  It is always difficult to tell from leaflets but it looked promising and with a discount for online bookings and with the temptation of the passport ticket which gives you entrance to the other tourist attractions of Abbotsbury (The Swannery and the Children’s Farm) we headed home to book up via the internet.

Thursday was thus planned:  Swannery then the Children’s farm, back home for tea before taking Uncle Michael, Auntie Cristina and cousins Lauren and Maddie to Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens for the Halloween Enchanted Illuminations.

The only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world has its origins in the Benedictine monastery of Abbotsbury.  The monks farmed the swans for the tables of the local barons until the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII when the land (and the swannery) were bought by Sir Guy Strangways and it remains under the stewardship of his descendants today.

Abbotsbury Swannery is the probably the idea of a nightmare for Lucinda.  Over 650 swans, or, as Lucinda refers to them, mean peaking beasts that can break your arm (and according to the warden who had spent 36 years at the Swannery it has happened at the Swannery – once!  Once in 36 years!  Nevertheless it did happen).  So, it was very brave of her to visit the swannery bay at the Western edge of the Fleet, the lagoon that was formed when Chesil beach formed (and geeky stat:  It is the largest lagoon in Europe).

We arrived just before feeding time so we headed towards the feeding area, only being mildly distracted by the pedal go-karts along the way.  The Baguettes were very brave and entered the feeding area with Daddy to feed the swans.  Mute swans are big birds – indeed one of the largest flying birds in the world and must look even bigger to the Baguettes, Ezra especially.  However, they were all very brave and took turns throwing the feed into the Fleet for the birds.  Seeing the bravery in her offspring gave Lucinda the impetus to come into the feeding area and join us feeding the waterfowl.

Both Éowyn and Amélie had lots of questions for the warden, including tricky ones like: ‘Why are they called ‘mute’ swans?‘ (No real answer as they do make sounds – they are just not renown for a call like Trumpeter or Whooper Swans). ‘How do you tell the difference between male and female swans?‘ (The males tend to be a bit bigger but a large female and a small male would be about the same size; but the key is the ‘knob’ – the ‘pea’ – on top of the bill is bigger in males than females).

After a quick tour of the maze, another go on the pedal go-karts and a quick tour of the play area we stayed at the Swannery for lunch.  Conscious that we were running out of day, we walked up the lane towards the Children’s Farm.  Again, the Children’s Farm sits within the grounds of the original Benedictine Monastery that was dissolved in 1539.  Indeed, the Tithe Barn that sits in the centre of the Children’s farm was built by the monks in 1390.  The farm has all the usual suspects and was decorated with a Halloween theme for the half-term.  We could have spent many hours around the farm. but with the excitement at the Swannery and with half an eye on the evening’s plans we didn’t spend that long at the farm.  It was long enough, however, for Éowyn and Amélie to have a pony ride each and for Ezra to be completely freaked out by some of the Halloween decorations, especially the full sized skeleton.  I think it was the false eyes that had been placed in the skull that freaked him out the most.

So we returned to the car and headed back to Berwick Manor to grab something quick to eat.  Reading the literature regarding the Halloween Enchanted Illuminations leaflet from the Subtropical Gardens it seemed to encourage dressing up in appropriate Halloween costumes.  Ezra didn’t need too much encouragement to dig out his dragon costume for the second time that week.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought any Halloween costumes for the girls and it really wasn’t the weather to wear Hawaiian costumes.  That was when Maddie and Ella came to the rescue.  Using eyeliner they made Amélie into a cat (at her request) and Éowyn into a spider queen replete with cobwebs and spiders across her face.  You can see the results in the photos below and now, at least, they had made a bit of an effort to go to the evening with a form of costume.

When we got to the Gardens we realised that we were severely underdressed.  Most people had gone to some serious effort to come to the Garden in full regalia, we will not make the same mistake next year! Thankfully the make up was a little nod to a costume, although Éowyn was rocking the festival chick look with wellies, leggings, skirt and hoodie rather than a Halloween costume.  With our pre-booked tickets we bypassed the queues and passed through into the fun.  There were plenty of things to do throughout the gardens.  The first stop was the ‘bug tent’ where you get up close to stick insects, tarantulas, lizards and snakes.  The tent was quite packed with eager children wanting to hold the creepy crawlies, Éowyn and Ezra were the exception, they were not interested in holding any of the animals (although Ezra did like the lizards), Amélie however was first in the queue to hold a stick insect.  This then gave Auntie Cristina the courage to hold the stick insect too.

