Tuesday 17 January 2017

A Creepy Visit To Bodmin Jail

A couple of weeks ago, myself & Jon had the very rare opportunity to head out for the day with only our eldest son Tyne as my parents had kindly offered to look after the babies for the afternoon.

We gave Tyne the freedom to choose where we would visit, but we all knew where he was going to pick - he had been talking about Bodmin Jail for weeks, ever since I first mentioned it to him when he had asked me about being allowed to visit "a real prison".

Tyne is almost 4 years old you see, and ever since he read Allan Ahlberg's Cops & Robbers and watched Home Alone at Christmas, he has been utterly fixated with "robberies" (which is what he calls robbers!), arresting people and sending them to jail!

So I told him about Bodmin Jail - a historic former prison built in the late 1700s  that is now a family tourist attraction - and he couldn't wait to visit.

Bodmin in Cornwall is around a 90 minute drive from where we live, so we set off around 11.30 am and arrived for 1pm which was great timing.

As soon as you drive up to the jail, the feeling of eeriness creeps over you - the building is large and imposing, and something about it just lets you know that it's a place of darkness and misery.

A Spooky Experience....

When we arrived, I was rather desperate for the loo after our long drive and hopped out of the car to nip into the portacabin toilets while Jon parked the car up in the overflow car park.

I hadn't looked at the building or its surroundings at all at this point, I was just very much in need of a wee so I popped into the loo, did my business and came out of the cubicle...it was only at that moment, as I turned to my left to walk towards the sink and wash my hands, that I suddenly felt very uneasy.

I had this feeling of dread and fear wash over me...I don't know where it came from as I had felt just fine only moments before, but I suddenly had a very strong desire not to walk in that direction...I felt that something truly dreadful was waiting for me over there to my left and that if I willingly walked that way then I would be sorry.

I was even frightened to look too far over in that direction, and instead I decided to forego washing my hands (ick) and just LEAVE the toilets as quickly as possible....I practically ran out of the door (and almost collided with a member of staff outside, oops!).

Don't worry, I had hand sanitizer so it was all good....but remember this story for later on...the ending was quite interesting!

Inside The Jail...

An example of modern prison life...

Compared to prison life back then...

So...Jon & Tyne joined a slightly spooked me, and we headed inside to the jail itself...we paid our entrance fee of £20 (£10 each for adults, and under 5's go free!) and walked around to the exhibition entrance behind the cafe.

The jail is set over 6 levels, and you are free to walk around in your own time in any order you want to....we decided to explore the entry level first and then head up to the top before working our way down to the basement.

The jail cells contained mannequins to portray the various prisoners of years gone by, with plaques on the walls explaining who they were and how they came to be in Bodmin Jail.

Some of the stories were extremely sad but all of them very interesting.

The first cells we came to were the condemned cells, and the plaque on the wall informed us that the first two prisoners held there to await their executions were Selina Wadge for the murder of her infant son and William Bartlett for the murder of his illegitimate baby daughter.

The mannequins weren't exactly Madame Tussauds style quality or realism but this didn't take away from the attraction at all, as it was their stories that were the real draw...to read about the practises that took place and the way the prisoners lived, as well as what drove many of them to commit their crimes and the punishments they faced was both enthralling and unnerving all at once.

One particular tale that really haunted me was that of a woman who was hung for begging, and was taken to the gallows with her children clinging to her skirts and her baby still suckling at her breast....as it was common practise for children to be locked up with their mothers for lack of anything else to do with them.

There were other stories that haunted me too, and seeing the place where the condemned were taken to be executed gave me a real chill.

In the "long room" (I forget which level this was on, unfortunately!) there is a fantastic display around the story of Selina Wadge...whom I mentioned earlier as being the first person to be hung at Bodmin Jail... Selina's story is one that has haunted me since our visit.

She was a young single mother to two children - by all accounts a good and loving mother - but when she met a man who offered to care and provide for her and her eldest child on the condition that she did away with the youngest child (due to his disability), she could apparently see no other option so she took her baby out onto the moors and dropped him down a well.

Selina was sentenced to death, and was filled with remorse and guilt at her actions - her spirit is said to roam the halls of bodmin jail to this day, appearing mostly to young children as she attempts to apologise and make up for the harm she brought to her own young child.

I found the story so sad and moving in itself, but the display really added to the overall feel...there was a projection of Selina as she dropped her baby to the well, followed by a moving projection of her ghost with a voiceover talking through her feelings and thoughts around her act - it was honestly very powerful and very well put together - a must-see although perhaps a tad spooky for any particular easily-spooked younger visitors so maybe check that area out first yourself if you're concerned that your little ones may not like it.

