Category: Adventures

Eating Out – Lunch at The Oak Tree

Eating Out – Lunch at The Oak Tree

If you’re anything like us eating out is definitely on your top ten list of things to do. But eating out isn’t always that simple when you’re both vegan. For us it usually involves quite a lot of planning. Hunting down websites, poring over allergen menus, and ringing up restaurants to see if there’s anything that you can eat. But imagine a place where not only is there vegan food, there’s an amazing choice of it. Imagine no longer, because it exists and its called The Oak Tree.

Based on the Leigh Road, Leigh on Sea in sunny Essex, this place is an absolute gem. Nestled alongside the eclectic shops that make up this wonderful street, The Oak Tree has a warm and welcoming vibe. With seating inside and out, we chose indoors as I was beginning to melt in the heat that day!

The menu is a breeze to navigate with vegan, vegan options and gluten free choices clearly labelled. Our only dilemma was what to have! I am so used to eating the same meal, over and over again in our usual haunts, so this was quite the challenge. I chose the Roast Vegetable Tart, whilst B chose the burger. Both looked and tasted amazing, with B declaring the burger being the “best he’d ever had”.

Once you’ve sampled your meal, you can tell that this is a place where the vegan food has been carefully created. This has been made by someone who wants you to enjoy the food; the flavours complement each other and offer a truly satisfying experience.  In fact my mouth is watering as I write this!

As soon as we’d finished we were planning our return. The menu has so many choices, we can’t wait to come back and try them all. I’ve got my eye on the Chilli Mac n Cheese, and those gorgeous sounding desserts for my next visit, which I’m certain will be soon!

 

 

 

  • We were kindly treated to lunch by The Oak Tree, but all views are our own

 

A Scottish Adventure – Our Top Ten Places to Visit

A Scottish Adventure – Our Top Ten Places to Visit

I can’t believe it was only last month that we were getting ready to board the Caledonian Sleeper up to Fort William (read about that here) but now we are home and back to normality we’ve had time to time to think about our favourite places to visit all over Scotland and here they are:

  1. Tobermory – If you a get a chance to visit this picture-postcard town when you are in Scotland it’s a must. Instantly recognisable from the children’s show Balamory, watch your kids faces light up as they realise its an actual REAL place. We took the Caledonian ferry from Oban to Mull and drove across this beautiful island for a day. Next time I’m stopping for longer, there is so much more to see here.
  2. John O’Groats – Our household is split on this one! I loved it here, B not so much to say the least. It was pretty blustery, as you’d expect and he was convinced he might blow into the sea. The drive up is amazing, and some of the most amazing views you’re ever going to get here in the UK. If you’re nearby, do it. Definitely one to tick off the list. 
  3. Edinburgh Castle – I could write pages about Edinburgh, but you can’t visit without a trip to the infamous castle. I love how it dominates the skyline and can’t help but think back to how it would have been in years gone by.
  4. Urquhart Castle – Whilst we are on castles, this is one of my favourites. Steeped in history Urquhart is one of Scotland’s most iconic castles. I visited when I was pregnant, and to be able to bring B back here was lovely. He spent ages playing make believe in the ruins of the kitchen offering strangers ice cream – as you do.
  5. Loch Ness – It’s a must on everyone’s list! No trip to Scotland would be complete without a search for Nessie. There are plenty of boat trips to choose from to go on the hunt. I must admit, I shamelessly do this every time I come to Scotland, and have been on several of the boat trips available and each one has been brilliant. I am yet to spot Nessie though. Maybe next time.
  6. The Jacobite Steam Train – This is an absolutely magical steam train journey, considered one of the greatest railway journeys in the world. It does get booked up well in advance so I’d recommend booking before you go. It’s not open all year either, so check here  before you go.
  7. Glenfinnan – Harry Potter fans will be in their element as they spot the famous viaduct from the films. If you’ve been on the train, its great to then see your journey from another perspective. Take a walk around the monument and admire the spectacular views of the loch.
  8. Nevis Range Gondola – Unless you’re a seasoned climber, a trip up Ben Nevis is ill advised, but you can take advantage of the Nevis Range Gondola to experience the mountain heights. Aonach Mor, is the eighth highest mountain in the UK and offers views for miles. The restaurant at the top offers a great range and even has vegan options which pleased us no end.
  9. Glencoe – With some of the most breath taking scenery in Scotland, Glencoe has so much to offer. I first drove through here in a thunderstorm which was exceptionally dramatic and rather scary. This vast sweeping pass has a host of activities. From the beautiful waterfalls and hikes to inner tubing and mountain biking for the more adventurous.
  10. Neptune’s Staircase at Banavie – If you’ve a budding engineer in the family this is the one for you. Neptune’s Staircase is a dramatic eight lock flight at Banavie near Fort William. If you get to catch a boat passing through its amazing to see. We were lucky enough to stay near by and used to watch as the last boats of the day all came through. It’s an amazing feat of engineering and the longest staircase lock in Britain.

