Recipe: Chocolate Cherry Porter Cake

About 15 years ago I had my first slice of chocolate stout cake in a café in Didsbury. It was probably the best cake I’d ever eaten and I once I started baking regularly, I wanted to make one for myself.

I’ve baked this cake many times now, each time with a different stout or porter. It’s such a rich, delicious cake and really very simple to make. After going to this year’s Didsbury Beer Festival, I was reminded how good the Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Dark Mild was and I knew I needed to bake this with it.

Recipe: Chocolate Cherry Porter Cake

A bottle of the Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Dark Mild usually has 500ml of stout in it, which is enough for two cakes, so I often double up the recipe and bake two cakes. Un-frosted, they keep quite well, though that’s never really an issue in my greedy house.

Chocolate Cherry Porter Cake

250ml Stout or porter, I used Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Dark Mild
250g Butter
75g Cocoa powder
400g Caster sugar
150g Sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
275g plain flour
3 teaspoons of Bicarbonate of soda

For the frosting
250g Cream cheese
150g Icing sugar
2 tsp Cornflour
125ml Double cream

Recipe: Chocolate Cherry Porter Cake

How to make a Chocolate Cherry Porter Cake

Preheat your oven to 180°C and grease and line a 9 inch cake tin.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add your stout or porter. Add the cocoa powder and sugar and whist gently until the sugar dissolves.

In a mixing bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the pan and finally whisk in the flour and the bicarbonate of soda.

Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 50 minutes to an hour. As the batter is quite wet, I tend to leave it in the cooling oven for 15 minutes to stop the cake shocking and sinking in the middle. If it does sink a little in the middle, it’s not a disaster, it’s just a tasty dent you can fill with the frosting! Once you’ve removed the cake from the over, leave it to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack.

When the cake is completely cool, it’s time to make your frosting. In a clean bowl, whip the cream cheese until it is smooth, sift the icing sugar through a fine sieve and do the same with the cornflour; then beat to combine with the cream cheese.

In a separate bowl, whip your double cream until it is thick and then fold it through the cream cheese mixture. Spread it thickly over the top of your cake, which should look like a dark pint of stout with a rich creamy head.

If I’d thought it through at the time, I would have also decorated the cake with chocolate dipped fresh cherries; but maybe that’s one for the summer when they’re in season.

This cake works really well with all kinds of stouts and porters; so pick your favourite and give it a whirl!

Recipe: Chocolate Cherry Porter Cake

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13 Pumpkin Patches in and around Manchester

Pumpkin picking is an autumn activity that has become really popular in recent years. We took the boy pumpkin picking last year, and although it was more pumpkin selecting from a row of them in a field, rather than actually picking them off the vine, we still had a lot of fun. A visit to one of the many local pumpkin patches is an autumnal treat indeed.

We are keen to pick our Halloween pumpkins again this year. So I’ve put together a list of pumpkin patches in and around Manchester to visit. Most of them ask you to book ahead. Some will be patches of ready picked pumpkins to choose from, some you’ll be able to actually pick your pumpkin and take it home. Either way, it’s a fun thing to do for a few hours and you can snap some adorable photos while you’re at it.

13 Pumpkin Patches in and around Manchester

Pumpkins can be picked early in the month. They can be safely stored in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to carve them for Halloween.

13 Pumpkin Patches in and around Manchester

Brookheys Farm, Dunham Massey – A working farm with a proper pumpkin patch.

Cockfields Farm Park, Ashton-Under-Lyne – Join them for the pumpkin festival this year.

Delamere Farm Shop – Open from 9th October, it’s time to pick your own pumpkins!

Dunham Massey Farm Ice Cream – Check out their Facebook page for info about their pumpkin patch, don’t forget to grab a yummy ice cream when you visit!

Dunham Pumpkin Patch – Pick your own pumpkins and enjoy some wood fired pizza on site. Book tickets in advance.

Farmer Berties Pumpkin Patch, Glazebury – Opposite Bents Garden Centre, this is known for being a great patch to visit. Open for just two weeks before Halloween, more info on their Facebook page.

Kenyon Hall Farm, Warrington – With indoor and outdoor picking throughout October, this is a well-established pumpkin patch with reasonably priced tickets.

Libby’s Pumpkin and Sunflower Patch, MacclesfieldLibby’s patch is a family-friendly fun day out, with an on-site café and free parking.

