Rushmere Country Park – woodland, heathland and meadow in Bedfordshire

Sometime you stumble upon somewhere that’s just perfect for the day out you had in mind, and that’s exactly what happened for us when we went to Rushmere Country Park in Bedfordshire.

Rushmere Country Park

We were on the lookout for somewhere for a nice walk. Somewhere where the kids could run off a bit of steam. And somewhere where we could appreciate nature and the countryside around us.

Rushmere Country Park

I’d initially heard of Rushmere Country Park as someone local had told me that it was the ideal place for kids with some decent bits of playground equipment. I’d managed to find their website, but as with so many places like this, you only really get a feel for them when you visit.

Where to find Rushmere

Located in Heath and Reach, just outside Leighton Buzzard, Rushmere Country Park is 400 acres of woodland, heathland and meadows, managed by the Greensand Trust on a not for profit basis. It is free to visit, with visitors just being asked to pay to park in the park.

Things to see and do

The main car park is located off Linslade Road and there you will also find the Herons View Visitors Centre and the ‘Tree Tops Cafe”. From here you can look down on the heronry. Established over the last 16 years this provides a secure breeding ground for approximately 10+ pairs of breeding grey herons each year. There are binoculars available to use, along with remote cameras. It’s an excellent opportunity to see the herons up close.

Rushmere Country Park

The main thing that we liked about Rushmere Country Park is that there was plenty of opportunity for children to just enjoy being children. As well as several play spots around the park – encouraging children to have a go at balancing, climbing, hiding, exploring, listening and looking – there are also loads of naturally occurring play areas too. Along the main path several fairy doors have been put in, which are perfect for younger children.

Our three kids spent ages just exploring the rhododendron bushes and the den like areas created under them. You know you’re on to a winner when your five year old (who didn’t want to go out originally!) describes it as “the best day out ever!”.

Finding your way around

Maps of the site are available from the visitor’s centre, and these show the different footpaths, bridleways and trails around the country park. There is also an access for all footpath that is suitable for wheelchairs and buggies.

Rushmere Country Park

The Woodpecker Trail is a circular walk of around an hour to the Stockgrove Lake and Visitor Centre (where there are also toilets and refreshments) and back. Not all of this is on the access for all route, although with a decent off-read pushchair I think you would manage. Although you might build up some good muscles in your arms in the uphill sections!

Rushmere Country Park

Our kids took their scooters with them, and although they needed to pull them in certain sections they did manage to get them all around the trail. Having the Stockgrove Visitor Centre at the half-way point of the trail was perfect for re-fuelling, especially since when we happened to be there there was an ice cream van parked up waiting for us.

A whole day of fun

There’s plenty at Rushmere Country Park to keep visitors entertained for a whole day. Especially families. As well as the refreshments available on site, there’s a decent sized picnic area and BBQs are allowed if raised off the ground. Dogs are also welcome at Rushmere.

Rushmere Country Park

There are cycling trails around the park, and some of these are really quite challenging in places, appealing to more experienced cyclists. Horse riders can also access the site along the public bridleway marked on the maps and on permissive horse routes (a Greensand Pass is required for this in advance).

Rushmere Country Park, Heron View Visitor Centre, Linslade Road, Heath and Reach, Bedfordshire, LU7 0EB. Tel: 01525 234260

Country Kids linky

Being organised when flying – with a bit of help from Snopake

Between us, Bonn and I have travelled enough to know what we’re doing when we go through an airport. Every since that first flight together, where we quickly navigated our way around the tourists at Luton and made a beeline for the bar, we’ve known we make good travel companions. It’s all about being organised when flying.

organised when flying snopake departure board

Airports seem to be designed to confuse travellers, especially those that don’t fly often. Most of the ones in the UK seem to have a layout designed around shopping rather than flying. You have to walk through wafts of perfume and aftershave and past duty free alcohol of all sorts before you get anywhere near your flight, or anywhere to sit whilst waiting for it.

Duty free is probably the last obstacle though. The problem is often to the queues and process to get that far. As everyone knows, since 9/11 security at airports is tight. I totally get why that is, but what you need to do can be confusing if you’re not familiar with it.

Travel documents

The key to getting to the air-side bar (or coffee shop) unscathed is being organised. Have all your paperwork in one place. Keep your tickets, passport and anything else you may need together. When I’m flying with an airline that doesn’t have electronic boarding cards I favour a travel wallet to keep everything in. Catching up with Snopake at the recent Blog On X in Manchester I was introduced to their Travel Holder which is a perfect solution.

organised when flying snopake travel holder passport

With separate sections for your passport, tickets and insurance documents it’s sturdy enough to be taken in and out my bag numerous times during a trip. There’s also a handy space inside to keep my EHIC, something that I’m always frightened of mislaying when I actually need it in Europe.

