For much of the year, a large part of every day is spent outside. The garden at Elswick House has been designed with children in mind. With hidden paths, secret dens and lots of bushes to hide behind, it is a small childs paradise. There is a large lawned area for running and an enormous sand pit, with a wide paved surround, ideal for sand castles, the whole edged with scented, but indestructable, lavender bushes and shrubs.
Exercise is essential for the growth of strong, healthy bodies, so we have a great variety of climbing equipment for the children to climb on, jump off, balance and crawl through. At the top of the garden is a climbing frame and a tree house, where the children can climb to pick apples from the tree. Close to the house is a large terrace for riding cars and bicycles. A colourful wendy house often features strongly in the children's role play; currently it is a thriving garden centre.
Pets play an important part in the daily life of the children. We have three plump guinea pigs, which live an ideal life in a small paddock. We also have six quail (we are currently considering hatching some of their eggs) and five bantam chickens. The children love helping to feed all the animals and, especially, collecting the eggs from the chickens and the quail. Spike, a rescue hedgehog , now roams freely with her baby, Prickle.
We pick apples and plums in season, and make our own pies and crumbles. In the photograph below we are dicing some of our apples prior to juicing. The children like to help and certainly like to sample the apple juice! We sow seeds and grow vegetables and the children are involved in every stage from sowing, or planting, to harvesting and finally eating.
For the last two summers we also had our very own pet emu, called Ernie. He was wonderful with the children and they loved him. If you look carefully at one of the photographs above, where the children are sitting in a circle on the lawn, you might be able to spot Ernie.
Sadly Ernie is now fully grown and a bit too big to transport from his home in Lichfield to Nursery. Nevertheless, when we are on our trips out in the minibus, we sometimes stop to say hello to him, and he still remembers us. Well, we like to think so anyway!