Chirk Castle

Another weekend and another new place to visit, the weather had been rainy most of the week but the forecast for the Saturday was looking ok. Originally we were going to Llandudno for the day but a late start meant a change of plan. I had promised a trip to Wales so that’s where we headed, I had a quick look at the National trust book and Google maps, and decided to give Chirk castle a try as it was only an hour away.¬†We may have arrived a little sooner if I hadn’t followed the sat-nav, which took us along lots of very narrow, twisty country lanes.

Oscar didn’t want to do any of the guided tours so we had a little wander around the gardens, which were very muddy, and then walked up to the castle for a self guided tour. Every National Trust place we’ve visited has had something for the children to look for, teddies dotted around the building to be counted, but this one was different. They had cards for each room with 3 or 4 questions on, things to find and count, what do you think an item was used for etc. It was really good as it kept us both entertained working them out and who could spot things first. Some of the answers were surprising too.

As usual the staff/volunteers were very friendly and knowledgeable, with lots of interesting little facts. The place was fairly busy so we made our way back outside and I took advantage of a babysitting device to get a few minutes quiet time …..

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After the main house we went into the dungeons, the stairs were terrifying, a spiral staircase with very worn, different sized steps, which led into a dimly lit circular room. It had a very creepy feel and we didn’t stay long. The climb back out was almost as bad as the one down.

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Then into the keep, time to become a knight in shining armour, well for a few minutes. It was very heavy and uncomfortable to wear.

After being indoors for a while it was time to explore outside, however a few things happened. First we had a shoe disaster, when the front of one of his trainers popped open and his toe was sticking out (thankfully they were old ones) then the rain started, just a drizzle. So we decided to head back and get a warm drink. We spotted some cattle in a field, not sure what type but they had big horns. We went to have a closer look but saw a dead sheep so left quickly to go and report it.

We did get a hot chocolate though and the ever faithful Victoria sponge for Oscar, his favourite.

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We decide to call it a day, new shoes were needed and some clean dry socks too. On the walk back to the car we found this…

So we did as asked, photograph, posted it and re-hid the rock (but not too hidden) A lovely little find. If you are round and about anywhere in the Shropshire area keep a look out for these apparently they’re hidden in plain sight everywhere.

A quick stop on the way home for new shoes, socks and some fish and chips. A great day

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Erddig

A lovely sunny Saturday and a need to be outdoors meant a good time to give the new camera an outing.

I decided to try a new (to me) National Trust property, just over the Welsh border in Wrexham is Erddig Hall and gardens. After driving along some narrow country lanes I arrived at the entrance gates and drove up to the car park and some farm type buildings. However I was in for a surprise.

I was a little early and the main house didn’t open for another hour so I made the most of the sunshine and had a walk around the gardens, this was when I saw the house itself. It is beautiful, as are the gardens.

Inside the house was even more surprising, the family was very unusual in that they really cared about and for the servants.

Not only did they have portraits and photographs of the servants, with individual poems written by the family, most worked for the family for many years and when retired had a pension paid to them, some are even buried in the family cemetery.

They were also vegetarian and tee-total although did provide meat and beer for guests and were well known for hosting parties. I had a very informative tour of the ‘below stairs’ servants life followed by a self-guided tour of the rest of the house, although other tours were available.

Back out into the sunshine for another wander around the grounds and the stables to see the donkey’s then it was time to head home.

It was a lovely day and I will return again for see more of the grounds and learn more about the house and family.

New hobby – my new camera

After months of being solitary I decided to do something that will get me out and about more and make better use of my National Trust membership.

I bought a camera. I wanted something a little more than my phone camera but maybe not as advanced as a full DSLR, so after a little research and chatting to people who know about these things I bought a Panasonic Lumix FZ200 bridge camera.

The timing was perfect as I had a couple of weeks before our London trip (you’ll have seen that by now) to practise and learn a few of the settings beforehand.

So one sunny Saturday, with a fully charged camera, I set off to my nearest National Trust property and a well known and loved place, Speke Hall.

Here are a few photo’s of the memorable day …

Not bad for a first attempt and felt much easier than I expected. So it didn’t feel too bad using it whilst in London. Here’s a few (unseen) from that week away.

I’ll keep you updated with how it’s going and what new places I discover.

The London photo challenge

Sometimes cities can seem a little ‘educational’ for children with all the museum and galleries, especially as they focus on learning and don’t always make it fun. So I decided to give Oscar a fun focus and a reason for us both to use our cameras.