Next to the bug tent was the disco tent.  This held more interest for Éowyn and her older cousins Lauren and Maddie.  While the girls (Amélie joined them too) danced to the tunes, the adults (and Ezra) queued up for the ghost train that was the next attraction in the gardens.  The queue was enormous and it probably took thirty minutes to reach the front despite the fact that the ride itself only lasted 30 seconds.

There was no way we were going to let Ezra go on the ghost train, especially since he is freaked out by masks and he had been completely freaked out by the skeleton (with eyeballs) earlier in the day.  However, both girls were trying to be brave and saying that they would go on the ride.  It was decided that Amélie would go on with Mommy while Éowyn would go on with Daddy.  Lucinda and Amélie bravely took the first carriage and Éowyn and I sat in the one behind (only one carriage went into the ghost train at a time).

However, as Amélie and Mommy’s carriage edged closer to the entrance to the ghost train, Amélie lost her nerve and left the carriage to stand with Uncle Michael and her place was taken by Maddie.  This unnerved Éowyn but some reassuring words from Daddy and she was fine and then Mommy and Maddie’s carriage disappeared through the doors to the ghost train.  Unfortunately my hard work in reassuring Éowyn was destroyed by the sound of screaming from Mommy and Maddie as the doors to the ghost train closed.  There was no time now for Éowyn to get out of the carriage and the carriage lurched forward she became really scared so i told her to close her eyes and hold Daddy and she would be fine.

The usual dummies dressed as vampires and zombies were there with false cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, while at the same time you were being disoriented by the twists and turns in the rail track and the flashing lights (fortunately we do not suffer from photosensitive epilepsy).  Bravely Éowyn opened her eyes only for the real scares to happen and there were two people in there who jumped out on you as the carriage wheeled around the track.  The choice of costume of one of the ‘actors’ was perhaps a little insensitive considering the contemporary media reports but I suppose they had already ordered their ‘Killer Clown’ costume before the furore of the proliferation of such reports this year.

Understandably Éowyn was a little shocked as she got off the train, but when she realised that it freaked Mommy and Maddie out and that Lauren had hidden in the carriage as she went round with Auntie Cristina then she felt a little better about herself and it was soon forgotten as we continued to explore the gardens.  After the excitement it was quite nice to amble around the gardens illuminated by a spectrum of coloured lamps.  There were various characters dressed up standing in specific areas to add to the atmosphere:  witches giving out sweets (shades of Hansel and Gretel?), Zombies and Skeletal Queens to name a few.  As we walked out onto a grassy knoll (no J.F.K. here) there were a couple of ‘fire acrobats’.  Their show was very impressive with fire juggling, fire eating, fire breathing and general pyrotechnic pranks.

We continued around the park enjoying the walk and the illuminated vegetation until the final stretch before the exit.  The final 100 yards or so of the path was a gauntlet of Halloween style japes with people jumping out, people rattling bushes and dropping Halloween related items from the trees (on ropes so there was no actual danger of being hurt – apart from coronary related issues).  I carried Ezra through the Halloween run and for the most part he nestled his head in my shoulder, hugging me tight with his eyes closed.  However, he still seemed to enjoy it and wasn’t traumatized as we exited the Gardens.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Halloween evening and will definitely be going back next year, this time with a costume to feel a fully paid up member of the evening and I think we have convinced other members of the greater Badger clan that it was worth the money and a good night out.

That was our last evening for the Badger Moot 2016 and Friday morning we headed home.  However, we decided to head in the wrong direction for a quick visit to Lyme Regis to say another good-bye to our favourite place and have a spot of lunch before heading back to Staines Upon Thames.

Normally I would end the Badger Moot write up there, but I thought you may appreciate the following.  The journey back was a slog.  It took over 4 hours (nearly twice the time it took to get there) to get back.  Indeed, it took 2.5 hours to get to the bottom of the M3.  Now usually we would be nearly home and Ezra must have an innate timing in his being because it was at this point he asked whether we were nearly home.  I looked at the Satnav and it was displaying an ETA of an additional 2 hours, so I told Ezra that it would be another 2 hours. ‘You’re kidding me!  Right?‘ was his reply.  It was a good job that I was in stationary traffic.  I have no clue whether he understood either what he said or how long two hours are but it did make us laugh.

