A Trip to Bodiam Castle

I’ve been a member of the National Trust for all my life, initially as part of my parents’ Family Membership, later as a Young Person in my own right and then as an Individual Adult member. When Ian and I moved in together, I added him to my membership and when Thomas is old enough to no longer be free, we’ll get our very own Family Membership. I have lots of fond memories of time spent in National Trust gardens and properties as a child, and it’s lovely to be able to start recreating those times with my own child, especially when we have so many wonderful places literally on our doorstep here in Kent. It’s a membership I’m happy to keep up no matter how much or how little we use it each year, as preserving the rich heritage of our country is something I believe passionately in. That said, we’ve already had a lot of value from this year’s membership, with trips to more than half a dozen places, and a saving of £7.50 on the cost of parking at the beautiful National Trust owned Mill Bay beach in Devon. It’s lovely to know that there are lots of fabulous days out within easy reach and with nothing further to pay for them once our annual direct debit payment has gone.

The weekends since we got back from our holiday in Devon (which I still haven’t written about, owing largely to my computer failure) have been chock full with garden renovations, visiting family and having family visit here and we hadn’t had a “family day out” for the three of us since we got back. So this weekend, with the weather looking good, we decided to make use of our membership and visit nearby Bodiam Castle.

Castle silhouette

Described on the National Trust Website as:

Archetypal 14th century moated castle with ruined interior – a glimpse of medieval splendour

Bodiam truly does look like the kind of castle your seven-year-old self would draw, with turrets, battlements and slit windows from which you can imagine arrows being fired at the enemy. You’re met at the entrance by “murder holes” through which boiling oil could be poured on to any intruders below. Sadly the original bridge and drawbridge are long gone, but there is a working trebuchet which is fired in to the moat daily.

Bodiam Castle Battlements and Turrets

 

Thomas had a huge amount of fun exploring all the nooks and crannies, windows, fireplaces and toilets within the castle walls, and unlike at a lot of National Trust stately homes, there is nothing which can be easily broken or damaged by curious little explorers (and not-so-little explorers too, as you’ll see in the bottom right photo, below), so it’s an ideal place to visit with inquisitive toddlers.

Little boy exploring castle ruins

Of course, the trains came too!

We took a picnic to enjoy in the vast grounds, where there are plenty of trees for shade. Picnics seem to be a real hit with Thomas this summer, and he invariably eats a lot more, and is more likely to try new things, if we are all sitting on a rug in the great outdoors rather than sitting around a table at home. He also enjoyed chasing the ducks around and pushing his own pushchair!

Bodiam Castle Picnic

Perhaps the biggest highlight of all for Thomas, however, was the proximity to the Kent and East Sussex Railway which has a station in Bodiam. For our train obsessed toddler, the frequent toots and chuffs of the trains across the countryside were mesmerising. It looks like one of our next family days out will have to be a trip along that line!

Kent and East Sussex Railway steam train in countryside

When Thomas Met Thomas

From the moment you have a child, you, and they, are bombarded with branding and characters. From clothes plastered with Disney creations, to CBeebies merchandise, to the characters from popular books being brought alive in a myriad of other ways, it’s impossible to escape entirely. We’ve not really actively sought out any of this stuff, but from what we have, it’s funny that the only character Thomas has gravitated towards is his namesake: Thomas the Tank Engine.

Perhaps this is because people have understandably tended to buy us items related to this particular character. Perhaps I’ve subconsciously encouraged it, especially because he adores trains (“toot toots”) in general. Thomas (the boy) is not all that bothered by television at all, but put Thomas (the Tank Engine) on, and it will captivate him enough that he actually sits still for as many a five minutes in a row!

When I realised that the real Thomas was paying a visit to a local steam railway just a couple of miles away, we decided to join him for a day out. To be honest, I was a bit concerned that Thomas might be too young to really appreciate it. We did take him for a ride on a steam train last year whilst we were away in the Cotswolds, and he certainly enjoyed himself then, smiling and clapping. And obviously he loves Thomas, but I wasn’t sure that he would understand the idea that this was the real Thomas. But we decided it would almost certainly be a fun experience anyway, and since it was so local, it seemed silly to miss out. (I will also confess that we sneaked Thomas in for free – the cut off for free tickets was 18 months, and Thomas turned 18 months two days before we went. You’d have done the same, right?)

It turned out that he had a blast, “toot tooting” and “peep peeping” to his heart’s content from the moment we arrived.

IMG_7288

Meeting the Fat Controller.

IMG_7294

The balloon modeller on the train was a hit.

IMG_7317

Snack time on the train.

IMG_7324

Captivated by Punch and Judy. He stood here for ages, giggling and pointing, which completely surprised me as I thought he would have no interest at all.

IMG_7325

Up close with Thomas

IMG_7369And… meeting a “Doooooh”

We had so much fun seeing him having so much fun. I have to be honest and say that before I became a parent, doing this sort of thing was one of the things about parenthood that I was really looking forward to. Enjoying days out and activities in the same way that I fondly remember doing as a child myself. What I didn’t anticipate was just how much joy I would get out of simply watching my child discover, explore, learn and enjoy these things, nevermind what the actual event of activity is. I thought it would be fun, but not this much fun!

IMG_7340

Down on the Farm

Thomas loves books about animals and farmyards. Animal noises are by far the largest ‘group’ of words that he can say, and he will point to pictures of all kinds which contain animals and excitedly proclaim the sound. So I’ve been waiting for the weather to improve to get him out to some farmyards and animal parks for a bit more exposure to the real thing.

Of course I’ve been waiting in vain. It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting any warmer weather any time soon, so this weekend we bit the bullet and headed to a local Rare Breeds centre for some farmyard fun.

As predicted, Thomas had a ball.

IMG_6888

IMG_6885

He enjoyed running around in the sun – even if it did keep breaking to snow too. And even though he still doesn’t own wellies, as his feet are still too small!

IMG_6892

We had trouble keeping up with him! Holding hands was a definite “No”, and the reins caused a tantrum too. The best way to get him to go in the direction we wanted him too was to get him to follow the snack pot in the pushchair. I’m ashamed to admit that I bribe my child with food!

IMG_6862

IMG_6869

IMG_6889

IMG_6901

There were plenty of animals to look at, and make appropriate noises at too.

IMG_6895

And there were even animals to stroke – although understanding of the word “gently” is a work in progress.

It was a shame that it was so cold, especially as the indoor restaurant facilities were very limited, and it was definitely no day for a picnic! But we all had great fun.

Just because Thomas won’t have a direct memory of activities that we do with him now doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthwhile for him, and for us as a family. And I want to make a record of them for him, so he can see pictures of what he is not able to recall.