Review: National Trust The Firs (Elgar Birthplace Museum)

The property is situated just outside of Worcester about a 10-15 minute drive from another National Trust property we visited on the same day (Brockhampton Estate). It is set just back off the road and is a relatively small property and has a relatively small car park and overflow.

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The entrance to the property itself is via the visitor centre where you can find a lot of information about Elgar, book your time slot to visit the cottage itself (they have to control the numbers in the cottage due to its size) and find out what’s happening on site that day. I shall not reproduce information about the property, details of it can be found here. I have to say, I really wasn’t expecting much out of this trip, but actually I was pleasantly surprise by how much was on offer, in terms of to see, learn and do.

 

 

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Like many other National Trust properties there are summer activities here for children. They had storytelling in the garden (free) and also puppet making in the foyer (£1.50/puppet). The lady, I forgot her name, running both of these on the day was lovely. Logan was really struggling with boundaries that day (as in restrictions on what he should/shouldn’t do and personal space), and she was very patient with him.

 

 

We also had quite some hunger after our little jaunt at… so I got me a pea soup and the children shared a cheese sandwich, between us we shared 2 slices of Victoria sponge and the children had a juice each whilst I had a Sicilian lemonade. The bill came to just over £21, 1 sandwich, 1 soup, 2 slices of cake and 3 drinks. I felt the prices for the drinks were on par with high end prices elsewhere, and the price of the soup/sandwich was reasonable. But the cake, at £3.25/slice; I was expecting more than just a dry sponge with a thin layer of jam. It really was quite stale.

However, was too tired to argue it and face the wrath of the children after the promise of cake. It was dry enough for me to need to go and get a glass of tap water, which is on offer in a dispenser. However, it was empty so I approached the counter to be met with an expression of displeasure and inconvenience. I had already paid for drinks, but nonetheless the feeling I got when I approached for tap water was very uncomfortable.

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It’s definitely worth a visit.

This is a genuine review and all opinions are based on my own experiences during the visit. The National Trust are not funding my visits, we have a year annual pass that was gifted by a family member as a Christmas present, hence our numerous National Trust visits. 

Review: National Trust Brockhampton Estate

The property is entered directly from the A44 between Bromyard and Worcester. About a 10-15 minute drive from another National Trust property we visited the same day (The Elgar Birthplace Museum – The Firs). The long, high wall on the outer of the property gives an indication of a vast estate, but it doesn’t prepare you for what you encounter.

After driving a few minutes down a single track road, surrounded by open countryside and grazing sheep you get to a lay-by and a little hut where you are expected to pull over. A National Trust member of staff comes to greet you and ask what your plans are for the day (so they can give you directions). It’s here that we found out we weren’t actually “here” yet… the actual house and gardens are a further 1.5 miles drive through the estate down this single track. The beauty cannot be escaped though – even the children were making sounds of awe as we turned the corner downhill towards the Lower Brockhampton estate. And then again as the road became tree lined. And then cheers of excietment when they realised we were at the car park and the much anticipated end of journey was nigh.

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The medieval manor house (entered by a cute little gatehouse) takes you through much history and is very well presented and provides a lot of information. This is a house with no roped off areas, so you can really get up close to the displays and furnishings. And in one of the upstairs rooms there’s a chance for dress up; though the children didn’t actually dress up on this visit, the house is a bit dark which added an eerie feel, they didn’t want to stick around too long upstairs. With short films available in a room at the back taking you through how the house was opened, archaeology days and the like.

 

 

 

 

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There is a lot more information to be found on various signs around the gardens and also in the courtyard by the Granary shop and kiosk (which we didn’t use on our visit, as we didn’t have need to). You can find a lot of information about the history and uses of the estate and some of the history of the chapel, as well as some information about agriculture.

 

 

 

 

The chapel is in ruins, but still has 4 walls and and is in good enough a state to get some kind of feel for space and layout. And previous archaeological digs have found remnants that give an indication of how it would have looked, so there are pictures of that too. The children thought it was very cool to see the font in position in the chapel. More history about the property and the site can be found at their website here.

 

 

 

 

The grounds are vast and as such we didn’t cover much of them, there are many walks but we didn’t come prepared for off-roading with Caitlin (we had the standard town-friendly wheelchair, and no carrier). We did try, but after rolling through a lot of sheep poop, and flicking it everywhere as the wheels spun, we decided to call it quits and hope that we may be able to get back there on another day for a walk (perhaps with Bruce, so he can share the carrying duties hehehe).

 

 

 

Whilst we were there, they were running the “Make do and mend” trail, where the children got to hunt for different things whilst learning about how people used to make do and mend. They found it both interesting and fun and were excited to chose their prizes at the end. It was an additional cost of £2.50.

This is a genuine review and all opinions are based on my own experiences during the visit. The National Trust are not funding my visits, we have a year annual pass that was gifted by a family member as a Christmas present, hence our numerous National Trust visits. 

Review: Spielgaben

Despite the children being a little more interested in worksheets recently, I know they learn best through what they perceive to be fun: nature walks, playing on apps (on the rare occasion they are allowed screen time), magazines, story time… and playing. So after hearing about the Spielgaben I was quite excited. Then I found out the price. At around £400 once posted, it’s not a cheap investment. So, I had to be certain I wanted it, that it’d get used. That it would help. I researched all I could about it and couldn’t find any reasons not to. So we made the purchase.

I didn’t hear anything for a few days except my initial order confirmation, but then I received shipping and tracking information and the shipment was here within 2 days after that – well the first part was, the curriculum pack. The second package was damaged by the time it reached the sorting depot. However, it arrived after a few days – the box had been repaired enough to stop further damage and this prevented damage to the actual Spielgaben itself, which arrived unscathed.

