One of our favourite things to do together is go to the woods, whether it is crisp and autumnal or mild and springlike, the woods is always a fun way to spend a couple of hours… on go the wellies and off we go! Nature’s playground, the smells, sounds and sights within the woods soothe me, it is really a place I can connect with nature and forget about the rest of the world for a while. I dare say it has the same effect on Littlelish, she just doesn’t know it ;)

Did you know that on average we spend £4800 on keeping our children entertained each year? Make the most of what is free and on your doorstep and head out to the woods people! We are lucky as where we live is surrounded by woodland. One of our very favourite woodlands to visit is Fineshades. Within 30 mins of our house Fineshades has so much to offer besides the absolutely beautiful wild woodland. We were invited on a special blogger activity day to find out just what there is to do there! Cheryl the forest ranger introduced us to some great activities.

Den building in the woods

Have you ever built a den in the woods? Me neither! Littlelish loves building dens and we are forever making houses out of bed linen and chairs at home and in the garden but we never thought to build a den in the woods. It was so easy! Forest ranger Cheryl played a great game with the children, pretending we had crashed nearby and needed to make a shelter for the night before our rescuers came the next day. Luckily she knew of a great clearing where we could build our dens with plenty of perfect branches and long sticks. She explained that the trick was to find a tree with a branch coming off at an angle, if you can’t find a tree with this you can also lean a long loose branch that you have found up against a tree and start from there. You then need to find long branches that you can line up next to each other to make a wall for your den – like so! Littlelish thoroughly enjoyed making her den and we could well have played in it for hours together – it was so much fun! That reminds me, this weekend – Den building again!

Cycle hire at Fineshades

One of the great things about Fineshades is how cycle friendly it is for people of all abilities. There are nice smooth tracks for families to cycle on and some cool little off road bits for those who like mountain biking. If you don’t own your own bike don’t worry Rutland cycle have a shop at Fineshades and you can hire bikes of all shapes and sizes including bike attachments, seats and trailers for children. Littlelish and I took full advantage of the bike hire and tested out a trailer (she has always wanted to go in one). I must admit pulling a 4 year old along isn’t the worlds easiest job for mummy (phew!) but we managed to have a quick whizz around the woods. We have hired bikes from Rutland cycles on quite a few occasions, also at Rutland water and they are really good. The bikes are good quality and if you are unlucky enough to get a puncture then just call them and they come out and fix it straight away as we discovered at the furthest point away from the cycle hire at Rutland Water this summer!

Awesome playground

There is a very, very cool playground at Fineshades. All made out of natural smooth wood the play equipment is perfectly designed for stimulating creative play. In fact I’d go as far to say it’s one of our all time favourite playgrounds. The wooden teepee, the giant hammock, the climbing structure that is like a giant roof, the playhouse at the top of the hill, the log (that looks like a crocodile) crossing over the imaginary river. Littlelish could and does spend hours playing here, it is awesome. We ended up in the playground after our bloggers day and I had trouble getting her to go home! She was especially proud that she climbed all the way to the top of the climbing wall, she made short work of it too!

Lovely cafe at Fineshades – open  10 – 5 every day

We have had the pleasure of sampling the cafe before on a Sunday morning, after a nice long walk in the woods. There is nothing better than knowing a large warm latte and piece of cake is waiting – it helps motivate tired little legs too! The food is high quality, fresh and yummy. With a good choice of coffee, paninis, sandwiches, cakes and fruit everyone is happy. Littlelish had a ham sandwich and I had a roast veg panini – yum! Both were delicious and filling and the staff are very pleasant and helpful too. We sat and ate our food in the courtyard sunshine and Littlelish resumed her hobby of dog spotting and stroking “Mummy have you seen that dog” “Mummy look at that funny dog” “Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum look at that dog” Oh yes – she loooooves dogs!

I’d absolutely recommend Fineshades as a great, affordable place to visit for both young and old. For those who don’t enjoy a walk in the woods, firstly, what is wrong with you! ;) I challenge you to look again, connect with nature and use your imagination! For fun ideas of things to do in the woods check out Miss Lizzie’s pinterest board Then browse the Fineshades website for planned activities within the woods, they even organise birthday parties in the woods – how fun is that?

Fineshades car parking charges – £3 per day or £1 per hour





(Littlelish has discovered theatrical poses for her photos – I blame her aunty G!)

   One of the things I love about summer is fruit picking. There is something so special about picking fresh fruit right from the bush, the hunt to find the perfect red shiny strawberry or that cluster of ripe juicy raspberries hiding in the bushes. Everyone knows the taste of a freshly picked fruit is so intense, so delicious and supermarket bought fruit just doesn’t compare. I will never forget eating mangos shaken from the tree in Brazil but equally I won’t forget the sweet taste of  plump juicy strawberries from our local fruit farm. Yum!