This was the list …..

  1. Buckingham Palace
  2. Tower guard
  3. A duck on the street
  4. A street performer
  5. An underground sign
  6. A view from the sky
  7. A view from the water
  8. A shoe in the wall
  9. Street art
  10. The smallest police box
  11. A London Met police officer
  12. A Tardis
  13. Paddington bear
  14. Harry Potter
  15. Queen Victoria
  16. With a superhero
  17. Big Ben
  18. Nelsons column
  19. Tower Bridge
  20. The London Eye
  21. China town
  22. Wembley way
  23. Bobby Moore
  24. A shop or sign with your name.

And here are the results …

We had a good time and made some happy memories. Still plenty to see and do so tie to plan another visit.

London – Part 4

Friday started with a tour of Royal Albert Hall, the highlight of Oscar’s holiday (so far). He loves classical music and the BBC proms were rehearsing, this also meant we were unable to take photo’s or video inside. However it was amazing to see and hear.

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Afterwards, with the sun shining, we decide to walk across to the Serpentine Gallery to see the Grayson Perry, The most popular exhibition ever, he is one of my favourite artists. It gave us some interesting topics to discuss afterwards.

 

It was a lovely day so we decided to stay in the park for a while and wandered round to the Diana Memorial Fountain, which was full of kids and adults enjoying the cooling water.

Hunger started to set in around mid afternoon, as we were close I thought the Hard Rock Cafe would be a fun place to stop and eat.

I’m not sure if you can tell but Oscar was very unimpressed, however he enjoyed the food and mocktails. All the walking was starting to take it’s toll, so we headed back to the hotel early for a well deserved rest.

Saturday we had no plans, so we had a little lie in and a late breakfast then headed out for a walk around the shops. We headed along Oxford street and Regent Street until we got bored (me before him) then took a stroll into Mayfair to ‘car spot’ the boy was in his element. No stopping him, other people had noses pressed against the window of car showroom’s, Oscar went straight inside and told them ‘I’m just looking’. Ferrari asked him not touch, Porsche asked him not to touch one car, which had just been sold but Bentley were by far the best, not only no problem looking they asked if he’d like to sit inside and try the different cars to see which he preferred. Excellent service, lovely staff.

This was a special day for him.

London – Part 3

Thursday was, once again, a lovely sunny day so we walked to Covent Garden. When we arrived it was very quiet, not something I’ve experienced before, but it was lovely to sit with a coffee and watch the market setting up.

As you may know from previous posts, I love Ballet so I booked us a tour of the Royal Opera house, one of my favourite places. It was the summer break for the National Ballet company but the Russian Ballet were touring and so we were limited with photograph’s. However we did get to see them rehearsing and warming up for the evening performance during our back stage tour we also saw the costume designers and tailors working hard, making a stunning layered red dress, although they wouldn’t tell us what it was for. We had a look in the royal box (which doesn’t have the best view) then went up to the ‘cheap’ seats which have a fantastic view, you get the best view of the stage and into the orchestra pit too.

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From here we had a wander around the market and bought a couple of souvenirs, then went to the London film museum which had a James Bond exhibition with the vehicles and costumes from all the films. Oscar went a little crazy with the camera and we ended up with around 300 photo’s. Here’s just a few.

London – Part 2

Wednesday started with another delicious breakfast and off we went for a day exploring the South Bank. First we went to see Art of the Brick – A Lego Superheroes exhibition. It was pretty impressive, especially the full size figures and Bat-mobile made completely from regular Lego bricks. They had even copied magazine covers.

 

From here we had a stroll along to the South Bank centre, they had created a beach area for the children and many were playing in the fountains, although the British weather was as reliable as ever and within a few minutes we went from …..

 

Yes the rain started, just as we began to queue for the London Eye, thankfully the wonderful weather the day before meant we had seen most of London from above, on the cable cars with beautiful blue skies, not today though. The photo’s were blurred from the rain on the glass on the pod. It was still a good experience and Oscar wasn’t as bothered about the height as it moved very slowly and less noticeable.

 

Very wet and a little cold we decided to make our way back to the hotel early, clean up and then find somewhere to eat. The rain didn’t last long and by early evening had cleared so we decided to have a wander and see where we ended up. Oscar spotted a tiny Italian (his favourite) restaurant, which was a fantastic choice. The food was beautifully cooked, very fresh and tasty.