I’m now busy compiling my list for what to see on our visit for next year. Watch this space!

The Science Museum – Our Guide to a Great Day Out

The Science Museum – Our Guide to a Great Day Out

The Science Museum in London is one of my very favourite places to be. Ever since my first visit as a child, to the almost monthly visits we make at the moment, it never fails to inspire and amaze me. Sometimes I take for granted just how lucky we are to be able to hop on a train and have this on our doorstep, as it truly is a great day out.

We do on occasion pop in if we are tying a visit in with another, but to truly do it justice the museum really deserves a whole day to itself. I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve been, but I still find something new to admire on each visit.

With South Kensington Tube being the nearest London Underground station, we tend to always travel by tube. With the underground walkway taking you safely from the station to the museums, I find bouncy excitable children are safer under here than the roads above. This is also handy to deal with the British weather too, lets face it rain is rather part of our infrastructure!

With free entry but a donation welcome, it’s a marvel that all of this history is available to everyone. It’s a good idea to take a look at what’s on before you arrive, so that you can plan your day to please all the family. Some of the simulators for example do have an age and height restriction, so it’s best to forewarn little visitors in advance that they may not be able to ride. Or you can plan your day, avoiding this part of the museum. Which ever works best for you. A map is available to download from the website, a great help if your children like to be involved in planning your trips, or need to know what’s likely to happen on a day out.

On entering the museum be prepared to be wowed by the Energy Hall. Personally I love the history in this part of the museum. It amazes me just how visionary the engineers of the past were. We tend to go through to the Exploring Space hall, where you can find a wealth of space objects. Make sure you look up, some of the most amazing rockets are above your head.

Making the Modern World is another “wow” gallery. We love looking at Stephenson’s Rocket and the cars stacked upon each other. For younger visitors starting to get a little restless, the Pattern Pod in the next part of the museum, gives them the chance to do some hands on investigation.


At this point we usually pop down to the basement to explore the Secret Life of the Home. Be prepared to feel old as items from your childhood are now on show at a museum. For any fans of the Despicable Me films, see if you can find the tiny toilet in the display cabinets. With great interactive displays you can work out how the toilet flush works, and see if you can get the fridge temperature to change.

We’d usually stop for lunch about now. If you’ve brought a picnic you can eat in the Terrace Picnic Area. Personally knowing the Energy Café on level 0 has vegan options, means we usually treat ourselves to lunch in there.

Feeling energised after refuelling we head up to Level 1 to look at the materials displays. I find that materials are a subject that you can start to engage children with at a very young age and continually develop their understanding. Even young babies are enthralled by the touch of different items and can get involved. As they grow, materials can help children broaden their vocabulary with such a huge range of descriptive words associated with them, and introduce them to a variety of educational areas. From the natural world to the periodic table, its a brilliant base to start from.

Up to Level 2 which houses some of my favourite galleries. I love the Clockmakers Museum and Journeys Through Medicine. However at this point, B is usually itching to get to up to Level 3 to visit The Wonderlab which is our absolute favourite part of the museum.

There is an additional charge to enter this part of the museum, but it is worth every penny. If you are frequent visitors, its well worth investing in an annual pass as its likely to become a firm favourite with visitors young and old. With so many hands on experiments and a talented team of Explainers to direct your questions to, its a place of absolute wonder as the name suggests. With 50 “marvels of science” to enjoy, there is something for everyone. With live shows, hands on experiments, and demonstrations for all, you’ll not be disappointed. So many theories I’d learnt at school suddenly made sense after seeing the practical demonstrations from the talented Explainers. Our favourites are the Sip or Spray, the Friction Slides, and the Maths puzzles.


