Diary of 43 Days of School Holidays: Part I

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My eldest finished school on July 21st at 1.30pm. Her sisters finished pre-school the week before. The summer holidays have arrived! Yay!!

How many outings will we go on, how many places will we visit? How many lazy days will we have? How many ice creams and ice lollies will they consume? How many random craft ideas will I have to develop? There’ll be lots of fun and no doubt some tears and tantrums.

Half Day 

Last school run of the year and stayed on to present the teachers and TAs with their gifts. Then off to the Epsom and Leatherhead Multiples Club with three-year-old twins Maria and Gabriella. Lots of play with a bonus birthday celebration.

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Cake!

Very quick lunch by the duck pond in Ashtead. After picking up a few essentials from Sainsbury’s we went to pick up Sofia from school. We’d organised to go down to Woodcote Green Garden Centre with a few of Sofia’s friends straight after. The garden centre has a nice cafe and lovely play facilities. A good couple of hours enjoyed by all.

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Ice creams: 2    Ice lollies: 1   Minor bickerings: 2   Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day One

First day of no alarm clock and girls up crazily early as usual. However, a far more leisurely breakfast 🙂 .

We had to run some errands, but made a stop off at our local toy shop – Lorimers. I steered Sofia away from the hugely expensive Barbies and more towards the arts and crafts: the compromise was a GALT Nail Art set, which was far more in pocket money territory. I treated them to a £6.99 boule set for the garden.

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We had to get back as someone was coming to buy some of my old maternity clothes. My new obsession is Jellybugs Children’s Market  a Facebook group for selling childrens’ and maternity items in my local area.

We had quite a few games of boule before the weather turned and then it was lunch, which was followed by homemade ice lollies.

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Homemade lollies

The afternoon mainly consisted of indoor play (including den building) and old favourite Pick up Sticks.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 3   Minor bickerings: 2   Arguments: 1  Small tantrums: 0 

Day Two

Today was a big meet up at the wonderful Hever Castle in Kent with Sofia’s friends from reception class (a tight-knit group despite being separated when they went into year one). I hadn’t been since I was eight, so I was rather excited.

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I booked online yesterday to get a slightly reduced rate; I’m an RHS member so I got into the gardens for free (and as it happened, outside was so fantastic we didn’t even go into the castle) and under fives are free in any case, so it was just Sofia’s ticket to get.

We got into the car, armed with the girls’ trusty I-Spy books, for the 45 minute journey.

We arrived at 10.15am and didn’t leave until 5pm. We started at the cafe and all the kids were really happy just running around the beautiful grounds by the water with its lily pads and ducks and swans. We moved to the adventure playground and Tower Maze. We spent absolutely ages there and ate our picnics. We then all took a walk past the castle and onto the English Yew Maze, which again kept everyone entertained for a big chunk of time. Next it was on to the water maze. For the kids, this really was saving the best for last. It was really unique and they LOVED it. They got absolutely soaked. I finally had to lure them out with ice creams. After that we went back to the lake and had a bit of a chill out.

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We didn’t do the boating, see the Japanese Tea House, Miniature Model House Collection, Italian Garden, English Rose Garden or Tudor Garden; in fact we barely scratched the surface. However, all the children and adults thoroughly enjoyed it; it was a truly relaxing and fun-packed day.

All three girls asked when we could go with daddy. We’ll definitely be going back and hopefully we’ll get to see some of the summer jousting that’s taking place and see and do some of the many things we didn’t have time for this visit!

Check out the Visit Kent website for other great things to do in the county.

Ice creams: 4 (including mine)  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 0   Arguments: 0  Small tantrum: 1 (having to put wet shoes back on) 

Day Three

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Not much happening in the morning apart from drawing and a bit of TV, but we cooked a curry for lunch. In the afternoon we went to Hobbledown – ‘an adventure farm park’ in Surrey. The girls absolutely love the place. However,  it is pretty pricey, so I bought an annual pass last year, which although expensive itself, has actually saved money for days out since I got it as we’ve used it loads.

