Nothing says spring like a visit to the farm does it?! We first visited Cannon Hall Farm a couple of years ago with the Butlers and I’ve been dying to go back ever since. I knew I wanted to go in the spring-time when we had the best chance of seeing lots of baby animals so was it featured fairly highly on our list of adventures for this Easter.
As luck would have it our Easter holidays are a little wonky this year so not a lot of people seem to have been off this first week – I know that schools in York and Sheffield haven’t finished yet which meant that a trip to Cannon Hall Farm in Barnsley was perfectly timed. I had expected we would benefit from it being a little bit quieter but in all honesty it was far quieter than I could have ever imagined – which meant no queues for the toilet, no struggling to find somewhere to sit at the indoor play and a super view wherever we went, it was an all round win to be honest. Well aside from being absolutely flipping freezing. The spring sunshine finally appeared mid-afternoon but it would have been a much nicer day had it been a bit brighter from the off!
Eleven Reasons to visit Cannon Hall Farm:
It’s lovely and clean – my friend Hannah doesn’t like Cannon Hall Farm as she think it’s “too clean and sanitised” and not like a real farm. I totally get where she’s coming from but honestly, when I’m visiting with three kids for the day – the cleanliness is a huge factor for me, it just makes it a much nicer place to be and an easier day out all round!
There’s plenty of space for picnics – there are a number of large picnic tables just outside the farm which we used on this visit and plenty of grassy space to sit on if the tables are full. But, if you don’t want to picnic . . . there are several options for buying food on site and if you spend £10 on food in the cafe areas then your £3 car parking charge is knocked off.
The ice creams are lovely – it was too flipping cold for ice cream when we visited this time (we plumped for cups of tea and hot chocolate) but I do remember them being delicious last time we visited.
Milking display – for Amy, who absolutely loves cows, being able to watch them getting milked is a bit special. The milking display at Cannon Hall Farm is purely for demonstration – just a couple of cows are milked whilst a member of staff talks about the process.
Actual real live lambing – we were lucky enough to see three lambs born on Tuesday, two with intervention from staff and one without any help at all. This was a pretty special experience and something we’ve talked about quite a bit since. ( I even managed to capture one birth on film – the video is at the end of the post if you want to see!)
Variety of outdoor play areas for different ages – the only downside to this is when you have three children and one more suited to a different play area than the other two! Luckily because we had Aunty M and Granny with us we were able to split up a bit.
Indoor play area – This is a relatively new addition to Cannon Hall Farm, it certainly wasn’t there the last time we visited a few years ago. I loved that it meant we had somewhere to sit down and warm up whilst the kids burned off some energy. It’s one of those soft play set ups where it can be quite difficult to see your children and I lost mine for a good few minutes but I’m lucky that they are of an age now where I can trust them to come back to wherever I’m sat if they’ve got a problem and they’re really good at keeping an eye on each other for me.
Raised viewing areas – for both watching lambing and milking the raised platforms were an absolute god send. We were able to get a really clear view of what was going on without having to lift anyone up or get in anyone’s way.
Friendly helpful staff – all the staff we encountered on our trip this week were lovely. They were all happy to chat to the kids about what they were doing, answering questions and even explaining right in the middle of lambing what was going on with a particular ewe who needed some help with giving birth because her lambs were in an awkward position. This meant that the kids had a real understanding of what they were watching and were able to tell Daddy all about it later!
Baby animals – we loved being able to see so many baby animals of different ages, from fresh born that day through to months old. Being able to see the animals being born or feeding with their mummies was a real talking point for us and all three children learned such a lot from seeing things close up
A family ticket for four cost us £26 this week (but is £30 during peak season) and by the time you’ve added parking, fuel, a picnic and hot drinks onto that it’s not a cheap day out but it was absolutely worth every single penny. Next time we go back we’re taking Daddy too!
A trip to Whitby has been on my seasonal bucket lists for as long as I’ve been writing them. Yet, until this weekend, I hadn’t been for five years.
Living in Manchester means that we are far closer to the West coast – to Blackpool, Southport or Lytham St Annes. All places I love to visit for different reasons but none of which really feel like I’m properly at the seaside. Each year Mich and I take the kids to Lytham for the day and we have a lovely time playing on the sand but there’s no paddling to be done as the sea is literally miles out. In fact, it’s often so far out you can hardly see it.
