Rising up in grandeur, our home for the weekend was the centre point of a horse shoe shaped row of cottages set behind a central grassy mound. We pulled the car up directly in front of our large looming door as the rain tried hard to dampen our spirits, but there was no chance of that.
The porch covered us overhead as we worked the key in the lock, pushing open the wide door and found ourselves out of the cold rain and into the most warm, serene setting you could find.
With an instant welcoming feel it was almost like we’d stepped straight into a Christmas movie.
The high ceilings and the antique pine mantelpiece, which originally came from one of the rooms in Bruern Abbey, exude sophistication and elegance but in a way that’s lived in and homely.
The fire was lit within seconds, the complimentary champagne popped and a takeaway was on order.
William desperately wanted to explore because we’d told him of all the exciting child friendly quirks that Bruern had. So with a torch in one hand (as night time was iminant) he went for a walk with his dad and discovered the games room full of dvd’s and brought home about 10 choices for us to pick and choose from throughout our stay.
While waiting for our takeaway we popped on Top Gun. Every one loves a classic. While the kids pretended to fly around in aeroplanes they’d built from the soft furnishings, we just relaxed into the comfort of the Chesterfield, feet tucked up with champagne flutes in hand.
The morning was gratefully met, I walked outside with my oldest child to enjoy the peace of the sunrise. Dressed in our pyjamas and wearing our wellies and coats we walked through the fine mist and fog and across the road to a neighbouring field to watch the sheep grazing on the grass.
We returned back to Sandown Cottage to find Jesse and Evelyn had woken up too and we set about getting breakfast ready. With a fridge full of complimentary high quality local produce we had some exciting options to start our day with.
We cut into the fresh loaf of bread and slathered it with the yellowest of butters I’ve ever seen- but also the most delicious tasting butter. We topped it off with some bacon rashers with a rind so thick that it became delicious crackling in the oven, and some sausages and scrambled eggs. With steaming hot cups of tea- fresh from the pot, and fresh apple juice we had the heartiest of starts to the day.
As the heat from the sun cleared the mist, we decided to step out of our back door to play on the lawn. With football goals and some footballs I think Jesse was itching to relive his youth. Another family joined us and all the children ran around happily kicking the ball or in Evelyn’s case picking it up and running off with it. There’s only so much a toddler understands!
With tables and chairs situated on a small patio in front of the back doors of our cottage, we would have been in the perfect position to just sit back and relax if we’d wanted to. But Bruern just has so much to do and enjoy that we flitted from one activity to the next with excitement.
The play area was absolutely perfect. With an abundance of toy cars, trikes and bikes the children had their choice of wheeled outdoor toys to play with. And with path ways that wrap around the back of the cottages they also had the space to really enjoy them as they were meant to be enjoyed.
A beautiful climbing frame was on hand to play with, along with a gorgeous wendy house which had steps leading to a small bedroom at the very top.
When a small down pour happened (this is England after all) we were able to nip into a play house full of different sorts of toys and activities… of course our home was only a manor of steps away so we were able to play outdoors or slip back home as and when we liked.
After lunch we decided to explore the heated pool. Our children love playing in water, and for that reason I love any holiday or break where we’re able to do that. Small touches like having a baby bouncer and an activity station for babies makes the difference here, Bruern have obviously consciously thought about real family time and how to maximise full family enjoyment safely across the ages in different situations.
As evening drew in we again lit the fire and watched the flames slowly turn the logs into blackened dust. As the warmth of the fire radiated around the room we made ourselves dinner and settled down to another night watching a family movie, before we finished our evening by drinking hot chocolate and heading to bed.
We had the magnificence of a four poster bed in our bedroom that we shared with our daughter while William slept soundly in the twin room.
^^one of the beds in the twin room
We realised the morning after when we woke up, that we hadn’t even left the grounds of Bruern the entire time of our stay. Here we were in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, but we all just felt so at home where we were that we wanted to just indulge in the true meaning of family time and relaxed enjoyment.
It just means we’ll have to make sure our next stay at Bruern is longer than a weekend!
You can’t visit the Lake District and not take advantage of spending time on the water. If you’re anything like our family, then enjoying water based activities becomes high on the priority list. So for our second accommodation when we visited the Lakes, we headed further up Lake Windermere to Low Wood Bay Resort and Spa.
