Swanning around Dorset with a 3 year old (#Competition)

dorset swannery chesil bank

Abbotsbury Swannery, in Dorset (20 minutes from Weymouth) is an idyllic sanctuary and a unique day out for the family. The Subtropical Gardens and Children’s Farm form part of the estate.

It was a gorgeous day when we headed over to Abbotsbury, I typed the post-code in and was re-assured to see ‘Abbotsbury Swannery’ on the map, so off we went, but here is the bit to take note of: even though it says so on the iphone map, it is not there! And I know this has happened a lot because there was a building with a sign on that said Abbotsbury Swannery that way, which, incidentally was the first sign down some very windy and extremely narrow (single-track) country road. I would suggest taking the B3157 instead of New Barn Road (which was the iPhone map route).  When we finally arrived, we drove right past it because the signage was facing the other way. Abbotsbury – you could really do with a sign on the other side of the road. We had to drive all the way into the village to turn around because the roads were so narrow.

abbotsbury village map

A slightly bumpy start but it was so worth the journey. The Swannery is a natural habitat and the only managed colony for 600 mute swans anywhere in the world. The swans are made comfortable and are able to nest but are not enclosed. The site is located on an 11th Century Monastary site and Chesil Bank is the backdrop to this gorgeous scene:

abbotsbury mute swans

It was the most beautiful and peaceful walk through the woods I have ever encountered, as you walk down the path you have either a stream, a rook or a pond on either side. We also came upon the occasional old building, which dated back to the 11th Century, without little man I may have explored the history a little more, he was just so excited pointing out the swans and the cygnets:

As we arrived quite late it was almost their feeding time which is the big event and takes place twice a day at 12 noon and 4pm so we headed over for a little treat. My son went in and fed the swans, even though he was very nervous and refused at first. Once he saw all the other children feeding the swans he felt more courageous, and I was a proud mama. I love to see him grow in confidence. I thought the feeding was just for children as they ask you to have all the children line up, they go on to say: all children aged from 0-80 can feed the swans! I felt sorry for the 81 year old lady almost jumping out of her seat ready to feed them!

preschooler feeding swans in dorset

One tiny note is that there are no toilets in the swannery, only at the entrance (including baby change facilities), so bear that in mind if you have a little one with a tiny bladder as it is about 500 metres from the entrance down to the feeding area.

The swans and their beautiful cygnets really were the star of the show, they made me feel so peaceful. I am not amazingly into birds, but I do like walking and this haven was a delight. I was also very surprised by the lack of aggression and hissing that I usually see in swans. In fact when we feed ducks back home we always avoid swans because they are so aggressive, but these swans are so docile.  In addition to the swans the swannery has two mazes, one for children and on for adults, pedal bikes, a park, gift shop and a cafe. The pedal bike track could do with a refurbishment, my husband enjoyed it but it was too difficult for my 3 year old to even pedal, and I didn’t see a single other person go near the track the whole time we were there.

toddler on slide in the chilrens maze3 year old on pedal bikes

The cafe was a slight disappointment having gotten my order wrong and had to wait an extra 20 minutes, and when my hot-dog arrived it was in a bland/hard roll which was flavourless, it could have done with some onions at a minimum. The cake was pretty nice and they had a children’s park next to it, so you could eat your lunch whilst watching your little one play.

In the late afternoon we decided to venture over to the children’s farm, were given directions from the gift shop and headed off. 15 minutes of walking in very hot weather later, and it did not appear to be close enough so we headed off. I think they should put up signs saying how long a walk it is, because we were not prepared. The little legs were not going to make that trip so we decided to leave the children’s farm for another day and instead jumped in the car, and drove 5 minutes to the beach, not just any beach –  Chesil Beach. A note about Chesil Beach – it is very painful if you are wearing sandals, or worse, bare-foot. It is literally a mountain of stones, like nothing I have ever seen, there is not a speck of sand in sight.