It’s different on the East coast – Whitby, Filey and Scarborough are the seaside towns of my childhood and when I think of a day out at the seaside, these are the places that spring to mind. I’ve been a couple of times with Ben and Chloe but not so as they would remember – the last trip had been on Mother’s Day five years ago – it coincided with Dave’s Stag Do so Mum & I took ourselves off to Whitby for the day with Ben and Chloe. But, for one reason or another we just hadn’t been back since.
I decided that, rather than us all going out for lunch for my birthday as we often do, I fancied a trip to Whitby for a wander and to finally introduce Dave to the infamous Magpie fish and chips. As luck would have it, the weather was flipping glorious. To be able to wander by the coast with no coat on was about as good as I could have hoped for! Of course the downside of the bright blue skies and warm sunshine was that the world and his wife had also descended on Whitby for the day!
The kids were all super excited when they realised we were going to the seaside and had to be reined in a bit that this wasn’t a sandcastles and paddling kind of adventure but they thoroughly enjoyed exploring Whitby with it’s little cobbled streets and swing bridge (which we were lucky enough to see opening). I think the highlight of the day for the three of them was sitting on the rocks near the lighthouse and watching the waves rolling in. The rest of the water seemed really calm but in this particular corner they were crashing noisily onto the rocks and the three of them were so excited to spot which ones would make a huge splash and which would come to nothing. I realised this isn’t something they’d experienced before as their seaside days have been fairly limited. Something I shall aim to rectify this summer!
Of course no trip to the seaside would be complete without fish & chips and an ice cream would it! I’ve been raving about Magpie chips to Dave for years and worried that, after making him queue up for ages, that they might actually turn out to be a bit rubbish. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and in actual fact they were even more delicious than I had remembered – perhaps as a result of the fact we were all starving! You can’t beat eating your fish (or sausage in my case) and chips out of the wrapper by the sea can you?
I won’t be leaving it another five years before we return Whitby I can promise you that!
Last weekend we took ourselves off on a bit of an exciting adventure to Chill Factore, our local indoor snow destination! As Amy and I watched the fun from the warmth of the Mont Blanc Cafe (and tried to take photos for you) I’m handing over to Dave for a full write up of the frosty fun!
We love a good adventure here. The clue’s in the name really! So we were thrilled to be invited to The Snow Park at Chill Factore near the Trafford Centre in Manchester. If you haven’t heard of Chill Factore it boasts the UK’s longest indoor ski slope at 180m of real snow where you can learn to ski or snow board. Today however we were sliding around in a variety of fashions on the kids’ Snow Park.
Because of the age restrictions on The Snow Park, Amy wasn’t able to take part and we decided that rather than playing in Mini Mooseland on her own, she would stay with Colette whilst I took the big two. Luckily I was joined by Chris from Team Custard to help. Chris is no stranger to snowy adventures and he and Ben have a growing bromance so he was the perfect choice. Aunty Custard (Kirsty) from Team Custard joined Colette in keeping Amy occupied while the big kids (Chris and I are definitely included in that statement) played in the snow.
On offer in The Snow Park are Downhill Donuts, Luge Slip ‘N’ Slide, Sledge ‘O’ Mania and the Snow Luge – it’s worth checking the age restrictions on each of these before you book.
Once you’ve paid for your adventure at Chill Factore you need your cold weather clothing. Waterproofs are recommended as well as hats and gloves. Luckily if you haven’t got such gear yourself you can hire waterproofs and buy gloves right there. (Helmets and snow boots are provided.) It’s good gear too. The boots, trousers and coats me and the kids got were all really well fitting and comfy and kept us warm throughout. Chris had his own gear, as you can see in the pictures, and very colourful it was too! Very helpful for spotting him across the piste!
You book your time in the Snow Park in hour long blocks, which sounds like a long time but it flew by for us. It’s worth mentioning that you really need to get to Chill Factore a good while before your session starts to give you time to get changed and prepared – getting those snow boots on can be quite time consuming! Once you get inside the snow area a guide explains the rules of the Snow Park and what the various rides are and how to use them. Once that’s done you’re unleashed! We went straight for the Downhill Donuts first off. To get to these you have to ride a travelator up the slope to the top before choosing your track back down. The travelator takes a second to get used to, and getting off at the top was a little tricky for the kids in the beginning but they soon got the hang of it. At the top of the slope there are two bumpy tracks and one which is a straight, smooth track. This may sound boring but the operator at the top spins you round at quite a rate.