Low Wood Bay is a handsome white building, which used to be a former coaching inn in the 18th century. In contrast to the white washed walls, the black features that surround the windows and doors really stand out making it look opulent and characterful.
Climbing ivy creeps up the walls and wraps itself around the building, while hundreds of pink flowers bob along in the breeze safely ensconced in their baskets, giving the exterior that wash of colour against the monochrome.
But after parking up the car you realise that the front of the building is just a small fraction of the hotel. It’s evident once you step inside, that Low Wood Bay has gone through much growth. And as it has grown newer wings seem to have been added. This makes it a fascinating hotel to explore. There’s almost a new find behind every corner. Different cafes, different lounges, a variety of reading corners.
The modern side of the hotel lends itself to the spa area as well as its own coffee and juice bar named Norman’s. You’re able to join in on any of the exercise classes or practice some racket games such a squash. And of course there’s the pool area with its own steam room, jacuzzi and sauna.
The kids loved being able to splash around in the water daily and it was great having the facilities open to us throughout our stay.
Our visit coincided with the construction of what will make a magnificent infinity pool along with a lake view sauna and hot tubs. Once the work has finished I can only imagine how blissful a location that set up will be, as it’ll take advantage of the lake side position open to Low Wood Bay.
Next to the spa area, still in the modern part of the hotel looking through the floor to ceiling height window and onto the lake, are two seats that become the prime spot for anyone looking to watch the sun slowly come down in the evenings. With Norman’s just behind, it’s a place to settle back with some drinks and watch Lake Windermere under an orange fiery glow.
But if you’re there during the summer months or the weather is beautiful and crisp, leave the seats to someone else and make your way down to the private jetty where the boats are moored.
Either sit on the edge of the jetty with your legs dangling off it, or skim stones into the water as the sun comes down on the small pebble beach.
Being on the lake front means that the Low Wood Bay has its own watersports centre. It’s open to everyone, but hotel residents get a discount. And this is what makes the hotel an even more exciting prospect in terms of staying.
It’s a great way to try out a variety of watersports, especially for those families with older children who may want to experience a variety of different activities on the water.
With paddle boarding, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing and even waterboarding, fly boarding or water skiing, there is a level of comfort or excitement for every family member.
With two small children we decided to kayak. It was surprisingly peaceful, even with the kids. And we loved getting on the water.
In the older part of the hotel, where we were staying, the rooms matched the exterior of the hotel.
Monochrome and opulent.
Our suite was well kitted out for our needs.
We had a beautiful view which looked out onto the lake, and in the evenings we’d happily share the complimentary Grasmere gingerbread that had been left for us to enjoy with a cup of tea.
One of our best meals was also had at Low Wood Bay. There are a variety of restaurants and lounges to eat in, but Blue Smoke on the Bay was just perfect for us. It had stunning lake views and the food was cooked on a wood fired grill using sustainable British wood giving it a delicate smoky flavour.
^^Hot wood smoked salmon cured with Gosling’s Rum, chilli and muscavado sugar, served with charred fennel and mango and chilli salsa.
^^Langoustine bisque with cream, brandy and Artisan bread.
^^Himalayan salt chamber aged beef fillet.
We throughly enjoyed our stay at Low Wood Bay. With two young children we weren’t able to take advantage as much as we would have wanted to in regards to the watersports centre but for families with older children this hotel will definitely come up trumps!
For more information on activities and things to do in the Lake District read this post here.
Disclosure: We were offered a complimentary stay in return for our honest feedback on Low Wood Bay and its services.
Arriving at London Fenchurch Street train station gave the children a real sense of excitement. It was the starting point of our little trip to the coast. The speedy c2c train being the mode of transport that would take us from London’s centre all the way to all things seaside related in just under an hour.
The trend for coastal breaks seems to have made a welcome return. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of fairground rides or maybe the fresh seafood from little seaside huts where you can buy cockles doused in vinegar or maybe it’s just the joy of getting your hands on hot fresh doughnuts or sticks of pink cloud like candy floss.
Either way, on our speedy journey I was telling my children stories of my youth. Of the penny arcade games. The sticks of rock that were delicious and would last ages, while slowly turning my mouth blue. The feeling of the cold waves from the British water lapping around my feet.
The train stop in Southend was a mere 10 minute walk to the water’s edge, where in front of us rose towers of brightly coloured excitement. Adventure Island is a childhood kingdom.