With our brains brimming with new ideas, but our feet feeling the impact of a lot of adventure, its time to get home, safe in the knowledge we’ll be back soon for another visit!

Celtic Harmony Camp Hertford

Celtic Harmony Camp Hertford

On a fresh but chilly Tuesday morning we were up and out early to get to a day full of activities at the Celtic Harmony Camp near Hertford. With many jumpers and layers (what is it with this years weather?) and a rucksack full of lunch and snacks we headed off round the M25 to our destination. Only an hours drive from Chelmsford, but thousands of years back in time, we were ready for action.

This was our first trip out with a group of home educators from a different area, so I was a little apprehensive about not knowing anyone, but B takes these situations with gusto so I knew we’d be fine. Luckily for us they all turned out to be lovely and we both made new friends – win!


Once we’d parked and headed up the track to the camp it really felt like we were leaving the modern day behind. Greeted by the enthusiastic team of Owain, Angus and Manachar,  we were soon within the settlement walls and ready for action. With an excellent range of activities for different aged children, B was in the Farmer Group aimed for KS2. Our guide Owain led us to the roundhouse for an introduction and we were off! With a blue squiggle of face paint to ensure we looked the part, it was time to get stuck in.


The Farmers itinerary included:

  • Grinding corn on quern stones – the children soon discovered how much effort used to be involved in baking your daily bread.
  • Learning about the herb garden – the children were greatly amused to discover that one herb was mixed with urine to make blue dye!
  • Making jewellery and using dye – with our newfound knowledge on Celtic dyes, we made a bracelet and dyed it purple.
  • Carding and spinning wool – Owain explained the history of spinning a yarn on more way than one! It was fascinating to learn how commonplace terms we use everyday had a root in our history.
  • Weaving cloth on a loom – with the children in teams, they all had great fun using the looms, and weaving cloth.

We finished off with a great story told by Owain in the roundhouse. He had us all enthralled, this man has a great talent for storytelling! It was time to make our way home. This was a truly great day out, and if you ever get the opportunity to visit as a family, home educating group or with a school, I can’t recommend it enough.

Adventures on the Caledonian Sleeper

Adventures on the Caledonian Sleeper

If you ever get a chance to travel on the Caledonian Sleeper Train my advice would be to grab it and leap with joy. It is one of the most amazing things we’ve done as a family and such a fun way to travel. For train enthusiasts like B this was one ticked off his bucket list, and for the rest of the family, it opened our eyes to a new way to travel. No more “are we there yet” and should your children continue to ask that dreaded question, there is WINE! For you, not them obviously.

The train leaves from London Euston in the evening with the Highland route journeying to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen, and the Lowland route to Glasgow Central or Edinburgh Waverley. We were off to Fort William and having driven the long route a few years back, I was looking forward to being able to relax on the long journey up.

The train is ready to board shortly before departure, so you have time to get yourself acquainted with your surroundings before you’re on the move. For B that meant unpacking all of his hand luggage as if he was moving in! The train cabins are cosy, but there is room enough. With each berth sleeping two people, the rooms have an adjoining door to unlock and make it into a family style abode.

Once everyone was organised, the kids decamped to the top bunks to play games we’d packed for the journey. Top Trumps, colouring in, and the IPad had come along for the ride. Travelling as a group of 7 with great friends made this into the ultimate adventure for all of us. B had company with his 2 oldest and dearest buddies, and the adults had each other too. This was our first foray as a family travelling with friends, and made for the perfect adventure as we usually travel just the three of us.

With all under control in the berths (thanks Dads), it was only right that we should check out the bar area (all in the name of research). Unlike your heads down, reading the newspaper, commuter train, this was the most social train carriage I’ve ever been on. Maybe it was the gin? Either way, it was surreal to sit and drink whilst finding out everyone’s plans for after departure.

Back to the berth and B was tucked up ready for bed. He couldn’t wait to get to sleep (another reason to love this train), to say he’d slept on a bed on the train. I was on top bunk which we all know is the most fun, and I was amazed at how secure I felt up there.

So far, so good. Waking up though is the best. To open your blind in the morning and see the dramatic Scottish landscape whizzing by is amazing. Snow capped mountains, waterfalls and valleys abound. Coffee and juice had been delivered to our room, and we’d packed a picnic breakfast of cereal bars and goodies to tide us over until we departed the train.

