Fiona and I met in the twitterverse about a year ago. It was a mutual admiration of the best kind; two outdoorsy moms, on two separate continents, doing their best to raise their kids wrapped in the loving arms of the great Mother Nature. With SIX kids, a farm to tend to and a business to run, Fiona and her husband are not only instilling in their family a deep respect of the land, they are also teaching them the value of hard work and bestowing upon them an immense understanding of what it means to be a steward of this great wide world.
Twelve years ago we took the decision to quit corporate life with the long office hours and good pay, move our young family to the depth of Cornwall, take on a holiday business and a farm and change our life style forever. Within two years we had doubled the family from 3 to 6 having triplets. Life would never be the same again in so many ways. Having 6 children in 6 years is hard, combine that with a new business too and my memories of those early years are sketchy. However I do know that family time was important, and that both Nick and I were always home for the children. If someone was poorly there was no need to take a day off work, or worry who would look after them, we were always here. If we wanted a family day out or to take advantage of a sunny day on the beach then we could do it with working time more flexible.
From the kid's perspective, the eldest was only four when we moved and even he has no memory pre Coombe Mill. For them every day brings the freedom and magic of outdoor play, a safe environment and thirty acres as their own back yard. In between school and the myriad of after school clubs they embrace farm life. There is always a camp to build, a river to play in, animals to care for and friends to make by way of our visiting guests, many of whom return year after year.
There are so many wooded sections at Coombe Mill that finding a secret area to build a camp is never hard. The children bounce ideas off each other and their camps can become small communities using all they find around them. One project took a whole weekend to make and became their hideout for games thereafter. They were torn between showing off their handy work and keeping it secret from me!
Our river can be dangerous in the height of a rainy spell in winter, it has even risen and broken its banks before and the children know the current is strong and not to venture near. However in the summer it can fall to just welly height and make an awesome place to take their surf boards and cool off on a sunny day.
When the river is off limits there is always dam building in the streams and tributaries
Our top lake is another favourite for water play
Every morning on our farm begins with a tractor ride where our own children and our guests are invited to join us to feed and care for the animals here. We have quite a selection and it is a real hands on experience. With no fear and years of practice my children can easily pick up a baby animal or flappy duck, much to the delight of our younger visitors who often haven't encountered such animals up close before. Free to return during the day it is a delight to watch children grow in confidence with the animals and countryside just on a week here at the farm.
When the holiday makers remark how lucky our children are to live here they just don't get it, for them this is the only life they know and they can't imagine living anywhere where running outside to play in nature's playground wasn't safe or normal. Their lifestyle is more like my own childhood where playing on the street or wondering off to the woods and parks alone with friends was deemed safe, I fear for many these days that is not the case. Traffic for starters in our cities and towns make crossing any road a challenge.
It's not all play though, Coombe Mill is a family business and that means all the children are expected to pull their weight. No one has pocket money for free and they are all developing a healthy business understanding as they grow up. With their age range now from 10 - 16 they really contribute to life on the farm. However don't feel too sorry for them, driving the tractor and giving train rides are just two of the fun jobs they have. Not a bad way to earn your pocket money!
If you fancy giving your family a taste of the freedom ours have at Coombe Mill, our holidays are designed with children in mind and offer a range of accommodation to suit every pocket. Hop aboard the morning tractor ride to help feed the animals with Farmer Nick and don't forget to finish the day with a train ride from Guy; a truly memorable holiday from a family who understands what matters to parents. www.coombemill.com
About the Author
Fiona Cambouropoulos, her husband and their SIX children moved to Coombe Mill in 2002, giving up the South East ‘rat race’ in favour of the ‘good life’ in the country. Coombe Mill is their business, their passion and their hobby and they live there in the heart of the estate. When Fiona has nothing else to do, she also blogs about her incredible adventures.