Wind in the Willows Trail at Hanningfield Reservoir-Days out in Essex

Wind in the Willows is a children’s classic novel about small animals who spend their summer days boating on quiet rivers, going on picnics with large hampers of food and being lost in the wild woods. It’s fun, adventurous and very British- A classic tale of river life and friendship.

The novels begin with Mole, a peace-loving little animal, who decides to leave his burrow after being bored with doing his spring cleaning. He ventures down to river bank and soon meets brave Ratty, grumpy Badger and an unruly Toad.

Children and adults love Wind in the Willows as it represents a quintessential British summer. We all want to stroll down by the river, picnic on the banks, sail down the river in a boat and set out on journeys full of fun and adventure.

At Hanningfield Reservoir you can follow in Mole’s footsteps, follow the trail and discover the characters from the Wind in the Willows.

The boys love a bit of excitement and anything that’s gets them out within nature. They love trekking through woods going on adventures.

With a map in one hand and a crayon in the other they were ready to go off and search for the wooden sculptures hidden within the woods of Hanningfield.

The maps and crayons are available at the visitors centre for £1.

As soon as we had left the car and headed on over to the visitors centre they were greeted by the beautiful wildlife garden, which is the home to Ratty’s boat and Toad’s caravan.


Inside Toad's caravan
Inside Toad’s caravan

After a little stroll around the peaceful garden we headed on over to purchase our maps. We were given a crayon too as next to every wooden sculpture there is brass rubbing squares that you can create a rubbing from on the back of your map.


The boys used their map reading skills to follow the trail and lead us to the fun, life-size characters that were numbered on the map. Teaching them navigation skills and direction.


I love watching the boys working together as they are normally squabbling with each other.

They were so excited when they found the first one set within the trees. Once they found the character they could also read the description about each animal under the square that you used fort he rubbing. Not only were the children having fun but they were also learning facts about the animals as they went.

As we walked along we also made our way over to Lyster Hide, where we could look out over the reservoir and watch the birds fly over or swim on the water.

hanningfield reservoir

The first on the trail was Badger


Second was The Weasels


Third was Mole


Fourth was Ratty

wiw ratty

And last was speedy Toad

wiw toad

There were also other sculptures to see that had mini beasts carved into them and picnic benches to sit down and eat your lunch at.


The whole adventure took us just over an hour, we didn’t rush around and spent time just enjoying each others company and the woods that surrounded us.

It was a lovely day out and would definitely recommend it. Parking is free but no cycling or dogs are allowed.










Blowing the cobwebs off on the longest pier in the world

Southend is home to the longest pier in the world stretching out into the Thames estuary 1.34 miles, if you don’t fancy the walk along the pier then there is a train that travels up and down the pier transporting people to the ned and back. Since opening up in the early 19th century, the pier has had its fair share of bad luck, suffering from 4 fires, a boat crashing into it and been closed down a number of occasions due to safety.

Southend coast consists of large mudflats so the water is never very deep when the tide is in. Back in the 19th century boats were unable to stop at Southend when the tide was out as the mudflats went on for over a mile. Visitors then went on to the next seaside town along the coast. The Pier was built so that boats could reach Southend in low and high tide.

Lucky for us it is now a major tourist attraction for us all to enjoy.


It’s half term and we decided to visit Southend for a walk along the seafront and a portion of chips. The sun was shining and it was a glorious winters day.

The children had a little play on the sand, where they collected up all of the seaweed that had come in with the tide and rested up against the sea wall. They ran around really enjoying themself. They had their wellies on but didn’t spend much time on the muddy sand or playing in the little play area that was there, they much prefered to play with the seaweed and explore along the stone wall.

It was a lovely calm day, even though the sun was shining it was still very chilly, especially when the sun went behind a cloud. It was perfect weather for a walk along the pier. We had Nan with us so decided against walking the full length and catching the train instead.


The train went quite slow, a little bumpy in places but was a very pleasant journey. The children loved looking out over the mudflats and trying to spot the stones and any little fish that were flapping around in the low puddles. Joseph was quite sure he saw a seal laying in the mud but I’m not convinced! lol

The train journey wasn’t long before we was at the end of the pier. It was very cold. We had a walk around and looked out around us taking in the views.

