Free range children at Coombe Mill

I should start this post with a bit of a warning – there are rather a lot of photographs in it!   We took so many pictures on our holiday to Cornwall last week that it’s taken me days to prep the first of a series of posts about our South West adventure.

I wouldn’t normally write an entire blog post about holiday accommodation either – but last week we were staying somewhere special.  I’ve been wanting to stay at Coombe Mill for ages, having read reviews from other bloggers – and the final opportunity we have for taking a term-time holiday before Alex starts school gave me the chance to take my family there.

And I wasn’t disappointed.  Nestled between Bodmin Moor and the North Cornish coast, the peaceful hamlet of cottages and lodges was the perfect contrast to our crazy city life.  With a complete lack of mobile signal and the only background noise the bubbling River Camel, I properly unplugged myself from work.

We were staying in beautiful Water Mill cottage, one of the oldest buildings on the site – complete with a snug wood burning stove and lush, green views.  We were super comfortable, and the children enjoyed sharing a room!


Lovely though the cottage was, we spent very little time indoors. Coombe Mill was heaven for Alex and Sophie with over 30 acres to explore.  Every morning, they accompanied Farmer Nick on the daily feed run around the farm – visiting and feeding a whole range of animals.  Here’s Alex getting ready for his turn driving the tractor, and bottle feeding baby Sprout the goat – a real favourite of all the guests!


Here we are with some of the other goats, including bottle feeding little Rocky:


I think we all would have enjoyed taking baby Sprout home with us – the children are still talking about Sprout now!


We fed our leftover food to the resident pigs and enjoyed guessing which food they’d eat first from the massive pile of scraps:


We held and stroked tiny chicks, fed chickens and ducks, and hunted for eggs – eating more in a week than we have for months!


And we even got up close to a gorgeous group of deer every day!


Every day the feed run ended at the bunny enclosure, which was probably Sophie’s favourite place on the farm.  I loved how we were welcome to visit the animals any time we wanted, so we regularly popped in to see the rabbits if we found we had some time spare, gathering fresh grass for them to coax them close.  I was seriously tempted to bring one of them home – but I’m not sure they’d have enjoyed my tiny urban garden after the freedom of Coombe Mill!


And we visited the resident horses


One day we spotted Sophie having a very animated conversation with the horses – so funny to watch, although I have no idea what they were talking about!


Here are my proud pair posing for pictures in a tree they climbed every morning on the feed run – they insisted we take their photos there every day!


If the feed run was how we started each day at Coombe Mill, the day ended with a trip on the farm’s little railway!  Right outside our cottage, the tiny track was a real highlight for the children.  With driver Guy, one of the owners’ six children, Alex and Sophie loved chugging around the track, and acting as signalman and stationmaster – waving the flag and blowing the whistle to get the rides underway.


It was such a nice way to close each day, gathering with the other guests – and usually joined by Sprout the Goat who loved running along after the train (check out owner, Fiona’s, video, complete with Superman Alex!)


One of my favourite things about staying at Coombe Mill was the freedom it allowed Alex and Sophie.  With several fabulous play areas, and so many animals to visit, the children were able to roam quite freely around the estate.  From our cottage, we could see their favourite play area which included a massive trampoline (always a winner for Family Agar) – and we got to the point where we’d happily let Alex and Sophie head over to it by themselves and play together.  It was such a pleasure as a parent to see them grow in confidence and enjoy the kind of freedom they don’t have a hope of experiencing in central London.

Of course, we didn’t let them play alone all the time – who can resist a bounce?!


Alex and Sophie particularly enjoyed being one of the first guests to experience the new Mud Kitchen, toiling away to make “hot chocolate” and mud pies, sending me on multiple trips down to the River Camel for water!


As well as the mud kitchen, Sophie was quite a fan of the Fairy Garden – a beautiful area in the woodland full of decorations and crafts made my previous guests.  We loved the decorations twinkling in the trees.

And Sophie adored the beautiful animal stones dotted around the clearing.  Alex practiced his reading identifying all the animals they represented.

Fairy Garden 2

We visited the Mud Kitchen and Fairy Garden again during the weekly children’s activity hour – but for a slightly cleaner activity!  Led by owner Fiona, the children made colourful wands and collected flowers, leaves and seeds to make a fairy meal!  The addition of a dressing up box was a big success – and Sophie looked particularly gorgeous in her fairy dress and wellies!  She’d fit right in at Glastonbury!


Back at the mud kitchen, the gang of children carefully mixed and cooked the fairy food:


They then headed up to the Fairy Garden to sprinkle it around for the resident fairies!  Sophie was quite dedicated to that, feeding flowers to the gnomes and dwarves!


Meanwhile, Alex turned his attention to helping build a “bug hotel” – perhaps more his thing than feeding fairies!


The children loved everything about staying at Coombe Mill!  They made friends with the other guests, enjoyed the freedom to explore and adored the brilliant play areas and activities.  And as a parent, it was just the right balance of organised, outdoor fun for the kids, and relaxed, independent space for us to spend time as a family.  We even got to enjoy some time to ourselves, Matt getting a couple of (very hilly) runs in and me enjoying some peaceful walks around the estate and beyond.


I loved the bluebell woods, and the fresh, green landscape – clearly all the rain we’ve had this Spring has done wonders for this part of the country!


There were colours everywhere – I snapped all these within a minute of our cottage.


Well done – you made it through all the pictures!  And that’s just where we stayed!  Got a couple more posts to come about what we got up to around beautiful Cornwall.


5 thoughts on “Free range children at Coombe Mill

  1. It looks so amazing I might just book in! Seriously what a lovely way to end my day reading your post, you really embraced the spirit of Coombe Mill joining in with all the activities and making friends. Your children were a delight and clearly loved their time with us, I have a Country Kids post coming up on the activity hour you mention here and it is very photo heavy with your children as they were so willing to try everything and join in, they are a credit to you both. I do hope we will be welcoming you back again on the farm one day.


  2. Pingback: Our Cornish adventure {On the coast} | Diary of a Herne Hill mum

  3. Pingback: A winter week at Coombe Mill (2/3) | Diary of a Herne Hill mum

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