Tackling security

Travel paperwork isn’t the only thing that you need to be organised about at an airport. Understanding the security rules is key to a smooth journey from check in to bar. Different airlines allow you different amounts of hand luggage, but the European Airline Security Rules are the same. When you go through security you need to put all bags through the X-ray machine. Along with coats, bulky jumpers etc, large shoes and belts, belts, some watches. Depending on what I’m wearing it can sometimes feel like I’m stripping in the security queue, but remember that everyone else has to do the same.

When you put your bags into the tray they will ask you not to overfill it, and also to separate out your laptop or iPad, and also any liquids. Since November 2006 there is a restriction on the quantity of liquids that can be taken on board aircraft in hand luggage.

Rules about liquids on flights

Each passenger is allowed one single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag, which must not exceed 1 litre in capacity. That’s about 20cm x 20cm. Everything in that bag much be in separate containers and none of them must exceed 100ml in capacity. The bag must also be sealed.

organised when flying snopake airbag liquids through security

(Yep – spot my Gin & tonic lip balm there!)

If you get as far as security with anything bigger than 100ml or anything that won’t fit in a bag of the specified size it will be binned. End of story.

Most airports do have plastic bags available whilst you queue, but they’re usually flimsy ones that don’t last long. And you also end up delaying that trip to the bar whilst faffing around filling it!

I always get my liquids ready in a plastic bag before heading to the airport. But, it was usually a small plastic supermarket food bag that ended up screwed up in a right mess in my handbag. Again, Snopake have come to the rescue with their Air Bag. This durable bag meets all the EU airport security rules and is perfect for when you fly. As I went through Stansted this morning I literally flew through compared to various women (and yes they were all women…) who had to pack and re-pack their plastic bags of toiletries!

Just remember: Pack it right. Don’t miss your flight!

organised when flying snopake airbag travel holder

Disclaimer: Snopake gave me the Air Bag and Travel Holder featured in this post when I met them at Blog On X. There was no obligation to blog about them. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Hovercraft – the geekiest way to travel?

When I heard that Bonn had another job over on the Isle of Wight I knew I had to go with him. Heck, one of the first conversations the pair of us ever had was about the island’s train service (a post on that soon). The place is a transport geek’s paradise. Now only do you have vintage tube trains providing a mainline service. But there is also the geekiest method of sea travel known to man. The hovercraft.

Hovercraft Hovertravel Isle of Wight

Hovercraft to the Isle of Wight

Hovertravel have been providing passenger hovercraft services between Portsmouth and Ryde since 1965. In fact, it’s the only commercial hovercraft service in Europe. Can you get any geekier than that?

The fact we had to take a car with us meant that we travelled over to the Isle of Wight by more traditional car ferry this time. We’re determined however to take the hovercraft next time. Even if it does mean going backwards and forwards across the Solent a couple of times to make the logistics work! With it only being a ten minute journey that shouldn’t be too problematic.

If you’re on the island there’s a fantastically positioned footbridge over the train line that provide a brilliant vantage point. You can stand there and watch the hovercraft arrive and depart for as long as you want. I can promise that you’ll be astounded at their turnaround time.

That’s one of the big advantages of a hovercraft for foot passengers. The fact that they can just pull up onto a beach or other landing area means that there isn’t time spent docking. You also therefore don’t need so much infrastructure to support them.

And not forgetting. It just looks damn cool!

Understanding how it works

I’m pretty sure that any true transport geek wants to get their head around how the hovercraft actually works. That’s where the wonderful Ladybird books has all the answers for you.

Collecting vintage Ladybird books is one of my hobbies and I was therefore thrilled to see a copy of their “How It Works – The Hovercraft” book when I was in the Hovertravel terminal in Ryde. You can read all about it here and pop over to their website to buy a copy online too.

Hovertravel provide a passenger hovercraft service between Southsea, Portsmouth and Ryde, Isle of Wight. In Portsmouth there is a Hovertravel run Hoverbus that connects Southsea to Portsmouth Harbour. In Ryde it is only a short walk to Ryde Esplanade station on the Island Line and Ryde bus station. You can find out more about Hovertravel, including their timetable and fares, over on their website.

Guernsey – Five quick facts

With the recent release of the film The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tourist numbers to this part of the Channel Islands is on the rise. Not everyone knows where Guernsey is though, or much about it. So here are my top five facts that I think everyone should know about Guernsey.