Last week we went to collect some raspberries and strawberries. It was one of the last days of our holiday together and we thought it would be a fun activity to do while the sun was shining. Littlelish thoroughly enjoys joining in and gets great pleasure in the search for fruity treasure and sampling the yummy pickings! We picked 2 large baskets full (ok we got a little carried away) played in the sunshine a while and then headed home to make some Eton Mess.

Eton Mess is one of those simple delicious desserts that is perfect for summer. And believe me when I say there is no finer Eton mess than one made with fresh picked raspberries and strawberries.hand-blender-dunelm

We didn’t really follow a specific recipe, picking up a few tips from various recipes here and there. Firstly we made our own meringue. We used a Delia recipe for this and baked it in the oven for 1 hour. It came out perfectly crunchy on the outside and sticky in the middle. I was pretty chuffed at just how easy this was (having never made meringue!) using my new Spectrum hand blender from Dunelm. It made short work of the egg whites and I’m sure more than contributed to our perfect meringue.


I was particularly happy with the hand blender because I had one in the past from a well known brand which I’d discarded as I didn’t like it much. It was pretty useless at whipping anything! But this one was great, primarily it was strong and well made and felt very solid in my hands which is what you need with a blender. It has 2 settings, one fast, one turbo fast and various different adapters acting as a blender, chopping as well as whisking. I used it on the fast setting and it had my egg whites in peaked perfection in no time and it didn’t get scolding hot. I used to think my old hand blender was going to combust it got so hot in my hands!

After we made the meringue we went on make some vanilla cream. This was simply whipping cream whipped up with a teaspoon of vanilla. We didn’t add any extra sugar as we thought it was sweet enough. It was then simply a case of breaking up the meringue, and gently folding it all together with the raspberries, strawberries (cut in quarters) and vanilla cream. You have to do it carefully so as not to crush up all the fruit and meringue entirely and end up with

We also made a little berry coulis to go with it which was just the berries blended again using my snazzy new red hand blender and added some icing sugar to sweeten it to

As far as desserts go it isn’t the most beautiful but oh my it tastes divine! We served the Eton mess quite simply in a bowl with a little coulis and I can quite honestly say I’ve never tasted such a delicious Eton mess in all my life. Made from fresh fruit, fresh eggs and perhaps just a little bit of naughtiness in the form of cream and sugar :) Naughty but oh so delicious and much enjoyed by all!

A big thank you to Dunelm for my hand blender which was one of the products provided as a review of their fab kitchen range. If you want to see what else I have reviewed check out Part 1 here.

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Todays guest post is all about building your own treehouse! A subject very close to my heart, I have a small obsession with treehouses and would love to have one, um I mean build one for Littlelish ;) First I need a house with a suitable tree in the garden!

A treehouse, as many parents know from firsthand experience when they were children, is a brilliant place for young ones to play and explore – and is an excellent project for the entire family to experience together!

If you’re keen to get going with a treehouse project of your own, here’s a handy guide to getting started with your project.

Choose the perfect tree

The quest to construct the perfect treehouse begins with choosing the right tree. You will need to make sure that the tree you select is strong and healthy – this will help you build a safe and solid foundation for your structure.

Look for trees where the lower branches (the thickest and sturdiest ones) fork out into a defined Y or U shape, as these are likely to provide the most support. It’s worth knowing that beech and oak are among the strongest trees and could provide plenty of structural support.

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Designing your treehouse

Just as a real-life builder would never jump into construction on a house without a blueprint, you shouldn’t start building your treehouse until you know exactly what the plan is. You don’t have to be a great designer to get going with this part of the process. Remember that treehouses are built from the ground up, so you’ll begin with the deck (which requires the most support) and then up from there.

Whether you choose to add a simple railing or make elaborate changes like adding walls, windows or a tower, the base is largely the same – so you can always build on your plans later.

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Height and other considerations

One important thing you’ll want to think about during the design stage is how high up from the ground you will want your treehouse to be.
If you’re building your treehouse with young kids in mind, it’s essential to think about their safety – and remember that what (or who) climbs up can just as easily fall down. This is why it’s a smart idea to keep your treehouse at a relatively low height – under a metre from the ground is usually a sensible idea for very young children.

It is also worth bearing in mind that very tall or very elaborate treehouses may require planning permission from your local authority – if you are in doubt, contact your council to find out more information.

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Be smart about building materials

Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to assemble your building materials – these will vary depending on the scope of your project. The most basic tree houses might be made out of scrap lumber, while more elaborate structures might require a specific type of wood. If your treehouse will include a roof, opt for pressure treated material.

You will also want to make sure you have the right tools for the job. Many DIY-ers recommend utilising some sort of pulley system to get the materials up in the tree, and of course you will need a sturdy ladder too.

Click here to find out more about hiring compressors and other useful pieces of equipment from Speedy Services to help get the job done – and remember, don’t be shy about asking a handy friend for help with this type of project.

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