Sitting in your PJ’s with a hot coffee watching the world go by…it doesn’t get much better than that.

UK Visit Wish List

UK Visit Wish List

Every year the boy makes a list of places he wants to visit before he reaches his next birthday. There is normally some epic stuff on there, such as rides on the bullet train in Japan and finding a train that goes through a mountain. Sadly I don’t think we’ll get to Japan this year, but I do intend to tick off everything on our UK list this year!

  1. With the largest marble run in the UK, the House of Marbles in Devon sounds like a lot of fun. Its been a couple of years since we’ve been to visit that area of the UK, so I’m itching for a visit.
  2. Just a quick train ride away for us is the Florence Nightingale Museum. I’d only discovered this one recently when I stumbled across a chat about it on Facebook. I think we’ll tie it in with one of the regular trips we make to the London Eye.
  3. We’ve just been recommended to visit the home of Charles Darwin. One of the many wondrous buildings available to visit from English Heritage. There are some great events coming up over the summer, so I think we’ll choose to visit as soon as the warmer days are upon us.
  4. With a budding engineer in the family, I think that the Brunel Museum should be a hit. The underground chamber looks amazing, and the Boat Trips and London Walks sound intriguing.
  5. Also on our list for London is the Canal Museum. I love a narrow boat, so can’t wait to visit this place with the boy.
  6. A bit further afield for us, but high on the list is a trip to The Space Centre in Leicester. Who doesn’t love learning about space after all?

So if you’re looking for something different to do this Easter, why not beat us to it and check off some of our list.

The Design Museum

The Design Museum

Always on the lookout for somewhere different to explore, we made our first visit to The Design Museum yesterday and wow what an amazing place. Situated in Kensington (you’ll be wanting High St Kensington not South Kensington if you’re going by tube), the building itself is a beauty. Personally I love this part of London. From marvelling at how the other half live, to taking in the amazing buildings. The pace always feels a little more child friendly this side of town, if you’re used to the hustle and bustle of the city.


We decided to look around the main part of the museum and not opt for any extra exhibitions on our visit this time, but these are available if you’ve more time. We managed to see all that we wanted to in a few hours and left feeling like we’d had a good explore. Sometimes a single visit just won’t do a large museum justice, or can be a little overwhelming for some visitors.

With plenty of eye catching exhibits and lots of hands on activities be prepared to immerse yourself. You will need to keep an eye on little ones as the exhibits change from hands on to ‘Do Not Touch’ quite frequently though. We looked at products you might use to design a babies toy, through to which products would be best for a reusable cup. The exhibits spring forth a lot of questions from enquiring minds. It certainly makes you think about the story behind all that we have in our lives and homes. Be prepared to feel ancient as you relive your youth looking at Sony Walkmans and technology from the not too distant past.

With workshops available for children KS2 and above, this looks like a museum that will easily earn its place in our top ten!

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark – Unicorn Theatre Production

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark – Unicorn Theatre Production

When it comes to theatres The Unicorn Theatre is fast becoming my favourite. There’s not a single detail that hasn’t been thought through. From the graduating basins in the bathrooms, the fabulous illustrations on the walls, the craft table in the lobby, and the actions inscribed on the floors. You know that this is a place where you are going to have fun.

Last Saturday we were lucky enough to get to see a production of The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark. This was one of those stories that I couldn’t wait to share with B. I had simply adored it when I was a child and we had read the book together a while back. I have to admit I was slightly nervous about seeing a production of a book that held such dear childhood memories to me, but the production is absolutely perfect. With the story taking place centre stage whilst we sat around the edges of the theatre, it was totally immersive theatre. Plop the owl was played to perfection and the mother and other characters portrayed so fluidly I’d say I enjoyed it as much, if not more than the children in the audience! There are some fabulous moments, which we won’t tell you all about as they make such fun surprises.

Here is B’s review of the production (and journey)

Chapter 1 – Transport

We drove to Canary Wharf then got on the tube. We took the tube to London Bridge.

Chapter 2 – The Start

Plop was afraid of the dark. Plop’s mum said “What do you know about the dark Plop?”

“It is black.”

“No, its blue, silver and grey.”

On the wall there were fireworks.

Chapter 3 – The End

At the end Plop went star gazing and looked for Orion. Then he met a cat called Orion. At the end he liked the dark.

