Win a family ticket to Barclaycard’s Family Day in Hyde Park

What better way to build some special family memories than with a day out at Barclaycard’s British Summer Time Family Day in Hyde. park on June 28th.
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There’s something for everyone with SpongeBob SquarePants, Bart & Homer Simpson, Horrible Histories, Brainiac Live!, Chickenshed Theatre, Cook & Line – CBeebies Swashbuckling Pirates, The Cuban Brothers, Shaun The Sheep and much more.

New for this year is the Urban Arena with BMX, mountain biking & Parkour displays, I know one little boy who’ll be so excited about this!

You can get in on the action and be in with a chance to win a family ticket for June 28th – just enter my competition below.

The family day is the final day of Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park and this year will be filled with musical acts, comedy and good old fashioned family entertainment, plus award winning street food.

Itwill be headlined by boyband favourites Union J and include everyone from Britain‘s Got Talent winners Collabro to king of kids TV Justin Fletcher and more CBeebies stars, right up to teen YouTube sensations – no other day out packs more into one park.

A big hit with every member of the family, suitable for all ages, Family Day has proved an annual hit in the capital since the start of Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park in 2013. For the equivalent price of a family cinema ticket, Britain’s Biggest Family Event in Hyde Park is fine value for money. The little ones will never want to leave and even the bigger kids will not be able to wipe the smiles off their faces, or the selfies from their phones after grabbing a chat with all their YouTube faves.

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*The prize is for a family ticket, two adults, two children, and is for June 28th. Travel and refreshment costs are not included and there is no alternative prize.

Pensthorpe – a fantastic family day out

On Sunday we headed off for a day at Pensthorpe National Park It was a bright day but blimey it was cold so with hats, gloves and scarves at the ready we took on the elements and emerged triumphant!

Pensthorpe is quite simply stunning and manages to bring together some amazing scenery, wonderful wildlife and a sense of adventure and exploration often missing from family days out.We were there on the last day of the Bee an Explorer event for children during half term, where you could discover yet more about nature on the coloured sign-posts dotted around and all three loved spotting the coloured hedgehogs around the reserve. We stopped off to make our very own hedgehogs out of playdough and to top it off, got to meet a real life little hog – fresh from hibernation.
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Freddy the hedgehog was a huge hit and I have to mention the fantastic chap who gave us a talk all about Freddy. It’s no mean feat to keep two active nearly four-year-old boys and a five-year-old girl interested but he managed it. He was engaging, great with the children and just came across as someone who loved his job.In fact this was true throughout the day – there was a sense that everyone wanted to be there and cared passionately – it’s not something you always come across so hat’s off Pensthorpe!

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As it was rather chilly and wet we didn’t get to do a big walk but having been before I know there are some great walks with the stamp trail being a big hit with my son last summer. Children can build dens, spot the amazing array of wildlife and the wonderful carved wood and metal animals punctuating the walks. This time we were lucky enough to see the red squirrels too – Arthur thought they were amazing as they basically look exactly like Squirrel Nutkin in Peter Rabbit!

You can even see flamingos and they stand out magnificently this time of year against the vast grey skies and muted browns and greens of late winter.

We stopped to refuel at the lovely Courtyard Café – so pretty and I loved the feeling of bringing the outside in with exposed brick walls and huge open windows. The boys loved sitting and watching the birds at the feeders while they tucked into sausage and chips. It had a relaxed vibe with bare wooden tables, plenty of room and a sense that no one was going to rush you.

The children all had sausage and chips and it was great to hear the meat was from a butcher literally five minutes from the reserve. They really champion local produce and it’s a lovely tie-in to the whole ethos of the reserve. Grown-ups had haddock and chunky chips with peas and it was delicious – fresh, well-cooked with crispy chips. There was loads of choice and daily specials and they also have a dedicated hot and cold children’s menu.

imageThe selection of cakes was too tempting to miss so we had a slice of coffee and walnut and a chocolate oat slice, again delicious and generously portioned. Again the feeling the staff really cared about what they were doing shone through and I had a lovely chat with the girl who served us on the til – it’s these moments that make the day sometimes.

The toilets where big, clean and easily accessible even with three children – this is always important on family days out!