3 year old at chesil beach

So the next time you take your child to the beach to throw stones in the water (aka skimming stones), have a thought for the poor souls on Chesil Beach, because I believe that every single stone that has ever been thrown into water anywhere in the world ends up at Chesil Beach!

father and son walking into the sunset

Useful Information:

  • Postcode: DT3 4JG (the correct one)
  • It would be very difficult to travel here by any other means than by car as it is in the middle of the countryside.
  • The Swannery itself is very big, requires a fair amount of walking and once you are in you are far from the toilets. If you decide to combine the children’s farm and sub-tropical gardens in on the same day (not recommended) you would have to limit your time at the swannery and you will need walk for at least 15-20 minutes over to the farm and drive 5 minutes to the gardens. If you do buy a combined ticket, you can use the tickets on another day as they do not have an expiration date, so my advice is to spread out the trips over 2 days at least.
  • Price: Individual attraction  £11.50 adults, £8.50 for 5-15 years and under 5s are free. A combined ticket which includes the swannery, farm and gardens is only £16 for adults and £13 for children is well worth it, especially as you can use the tickets on different days if required. They do take card payments.
  • Opening times: March to November, 10-5pm.

All in all there were highs and lows (as with most days out) but the highs far outweighed the lows and I have nothing but happy memories, incidentally my husband loved the Swannery above all the activities we did in Dorset (including Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove), so high praise indeed. Our son loved it too as he loves animals and was very excited pointing out all the swans and cygnets and exploring so it was perfect for him.

If you like the sound of the swannery and would like to visit, why not enter my competition. The fabulous people over at Abbotsbury have very generously offered up this fantastic prize for one of my readers:

A family season pass for 2 adults and 3 children which will allow them unlimited entry to Abbotsbury Swannery, Sub-Tropical Gardens and Children’s farm (worth £75). The pass holder will also benefit from 20% off in the restaurants and shops, as well as free parking in the village and Chesil Beach car parks (which are normally chargeable).


Terms and Conditions of entry:

  1. You must be a UK resident to enter.
  2. You must enter using the Rafflecopter widget below and perform the task(s) correctly (for example, if you enter your email address to subscribe, ensure when you receive the confirmation email that you accept the subscription too), for each task completed you will gain more entries into the competition.
  3. You must enter a valid email address into Rafflecopter so that you can be contacted if you are a winner.
  4. This is a sponsored post, and the organisation “Abbotsbury Tourism Ltd” has provided a family season pass for 2 adults and 3 children which will allow them unlimited entry to Abbotsbury Swannery, Sub-Tropical Gardens and Children’s farm (worth £75). The pass holder will also benefit from 20% off in the restaurants and shops, as well as free parking in the village and Chesil Beach car parks (which are normally chargeable).
  5. The winner will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter after the closing date (13th August 2015), and the winner will be contacted via email and announced soon thereafter. If the winner does not respond within 14 days another winner shall be chosen. Check back to this page to see the winner, it will also be announced on my social media.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*We were given free entry to the swannery in return for an honest review. All views are my own.

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Family Fever

My boy aged 3.5 years old – Progress and Milestones

I have a 3 year old boy and I love to chart his developmental milestones in my diary, but being a busy mum I find I write in it less and less, so this is a great way to sit back and think about what he is doing and what he has achieved over the last 3 months, and it is good to compare what has changed. I wrote about Nate aged 3 years 3 months and it is amazing to see the differences.

Stats: Weight = 3 stone and Height = 109cm.

His growth spurts appear to have slowed down, for the first time ever, which means we might not have to buy him bigger clothes this quarter. Currently we find that 5-6 year old clothes fit him the best as his 4-5 year old tops are getting tight and short.

Current favourites: Big Hero 6 (still loves it), Kate and Mim Mim (though we call it Nate and Mum-Mum), Dinosaur Train, Nucky (this is his monkey soft toy from holiday), yoghurts, wheaties (for breakfast), going to the beach, going exploring, reading, singing and bath time.

Bath time

Nate loves bath time, and this is his special time with daddy, because daddy is so much more fun, with boats and dinosaurs etc. Nate’s eczema has been really clear now for a long time, although we still don’t use normal bubble bath or shower gel because when he does it will flare up. Recently we tried Westlab’s Dead Sea Bath salts for kids, which help with eczema, psoriasis and helps to soften the skin. I didn’t even know you could buy bath salts for children. Nate enjoyed helping daddy pour them in, and then forgot about them, but we could see and feel the difference and will continue to use them as they are reasonably priced at £3.99 for a large 500g bag. You can use them for babies as young as 3 months. Nate had eczema from around 4 months, so these would have been perfect if we had known back then.

eczema cures for toddlersbath salts being poured into bath

toddler enjoying bath time fun


He still amazes me by the phrases and sentences he comes out with, and recently he has started copying everything we say, for like 5 minutes, our whole conversation, which he finds hilarious. I recently wrote a post about 10 things my 3 year old said, but a couple of new ones from the mouth of my 3 year old:

“The sun is too bright, it hurts my eye-brows!”