I think I have bored you enough so your reward is another crop of photos from the holiday.  There are plenty more on the Flickr pages so please feel free to pop by there if the 33 below has whetted your appetite.

Peace and Love


Badger Moot 2014 – Part One

A little delayed due to a couple of important updates but let me take you back to the October half-term and the greater Badger clan tradition of descending on deepest, darkest, Dorset (for the 11th time).  As regular readers will know every year the descendants of Grandpa Badger (Lucinda’s Granddad) gather in Dorset for a week’s holiday.  It is a great opportunity to catch up with members of the family that we do not see for the majority of the year.

As I mentioned above this is the 11th annual moot and the 10th at Berwick Manor in the Bride Valley, West Dorset just north of Burton Bradstock.  This year’s moot was sorely lacking in Badgers (although there were two ex-Badgers) however there was a new addition to the clan: Letty Woodman, Kate and Nolan’s baby daughter, (our children’s second cousin) the first time myself and Lucinda had met her.

As usual we can pick the keys up for the manor on the Friday afternoon, however with it not only being the last day of term for Éowyn and Amélie it was also their respective last days at their current schools, so we decided that it would be unfair to take them out of school denying them the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends.  We also had to ensure that both girls had collected all their belongings since they would not be returning.  Therefore, we did not set off down the M3 until well after 16:00 and perilously close to rush hour.  We were fortunate, however, that although the traffic was heavy it kept moving and we arrived in good time at around 19:00.  This gave us just enough time to unload the car and put Ezra’s cot up before Uncle Bill and Auntie Sally’s traditional Friday night curry.

The girls and Ezra are usually very good sleepers.  Amélie will usually be the first to rise (perhaps a throw back to her early years when she would scream through the night – she was 17 months old before her first ‘full night’s’ sleep) but that is usually not until 0630 at the earliest.  Now whether it was the excitement of being in a house with all their cousins, all five of us in the same room, or just being in a different place but none of us got a decent night’s sleep (indeed we didn’t get a decent night’s sleep all week – so much for a relaxing holiday).  Indeed Ezra woke up about 0300 and sat chatting in his cot (which was at my side of the bed) for about 3 hours before falling back to sleep.  In fairness, he didn’t cry just sat there chatting, and although, after checking on him, we lay there ignoring him it did mean that we were only ever half asleep.  Ezra probably fell asleep just before 0600 and then Amélie woke up at 0630 – so much for a bit of a lay in!

Saturday morning, was the traditional mooch around Bridport Market.  There wasn’t much to buy (as usual) but we enjoy the wander and bumping into other members of the Badger clan.   I had also give the girls (and Ezra – not that he knew) £10 each for them to spend on their holidays.  Bridport is home to a Toymaster shop and when we said that the girls could go it, their little eyes lit up with wonder and delight.  ‘This is the best place,‘  Éowyn gushed.  They ran from one aisle to another trying to decide what to spend their money on.  Neither Éowyn nor Amélie have the full appreciation of what ten pounds can buy you these years and were constantly disappointed when they pointed to the biggest boxes and Daddy had to say that they didn’t have enough money. Nevertheless, after what felt like an age, both finally made a decision and wangled an extra £2.50 out of Dad.  Normally, I wouldn’t be such a soft touch but Amélie had spotted a Barbie and Horse set that was half price (must take after her Nanny Fran spotting a bargain like that) and it seemed unfair that Amélie was allowed a little extra money and Éowyn wasn’t.  For the record Éowyn, unsurprisingly spend her money on another mermaid (and a mini my little pony).  Éowyn does seem to have an mermaid obsession and has countless mermaid related toys so when I saw her contemplating what to buy and one of them was a mermaid then there was only going to be one outcome.

Toys were left at Berwick Manor though as we headed to Hive Beach in the afternoon.  Hive Beach in Burton Bradstock is the closest coastline to Berwick Manor and we always head there at least once a moot!  We took Lauren and played the age old game of playing chicken with the tide.  The usual and inevitable outcome transpired and at some point the tide won and there was a trio of soggy children climbing back into the car for the trip back.