Malpas Pick Your Own Pumpkins, Malpas, Cheshire – No booking required. Maize maze entry is £2.00 per person. The maze leads to the hidden pumpkin patch and photo prop village. There are 100 scarecrows to spot through the maze and a Harry Potter area.

13 Pumpkin Patches in and around Manchester

Reddish Vale Farm, Stockport – Visit Reddish Vale Farm for a spooktacular time this Halloween, visit all the animals and outdoor play areas and then join in some ‘fangtastic fun’!

Smithills Open Farm, Bolton – Open 16th and 17th October and then from the 23rd until the 31st October.

The Hayloft, Widness, Cheshire – Saturday 25th September to 31st October. There will also be a spooky maze, miniature railway, tractor rides and the coffee shop will be open serving breakfast, lunches, drinks, cakes & ice cream.

Village Pumpkins, Derbyshire – North Derbyshire’s original pumpkin patch based in Barlow a small village between Sheffield and Chesterfield

Other Halloween Attractions…

Spooky World at Applejacks Adventure Farm, Warrington, WA4 4NW

There are lots of pumpkin patches to pick from in and around Manchester this year. If I’ve missed any, please comment below and I will add them. Happy pumpkin picking!

13 Pumpkin Patches in and around Manchester

Christmas light trails in and around the North West

Going to see the Christmas lights each December is now something of a family tradition. Bundling ourselves up against the cold; marvelling at the lights and treating ourselves to hot mulled wine and roasted chestnuts from a food stall is something we’ve really enjoyed in previous years; and we are looking forward to a Christmas light trails again this year.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that tickets are selling fast to many of the more popular trails. I’ve gathered together a list of some of the Christmas light displays in and around Manchester, Cheshire and the North West this Christmas. Some might be a little drive away, such as Alton Towers, or Sheffield, but I’ve included them anyway.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Alton Towers –  Alton Towers Gardens are well worth a visit in the daylight but wait till nightfall to be dazzled away by shimmering, shiny lights, that will fill you with wonder

Blakesmere, Cheshire – A magical Christmas outdoor experience for all the family with dazzling lighting and supreme sound in the depths of 15 acres of Cheshire woodland.

Bolesworth, Cheshire – This magical 1.2-mile trail promises a dazzling after-dark experience. You’ll travel alongside the lakeside with the backdrop of the spectacularly lit castle, then you’ll follow the winding pathways through the woods where you may spot a reindeer or two.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Chester Zoo, The Lanterns – This event has been running for several years now, and it is such a magical evening out visiting the zoo after dark and meeting magical creatures on you travels. Read our review here.

Delamere Forest, Cheshire – Twinkling lights and seasonal sounds fill the air with festive fun at Delamere Forest.

Dunham Massey, Cheshire – This is another family favourite; the gardens are lit up in splendid style at this must-see Christmas eventRead our review here.

Knowsley Safari Park – Enjoy the safari park after dark at their fabulous Christmas time event, your path will be lit with magical lights guiding you through their enchanted trail. Get into the Christmas spirit with a range of festive food; magical music, amazing illuminated animals and some extra special treats!

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Lightopia, Heaton Park – This is another popular and award winning Christmas light trail in North Manchester’s Heaton Park. Embark on a magical journey through the fantasy themed light trail through the parklands. Showcasing bright immersive installations, colourful lasers, and water shows, this is a festive wonderland for all ages.

RHS Bridgewater, Salford – new for this year, RHS Bridgewater is putting on what’s set to be a stunning display in their beautiful gardens.

Sheffield CathedralSheffield Cathedral will once again be transformed by its Christmas lights spectacular, celebrating the wonder and joy of the festive season.

Stockeld Park, North Yorkshire – Experience one of the country’s largest and most creative light displays set in the grounds of the historic Stockeld Park Estate.

Trentham Gardens, StaffordshireChristmas at Trentham is a brand-new illuminated trail designed to sprinkle a little Christmas magic, accentuate the flora and fauna and see the stunning historic landscape in a new light.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Walton Hall Gardens, Warrington – As darkness descends, join Luminate as they weave a captivating light trail through our stunning grounds. Complete with incredible lighting elements, fabulous light play and ambient music; this experience will enthral your senses.