In other areas of the prison there items on display such as instruments of torture and hard labour, displays around the kitchen and the food the prisoners lived on (I was quite amused to see scouse on the list...a dish my mother has forced on me since childhood which I often compared to prison gruel!) as well many more stories around the prisoners who once resided in Bodmin Jail's walls - the wall dedicated to the stories of the child prisoners was another that stuck with me.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Our 5 Year Travel Plan

We've all heard of the 5 year plan, right?!

Those life plans made around the topic of homes, mortgages, marriages and babies that very few of us tend to stick to?

Well, I stopped making such plans a long time ago as I soon discovered that nothing ever goes according to them so why bother...but I haven't given up on the concept entirely.

The Virgo in me loves a list, and so when I turned 35 at the tail end of 2016 I decided to start a 5 Year Travel Plan...I made a list of the top places I'd love to visit with the boys, and set about pricing them up, working out our travel budget, figuring out the ages the boys would be at each point over the course of the next 5 years and decided which destination fit best with their ages and our budgets in each of the five years!


Having the plan in place has allowed me to organise our holidays according to what will suit them all age wise, and given me specific savings goals to work towards to ensure we can pull them all off.

So what does our 5 Year Plan look like?


Our travel plans are already long booked and organised for this year, kicking off with a trip to Butlins Minehead in March.

We visited Butlins Minehead last year and the kids really enjoyed it, and surprisingly so did we! It was one of the most fun and relaxing family holidays we've had to date and all five of us are excited to go back again.

This time we're visiting between Tyne & Noah's 4th and 2nd birthdays, so it should really add to all of the birthday excitement!

Our second and main holiday of the year is a 2 week Mediterranean Cruise on board the fabulous Royal Caribbean cruise ship  Independence Of The Seas.

After our first taster of a family cruise with P & O last year, we were determined to try again with a more "fun" ship and we knew it just had to be the Indy - Jon & I enjoyed a 10 day Canary Isles cruise on board the Indy back in 2012 and had the time of our lives, so we just know that the kids will absolutely love the party ship atmosphere.

The itinerary for the cruise looks great, and we're visiting quite a few destinations that none of us has been to before including two ports in Italy (Rome, and Florence/Pisa), two in the South Of France (Nice & Provence),  as well as Gibraltar and Malaga, and Lisbon in Portgual (which is the only port we have visited before).

With those two holidays planned, and big ideas for holidays over the coming years we need to try and be careful with any additional breaks we take but I'm crossing my fingers that we may be able to squeeze in another mini break to Disneyland Paris and perhaps Cornwall. We can only hope!


The plan for this year is to plan a definite Disneyland Paris trip around the boys birthdays in March, as we're not sure if we'll get there in 2017 so want to be sure of a visit in 2018!

We then plan to surprise the boys with a trip to Santa's Lapland in December as our big trip of the year. The trips are quite pricey for how short they are, and we did toy with the idea of doing a day trip but I don't enjoy flying at all and as this will be my first flight in a long time I don't really fancy the idea of doing the outbound and return ones so close together...I'd rather spend a couple of days there and spread them out!

The kids will be 5, 3 and 2 when we have our visit which I think will be the perfect ages for it as they will hopefully all be right in the middle of that magical stage of proper unquestioning belief in Santa and will hopefully all understand the whole Christmas thing (their birthdays are February and March, so the youngest two will be almost 3 and 4!).

I'm really looking forward to this one as it's somewhere I have always wanted to go and I think the experience with the kids will be unforgettable, I really hope we can pull this one off.


This is the year that we will need to go for lower key holidays in order to save up for a bigger trip next year, so the plan is to try to visit a few places in and around the UK that we haven't been to before and have always wanted to see.

My top choice for this is to visit Ireland as I have always wanted to go and for some reason have never got around to it, so this would be the ideal time for a visit.

I do think that Ireland might not be all that exciting a prospect for the kids though, so we will also try to squeeze in a trip to Center Parcs around Christmas time too if we can stretch to it.

There will be no Disneyland Paris trip planned this year, becaaaause...


Is the year of Walt Disney World!

It's something I've been thinking about for ages and I have always wanted to visit, but I hate flying so much that the prospect of the long journey has put me off (although I have flown longer distances before to Venezuela, but I seem to have become more afraid since then?!).

But after how much we all loved Disneyland Paris, I really think that taking the plunge and experiencing Walt Disney World as a family is a must - we want to wait until all 3 of the boys are old enough to get something out of it and old enough that they will be able to go on most of the rides as we don't have other family members to travel with and wouldn't want to be split up with someone staying off to hold the baby...so in 2020 when Tyne will be 7, Noah will be 5 and Sailor will be 4 I think the timing will be perfect - they should all be able to ride most things, and they should all be able to deal with the flight times.

I just hope we can save enough to stretch to it, but I'm hoping that a lower key travel year in 2019 will make it possible - fingers crossed!


