Spring at Exbury Gardens

Dear Mummy, every year we make our pilgrimage to see the beautiful flowers at Exbury Gardens. We try to attend when the Azaleas are out and they never fail to take our breath away. The gardens are world-famous and attract visitors … Continue reading

Exploring Belfast Botanic Gardens

Belfast Botanic Garden

Dear Mummy, while we were across visiting relatives in Belfast we enjoyed a brief visit to Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. It was a beautiful sunny day in South Belfast and we could see straight away why these 28 acres of gardens were … Continue reading

Miller’s Ark Lambing Weekend

Dear Mummy, we headed to our local farm over the weekend. We wanted to take full advantage of the sunshine, so bundled into the car and took the short journey to the outskirts of Basingstoke. We’ve never been to Miller’s Ark … Continue reading

A spring trip to Exbury Gardens

Exbury-Gardens-4

Dear mummy, this time last year we visited Exbury Gardens. We had such a great time we decided to visit again and see all the beautiful flowers. Easter has come around early this year by a couple of weeks, so … Continue reading

Spring at Mottisfont via Freeheelin’

Spring at Mottisfont via Freeheelin’

Friday, April 4, 2014.

Mottisfont HouseDear mummy, a couple of your friends have been to see the Lichfield Exhibition at The National Trust’s Mottisfont Estate and have recommended it to you so we decided to go. The weather is dry but overcast and we seem to be running away from the rain as we head to Stockbridge in Hampshire.

Our first stop on the way is a little designer shop called Freeheelin’, it’s located in a converted barn on a farm about 2 minutes down a small country lane from Stockbridge, Hampshire. It’s very easy to get to and they have loads of parking. As we pull up mummy can hear a cockerel crowing and it’s very tranquil. The shop is warm and inviting and Natasha greets us with a big smile and a cheery hello. The place is filled full of children’s treasure, pretty shoes from infant to child sizes, beautiful clothes such as Bonnie Baby and loads of colourful toys. Mummy spots a unicorn rucksack that she wants but unfortunately they don’t do it in adult sizes.

My new Shoes ECCOThe main purpose for the visit was to get me some sensible booties, as my Start-Rite Mary Janes are far too pretty to wear in the mud. I also needed to get measured as it’s been 6-8 weeks since my last fitting. I’m too small for wellies and I also want something trendy to support my ankles. I love pink and shiny things and am drawn to bright colours, so it was no surprise that when store owner Natasha selected 3 boots, mummy and I decided to go for the ECCO silver ones with neon pink laces. Very fashion forward, they go perfectly with my mint green star skinny jeans from BABY GAP and funky knitted pastel cardi from BONNIE BABY.

imageWe wave goodbye to Natasha at Freeheelin and head on our merry way to Mottisfont. It’s nice and quiet at Mottisfont today as it’s a Friday. We stroll around the Winter Garden on our own and watch the ducks paddle down the river walk. I’m so tired that I go for a nap, mummy’s affronted as she’s been talking to me throughout the walk and I’ve just been ignoring her. I can’t help it mummy, I find country walks so relaxing!

Mottisfont have some changes taking place to some of the path ways around the estate and they are undergoing some spring cleaning ready for the busy Easter period. Both mummy and I are intrigued. We play ball on the lawn infront of the main house and spend a lovely leisurely afternoon looking at spring flowers and chilling out. It makes a welcomed change from all this rain we’ve had recently!

Bella and BallMummy tempts me inside the house with a rice cake as we walk around the Lichfield exhibition, it’s a bit busier in here. We look at all the photographs and my mummy is particularly taken with the Ewan McGregor photo taken by Lichfield of him in a kilt….’yummy’ my mummy says. I don’t see the appeal! It was very warm in there and before long I’m desperate to get back outside in the fresh air. Houses can be stuffy sometimes! The next time we visit Mottisfont will be in June when the Walled Garden will be filled with roses in full bloom and I can’t wait! Last year I was carried in mummy’s sling (read out it here) and this year I’ll be able to get up close and personal with the flowers! Eek! So excited!

