Tag Archives: walnut

Battle of the Playhouse

A visit to my parents is guaranteed to inspire feelings of envy. Surprisingly, it’s not their lovely house or well-stocked garden that brings out the little green monster. No, it’s their playhouse.

Oscar outside Walnut Cottage

Oscar outside Walnut Cottage

My father, never knowingly under-built, has surpassed himself with this one. Based in a corner tower, half hidden behind a beautiful Walnut tree, it is a medieval creation extraordinaire.

From its oak doorway with its ancient key to its feature windows with leaded lights, this is unlike any playhouse you’ve ever seen.

Everything has been custom built to two-thirds size by a somewhat eccentric Grandpa. This includes a pair of medieval truckle beds on the mezzanine floor as well as a trestle table, stools, benches, matching chests and dresser.

Ava climbing the play house ladder

Ava climbing the play house ladder

And, of course, there is a fitted carpet and mains electric – not exactly authentic to the period but a sight more comfortable.

Today, we head back home, and return to our far humbler version – Willow Cottage.

This is more of a second little pigs creation – wood rather than straw, but still unlikely to survive a wolf-assault. Having said that, it has given countless hours of entertainment to numerous children.

Willow Cottage was simply an off-the-shelf wooden playhouse from B&Q. It took a whole weekend to prepare the base and put the thing together, but it was definitely worth it.

However, the real fun was in customising it – Pimp My Playhouse is surely coming to our screens soon.

We painted ours using a couple of Cuprinol Heritage shades – they look great, protect the wood and, unlike paint, won’t flake off. I also made curtains, put in a carpet off-cut and filled it with child sized chairs, table and cupboard. More recently, I bought an old play kitchen via eBay which has been a real hit.

Willow Cottage - a far humbler affair

Willow Cottage - a far humbler affair

Outside, the playhouse enjoys its own brick basketweave patio and over time, with the children’s help, we are planting up the surrounding beds.

My next indulgence will be to buy some wooden shingles to add to the roof in a bid to hide the felt covering.

None of these embellishments will, of course, come close to the perfections of the vastly superior Walnut Cottage. Still, I guess it’s a bit like Chelsea versus Ebbsfleet United – no need to compete when you’re in a completely different league.


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Filed under Children's garden features

Bark Rubbing, Moats and Other Half Term Mayhem

It’s half term, so I’ve run away.  Don’t get me wrong – I have taken the children with me (social services might have had words otherwise). However, I am a wimp and I’ve done my usual trick of bolting to my parents when faced with a week of uninterrupted childcare.

There is also the added attraction of a huge garden for Ava and Oscar to run wild in.  This does though include a moat, which is what I call a water feature with serious safety issues, especially given Oscar’s dubious sense of balance.  The result is, whenever the kids decide to go out, I have to don wellies and coat and join them.

After countless games of hide-and-seek – where I have to hide, yet still be able to watch Oscar and large bodies of water – I thought we should try something a little different.  So today, before lunch, we went bark rubbing.

Ava and Oscar bark rubbing

Ava and Oscar bark rubbing

It’s such a simple thing to do – you only need crayons and paper – yet my 5 and 3-year-old were surprisingly taken with the whole exercise.

We also made sure we identified the trees as we went.  As well as noticing the difference in bark – from a relatively smooth beech to the fissures of an oak and the white of a silver birch – I pointed out the variety of bud shapes and the children looked for more clues on the floor such as the walnut shells, acorns and the very distinctive oak leaves.

We are going to paste the rubbings into the children’s garden journals this afternoon, but not before we test their grandpa on his bark identification.

You could also cut the pieces of paper into leaf shapes and make a tree collage from the various bark rubbings or even use them to start your own tree guide.

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Filed under Outdoor gardening projects