If you’re planning on visiting a Christmas light trail, then I suggest you book early. These events just get more popular every year, and with good reason! They really are a wonderful way to get into the festive spirit.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire

Living in South Manchester, we are lucky to have the whole of Cheshire virtually on our doorstep. It’s a beautiful, lush green county, with bags of history, acres of natural beauty and more interesting things to do than you could shake a stick at.

When it comes to days out with the family, Cheshire has a diverse range of options and something to suit everyone. I’ve pulled together a list of 10 family friendly days out and things to do in Cheshire which are ideal if you’re visiting for the day, or if you live there and want to explore the county a bit more.

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire

Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo is a world famous attraction; famed for its commitment to conservation, the zoo has a large and diverse collection of animals. It’s also got a monorail and each December hosts The Lanterns, a wonderful night time walk where the zoo dazzles with wonderful light displays.

Delamere Forest

Delamere Forest is managed by the Forestry Commission, there are recreational trails, a visitors centre and a cafe. There’s a nearby train station too. Plus there’s a Go Ape there for the more adventurous members of your family.

Ness Botanic Gardens, Neston

Owned by the University of Liverpool, Ness Botanic Gardens is home to a fantastic horticultural collection which includes show gardens, a Victorian-style potager and an Alpine house and cafe.

Jodrell Bank Discover Centre, Macclesfield

Jodrell Bank is owned and run by the University of Manchester and it is the home of the Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. It’s open to the public and has a visitors centre, exhibits and gardens to explore, as well as the chance to have a look at the Lovell Telescope up close.

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire Jodrell Bank

Blue Planet Aquarium, Ellesmere Port

The Blue Planet Aquarium is a marine and freshwater aquarium located by the Cheshire Oaks retail and leisure complex in Ellesmere Port. It’s a fabulous day out, lots of fun and an interesting under-sea adventure for everyone.

Roman Tours, Chester

Take a fascinating walking tour of the ancient city of Chester with an authentic Roman soldier as your guide. Learn all about Roman history in this informative, educational and interactive experience for all ages.

The Ice Cream Farm, Tattenhall

On warmer days, a trip to The Ice Cream Farm in Tattenhall makes a refreshing change, with over 40 flavours of ice-cream to try out, children’s play areas, farm animals and quad bikes, there’s no better place to chill out in the summer.

Just So Festival, Congleton

Now in its 10th year, the award-winning Just So Festival is the most wonderful family festival; with weird and wonderful things around every corner, lots to stimulate young minds (and not so young minds). Just So is the highlight of our summer, go for the day, or camp in the grounds of the wonderful Rode Hall. It’s the perfect way to unplug yourselves and let go for a weekend.

Lymm Historic Transport Day

Each summer, the ancient Cheshire town of Lymm is host to the Lymm Festival. Alongside the main festival, the Lymm Historic Transport Day is a real highlight for transport enthusiasts across Cheshire. With steam engines, vintage vehicles, diggers, bikes and even batmobiles; Lymm Historic Transport Day is a real treat, the Spitfire fly-over last year was a real highlight!

Days Out: Lymm Historic Transport Day

Dunham Massey

Cheshire is spoilt for National Trust properties, one of my favourites is Dunham Massey. It’s got long flat footpaths which are great for walking, scooting or cycling on; plus a magnificent hall, beautiful gardens and a deer park. It’s got a fairly new visitors centre and cafes galore. Wrap up for a winter walk, or slap on the sun-cream in the summer. Year round, it’s a great place to visit!

There’s so much to do in Cheshire; we have friends and family over the border, so we visit often and it’s definitely on our list of places to move to when we retire.  If you’re going on a family friendly day out in Cheshire, where are you planning? I’d love to hear your suggestions, pop them in the comments box below!

10 family friendly things to do in Cheshire #ExploringCheshire

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

We were invited guests of Christmas at Dunham Massey. All images and opinions are our own.

Our nearest National Trust property is Dunham Massey. We are regular visitors to Dunham, we love the long (but flat and well-paved) walks they have. The gardens are lovely whatever time of year you visit and the house is full of upstairs-downstairs history. On 1st December we went along to the launch of ‘Christmas at Dunham Massey’ a magical, after-dark, illuminated trail which was jam-packed with Christmas magic.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

This year, for the first time ever, Dunham Massey has transformed into a winter wonderland. It’s taken six months of planning and hard work (and probably millions of light-bulbs) to create a wonderful Christmas experience for families to enjoy.