After lunch we hit Wildrootz – it’s just the best adventure play area I’ve been to. The children love it so much. With slides, wooden dens, sand galore and the magical, and it has to be said slightly addictive, musical instruments, it’s just a fab place to be. I was worried the cold would spoil it but they ran around so much it didn’t matter. Only when the rain started in earnest did they agree to head back to the car!

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The natural theme continues with animals carved in the benches and lovely bright fact boards throughout – I never new bats always fly left out of a cave. Or that rodent’s teeth never stop growing! They are in the middle of building a £1million indoor play are which will be a fantastic addition and I can’t wait to get back to try it out.

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On our way back we stopped off inside the viewing gallery to watch the birds being fed and listen to the ranger talk about the many species of birds, some of them are really rare.
That’s the real beauty of Pensthorpe, it has managed so successfully to merge nature with fun and education –they have listened, developed and continue to get better. It really does have a special place in my heart – if you’ve not been I can’t recommend it highly enough.

So are there any downsides to Pensthorpe:
I like to write honest reviews because I know families will take time and spend money going to these places. But it’s tough with somewhere like this.

  • It’s limited if the weather’s not great but the new indoor play area will help this.
  • It’s not cheap – but you’re helping to pay for the upkeep of this magnificent place
  • I like my coffee a little stronger!

Halloween at BeWILDerwood

One of my favourite times of year at BeWILDerwood is, most definitely, Halloween.

This year we made the trip actually on 31 October and had a wonderful time. With magical pumpkins lighting up our arrival we were ready for a day full of fun.

The children loved the wonderful story-telling and as always the sky maze was a massive hit – even if I did get lost! Tales of Boggles and Twiggles never cease to capture their imaginations.bewilder6

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We spent ages making dens and even our youngest recruit, 20-month Charlotte, was keen to get in the action!

As the afternoon fell we began to gear up for the wonderful, magical lantern parade. We made lanterns and stood by the fires in anticipation. Soon the wonderful staff at BeWILDerwood came out with their cloaks and beautiful bat lanterns to announce the start of the lantern parade.
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It was very busy so it took a while to get through the pumpkin archway but once through there were Halloween delights around every corner. The Hairy Clod spider who wanted to steal our lantern lights, twinkling lights and pumpkins galore.

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It’s a wonderful event, it marks Halloween without being too spooky for the children, however young.

We went on one of the busiest days but there was still plenty of room in the carpark and, because of the layout, it never feels busy when you’re inside. It’s a place of adventure and exploration and a perfect Halloween was had by all.

The Real Halloween at Holt Hall

On a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon we heading off to Holt Hall for the Fairy Trust’s Real Halloween event.

Even in the carpark I’d already fallen in love with the magical oaks and golden carpet of Autumn leaves…and then the fun began.

An authentic Halloween experience which weaved the beauty of nature through mystical moments and good old fashioned fun. We kicked off with egg and spoon inspired conker races – daddy vs Arthur. I was Arthur’s ‘Halloween helper’ but we did go a little off piste!

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Next Arthur chose a beautiful spider and web to be painted by the lovely ladies in one of the many tents. Arthur was keen to boogie along to the bands playing on the grass – they were fantastic and we stood and watched for ages against the backdrop of the beautiful Holt Hall.

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After a pit stop at the Elf Tavern for mulled apple juice we wandered around the other stall and tents and watched the fantastically dresses witches and elves and slightly scary ogres!halloween6

Then it was into the woods for wizard training where Arthur learned about wizards and how they work their magic through a love and understanding of nature. We learned about Ravens and the powers of the Beech tree – wonderful memories apparently. We collected feathers, leaves and made our own wizard’s pouch.

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It was great fun and a wonderful way of introducing the power of nature and the importance of looking after the countryside.

The whole day culminated in a magnificent lantern parade where huge owls, bats and foxes were lit up and carried through the woods accompanied by drums and punctuated by amazing fire artists swirling through the dark.halloween8

We’d already stopped off in the lantern making tent so Arthur was all ready and he absolutely loved it.

 

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Every time we passed another lantern placed on the floor he shouted:”look mummy the fairies left another one!’.

The whole day was magical and full mystical charm. It brought home the beauty of the places we have around us and had the right level of spookiness to get me in the mood for Halloween fun.