“Our car can go 10 miles power”


He can write his name, though legibility of this differs depending on how focussed he is. One thing that has been helping with his letter formation is using the Alphabet Cards, that I reviewed recently. As well as being fun for him to do, it appears to be helping as I can read more of his letters than I used to be able to.

toddler writing letters


He cannot read yet, obviously, but he memorises the books we read together so well that it looks and sounds like he is reading, though this is not new because I captured him on video doing this about 6 months ago, but he just gets better and better at memorising the words to songs and books.

I read to him everyday, several books per day and it is our special time, he absolutely loves it and tries to negotiate more books. Yesterday we took some more books out of the library and we read “Elmer and the Hippos” and “Peppa Pig meets the Queen” last night. I was very impressed that when I started reading Elmer, he said “Mummy the elephants are angry”, this was the perfect opportunity for me to extend his learning and find out what he knows. I asked him: “How do you know they are angry?” and he said because their trunks were raised up like this (then he raised his fist in an angry gesture) and then he said they have angry faces and showed me his angry face – which was hilarious but also spot on!


This was the most exciting thing ever! About 2 months ago, he was suddenly able to draw people, the drawings that he started bringing home from nursery went from a scribble to these actual (spider) people:

3 year old drawing of familytoddler drawing development

Not only that but I have been commissioning his work for birthday cards, and for my best friend he was able to draw a picture of their whole family, and drew a picture of Nate and Daddy for fathers day, which was hilarious because when he pointed it out to me he said “that is daddy with no hair, that is me with big hair, and that is daddy’s willy and my willy”:

funny drawing by toddler

Pure genius!


He is a well-behaved little man as usual. For the last few months he has been very clingy with me, and sometimes when we are walking outside and he holds my hand (he always holds my hand, which I treasure), if I try to let go for some reason, he holds on tighter. Not sure why he does that, maybe just a phase.

During these few months there have been two separate incidences where other children think he is older than he is. The most extreme was on holiday, on our very first day in the soft play area, Nate ran off to play and there were two older children in there. He ran back to me crying, saying that one of the boys had hit him. I consoled him and said that maybe it was an accident (I like to give children the benefit of the doubt), so I went in there with him and just sat and watched while he went and played. The next minute I actually saw the boy kick and punch my son – well I was instantly in mumma-bear mode! I was absolutely livid and shouted out “whose child is this because he just hit my son”, I stormed out, found the parents, made them apologise to him, and all was okay with the world, after 20 minutes they became best friends. I guess at some point he will have to learn to fight his own battles, but not at 3 years old.


His eating habits are very slowly improving. He is still fussy, but seems slightly more willing to try new things than he used to, and I love it when he says with surprise “I like it mummy!”. A couple of things that have helped are using this plate at dinner time, to give him more options:

food ideas for fussy toddlers

Also, my being more relaxed about his fussiness means that he no longer feels pressured. We offer him a bit of everything we are eating but let him choose whether to try it or not. He is always given something that we know he will eat, as I simply can’t enforce the method of “eat it or go hungry” that was all the rage when I was growing up.

How is your little one progressing?

*This post includes sponsored content, I was sent a bag of bath salts and asked to give an honest mention.


A 3 Year-Old at Dorset’s Dragon (Durdle) Door

lulworth cove beach and map

Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset is one of the most splendid natural beauties in England. When I was researching where to go on our family holiday this year, a post from another blogger extolling the virtues of Dorset made me fall in love, and it was a photo of Durdle Door that swung it for me, how stunning is this:

Continue reading


Don’t read this…if you NEVER get bored!

If you never get bored, you don’t need this!

old books on bookshelf

I absolutely love to read, always have, from a young age when my mum used to drop me off at the library, go shopping, then come back for me. I always took the maximum amount of books home and read them all! The naughtiest girl in school was one of my early favourites. Then as a teen I moved onto Virginia Andrews and Point Horrors. Now as an adult I love reading everything from young adult (Twilight and Hunger Games) to chick lit (Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes) to Crime (Mo Hayder and Nikki French) to Comedy (Bill Bryson) and Romance (Maeve Binchy and Barbara Taylor-Bradford). My current novel was recommended by another blogger, something completely different “Clan of the Cave Bear” by Jean Auel. I read about 4-6 books a month at present, I fit this in around full-time work, blogging and parenting a toddler…but how do I manage to read so much with so little free time?

