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Westonbirt 2015 A trip to Westonbirt Arboretum, and other playgrounds

An important market town, Alcester was also the site of Alcester Abbey: a Benedictine monastery founded in 1138 by Ralph le Boteler.

Last weekend Michelle had arranged to spend a long weekend with what Aurora now refers to as her "knitting friends", so Aurora and I decided to use the opportunity to pop over and visit Mum and Dad.

First stop, however, was to drop Michelle off at the quite substantial house in which she'd be staying with her friends, who miraculously almost all seemed to turn up at the same time as us. There was a beautiful garden which Aurora took great delight in pelting around for a few minutes.

A few little pieces of Alcester.

Then it was time to head off to Mum and Dad's. The trip was rather uneventful—well, if you ignore the a car park collision, a resulting visit from the AA and a trip back to Alcester to return Michelle's coats that we'd managed to leave in the car; but aside from that, a very quiet trip.

Once we arrived Aurora and I were both fairly tired so after a delicious meal and a quick story from Grandpa (for one of us, I'll leave you to decide which) we retired for the night.

Just one more story, Grandpa!
Westonbirt
The Old Arboretum is a carefully designed landscape offering beautiful vistas, stately avenues, and a host of rare and exotic trees from across the globe dating back to the 1850s.

Both Aurora and I slept in a little late the next morning. The weather was a little wet, but set to improve, and we had a relaxed morning and lunch before setting off to Westonbirt Arboretum.

I've finished! Can we go out now?

Aurora was excited, but she was getting a little fussy in the car—we were a little worried that she was getting tired already and it didn't bode well for the rest of the day, but thankfully she seemed to get a second wind once we arrived and was soon happily running around picking dandelions.

No time to be tired when there's so much running around to be done!

We were really lucky with the weather—despite the mornings showers it was a bright and sunny afternoon. There was a slight chill in the air, but if anything it just made warmth of the sunshine more welcome.

The trees looked beautiful in the sunshine.

Aurora was fascinated by everything and I suspect she covered about twice the distance we did since she had a habit of running off down paths only to be called back to go a different way. She didn't seem to mind in the slightest, though.

Aurora showed a keen interest in... Well, more or less everything, actually.
Off exploring.

The trees and flowers were kept beautifully, of course, and it was clear that spring was well and truly underway. Everywhere you look there are flowers of every colour and shape.

A feast of springtime colour, and this is just a small sample.

As well as running around, there's one thing Aurora loves to do and that's collect little treasures. We were very careful to make sure she didn't actually pick anything, of course, but there were a wealth of interesting little things just lying around for the taking. Petals, pine cones and dandelions seemed the flavour of the day.

So few hands and so many things to pick up!

But there was always more running to be done! Aurora certainly got her share of exercise that day. I was wondering where the tiredness of the earlier car journey had gone to because there was certainly no evidence of it any more.

Keep up, Daddy!
Aurora was always a few steps ahead of us; but often in the wrong direction.

One of the great things about Westonbirt that Dad pointed out is that you can more or less wander around to your heart's content. Quite often we meandered off the path and between the trees. Occasionally it felt a little like we were walking through The Night Garden.

Is that Iggle Piggle in the distance? Oh no, just Dad.

As we went around there were a few things to climb on, some manmade and some provided by nature. Aurora wasn't too fussy, she loved anything that got her off the ground.

Now that's what I call a log.
The 15,000 labelled trees (around 2,500 different types of tree) come from Britain, China, North America, Japan, Chile and other temperate climates.
We couldn't see the trees for the trees.

There's quite a network of paths through the Arboretum and I think Aurora explored most of them—at least for a few yards until she realised we went another way.

It's amazing how many paths you can fit in a few hundred acres.
There's a comprehensive mix of deciduous and coniferous trees.

In amonst the trees there were various activities for the children, such as this little network of walkways which Aurora couldn't wait to explore—with a helping hand here and there.

Aurora was eager to explore - but needed a hand up.
It was a very pleasant leafy glade.

