I continue to absolutely adore our sweet little Connievan. I am really in love with the simplicity and cosiness of caravanning and I get SO excited when the days/hours are leading up to a trip away. One of my favourite bits of a caravan trip (and I have sosooo many favourite bits) is when we arrive at the Destination, manoeuvre our girl into place and know that this will be Home for the next week or so. That "home" feeling arrives the instant the caravan door is opened and the little metal step put in place. It really is the best kind of feeling, and I know with complete certainty that I was always meant to own a caravan.
This was our third year staying in York, and I had picked out a new-to-us campsite to try. It was a farm site in a teeny village close to where we used to live. The site itself (Moor End Farm) is small and peaceful, and wonderfully family orientated. There are two fields given over to camping, with plenty of green space for the Little People to play, some fab swings and lots of other caravanning families with offspring to provide instant playmates.
We eat a lot of fruit, salad and pasta when we holiday in Connievan. It pleases me to cook/eat so simply and I am thankful that we all love pasta very much and don't mind having it virtually every day. At Moor End farm, every camping pitch had it's own wooden picnic table, and luckily the weather was generally warm and dry all week which allowed us to enjoy al fresco dining. Only on our first evening did we have rain, and boy, it really chucked it down.
A huge storm passed overhead on Sunday evening with thunder, lightening and a terrific torrential downpour. It was completely thrilling (and very, very noisy) being tucked up inside Connievan as the storm raged outside, weather-watching through the windows and wondering if it was ever going to stop.
Of course the storm did eventually move on, leaving behind it some impressive puddles at the campsite. Little Lady seized the opportunity to indulge in some vigorous Wet Play, inviting an eager Little B to join her. I can tell you that it was a raucous, noisy affair and they put a lot of effort into getting as wet as possible.
Waking up on that first morning, we were paid a breakfast visit by the local feathered residents. This became a daily occurrence and something we all came to look forward to....sometimes the Little People would race excitedly outside in their pyjamas with slices of bread in hand, and sometimes (as in the above photo), they chose to stay comfortably inside and throw chunks of bread out of the window instead. Either way, the ducks seemed content to gobble up their bready breakfast before waddling away to the next pitch in search of more nourishment.
As in previous years, J went off to work during the daytime leaving us behind to do Mummy-Children stuff. It's a good arrangement made possible by the great friends that we have still living in York, and our week was pretty much mapped out with a full schedule of social engagements. We were still able to enjoy a leisurely start to each day though and I really enjoyed our morning routine. I generally made sure the Little Peeps were fed, showered and dressed first, then ordered them to go off and do boisterous outdoorsy stuff around the campsite. I was then left free to gently potter about in my pyjamas and have Connievan all to myself for a while. I would tidy up (put the beds away, wash up the breakfast things and faff with my blankets) drink coffee and munch toast outside with the ducks for company.
Monday was our first full day without J, and the only day in the week which the Little People and I had to ourselves. We walked into the village and caught the bus into the centre of York for a day out in the city. We lived in York for almost ten years before moving across the hills to where we are now, so it always feels lovely to be back in a place that is so familiar and holds so many memories. It really is a gem of a place to visit, very picturesque and beautiful with oodles of history and charm.We spent a while just walking around the pretty and ancient streets, taking in the atmosphere, enjoying being somewhere so much bigger and busier than our own quaint little home town.
We found ourselves in the midst of the Old Quarter and I immediately felt the need for some mid morning refreshment. I remembered some very Good Times spent with friends in this gorgeous little Bistro in the years Before Children....ahhh so long ago!!
It was lovely sitting in this sunlit courtyard enjoying a coffee/juice and afterwards I felt energised enough to allow the Little People to dictate the schedule. It was really sweet, funny and predictable to be pulled in by their excitement and see where they chose to go. Of course it ended up being one great big ToyShopTour resulting in Little B charging about in Overexcited Hyper-mode by the fourth shop. So I declared No More Shops until we'd had a rest up somewhere green and calming.
