A Beautifully British Holiday


We’ve just returned from a wonderful week on the Exmoor border in Somerset. We stayed in a serenely stylish, converted 18th Century Granary in the tiny hamlet of Raddington.  I have never stayed in a more idyllic and isolated location.  Six miles from the nearest village, we were cut off from the world by some very skinny West Country lanes. With only sheep, buzzards and each other for company we truly enjoyed the peace and beauty of the English country-side surrounding us.

I really enjoy holidaying in England and have been to many self-catering properties, but attention to detail (as well the loco) is what made this house stand out from the rest. It has a distinct French Farm House feel with eclectic furniture and lovely little extras like candles, fresh flowers, farm eggs and home-made shortbread,  which made us feel truly welcome.

The kids saving grace was the fantastic 70 foot long play-barn.  Kitted out with a huge trampoline, table tennis, darts, swing rope, ride-on tractor and trike etc. Lets just say we knew where to find them!


The aim of our little holiday was to relax in our whole 60 acres, so we didn’t do an awful lot.  But what we did do we thoroughly enjoyed, so here’s my little guide of favourite family outings that North Somerset & Devon has to offer:

Places to Visit

The small fishing village of Ilfracombe sits on a dramatic, rugged coastline. It has a pretty little harbour with much of what you’d generally expect; plenty of fish ‘n’ chip shops and ice-cream parlours. Also worth noting is a neat row of houses with front garden cafés  which make a delightful setting for a delicious Cream Tea in the sunshine.

Other cool places here are Tunnels Beaches and Damien Hirst’s restaurant, 11 The Quay  (yes it’s his home town if you hadn’t already guessed). Be sure to also check out Damien’s Verity, I promise you won’t miss her.

Just around the coast-line from Ilfracombe is its sandy neighbour, Woolacombe Bay. This three-mile long stretch of golden beach has won both the blue flag and Premier Seaside awards for its cleanliness, water quality and facilities. Popular with body boarders, I promised to bring my little man back with a wet suit when he was old enough.

Leo’s favourite day was by far the trip on the West Somerset Railway. Run entirely by extremely keen volunteers, your journey starts in Bishops Lydeard just outside Taunton and winds its way through the country towards and along the coast, finishing at Minehead.  I’m not old enough to have ever travelled by steam but it brought back fond memories of travelling to and from school on trains with the old swing door carriages and squishy Moquette seats. We broke the ride to ‘whet our whistles’ at the harbour village of Watchett, then jumped back on and continued to Minehead.  If Minehead is a bit brash for you, Blue Anchor is smaller, prettier and popular with young families.


If like us you enjoy family walks, Tarr Steps will keep the kids interested.  Take a picnic and towel to enjoy the medieval clapper bridge across the River Barle in the Exmoor National Park. The simplest walk in the surrounding woodland will take about an hour.

For picture postcard Somerset, Dunster village with its Castle and Yarn Market ticks all the boxes. There are plenty of cosy pubs, knick-knack shops and again, Cream Tea cafés to keep you busy for a morning.

Then, in the afternoon treat the kids to a visit to Wivey Pool. It’s a small, open-air swimming pool in the village of Wivlescombe, organised by the community, for the community.  It costs just £13 for a family swim.

If you are interested in our holiday we booked with www.helpfulholidays.com, they were very erm, helpful!


Vanilla Teddy Bear Shortbread


I have been treated to home-made shortbread not once but twice in the last month!

The first arrived in the post from the mother of one of my favourite friends, who I had the pleasure of meeting at their wedding in June. We got talking about shortbread, as you do, and she promised to send me some. Mrs B  is now obviously also on my favourite list.

The second was while we were away in Somerset; The lovely Mrs Wilcox had knocked up a delicious welcome batch for us when we arrived at The Granary (see my next post).

So, I felt it only polite to bake some myself, and couldn’t believe how simple it was. The most basic recipes I found need only three ingredients: cast sugar, plain flour and butter, and hey presto a scrummy afternoon tea treat is yours in a jiffy.

So here is my toddler friendly version that Leo helped to make and of course eat!

Easy Vanilla Shortbread


200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar or light brown sugar
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
300g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
animal biscuit cutters


Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.

Mix together the butter and sugar, either by hand or using an electric hand whisk, until pale and smooth. Add the vanilla extract, then gently mix in the flour until completely incorporated (try not to work the flour too much or the biscuits will not be so crumbly). Using your hands, squeeze the mixture together into a ball of dough.