Mind you, Aurora didn't need much help to find games to play. Hide and seek was a particular favourite, but she still needs a little practice before she perfects the skill.

What do you mean you can still see me, Daddy? I'm hiding!

We were coming to the end of the walk and the weather was still treating us very well.

Time to head for home... Via the café.
A short rest...?

As we left the old arborteum we decided we decided we'd go via the café for a little light refreshment.

The area outside the old arboretum—some very pleasant open parkland.
If there's a wall, Aurora wants to walk on it.

After all that running around I rather thought that Aurora might be tired enough to want to have a quiet sit down for awhile. Perhaps she might have done... Until she spotted the adventure playground.

There's a slide Daddy!

They've really done a lot of work on the playground since I was there last, admittedly many years ago. I felt quite happy letting Aurora run round on her own on the raised walkways and the like—she even had a go on their little toddler climbing wall, although her approach mainly involved letting me pull her up by her arms while she just walked up.

She did eventually start to flag, though, and so we popped back to Grandma and Grandpa for a quick snack.

Don't take a photo of me eating, Daddy!

But with that burst of energy it was back to the playground!

Left to her own devices I think Aurora would have still been there the following day.

All good things must come to an end and eventually we persuaded—well, rather herded—Aurora back to the car. On the way out I spotted a board advertising some sort of upcoming music festival. I rather thought it would make a beautiful venue... But McBusted isn't really my scene.

Spandau Ballet are still perfoming?

After a beautiful day we then enjoyed a fairly quiet ride home—a few minutes after we set off, Aurora's exertions finally caught up with her and she was fast asleep.

Jubilee Lake Playground

The next day Aurora and I sadly had to return home—but there was just time for a stroll around the lake and a tasty lunch.

Spring was still very much in evidence at the lake.

Of course Aurora wouldn't have been happy without a little visit to the playground.

Aurora did a comprehensive tour of the usual playground favourites.

Perhaps encouraged by yesterday's adventure playground antics, Aurora was quite adventurous when tackling the assault course; or perhaps it was seeing a three year old girl confidently making her way around the course ahead of her.

Aurora working out.
Back for lunch

When we got a call from Mum reminding us that lunch was nearly ready it was definitely time to head home. On the way back past the lake we ran into a pair of geese and their gaggle of goslings. Ahead of us a little dog had just been lead past and had, unsurprisingly, got the geese a little riled, so I didn't want Aurora getting too close. But we still took a few minutes to watch.

Mummy goose keeping a close eye on everything.

After lunch Aurora and I set off for Cambridge and had a fairly uneventful journey—Aurora spent most it asleep, in fact. That night, after a little bit of fun with lego, her earlier nap didn't stop her sleeping soundly all night too. She'd had a fun weekend!

Oxford

The next day I left Aurora and Jackie asleep and headed off to pick up Michelle from her cottage in Alcester. I arrived around 10:30, about half an hour later than I'd intended, but otherwise it all went fairly smoothly. Michelle had offered Guro, one of the friends with whom she'd been staying, a lift to Heathrow airport. Since her flight wasn't until the evening, however, we took a short detour to Oxford which Guro, a keen Inspector Morse fan, was keen to see.

Oxford's oldest bureau de change. Externally, at least.

We met up with Gwen, who lived in Oxford and had had to return a day earlier for work, and had a pleasant lunch. After eating we took a little time to walk around and see a few sights.

The Radcliffe Camera, a reading room for the Bodleian, and the University Church on the right.
The Radcliffe Camera (Camera, meaning "room" in Latin) is a building of Oxford University, England, designed by James Gibbs in neo-classical style and built in 1737–1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library.
Radcliffe Camera above, the gate to All Souls College lower left and the tower of the University Church lower right.

After our stroll we drove off to Heathrow down a nearly empty M40, dropped Guro off and then I drove home while Michelle took a little nap. All in all, a great weekend all round!

I've missed you Mummy!
Created By
Andy Pearce
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