Thank goodness York has some perfectly lovely green-and-calming options for the shop weary tourist to sit and chill out in. This is the beautiful Museum Gardens which provided a great picnic spot and a chance for the Little Peeps to charge about without causing me to have a mini breakdown (that toy shop experience traumatised me slightly)
After our lunch, I made the decision to stick with the Outdoor stuff and walked us all away from the crowded streets to visit Rowntree Park. Actually, it was quite crowded here too, but a nice, fun kind of kid-infested type of crowded.
Rowntree Park really is a lovely peaceful place to walk once the noisy playground is left behind.
If you walk right through the park, you come out of the gates beside the River Ouse where the famous Millennium Bridge spans across the water. The Little People love this bridge, they love that you can kind of lean your body at a rather scary angle on that wire mesh and look right down onto the river and the frequent boats passing below. I don't love that so much, sort of squiggles up my tummy in slightly nervous knots.
Eventually I persuaded them to leave the bridge and get safely across to the other side where we then ambled the mile or so back into town along the river.
Back into town and we spotted this amazing old fashioned merry-go-round outside the Castle Museum. Hard to say which one of us was most excited, it made me feel so happy just watching it spin and dance around.
It was so beautifully decorated, I was completely mesmerised by all the spinning colour and pattern combined with old fashioned music and lights. So deliciously over the top!
Of course we just had to take a ride, and it was brilliant. The Little People rode a horse each, and I sat sedately with Little B in a red leather sleigh seat, all wide eyed and squealing with excitement (that was me, not Little B). Whhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Round and round and round, it was the best fun!
Right next to the merry-go-round was this equally incredible old fashioned Helter Skelter....wow, it looked amazing. The Little People didn't even have to ask me, I thrust £2 into each of their hands and told them to go for it and enjoy the ride.....
....they came whizzing down on their rush mats, flying off the end of the slide with wide grins and fluffed up hair, much to Little B's delight. Fantastic stuff, I so wish I could have gone on that too, but most likely my bottom is far too wide these days.
After all the thrill of the fair we wandered back to the busy streets and did a little more shopping (essential mundane shopping sadly, no sneaky trip to CK for me this time, sniff sniff), then made our way to the train station where J was picking us up. I could hardly believe we had been out for seven hours, the day went so quickly.
The rest of the week passed by in a haze of hot sunshine and precious time spent with good friends. Picnics and play, coffee and chatter, it was really great to reconnect with such lovely people who I'd not seen for far too long, and to watch our children re-kindle their old friendships too. On one of the days when we picnicked in a favourite park, there were eighteen children and eight mums, with Little B being the youngest addition to the gang. The eldest children are now ten years old, a whole decade since we all first met with our weeny first-borns. Not so weeny now though, cripes, they are growing up so fast.
On the last day of our trip when we had exhausted local play parks and friends gardens, we splashed out and spent the day at York Maze along with two other families.
This was a first time visit for us, and to be honest I wasn't sure about it at first. I wasn't sure about the high price of admission and the fact that we are not generally a family who does "tourist attractions" very successfully. Truthfully I thought it would be tacky and a bit of a rip off. Very happy to say I was completely wrong, we all loved it and had the most enjoyable, fun filled day there. It wasn't in the least bit tacky, in fact it was beautifully designed and full to the brim with great activities for children of all ages.
There was so much variety in the activities on offer, and it was oh-so-much more than just a field of corn to get lost in.
The large inflatables provided lots of fun for the Little People (this giant Jumping Pillow was especially good and we went back to it several times during the day)
This is the Bale Mountain....
....and this is possibly the most ginormous sandpit you have ever laid eyes on.
Wow, this sandy play area was so well designed that children of all ages were kept very happy and entertained here.
I was happy to kick off my flipflops, bury my hot feet in the cool sand and sit quietly while Little B played.
One of the most entertaining parts of the day was called "Crowmania" and consisted of a ride in a tractor trailer around the maze fields. Think pop-up toy crows and scarecrows that squirted water, think water fights and pantomime style acting (the scarecrows were real people). It was good, wet, screamy-shouty fun!
Because there was so much to do (did I mention the water wars? The motorised quad bikes? The farm animals? The remote control boats?), it was mid afternoon before we got to explore the maze itself.