IMG_0080As it was absolutely pouring we didn’t even attempt to see any of the huge range of animals. Instead we headed straight to the play barn, which is probably the biggest indoor play centre I’ve ever seen. We spent three hours in there and they still didn’t want to leave.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 2

Day Four 

Sofia had a birthday party to go to at Pizza Express and I had to go shopping, so dad was in charge for a couple of hours. Many weekends now consist of driving to various parties around Surrey.

My husband then took Maria and Gabby to our local playground, which is home to Pistachios (one of a number of lovely cafes in parks in Surrey and London, which always have lots of activities on), for a play and toasties for lunch. He then took them for a haircut at our local childrens’ salon. They absolutely love having their hair cut, not least because they get to watch Ben & Holly whilst sat in a car and get a lollypop afterwards. Naturally, I’ll have to take Sofia for a haircut next week!

Late afternoon was spent playing some garden games and and generally just messing about.

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Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 1 (at Pizza Express) Minor bickerings: 0   Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Five

Today was all about a BBQ at friends. Everyone ate (and drank) very well and had a great time. The girls had a four-month-old baby to coo over. No ice-creams or ice lollies, but plenty of chocolate cake 🙂

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Six

I’m a freelancer and needed to get some work done today so the girls went to the childminder for a few hours. They absolutely love going, which is brilliant as essentially they view it as a proper day out (and I can get on without worrying). They do loads of arts and crafts, enjoy playing with different toys and absolutely adore her two-year-old daughter.

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In the afternoon we had an impromptu play date. Two hours passed very quickly as all five girls raided the dressing up box and did some imaginary role play. A very busy and happy day for them.

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 1  Small tantrums: 0

Day Seven 

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I packed a picnic and got everyone in the car so that we could head out to Wisley, an RHS garden in Surrey.

This summer, all four RHS gardens are celebrating the 150th anniversary of  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. IMG_0112There were a number of Wonderland-inspired activities at Wisley, and each of them got a book which contained quizzes, things to spot and conundrums related to the novel. It was rather beyond Maria and Gabby (perfect for six years and over I’d say), so we only very loosely followed it. We visited our favourite parts of the gardens, of which there are many, and did lots of walking. IMG_0134They love all the water features and the glass house as well as the orchards and fish. However, they were all very intrigued with everything Alice-related – including a game of flamingo croquet – and Sofia now wants to read the book. For once, we didn’t even make it to the playground as everyone was so interested in everything else.

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We headed over to The Clore Learning Centre and Teaching Garden to plant some pansy seeds (pansy Joker Series), which we brought home. We had a great day and all of them were asking when we could go again. Sofia especially wants to do the Alice trail properly.

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 3  Arguments: 3  Small tantrums: 2

Day Eight 

So, we’ve embarked on a kitchen renovation. It started today. We were intending to stay the day here, but by 9am it became obvious it wouldn’t work so we shipped out to my dad’s.

Loom bands and tea parties

Loom bands and tea parties

Then the real excitement came: their very first sleepover. They were so excited that I was very surprised that Maria and Gabby, who were sharing a bed, actually fell asleep within five minutes. Sofia, wasn’t asleep when we left, but was reading one of the books she’s chosen as part of the Summer Reading Challenge. She’s already four books in.

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Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Nine

I managed to get a lot done before heading over to my dad’s to see the girls.

They actually did this unprompted

They actually did this unprompted

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We headed to Nonsuch Park, which houses Nonsuch Mansion, and is literally across the road from my dad’s.

We had a nice walk to the lovely Nonsuch Pantry where we got fed and watered. The girls were particularly intrigued when three men in full on Highland dress walked in. There was a wedding happening at the mansion and as soon as we went outside for a play, we could hear bagpipes playing.

We spent several hours exploring, playing, climbing and racing and then headed home.

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We got back to my dad’s and renewed several library books online that are part of the Summer Reading Challenge but had to go in person to return one, so headed to our local library.