I would highly recommend the Real Halloween as a family day out. Great parking, easy to wander round plenty of loos and even a baby changing tent. Quite a feat to make a well- organised event seem effortlessly untouched but they managed it. I’ll definitely be back.

If you’ve not heard of The Fairy Trust check out the fantastic work they do to protect our meadows and woodlands and how you can help

Lollibop, the perfect festival for small people.

Lollibop, Lollibop oooh, Lollilollibop…

Sometimes only a song will do and this weekend at the fab Lollibop Festival, this is exactly what we were singing as we left, tired, and very very happy.

I’ve been to Lollibop before and had a great time but last year I know there were a few niggles about it becoming over- commercial. I suspect these fears for everyone were allayed this year. In it’s new home, Hatfield House, the festival had a relaxed and happy vibe from the moment we arrived. The grounds are huge and the set up means you could wander easily around and take in the atmosphere.

We drove and parking was easy and plentiful, there were loos as soon as we arrived and for me, that’s always a good sign! There are loads all through the festival with easy changing stations and drinking water too – just making a day out with small people so much easier.

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There were queues for the Lollipalladium so we wandered around and enjoyed all the other stuff first. Fantastic impromptu magic shows, the fantastic Titan the robot and face painting galore!

Arthur absolutely loved the street dancing classes and we spent ages getting our groove on, the dancers was fab with the children and we spent a good hour in there. We wandered around the Harry Potter Wizard School and planted magic beans and made wands.

Arthur was chuffed with his Beano magazine and, along with his little friend, spent ages in the lego tent. We also caught Michella Strachen reading from her book and she kept us entertained for ages, a really great story-teller and Lollibooks was a wonderful addition this year.

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It worked for everyone, from Charlie at just a couple of months old, through to his mummy and me who find it hard to resist a comedy dress-up moment! loll5

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To be honest there was so much to see and do we didn’t manage to get back to watch any of the shows but our day didn’t suffer for it. We did watch some of the acts on the main stage and Arthur loved Lazy Town and Mr Maker and it was so easy – you could watch easily from way back and there were huge screens for extra effect.

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A brilliant festival vibe with little people at it’s heart. I can’t wait for next year but there’s still time to pop along tomorrow – it’s absolutely worth it.

Festival on the Farm – a glorious day

On Saturday we enjoyed a glorious day of sunshine at Festival on the Farm, Gressenhall, Norfolk.

If you’ve not been to Gressenhall and you’re a Norfolk or nearby native then you’re missing a trick. A wonderful museum set in 50 acres which brings to life country living  with a workhouse, school and farm with rare breed aninals.

On our visit the grounds had been opened to a miriade of fabulous stalls, animals, people and music. We were greeted by the guys from the Goodies stall telling tales of Jack and the Beanstalk while the childen sat on straw bales and listened intently – they even managed to weave some carrot and veg action into the mix – a fabulous story followed by a healthy message – result!

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We headed around the corner to be greeted by a tiny and rather beautiful pony who happily stood while little hands patted his nose and stroked his back . Behind him was a wonderful old car brought back to perfect condition – Arthur was rather taken with that – I think it’s because he’s just fallen in love with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Arthur and his little friends even managed to touch snakes and stroke gigantic stick insects – which I admit made me feel a little squiffy! There was den building, bug hunting and loads to keep little adventurers happy and it all had a wonderful feel of simple outdoor fun.

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We bought lunch from the cafe and sat outside on the grass and listened to some of the great local musicians playing live. Arthur and his friends took to the dancefloor for some outstanding toddler moves and the sun continued to shine.

In the chapel was a lovely art and crafts fair with local producers and artists displaying some of the best Norfolk has to offer.We even managed to spot the Gruffalo stalking the grounds – we were too late for tickets to make a Gruffalo lunch but the children were quite happy to simply follow him around for a while.

We moved down to the farm where the children learnt what it was like to milk a cow and we watched a cute little shadow puppet production in the cow shed, by Nutmeg Theatre. After a little more running around in hot sunshine we cooled off with a quick head duck under the water pump – this turned into a mini water fight and it wasn’t just the small people getting in on the action.