Due to the very poor weather this year, the maize crop hadn't grown very well and was quite sparse and short in some places. But it didn't matter one jot, in fact I preferred it as it made it easier to find the number stations and search for the quiz clues, not to mention keeping track of all our children. I personally don't like mazes very much as I find them very claustrophobic, but this one was great with it's wide sandy paths and fairly open structure.
The maze designs change every year, and the 2012 design (the Mayan God of Corn) was incredible I thought. Obviously you have no idea of it when you are actually in it, so I was really intrigued and impressed when I saw it on a postcard afterwards. We were really in amongst that lot? Wow!
All in all it was a fabulous, entertaining day out and we were there for almost eight hours. Can definitely recommend it if you are ever kicking around with children in Yorkshire during the summer months.
The week we spent in York this year had a good balance to it, with lots of full on sociable playtime and activity during the day, followed by lovely, slow family time back at the campsite in the evenings. Due to the rather glorious weather we were lucky to have during that week, the evenings were truly fabulous. They were long and warm and golden, and I loved our evening time at the campsite very much.
The Little People were mostly outdoors in the evenings, swinging, biking, running and playing ball. But every so often they would head inside to rest and pick up a quiet activity. Little Lady usually chose colouring, Little Man chose reading (he had new books ), and Little B.....hmmm, hard to remember what kept Little B out of mischief? He has a little bag of toys which we keep in the 'van, an assortment of cars, trucks, phones, books, keys and other bits n bobs. Mostly he just sort of pottered about.
There was generally some sort of den-building activity going on at the back of the 'van, and a fair amount of gentle leaping, jumping and rolling about.
Me, well when I wasn't sat outside enjoying the evening light, I snuggled up with my blankets and a cuppa and tiptoed through late summer Magazine Wonderland. Visual deliciousness in those pages you know. Yummy.
We were so blessed with the weather, with day after day of beautiful blue summer skies and beaming sunshine. It made outdoor living so pleasurable, it really did.
I adored the peaceful, green view through Connievan's door.
I loved sitting out in the sunshine in my pyjamas, wrapped in a blanket in the early mornings as the campsite slowly came to life.
And I loved that we were staying on a farm.
A real farm.
A farm with tractors that came in and out bringing in the hay harvest. The Littlest member of our family was frequently heard squealing with excitement due to all the tractor activity going on. His little Cup of Happiness (a tractor shaped cup) overflowed I think. Bless.
This green, open space in front of Connievan was like a magnet to the children of the campsite. When we were shopping in York I bought a giant (2ft) inflatable football on imulse from a toy shop....what a super-duper purchase that turned out to be! It provided hours of fun for all the campsite kids, including our Little B.
Den building came outside a few times with this ingenious use of blankets and towels over the picnic bench...
...but I am also happy to report that unlike previous years, there was a welcome amount of Lounging Around at the campsite this year. I learnt the lesson from our garden day in Bridport and when an afternoon of Doing Nothing unexpectedly presented itself, I grabbed it with both hands and headed us straight back to camp. Blankets were spread on the grass, cushions and pillows were slung on top and there followed some light afternoon snoozing, reading and daisy-chain making. It was bliss.
It was interesting spending time in such a flattened out landscape again. Since moving to Atticland, we have become so accustomed to the hills around us that it seemed very strange when there suddenly weren't any. York is situated in the middle of an open and fertile Vale which is farmed intensively. The landscape is therefore very two-dimensional, with huge fields patchworking their way over flat land. Sometimes the fields are lush and green (potatoes, beet and maize) and sometimes they are light and golden (ripening corn, wheat and hay).
I certainly did miss the hills, but at the same time I enjoyed the openness of the golden farmed landscape around us.
Lack of hills makes for big skies too, and we enjoyed some terrific sunsets at the campsite.
I was thinking earlier about camping and pondering on my favourite times of the camping day....I would generally say early morning when the sun first comes up and the grass is still damp, but the evenings during our week in York were really beautiful too. The fast changing light and the colours in the wide open skies were just magical.
It was a wonderful time away, creating yet another layer of happy family memories for us. Good, good times. Thank you Connievan ♥
Edit to add :: the knitted squares blankets were bought some years ago from Oxfam. They are our outdoor/camping blankets and I blogged about them way back here x