Dark HedgesLast week I ticked one more thing off my list of 40 things to do before 40. It’s a good job quite frankly, as time is slipping away and I’m a little behind schedule. The lemon curd may have been mastered, but I’ve yet to get anywhere near a water bed, let alone Iceland.

Last week was all about the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland, inspired by something I cut out of a newspaper a couple of years ago. I really like cutting things out of newspapers and magazines, partly because I like the idea of trying new things but also just because I find the scissor action very satisfying.*

The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees, planted in the eighteenth century by the Stuart family in a bid to impress visitors as they drove up to their home. Bee and Belle may have been fairly nonplussed – ‘Is this it? Just some trees?’ – but it certainly impressed me.  View Post

As avid readers, (which you all are obviously), you’ll know that we recently went on a bit of a motorhome adventure, in a van very kindly lent to us by Bailey of Bristol.

This was it:

Bailey Approach Compact

Motorhome crush

As well as being great fun, and an opportunity for us to listen to countless mystery novels on audio book, it was actually part of a grander plan. It isn’t for nothing after all that a girl is prepared to wheel a box of her own poo across a field of holidaymakers. It was in aid of ticking off another item from my list of 40 things to do before I am 40; specifically to visit every county in England. View Post

At 5.28pm on Tuesday 5th August I found myself doing something I had never done before, something I never imagined I ever would do.

At 5.28pm on Tuesday 5th August I wheeled a plastic box of my own poo across a field full of holidaymakers, happily playing swing ball and barbecuing meats. It was a bit like walking through an airport, except outdoors and with infinitely more unpleasant luggage.

And so I was introduced to the joys of the chemical toilet.

chemical toilet View Post

We’re home!

Did you miss me?

No, well, never mind, I’m back anyway whether you like it or not.

I’m going to be writing all about the trip over the next couple of weeks but before I distract you with tales of ancient monuments and rainy walks I just wanted to say a massive thank you to Bailey, who lent us the motorhome for ten days, allowing us to visit 12 counties in all and to tick ‘visit every county in England’ off my list of 40 things to do before 40.

I was really nervous before we set off about how I was going to manage a motorhome, but I actually loved driving it. Here I am, looking rather pleased with myself having successfully got us to our first Caravan Club site:

Bailey Approach Compact View Post

Recently my sister Annabel took her family to Wychwood Festival. This is how they got on.

A few weeks ago we donned our wellies, slung our bindles over our shoulders and headed off for a family adventure to Wychwood festival. From the moment we drove straight to the family camping area (those who arrived before us did tell of hours stuck in queues but us being our usual disorganised selves managed to arrive slightly later on the Friday and cruised straight in) and unloaded we felt the jollity and friendliness of this festival. It is the loveliest, cosiest, most relaxing festival I have ever been to.

Now, admittedly those are not necessarily the qualities your average festival goer looks for – more the availability of alcohol, quality music and medic tent for emergency contraceptives – but when you have small children those hedonistic festival days are but a distant memory and for a family, Wychwood is absolutely spot-on.

The beauty of Wychwood though is that it does not compromise on the festival experience just because it is family friendly – some great acts played the stages from The Stranglers and the Boomtown Rats to The Levellers and Craig Charles; there is something to cover most musical tastes. You can still drink to your heart’s content and mingle with grown-ups, it is just well tailored to children as well.

We were struck first by just how small and cosy it is. You don’t have to spend hours traipsing through muddy fields to reach anything and a good portion of the festival is taken up with the children’s area which kept my three year old and five year old wholly entertained. They were particularly happy with the free Little Tikes village – packed full of toy houses, castles, kitchens and those awesome red and yellow cars that I always wanted as a child.

Little Tykes Wychwood Festival

There was so much for children that it was impossible to do it all; there were bug hunts, bubbleologists, clay modellers, drum workshops and everything else you might expect. Another highlight was the Waterstone’s children’s literature tent that put on talks from illustrators, authors and all sorts of other activities and then there were the most talented face painters I have ever witnessed.

In the interests of a full review my son took it upon himself to try every stall available to him so he go-karted, he slid down a giant inflatable slide, he is now the proud owner of the biggest bubble wand known to man and the bounciest balloon and his personal favourite – a helium balloon dinosaur that has legs and walks on the ground.

Grown-ups were not left out though, we sampled the odd tipple from the variety of bar and beer tents, you could also unwind in the healing field with a variety of treatments on offer, the music was good (Baraka were a particular favourite of ours as well KSH and the Going Goods) and being such an intimate festival you could really get up close to the acts and see them from all over the festival.

I would love to say that performances from beloved bands such as The Stranglers or The Levellers were the main stage draw but no…Justin Fletcher (Cbeebies’ Mr. Tumble to any pre-school parents out there) seemed to have the biggest crowd of the weekend on the Saturday morning. I have to admit, I was not looking forward to it having always been mildly disturbed by his voice but it was a cracking performance.

It is hard to find fault with Wychwood, the facilities were good (always a clean toilet nearby – without queues), the staff and stewards were friendly and helpful without being overbearing, the campsite was flat and spacious (advantage of being held on Cheltenham Racecourse) and it was just a really beautiful atmosphere. We enjoyed it enough to book tickets for next year and can’t wait to go back.

Wychwood Festival

Disclosure – Annabel was given tickets to the festival for the purposes of this review.

Now it may feel a bit like I have given up on my 40 things before 40 list, but I promise I haven’t, I’ve just been a little distracted of late. It’s still happening though. I have been to the opera and launched a message in a bottle and everything, I just haven’t quite got round to writing about them yet.

One of the things on my list is to visit every county in England and I am intending to get that one ticked off as soon as this summer, thanks to the loan of an amazing motorhome from Bailey of Bristol. During August Belle and I are going to be hitting the road and visiting seven counties in seven days – a grand finale to this item on the list, where we tick off the last seven all in one week. We’ll be staying at a different Caravan Club site every night and will be working our way through Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, East Riding, South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire – I need your help though for suggestions of places to do or thinks to visit along the way!

We’re going to be travelling in a Bailey Approach Compact 540. They are ideal for just me and Belle as they actually aren’t much wider than a regular car yet have everything you need for a self-sufficient holiday. Pretty cool right?

Bailey Approach CompactI was a little concerned however that ‘hitting the road’ could quite literally mean ‘hitting passing cars and trees’ as I am not terribly confident when it comes to driving large vehicles. Our last house move, where I was in charge of van driving, ended at 10.30pm in a dark garage forecourt with me crying, having backed Boyfriend and the van into a parked car, so you can see why I might be a little nervous. View Post