The packages contained an extensive paper curriculum (including a Kindergarten pack, play guide, inspiration pack, math guide and planar figures pack), the chest of drawers (with removable top squares board,, and a peg board that can be used both upright for pegs, and upside down for dots) and all of the bits and bobs that make up each Spielgaben set – I could list, but there are pictures above and further info on their website here.

It is surprisingly small, yet shockingly extensive and quite heavy, very well packed and nicely finished. The quality can be seen and felt. It will last for sure. The website says it is suitable for ages 3-12. There’s no question that younger children will be drawn to it “things… lots of things… yay!” But so far we have tested it on age ranges 5-10 (3 children). The 10 (almost 11) year old was the one who spent the longest with it, so actually, yes it does appeal to the 10-12 bracket too.  He sat for over an hour making picture after picture using the inspiration cards, and they weren’t all just easy for him – there were some that posed a challenge.

 

So far we have only used inspiration cards, being summer holidays we are not into a full standard routine it’s just too busy everywhere so things are at a much slower pace (and therefore less activities) than in term time. Plus, this humidity and heat we have been having have slowed things immeasurably. However, I have look through all of the curriculum. It is printed on quality paper or card depending on which booklet it is.

I can see that we will be able to get a lot out of this set. Especially for improving hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, which actually is where we have some issues developmentally. Academics will be possible too – being able to discuss the things we are creating, in terms of math or science, building stories and developing language skills. The beauty of the kit is that it will be limited only by the imagination of the user. So I have no doubt, that now that the children have begun to use it, it will get a lot of use, and that it won’t be used the same way every day. These two have quite the imagination, and it’s only likely to grow with stimulus such as this. If I knew what I know now, we would have purchased this a year ago.

I would also add, for those with siblings, we have used this kit with 3 children simultaneously – you have to think a bit about what you are going to have them doing if you are doing separate tasks, but it’s feasible. Otherwise working together “engineer (picture reader), supplier (fetching materials) and builder (performing task of actually constructing picture)” and switching helps the teamwork and communication between the children too.

 

NB I have not been paid for this review, this review is based on my personal experience and observations of the kit I have paid for in full.

 

 

 

30 Days Wild – Day 23

Well, it was a bit hard to take in nature and wildlife yesterday, as we spent a large majority of our day on motorways and major A roads. Caitlin has jumped from being just under 17kg to 18.7kg in amongst this house move drama. This means that she’s too heavy for her car seat harness, so would either need to go to being secured only with the seatbelt (but she can’t even stay up right in a chair due to her posture), or a seat with a harness that goes up to a weight capacity higher (25kg/36kg).

So, knowing this day was coming I had searched some things (but had been holding off in the hopes that the OT report would be through as they were supposed to be making some recommendations). But clearly we weren’t meant to wait.

We booked in with the Disability Specialist at the In Car Safety Centre in Milton Keynes. We were lucky enough to manage to get a same day appointment, within a feasible driving time. We were greeted well, they had a little room the children could play in at the side, and the shop floor was clean well presented and inviting. And the assistant knew her stuff, and didn’t push for u to get the highest priced seat. We wound that the seats were a little higher in price than we could have found them by shopping around. But the service we received, and the knowledge that we were going away safe not “sold”, more than covered the difference. (They do not know I am writing this so, no I am not writing positively for any benefit, reward or compensafftion).

Anyhow, it was hard to enjoy the sunshine whilst we were sat on a motorway with it beating down on the car. And by the time we got home it was a bit late to be getting out and about. However, we do have the Collins Michelin i-SPY books, so we were looking out for animals, birds and trees.

30 Days Wild – Day 22

Yesterday was one of those awful days where nothing seems to go right, a chain of one after the other incidents leaves you feeling at a loss… and it was only 9:45 by this point – culminating in me swallowing a lip bar, which really was the tip of the iceberg. We had had wet pants (and carpet because there was just so damn much) meltdowns and arguments, stubbed toes… the works by this point.

So when we’d finally eaten breakfast at 9:45 I got the children to clear the living room and get out sheepskins, blankets and cushions, and we grabbed the Magic Faraway Tree Collection, which frankly has been sat on the shelf for ages waiting for the right moment. I used to read them to Caitlin at bed time when she first came to live with us, but aside from that, they’ve not been read. After a chapter, or two, the kids had a nap (much needed) and I sorted some jobs out.

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But afterwards, we collected ourselves, set off to the garden and enjoyed leftover past from Thursday night for lunch, and headed out to listen to the sounds of the wind against the trees.

 

 

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And then proceeded to play in the sandbox whilst I read a few more chapters of The Enchanted Wood.

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Whilst enjoying the sunshine and listening to the sound of the breeze on the tree above…

30 Days Wild – Day 21

“Our birds”.

It’s kind of strange, having only owned our new house for only 2 months, actually 2 nights away means we really appreciated the sound of being woken by “our birds”. I don’t mean, we have birds as pets… we don’t. I mean the birds that visit our back garden (we really should make an effort to identify them) but they have their own song, and it seems to have settled into us. Being woken by them this morning was so much more gentle and inviting than being woken by the foreign sounds of the nature at the campsite.

They are officially “our birds” now. No other bird song can suffice. We love you birds. Keep up the good work.

30 Days Wild – Day 20

A long journey home through country lanes today, so much wild beauty to be seen.

But the best part of the day was the rain… it had been dry enough for there to be some distinct petrichor in the air. One of my favorite smells of all time, second not even to freshly cut grass or chocolate.

30 Days Wild – Day 18

First day of arrival at camp.

First impressions for everyone was how breathtaking it was to be completely immersed in greenery. Nothing but valley grassed field-land and trees. Beautiful.

Not to mention the reminder of the power of mother nature – listening to the wind whip up the side of the tent. Fierce, furious and wild but wonderful.