Chloe chose a bumpy track straight from the off while Ben went for the spinny one. I thought Chloe might not enjoy the bumpy track as she can be a bit nervous but she loved it and Ben, as predicted, enjoyed everything the Snow Park could throw at him. Even for big kids like Chris and I the donuts were good fun, and you do feel a bit dizzy once you reach the bottom of the spinny track.
We tried the Luge Slip ‘N’ Slide next. To use those you pick up a tray at the bottom of the slope and walk it up to the top. There are two Luge tracks to choose from. One is for up-to sixteen year olds and the other is for six years and up. Chloe stuck to the smaller Luge track and was very happy with it. Ben used both but in the end I think he preferred the smaller Luge. Chris and I were both restricted to the larger Luge. It was very good though. Plenty of speed with some good turns and a few drops which did a good job of stretching my spine out! Both Ben and Chloe were smiling when they reached the bottom which is the whole point.
Lastly we tried the sledging. Reluctantly I missed my turn so I could film from the bottom of the slope. Chris took the two of them up to the top with their sledges (more trudging) and Ben and Chlo had a race. Ben is very keen to point out that he won however, Chloe did travel further down the slope so I think they were both winners. Chris and I didn’t attempt the sledging as the sledges were quite small, and I could well imagine myself getting thrown off a sledge which was approximately the same size as my backside!
So with everything tried the kids chose to go on the Donuts a few more times. Trying out the different tracks over and over. We all did the Luge again a few times and then there was just enough time for the kids to have one last go on the sledges before our time was up. It really did fly by but Chloe was quite tired by the end of the session so I think it was probably just long enough!
Once we’d got the snow gear off and met up with Colette, Amy and Kirsty we went next door for Pizza at ‘Pizza del Piste’. A solid ending to a fun morning out. Anything that ends with pizza is a win in my book. We managed to feed and water four adults and three kids for £60 which was fantastic value, especially considering there was pizza leftover to take home!
Ben and Chloe have been skiing once before and they both mentioned that they’d like to do it again while we were eating afterwards. I think they’re about ready and judging by their Snow Park adventure I imagine they’d take to it very well.
*We were invited to try out the Snow Park and Pizza de la Piste free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*
Regular readers will recognise Mich and the kids from our regular adventures together. This time we asked Team Butler to go in our place and write a guest review of The Enchantment of Chester Zoo . . .
When we woke up this morning we didn’t have many plans other than taking the kids to Sunday school and doing the food shop! So when Col messaged to say that Ben was poorly and she needed someone to step in and take up their place at Chester Zoo I was obviously gutted for them but instantly accepted the offer! Col told us that Amy was upset not to be going as she’d just recovered from her bout of sickness and woke excited for her adventure – so how could we not take her with us? Action stations started and we managed to get everyone up, ready and out the door in an hour! In keeping with the Burgess tradition we didn’t tell the kids where we were going other than we were stepping in to take their place on an adventure! Finn wanted to know if it was somewhere he would have fun – I promised it was!
When we arrived at the zoo the kids were suitably excited and couldn’t wait to get inside. Luckily there were no queues so we sailed through and were given a map showing us where to find ‘The Enchantment Garden’. On route we passed the Elephants so couldn’t help but have a quick stop off there and watch as the whole herd tucked into breakfast.
As we were booked in for 11am to meet ‘The Wise Old Owl’ we couldn’t hang around for long so Finley followed the map and soon found where we needed to be! Having a time slot booking system was fantastic as it meant there was no queuing and we simply waited a couple of minutes for the gates to open and our small group, maybe 6 or 7 families, to enter ‘The Enchantment Garden’! On entering the garden we were told that today it would be our mission to help save the nocturnal animals from Evil Sorcerer who had stolen the nocturnal animals ‘super hero’ senses. Moving through the garden we met lots of ‘animals’ who pleaded with us to help them by collecting potions from around the zoo, in an attempt to stop the Evil Sorcerers plan! All three kids were so engaged with the fun and couldn’t wait to get their test tube from one of the ‘owls’ so they could get started!
As we left the Enchantment Garden they instantly wanted to get the map out and find the first nocturnal animal on the list. To my horror our first stop had to be the tarantula but hey I would put on a brave face and embrace my role in saving the animals! When we found the tarantula we met 2 fantastic members of Chester Zoo staff who spent time with Finn, Erin and Amy explaining what ‘super sense’ their creatures had. They used tarantula skin and a piece of string to explain how these spiders are experts at using vibrations – Finn loved this hands on experience and was confident to report back to the owls what he had learnt so they could all collect their first drops of potion.