Gently roll the dough out to about 5mm/¼in thick (dust the work surface with a little flour if the dough sticks). Cut into shapes using a biscuit cutter. Transfer the biscuits to a baking tray lined with baking parchment (or a non-stick baking tray) and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest (chilling makes them hold their shape better when baking).

Before cooking, sprinkle each biscuit with a pinch of granulated sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown.

Remove from the oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

Devour with a lovely mug of tea or cup of milk!


TESTING: The Kiddy Guardian Pro 2 Carseat

I was lucky enough to be given this car seat when I was about to go on maternity leave.  I’ve seen other ‘impact shield’ models before like the Mamas & Papas Cybex, but I have to admit I’d never considered it. I was pleasantly surprised and the Kiddy Pro has suited us well.


On test: The Kiddy Guardian Pro 2

Group: 1,2,3

Weight: 9-36 kg

Age: 9 months – 12 years

Pros:  This light weight carseat is great if you need to transport your child in more than one vehicle.  We regularly transfer it from my car to dad’s car, to nana’s car to nanny Lane’s car and back again.

The seat is secured with a standard 3-point seat belt rather than us having to struggle with fitting an isofix every time.

The impact shield fits across Leos’ body so his arms are not restricted. It is upholstered  with comfortable, natural fabrics and doubles as play surface for travel toys.

Easily adjustable with a one-hand mechanism to suit Leo as he grows and keeps him snug and comfortable.

It has a good upright position for window viewing. This can easily be changed into a ‘snooze position’ for nap time. Dad has even managed to take a sleeping Leo out of the car whilst he is still in the seat!

Cons: Now Leo is getting older I sometimes have difficulty getting him to keep the impact shield in place before  I can secure it with the belt,  but we get there in the end. On a couple of occasions Leo has REALLY not wanted to be in his seat and has managed to slide himself down and get a bit stuck. Luckily, big sister was there to push him back into place, as I would have had to stop if she had not helped. This has only happened twice and I am told he’s a wriggler!

If Leo falls asleep without the ‘snooze position’ in place he can sometimes slump forwards and his head leans on the shield. But this doesn’t seem to bother him at all.

What the owners say: The kiddy guardian pro is an exceptional design that provides safety to your child from circa 9 months to 12 years. Exceptional safety standards combined with modern styling mean this seat easily meets the challenge of providing a growing child with safety and comfort in total competence.

Product shot: kiddyGuardianPro2 Price: Around £200. Site: www.­kiddy.­ukcom

Open Farm Sunday


As soon as my little man started to match up objects with names, I can safely say farm animals have definitely taken up most fingers on the handful of words in his new vocabulary and remain the firm favourites. Learning the funny little meanings as he progresses from the sounds they make to the actual names is very amusing and super cute.

So when I heard Martin Lewis on  ITV Daybreak tell me about Open Farm Sunday, which sees UK farmers open their agricultural gates for the public to experience true farm life, I was straight on the site and punching in my postcode to find the nearest participating open day.

Running since 2006 by national charity LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), Open Farm Sunday is fantastic (cheap) day out for the family. It gives us Joe public types a better understanding of how important our British Farmers are and how hard they work with nature to produce good food with environmental care.

We went to Glovers Farm in Kent,  a fantastic farm which has been in the Glover family for 100 years!

We saw chickens, piglets (possibly just small pigs), cows and sheep. Bunnies you could handle, cute yellow ducklings that were for sale  (yes I wanted one) and the biggest turkey I’ve ever seen. I’m not thinking about where he might be come Dec 25th. What else? Goats, lambs and lastly, ponies to ride.

We watched sheep sheering and sausage-making demonstrations plus there were plenty of activity stalls, face painting and small ride-on tractors to keep us entertained. My step-daughter made a flowerpot bug house to take home.  Local fresh produce and country ale/wine stalls kept us grown-ups happy.

My favourite activity was the bumpy tractor-trailor ride. Ed the Farmer told us just what hard work goes into growing and processing crops, which in this instance was oats and rapeseed. I didn’t realise what a long drawn out process it is and how it can  so easily be destroyed in such little time by the elements and nature. Did you know that a flock of pigeons can take out a  whole field of rape in just two days if Ed’s not careful?!

The day  finished off nicely for me by watching the joy in my son’s face as he sat,  steered and changed gear in a big red, real- life “dictor” that’s “tractor” to you and me.

So be sure to put Sunday 8th June 2014 in you diary for next year and start looking out to buy food carrying the LEAF logo. I’ve done both!