A Weekend In North Norfolk

Do you fill your holidays with non-stop activities or do you use them as a time to breathe? I love to make lots of new memories on holiday, but I also like to enjoy a slower pace of life so we make sure we balance out adventures with down time.  We spent a long weekend away in North Norfolk last week and I think we struck a pretty good balance between activities and family time.

 a child looking at writing in the sand saying Norfolk 2019 which seemed appropriate for a weekend away
Found on the beach

Heading To North Norfolk With The Family

On Friday I filled the car to the brim and the five of us headed off to Norfolk. We have an MPV yet somehow we still don’t have any space in the car when we are going somewhere. It might be my bad packing but each child ideally needs at least one outfit per day plus nightwear. My eldest is fussy and will refuse to wear half of what I pack, my middle one is going through a stage of having accidents every so often so she needs extra pants and trousers and with a baby you never know what they will make their clothes dirty with: there are so many ways. And the same goes for my clothes. I have to take a jumper for every day I’m away because the baby will normally get a variety of marks on me. Travelling light isn’t really an option.

We headed to Norfolk on Friday evening to stay in a house my mum was renting for the week in Docking and the girls were very excited to see Granny and Auntie Clare. I like it when my Mum is around; I don’t have to be the most adulty adult (although she does seem to have more relaxed rules than me when it comes to sweets or bedtimes). On the journey there was only a small amount of crying (mostly from the baby), but there was no vomit or urgent wee breaks so it was pretty successful.

On Saturday the weather was horrible and I didn’t feel any need to head out searching for entertainment. The girls had enough toys to keep them entertained and it seemed silly to pay for the normal wet weather activities (like soft play, swimming or cinema) just because we were away. I even managed to have a nap after an early wake up. 

At one point the girls and I got dressed up in coats and wellies to walk 5 minutes down the road to the local shop in search of sweets. We had fun splashing in puddles too. 

3 children on a big floor cushion excited and full of beans after a drive to Norfolk
Over excited after the car journey to Norfolk

A cup of tea being held on the bed with a travel cot in the background
Tea in bed, only safe when no children are around

Pensthorpe Natural Park Fakenham

Sunday morning the sun shone through the window and Baby Boy slept quite late (especially given the clock change). He was sleeping next to me though as at some point in the night I had given up on the travel cot. This meant I couldn’t move and had some enforced quiet time. Tough.

The day was bright, but cool and perfect for wandering around Pensthorpe (£). I have been meaning to go for ages and it didn’t disappoint. There are enough birds and ducks as you walk around to entertain children even without the sculptures and trails. The most exciting part for my daughters though were the play areas and they are even fairly impressive for adults.

We arrived at 10.30am (it opened at 10am) and had a walk around seeing some sculptures, various wild bird and flamingoes and cranes. We made it back to the cafe shortly after midday for lunch and joined a long, but fairly fast moving queue. The food all looked really nice, but I didn’t fancy a jacket potato or sandwich and the other meals all contained dairy (including most of the Sunday roast) so I just had a bowl of fat chips. The menu is well marked for allergens which was great so I could easily see the vegan and dairy free options. Some of the food (like the chips) were not marked as dairy free because they were cooked in the same fryer as dairy so I think anyone with allergies (as opposed to my intolerance) could eat there confidently.

After eating the girls played in the large outdoor play area (WildRootz) until it was time for our session in Hootz House (we booked 1.30 to 3.00 pm). Both play areas are really good: the play structures are predominantly wood and there is lots to do. Outside even has a mud kitchen and sand area. 

The indoor play area has an “Owlet” area for under 5s which both my younger two enjoyed. There is an area with ball pool balls that you can feed up a suction tube to collect in a bucket area which then empties every so often (on your head if you time it right). The other side of this area has various padded shapes and a raised area like you find it many soft plays.

The main area was good enough to entertain my 8 year old while being manageable for my nearly 4 year old (it’s recommended for 6 plus). There are a few slides which my youngest daughter was too scared to go down and after going down one myself I can’t blame her, it was fast!

There is a cafe area inside Hootz House for drinks and snacks (which has a hatch into the outdoor play area too if you want to buy anything there) and there is seating for adults upstairs. There aren’t a lot of tables though and I think at busy times you would struggle to find somewhere to sit, capacity for the play area is 175 including adults.