This is the year of the BIG 4-0 for me so it seems only fair that the years holiday destination is the one place I have been dying to visit ever since I can remember, the ONE destination I would most love to tick off my list...

The place that, if someone gifted me a million pounds tomorrow, I would immediately head off to...


The year of my 40th birthday seems like the perfect time to FINALLY treat myself to a trip to the Big Apple, and I can't think of a better time to go than Christmas when we can see the huge tree at Rockefeller Centre and go ice skating...I'm undecided about whether to visit in early December or just go all out and aim for a New Years visit but we'll see...


So there it is...the 5 Year Travel Plan! It's ambitious, I admit...there are some pricey trips on there but I am hopeful that with a bit of frugality and a lot of saving that we will be able to pull it off...fingers crossed!!!

If you have been to any of these destinations and came point me in the direction of deals, money saving tips or blogs on the subject...please let me know!

And of course we'll be blogging our way throughout, too so don't forget to pop back for updates!

Do you have a 5 year travel plan? I'd love to hear whats on your Travel bucket list!

Dear Bear and Beany

Thursday 5 January 2017

Our Top Travel Moments Of 2016

With a fresh new year upon us, it feels like time for a change...

I want a new challenge and new adventures for us as a family. 

In the reflective state I always find myself in when a new year rolls around, I spent some time thinking about the highlights of 2016 for us...and (except for the birth of our third little boy, of course!) they were all travel related.

And so I decided to come back to this neglected little space I had started a while back and breathe some fresh life into it...to start using it to record our travel experiences and share our travel tips and advice with other families of young children.

Today I want to share a little look back over our 2016 travel experiences.

Butlins Minehead

In May, we had our first holiday of the year when we headed to Butlins Minehead as part of our role as Butlins Ambassadors to enjoy their Just For Tots break.

 It was our first experience of a Butlins holiday, and after being apprehensive about what to expect from the accommodation and food I was both surprised and delighted to discover that the standards were exceptionally high and the week ended up being one of the happiest of the 2016.

When I think back to our time at Butlins my mind is filled with memories of lazy beach days, fun exploring the many kids activities on offer, endless entertainment and long relaxing yet fun filled days spent as a family...just perfect!

You can read our full review HERE

P & O Cruises Aurora

2016 was the year we took our first cruise as a family (Jon & I having first experienced cruising before the children came along!) and we chose P & O...it was a bit hit and miss in all honesty but we did love the cruise experience, and have booked another cruise holiday for 2017...however we chose a different cruise line due to feeling a bit let down by P & O with this experience.

We would try a bigger P & O ship in the future in the hopes of a more fun atmosphere & itinerary, but we found the Aurora much too stuffy for a family holiday...however, we still made the most of it as we always do and had a wonderful time!

Read our full write up on our P & O Cruises experience HERE


Our cruise took us through the Norwegian Fjords and we had a fantastic time exploring the best of Norway...with day trips to Stavanger, Bergen, Olden and...my personal favourite...beautiful Flam, we had an absolutely magical time.

Norway is one of the most tranquil and beautiful places I have ever visited and I would love to return to Flam for a longer stay in the future...just breathtaking.

Read all about our time in Norway HERE

St Ives

In September we headed back to one of our favourite holiday spots, Cornwall, this time to stay in St Ives which was a new area to us and we were 100% sold on it...the weather during our stay was perfect and we spent plenty of time on the beautiful white sandy beaches and exploring the grounds of the stunning Tregenna Castle Hotel...read all about it HERE


In October, we enjoyed another few days Staycation exploring a part of the UK that we hadn't visited before...Bath!

We enjoyed a stay in an absolutely stunning city centre apartment courtesy of the fabulous Bath Boutique Stays and the mini break gave us a real taste for the city - unfortunately it coincided with a period of mega-tantrums from the mini people and our lack of forward planning meant we struggled to see much thanks to our massive double buggy, but we have already said that we would love to visit Bath again this year as a couple to really make the most of everything the beautiful city has to offer!

Read more about our stay HERE

Disneyland Paris

And finally, October also brought our first ever long-awaited trip to Disneyland Paris!

A trip I had been desperate to take since my own childhood...we finally ventured there for Halloween season and had the most memorable and enjoyable 4 days that I can recall ever having.

We stayed at Hotel Santa Fe, and travelled by Eurostar from Ebbsfleet - everything about the trip was faultless and it's hard to say which one of us enjoyed it most - we all talk about going back every single day and would love to be able to visit again in 2017!

Read more about our Disneyland Adventure HERE

We had such amazing and unforgettable experiences in 2016, it really was filled with adventures and we hope that 2017 will be filled with many more.

Watch this space!

To follow our travel adventures this year, don't forget to follow our blog

© Sparkle's Suitcase | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template by pipdig