The children had lots of fun running along the end of the pier, It was too cold for Nan so she went and warmed up in the cafe, whilst we walked around and took in the views.

Another thing that The Southend Pier has become famous for is Jimmy & Jamies cafe, which I think is only open in the summer. We had a sneaky peek through the windows, It looks so much smaller than it does on the television. Not sure how they fit the camera crew in there!


Before heading back to the train for the journey back we had a little pose in front of the building. Small eh!


After blowing the cobwebs away on our chilly walk along the pier we found a little friendly cafe along the front where we had chips and a drink before heading back to the car to go back home.

A visit the seaside shouldn’t just be for those warm days, licking away on an ice cream and paddling in the water but it’s perfect on those chilly winter days for a fresh walk along the front and warm up with a hot chocolate and steaming chips.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Promenade Fun

Promenade park is situated in Maldon, Essex alongside the River Blackwater and is the perfect place to visit as there is something to do for everyone of all ages….

-The Splash Park
-Sand Pits
-Model Boating Lake
-Children’s Playgrounds
-Picnic Areas
-Play Galleon and Forts with an Aerial Runway
-BMX and Skate Park
-Boat Trips


The park is a favourite of my boys and we always spend a day there when visiting Nanny. There is so much to do that they never tire of keeping them self entertained.
The youngest boys love the sand pit area which is at the end of the ornamental lake and right next to refreshment kiosk. The Pit also has water play equipment in it, the children love to pump the water up and watch it travel down the cut out logs and onto the sand, the children enjoy digging out channels in the sand so that the water travels further away.


We ordered a couple of coffees and some raspberry slushes for the children and sat down at a table which was next to the sand pit and watched the children play in the sand. They quickly made friends and working together they planned out a way of getting the water from the pump to a hole that they dug out.
Oliver loved jumping from the sand into the water trying to see how big of a splash he could make.


After about an hour and half of sand play we made our way over to the Galleon play area for a little adventure play before heading on ver to the splash Park.


The children could play in here for hours without getting bored, Oliver loved going down the bumpy slide and Joseph like climbing all over the wooden boat.
Wherever there are children and a football my eldest will seek them out, he is always disappearing and I will always find him on the grass running around with other children, I love how confident he is with joining in with other children’s play.

When we first arrived at the park we booked onto a session in the water Splash area, the sessions cost £2 each and last for about half hour. Once your booked on your given a coloured wristband depending on what session and a receipt.
After a short play in the play area it was time to head on over to the Splash park in time for our session to start. It was a lovely hot day and after a long play it was much needed to cool the boys down.

Oliver spent the whole time running around the splash area following the yellow markings on the floor and running through the puddles.


He even plucked up the courage to sit underneath a water fall


The eldest two went from one water play to another, trying to get as wet as possible




It was hard not getting wet surrounded by so many water fountains turning on and off and shooting water out of the ground.


I love to watch my boys enjoy themselves, after our time was up we made our way back to the car for a little picnic. The car was parked at the edge of a field so we put up a little tent and the boys sat inside and ate their food.


We spent the rest of the day having running races, playing frisbee and kicking a football about whilst relaxing next to the car and eating. It was perfect summers day.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Inflatable Fun

For the past two days the boys have had fun with their friends at two different Inflatable Events, both were outside in the open air and sunshine.

Yesterday we traveled out into Essex to a village called Doddinghurst, just outside of Brentwood, where we met up with friends, picnic packed and suncream on the boys were ready to go off and have as much fun as they could. The event started at 11 am and was finishing at 3pm, the entrance was £4.50 per child. as they entered into the cordoned off area on the village hall green they were given a wristband. We found a spot on the green in the middle of all of the inflatables, which is ideal as you can see every where from there, the music was playing and children were running around everywhere having so much fun.

They bounced away on bouncy castles

20130815-223105.jpgThey ran through inflatable obstacle courses

20130815-223117.jpgThey came down slides

20130815-223135.jpgThey went against each other on the bungee run

20130815-223039.jpgThey climbed up steps


And they danced away to the music from the DJ and even joined in on a zumba class



There was inflatables of all sizes to suit all ages, a climbing wall, obstacle courses, gladiator style fighting, mega slides, giant ball racing, boxing rings and even Go Karts (which was £2 extra), we had so much fun!

