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.

Behind the scenes at Dunham Massey

Sometimes misreading a calendar has it’s advantages, and this was one of them. Dunham Massey is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a while, so whilst looking through the national trust book I ‘thought’ it said the house reopened to the public from February.

Off we set, a grey day with drizzly rain which got heavier and heavier the closer we got. Thankfully it was well signposted and easy to find as I forgot the trusty sat-nag (she drives me bonkers and causes more road-rage than any driver ever could)

So we arrived and made a quick dash inside, unfortunately the house wasn’t fully open but they had guided tours for certain areas. I was a little disappointed (at my mistake) but my mind was soon changed as we had a great time.

The first tour was all ‘below stairs’ the guide was beautifully dressed, very informative and hilarious. He told us all about what jobs we would be expected to do, conditions and even had the children getting involved. One boy (aged about 6) was perfectly dressed for his new role as a tiger in his orange and black coat. A tiger was a small stable boy who held the reins of a horse to keep it from moving around. Oscar and another boy were too young to be household boys, so they could have been scarecrows, running up and down the fields shouting to keep the birds away. At 12 they would/could have moved inside of the house for other duties. The first being silver polishing, which they both did very well.

Then we went into the kitchens and laundry rooms, time for us to get wet. The children had a go at washing using a tub and dolly, it lead to lots of splashing and laughing. They all agreed that washing machines made life a lot easier now. It was interesting to discover that gin was used for washing silk, I wonder at what point they decided to have a taste?

The next tour was the art of the house and the two tour guides made this tour something special, they were like a comedy double act. Even Oscar, who wasn’t looking forward to this one because it sounded boring, loved it. The half hour tour took 90 minutes and I’ve never laughed or enjoyed a ‘serious’ tour so much.

I learnt a lot from both of these tours and we are both looking forward to going back again to see the rest of the house and explore the beautiful grounds, weather permitting.

Getting home was an adventure in itself as following road signs for the motorway lead us round in a circle back to where we started ! At least we know for future reference which signs to follow and how to get home.

A bit of plastic

A couple of weeks ago a small piece of plastic came into our lives and made quite a difference. What is this ?

 

A fidget cube, a small cube, 6 sides with something different on each side to fidget with. Very simple, but also effective. I fits neatly into the palm of your hand and even for a child its comfortable to hold. I bought it for Oscar, to try and stop his nail biting (he’s hardly got any left) and it’s working. Each side has a different action, some click whilst others are silent, each has a different feel.

It was originally designed as an anti-stress ‘toy’ for adults, however for children with anxiety or sensory issues it also has advantages.

After a quick chat with the teacher it was decided that he could have it in class, provided he didn’t ‘mess’ about with it or use the clicker too often. It has been successful. He says it makes him feel calmer and it helps him concentrate.

Unfortunately the small size also makes it easy to lose, as was the case a few days ago. We turned to house upside down but nothing. I ordered a couple of spares, and true to form the original one turned up on the day the spares arrived. I find myself quite often holding it and it is calming.

 

Lady Lever Art Gallery

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve lived about 5 miles from this place for approximately 30 years and I’ve never visited, until today. I’m glad I finally did.

What a beautiful, interesting building in a stunning location. Port Sunlight, built by the Lever brothers to accommodate workers from their soap factory.

 

 

 

The building was commissioned and built to house William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme, personal collection of art, fine art and antiques.

It is split into 30 interconnecting rooms, which house both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The current temporary exhibition is Fresh Perspectives, art, embroidery and sculptures created by local school children aged 14 – 17 years old.

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Some of the rooms are set like bedrooms, sitting rooms, others are as you would expect an art gallery to be. Hanging art work, cabinets with pottery and sculptures. The central room is circular with a domed roof and filled with sculptures and busts.  On a sunny day, like today, the light in there is beautifully calming.

 

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Floors and the domed ceiling.

They have lots of activities for children around the galleries and downstairs they have craft rooms, a cafe and shop. A lovely way to spend a couple of hours and I won’t leave it so long before I return again.

 

Reading Challenge

I was doing well with  The Reading Challenge last year, until September then I seemed to lose my focus and concentration. I didn’t do too badly though.

So I’ve started the new 2017 one, again I’m sticking with instagram #26bookswithbringingupburns

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A couple of the categories were the same as last years, or very similar so I’ve missed a couple out and kept the others.

  1. About a place/time you wish you lived –
  2. In a genre you usually avoid –
  3. With yellow on the cover –
  4. That’s becoming a movie in 2017 –
  5. Book with one word title –
  6. An audiobook –
  7. You can get for free –
  8. You planned to read last year but didn’t –
  9. You read on a trip/vacation –
  10. Suggested by a friend –
  11. From a series you started but have yet to finish –
  12. You can finish in a day –
  13. Published this year –
  14. With an epic romance –
  15. That takes you somewhere warm –
  16. Of short stories or under 200 pages –
  17. Considered a 20th century classic –
  18. Set in the future –
  19. You choose because of the cover –
  20. With a mother/daughter relationship –
  21. With a reputation of un-put-down-able –
  22. A free choice –

I have already begun and made the most of a few child-free moments, I have set a target of 20 but would like to complete it, I need suggestions please (especially for number 10)….