Continue reading


Review of Alphabet Cards for Toddlers and Pre-schoolers

I absolutely love it when I get to review a product that is new, educational, designed by a parent (a concerned father to be exact) and actually works – how often can we say that happens? Not that often.

wipe on wipe off alphabet cards

I was approached by a lovely company called The Appealing Rabbit asking if I would like to review their fantastic “Write on, wipe off Alphabet Cards” with my 3 year old son. This is perfect timing for us because my 3 year old is just starting to learn about letter formation, he is not perfect at it yet, so these cards could potentially help him and he is at the stage where he is excited to learn about letters and writing. His favourite phrase is “Mummy that’s my letter!” whenever he spots a letter in his name.

As you will see by the pictures Continue reading


Don’t Micro-Manage your Minions

Wanna see bald, jaundiced children (aka Minions)? I took my 3 year-old son to see the Minions movie and we all absolutely loved it, he sat through the whole movie and laughed so hard it made my heart full. We have seen both Despicable Me movies, the second one was far superior because the minions played a larger part, I’m so glad the creators realised the minions were the reason the movies were so good and decided to see if they could stand on their own, well they did, the Minions are awesome, so funny and so cute.

minions movie poster

The story-line is Continue reading


My Weymouth Week at a Glance

lulworth cove abbotsbury swannery collage

Last week was our family holiday in Weymouth, Dorset. I will be doing my in-depth posts about some of my favourite places that we visited, but I thought I would first give a little overview.

We stayed at Chesil Vista Holiday Park in a caravan on the edge of Chesil Beach and overlooking Portland Island, it was a beautiful view, though shame we didn’t have the view from a caravan, due to your location. But, we were using the camp-site as a base, as opposed to wanting to use all their facilities.

On day one we settled in, unpacked and then wandered over to the little beach opposite the holiday camp, where we saw our first of the giant jelly-fish we were to see on this trip.

On day two we headed over to the much anticipated Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. It was so beautiful that it cannot possible be conveyed in the tiny little pic above, so I will be writing a dedicated post on that soon, so please check back later. It was like being in another world, or at least another country.

Day three we headed over to Weymouth Beach, this was the first of two visits, and I will definitely be posting in detail because Weymouth Beach was one of the best (family-friendly) beaches I have ever frequented. We only spent a few hours on this day, had chips by the sea and the headed into the Sea-Life Centre which was 5 minutes from the beach. The sea-life park was fantastic, and felt like more of a mini-theme park than just an aquarium, there was loads to see and do, and again more jelly-fish!

Day four we eventually found our way to Abbotsbury Swannery, this was my husband’s favourite place on our holiday and very much enjoyed by us all. It was a peaceful sanctuary and a slower paced day much needed after the busy beach and sea-world from the day before.

Later that day, since we were nearby, we parked and walked up to a section of Chesil Beach. It was extremely painful, as we were all in sandals – piece of advice – wear proper shoes. It was beautiful but it is not so much a beach as a stone museum. Did you ever wonder where all the stones go to that you throw into the sea, well Chesil Beach is where they all end up!

Day five, it was a beautiful sunny day so we chose to spend the whole day on Weymouth Beach again as well as heading up to the Sea-Life Tower. I believe this was the day that most of the country were baking in near 40-degree heat. I am so glad we were by the sea, I think it was only about 28-30 for us and with a lovely sea-breeze it was was pleasant, and quite cool by late evening. I am so glad I wasn’t in the office that day.

Day six – our penance for the beautiful day previous was a morning of rain. So we swiftly changed our plans and decided to have a cooked breakfast and watch a movie, and with the new Minion movie out, we were all excited to have an excuse to have to stay indoors for a short while. If you haven’t seen the Minion movie yet, do it, it is quite possibly the funniest movie I have seen in years, and if possible, even funnier than Despicable Me 2 and with a pretty decent storyline and a good conclusion. We had breakfast in a recently opened establishment that was innovatively named “Cafe Weymouth”, check out my review on Tripadvisor. The two lovely men who ran the place were so charming and warm and we had such a lovely breakfast, not to mention the best tea I have ever had, made by a company called Novus, with an interesting egg-timer system.

Our final day we spent at Monkey World, a sanctuary for abused and un-cared for monkeys and apes of all sorts who have been rescued and are being taken care of in a very natural environment, as far as enclosures go. It was fascinating seeing all the different species and watching their fun antics.