Easter at Be WILDerwood

A school holiday would not be complete without a visit to our favourite Norfolk hangout – the wonderful and magical BeWILDerwood.

I’ve written many times about the mesmerising Boggles and teriffic Twiggles. But we’ve never actually been along at Easter. In true BeWILDerwood style it was an adventure to remember.

As always we took the boat across the spooky lake and waited for Mildred the croc to blast us with her watery welcome, always great fun! The staff are brilliant and give you a wonderful introduction while your on the boat. You hear about the Boggles in the bogs and the Twiggles who live in the trees And you can peer across the lake into their tiny tree top homes complete with little front doors, tiny brooms and a little rowing boat.

We made bunny headdresses in the craft tent, we wandered in the sunshine ( yes even the sun came out) and crossed the rickety bridge, slide down the slides and lost ourselves while feeding our imagination in the Sky Maze.

There are lots of places to sit and eat, you can pack up a picnic anod sit at one of the many tables, or buy something from one of the food shacks – they try to keep things local and you can pick up some hot options or a quick sandwich.

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What made the trip this time was the wonderful Cedric the Easter bunny. Set in his own Easter garden the children were able to walk through a little Easter magic before meeting lovely Cedric for a chat. Then off to the Easter garden for a few chocolate eggs – prefect!

It’s the story telling that BeWILDerwood does so well. From the birth of this magical place in Tom Blofeld’s books, to the wonderful story times they run all day with characters from across BeWILDerwood.

It’s the perfect place for children to run free and explore their world. We built dens, slide down slides, climbed amazing tree houses and basically had, as always, a totally brilliant time.

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if you haven’t been then you’re missing one of the best days out for families – give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

Pensthorpe – a jewel in Norfolk’s crown

Today we headed out to one of our favourite Norfolk family destinations; Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.
I’m a huge fan because it encompasses everything I want for a day out with children. Fresh air, beautiful places for them to run and hide and use their imaginations plus, it doesn’t have loads of garish rides and over priced ‘fun’.

Pensthorpe is in North Norfolk just outside Fakenham and is a wonderful reserve which really has something for all ages. Walking through the beautiful gardens you can’t help but be wowed by the plants and amazing water gardens.

Through the gates and we were greeted by the ducks and geese who waddle around waiting for food. You can buy the food from the shop on your way in and the children loved watching the birds go crazy for the contents of their brown paper bags!

Luckily the rain held off and the sun came out so we stopped at the pond dipping area and had a wonderful time with one of the volunteers who spent ages with the children talking them through how to scoop the water and helping them on their little voyage of discovery. The joy on their faces when they found a tiny fish or a water spider was priceless – although the adults were a bit peeved when we could even catch weed!
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We could have stayed there a lot longer but the call of the amazing WildRootz outdoor play area was calling. It’s a totally supercharged playground with amazing wooden structures, fantastic slides and even a musical area where walking across the wooded sets creates wonderful sounds!
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The stream running around the outside is a firm favourite and the children were soon down to their undies and running around having the best time ever.
I love the fact it’s all wooden, all in keeping with this beautiful reserve and the attention to detail is stunning – even the benches have animals carved into them and every area is homage to the educational ,and conservation work they do.
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You can watch the Red squirrels, scatty and crazy, running through their enclosures and look up and you’ll see signs letting you know things like:” bats always turn left when they leave their caves”. Every corner you turn captures nature in its finest hour.

Pensthorpe has just opened its new indoor play area too. Hoots House is in keeping, all made out of wood and a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours if the weather isn’t kind.
There’s a cafe inside and they’ve very sensibly divided times so you book a slot. We had 1.30 til 3 pm, so it means it’s never too crazy busy. The children had a wonderful time and it kept three four year olds and a five year old fully engaged for well over an hour. There is an area for under fives and the rest is based in ability so you can make a judgement. Lots of hiding places, a great slide and some fantastic wooden walkways made for a great indoor adventure.

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There is a seating area upstairs but it would be nice if there was some seating downstairs as this would make it easier to watch the children and have a coffee without having to run up and down stairs. The staff were very friendly and explained everything really well. I also noticed they always had a couple wandering round to keep an eye on the children which is reassuring. It’s a great addition to Pensthorpe and I love that they’ve kept the theme to match the glorious outside space too.

Pensthorpe has so many options. You can take a walk around the whole place and get your stamps to collect your badge at the end. You can take in the red squirrels, flamingos and gigantic stalks. There are wonderful walks through the maintained gardens or around the waterways. You can even watch feeding time sitting inside the viewing area – this is highly recommended on a colder day. We’ve been when it’s got chilly and the children have loved sitting and watching all the birds on the shore ‘ having their tea’.
It offers fodder for their imagination, a chance to learn without really realising and a wonderful experience for adults too. Pensthorpe does have a special place in my heart and somewhere we’ll be coming back to year after year.

Amazona Zoo – a little bit of South America in Norfolk!

On a bright and breezy Friday morning I took Arthur and his buddy, Leo, on a South American adventure. My budget didn’t quite stretch to the real thing but wow, we enjoyed a lovely day at Amazona Zoo. A small zoo in Cromer which focuses on animals from across South America.

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It was very quiet on the day we went but that suited us fine as the boys could run around and discover without worrying about them causing too much mayhem!

The first glorious animal we came across were the beautiful Jaguars. Stunning and the boys loved watching the ‘big giant cats’.They both stood, enthralled as the Jaguars prowled around the enclosure.

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Next up it was the parrots, their colourful plumes really are amazing and the boys loved them as they are exactly like the characters in Rio, the movie!

The zoo has easy, buggy accessible paths throughout, each path having it’s own foot prints to follow – a lovely touch. The children’s playground has recently been upgraded and now has two amazing bouncy pillows. They are such fun and I have to say I was wholly disappointed the age limit was six! It was a little chilly but they boys bounced around for ages and I can imagine in the summer these will be a real crowd pleaser.

Last time we came along I was fascinated by the Mara which wandered ( or hopped, I’m still not sure!) around the open spaces. I was pleased to see this magic little creature again. It’s something I’ve never seen at another zoo and I love the fact he or she was out, lounging in the winter sun and paying not the least bit of interest to us.zoomara

We wandered past the bright pink Flamingoes and both boys spent ages trying desperately to stand on one leg – with varied success!

Next up were by far the favourite animals of the day – the Capuchin Tufted Monkies. After naming them Freddy and Freddy Sweet Treat, Arthur and Leo were literally mesmerised. Watching them climb and swing and generally monkey around!

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In the inside enclosure we discovered lizards and Caimans and, perched on top, the guinea pigs! But don’t worry, they have a brand new home built for them outside but it was a little cold for them just yet. In summer I suspect we’ll see them scurrying around outside in their custom build homes.

After a good wander around we spent some time in Jungle Tots. A great little soft play area perfect for rainy moments or just a change of scenery. It was clean, bright and perfect for pre- schoolers of all ages, from tiny toddlers to my slightly raucous four-year-olds. Arthur and Leo especially loved the huge blower and the slide – a great addition to Amazona.

You can also pick up snacks and lunch at the Lakeside Cafe – on a warm day it would be fantastic to sit outside, we did this last year and it was lovely.

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We had a lovely day and I would highly recommend this as a great day out. Smaller than most zoos it has a lovely family feel. It works for all ages, is easy to walk round and to top it off, very importantly for children, it has large and very clean loos which are never far away!

*If you fancy taking a trip then don’t forget mums go free on Mothers Day.

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

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*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.