We always like to head out on adventures at the weekend but last weekend was particularly busy, even by our usual standards ! After having fun at an inflatable sports event in the town centre on Saturday, Sunday was given over to visiting an agricultural fair at a nearby lake. This was a first attempt and they're hoping to make it a bi-annual event - I hope they do because it was great fun and even better, it was all totally free !
We had to walk around half of the lake to get to the main field so the first thing we saw was a display of life-saving by the humungous Newfoundland dogs. They really are gentle giants and I don't know who was having the most fun - the dogs or the kids pretending to shout for help in the lake !
There was a horse and cart offering free rides across to the main events but there was a pretty big queue so we just walked over as it wasn't very far.
The first thing we discovered was lots of marquees with leaflets from environmental groups, agricultural agencies and awareness groups for anything from supporting local farmers to avoiding genetically modified crops. Nothing very exciting for the kids so they were very happy to discover a collection of huge stick insects, bigger than an adult's hand. This reminded me of the stick insects that we used to bring home from school - does anyone still keep them? Nobody really talks about them any more !
We also looked at the snakes and pigeons as we walked through the tent area, but it was still not very agricultural !
Aha, that's more like it - there were a couple of cows with their names on their foreheads, which made us laugh because it looked like they were playing that game where you have to ask questions to discover whose name is written on the cigarette paper stuck to your head !
We watched a sheepdog display for a while, which impressed the kids because they'd never seen it done before.
The dog cleverly managed to herd the sheep wherever the shepherd wanted them, but he did seem a bit overenthusiastic because he kept nipping the backs of their legs.
I don't remember seeing that technique on One Man And His Dog ! (Televised sheepdog trials - who came up with that idea ?!)
Next stop was the petting corner, which was popular with everyone, whatever their age !
The kids loved the big fluffy rabbit best but I had a soft spot for these funky chickens. Everyone seemed to give the hissy geese a wide berth though !
There were some very cute puppies too, who were happy to be stroked, and their mum was laying quite contentedly next to the box and didn't seem to mind in the least about all the attention they were getting !
We finally managed to drag the kids away and headed off to see the rest of the exhibits.
Pierre had a go at pushing a wheelbarrow around a little circuit made out of hay bales.
It was very heavy and kept tipping over so Sophie stepped in to lend a hand !
Sophie hates bees and wasps - she has a bit of a phobia after being stung twice by one a few years ago - but she was happy enough to look at them behind glass.
After seeing the bees busily working away in the display stand, we could look at and even touch a large piece of honeycomb. Pierre was fascinated to learn how honey was produced although he was a bit concerned about it being "bee poo" !!
There were a few craftsmen dotted about, such as this basket-weaver.
There was also an outdoor library area with farm and animal -themed books and an impressive Mongolian yurt for story-telling sessions, but the Madhouse kids were more interested in the hands-on activities.
In particular, the treetop walk. Now Juliette was the one begging to have a go on this, but I was sceptical, because the last time she had a go at an indoor activity centre, she froze and had to be rescued. She was adamant that she was bigger now and wanted a go though so we went and got them kitted out.
She made it to the first platform, through the net tunnel, with no qualms whatsoever.
She managed to unclip her carabiners and clip them back on to the next section and got as far as putting one foot on the tightrope, but then she got cold feet and headed back down to the safety of the ground. It was a very valiant effort though and I'm glad she tried it because she'd been debating joining climbing club at school and I had visions of her freezing at the top of the climbing wall !
Next up was Pierre, and he made it to the same stage without a backwards glance. Would he back out or too or would he make it across ?
He was totally at ease with the equipment, clipping and unclipping the carabiners as if he'd been doing it his whole life ! He stepped out onto the rope and was off.
He certainly has a head for heights !
He could have stopped at the middle platform but he was a man (boy) on a mission and continued across to the far platform where he was given a hero's welcome !
It wasn't quite over yet though - he had to lean forwards then take a big step off the platform and slide down to the ground on a zipwire.
After all that adrenalin pumping through their bodies, it was time to let off some steam with the activity that I'd purposely left until last - the straw pool !
It was basically bales of hay pushed into a square outer wall then filled with loose hay that the kids could throw at each other.
Such a simple idea but hugely popular - they all thought it was so much fun !
It was certainly a great way of burning off some energy!
But I did spend the whole walk back to the car picking bits of straw out of their hair and clothes !