The sound of joyous screaming and excited chatter filled our ears as we walked into the fairground. Free to enter we walked around and just took in the scene in front of us.
The vintage looking rides backed on to the more modern arcade games which course included many of the old-time favourites too.
We got ourselves involved immediately and got wristbands which gave us unlimited fun on the rides.
Adventure Island is huge. In fact it almost seems never-ending. An entire day can be spent going from ride to ride. Or you can split up your time by coming and going as you please. It’s not an enclosed park where you’re forced to stay on site for the entire experience. It even goes on late into the night, so if you get a room at the Park Inn by Radisson Palace (if you fancy an overnight stay), you can watch the rides all lit up in the night sky or be part of the thrill yourself. It’s beautiful to see.
As we continued our walk down Marine Parade we stopped off to get some seafood.
Fairground rides certainly build up an appetite. And getting seafood is quite possibly my favourite part of any seaside experience. We sat by the seafood hut and ate our precious purchases. Peeled prawns and cockles.
For me that’s as British as it gets.
But with the children eager to explore more we headed to Sealife Adventure. An aquarium that was fascinating to visit and gave us loads to talk about and discuss.
There were sting rays that danced in front of us, no doubt thinking we had food to offer them and my favourites- the penguins and turtles.
As always the walk through tunnel tank was my favourite part to explore. We scoured the water trying to spot Nemo and Dory, all the while catching glimpses of the sharks as they menacingly swum overhead.
With a full day nearly done, we decided to end our afternoon by picnicking on the beach with some fish and chips.
We found some gorgeous little beach huts and set ourselves up on one of the porches, while the seagulls overhead kept a watchful eye for any discarded left overs.
The children loved throwing the chips up into the sky and watching the gulls swoop down at great speed. I on the other hand cowered in fear. Birds are not my strong suit.
Exhausted we headed back to our room for the night. The Park Inn.
Although the c2c train is quick into London we wanted to stretch our day out for as long as possible and make a little holiday of it. The great British seaside is back in vogue, and we wanted to spend as much time as we could there!
For Adventure Island check the rides first before you purchase tickets to see which ticket tier you should buy. For quite a few of the rides your child may need an adult to go on with them- the adult goes on for free. So unless you’ll be going on some adult rides alone you may as well just purchase the children’s tickets.
We’re now into August, which means the start date for school is approaching ever nearer. I’m dealing with a mixture of emotions that I never thought I’d have.
William is so ready to start school. He’s like a sponge absorbing every little detail about the world. He asks questions upon questions about everything- the planets, the universe even about the different materials used to create various objects. And I know school will provide him with the tools to just fill up that void that his 4-year-old self has in terms knowledge.
But I know i’ll miss his presence at home hugely. He’s my firstborn and I’ve rarely been without him by my side.
He’ll be in school now until he’s 18, so this is it! He’s going in my beautiful little boy and he’ll be coming out a man ready to tackle the world head on. Hairy legs, stubble around the face and no doubt a full teenagers attitude to boot when that time comes!
It’s a terrifying thought!
Luckily after working with Marks and Spencer earlier on in the year on a school uniform campaign, we have all of his uniform ready and prepared. Given the heat wave the only thing we might possibly have to buy now is a pair of shorts. But if the weather cools down we have trousers to give him that beautiful fresh, smart look.
I’m actually very excited about that first day of school picture I know I won’t be able to resist taking.
But as we know with 30 children in a class, it’s important to make sure all school clothing is labelled. When I was little, my mum had full name tags that had to be sewn into every item of clothing we had. And I’m so grateful that times have changed. Because I can confirm that my sewing skills are not upto par.
So however many shirts he destroys, trousers he creates holes in or just outgrows things- because that’s what happens with kids, I’ll be able to stamp all of his clothing with ease.
The black fabric ink is long lasting, washing machine and tumble dryer proof. It’s also waterproof meaning you can label swimwear too. The ink is also toxic free and acid free so it won’t irritate your child’s delicate skin.
For items where black ink won’t show up, there are 12 blank white iron on labels that can be stamped.
I love the grey felt bag that the stamper, ink pad and labels can all be kept. It means I can safely keep the kit together and use it as and when it’s needed.
With another week though until the school term starts I have that little bit of time to spend with my best boy. And we’re certainly making sure we’re having the best summer yet!
One of my favourite London haunts at the weekend is around the Canary Wharf area. As expected London at the weekend can be even busier than usual because of the number of tourists to the city, coupled with residents being off from work. But being the business district, Canary Wharf and the surrounding area is a forgotten little gem.