Doddinghurst Inflatable day is run by Phil’s Paradise Promotions and is on every Wednesday during the summer holidays.

Today the boys were treated to another fun day at another inflatable event run by Go Bonkers, the event was being held in Lodge Park in Romford, i must admit it wasn’t as big as the day before one but it was just as fun! There was less children which meant that the boys didn’t have to queue for long to get onto an inflatable. It started at 1pm and finished at 4pm and costs £6.50 for the older children and £4 for the younger one. Again we found a spot in the middle of the inflatables so we had a good view of them all and managed to see all the children play and have fun.

Jak had a gladiator fight with his friend where they had to knock each other off of the high poles that they were standing on with giant foam sticks, Jak lost 2:1 but it didn’t bother him as he had a laugh 🙂


They enjoyed some refreshing ice creams and ice lollies that my friend treated them to


After being all bounced out, they had a little play in the park next to it where Oliver had a bit of fun on the swings being pushed by his little friend.


After two days of inflatable fun i’m not sure that their is an inflatable that they haven’t bounced on!




A fun day out at Promenade Park

The boys love to play in a park and the moment I say to them that we are going out for a play they get really excited.

Last week we spent a few days at Nanny’s house which is near to Maldons promenade park, the park is set aside the River Blackwater and has many things to keep the children entertained, a wooden ship play area, boats, crabbing, splash park, play areas and sand pits.

We packed up a picnic and off we set ready for a day of fun!

As soon as we arrived at the park were our way to the splash park, we bought our wristbands which cost £2 per person for half hour, the boys stripped down to their swimming trunks and as soon as they opened the gates off they ran to get a soaking.



Oliver normally loves to play in water but he had just woken up and just wanted to run along in the water that was at the side, he still enjoyed splashing around with his hands and feet but saint pluck up enough courage to run through the jet sprays of water or stand under the waterfall.



After 30 minutes of wet play the whistle blew and it was time to dry off and make our way out of the splash area.


Joseph wanted to go play on the big wooden ship, the boys hd so much fun chasing each other around pretending to be pirates, I on the other hand just chased Oliver around, he’s like Usain Bolt when it comes to play areas! He loved climbing up the stairs and running around the ship and going down the many slides that were there, his favourite was the curly slide.
We found a wheel on the ship that was a clock with all the numbers on it, Oliver pointed out the numbers to me and spent a while turning the wheel and doing his numbers.


It was nearly time for some food so we went to a quieter area in the park where there is a little sand pit, a water wheel and some grass to sit on, it’s right next to a little cafe so we got to sit and relax while the boys played in the sand. Joseph spent his time gathering water from the tap and moving it the sand to make a moat.
Oliver found a little friend who he had running races with, they ran down a hill together, saying 1,2,3 GO! Off they went racing away


We all had a really fun day, the splash park is an ideal place for the children to cool down on a hot summers day and the play areas are brilliant for the children to spend hours playing away and using their imaginations.

Before leaving for home we found a nice little spot to take a picture of Nanny with her boys


I’m linking up with Coombemill head on over by clicking on the widget below to see what other families have been up to in the great outdoors
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Live the American Dream at Deans Diner

Deans Diner is a themed 1950’s style diner that serves up the best burgers, ribs, shakes and fries in town. Open all day, every day, set in four locations in the south of England.

We was recently invited along to review the restaurant that is based at Braintree, right next to the shopping village of Freeport. Upon arrival we was greeted at the door by our waitress, i instantly loved the light airy feel to the Diner, there was paintings of ladies in uniform from the war time on the walls around the restaurant, the walls were covered in mirrors and the decor was red,black and white. We was seated at the back of the Diner, just next to the toilets, I think maybe they took one look at my boys and saw trouble so thought it would be best to seat us at the back lol.

Menus on the table
Menus on the table

We was introduced to our waitress and Joseph and Oliver were given a colouring in sheet with some crayons to colour in and hopefully keep them occupied whilst us Daddy and I looked through the menu. Obviously as it is American themed there was lots of burgers and ribs to choose from, we chose an Onion Ring Tower which was Crisp beer battered onion rings, served with delicious ranch, hot peri peri and cajun mayo dips to start with.