German Occupation of Guernsey

Probably the best known fact about the island, and core to the film, is Guernsey’s occupation by the Germans. The Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey were the only parts of the British Isles to be occupied during the War. The occupation lasted from 30 June 1940 until 9 May 1945, and so 9 May is celebrated as liberation day.

American Mary Ann Shaffer found herself stranded at Guernsey airport by fog and picked up a book about the occupation to kill time until flights resumed. This is what inspired her to write the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Bailiwick of Guernsey

When people say “Guernsey” they assume you’re talking about one island, but the Bailiwick actually consists of four main islands. As well as a plethora of smaller islands. There is Guernsey itself, the biggest of the islands and home to the majority (63,000) of the local population. In comparison, Alderney has a population of approximately 1,900 and Sark 600. Herm (population 60) is part of the Parish of St Peter Port, on the island of Guernsey.

Guernsey, and Jersey are Crown Dependancies. So, whilst they are not part of the United Kingdom, The UK is responsible for the defence and international relations. Each Bailiwick has its own independent laws, elections, and representative bodies.

The Guernsey Pound

Whilst not having a totally separate currency, Guernsey (like Jersey) issues its own bank notes. The Guernsey Pound is linked to the British Pound and you can use either notes in the Bailiwick. Around places like St Peter Port you can find cash machines that distribute British Pounds, but any that are unmarked will give you local notes.

Trying to spend them in the UK will result in blank faces, but go to any bank and they will exchange them back to Sterling for you.

Oldest Postbox

Guernsey post box

Whilst most postboxes that you find in the Bailiwick are blue (the postal service being run by Guernsey Post) there is one red one to be found. On Union Street in St Peter Port is what is believed to be the oldest pillar-box still in use in the British Isles.

Guernsey post box Guernsey post box

It has been repainted in the livery that it is though to have had in 1852/53, when it was first installed.

Guernsey Sweaters

You may not have needed a jumper at all when we visited, but the Bailiwick is famous for its knitwear. Developed in the 17th century these traditional sweaters were primarily worn by fishermen. A traditional style “diamond” insert under the arms made it easier for those wearing it to move their arms around.

The jumpers had distinctive stitches within the pattern that mirrored things like a sailing ship’s rope ladder, crashing waves and pebbles, stones and sand. Each family had variations on the pattern and many fishermen who were lost at sea were identified by their jumpers.


For more information on Guernsey please visit the local tourist boards’s website and look out on Penny Travels for further posts about our visit there.

Learning to travel

travel os maps

I was trying to work out the other day when it is you stop just “going on holiday” and instead start “travelling”. Is there really a difference? I mean, you can obviously travel out being on holiday, but can you holiday without travelling?

When you’re a child you’re normally just taken on holiday, but I do know some lucky children who would describe themselves as going travelling. Strangely, for me, I think there was an obvious moment when I realised the difference.

I was “on holiday” with my parents up on the west coast of Scotland. My Dad was off taking photos somewhere and being a typical stroppy teenager I stayed in the car. This being before mobile phones I picked up the Rough Guide (probably the one for the Scottish Highlands and Islands) and started leafing through it. I found myself in the section for Ullapool (a place I am now desperate to return to) and remember suddenly realising that I was reading  listings for laundrettes and where you could get internet access locally (this dates the story).

It was reading those listings that I suddenly had this lightbulb moment in which I realised that travelling was different to being on holiday. On holiday you tend to go where where you want to go and then come home again, bringing your dirty washing home with you. Travelling you look at places totally differently. You try and understand how the locals live. You don’t just go to the main tourist sites, but instead you try and get a feel of how the locals live.

Years ago, I used to attend a series of European conferences for young engineers. At them we talked lots about the mobility of engineers across Europe and how we could better ourselves by travelling and understanding the different work cultures. One important lesson I was taught by a German delegate was that to properly travel somewhere you needed to work out how to take public transport and also find and eat the local fast food. When I first heard this I just laughed, but then the more I thought about it, the more I realised he was right. It’s now exactly what I try to do whenever I go somewhere new.

It’s also not just about the destination, but the journey to get there. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of train travel, but I’ve also got a soft spot for ferries and any other slower mode of transport. Air travel is fine, but you don’t get to see as much from the air as you do when on land or sea. As a child I watched Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days and I was hooked.

Yes he want to some amazing destinations (and was the reason I was always so keen to visit Hong Kong) but it was so much more about the travel adventure to get around the world. The modes of transport, the routes they took and the people that he met during the journey. If I ever had a travel dream it would be to recreate that journey and share it online. It really would be the ultimate bit of travelling.

I might not be able to afford to take 80 days out to travel around the world, but I try to squeeze in as much travel as I can (both close to home and further away) and plan to share as much of it as possible. I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.