Omaha beach

Days Out in Review – January to June 2016

For some 2016 has been shocking and they have been very vocal about it and how they are looking forward to 2017.

For us however, 2016 has been one of our best years yet, full of fun and adventures and here are some of our favourites.

January 2016

We love to get out and about and bad weather never stops us from having fun. In January we journeyed to Hampshire where we climbed the Spinakker Tower, explored the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth and then headed to Rock Up in Whiteley for some climbing fun.

Staying a little closer to home we enjoyed playing in the sand dunes at Sandbanks beach, explored a new beach for us, Ringstead Bay near Weymouth and took part in the Stickman Trail at Moors Valley.

I also attended my first ever Toy Fair at Olympia, London where I was introduced to some of the fantastic toys that arrived into the shops in late 2016.

Spinnaker Tower

February 2016

For her birthday in January, Eliza got her first bike so we headed out to Potterne Park to get some riding practice and headed out to Farmer Palmers for some animal fun.

The highlight of the month had to be our holiday to France where we stayed at Eco Gites of Lenault and visited all the historic D-Day beaches, Pegasus Bridge and Le Mont St Michel, saw the Bayeux Tapestry and even had some snow.

We also had an unexpected stop in Jersey after a rather traumatic ferry crossing and a disappointing stay in Guernsey where we learned that EVERYTHING closes in winter.


March 2016

March was a busy month for us with a visit to Thomas Land at Drayton Manor, a fabulous preview day at Thorpe Park where we barely queued for any rides and still on the adrenalin theme we tried out some new flumes at Splashdown Poole and released our inner apes, swinging through the trees at Go Ape, Moors Valley.

We did do some calmer activities as well, with strolls around Christchurch Harbour, Whitecliff Park and Lulworth Castle.

Lulworth Castle

April 2016

April saw us heading back to Farmer Palmers to feed the deer, get down and dirty with some Owl Forensic investigations at Avon Heath Country Park

We headed to Lighthouse Poole to watch Gruffalo’s Child Live and Genting Arena in Birmingham for some WWE action.

Owl Forensics

May 2016

May is one of my favourite months in Dorset as there is a plethora of activities for families to enjoy. This year was no different and we visited the Dorset Knob Throwing Festival, Lyme Regis Fossil Festival and Donkey Derby in Kinson. We also headed across to Weymouth to see its new exhibit in the Sea Life Centre and enjoy a spin on the Jurassic Tower.

We are frequent visitors to Paultons Park and could not wait to go to the opening of its new Lost Kingdom section of the park.

Lost Kingdom

June 2016

It was back to the Sea Life Centre in June for a very special occasion – we got to have a personal tour of the centre, meet some of its famous residents and feed the Seals.

June is a big birthday month for us and we had a great time at Hollywood Bowl to celebrate but the highlight of the month had to be meeting Ashley Banjo and learning to dance with the Diversity crew on a Diversity break at Butlins.


It was also the month that Kian finished his GCSE exams so we celebrated with a rather damp Forest Segway experience with Go Ape.


So that is the first half of the year, second half coming soon………..

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Revisiting Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Back in July 2015 we visited Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and found that there was so much to see and do that you could not fit it all into one day.

On New Years Eve we headed to Portsmouth to visit Spinnaker Tower and as we have annual passes to the dockyard we decided to head back and see what we missed back in July.

Our first port off call was HMS Warrior 1860 which was the fastest, largest and most powerful warship in the world when she was launched. She was Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured warship and the pride of Queen Victoria’s Fleet with a combination of iron sides, which offered protection from the exploding shells and the ability to carry large guns, changed the nature of marine warfare.

HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior has been beautifully restored both inside and out and provides a valuable insight into what life was like onboard an elite warship from the Victorian era.

HMS Warrior

Once we had finished we had a bit of a breather and headed into Action Stations where the kids got to steam around the activity centre, fire (pretend) guns, fly helicopters in a simulator and try out some science experiments.

Action Stations

Last time we visited Portsmouth Historic Dockyard we looked around HMS Victory ourselves, stopping to ask the guides who were dotted around the ship questions. This time we had a set time to visit and went around on a small group with a guide that explained everything in fine detail. It was fascinating looking into the lives of those on board and I was surprised at how engaged Eliza and Isaac were – both asked lots of questions. Sebby on the other hand decided it was time for a snooze on Daddy’s shoulder.