The walk from the visitors centre to the courtyard gives you a little taste of what’s to come, but as soon as you walk into the courtyard you know you’re in for a real treat. The courtyard is filled with Christmas market style sheds selling hog roast, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and those big sausages you only really see at Christmas markets. There’s also a colourful vintage carousel to enjoy.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

We picked up some snacks and some cups of hot mulled wine and headed off towards the lights, pausing to watch an Elf and Father Christmas welcome us to Christmas at Dunham Massey. Then on to the winter wonderland of the garden.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

The trail is a one mile sparkling path through the gardens. It winds through the historic woodland and has surprises around almost every corner. From a giant (and I mean giant) reindeer, to huge baubles lit in flickering flames in the scented fire garden; not to mention twinkling tunnels, stunning reflections of light on the water and the wonder of Pealight Heaven (named for the 100,000 pealights it’s made from.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

There are lights, there’s beautiful music and there are mulled wine stands at very regular intervals (try the mulled cider, it kept me warm on a cold night). Stop by Pealight Heaven and buy a marshmallow to toast over the fire – an absolute must!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

It’s such a beautiful, magical way to spend an evening with your family. It’s well thought out and incredibly well stewarded. There are helpful, smiley faces around every corner. Even though the paths are flat and well-made, you can never be too careful walking in the darkness. It felt reassuring to know there were helpful people around if you got stuck.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

It’s an after-dark event, so if you do go, make sure you’re well wrapped up against the cold and you’re wearing good, sensible footwear. You might also want to slip a torch into your pocket just in case. We took a torch but didn’t use it, everywhere was so well lit.

Christmas as Dunham Massey is utterly gorgeous. Our highlights were the giant reindeer, the huge lawn absolutely covered in lights and the scented fire garden. The small Christmas market was excellent too and the food and drink were really good quality. I hope they run this again next year. I can see a visit to Christmas at Dunham Massey turning into a festive tradition!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Christmas at Dunham Massey runs until 30th December 2017, 4.45pm – 10pm with 9 timeslots each night. You will need to pre-book tickets on the website here.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival, Dunham Massey

Throughout August The Lost Carnival has pitched up just south of Manchester, in the gardens of National Trust property, Dunham Massey in Cheshire. We went along to find out more about the carnival and to explore the beautiful gardens at Dunham Massey.

This is the third year The Lost Carnival has been in town, having previously been located in Bury and Crewe. The carnival is the brainchild of Wild Rumpus, the arts company specialising in unique outdoor productions which both children and adults can enjoy, such as the famous Just So Festival.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

This interactive circus carnival almost seamlessly ties in with the current exhibition in the house, Dunham’s Lost Years – A Victorian Tale of Love and Abandonment. The exhibition uncovers the controversial marriage of daring circus performer and beauty Catharine Cox to Dunham’s young heir, George Harry. The link is that the performers from The Lost Carnival will be rehearsing across the summer at Dunham “under the invitation” of Catharine Cox.

We arrived at Dunham Massey and parked in the vast car park (£6, free to National Trust members) and made our way to the visitors reception and picked up our tickets to the garden (adults £8.60, children £4.30, free to National Trust members). The Lost Carnival itself is free, but you need to buy a ticket to enter the garden area).

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

When you enter the garden (if you’re lucky like we were, you might spy some of the deer roaming the park) you are handed a Lost Carnival map which helpfully gives you some background to what’s going on and highlights the carnival areas for you to locate. Naturally we put our six year old in charge of the map and he guided us through the gardens expertly.

The Lost Carnival attractions are nicely spaced out around the gardens. I recommend you first head to the “Chant” area, where a carnival performer will teach you the chant, the actions and give you some clues about what you need to do while you’re there. From there we moved on to explore Popou’s Caravan. This is a gorgeous caravan filled with trinkets, maps and clues for kids to explore. It was very busy so we only managed a quick look inside. When my son emerged he only had one word – “wow”!

Part of the fun is spying carnival attractions through the trees and discovering secrets and clues in the gardens. I was enchanted by the zoetrope, one of those devices where you turn the handle and watch through the slats to see a horse galloping and an acrobat performing stunts on its back. 