After this we moved on to find The Fruit Bat Forest so they could get more potion. As we entered the dark room Finley and Amy were not very keen at all – but clinging to Neil we managed to convince them to go in! To be honest I completely sympathised because the first time I went in there I was quite freaked out – however now knowing what to expect, I love it! As you enter the blackness bats swoop around you from all directions and there are literally hundreds of them (over 600 I believe) hanging from trees, ‘caves’ and the walls. Erin was in her element and absolutely loved it, asking questions of the staff and getting excited when the bats brushed past us. Again, we met a brilliant member of staff, Pippa wore an LED name badge so she could be found in the dark, who told us all about these amazing animals and their ‘super senses’. Once we had the information we needed for the ‘owl’ Finn and Amy couldn’t wait to get out – however Erin would quite happily have stayed all day. Once we found the owl we shared our newly found knowledge of bats and got a different coloured potion added to each test tube. Amy was very excited that this made her potion change colour!
Everyone was quite hungry by this point so we opted to have a relatively early lunch. Usually on a day out like this I would always take a picnic as I find food quite extortionately priced when you need to feed a family, however I was very pleasantly surprised! We went to the Junes Pavilion Restaurant and took up the ‘Family Feasts’ offer to feed us all for less than £20. I was a little dubious about the food we might get and the portion size, with this low price, but it was great! Large portions and all freshly cooked meant everyone ate happily and there was food left over as we were all so full!
From here we set off to find our next target – the Aardvarks. On route we went into the ‘Islands’ area which I was really pleased about as this in a new addition since I was at the zoo around 5 years ago. In here you could take a gentle boat ride around and see the tigers snoozing as well as warty pigs – which the kids thought were hilariously named!
On leaving the ‘Islands’ we headed straight to see the Aardvarks who were super cute all cuddled to and sleeping – as you might expect from a nocturnal animal at 2pm in the afternoon. Again, all three kids couldn’t wait to add to their potion collection and were eager to find out the information they needed. This is what I loved about ‘The Enchantment of Chester Zoo’ as it encouraged all five of us to be drawn to and genuinely be interested in finding out about some animals we may traditionally have just rushed past to get to the lions, tigers and elephants! Finley definitely learnt facts which will stay with him and he’ll be keen to share back in school after the holidays. Having said that we were also keen to see the usual must see zoo animals and as Chester Zoo is well laid out they were all easy to find and none of them were hiding from us.
The only down side to our day was that Sunday opening hours meant the zoo closed at 4.30pm. We made the most of our last hour and got around all the animals we wanted to see, but also making sure we had time to deliver our potions to the final ‘owl’ on our mission. The ‘owl’ asked us to pour our potion into the huge pot in the hope that we would have collected enough to help save the animals from the Evil Sorcerer! The kids were so excited by this and were even more pleased to each receive a thank you letter which explained that they had indeed “created enough counter spell and the evil sorcerer has been defeated”.
This excitement ended what had been a pretty perfect day! The Enchantment of Chester Zoo was a lovely addition to our day, although at first I was a little concerned it may detract from what we would traditionally see and do on a zoo visit, it really doesn’t and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for similar events in the future.
If you want to try out The Enchantment of Chester Zoo experience it is running throughout half term and ends on Halloween, 31st October.
*Disclaimer – We were invited to Chester Zoo free of charge for the purposes of reviewing The Enchantment of Chester Zoo experience – all thoughts and opinions remain those of Team Butler!
For the last few years there has been a distinct lack of snow. In fact Chloe, at 5 years old, has little experience of real snow at all. The last time we had a fall significant enough to rock out the sledge, she was only a toddler and happened to be poorly that day. So, when the opportunity arose for us to visit The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, I was keen to give it a go!
Ok, I hold my hands up and admit it – I’m not a winter sports kinda gal. Ok, ok. I’m not a sports kinda gal. Not at all. Holidays for me are about sunshine and lazing by the pool. The idea of a skiing holiday really doesn’t appeal. Far too much effort for my liking. It will come as no surprise then that I’ve only worn skis once in my life . . . I was about 7 and went to a dry slope with Brownies somewhere in North Yorkshire!
As such, we were all complete novices except Dave who used to snowboard well enough to have at least bothered to buy his own snowboard but that’s before I even knew him so I think it would be fair to say his skills are a little rusty. We had private family ski lesson booked – an hour long for Dave, Ben and Chloe and half an hour for Amy and I. Unfortunately, Dave and Amy weren’t able to come with us on the day so Ben, Chloe and I had an hour long lesson with a bonus instructor for the first half an hour!
