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




A week in St Ives

It is that time of year again, the Bagnall summer holiday.  You may recall that last year the four of us headed to the Canary island of Tenerife, this was to erase the memory of a rather wet Kent from the year before.  With Ezra only three months old and not in possession of a passport a return to Tenerife (which is something that  we would like to do as we thoroughly enjoyed our week there last year) was not on the cards.  Thoughts therefore turned to the UK and after eliminating some worthy resorts we opted for St Ives Bay Holiday Park and a six berth static caravan.  Somewhat misleadingly (but nevertheless geographically correct) St Ives Bay Holiday Park is not in St Ives itself but Hayle on the eastern side of St Ives bay.

Lucinda and I have previously visited St Ives, although not since 2005, and St Ives was the Bagnall exotic holiday (every three years or so) when I was a child so it is a place we (especially me) know quite well.  Cornwall is a peninsular county in the South West of the UK usually warmed by the Gulf Stream, the warm Atlantic current that keeps the UK warmer than its latitude should dictate, therefore, it seemed a good bet to provide the best weather for a UK bound holiday, especially since the week we chose didn’t coincide with Wimbledon or Glastonbury.  However, as seems to be new paradigm for the 2010’s (what is this decade called?) this summer has so far proven to be cold and wet would it be for our week away?  More of that later.

Our holiday started on Saturday and the early start that we had planned went by the wayside.  Trying to usher three children into a car with all the associated paraphernalia is tantamount to herding cats and so we left two hours or so later than we had wanted.  St Ives is close to 270 miles (435km) from Stanwell Moor and so with three small ones there was a need for a major pit stop. Rather than 20 minutes or so at a service station we decided on a familiar haunt:  Lyme Regis.  It is a town we know quite well and coincidently approximately halfway.  This, in turn, dictated the route we would take to Cornwall.

We didn’t quite make it to Lyme Regis.  The weather was poor, Ezra was crying (he was hungry), the girls needed the toilet and we had been caught in heavy traffic so with another familiar haunt five minutes away we took the detour to Hive Beach café in Burton Bradstock.  A stretch of the legs, a refuelling and a walk along the beach that certainly blew the cobwebs away we were back on the road next stop Hayle.  We arrived in Hayle at around 1800 and after checking in and unpacking there was only time for dinner before turning in.

We awoke to heavy rain, caravan technology has certainly improved since I last spent a night in one for in the older style one would have heard every single drop.  It was also Father’s day but with the poor weather we decided not to head too far and instead headed to the local supermarket for supplies and scope the surrounding area.  Driving through Hayle we spied Salt, a restaurant/ café/ bar that Lucinda had seen on t’internet that had received rave reviews.  Father’s Day dinner was sorted and we headed there early.  On our return to the holiday park we decided to check out the entertainment:  Mr Bamboozle the balloon magician.  The girls enjoyed it especially receiving a balloon creation at the end of the performance.

The weather was still poor Monday morning, so we decided to take advantage of the on-site swimming pool.  However there was a break in the persistent rain in the afternoon so we decided to venture further afield and headed to Penzance.  Not the prettiest of Cornish venues but the journey through the Cornish countryside certainly made up for it.

Tuesday was altogether a little brighter, not exactly blue skies but the rain did hold off and so we headed into St Ives.  Now for those of you that have never been to St Ives, it is a beautiful seaside town that grew up as a medieval fishing village (the Sloop inn claims to date from 1312) but expanded in the late Victorian age due to the St Ives branch line from St Erth.  It was this branch line that proved to be the most convenient way for us to arrive at St Ives.  Medieval fishing villages were not built with cars (especially S-Maxes) in mind, hence with the car parked as Lelant Saltings station we took the scenic route (the railway line runs along the coastline and has to be one of the prettiest views from a train line, certainly in the south of England).

With buckets and spades we spent most of the afternoon building sandcastles and running into the sea (it was freezing), then as the skies turned threatening (although it still didn’t rain) we went for an obligatory ice cream and a mooch around the shops.  On our return to the holiday park we decided to check out the facilities and after Éowyn challenged me to a game of table football and air hockey we tested out the adventure playground.  It was there that Éowyn met her new best friend Lila (not sure that I have spelt that correctly).  They were inseparable and played together most nights for the rest of the holiday.  Indeed the next day we decided not to venture too far from the park just down to the beach so that if Lila was about Éowyn could play with her.  Unfortunately we didn’t meet up with them until the evening, we had somehow been missing each other all day for Lila’s parents had had the same notion.  When we were at the club or adventure playground they were at the beach; and when we were at the beach they were at the club.  It was possible we were both on the beach at the same time but with over 3 miles of golden sand it would have probably been more luck that judgement that we would have bumped into them.

We did however leave the park for an hour or so to go for a cream tea at Green Pig farm.  Half way between St Ives and Penzance it not only served a fantastic cream tea (and ice cream for the kids) but from its lofty position you could see St Michael’s Mount and the Lizard peninsular.

