Pickwell Manor is privately-owned and run by two families, the Bakers and the Elliotts, who live and work together. Tracey Elliott, owner of Pickwell Manor in North Devon, is a keen crafter inside in the house and outside, particularly at autumn. Here's her top tips on some crafty things to do with the kids this season.
Make an autumn hedgehog: Think about how hedgehogs curl up for the winter and hibernate. Make its body out of mud or clay. Then use leaves, pine needles or spiky nutshells to create the hedgehog spines - you can collect these from the wood. Alternatively, you stick googly eyes on to pine cones. In our garden at Pickwell we have a hedgehog box to help our real hedgehogs find somewhere snugly and safe to sleep for the winter.
Design a treasure hunt around the garden: At Pickwell we have a permanent treasure hunt around the garden using 'orienteering punches' and a map. It is easy to make a quick treasure hunt by drawing a picture of something in the garden, or describe it, and the hide the next clue in that place. Continue to create six or seven clues and at the final place hide some sweets or a treat.
Make a fairy garden: Grab a dinner plate or a tray and put mud on the tray to create the contours of the land. Use moss to cover the mud so it looks like the grass, add tin foil to make a river or pond and use small bits of twigs to make tress. Then your grandchildren can use Lego figures or any other small toys they have to play with on their fairy garden.
Make autumn leaf-bunting: This looks lovely draped between the trees around our fire pit, it really does add an extra touch of magical. Start by putting your string up between trees around your garden and then use a glue gun (plugged in with an extension lead - make sure you supervise the children!) to glue the leaves to the string. This really does look wonderful with all of the gorgeous colours of the autumn leaves. You can also ass in some chestnut shells and other autumn garden-finds up. The leaf-bunting would be a great decoration at a bonfire party.
Have a bonfire: Talking of bonfire… children love to help build fires. At Pickwell we have a fire pit area for families to enjoy, but you may want to find a sheltered area in your garden to have your own (just make sure that you are well away from sheds, fences and low-hanging trees). Why not teach them how to make their own fire and light it without using matches. You can get fire starter kits with tinder and strikers on the internet. There is nothing better than snuggling up round a fire. Maybe sing a quick round of ‘Campfire's Burning'. If you need a reminder of how this old Scout song goes check out the YouTube version;
It is easy to make a quick treasure hunt by drawing a picture of something in the garden, or describe it, and the hide the next clue in that place. Continue to create six or seven clues and at the final place hide some sweets or a treat.
Make 'Dampers' and cook them on the fire: To make a ‘Damper’ put plain flower in a bowl and mix in water until it makes a dough. Make long sausages of dough and twist them around the top of a long stick. Hold your 'Damper' over the fire until cooked. Encourage the children to cook over the glowing embers rather than the flames as this is hotter and the 'Damper' won't taste so smokey. You will know when it is cooked as it easily slips off the stick.
Go conkers!: Collect up conkers and enjoy a good old-fashioned game. Use a skewer to make a hole through the conker (this may need adult supervision). Then use string or a shoelace with a knot on it to string your conker. The aim of the game is to, in pairs, take turns to hit your opponent’s conker with yours. The first one to smash their opponent’s conker is the winner.
Chuntney-making: Autumn always makes me think of harvest (especially looking out over surrounding fields watching the farmer ploughing). It is a great time to be harvesting and storing food for the winter. Why not make chutney with the children. I love making windfall-chutney with the apples from our orchard. The children and I go out and collect them up in a basket (but you could take your grandchildren to the local farmers market if you don’t have an apple tree. Maybe use it as a way to highlight to them the different foods associated with different seasons. Try this windfall-apple chutney recipe; I used to make this with my mum when I was a little girl.
-3 lbs fallen cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
-1 chopped onion
-2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
-4 oz sultanas
-1.5 lbs light brown sugar (use half the amount of sugar if you are using eating apples instead of cookers).
-2 tsp curry powder
-2 tsp ground ginger
-2 tsp teaspoons salt
-1 pint malt vinegar
This is a simple recipe as you just put everything in a big pan and cook it for 2 ½ hours (stirring every now and then) until it has gone thick and a bit sticky (chutney-like!). You can eat it straight away, which is always a winner with children. Once cooked, ladle it into sterilised jars and seal. My mum says you can keep the chutney for about a year like this in sealed jars but it never lasts that long in our house! Your grandchildren may want to decorate the jars with their own autumn-inspired labels and give them as a present to mums and dad’s/ uncles and aunts.
Make tree faces: Find some squiggly mud (or mix some mud with water). Grab a few handfuls and push it onto the trunk of a tree. Form it into a face by making a nose and mouth shape on it. Then use different things you find around the garden to make eyes and hair (e.g. acorns for eyes and leaves or pine needles for hair). If your mud is too sandy and won’t form a mud ‘splodge’; you could always buy air-drying clay and use this instead.
And one for indoors - board game revival: If you can’t get outside then why not rediscover board games. It is a wonderful way to get everyone interacting and playing together. We have board games and or puzzles in each of our apartments here at Pickwell to encourage families to make the most of being together on holiday, it is always lovely hearing what fun they have had.