Saturday may have seen us visit familiar haunts, Sunday on the other hand saw us explore a new corner of Dorset.  In November 1943 notice was given to the villagers of Tyneham that they would be required to leave their homes before Christmas as the area was being commandeered by the Ministry of Defence for forces’ training.  The last of the inhabitants left on the 17th December believing that they would return after the war.  This never happened, and today the village is still part of the Ministry of Defence Lulworth Ranges and is one of the country’s ‘lost’ villages.

Tyneham is open to the public most weekends and all main public holidays and is free.  The intervening 71 years have taken their toll on the village and many of the cottages are but shells.  However the church and the school are in good order with St Mary’s church housing an exhibition on the history of the area and the school a wildlife project.

It was definitely an interesting place to visit and the girls Éowyn especially, we initially intrigued by the ruined houses.  However, it is only a village and although Lucinda and I found it fascinating it did not capture the girls imagination.  A tour of the village probably took about an hour and I would have liked to have stayed longer to take more photos but tummies were rumbling and so we headed down the road to Lulworth Cove.

I would recommend visiting Tyneham, if you are in the area as it is a fascinating part of our war effort.  Indeed it brings it home to you that men from the village were off fighting in foreign lands to protect their homes, only to find that when they returned home that they did not have a home, or a village, or a community – the very things that they were fighting for.  This is not only true of Tyneham where the village was taken over but many of our cities (and cities across Europe) that were destroyed by bombing raids.

As I mentioned above, many of the houses in the village are but shells but the church and the school have been faithfully restored (even if, in the case of the school it is a little contrived with the school work) and it was interesting trying to explain to 21st Century children the need for a ‘K1’ telephone kiosk and telegrams.

The unseasonable warm weather encouraged us to head to the coast to Lulworth Cove rather than head straight back to base.  Lucinda and I would have liked to have explored the area a little more and walked the coast path to Durdle Door however three little ones had been patient around Tyneham and so after grabbing a spot of lunch we headed to the beach in Lulworth Cove.

There isn’t much of a beach at Lulworth Cove but the girls (and Ezra) found a bit of sand to build their first sandcastles of the holiday.  For the second time this holiday they also ventured a little too far into the sea and the sea won.  Prepared with spare clothes, we poured the sea-water out of their wellies and dried their feet, changed their socks and re-shod them in their shoes and headed back to the car.  Walking up the road toward the carpark we had to pass through the visitors centre and their ice-cream parlours, the lure of which was too great.  So, we sat on the wall eating our ice-creams before heading back to the car and home.  The only downside was that somewhere between the beach and the car we managed to lose one of Amélie’s wellies.  Not the worst thing that could happen but we did need to replace them, which we did the next morning.

When I was a child we would regularly visit my mom’s cousin, my Auntie Margaret (actually my first cousin once removed) but I hadn’t seen her and my Uncle Ray until we met at my Nan’s funeral last year.  So, during last year’s moot we initiated another yearly tradition of visiting Portland and spending a day on the isle.  After a Sunday night that was very much like previous two (Ezra waking up in the middle of the night chatting followed by Amélie waking up early) we set out from Puncknowle along one my favourite roads in England (the B3157 – the Jurassic Coast Road) towards Weymouth and Portland.

Auntie Margaret had made cupcakes for the kids and had left them undecorated for the girls to have some fun when they arrived.  After decorating the cakes and colouring one of their pictures in their colouring books that Auntie Margaret had bought them we headed across the road to the junior playground over the road.  The girls and Ezra had fun but it was aimed at kids a little younger that Éowyn, and even Amélie was probably a little too old for some of the rides so we headed a little further down the road the ‘big’ playground.

This was much more suited to Éowyn, but maybe a little on the big side for Amélie however one that enjoyed it the most was Ezra!  In the centre of the playground was a slide that towered above me, the top was easily 2.5 metres (around 8 feet) high.  Éowyn and Amélie were both a little nervous but nevertheless climbed the ladder to slide down.  Their 18 month old brother had no fear.  We tried dissuading him from going up, but he wasn’t having that, so as he made the climb Auntie Margaret followed closely behind and myself and Lucinda positioned ourselves along the slide.  No need to worry, he loved it and as soon as reached the bottom he ran round to climb to do it all again.  Auntie Margaret followed him down the slide and then back up the stairs behind him again.  That was exercise that she wasn’t expecting.  Ezra showed no signs of stopping so we decided it was an opportune moment to walk back to Auntie Margaret’s house and lunch.