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 0  Chocolate lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 4

Day Ten

Today was a meet up with some of my friends who also have kids. We decided on National Trust venue Morden Hall Park as it was pretty central for two of us that live in Surrey and the others who are in South West London. It describes itself as a green oasis in the city, giving a taste of a country estate with a glimpse of its agricultural and industrial history. A pretty accurate description.

Adventure playground, which kept them entertained for some time

Adventure playground – kept them entertained for some time

We spent a lot of time in the great adventure playground – including the favourite zip wire -, played plenty of Pooh sticks and did lots of walking and tree climbing. We had a lovely picnic in the rose garden and then walked to Deen City Farm, which is a very manageable distance from Morden Hall Park and suitable for buggies. We even picked some early blackberries en route. The girls liked them but way too tart for me!

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Picnicking in the rose garden

Once at the farm we spent some time with the chickens and then had the obligatory ice creams/ice lollies to recharge. Then we went on to feed the bigger animals.

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Finally we headed back to Morden Hall Park; Sofia had knocked off a few of her National Trust 50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4 and went to get the stickers to prove it.

The kids (22 months – 6.5 years) had a wonderful time. Six kids and not a single argument or meltdown. Amazing!!

Ice creams: 1   Ice lollies: 2  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Eleven

We went to Glorious Goodwood today for the horse racing. We live right by the Epsom Downs so the girls have been to that race course a couple of times and love it, but it was our first time at this one.

My brother’s girlfriend had invited us to go as it’s something that she and her family do annually.

We travelled down, met with some of the group and went straight on for a pub lunch at the lovely The Earl of March. It’s believed that the view from here inspired William Blake’s poem And did those feet in ancient time (Jerusalem). The girls were brilliantly behaved over lunch.

We headed off to the races in a minibus (another cause for excitement!) as soon as we’d finished eating. The food had been very good and won the childrens’ seal of approval also.

Once at Goodwood the girls were immediately captured by the buzzy atmosphere. There was plenty of space for them to roam about and they just loved every minute of it: both the social aspect and the races themselves. A really great day where they were entertained throughout, which meant not even a minor bickering!

Checking out the form

Checking out the form

With daddy

With daddy

Ice creams: 3   Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twelve 

We travelled back from West Sussex this morning but stopped off for coffee and to say hello to an old family friend who lives near where we were staying.

My dad was making one of the girls’ favourite meals for our return – Spaghetti alle vongole.

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We went into my dad’s garden to play and his neighbour (who has a couple of grandchildren and who we get on with very well) called us over. He has actually bought a huge bouncy castle (OMG!!) and invited Sofia, Maria and Gabby over to play on it.

Later on, I decided to go up into the loft and found loads of my old story books from when I was a little girl. I was so excited as were they. Sofia was ecstatic when she found Alice in Wonderland (we’d been to the celebrations at Wisley earlier in the week).

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At bedtime, I read one of my favourite stories from the books I’d discovered: The day the clocks stopped. They really enjoyed it, and I was really pleased that they had 🙂

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirteen

The girls busily made some thank you cards whilst I did a bit of work in the morning.

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After lunch we went back to our house to sort out a few things and called in on some friends. It turned out that the little sister had tonsillitis, so we took out big sis for a walk. The walk culminated in a trip to Mococo’s, an ice cream parlour in Banstead. Ice creams all round except for Sofia, who had her usual crepe with Nutella.

Sofia waiting patientally for her crepe

Sofia waiting patiently for her crepe

Ice creams: 3   Ice lollies: 0  Nutella crepes: 1 Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Fourteen

We went to the Epsom and Leatherhead Multiples Club with Sofia. She’s been a handful of times before and loves it as she always slightly begrudges what her sisters and I get up to when she’s at school.

All three delved straight into the arts and crafts, which was butterfly-themed this week. The art box is very well stocked and maintained and there are always loads of different materials available.

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After ages at the art table they started playing with the toys and hooning about pushing each other in dolls’ buggies. In no time it was juice and biscuit time and then home time. Two hours had flown by and they’d all had a really good time.

We didn’t actually go home straight after, we went for lunch at the Woodman in Ashtead (next door to the the centre where the club is). We all had a very nice meal at this very family-friendly pub. The girls were kept well entertained with the sandpit outside and then some of the toys inside when it started to rain.