Thanks Mottisfont and Freeheelin for a lovely day x

Bella x

Our IVF Journey: All the fun of living life with twins

Mothers Day at Clandon House

Mothers Day at Clandon Park.

Sunday March 30, 2014

Dear Mummy, I’m still not feeling 100% after picking up a cold at nursery during the week. My nose is crusty and my eyes are gunky but I put on a brave face as it is YOUR day today. It’s Mothers Day and daddy has told me to be good.

You’ve planned this trip for ages and the weather is beautiful so we pack a picnic and head to this National Trust attraction near Guildford.

Wave

It is very busy when we get there and daddy struggles to find a car parking space, must be something to do with the weather and the fact that it’s Mother’s Day. Loads of families have their ‘Sunday Best’ on and generations of mothers are followed by grandchildren. It really is a family affair today. We finally find a car parking space and head into the visitors centre. The staff are friendly and give us a map as we’ve never been here before.

Clandon House

On entrance to Clandon Park we past a beautiful meadow full of daffodils. I can’t resist to have a wander through them. Other little people are running around in them too, with proud mummies and daddies taking photographs. This is the height of the Daffodil season here.

Opposite the meadow we see the main house, it’s very impressive.

It is still quiet in the grounds so we decided to walk round and grab a pitch for our picnic blanket. There are many attractions at Clandon Park, the beautiful Dutch Garden was one of them with spring flowers sprouting. On the walk to the house we past Lime Avenue on a pathway to the local village church. We also spot an old Hinemihi – unique Maori meeting house brought back from New Zealand in 1892 and it is the only one in the UK. Unfortunately it is closed, so all we can do is look through the windows.

The National Trust had also put on activities for the children Mothers Day, such as pony rides and crafting.

Bunting

I was a bit too young for the pony rides, but mummy took me crafting on the first floor of the house. We made some bunting with the word ‘LOVE’ on it.

The main house is very grand with cabinets full of trinkets that I wanted to touch.  A huge collection of porcelain and 18th-century furniture, mummy wanted to take photos to show you all but wasn’t allowed. The National Trust operate a strict no-photography rule in the house. The Marble Hall is amazing and a typical example of Venetian architecture. The house was built in the 1720’s….WOW mummy that IS old! And it has been past down through generations of the famous Onslow Family.

We didn’t stay long at Clandon Park due to how busy it was in the house and the awful traffic around Guildford, but our next visit we will be back midweek when it is quieter. I know mummy would love to spend more time looking at the Porcelain collection of little dolls and figures. Overall a great afternoon spent at a new #specialplace.

We will be back

Bella x

p.s Shortly after this visit we were contacted by the National Trust and asked to fill in a survey about our experience at Clandon Park and what they could do to improve our experience – now that’s customer service!

Meadow

A quick snap shot of my spring heatwave weekend

A quick snapshot of my Spring heatwave weekend.

Dear mummy, I’m being lazy as there is too much to tell you this weekend. We did some great stuff, visiting RHS Garden Wisley and the National Trust’s The Vyne and Cliveden. Phew! I could do with putting up my little feet and enjoying a stiff bottle of milk!

Heres a couple of photos of our weekend 🙂

The view from the wood of Cliveden House

The view from the woods of Cliveden House

 

Swans at The Vyne

Swans at The Vyne

 

Crocuses at RHS Wisley

Crocuses at RHS Garden Wisley

My first Trip to RHS Garden Wisley

My first trip to RHS Garden Wisley.

Friday, March 7, 2014.

Glass house 3Dear mummy, the word on the grapevine (well the world of Twitter) was that The Royal Horticutural Society (RHS) had a free entrance day across the country at their venues. MITK (Mothers in the know) highlighted this little gem on Friday morning and as the weather was so beautiful, mummy and I decided to go. The quickest way for us was up the M3 onto the dredded M25 and down the A3. Mummy was surprised just how well we were doing until we hit the A3.

Queues of traffic stacked up from RHS Wisley back up to the A3, oh dear we thought, hope it’s not too busy. We were wrong. The place was stacked. It seems everyone got the same Twitter message that RHS Wisley were opening up their doors for free today, saving a fee of £12. We queued for about 20 minutes to get into the carpark and thankfully I was dozing in and out of sleep, but mummy was frazzled by the time we got parked up.