The weather forecast for Thursday was for heavy rain so we looked for something close that would entertain the kids yet at the same time provide shelter should we need it.  Paradise Park in Hayle seemed to fit the bill.  A wildlife park specialising in birdlife, mainly parrots, penguins and birds of prey with the added bonus of the Jungle barn a huge indoor softplay area for kids of all ages!  We arrived just in time for the bird of prey display which was excellent.  The Eagle Owl flew between the rows of seats not more that a foot (30cm) off the ground (as you can see from the photo below).  Amélie and Éowyn were both fascinated with them and when they asked for volunteers to hold a barn owl both wanted to but were disappointed not to be picked, I promised them that when they are older that we will do it (any excuse for me to do it again!).  As we were leaving the arena they had bought a male Bald Eagle for a close up photo opportunity, Amélie had other ideas: ‘I want to hold it‘.  I explained that it was bigger than her but she was very insistent, so I took her as close as I dared for fear that she would try to stroke it and the eagle may have an unscheduled snack of her fingers.  There seemed to be a mad rush at the end of the performance for places at the café and so to avoid the rush we walked around the mini farm and the girls fed goats and sheep.

In hindsight it was the correct decision for after lunch we headed into the Jungle Barn.  We thought that we would be there for an hour or so and then finish off walking around the rest of the enclosures.  No chance, the girls loved it that much that it was about three hours later before we left with two very tired girls straight into a downpour.  Seemingly as soon as we had entered the Jungle Barn it had begun to rain and hadn’t stopped all the time that we were in there.  Amélie was so tired in fact that she fell asleep in the car and didn’t wake until the next morning (good job she had had a large lunch).  Éowyn on the other hand woke when we returned to the caravan and wanted to go and play with Lila.  So after something to eat Lucinda took Éowyn to find Lila while I looked after a sleepy Ezra and a completely zonked Amélie.

Unfortunately Lila was not about but instead of returning to the caravan Lucinda and Éowyn decided to check out that evening entertainer: Wishy-Washy the magician.  I am not sure that Wishy-Washy was entirely glad that they had.  Wishy-Washy needed an assistant and Éowyn was the first to put her hand up and volunteer and so was picked.  She thoroughly enjoyed being a magician’s assistant and thought that Wishy-Washy was hilarious and I think that Wishy-Washy was enjoying having such an euthusiastic assistant, indeed when she wanted to go to the toilet he paused the show so that she wouldn’t miss anything.  Éowyn got so engrossed in the role that when she thought that Wishy-Washy was being too silly she would smack him on the bottom with his magic wand that he had entrusted her with – much to the embarrassment of Lucinda.  Unfortunately they could not stay to the end of the show (they did leave at 10pm) as Ezra was due a feed.  Éowyn was full of her role as a magician’s assistant and told me every little detail on her return, I think she was quite enamoured with the glamour of the limelights.

Our final full day came far too quickly and we decided that we would return to St Ives.  We decided on a change of plan and that was to park at St Ives train station and spend the day on Portminster beach in the shadow of the train station.  Unfortunately, the car park was full and so plan two was put into action, catch the train into St Ives again and then head to Portminster beach.  This time however we parked at Carbis Bay train station.  As we parked I decided to contact my mom’s school friend Teresa who lives in the area, to introduce my family and arrange to meet up in St Ives. By sheer coincidence we didn’t need to go too far for she only lives a stone’s throw from Carbis Bay train station and quickly walked down to meet us.

Friday was probably the best day of the week and we all thoroughly enjoyed another day building sandcastles and splashing in the sea.  Again the girls were completely worn out and Amélie fell asleep in the pushchair as we walked into town missing out on an ice-cream;  Éowyn had the good sense not to fall asleep until after she had eaten hers.  Even though both girls were very tired Éowyn was determined to go to the adventure playground to see if she could see Lila for one last day and give her a picture that she had drawn for her.  Fortunately Lila was of the same mind and the girls played together for one last time and both were upset that they would probably never see each other again.  I am sure that Éowyn (and Lila) will get over it (as Éowyn did over Brooke who was her best friend that she met in Tenerife) but it was quite upsetting that she got so upset about leaving her friend and wondered if we returned next year whether Lila would be there.  Bless.

We had to leave the caravan by 0900 Saturday morning, so most of the packing was done on Friday night and we were only 30 minutes late (well within the one hour grace period).  Again to break up the journey we decided to head to Lyme Regis for we thought it would be nice to see Lyme Regis in the summer.  To be honest I would prefer to see Lyme Regis in the autumn!  There was a gale force wind (maybe a slight exaggeration there) blowing and it was bitingly cold, the British summer!  After a brief stop and a bite to eat we were back on the road home and the holiday was over.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cornwall and I am sure that we will return, possibly even to St Ives Bay Holiday Park for caravaning has certainly changed in the 30 years since I last caravaned.  I think I have bored you enough (if you thought the last update was long this one is 20% longer!) so I will leave you with a selection of photos.

Peace and Love