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We jumped on the farm truck for a ride around the fields and then headed back up to finish our day with a final run around – I loved that the children didn’t need fancy rides or expensive games – they picked up sticks, ran free and generally had a wonderful time.

There was loads to do and see, some of which we just didn’t have time for. But it was a magical day and even the practial things such as parking was easy. It didn’t feel crowded, there were loads of easily identifiable staff on hand to help and I have to say, Festival on the Farm was the perfect way to spend a sunny family day out.

 

Win a family ticket to BeWILDerwood!

This week I’m running a competition to win a family ticket to one of my favourite places to head for a family day out.

BeWILDerwood is just the most magical adventure for all ages. With Boggles and Twiggle houses in the trees and hidden behind grassy hills, it sparks imaginations and let’s children run wild in a safe, magical envirnment. With story telling, den building, huge adventure playgrounds and boat rides it’s perfect for most ages and abilities.

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This year there’s even more to experience with the new Sky Maze which opens in time for the summer holidays - here’s a little more about it:

Set high in the treetop canopy, the new Sky Maze takes adventure and playtime to magnificent new heights. Turning this way and that way; where no way is the wrong way, Sky Maze is made up of tunnels, walkways, cargo nets, spiral staircases, zig zag beams and spectacular vantage points. Weaving its way through natures playground, the new experience stretches nearly 1/2 km and reaches over 8 metres in height.

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*The competition will close on July 1 at 5pm and the ticket is for two adults, two children and valid for 12 months. Tickets are non-transferable and there is no alternative prize.

Amazona Zoo – a great day out!

On Saturday we packed up the car, popped on our wellies and began our adventure in exotic South America…

It’s amazing what you can find on your doorstep and we were lucky enough to be invited to a VIP day out at Amazona Zoo, Cromer – it has to be one of Norfolk’s best kept secrets. As a fully paid up Norfolkian I thought I knew all the places to go for a family day out but this one passed me by.

Set in a beautiful wooded area just as you drive into Cromer it really was a fantastic day. The zoo is relatively small and focusses on species from South America. So no giraffes or tigers but plenty of weird and wonderful animals to spark the children’s interest. They do have some big cats too, including the very beautiful Jaguar.zoojag

It’s all set around a buggy-friendly walkway and around every corner there are sights and sounds to behold. I went wth a friend and her two children on a day when it wasn’t just the animals making us feel like we were in the jungle. It was humid with torrential downpours but it really didn’t dampen our enjoyment and by early afternoon the sun was out.

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The children loved the Macaws and spent ages shouting ‘hello’ as the birds answered back – although they were a bit miffed when they didn’t answer the question: ‘what’s your name?!’

Arthur spent ages with the Caiman crocs and it was a great enclosure where you could get really close. The staff were on hand and happy to answer loads of questions.

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As we wandered through to the yurt, which houses some educational boards telling you all about the people and places, a very strange creature caught our eye…

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A Patagonian Mara was wandering (or maybe hoping, I wasn’t completely sure) free on the grass. It was a real treat to see it watching us all, not scared in the slightest. The children all tiptoed up for a closer look before he scurried off for lunch.

I’d never seen a Mara before and he reminded me of an Alice in Wonderland creature popping up  – it wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d sat down for afternoon tea! As we turned another corner the Flamigoes were a wonderfully colourful surpise and the children tried to copy them by standing on one leg – very cute.

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We watched the otter being fed, the catfish enjoying their fruit and veg and the very cute Geoffrey Spider monkies jumping through their branches. We had coffee and icecream sitting outside the cafe and the view really did make you feel a little sub tropical – I guess the weather helped!

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Amazona Zoo is really geared up for families with loads of toilets as you enter, a lovely outdoor play area and Tumble Tots, the new indoor softplay. Our children had a lovely time in Tumble Tots and it was a great way to round off the visit. There was a toddler area and a great area for slightly older children too.

 

I would definitely go back, a really lovely family day out. It may not have the conventional zoo animals but that’s part of its charm – where else would I see a Mara, a Ocelot and a Tapir?

 

*Amazona also does a huge amount of conversation work with South American species and is the main sponsor in a programme of research into the life of the Titicaca River Frog.