The LabSo the first mistake – mummy decided to leave the buggy and carry me in her wrap, little did she know that I had other plans today…. As soon as we got pass the gates I wanted out and down walking with the rest of the little people. This is fine, but it was a VERY long walk to our objective which was the Glass House.

On the way we saw the old house (Laboratory) and the canal. The canal was a large rectangular shaped pond with a fountain in the middle of it. Looked very pretty in the midday sun.

The CanalMummy carried me for a little while until I saw my next adventure, climbing the steps of the Rock Garden up to the Model Vegetable Garden. I thought this was great fun, climbing up all the little stone stairs. Mummy on the other hand was not impressed having counted 30 or so steps and having to hold onto my hand for dear life as I dragged her up the steep hill.

We stopped occasionally to look at the water falls and small flowers and before we knew it we were at the top looking down across the Rock Garden towards the Glass House. From this vantage point we could see how busy it was. Streams of mothers with pushchairs queue the pathways and families were sat outside eating at the Glass House Cafe.

The Glass HouseWe continued with our journey back down the hill, baby steps. Walking past the Wild Garden, mummy made a note to visit it, once she had gone back to the car and retrieved the sensible buggy. No map was handed out at the entrance so we were just following the crowds and occasionally looking at the signposts. We finally (after 30 minutes of baby walking) made our way to the Glass House.

An impressive glass structure only recently opened by the Queen in 2007. It’s was funded by private donations and entrance fees and was built to celebrate the RHS Bicentenary. It holds, not only the butterflies we are here to see today, but a world class collection of Orchids and Tropical Plants.

The Glass House FlowerIn the Glass House we enjoyed exploring the subterranean world of roots in a dark damp area. It was an interactive learning zone in an underground cavern. It demonstrated the importance of roots in plant life and how they are often forgotten but very integral to the longevity of plant life.

I liked the way the area was set up and enjoyed looking at all the screens, green lights and touching the twisted sculptural roots. Much fun was had in this area.

ButterflyWe ventured out into the bright light of the Glass House and decided to join the short queue to gain entry to see the butterflies. Mistake number two – we thought the queue wasn’t going to take long….it took nearly 1 hour!!! No pushchairs are allowed in the Glass House, lucky because we didn’t have one on us anyway. Mummy wrapped me in her sling for the first 20 mins and kept me occupied, but it wasn’t long in the dull, boring queue that I wanted to go for a walk and get down.

It was hot and sticky in the Glass House queue and people were getting impatient with several families bailing out after a 30 minute wait, we questioned why we were still queuing. Mummy let me have a little walk around while a nice person in the queue held our spot, then suddenly we were at the front.

OrchidInside the Butterfly House it was very hot, no buggys we’re allow due to large Tropical Plants and thin paths. Mummy carried me around and pointed out the butterflies floating above our heads. They were very beautiful, swooping down to eat pineapple and other sweet fruits.

Mummy took some great snaps to show daddy when we got home. The butterflies would only be at RHS until the 9th March so I was glad that mummy took me to see them, it was worth the visit.

As we escaped the humidity of the Butterfly House we walked through a garden of Orchids. I have never seen so many in such a small space. The RHS sure did a good job looking after all these plants.

SleepyAn overdue lunch break leads us to a very busy Glass House Cafe, luckily we manage to grab a baby high chair, but there are not many left and we see parents struggle to find some. Mummy didn’t have any cake, as she’s given up cake for Lent (very brave with all the lovely cakes on offer mummy!!)

We decide to head back to the car to get the buggy and mummy carries me in her wrap. I don’t remember getting back to the car, I just remember waking up in my buggy and mummy wheeling me around Seven Acres and the pond.