The Onion ring tower was very tall and the rings were hot, soft and crispy and nice and chunky, everyone tucked in and really enjoyed them.

Daddy ordered Deans Favourite double burger which had crispy bacon, eggs and cheese, Jak ordered a Texas BBQ Dog, a huge hotdog topped with bacon and BBQ sauce from the normal menu, Joseph wanted BBQ Chicken Wings from the children’s menu and I liked the sound of the Half rack of Pork Ribs with BBQ sauce.

Look how huge that dog is!
Look how huge that dog is!
half baby back ribs, sweat potato chips and coleslaw
half baby back ribs, sweat potato chips and coleslaw

Jak’s Hotdog was huge and i really didn’t think he would get through it, but he enjoyed it so much it was gone within minutes.

For a side on my Ribs i asked for sweet potato chips, i have never tried them before but love roast sweet potato so thought i would give them a go, they were crispy and sweet and very tasty, even Daddy couldn’t keep his fingers away from them. Our drinks were served in ice cold glasses and the boys milkshakes and Ice cream float went down a treat on a hot evening.

All of the portions were very large, i guess that was to be expected as it was an American Diner.

Jak found the Jukebox at the front of the Diner so off he went with Daddy to put some tunes on, we paid £1 for 3 songs, i do believe that they went on credit so depending on the song and how many credits they were



After a little look through the selection Jak found a the original 1050’s song ‘My Special Angel’ by Michael Vaughaun, this is the same song that Jak sung when he appeared on Call The Midwife as a Cub Scout when they all sang to Chummy in Nonnatus House’s corridor.


I thought that after finishing off their rather large meals they wouldn’t have room for any afters but the boys noticed that there were pancakes with ice cream on the menu served up with maple syrup, they couldn’t resist!

Our experience in Deans Diner was definitely a memorable one and all for the good reasons. The staff was all very friendly and i noticed how hard they worked, they never stopped from the moment we went in to when we left, serving up food and cleaning down tables as soon as people left. The Diner was nice and cool, a little too cool at the back of the restaurant but on a hot summers evening it’s definitely needed.

Our meal for 5 totted up to around £60 this covered 3 bottles of Budweiser, 1 milkshake, 1 Coke float, 3  main meals, 1 starter, 1 kids meal and 3 pancakes for afters,  a very good deal for very good filling food!

We would recommend this restaurant to anyone especially for a family meal out.

We was provided with the meal for the family for the purpose of this review, no cash payment has been made.



Hunting down The Gruffalo

A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood

20130403-104255.jpgA Fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good

20130403-104325.jpgAfraid of the Gruffalo, The fox didn’t want to be roasted fox so off he sped

On went the mouse through the deep dark wood. An owl saw the mouse and the mouse looked good!

20130403-104501.jpgAfraid of the Gruffalo, The owl didn’t want to be made into owl ice cream so away he flew!

Meanwhile lurking in the woods the Gruffalo awaits!


On went the mouse through the deep dark wood. A snake saw the mouse and the mouse looked good!

20130403-104514.jpgAfraid of the Gruffalo, The snake didn’t want to scrambled snake, So away he slid to his logpile house!


But who is this creature with terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws?

He has knobbly knees and turned out toes and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.

His eyes are orange, his tongue is black, he has purple prickles all over his back!

Oh Help! Oh No!


20130403-110016.jpgWe Had great fun walking through the woods with our map in one hand, hunting down the Grufallo and other characters in the famous children’s Book ‘The Grufallo’ written by Julia Donaldson.

It’s a must for all Gruffalo lovers young and old!

We even found the Gruffalo’s child


You will find this fantastic trail at Thorndon Country Park in Brentwood, Essex. Pay for a map at the visitors centre which costs 50p, the map is easy to follow and makes a lovely keepsake for the children. The paths are wide making it easy to push along pushchairs and for the children to run along.

Even thought the weather wasn’t exactly lovely spring weather we still had lots of fun and even the older child enjoyed finding the characters along the way, the boys had fun exploring the woods and climbing up fallen trunks.


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Spring Carnival