For his holiday homework, Alex had to write about his 'Perfect Day'; looking over his shoulder, I saw he'd written Catching Crabs as the headline.

Of all the places we've taken him during the holidays, from theme parks to days out in Hillingdon parks and on holiday to France, Alex had chosen our two-night Dorset camping trip my brother and sister-in-law.

It was hardcore camping in a field, with the only facilities being a cold water tap and somewhere to empty your camping toilet!

Despite it pouring with rain and crazy winds whipping round the tent on our first night, we really enjoyed ourselves.

I think the two bottles I'd taken with us helped; one containing red wine variety, the other a hot water bottle!

We did the typically British thing of wrapping up in our waterproofs and headed out to go crabbing and rock pooling, in spite of the rotten weather. The weather was actually really good when we hit the beach to explore the rock pools. Best of all we managed to catch a few things: some shrimps, a little fish, a few small crabs and a giant crab with evil red eyes and one giant pincer.

When the weather turned nasty again, we retired to the warm, cosy safety of the local cinema. It was a great trip and we've surprised ourselves by planning another hardcore camping trip some time next year when, hopefully, the weather will be kinder to us.

One of our other successful summer holiday outings has been to the lovely Café in the Park at Rickmansworth Aquadrome. Owner Carly has opened a new café in Marlow and I was dying to take a look at the new venue and visit the very popular playground where the café is.

The new Marlow café has been open since May and we finally managed to get there last week. It's in a large, busy park with a superb children's playground with some of the most unusual equipment I've seen for a long time.

We timed it badly, though, because they'd finished serving for the day and we only managed to get coffee and cakes whereas we'd planned to give the children an early tea. Nevertheless, the café is superb, with both indoor and outdoor eating areas, great toilet facilities and an excellent range of home-cooked dishes. It's well worth a trip out - see more details below.

If you're looking for one last summer holiday outing, what about trying Tea With Smee, a pirate party adventure taking place at The Beck Theatre, in Hayes (020 8561 8371) on September 1 (also booking for October 27 and November 23). The hilarious Mark Jones, who wowed audiences as Muddles in Snow White last season, is playing Smee in this year's Beck panto, Peter Pan.

Reasonably priced at just £6 per child, including a treasure chest of food, this swashbuckling event is bound to be great fun for all ages.

Cathy's fact file on the Cafés in the Parks

The food is superb for both children and adults; whether you want some proper coffee and a slice of cake or a full meal, everyone is catered for. See the website at for the full menu.

Both cafés are open from 10am to 5pm seven days a week during the summer season; the one in Marlow opens at 9am at weekends.

The Aquadrome, Frogmoor Lane, Rickmansworth, Herts, WD3 1NB A large, free car park is directly behind the café. There's a good concrete path for buggies and bikes and lots of green space for kite flying or ball games.

Take bread to feed the ducks on the lake but keep a watchful eye on your nippers as the Canada geese and swans can be quite aggressive and will snatch it out of toddlers' hands if you're not careful.

Don't miss the large children's playground.

Higginson Park, Pound Lane, Marlow, Bucks, SL7 2AE Park in one of the high street car parks and walk; the park is at the end of the high street. There is no zebra crossing or safe haven, so do take care when crossing the busy road by the roundabout.

The park is in front of a large, well-equipped playground; when we went there was also a bouncy castle and small carousel nearby.

Once you've had lunch or a coffee, head for the Thames at the end of the park for a lovely walk or to feed the ducks and swans.

The Puppet Barge ( ) is currently moored near the café (roughly a five-minute walk).