DaffodilsOne of our favourite finds in Seven Acres were the Wildfire grasses, which were yellow with red tips and they looked awesome against the green and browns. Behind them we could see the lake and the Chinese Pavillion which was built in 2005. Lots of people were sat on benches soaking in the sunshine. Lots of daffiolds were in bloom in the Wild Garden and we stopped to look and smell them. Snowdrops were also still poking their heads up from the soil. We also noticed crocuses and primroses. My favourite flowers were the purple Toothwort with thin star petals. Very pretty.

Playing with flowersOn our way back to the car, mummy let me have a little walk before our long jouney. So much to see and do, we didn’t get round half of the site before it was time to go home and beat all the Friday traffic. Next time we will bring daddy and a picnic blanket. I think we will be regular visitors hopefully returning in June to see the roses.

Thanks for putting on this free day RHS, even though it was very busy we still enjoyed seeing the butterflies and the beautiful flowers.

Bella x

My first trip to Cliveden

My first trip to Cliveden.

Saturday, March 1, 2014.

Bella and mummyDear mummy, spring has sprung! It’s the first day of March and the weather is beautiful! Being St David’s Day we decide to hunt for daffodils at Cliveden. Our journey takes us down the M4 towards Slough, off at junction 7 and down the A4 towards Maidenhead. Cliveden was very easy to find and I was chattering away as we drove through Taplow towards the estate.

There are two National Trust car parks on the Cliveden estate, the first we past is the woodland one which is a mile or so down the road from the main entrance. As it’s our first visit and mummy’s on her own we decide to park at the main entrance so we are close to the visitors centre.

The hotelThe 376 acre Cliveden Estate is owned by The National Trust but the Main House is a very posh hotel called ‘Cliveden House Hotel’ part of the Relais Chateaux brand and is a grade 1 listed property. Cliveden is an Italianate mansion and estate at Taplow, Buckinghamshire. It’s set on banks 40 metres (130 ft) above the River Thames and its grounds slope down to the river.

The site has been home to an Earl, three Countesses, two Dukes, a Prince of Wales and the Viscounts Astor. The views are amazing here and you can see for miles around.

Cliveden side of houseCliveden is very grand and has lots of royal connections, even the Queen has visited! The Duke of Buckingham built the first house here for his mistress, Ooooo errr I say!! And it has been rocked with scandal ever since. Including the Profumo Affair, after a pool party at Cliveden, which practically brought down the whole British Macmillan government in 1963. Woweee they know how to party at Cliveden.

The full history of Cliveden can be found here. Timeline

Dukes GardensWe drive through impressive, but very narrow gates and down the long drive towards the carpark. Helpful NT staff are there to scan our membership cards and direct us to a parking space. We are one of the first people there and mummy bundles me into the buggy. This place is so huge and we don’t know where to start. It’s definitely one of the most impressive National Trust places we’ve ever been to, in grandeaur and history. The nearest attraction from the carpark is the Cinema in the Gas Yard, which is great for getting a quick overview of the history of the estate.

Cliveden gardensNext is the Water Garden opposite the large Maze and it is beautiful, the the bright morning sun glimmers on the water, with the fountain casting rainbows. It’s so quiet as nobody is here yet, so we pause and look at the ducks and the large fish in the pond. We walk round to the top corner of the estate and stop for a coffee and juice at the Storybook Play Den, a great little place for children with a play park and a cottage which looks like a dolls house.

This would be a great place for a summer picnic.

Storybook play denA lovely owl greats us at the entrance to the Storybook Play Den and lots of play trails for children are held here. When I’m a bit older I can’t wait to come back here and play on the climbing frame. Lots of children are now running into the play area with weary parents behind them and the day hasn’t even started yet! Phew!

We stop and have a juice cartoon to share as mummy forgot my beaker and have a look at the map of the grounds. Mummy tries to get her bearings, this place is so huge!

The Fountain of Love

We go on search for some history and follow the map, one of the main reasons why mummy wanted to visit Cliveden was for the large collection of sculptures, most of them acquired by the 1st Lord Astor from 1893 to 1906.

We head towards the main house and are greeted with Thomas Waldo Story’s impressive Fountain of Love at the end of the Grand Avenue. It’s so beautiful and the backdrop of the cobalt blue sky makes the white marble pop! It was sculpted by Thomas Waldo Story (American, 1855–1915) in Rome in 1897 and was commissioned by Lord Astor for this site.