Of course, as ever, Ben and Chloe didn’t know what we were doing – just that we were going on an adventure and would be staying in a hotel. Our session at The Snow Centre was booked for 2pm so we set off at 8am giving us ample time to factor in a stop at services and lunch before our lesson.
When we arrived at The Snow Centre and parked up, I explained to the kids what we were going to do – Ben was immediately excited (he’s such a thrill seeker) however Chloe was really nervous – I’m sure she thought I was just going to take her to the top of the main slope and push her down it! I explained to her that our instructors knew we’d never skied before and wouldn’t make us do anything scary. I went on to remind her that she was scared of the water slides at Splash Landings before she did them and that sometimes she just needs to trust me that it will be fun!
It’s worth bearing in mind that although our ski lesson was booked for 2pm, there’s a substantial amount of preparation required – we had to check in and then collect all our equipment. There is a clothing hire charge of £7 per person (which is of course avoidable if you have all your own ski stuff . . . we didn’t). The women’s ski gear comes up pretty small and I ended up having to wear the men’s equipment . . . stylish. Anyway, no matter – it kept me warm and dry which is the most important thing! Ben and Chloe were able to dress themselves fairly easily. (It’s worth bearing in mind that jeans are not a good idea of this kind of activity as they tend to get wet and heavy very quickly – I wore leggings and the kids both had tracksuit bottoms and hoodies on under their ski clothing) I had taken hats for us all to wear but this wasn’t really necessary as we had our helmets on and they kept our heads pretty warm (and obviously safe!). We took our own gloves, just standard woolly mittens for the kids and my leather gloves. I realised afterwards that this probably wasn’t the best choice of equipment for the kids as their gloves were soaked through and their hands pretty cold but neither of them complained and it’s only an hour – no different to playing in the snow as kids ourselves I guess!
Once we were all set with our clothes it was onto the rather more technical equipment of boots and skis. Ski boots are sized according to your shoe size and your skis adjusted according to your weight so it’s worth making sure you know those details ahead of time! Putting our ski boots on took forever – they are awkward and cumbersome to get your feet into and then tricky to fasten but this is nothing compared to how tricky we found them to walk in!! I’d also made the mistake of fastening up my ski jacket before I got everyone’s boots on so I was absolutely roasting by the time we were ready. The guys at The Snow Centre helped us out with fitting the kids helmets and then I picked mine off a rack according to size – this involves a bit of trial and error to make sure you get a good fit. I must admit that the helmet was probably my least favourite bit of the day . . . it smelt all stale and sweaty, as you’d expect I guess, and I could smell it for the rest of the day! I think it’s probably the first thing I would look to purchase for myself if I was about to taking up skiing with any regularity.
Finally, we were all suited and booted and set to go! We were met by Doug and Dave who had a quick chat with us about our previous experience (or lack thereof) and what we expected to get from our session. As I mentioned earlier we should only had have on instructor but because Amy hadn’t been able to come with us we benefited from an extra half hour’s tuition from her instructor.
The first thing we learned was how to un-clip our skis and put them on. Doug and Dave were really great at explaining things clearly to the kids so they quickly sussed out to fasten their skis on or take them off again. (This was especially useful for Ben who seemed to spend half the lesson knocking his skis off and having to fasten them on again!)
With one ski on, Ben and Chloe practised pushing with one foot as though they were on a scooter to get them used to the feeling of sliding and then learned how to climb up the hill without slipping back down (sideways in case you’re wondering). Once they had mastered this with one ski, we had a go with both. (And yes when I say “we” I do me mean as well!)
Doug and Dave encouraged Ben and Chloe to make animal noises and actions as they were going down the slope – Chloe got totally on board with this and made some great lion noises, Ben said I did a good job of being “a scared human” as I squealed my way down the slope!
Once they’d had a few goes of sliding down the slope and climbing back up again, Doug left us for his next booking and Dave took us over to the travelator – which meant we could get a little higher up the slope but didn’t have to work so hard to get there!
Now Dave had them doing “heads, shoulders, knees and toes” as they skied down the slope, or even jumping a little. He explained later that this was good for developing their balance and meant they weren’t really concentrating on what they were doing. Chloe thought it was hilarious!
The hour passed so quickly but it was definitely just long enough. By the end of the session it was clear that the kids were tired, they were slower to get back up when they fell! They’d had a fantastic time but I knew they were ready to stop and have a rest!