Wandering through the gardens to the “Dressing Room” we met a glamorous carnival seamstress who whispered secrets about the missing star-crossed lovers Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue. She asked us to help her out finishing a beautiful costume. We sewed a bright button onto a wedding dress (I wonder who that is for) and had the chance to try on some of the carnival costumes.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

Further down the gardens in The Orangery we stopped to write a letter to the heads of the rival carnivals (and those star-crossed lovers) Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue, imploring them to return to the carnival. After we’d had a little sit down while he wrote his letter, we wandered through the gardens to find hula hoopers hooping, so the boys had a little go.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

There was enough carnival activity to make things interesting for my son; but not too much that it overwhelmed the tranquility and beauty of the gardens. Apart from the carnival itself, we had a great time exploring the extensive gardens which have formal and informal areas. We were lucky that the weather was so sunny and kind to us. The gardens are equally fine on rainy days. There are plenty of sheltered spots under the trees if it’s really pouring.

Immerse yourself in the world of the two of the greatest carnival families, the Birds and the Ingenues and see if you can help them bring the heads of the rival carnivals Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue back to their families again.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

The Lost Carnival is on until 30 August, from 10.30am – 4.30pm daily at Dunham Massey. Parking and entrance to the garden is free to National Trust members. For non-members a charge applies – visit the website for more information.

We were invited guests of The National Trust. We were given complimentary tickets and parking in exchange for this write up. All images and opinions are our own.

Five things to do in Manchester in May Half Term

It only seems like five minutes since the kids when back to school after Easter and the May half term is just around the corner. It’s often hard to think of things to do to entertain the troops. Playdates and trips to the park always feature heavily, but it’s good to have a few bigger things in the diary too.

I’ve picked a few things to do in (and around) Manchester with the kids this May half term. We’ll definitely be popping along to some of these.

The Lost Carnival

If you’ve ever been to the Just So Festival, A Day at the Lake or event The Lost Carnival last year, you know that Wild Rumpus know how to put on an event. Last year we went to The Lost Carnival which was in Bury, this year you can experience an evening of wonder in Crewe, and trust me, it is an experience to remember for all the best reasons.

This year features a “Battle of the Carnivals” between the rival carnivals, The Ingenues and the Birds. Together they will meet for a thrilling evening of spellbinding theatre and enthralling installations, circus, music, visual trickery and sideshows galore. Last year was so good it gave me goosebumps and this year looks set to be even bigger and better!

The Lost Carnival will take place on May 28/29/30 (4-9.30pm) at Queen’s Park, Crewe, Cheshire CW2 7SE. Early Bird tickets cost £10 per ticket. Under 3s go free. Carnival goers should dress for the weather, and wear sturdy shoes.

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre & SEA LIFE Manchester

Over the May half term, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre and SEA LIFE Manchester at the Trafford Centre will have lots to entertain families come rain or shine. better still, guests only have to buy one ticket and will have the freedom to explore two brilliant attractions!

In the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre visit the brand new play area, City Builder. Visitors can create their own buildings and structures in the City Builder zone. The only limit is your imagination!

For movie enthusiasts, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre has another new 4D movie starring the LEGO Nexo Knights. Experience this fantastic new 4D film with all the elements – wind, water and smoke – bringing the battle to life all around the cinema.

May Half Term

Down at SEA LIFE Manchester, families can dive deep to the fascinating world of new exhibition, Octopus Hideout and spot the star of the show, the Giant Pacific Octopus called Hank and his Cephalopod friends. A visit to SEA LIFE is always a fascinating, fun and educational day out.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit the LEGOLAND website and the SEA LIFE website. 

Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park

From Easter until the end of 2016, Tatton Park is is bringing Roald Dahl’s imagination to life, with a host of children’s trails and events for all the family. Join Danny the Champion of the World in the gardens, Fantastic Mr Fox at the farm and Matilda in the mansion and you’ve got to be careful of The Enormous Crocodile out in the parkland!

We’ve already visited and explored the farm at Tatton Park where we found Fantastic Mr Fox, and we’ll be visiting again over half term to explore some of the other fabulous Roald Dahl goings on. You can read the full preview of the Roald Dahl adventures at Tatton Park here.

May half term

GeronimO Festival at Tatton Park

The Geronimo Festival is on at Tatton Park (May 29th and 30th) and will feature CBeebies star live shows, a full circus, 3 theatre companies, amazing bands, a full county fair arena including jousting, sheep shearing, motorcycle displays, funfair rides, tortoise encounters, spy school den building and 100 other amazing activities.

