If you follow me over on Instagram you might have seen that we spent a long weekend in Wales last weekend. We stayed at Old Lands which is less than an hours drive away in Monmouth and it was such a lovely break! I wanted to share some of the pictures as they are honestly some of my favourite ever taken of my little family. It was really hard not to share them ALL with you. As it is this is probably quite a picture heavy post but I hope you agree that my little toddler in a lifejacket is just so cute it needs to shared more than once ;)
I always forget how close we are to the border here in Bristol and it really is so easily to pop over to Wales. Even easier when one of us learns to drive..(one day one day!). As it was it just took at 30 min train ride and a hop in the taxi for about the same time and we were transported from the bustle of the city to the calm of the countryside.
Old lands has three different places to stay, two converted stables and one barn. We chose to stay at Stable Court which was perfect for the size of our family and is really set up for young children, you can have a travel cot on request and the stairs to the main bedroom have a stair gate etc so everything was really thought out for a toddler on the move. I'd love to return when the kids are both bigger though and stay in the Wood Barn as it has a separate section where your kids can camp out if they like! This appeals to me a lot as I love the idea of camping but prefer a comfy bed ha, so I feel like that would be the best of both worlds for everyone involved!
We stayed for three nights (so two full days) and in that time we managed to fit in so much! We had forest school on the first morning ran by Cathi who was so kind and patient and accompanied by her youngest daughter, also Clare (part of the Bosaquet family that own Old Lands) and her son came along too which was a great way to get to know each other. It was especially nice for Wilf I think to make a friend his own age and they got on so well the first thing Wilf did on our return was to write him a letter and also tell his teacher all about his new buddy. I love seeing how children just automatically find common ground and can strike up friendships so easily.
I have to admit I'm a city girl at heart. Although as a child my parents would take us on long walks in the countryside, pointing out names of plants and flowers as we went, my knowledge about nature is definitely lacking. I often forget how I need to get back to basics and spend time in the fresh air. Cathi helped Wilf light the fire and we made bread twists on whittled sticks to roast over the flames. The farm cat came along for a lot of the walk with us too which Mabli was thrilled about! You can find out more about the forest school here.
Wilf's face in this picture is everything
On our second full day we decided to go for a row on the lake, each property is supplied with life jackets for the children and you can find paddles and nets for pond dipping. Clare was kind enough to take some pictures for us (I know you will be wondering who took our pictures!) and I am so grateful! I will cherish these pictures for ever.
I have to admit though we are maybe not the best at traveling by boat. Tom and Wilf did their best but I wonder that they were working against each other half the time, we definitely spent about five minutes going round in circles. If you think these pictures look idilic, don't be fooled, life isn't as perfect as IG will lead you to believe, the baby did cry for half of this experience. Life would be boring otherwise wouldn't it? We still had a great time.
Need to frame this one!
Never getting over Mabli in a life jacket
Sam Bosanquet is a botanist and has been studying the flora and fauna in the area for 25 years, he was kind enough to show Wilf some of the moths he had found from the night before in the moth traps. Wilf was absolutely fascinated and has been talking about them a lot since our return, especially how he was surprised that I held a large one (I was kind of surprised to! I've never seen much beauty in moths and now see them in a different light).
Stable court where we stayed
Old Lands parter with a small catering company that make delicious home cooked meals that you can book ahead to have in your fridge on arrival. We opted to have our main meals this way and also bought some puddings from them too. Their banana loaf is one of the best I've ever eaten. On top of that they have a small shop that operates on a honesty system so you just need to pop money for whatever you bought in the tray as you go. They have all the essentials bar things like milk but Tom walked about twenty minutes to the local post office to pick up some if you forget to bring your own.
All the veg is grown on the site in the walled garden ran by Colum (who is husband to Cathi who runs the forest school). I love the fact that everyone who lives and works at Old Lands is so invested in the place, it feels like it a way of life rather than a 'job'. A slower and simpler way of life and one I envy a little, certainly when it comes to raising small children, what a wonderful childhood to be so amongst nature, eating what you grow and learning about the nature and wildlife around you.
If only I didn't crave my hipster flat whites and smashed avocado toast that keep me tied to the city ;)
I think Mabli's favourite part was definitely the animals, she was obsessed with the farm cat and later when Wilf was invited to feed the chickens with Cathi & Colum's daughter she ran squealing in joy amongst them. I'm so glad I had my camera with me at that moment to capture it on video.
Thanks so much to Clare and Sam for inviting us to stay at their lovely home, it was the perfect weekend retreat!