HMS Victory

Our final ship of the day opened in August 2015 and was the HMS M.33 and the sole remaining British veteran of the bloody Dardanelles Campaign of 1915-1916, and the Russian Civil War which followed. The ship is one of just three British warships from World War I still in existence.

HMS M.33 was built in 1915 on the orders of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. She was a floating gun platform designed to bombard coastal positions from the sea and she was a lot smaller than I initially imagined.

HMS M.33

We were greeted aboard the ship and told some of her history and then were allowed to wander unaccompanied throughout the ship. We were warned that it was dark inside and at one point of the tour, there were videos being projected against the walls with loud acoustics of guns and warfare. I would have liked to stay and watch more of this as it was fascinating, but the kids were scared so we may go back and revisit when they are at school, but the kids were told to look out for the ships cat which kept them busy.

HMS M.33

By now the weather was starting to close in and it started pouring with rain. We had planned returning to Spinnaker Tower to take in the view in the dark but the weather got the better of us, so we headed back to Action Stations so Isaac could do the climbing wall which had been too busy before.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Of course the boys wanted to man the guns again so I decided to have a go too – strangely therapeutic blowing up pretend arm vehicles!!

It was a very wet and windy walk back to the car, but was a lovely way to spend New Years Eve and we ended the year as we started – adventurously!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Spinnaker Tower

Climbing High in Spinnaker Tower

Soaring 170 metres above Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent, the Emirates Spinnaker Tower is taller than the London Eye, Blackpool Tower and Big Ben and we have been itching to climb it since it first opened way back in 2005.

Ten years on and we have finally made it!

The weather has been quite frankly awful in recent weeks with torrential rain and high winds, but we saw a break in the pattern of a few hours and decided to make the most of it. My weather app on my phone told me that we had a period of six hours which promised to be dry, however we did start to worry it may be a wasted journey as the heaven’s opened for most of the 45 minutes drive to Portsmouth but as we arrived the sun made an appearance too.

We were surprised that the signposts led us to Gunwharf Quay as I had assumed it was closer to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, but we found it tucked behind some restaurants on the Quay. Our bags were searched and we were scanned by metal detectors at the entrance before purchasing our tickets and having our photo taken on a green screen.

It was then time to take the express lift which takes all of 30 seconds to the first of the Three view Decks whilst the lift operator told us what to expect.

With full height glass walls which surround you on three sides, it really is a WOW! moment as you exit the lift as the windows allow you uninterrupted panoramic views across the city, harbour, sea and coastline. At this point you are 100m above sea level and if you are brave enough there is Sky Walk to walk across (or jump if you are my children). The unique glass floor is made up of 4 panes, each of which measure 2050 x 950mm, giving the floor at total area of 7.79m2. The overall thickness of the glass is 60mm and can hold a total weight of 288 stone – plenty of room to run across.

Spinnaker Tower

Of course the real treat is the breathtaking 350 degree city, country and seascapes which stretches over 23 miles.  The weather wasn’t perfect for us although we did manage to witness a brief sunny spell, but it was fascinating watching a storm front rolling across the Isle of Wight, brushing past us and then heading back out over the sea. A great learning opportunity for the kids.

Spinnaker Tower

We also had a fantastic view of the dockyard and HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. There are several i-View monitors on this floor which are interactive multi-touch screens which allow you to find out more about the many points of interest in the view, zoom in to get a closer look and switch between a clear day or magical night-time view. Isaac even got to drive a speedboat!

Spinnaker Tower

You can take the lift up to the 2nd and 3rd viewing decks but we chose to take the stairs, heading for Deck 3 first which is the highest deck with an altitude of 110m above sea level. When we were told in the lift that this deck was open to the elements I was looking forward to seeing the views without rain spotted glass in front of me, but sadly, the Sky Deck only lets the wind catch your hair as it is just the roof which is missing, with a large net like material above your heads.

Deck 2 is home to Cafe in the Clouds which offers hot and cold drinks and cakes to enjoy along with the breathtaking views.

Spinnaker Tower

We spent about an hour and a half in the tower and our hands were stamped so we could return anytime during the day, however we decided to head to the dockyard to look around some of the ships we had missed on our previous visit.