The girls were on best behaviour and endeared themselves to Margaret and Ray by asking if they could call them Grandma and Grandpa rather than Auntie Margaret and Uncle Ray.  As you can imagine both were delighted to have been asked and were very happy to agree to.  We left mid-afternoon to return along the Jurassic Coast road to Berwick Manor for the family meal and this year’s fancy dress party.  But you will have to wait until the next instalment for part two of the holiday and The Hollywood Party for the details and more importantly: the photos.

Peace and Love


PS Before you look at the photos below I must warn you that there is one that might break your heart.  It is not all joy and happiness on holiday as Amélie aptly demonstrates below. Do not fear the long face didn’t last too long!

A week in Wales: part two – the holiday proper

A second update in a day! And the second of the trilogy for this week.

Hopefully you have all read ‘A week in Wales: part one’ if not please click on the link to refresh how we go to where we are.

So, with the girls in the twin room, Lucinda and I in the double room with Ezra’s travel cot half in the wardrobe to maximise the floor space we spent our first night in Kiln Park.

With small children you never get a lie in but at least it was a little reasonable when we got up allowing us plenty of time to get Éowyn ready for her first swimming lesson.  Lucinda took her while I looked after the other two.  Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed herself and with only one other child in the lesson it was well worth the money.  Éowyn was very good, taking instruction well and even ducking her head under the water.  Somehow, I think listening to a teacher rather than her Mum or Dad was better for her.

The big bonus with the lesson starting at 0900 is that it was over by 0930 so by 1000 we were out of the caravan and exploring.  We decided that the first day should just be spent in Tenby (or Dinbych-y-pysgod to called it by its native name – the little town of the fishes or little fortress of the fish).  Tenby is a very old walled seaside town on a natural sheltered harbour.  It is a very pretty town, with its mediaeval town walls (which include the five arches barbican gatehouse), a 15th century church, colourful Victorian houses (nearly every house is painted a shade of pastel blue, green, pink or purple giving a very continental feel to the town) and a one way system.  The latter is fun negotiating while looking for a car park and you get to see the majority of the town.  Nevertheless we soon found the right path to the multi story car park and headed to the beach.

As I mentioned in the previous update Tenby has a large flat sandy beach that is close to 4km long and that was where we spend the morning until rumbling tummies forced us off the beach and in search of lunch.  While heading off to lunch we saw a number of boat trips, we decided on the Seal Safari, nearly one hour on a small boat that circumscribes the nearby Caldey Island looking for Grey Seals.  Caldey Island is a small island just off the coast at Tenby and is one of Britain’s Holy Islands.  It is famous for its Trappist Monastery, the monks of which make up the majority of the population of the island.  They raise dairy cattle and make cheese, perfumes and chocolate.  Indeed the island has its own postage stamps and currency.  However that is a different trip, we didn’t step foot on the island merely circled it.

Our trip was geared at looking at the wildlife and seeing the island from a more unusual point of view.  The main draw of the trip was to see grey seals and as  such the trip did not disappoint.  We saw a number of seals and they must be so used to the incursion into their territory that they didn’t bat an eye indeed some of them didn’t even rouse from their slumber as we approached quite closely.  In addition to the seals we saw a number of seabirds that are not regularly seen on shore.  Highlights would be in no particular order:  cormorants, shags, kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills.  The only slight downside was that we didn’t see any puffins but that’s a trip for another day hopefully in the not too distant future.

Éowyn loved the boat trip and was really excited to see the seals.  The same could not be said of the other two.  Amélie got a little agitated before the boat trip asking us not to die.  Damn that Frozen film!  For those of you without small children, or a love of Disney movies and for any other reason haven’t seen the film Frozen, the protagonists’ parents die when the ship that they are travelling in sinks in a storm.  We explained to Amélie that we wouldn’t die, which she excepted and then as soon as she boarded the boat promptly fell asleep and missed the entire trip.  Ezra, on the other hand was asleep when we boarded the boat and stayed that way until we were getting off the boat!