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Ice creams: 4 (the pub made a mistake and gave us an extra one free of charge!!)  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 3  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Fifteen

Today I randomly decided we were going to Tulleys Farm in West Sussex, despite the fact that is was over a 45 minute drive away. They have the traditional farm and then put on loads of additional seasonal activities; for the summer holidays it’s the Puzzle Park & Giant Maize Maze (which is exactly as it sounds).

Eight hectares of maze

A small part of the eight hectares of maze

I booked the tickets online as they are cheaper than on the gate (always search Twitter/Facebook for discount codes ahead of booking).

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We did a couple of mini mazes whilst we were waiting to get into the maize maze, which is carved out of eight acres of corn. Then we went in. I can honestly say I have never seen a maze like it before. We usually go into a maze pretending, for the childrens’ sakes, that it is ‘really difficult.’  No such pretending required. I think Bear Grylls would have struggled. The aim is to collect eight stamps, at various stamping stations, which complete a castle and then find the exit. We were in the thing for well over two hours (including a short packed lunch stop at a cafe hut somewhere near the middle), and still only managed to get six out of the eight (I had shunned the £1 map). You’re provided a flag on a long pole in case you need to attract attention or exit quickly. In fact, an ambulance and wheelchair did arrive on scene for someone (who I was told was doing fine); it was serious stuff. You’d think after a couple of hours of going around paths lined with tall maize plants the girls would have been fed up. Quite the contrary. I had to force them to leave.

All aboard the quad barrel train

All aboard the quad barrel train

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Afterwards we headed to the other attractions. There were inflatable slides, trampolines, tractor rides, quad barrel trains, duck racing, skittles, the secret forest, mining, sand pits and playground equipment to name a few. We could have stayed for another few hours easily, but the M25 beckoned just before rush hour. As we were getting in the car, they all asked if we could come back and bring daddy. We will be back as I want to complete that damn maze!! Hey, we might even go and see some animals at the actual farm next time.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Sixteen

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After a dull morning of chores, we all went for lunch at Caballo Lounge in Epsom. The place is truly child-friendly: colourable menus with crayons (sparkly!) on arrival, brightly coloured child cutlery that isn’t babyish and a load of lego and games to help yourself to. Sofia is obsessed with chess so she dived straight in and grabbed a set and started playing with Matt.

Maria and Gabby had opted for sausage, chips and beans and Sofia, a burger and chips; whilst Matt had fish finger sandwich and I had a halloumi wrap and glass of Prosecco. All the food was great and it was clean plates all round. They really liked the venue.

The afternoon consisted of playing in the garden. After dinner Sofia and I tried out a microwave cake in a mug. We used a recipe from BBC Good Food. It took five minutes in total and everyone loved it so much we made a second. We may need to work on presentation, but move over Great British Bake Off!!

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Oo-er!

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 4 (including Matt’s)  Minor bickerings: 1  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

 Day Seventeen

Today was a playdate at someone else’s house: three sets of twins plus Sofia. It could have been absolute chaos, but instead they were all brilliantly behaved. They all played really nicely; on the trampoline and with lots of toys – NB other childrens’ toys are always infinitely more interesting than their own!

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They had a great picnic lunch complete with plenty of goodies, then it was back to playing whilst we (three mums) had our lunch. We actually managed to have lunch in complete peace. This does not happen often.

Afterwards we a had a lovely walk to the local duck pond and then walked on to get ice cream.

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It was the perfect day. Not complicated, just lots of fun.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0



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About Author

I’m Fran: wife, mother-of-three and freelance publicist. My love for communicating and writing mirrors my passion for trying to be the best mum I can be. I love good food & wine, Italian culture and football and have a keen interest in personal finance. I also blog over on Epsom & Ewell Families and Habyts, and write sporadically for a number of other sites.

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  1. Pingback: Diary of 43 Days of School Holidays: Part II | The Parent Social

  2. Pingback: Diary of 43 Days of School Holidays: Part III | The Parent Social

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