It's hard to beleive we are now into our third season as a caravanning family, and that Little B was only four months old when we took him on our first Connievan trip. My, my how time has flown! As you may have guessed by my recent posts, two years on and my love for all things Caravan is still going strong. I'm having so much fun with it all! Aside from all the exciting creative stuff that is filling my days, the great thing about owning a caravan is of course the wonderful holidaying opportinities it provides. I really, really LOVE taking Connievan on holiday, it's fab!
We are members of the Caravan Club which gives us access to thousands of small caravan sites in rural locations. These are called "Certificated Locations" and are generally small (a maximum of five caravans) and beautifully rural, and suit us much better than the larger more "caravanny" sites that we've come across. They are unpretentious, peaceful, spacious and green (I hate to feel like I am holidaying in a glorified car park), and very reasonably priced too. The one we chose to stay at last week was called Puddle Cottage Park and was an absolute gem, it suited us down to the ground.
Puddle Cottage is roughly a 75 minute drive away from Atticland, up out of Yorkshire and across to the Lancashire coast. The site is beautifully kept and surrounded by lovely green trees and fields.
Our closest neighbours were a little vocal at times, but we loved them all the same.
The Little People were kept happy by this simple play area, and it was especially welcome by us Big People as it was all so safe and secure. It meant that for the first time J and I could send all three Little Peeps out to play and take time to sit and relax in Connievan, knowing that we could see/hear them from where we sat and that even Little B was ok doing his own thing out there. It was fabulous, and that extra adult breathing space made such a difference to the whole trip.
We arrived at the site around 5pm, and one of the very first things I did was to walk around the field gathering a few springs from the hedgerow. A handful of cow parsley, buttercups, forget-me-nots and vetch went into the strawberry jam jar, and I instantly felt "at home".
The main reason we chose this place to stay (aside from it looking completely idyllic) is that it is only 5 miles away from the coastal resort of Blackpool. Yes, Blackpool. Now I have a bit of a thing about Blackpool, and that "thing" is not especially good. I don't much care for the place, it doesn't really contain anything that pleases me much. Even the sea (which you know I Love) is a dirty shade of grey/brown and pretty yuck.....BUT, this trip was to be mostly for the Little People and they certainly do care for Blackpool.
The first evening we were there, we drove to the sea after dinner and took a little stroll along the south end of the enormously long promenade. Blackpool is seriously long and strung out, there is mile upon mile of it stretching out along the coastline.
There is an abundance of concrete. It's not very picturesque, but....it turns out that it is most fabulous for scootering/running around. That first evening the Little People really did let themselves go. They scooted/ran themselves ragged along here and it was a lot of fun to sit and watch them expend so much childhood energy (a huge bowl of pesto pasta provides a lot of fuel I think)
I was particularly entranced by this ginormous rotating mirrored disco ball, it was absolutely stunning.
You can see the scale of it from the tiny looking bench in the above photo, it really was mahoosive. And when the sun shone on it, it cast thousands of tiny dancing lights onto the ground as it moved, it was truly mesmerising. I loved it.
This is the central part of Blackpool seafront, we were here on Thursday afternoon in the sheeting rain. The weather was pretty grim for much of our stay, but we did try to make the best of it and still ventured out. You can see Blackpool Tower in the background, it's probably Blackpool's most popular Tourist Attraction (along with the Pleasure Beach). Both of these attractions are hideously expensive to visit, so on this occasion we chose not to go there, despite much protest from the Little People.
Blackpool has three piers (that's the Central Pier above), and all three are chocka block full of amusements and fairground type rides. It's noisy, money-grabbing and not especially nice in my opinion.
The old fashioned idea of simply Promenading along the piers to enjoy the views is almost impossible now due to the piers being so crowded with so-called attractions. Such a shame. I love the old fashioned wrought iron benches and would love to have sat a while, but it was really bloomin' wet and cold. More like winter than mid summer.
By the way, I found an amazing collection of aerial photographs of Blackpool if you'd like to have a look. I'm fascinated with this type of photography, such a different perspective seeing it all from the air. You can perhaps get a feel for how BIG the seafront is, and see the three piers with the tower in the middle.
When the weather allowed, we spent some time promenading (on feet and scooter wheels) at the north end of the town where it is much more peaceful. All along the north seafront, there are these wonderful green painted shelters, relics from Victorian times when Blackpool was a hugely popular holiday resort. I love them, and they were very welcome in the cold wet weather we had last week. We sheltered in them several times, and even wrapped up in blankets and ate a picnic lunch in one.
This photo was taken on Thursday evening, around 7pm I think. It had rained All Day without let up, but in the evening we decided on the spur of the moment to take our dinner out of the caravan and down to the seafront. It was a bit mental as it was very cold and damp, but we wrapped up and off we went. We ate hot dogs with ketchup and fried onions wrapped up in polka dot napkins, a tub of fresh strawberries and some chocolate. A flask of hot tea and biscuits to finish. The Little People took it all in their stride, the weather never once seemed to bother them really. They played out in the rain without complaint, acting as if it wasn't even there. Ditto the picnic. So what if it's cold and dismal, yes, lets have a picnic dinner outside!
After the food was gone we walked along the seafront, it was bracing I can tell you. So hard to believe that this is supposed to be our mid summer. But still, it was invigorating to be battered by the winds and to breathe in the damp salty air. We sang and walked and ran and jumped, and it turned out to be one of the best bits of the holiday for me. Simple pleasure, no matter what the weather.