On our return to the caravan a little girl was playing in the next caravan so Éowyn went out and introduced herself.  Emmy was 7 years old and although did play with Éowyn you could see it was more Éowyn looking up to (although not literally, Éowyn, though 2 years her junior, was a couple of inches taller than Emmy!) her older friend.  Emmy has younger sisters who happily played with Amélie so it was nice for them to play with others.

The next morning was Éowyn’s second swimming lesson but we joined her as a family in the pool afterwards.  The pool was not as warm as you would expect (maybe it warms up during the day) but you soon get used to it.  Unless that is if you are Ezra.  He did not like it one iota and let everyone know, so Lucinda took him out and I stayed with the girls for a bit longer.

After swimming we headed to the nearby town of Saundersfoot.  We had looked at Saundersfoot when looking at possible holiday destinations but somehow it missed the final cut.  Again Saundersfoot has a large level sandy beach and this time armed with sandwiches and snacks we stayed on the beach the entire day making sandcastles and, in the case of Amélie, digging large holes and trying to fill them with seawater.  Never quite understanding why the water kept draining away!  Kept her busy!

The long term weather forecast had been pretty horrendous but the first part of the week it had been nice, not hot but dry.  Thursday, however,dawned with grey clouds and so we decided that we would head out for adventure.  On the way into Tenby and again on our trip to Saundersfoot we had seen signs to Dinosaur Park.  The girls both wanted to go and so it seemed like the perfect day to go.  I am not sure how to describe Dinosaur Park.  It is definitely a park and it definitely has dinosaurs (and other pre-historic creatures) but it is both more and in someways less than that.  Yes there are a large number of life-size fibreglass models of large extinct animals but then there are slides, a play barn, and frisbee golf.  You can also go water zorbing, pilot disco boats and ride on a number of coin operated (tuppence!  yes tuppence a ride!) electric vehicles (my favourite being the Orbiters) as well as ride Wales’ only tubey run.

The highlight (and probably at the same time the lowlight) of the day was the dinosaur trail.  Over two dozen dinosaur models laid out in the woods with an ‘expert’ taking you on a guided tour.  This was not Jurassic Park.  This was a local armed with a tickling stick and a big bag of sweeties taking the children round the woods introducing them to the dinosaurs.  Now anyone that knows anything about kids knows that kids love dinosaurs.  They know all their names and what they ate and how big they were.  I know because I was one of those kids.  Unfortunately our ‘expert’ didn’t know that much about dinosaurs and her stock phrase to stop the precocious kids from asking awkward questions, or even correcting her mispronunciations was by replying (add your own Pembrokeshire accent here) ‘You know more about dinosaurs than I do, have a sweetie.‘  It certainly added to the experience.  In fairness to her I think she was filling in for a sick employee as later in the day she conducted a fossil hunt and was very good at it (real fossils had been added to a big area of pebbles and if you found a fossil you could keep it – the girls (with a little help from daddy) both found lymnaea).  However you would have thought that as an employee of Dinosaur Park you would at least know the dinosaurs in your park, regardless of the actual job that you do.

Dinsoaur Park was a big hit with the girls, we got there when it opened and we left just before it closed and they both wanted to go back (which we could have done with a boomerang ticket for a fraction of the price).  The weather wasn’t great but it didn’t really rain, just a drizzle that hung in the air inviting you to walk through it to get wet, but it didn’t matter.  It may be stuck in a timewarp (compared to other attractions) but that is its charm.  Kids are encouraged to use their imaginations and although the models are not exactly anatomically correct (in line with current thinking), or even that convincing (to the eye of an adult), Amélie still shook with fear when she saw the model of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and that was the magic of Dinosaur Park.

On the other side of the attraction scale was Folly Farm.  It is neither a farm or a folly but a combination of zoo, indoor playbarn, steam funfair, adventure rides and the eponymous farm.  This is much more of a modern attraction with a good selection of exotic animals (including the only giraffes in Wales) and with more to come.  Indeed on our visit they were building a large enclosure to house lions which is due to open later this year.  The indoor play area was enormous with three stories of interconnecting tree-house to lose yourself in.  That was only half of the indoor attractions, in addition there was a complete funfair (the largest indoor funfair in Europe) with chair-o-planes, ghost train, golden gallopers, dodgems and a waltzer.