At the end of the session Dave sat down with us in the changing rooms and talked through the things that we had achieved and gave us a record card to show the levels we had reached. He said that both children had done really well and had got a lot done for their first lesson.
I must admit I was particularly impressed with Chloe as she has a tendency to get quite frustrated when things are hard and isn’t always very good at laughing things off. She loved her ski lesson though and just kept on getting back up and having another go. In fairness to her she spent less time on the floor than Ben and both myself and her instructor Dave thought she’d done incredibly well.
Once we had got changed and given back all our equipment we made our way upstairs to The Lodge where I had expected we would all want to warm up with a hot chocolate but actually we were all still really hot from our lesson and had a slush to cool down instead! Ben and Chloe loved that we were able to look out over the main slope whilst we had our drinks and were particularly impressed with the snowboarders taking the jumps! Ben said he quite fancies trying a snowboard next time!
Both kids were absolutely buzzing after their lessons and have both said that it was well worth the effort of driving all the way down to Hemel Hempstead and are keen to have another go! I’m just gutted that Dave and Amy weren’t able to come and take part this time!
*We were invited to try out a private family ski lesson at The Snow Centre free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*
Earlier this month, Dave and the kids went on an adventure without me! Here’s how they got on:
Ben has been a fan of LEGO since he was two. Starting with Duplo and then moving up to the proper stuff with great speed. He loves the it. Whenever he’s saving, either pocket money or money from birthday presents, you can bet he’s saving for LEGO. Ben’s passed on his love of LEGO to Chloe and Amy. Chloe has started to buy the LEGO Friends or princess themed boxes and Amy has been playing with the huge box of DUPLO we’ve got in the playroom. Ben’s got various sets, Star Wars, super hero, and recently he’s got a few Ninjago boxes.
So when LEGOLAND Discovery Centre contacted us and asked if we’d like to go to the visit their new Ninjago event, even though Colette was in London for the MADs and I would have to take all three of them on my own, I knew I couldn’t say no.
We turned up to Barton Square quite early on Sunday morning. Ben knew where we were going before we had parked the car. If you’ve never been to the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre before it’s in Barton Square, the complex adjoining The Trafford Centre. As we entered the kids were given Ninja goggles (free during the event). If you turn up wearing a Ninja outfit then you get a free poster too (while stocks last)!
For the uninitiated when you enter the Discovery Centre you are treated to a bit of an interactive play describing the process of making LEGO. There’s a professor who needs help from the kids in getting the machinery to work. All very interesting and gets the kids blood pumping with plenty of cheering and such. This time there was the added element of some Ninja skills displayed by the professor.
Once you’ve done that you go through into the actual play/display area. The first thing you can do, although it’s not compulsory, is a ride haunted house/laser quest, ride where you sit in a buggy on rails and get driven round a track while you shoot various creatures and things on the walls, ceiling and screens. Amy was very reluctant to get on the ride. I think she thought she was going to be scared. The other two were very keen though so I made her get on and after a minute she was fine. You get points for every thing you shoot while on the track. Ben and Chloe did far better than the last time they had been there. Of course I won. I didn’t tell them that though. I’m not a showoff!
After that you’re into the Miniland. Locations from all around the world are recreated in LEGO. It’s fantastic stuff. For the Ninjago event there are Ninjas hidden throughout Miniland. Test your own Ninja skills by trying to find them all! It was while looking for mini Ninjas that a huge one sneaked up on us! We turned around and there was Kai, the Fire Ninja! Ben was very excited to meet Kai. Amy was a little perturbed by this 6 foot red Ninja, and who can blame her!
There’s other Ninja based activities such as building your own Ninjago vehicles and in the Master Model building classes you can build Ninjago Eye masks. There’s large displays of Ninjago models and face painting on hand for those that want a Ninja mask. My favourite was the Ninja Laser Maze! A darkened labyrinth where you can live out your fantasies of being a cat burglar in the middle of a heist! I think the kids enjoyed it but to honest I was too busy tripping the laser beams! They’re not made for people of a larger height I’m afraid.
Aside from the Ninja themed stuff the rest of the centre is still available including the 4D cinema with two different shows playing. The large soft play area and climbing area as well as the Forest Pursuit (go kart track) if you’re over 4 years old. Amy was gutted she couldn’t go on these and had to watch her big brother and sister crashing into each other. I was a little sad I couldn’t join them to be honest! Amy was very taken with the Merlin’s Apprentice ride. You sit in a winged bike contraption that spins round a central pillar and rises into the air, if you pedal fast and keep pedalling! Kids under 1.2 meters have to be accompanied which meant that I went on twice in quick succession with Chloe and Amy. I was a little sweaty by the time I had got off.