This year CBeebies megastar Justin Fletcher will be there, as well as Mr Bloom, presenters Andy Day and Alex Winters and Cook and Line from Swashbuckle. As well as Les Enfants Terrible who present their Imaginary Menagerie. We’ve seen this show before and it is fantastic, so we won’t be missing that particular festival highlight! You can read my preview here.

What else?

Manchester is a lively, vibrant city full of museums, art galleries, things to see, do and explore. Just a short drive out fo the city you have a wealth of unspoilt countryside and fresh air to fill your lungs with.

If the weather is decent then you could visit and explore outdoors at Dunham Massey, Lyme Park, Delemere Forest or Quarry Bank Mill. There’s Manchester Museum to explore; the Museum of Science and Industry, The Police Museum, Manchester Airport Viewing Park, Stockport Hat Museum, the air-raid shelters; as well as Wythenshawe Community Farm and the utterly fantastic Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire.

There’s lots to do this May half term, do you have any interesting ideas for things to do during May half term?

Blowing the cobwebs away at Dunham Massey

It’s fast becoming a family tradition to spend a post-Christmas frosty afternoon at our nearest National Trust property, Dunham Massey. We like Dunham because it’s great for “family” walks, meaning it’s flat and well paved, perfect for bikes, scooters and the wobbly legs of small children. They also make an excellent cup of tea. Add to that we’re National Trust members so it’s free entry, what’s not to like?

We went on 30th December, it was largely a dry, windy, very cold day, but that didn’t put us off and Dunham Massey seemed quite busy with families out for a walk, or testing out new bikes and scooters. We went obstensively to see the deer, but they were hiding somewhere in the woods, so we walked the paths instead. We found a little den someone had built, a “stick house” which we explored, much to his delight.

Dunham Massey

There were also some small patches of snow left over, enough for a few little snowballs and a well ordered snowball fight (I lost). Although we couldn’t find the deer, we did spot lots of deer poo which the boy found quite interesting.

The small boy was beginning to tire, so we headed back to the big house via the duck pond, the low winter sun was shining on the pond and the light was incredible. I wish I’d taken my proper camera with me. Winter skies are so special, the clouds all fluffy and a little bit moody. I love this picture.

Dunham Massey

It was a short but lovely jaunt to Dunham Massey, he’s not great at walking distances and I do miss going on a long winter walk, all wrapped up against the elements. But a winter walk with a small child is full of different types of joy. Small details; clouds that look like dragons, stick houses, deer poo, tiny snowballs, conversations with the ducks, splishy sploshy muddy puddles. I love it.

Dunham blew some of our Christmas cobwebs away. I adore a winter walk, all that bracing fresh air and country views makes the tea and cake afterwards all the more enjoyable. You know me, there’s always tea and cake.

Three go mad at Dunham Massey

I wouldn’t say the sun never shines in Manchester, on the contrary, it’s often really quite beautiful weather. But we don’t often get that rare combination of factors which allows us a full family day together.

Today we’ve had a busy day, we’ve managed to squeeze an awful lot of outdoorsy activity into a relatively short time, and managed to feel like we’ve had a nice relaxing day. It’s a modern miracle!

We packed a picnic and headed off to one of our local and more child friendly National Trust properties, Dunham Massey. We had a little walk, the small boy did some scooting on his scooter and we kicked a ball around. The sun was blistering, so we sought some shade, rolled out the picnic blanket and had our lunch.

Dunham Massey

As we did so, some of the deer walked nearby and stopped to munch the grass and soak up some sun. We couldn’t resist edging closer to them to take some pictures. I really didn’t expect to get too close to them, I was at most two metres away from them at one point, but they didn’t even flinch. It was quite amazing.

Dunham Massey

The sun was getting a bit too harsh, so we decided to go home and get the paddling pool out, which we did. We spent a happy few hours under the shade of a parasol, splishing and splashing in the pool. The water was ice cold, but it was exactly what we needed.

Later we invited my Dad round and sparked up the BBQ. We sat in the evening sunshine drinking homemade cordial and soda water and just nattering, it was effortlessly relaxed. We all ate and ate well and watched as the sky darkened and the heavy clouds gathered. We dashed inside moments before the rain came. And just like that, our glorious outdoorsy day was over.

Dunham Massey