 

Pensthorpe Nature Reserve – a fab family day out

On Monday we packed up a picnic, our wellies and said a little pray to the sun gods, and headed off to Pensthorpe nature reserve.

Pensthorpe is a beautiful place, tucked in the Norfolk countryside just outside the town of Fakenham and it’s well worth a visit with the children. It’s so much more than a nature reserve.

We spent the day with some of our friends and their little ones, all aged three, apart from little Charlotte who’s 16 months. Thankfully those pesky sun gods had listened and it stayed dry and sunny all day.The carparking is large and not too far away and there are loos near the entrance, which is always handy with small children.

The children absolutely loved exploring the wonderful gardens, around every corner there were ducks to feed, strange new birds to admire and even some red squirrels – although I think they ran away when they heard a herd of toddlers approaching!

 I was particularly taken with the Grey Crowned Cranes, when I say taken I mean, I was literally afraid I would be. Those things were big and I expected one to suddenly appear next to me at any moment.

It’s so beautifully kept and the flower gardens not only looks amazing but the scents as we wandered around were just wonderful.PENDAISIES2

We walked up to the conservation area to see the flamingoes and feed some more geese – one decided to take a peck or two at Arthur so he was a little less enamoured with them after that!

There’s so much to explore and while we didn’t have time this visit, I remember how lovely the wooded area was and Arthur spent a long time exploring bugs and den building too.

Even the field of daisies looked stunning and there was yet more exploring for the children with a huge wooden spider and net to climb. We also found the most adorable flower topped hut with tiny wooden seats inside. Perfect for small people and anyone who likes to believe in fairies and hobbits.

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Next it was time for a picnic lunch and the epic playground that is WildRootz. It’s just the best place for children. With a little stream around the outside, the tunnels and wood carvings it’s just one of my favourite places. It gives children enough yet urges them to use their imaginations and create their own wonderful worlds.

Arthur and his friends spent ages splashing in the water – that would be my number one tip, bring spare clothes! They danced on musical playgrounds and explored the tunnels and sand.

Each piece is so well thought out and even the benches are carved into creatures. The slides are fantastic and huge! There are zip wires, a huge wooden building to climb and even a huge see saw which whole families can stand on and endless things to climb.

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We spent most of our time in WildRootz, there are loads of benches and grass around the area for picnics and there is also a stand selling drinks and sandwiches and snacks. Although I would recommend a picnic as the selection wasn’t great.

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Pensthorpe is beautiful, both as an adult strolling through the stunningly beautiful grounds and appreciating the effort that has gone into making this reservation. And as a child, running free discovering new birds and animals and enjoying one of the best adventure playgrounds I’ve ever seen.

On a sunny day it’s become one of my favourite places to go and I would definitely recommend it as a great family day out.

BeWILDerwood – fathers Day Free-bee Bonanza!

It’s Father’s Day on June 15 and to celebrate, at the enchanting and totally amazing BeWILDerwood – dads get in free that day!

Dad's_DayIf you’ve not been then check it out. It’s one of my favourite places in Norfolk. Perfect for all ages, magical, adventurous and the perfect place for a family day out

BeWILDerdad’s Free-Bee Bonanza
We love dads at BeWILDerwood and we think they deserve a little present this Father’s Day. So bring Dad for  FREE on Sunday the 15th June.

Come along and enjoy a day of outdoor play and adventure – challenge dad on the Slippery Slopes and watch him get befuddled in the Muddle Maze. If you come along dressed in black and yellow (just like a bumble bee), you can collect an extra special treat for your dad at storytelling time.

Have you heard of the Slitherigrubs from the BeWILDerwood story book? Their glowing lights and silvery threads helped save little Sticklenose, (a teeny tiny Twiggle) when he got stuck up a tree. Bees are just as useful as Slitherigrubs, very important and they love flowers almost as much as Mildred loves the colour pink!

When you head off home, we will give you a little bag of flower seeds to take with you for your garden, your school or perhaps for a window box outside your home. The bees will just love them! Dads can also get a FREE-bee stencil at the face painting pavilion!

Keep an eye on my blog as I’ll be giving away a family ticket to BeWILDerwood in a couple of weeks – that’s at least one day of the summer holidays sorted!