After all the exercise it was time for a drink. The cafe bit has proper Costa coffee which I was most happy about and the kids enjoyed their Slush Puppies. As a treat we got them some chocolate cake which Amy proceeded to smear across every surface she could find. Bless!
The kids had a great time and as they had some money saved from birthdays and such on the way out I let them spend said money in the gift shop. Ben got a huge box of LEGO. Chloe and Amy got smaller sets but they were all happy with their lot (as were the The Brick Castle boys!)
If your child likes LEGO. The LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is well worth a visit. Whatever the time of year.
*We were invited to visit LEGOLAND Discovery Centre free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*
I can hardly believe it’s the last day of the summer holidays. At the start of the holidays, seven weeks stretching out in front of us felt so unbelievably long, yet now we’re at the end I almost feel as though they slipped through our fingers. Of course this isn’t the case at all and we’ve packed so much into our #sevenweeksofsummer. In fact there’s definitely been weeks where we ended up doing too much – where I had managed to plan something in for every single day. Looking back perhaps we’d have benefited from more “calm down days” but then equally, those days tended to be the days where the bickering and irritations set in.
Getting out and about with three kids can be stressful – getting everyone dressed, fed and out of the door whilst sorting yourself out and packing a picnic can be prone to stressful moments (equally, some days it just goes smoothly and you’re in the car ten minutes earlier than planned…) Mostly, our days out have been those planned with other people – various Butler adventures to the coast, to Leeds to meet up with Aunty Nic or Jaime and even a trip to Birmingham to see Donna. We’ve been to festivals, had a holiday in Scarborough and even enjoyed five nights with no kids at all. There’s been more ice cream than you can shake a stick at and sun cream by the gallon, picnics, paddling pools and water fights. We’ve done our best to make the most of those sunny days when they’ve put in an appearance (anyone else notice they often seemed to fall on a Tuesday!?) and braved the odd rainy day too.
I’m not sure I’m ready for the summer to end yet. I’m not ready to give up our lazy mornings, the hope of sunshine or our regular ice cream treats. I’m not ready for routine and rain. However, the kids are. They are ready for routine, for catching up with their friends and for learning. It’s time get going again, to lay the uniforms out, get the dinner money ready and prepare for the daily drama over lost shoes and hair bobbles.
Summer 2016 you flipping awesome, quite possibly the best one yet – we’ve made so many memories and I’ve loved (almost) every second of our #SevenWeeksofSummer:
Rather than just churn out a chronological recount of our day at the 7th annual Just So Festival, I thought we’d share a list of things we love about it . . .
Although Just So Festival is held over the course of three days there are a variety of ticketing options available from full weekend camping to single day attendance or even two days with no camping (which would be great if you were fairly local and averse to camping with small children . . . )
Having never camped with the kids before (in fact my last camping experience was at Leeds Festival some years ago) we have no equipment to speak of and decided that, although we think the kids would have loved to camp, it wasn’t really feasible for us this time round. (That said, Dave has since spent some time researching tents bigger than our back garden . . . )
So without further ado – here, in no particular order, is what we think makes Just So Festival so magical:
1. A wide variety of reasonably priced food stalls
We all know that when it comes to festival food we’re pretty much sitting targets, it’s going to cost a fortune right? Although we had taken some snacks with us (and were grateful for the Soreen lunch box we were given on arrival) we had taken the decision to buy our lunch on site – partly as I think it’s important to be able to report back for you guys but also because we knew the weather wasn’t looking great and a warm meal was going to be greatly appreciated if we were a bit cold and soggy.
The site is dotted with refreshment opportunities – we spotted candy floss, coffee and cakes on the Village Green but chose to head down to the Social for our lunch where we found the most awesomely named hot dog vendor “Piggie Smalls” selling an array of puntastic hot dogs including “Pig Daddy Kane” and “Amy Swinehouse” – I had fancied the mac & cheese dog but they’d run out, Amy however enjoyed a kids’ hot dog for £3.
