February 2014

It's all about our half-term holiday this month ... a week spent with the extended family at a cottage in a small village just outside Shrewsbury in Shropshire. The exceptional rain levels throughout January and early February didn't bode well for a week in the countryside. In fact, things got off to a rather troublesome start because of high winds and rain. We'd planned to meet up with everyone at Cannock Forest on the first Saturday and take part in the Go Ape activity. Sadly, on route we got a call to say that is wasn't operating and we took a gamble and re-booked for the following day.
That turned out to be a pretty good decision as, whilst it was still pretty chilly, it was at least dry and bright. The kids were first to get up into the trees ...

They had a really neat safety system which meant that once they were connected to the safety wire, they could go around the whole course and the zip wires without having to disconnect separate safety lines like the grown ups. They had a fantastic time.

With Clare busy escorting the kids around the junior course, only Chris, Megan and Martin braved the full course. Both Chris and Martin had done it before...

...but it was a first time for Megan. She was more than happy on most of the crossings and particularly liked the long zip wire descents.

To give you some idea of the length of some of these descents (the longest of any Go Ape facility in the UK) here's Martin disappearing into the distance...

Go Ape at Cannock

There was, in fact, only one section which gave Megan a pause for thought - a leap of faith into a cargo net ... made more challenging by being right at the end of the course by which time arms and legs were getting a bit tired.
Here's that nervous gaze up the supporting ropes...

... and here's the jump itself. Not for the faint-hearted.

Go Ape at Cannock

There were a few rainy days - but that didn't bother us too much as the cottage had its own indoor pool which provided many hours of fun. It had a decent depth which meant the kids could dive in safety and had loads of toys to keep everyone amused.

There was even some acrobatics by the end of the week...

Whenever possible, we took advantage of fine weather to explore the local area. Just a couple of miles from base was Nesscliffe Hill, dominated by an ancient hill fort and some pretty imposing sandstone cliffs. Within one of the cliffs was an old smugglers hide-out known as Kynaston's Cave which was quite interesting.

Views from the top of the hill were great - clear enough to see the snow atop the hills of Snowdonia.

... and bright enough to get some nice photos for the album (or, as Chris suggested, to be the ones given to police when the kids go missing).

Another day took us over to the Welsh border and a chance to get up-close to the engineering marvels of the industrial revolution ... viaducts, tunnels and aquaducts.
First up was Chirk Aquaduct which runs 70ft above the valley floor and has a railway carrying viaduct standing alongside ... built just a few years later and a few feet higher to demonstrate the supremacy of the railways.

Just after the bridges ... and having just crossed the border from England to Wales ... we found the 420m long Chirk Tunnel. Luckily, it has a towpath so you can walk the whole length - which we did - much of it in total darkness, particularly noticable after this canal boat passed us by...

Having walked through the tunnel, we then climbed up the bank to get the view from the top ... and it was a very pretty view ... and evidently warm enough for Cassandra to have taken off her cardigan.

A few minutes in the car took us five or six miles further into Wales and to the even more striking aquaduct at Pontcysyllte. Almost twice as high as the Chirk Aquaduct, Pontcysyllte and its surroundings are now a world heritage site. Unfortunately for us, the wind and rain returned so our exposure was limited to a quick was across it and back. Pretty neat though...

... although the fact that quite a few of the uprights in the railings were wobbly reduced Megan's enjoyment somewhat, especially once the kids had noticed and started actively seeking out the wobbly ones to shake.

One final view of the bridge as we returned by road.

Well, that's about it. We had a great week - a nice mix of day trips and family time at home with lots of jigsaw puzzles, arts and crafts and board games. The cottage itself was great, not least because of the pool but also because it was very spacious. There was even a completely pointless room that had a lovely big roof window and was quite carefully decorated..... but....

... couldn't actually be accessed without ladders or some adult help. Perhaps a nice spot for their Christmas Tree?

Just two more photos here - just for the record - showing our stop-off point on the way home. Baddesley Clinton is a National Trust property just a few miles north of Warwick. A pleasant moated house with some pleasant grounds - a nice spot for a picnic and a leg stretch.