Thursday, August 16, 2012


We needed to take a quick trip to town yesterday morning so I could pick up a few sewing supplies from our local haberdashery. Dan, with his weather-forecasting skills, was predicting torrential rain by eleven.  The kids were troopers and we managed to reach the bottom of our hill by 10.45, just as the heavens began to open.  Prepared with umbrellas and waterproof macs, we returned home in almost dry condition!  But oh how it poured, most of the afternoon.  The kids played chess and board games, watched Tintin, and had art time with our friend Meg so it turned out to be a relaxed indoors day.

But last night, looking at our puddly back garden and soggy grass, I wondered how dry it would turn out to be for our long-planned trip to Stratford today.  I needn't have worried.  Apart from a very brief shower, most of the day was not only dry but partly sunny!

Dan's sister Toni is visiting from Australia, and we wanted to have a fun extended family day out during her visit. Laden with a picnic and blessed with good deals [thanks to Groupon and Nanny!] we managed to have fun and keep it cheap. The normal price for an annual family pass to all five Shakespeare Houses is £56, but we paid £22.  We didn't have time to visit all five today, but chose two: Anne Hathaway's cottage and Mary Arden's farm.

We started by visiting the cottage. Beautiful at first sight, it is surrounded by flowers, orchards, and quiet woodland.  Aside from the noise and craziness we brought along with us, there is a tranquility that rests around this antiquated home, a serenity that comes from being set aside for posterity, unoccupied and at peace for over a century.

We enjoyed our wander through the cottage, its accompanying lovely flower gardens, and a woodland walk, complete with fairies in the trees and quotes from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" scattered throughout.

We loved the lavender maze.  It's the first time I've ever seen one of these, and not only does it look wonderful, it smells delicious.

After our picnic in the orchard near the cottage, we ran a few races.  The kids have been inspired by the Olympics, and every race, game, and even mealtime is currently accompanied by shouts of "I get the gold!", or "You've got the bronze!" and "You've definitely sealed the silver medal on that one, mate!"

The boys raced for a while, and the same pattern always emerged.  Either Lefty or Righty would win, with Mr J several paces behind.  Finally Auntie Toni came up with a plan, and when the older two boys were otherwise occupied with jumping in a pile of hay, she raced Mr J.  He won, and talked about it for the remainder of the day as his "favourite thing today".  Thanks, Auntie Toni!

Some of the adults were then tempted to join in the races, and the result was Grandad sustaining a leg injury.  We don't think it will keep him from his usual golf game on Saturday, so it surely can't be serious!

Then we moved on to Mary Arden's farm.  Mary Arden was William Shakespeare's mother, and the farm near where her family lived has become a working Tudor-style farm. It was brilliant fun for the kids.  They petted ponies and pigs, chased cats, and tried on Tudor clothing.

We saw baby goats being fed their bottles, but Coo wasn't as impressed by this as I thought she'd be.  I remembered Dan recounting to me how happy she'd been to see mama sheep feeding their half-grown lambs last week at Wroxeter.  She must have no understanding of what those bottles were for!

While Nanny and Coo sorted out snacks, the rest of us participated in some archery fun. Lefty went first:

 Mr J, the little boy who doesn't win the races, surpassed us all at archery, even the grown-ups.

Then we listened to a [very long!] demonstration and talk on barn owls and birds of prey.  It was fascinating, but by the end the kids were eager to move on to the next thing.

Which was... riding horses!  Lefty and Righty have been on pony rides before, but none of the three have ever ridden horses.  They loved it.  We invited Coo to try it out, too, but she chose not to join in.

After this, all the adults were completely and utterly exhausted, so it was time to go, though I'm sure all the shorter people in the family had enough energy left for more activities!

But we're already planning our next trip to Stratford.  We have three more houses to see, and Grammy is coming for a visit in September!


  1. Tracey Stanton (nanny)10:42 am

    It was such a lovely day....i think there was somethign for all of us and a family picnic is alwyas special :) Looking forward to the next trip too and Alyson(grammy) coming to join us will make it even more special... we love you guys xx

    1. It did feel like there was something for everyone, didn't it? We'll plan another day soon... love you all too! :)

  2. I'm striving to be a mother such as you. Wow, Erin. You are truly an inspiration to me and balm for a world weary soul. I love these pics xo

    1. Thanks for the encouragement; I will remember it on days when I definitely don't feel like a great mum. :) And I am very happy to hear that you find the day-to-day things that I post about inspiring!


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