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark is on until 21st November. Its such a magical performance, we highly recommend you go and see it. Tickets are available now

Book here

Disclaimer – we received complimentary tickets but all opinions and comments are our own.

The Bank of England Museum

The Bank of England Museum

As part of our adventures this term we are on the lookout for museums and places of interest that are a little more off the beaten track. Not that we don’t love the huge museums that spring to mind when you think of London, it’s just this term we are celebrating the niche and unusual!

Making the most of the last of the warm days we had planned to have a look around Bank and St Pauls before B’s drama classes which he does each Thursday in London. That morning on the wonder that is the Internet we discovered that the Bank of England has a museum, so we decided to pay them a visit.

We decided to walk from Liverpool Street station so we could look at the buildings along the way. Its a bit of a trip down memory lane for me after years of working in London, and I was regaling B with tales from my youth.

You need to keep your eyes peeled as the entrance to the museum is quite discreet! Once inside and through the security area (it’s a bit like airport security) you can collect an activity worksheet for your child from the reception. With a selection for children of all different ages, there’s one for everyone. With our visit being unplanned, the worksheet was useful for us to give us some ideas on what to look out for. I wasn’t sure whether a museum like this would appeal to B but there is so much for the children to do. From money jigsaws to assemble through to interactive inflation tools it’s aimed at the whole family.

Personally my favourite part was getting to hold a real solid gold bar. With a value of over £400,000 we began to wonder what we would buy if we had one. B particularly enjoyed checking out whether our money was counterfeit or the real deal.

With so much going on its a really interactive fun place. We spent around an hour and a half here and enjoyed every minute. 

Holiday Planning

Holiday Planning

We’re a little late in the year with our holiday plans this year, so I’ve decided to get planning. There has been a lot of adjusting going on in our lives after making the decision to home educate B, both practical and emotional. I made the choice to give up my business as I knew I couldn’t dedicate time to both B’s education and run it successfully. I’d tried working around family life previously and 2 am finishes and 5 am starts are not good for the health so it seems! Fortunately, as one door closes another one opens, and there are all kinds of plans in the pipeline. This time projects that allow for some kind of semblance of balance. For once I actually learnt my lesson from previous disasters – go me!

With our new found freedom to go on holiday any time we liked, we kind of just assumed it would happen. Normally I am working out when and where we can go early in the year. Will this country/that country be too hot in the summer holidays? Should we go at half term? What will happen if B misses a day or two either side of a school holiday. We also had to depend on when the man who pays for it all could get time off (kind of important that one). School holiday time is like gold dust for workers all fighting after the same few weeks. I

I think without the constraints of having to go in the holidays, I didn’t see how quickly the months were whizzing by. We now had a life we weren’t trying to escape from. Everyday was now exciting and an adventure. If we needed to recharge our batteries, a few tweaks to the social calender and we felt better already. Sadly this doesn’t apply to the poor man, who has to go to work to support us, but two thirds of the house were now a whole lot less stressed.

Usually each January we make a list of where we’re dreaming of going. From days out, short breaks, or month long trips. It’s all allowed on the list, you never know if its achievable after all. This years list looked like this:

  • Japan – for a trip on the bullet train
  • New Zealand – an our summer/their winter trip for skiing and fun in Queenstown
  • Australia
  • Scotland – train rides and waterfall hunting
  • Wales – for a visit to Snowden
  • Cornwall – one of my happy places
  • France – camping
  • Lapland – to meet the big man in the red suit
  • Iceland – frozen waterfalls, geysers and aurora borealis
  • Crete – Sensatori (B sees no reason why this shouldn’t be an annual visit)
  • Brentwood – to play crazy golf

To be honest, this years list has been the most ambitious (for ambitious, read unlikely). B has upgraded from last years day trips to Frinton requests that’s for sure! I thought we might be able to achieve a couple, and then Brexit happened. Boom! With the man working in the financial sector life is suddenly a little more unpredictable. From suddenly back to working all hours as the country adjusted to this brave new world, to financial uncertainty, the list kind of got ignored. So 6 weeks later, I’m back on the holiday hunt! Our list has had additions, including a month long trip around India on a train, and a trip to Cuba, are just a couple that were bandied about. Where we end up who knows, but I’m sure it will be fun!

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