In May half term we embarked on our first ever mini family road trip through Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire, visiting family and friends and staying for a couple of days in each place. You can read all about our time at a beautiful, wisteria-covered farmhouse in Somerset in Part One; our first ever experience of staying in an Airbnb in Dorset in Part Two; and this final post – Part Three – covers our time in Hampshire staying with my best friend and exploring the vast depths of the New Forest.
Part 3: Hampshire
I had been looking forward to this leg of our mini family road trip for months – nine months to be exact. We last visited my best friend and her husband in August last year and spent a lovely couple of days staying with them: we visited the New Forest Wildlife Park and explored Keyhaven and Milford-on-Sea. A gorgeous mini-break that was made even better when she told me that she was pregnant! I honestly couldn’t have been happier for them and I was overjoyed when they found out they would be having a girl.
They came up to Staffordshire to visit us back in January this year and I took them out on a little mini maternity photoshoot in the snow to capture her beautifully blooming belly – it’s something I really wish I’d done when I was pregnant with each of my three girls and so to be able to document this special time in their lives for them felt like a huge honour. I took a solo trip down to see them again in February for the baby shower, knowing that it would be the last time I saw them before their baby was born in March. I was desperate to get down there as soon as possible after she was born and was devastated when I just couldn’t make it happen because of work and school events getting in the way.
This family road trip stop in Southampton, therefore, was an incredibly special one – the very first time we were to meet their new baby.
We checked out of our Airbnb early and headed across to Southampton, arriving by lunchtime. I’ll be honest – pretty much the entire afternoon was taken up with getting acquainted with their gorgeous ten week old daughter. Ella, Mimi and Lola cooed over her and cuddled her (in between giving the dogs lots of fuss too of course), I took endless photos of them all together – capturing as many details as I could – and it was just wonderful. We spent an hour or so at the local park as well so the girls could stretch their legs and have some fresh air after the longish journey over from Sherborne (where we’d been staying before), whilst we caught up on each other’s news over steaming cups of hot chocolate.
Hot showers for the girls plus pizza for dinner whilst we all snuggled down to watch ‘The Greatest Showman’ was the perfect end to a really lovely day.
We awoke the next morning to steely grey skies but, not wanting the weather to get the better of us, we decided to head out for a long morning walk anyway. Last time we stayed with them we went to Deer Leap. This time the choice was Millyford Bridge as it’s a well known location for seeing wild New Forest ponies and it was the perfect time of year for spotting foals with their mothers. The girls were beside themselves with excitement at this possibility, whilst the baby snoozed, unimpressed, in the baby carrier, peacefully snuggled up against her Mum.
It was an absolutely gorgeous walk – over four miles (almost 6.5km) in total – and the girls did brilliantly. The drizzle eventually faded away into nothingness and the forest rewarded us with a thousand different hues of lush greens, puddles that were perfect for jumping in, and, right at the end just as we were starting to lose hope of ever catching a glimpse of them, some New Forest ponies with their foals! We stood for a while watching them, utterly transfixed. It’s so special being able to witness something like that in the wild.
We were all completely worn out that afternoon – I think travelling around so much had really taken it out of us without us realising – so we spent the time quietly reading, playing cards and having more cuddles and photographs with the baby. I knew that Ella and Lola would adore her instantly, though I wasn’t sure how Mimi would be with her – she’s not particularly cuddly and has said multiple times that she doesn’t ever want to have children when she’s older. And of course she fell in love with the baby too, happily sat with her on her lap, playing with her tiny fingers and gazing into her startlingly blue eyes. It was such a lovely thing to see.
The girls crashed out as soon as their heads hit the pillow that evening, leaving us grown ups to enjoy a delicious home-cooked dinner of oriental salmon, egg fried rice and veggies before talking late into the night.
As always, our time with our friends was over far too quickly. It’s a cliche to say it but there really is never enough time. We snuck out of the house at 5.45am the following morning to make the long journey home, hoping for a better trip back than we had on the way down. Thankfully our plan worked and we were home by 8.30am after a smooth and uneventful drive.
6 days; 478 miles on the road; 4 counties; 3 different houses; approximately 1,682 shouts of “Are we there yet?”, “I feel sick” and “I’m bored!”; 3 dogs, 3 cats and 1 baby; plus a ton of catching up, hugs and laughter with family and friends; long countryside walks and muddy wellies. And it all added up to 3 tired kiddos; 2 tired parents and 5 very full and happy hearts.
Our first ever family road trip was certainly an experience and I learnt a lot. I may even write a post all about it with some tips that worked for us (as well as things to avoid!). I’m really glad we did it – being able to spend time with my family and friends meant the world to me and being able to explore such different parts of our beautiful home country was eye-opening. The UK is such a unique part of the world.
I’m definitely up for another family road-trip somewhere else in the UK in the not-too-distant future, though I don’t think the girls are quite so keen because of the amount of time spent in the car. It was definitely a good practice run for a ‘proper’ family road-trip in the USA one day though and I’m already beginning to map out some ideas of where we could visit.
I wonder where our travels will take us next…?