Yes, the weather. So hard not to be overly influenced by it. Thursday was particularly challenging, and the morning was spent hunkering down inside Connievan wondering what on earth to do. We had planned a trip to the zoo which we reluctantly had to cancel, the Little People were hugely disappointed. But really on reflection, it wasn't so bad. Connievan provides an extremely cosy, comfy little hideaway and I was pretty happy just sitting inside with the window open, listening to the rain battering down on the roof.
There was lots of tea and biscuits.
There was some feet up time, with a stroll in the delicious July edition summer magazines.
The Little People spent the wet days coming in and out and in and out of Connie. They put coats on and played on the swings in the rain. They played hide and seek in the rain with a couple of other young children who were staying on the site. They played some complex looking game which involved running between two trees in the rain. They helped look after Little B who was happy enough just wandering around playing with his toy cars in the rain. And every so often they would come back to the van, shed wet coats and shoes and settle down for a little bit of indoor time before going back out into the wet.
I was especially proud of them this holiday as their behaviour was really great. Not once did they say they were bored (which we often hear from Little Man these days when he is without his buddies and without a gaming device of some sorts, typical nine year old really). They managed to amuse themselves with books, card games and some new drawing pads and pens and a wonderful assortment of poems, inventions, designs and drawings made their way onto paper. We discovered some old vintage colouring and puzzle books in the storage area under one of the seats, and I also treated them to a magazine each which kept them happy.
Of course there was a little bit of electronic activity, but that's quite ok with me, it's all about balance I think. Oh and there was also quite a bit of den-building, singing and general monkeying around which kept Little B happy and entertained. All in all, I think the hours spent inside Connievan this holiday were happy, relaxed and fun, and personally I breathed a huge inner sigh of relief about that. Phew. It could so easily have been something different.
Friday was our last full day and after a very wet and stormy night the rain finally eased up. After a brief financial discussion we decided we would throw some ££'s at the day and go all out to enjoy some Tourist Activity. This decision was met with excitement and enthusiasm by the Little Peeps, especially after the washed-out disappointment of the previous day (a soggy walk on a pier, a short stint in an amusement arcade and a stick of Blackpool rock was not really up to much I don't suppose). So in the morning we headed into the centre of Blackpool to visit the Sealife centre. We decided to make it a little more exciting by driving to the north of the town, parking the car for free in a quiet residential street and catching the tram into the centre of town......
...WOW! What a great decision that was! The newly refurbished Blackpool tramway is absolutely great, the modern trams run for eleven miles along the coast and are comfy and super speedy. Little B was honestly beside himself with excitement, you should have seen his little face and heard his excited chatter! It really was a great way to travel, we all enjoyed the experience very much.
Attractions such as the Sealife centre are so expensive for families like us. Even though we received a discount by booking in advance online, it still set us back £38. But the whole experience was really good, the Little People loved it all.
There is lots to see, not just fish but all sorts of watery creatures to wow and surprise.
This was the largest tank and was my favourite, although I also loved the Interactive Rockpools where we got to hold starfish and have big shrimps walk all over our hands. The photograph is lousy I'm afraid as it was dark and no flash was allowed, but you can get the idea. The tank is huge and houses some amazing sharks as well as fish. Around the other side there is a tunnel that runs through the tank so that you get to watch the sharks swimming over your head, it was quite something.
After the Sealife experience, we rode the tram back to the car and had a picnic lunch in one of the green shelters on the seafront looking out to sea. Boy, it was cold! I sat the Little People all in a row like three little monkeys and covered them in blankets, it made me laugh to see them actually. Poor wee things, I'm sure they would rather have been in some warm steamy cafe somewhere, but their mother insists on picnicking when by the sea.
When lunch was done, we set out for our second splurge of the day, a £48 trip to Blackpool Zoo. It's a large very well kept zoo with lots of open space and a huge number of animals (1,500 to be precise).
The animal enclosures were imaginative and lovely to see, I especially loved the above enclosure which was open to the air although fenced in. It was called Amazonia, and was full of the most wonderful birds and animals. We adored the cheeky little Squirrel Monkeys who leapt about all over the place, one even tried to jump on my shoulder as I bent down to see to Little B!
We walked a lot on this afternoon, miles of pathways took us past an incredible array of birds and animals.
The penguins were gorgeous (how fabulous to see them swimming!), but our absolute favourite were the Sealions. We timed our visit to see their display at 4pm when they came up out of the water to perform with their trainer. I wasn't able to take photos as I was kept incredibly busy keeping Little B under control in the arena, but it was truly amazing....you can see some pictures of it here.
So many incredible animals.....
...lions, tigers, wolves, zebra, elephants and these stunning giraffes. We all enjoyed it so much.
By 4.45pm we were all absolutely worn out from so much walking, and the rain had begun to fall again. We made our way back towards the exit via this really fun "Dinosaur Safari". I thought it was very well done, with lots of huge model dinosaurs in the shrubbery and some awesome sound effects playing as you walked your way through.
Little B especially loved it, I think the noises and the sheer scale of it all was pretty great for Little Ones. All in all, we had a super day out, I think the Little People did really enjoy it very much.
Back at Connievan, it was sooooo good to take off wet clothes (again), snuggle down in the cosy blankets and drink steaming mugs of tea with some hot toasted buttered crumpets. A great end to a hugely busy and happy day.
On the journey home on Saturday, we chatted about our time away from home and all the things we had done and seen. I hope so much that in years to come the Little Peeps will look back on these funny little holidays with affection, I really do. They do seem to enjoy themselves, well yes, me too. I enjoy it all enormously.