During the week the area is heaving, the restaurants are full and you’ll be people dodging your way around. But at the weekend it’s calm, sedate but with enough atmosphere that everywhere is still enjoyable. It’s just not packed to the rafters. Which is exactly how I like it.
Not only is there a shopping mall where you can spend time undercover in all kinds of weather situations but the beautiful Crossrail Place Roof Garden is also worth a visit.
But the best thing about this area at the weekend is the multitude of fabulous restaurants you can pick and choose from.
We were invited to visit The Sipping Room, located at West India Quay. With a beautiful outdoor garden terrace, the Tanqueray Garden, it’s al fresco dining at its finest. But should the weather turn the interior is certainly just as beautiful to enjoy.
We entered The Sipping Room under a Mediterranean inspired archway and slipped into the beautiful atmospheric surroundings of what can only be described as the ultimate Instagram haven.
It’s sounds silly to describe a place using Instagram as a reference point. But as I pointed out to Jesse recently in one of my rambling discussions, I choose places to visit now based upon a variety of factors. I want to eat good food at a restaurant, but while I’m there I also want to appreciate the surroundings that I’m in. The space and the food have to coincide to bring a visual and sensual treat.
And The Sipping Room is absolutely picture perfect.
In fact it’s such a beautiful place you may think it’s not child friendly, but actually at the weekends they endeavour to make it very welcoming for children. Which we found when we went on a Sunday to enjoy the restaurant.
The children were kept highly entertained by the expert balloon modeller who went from table to table bringing a variety of animals to life at no extra cost. The flamingo was by far my favourite model of the day. But it was hard to choose from, because the creations really were exceptional.
William wanted a blue dolphin. Evie was given a baby safe monkey that she would struggle to bite through and I was gifted a beautiful corsage to wear on my wrist.
^^ I just love the look on her face in this picture.
But not only is the entertainment great, the food and drinks were also brilliant. William slipped off his shoes and relaxed while eating the fish and chips we ordered him, with a side portion of peas.
While I couldn’t help but go for a good traditional roast dinner.
Evie being that awkward age where she wants everything we’ve got, ate bits from everyones plate, and also enjoyed a tomato and avocado salad.
Of course being sat in the Tanqueray Garden it would be assumed that gin would be the drink of the day. But actually we couldn’t help but put in an order for some Pimms. The sun was shining, London was looking its best and Pimms felt like the right drink to enjoy in such a spectacular setting.
With bellies full, and more shopping beckoning us back to the shopping centre we said our goodbyes to The Sipping Room and meandered on.
Because that’s the best thing to do in London at the weekend. Eat, meander and enjoy.
William is at that adorable age. Every day his dreams for the future change. A few months ago at pre school he was asked along with the other children what he wanted to be when he grew up.
The answers from the other children were as expected. One wanted to be a doctor, one wanted to be a nurse, there was also a footballer in the making and lots of mummy replicas… you name it the kids wanted to be it.
William on the other hand stood up and said he wanted to be a walrus.
I just loved the fact that his imagination knows no bounds. Nothing is out of the realms of reality for him.
We’d actually sat on the sofa a few days previous and watched Blue Planet together, and William was remembering the scene of the mummy walrus and the baby walrus trying to escape the starving polar bear before finally finding safety on an iceberg where they cuddled up lovingly.
William just wants to feel safe, and so he imagined himself as the baby walrus being protected.
So when Post Office got in touch and asked if I wanted to collaborate on a campaign surrounding life insurance I immediately knew it would be a perfect fit for The London Mum.
After all we all want to be the mummy walrus and protect our young.
We never know what will happen in our futures, but what we can do is plan for all eventualities so that our little ones are supported to live out their dreams even if we might not be there to see them.
As part of the campaign, I got to ask William again about his future dreams and goals in life.
The London Mum’s Child’s Dreams | Post Office Life Insurance - YouTube
I hope I’m able to see his dreams achieved. I’d love nothing more then for him to actually have a dog and a cat called Trainer and Train one day. The names are just perfectly imperfect!
If you’d like to see the goals and aspirations of some other children, definitely take a look at the Post Office protect your child’s dream page and also consider using their life insurance calculator to get a quote.
While we don’t want to think about not being here for our children, it’s nice to know should anything happen their dreams can continue.