When our timed session was up and we eventually persuaded the girls to leave (there didn’t seem to be any staff encouraging us to leave, but it wasn’t very busy) we had a quick play in the outdoor area before I tried to rush the girls through the shop (that was hard work) and back to the car.

There are a selection of cranes at Pensthorpe Natural Park, this one has pretty cool feather punk hair
A crane at Pensthorpe

Two ducks on the edge of a pond

A metal sculpture of a warthog
Lots of lovely sculptures are all around the park

Ticking off the sculptures seen at Pensthorpe
Ticking off the sculptures seen on the Pensthorpe map

Lots of wooden structures and benches at the play area outside at Pensthorpe bird sanctuary Fakenham Norfolk
A view across some of the WildRootz outdoor play area at Pensthorpe

Wooden tree house like structures and metal slides at the Hootz House soft play indoor play area at Pensthorpe North Norfolk
Hootz House 

Visiting Thursford Pumpkin House

It was half 3 by the time we were heading to the car, but I decided I wanted to quickly stop at the Pumpkin House in Thursford, about 5 minutes down the road. I had seen it on Instagram (of course) and although it closed at 4pm I thought it would be fun to see.

Baby Boy managed to fall asleep on the short journey, but the girls and I had a quick walk around. You walk through a small woodland area before entering a field where there is the pumpkin house, a place to buy hot chocolate, pumpkin cake or apple juice and a fairground organ thing. There was also a hay bale maze for £1 pp entry which I decided not to go in as it was close to closing (and M had decided just to wear a t-shirt so was complaining of the cold). 

The standard size pumpkins were £4.50 which included a 50p donation to something. I felt that was a bit expensive compared to the other pumpkin patches I have been to this year, but I would happily have just paid a donation if I could see how to do so.

A house shaped structure with shelves for walls and pumpkins on all the shelves at Thursford pumpkin House Fakenham Norfolk
Thursford Pumpkin House

A Family Meal

We headed back to the house where my Mum and sister had gone back to earlier, picking up my Nana on the way. My Mum cooked dinner (have I mentioned how I love staying with my Mum?) and the girls had fun playing with Auntie Clare and Nana.

Monday: Shopping, the beach and home again

My sister and I headed out alone for a quick early morning shop in Burnham Market on Monday. I say early morning, but most of the shops don't open until 9.30 or 10am. Quite a few of the shops have changed since last time I was there, but there are still some lovely (but super expensive) clothes shops and a few other interesting places to browse. Norfolk Living was my favourite because there was so much I wanted to buy in there. If I ever win the lottery I will be back with a mini van! I didn’t actually *need* anything though so I just came out with a couple of bracelets for the girls which were in the sale and a star felt garland.

pretty ceramics in cream and greens, and bird paintings on shelves at a homeware shop in Burnham Market Norfolk
I wanted to buy everything at the Norfolk Living shop in Burnham Market

At home we ate lunch and I packed before we all went to the beach for a walk. I can’t visit Norfolk for more than a few hours and not go to the beach, it wouldn’t be right. We headed to Brancaster because the car park (£) is close to the beach so it’s great for visits with little people. 

The sea was a long way out, but it didn’t matter that it was so far away because there were plenty of "puddles". The girls and I were wearing wellies so we were fine for a bit of a paddle, but Little decided to start running up and down in one shouting “sea running” and laughing. She ended up soaking wet and needed a full outfit change when we got back to the car, there was also rather a lot of water poured out of her wellies. At least she had fun and I had plenty of clothes (and a cozy blanket) to warm her up.

A woman with brown hair (auntie Clare) holding the hand on a 3 year old (Little) on a sandy beach with sand dunes visible at Brancaster Norfolk
Little and her Auntie on Brancaster Beach

A 3 year old running around on the beach with very wet trousers and water sploshing out of the back of one of them
Sea Running (notice the very wet leggings and water coming out of her right boot)

We stopped briefly at Nana’s house on the way back, but then we were off. The drive home to Essex took longer than normal thanks to lots of traffic, especially on the M11. I was meant to get M back to her Dad by 6pm, but it was nearly an hour later that we pulled up outside his door. Admittedly we did stop for a McDonalds on the way, but it was mostly the traffic.

Happy Meal boxes from McDonalds to look like Pumpkins put down on a car seat
We even got pumpkins from McDonalds

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