Again, we spent the whole day at Folly Farm having another fun-filled day and although it is a regular winner of ‘Best Day Out’ awards (and 400,000 visitors a year can’t be wrong) if you asked Éowyn and Amélie where they wanted to return, it would have lost out to Dinosaur Park.  However the visit to Folly Farm was capped with a visit to the gift shop.  Before leaving West Bromwich, Nanny Fran had given all the children some money to spend on their holiday and I had told them that they could spend it on whatever they wanted but Daddy wouldn’t buy them anything else.  They have to learn the value of money somehow.  So the gift shop was the perfect place for them to hone their purchasing skills.

Amélie, saw exactly what she wanted within a minute, a fairy and horse model.  She could not be dissuaded from her choice.  Eowyn, however, was a little more economically savvy.  It must have taken over 20 minutes for her to make a decision, weighing the different combinations of toys that she could afford.  Eventually, she made a decision and left the shop with a pack of three mermaid dolls, a cuddly mermaid and a pink unicorn – sounds like a good night out!  Ezra wasn’t left out either and indeed he made his own choice too.  Lucinda was pushing him around the shop while I calculated the running total of Éowyn’s purchases.  As they passed a display of cuddly cowboys, Ezra pointed at them and said ‘that‘.  Lucinda gave it to him and he cuddled it.  She then gave him a cuddly pirate and he cuddled that too.  He then looked at them both and threw the pirate on the ground.  He had made his choice.  So with Eowyn’s armful of toys, Amélie’s fairy and Ezra’s cowboy we headed to the till, paid and left to grab an Italian meal in nearby Narberth (Arberth) before heading back to Kiln Park.

After two fun-filled days we decided to take it easy on Saturday, with a walk into Tenby and day spent on the beach, building sandcastles for Éowyn’s mermaids!  Saturday was also the day that Éowyn’s friend from the next door caravan, Emmy, left to return home.  Éowyn got herself all upset, although Emmy didn’t seem quite as upset.  So we made a fuss of her and headed to the leisure complex to play Éowyn’s favourite game, Air Hockey.

For our final full day in Pembrokeshire we decided to explore the county and both decided that we would head to St David’s.  Although it doesn’t look that far on the map it took longer than expected to reach the smallest city in Britain.  When we reached St David’s we were a little disappointed and instead of stopping too long decided that we had passed a couple of interesting spots on the way and would prefer to head back to those.  So we turned the car round and headed a little bit further down the A487 to Solva.  Lower Solva (to be accurate) lies at the bottom of the ravine at the mouth of the river Solva on the north side of St Bride’s Bay.

We parked in the harbour carpark and walked down the A487 stopping in the various galleries and the three story gift shop(!) but the highlight of this short stop was Sunday Lunch at the Harbour Inn.  A traditional carvery was served with a good selection of vegetables.  The girls were given a little bag with colouring pens, a puzzle book and a pack of cards for playing snap as a gift with their meal.  But the pièce de résistance was the desert: salted caramel profiteroles.  I will leave it to your imagination but if you are ever in the vicinity I would highly recommend popping in and sampling them for yourself.

Before heading back to the caravan we made one more stop:  Carew Castle.  A magnificent castle it is currently being restored by the National Park Authority and you can certainly see the work that they have done so far but how much they still have to go.  Unfortunately we didn’t know about it until we happened to pass by and thus we had missed out on all the half-term events that they had put on all week.  Nevertheless the girls still had a good time (despite the rain) mainly due to the laminated eye-spy leaflets that they were given on arrival.  It made Éowyn especially ask questions about the castle and about the items that we were trying to find.  Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the bats (there are 11 species that roost in the castle) that make this a Site of Special Scientific Interest.  Neither did we have time to visit the adjacent mill, the only tidal mill in Wales.  Next time.

And so before you knew it and before we were ready the holiday was over.  We had a thoroughly good time in Pembrokeshire and would definitely return to the area and possibly even the same caravan park.  It helps that we were lucky with the weather but there were a lot of attractions in the area for children that even without the weather we could have found things to do.

I apologise that this is a bit of an epic (indeed it is the longest write up on the site), but perhaps you can understand now why I split it into two updates.  However, news in the Bagnall household isn’t over and expect another update before the week is out.  Meanwhile there are plenty of photos below to balance the prose.

Peace and Love