It features a large marble shell supporting three life-size female figures attended by cupid. The “Tortoise” fountain near the parterre was also made by T.W. Story at around the same time. We spend a good 10 minutes looking at this fountain and chilling out in the sun. There is something quite relaxing with hearing running water splash on a mild spring day.

The avenueBefore long we are back on our journey, the house seems miles away as we look down the Grand Avenue. Mummy finds it a bit hard to push the buggy on the stony path, but I enjoy jiggling around making funny noises. I can imagine what it would have been like in its hay day, large horse drawn carriages and old fashioned wartime cars driving up and down this avenue. Seem strange to be walking down towards a house that’s played host to the likes of Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria. We met Winston Churchill at Chartwell last year, well his painting anyway!

The South TerraceMummy and I aren’t allowed in the main house unless we are hotel guests so we head around the side of the property to the South Terrace and gaze over the the famous Parterre. One of the largest in Britain and very French! A Parterre is a formal garden on a level surface and the best time to visit the one at Cliveden is between mid-April to mid-May for it’s spring displays, then June to September for the summer displays.

It was originally laid out in 1855 by John Fleming and his colourful planting schemes set a precedent for gardens the world over. The triangular shaped beds have been beautifully restored with seasonal bedding displays using Fleming’s original design and complete the breathtaking views from the house. Very nice mummy! It was a truly spectacular view and the gardens are not yet in bloom! The National Trust are doing some restoration work to the South Terrace but that didn’t spoil the views looking out over the grounds.

Eating at Cliveden

At this stage in our journey around the grounds I’m eager to get out of the buggy and get some nosh inside me, so mummy and I head to the Orangery Cafe just around the corner before we start our epic woodland walk. It’s only 11:30 and the crowds haven’t yet descended on us.

It’s nice having the whole cafe to yourself I think. Mummy has a nice cuppa and a lovely bit of Victoria sponge, why is it that National Trust places make the nicest cakes?!?

Blenheim PavilionSo we’ve seen the house and the Dukes Gardens and Parterre, we decide to head on our long woodland walk. It’s a bit of a faff to find out how to get down to the lower levels with a buggy, as it’s not clearly signposted. We end up doubling back on ourselves and head towards the back of the house towards Blenheim Pavilion and the Amphitheatre.

Our woodland walk is slowing turning into a casual stroll. I start to get restless, so mummy decides to stop for a break.

The long gardensWe end up at the Italian-style Long Garden which consists of topiary in the form of corkscrew-spirals, peacocks and box hedges and was designed by Norah Lindsay in c.1900. I kick off the covers of my buggy and mummy puts my waterproofs on. Bright pink, so she can’t miss me! I have a good walk around the gardens, touching the spicky headges and pushing my fingers into the soft grass. We spend over half an hour here, talking to other visitors and playing hide and seek. I am fascinated with all the statues and glide my little hands over the cold stone. Mummy teaches me about textures in the garden and I find it great fun.

Mummy bundles me back into the buggy as we walk down the woodland path towards the River Thames, we walk right around the Parterre, but don’t attempt the other side of the estate, deeper into the woods, we might leave that till next time when we have more ‘daddy’ support to help us with the buggy. The National Trust has many routes around the 376 acre site, include some great paths for dog walkers. We end up missing the boat trips, Clive’s Den, Dukes Seat, Woodland Lounge and the start of the fitness and play trails. Maybe next time.

Restoration workSteps prevent us walking river side with the buggy as well. So next time I will demand to be carried!! On our way back towards the car park we get a good look at the restoration work being carried out on the South Terrace of the house. This place is great, so much to see and do that I think we will be retuning for many years to come. Well done National Trust another great day. Pooped now.

Bella x

My first trip to Petworth

Petworth House

Dear mummy, wow! What a day! This was the first time we’d gone to Petworth House inbetween Midhurst and Shipley on the A272 in West Sussex. Petworth House is a 17th-century mansion owned by The National Trust. It’s set in … Continue reading