Jenny from The Brick Castle was a big fan of her vegan haggis from iSpice. Chloe tucked into a tub of kids’ pasta (£5) from Rigatoni’s Pasta and Ben demolished an enormous Aberdeen Angus steak burger and fries (£6) from The Little Diner. Dave and I hit up Las Paelleras for a super satisfying chicken and chorizo paella (£6.50). The only disappointment was Donny’s “Kid’s taco” which wouldn’t have even filled Amy up so he ended up “helping” his Dad out with his paella!! Both families tucked into a portion of churros for a suitable sweet hit at the end of our meal!
It’s worth mentioning that although we chose to have our lunch at what I would class as pretty much peak time, there were no massive queues for food. The number and variety of vendors meant that everyone was really well catered for and the combination of fair pricing and no queues meant we were happy for the kids to be able to choose pretty much whatever they fancied rather than just feeding everyone from the same stand which would be our normal route.
2. Easy access
On arrival we were directed to a parking space which was probably no more than ten minutes walk up to the main festival site – there was no queue to speak of for the wristband exchange and we were quickly into the site and ready to start our day! (It was also easy to leave when we’d had enough, no trouble getting back to the car nor any queues to get off site).
We stumbled across Gacko (also know as Gary Bridgens) telling stories on the Village Green at lunch time and we were enthralled – his performance of the Magic Porridge Pot was enthusiastic and hilarious. We had only stopped for a minute to wait for Dave and Amy to get back from the toilet but ended up staying till the end of his performance.
4. Theatre for One
We stumbled across this little gem in the Spellbound Forest – a collection of miniature puppet shows performed to individuals. All three kids were entranced by a little mouse in a house, in fact Amy must have watched this particular show at least three times. They also watched one where they had to wear headphones and there was a little dude doing some painting, the big two thought it was cool but Amy was more than a little freaked out by it to be honest!
5. Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers
Prior to the festival we were sent a programme to peruse and a copy of this year’s Just So Festival CD featuring tracks from performers. We had a listen in the car on the way there and loved the cheeky upbeat nature of Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers. We were lucky enough to catch their performance on the Footlights Stage – from start to finish they were clever, comical and thoroughly entertaining. Dave and I laughed our heads off whilst dancing around with the kids and listened to My Mysterious Uncle on repeat for the duration of the drive home – we all now know the words! For the kids’ first real experience of live music I would say that scores top marks.
6. The poshest festival toilets you will ever see
The toilets on site at Just So were plentiful and impressively clean – from your average portaloo to some decidedly swisher toilets in proper portacabins – which were ideal for Amy who is currently potty training – they even had fancy lighting in them. The queues were never more than a couple of people deep and there was always toilet paper! I actually saw the portaloos near the main entrance being thoroughly cleaned out no less than three times during the course of the day.
7. Corey Baker Dance
Another accidental discovery in the Spellbound Forest. This was in fact one of the first things we saw as we had ducked into the forest to avoid a shower and were drawn to the loud music coming from one corner. We found a thoroughly entertaining dance & acrobatics performance based around a phone box and a very clever soundtrack.
8. Candy Floss
From the moment Chloe spotted FaeryFloss there was no way we were getting her out of the event without a £3 stick of sparkly sugary goodness! We managed to make them wait till the end of the the day, treating them to candy floss rather than our usual ice cream! (It wasn’t really ice cream weather to be honest and the candy floss was far more of a novelty). Ben wasn’t at all impressed that we made them share one between the three of them but they were huge and nobody wants an hour’s drive home with three over tired kids buzzing on a pink sugar high . .
Between the natural cover provided by the Spellbound Forest, the various tents and an enormous shed next to the Footlights Stage, we did a fairly good job of avoiding any major downpours. The festival is nicely spread out so nowhere ever felt really crowded, even when it was raining a little heavier than most of us felt we wanted to cope with!
10. Safe, friendly atmosphere
First and foremost Just So Festival is about the kids – this isn’t a grown up festival where kids are welcome, it’s children’s festival where the grown ups have fun too! As such, from the moment we arrived and were asked to write out phone numbers on the children’s wristbands incase we got separated I felt relaxed and safe. We were all there for the same reason – to have a jolly good time with our kids.
Having not really researched Just So Festival much before rocking up on the Saturday, I must admit that the idea of “tribes” had rather passed us by unfortuantely. Essentially there are six tribes (foxes, stags, fish, frogs, owls and lions) and you choose a tribe to join – over the course of the weekend tribe members can earn tokens for their tribe. The culmination of the Tribal Tournament is the Wild Rumpus on the Sunday night when the winning tribe is crowned. (This year’s winners were the fish I believe). It didn’t matter one jot that we hadn’t pleged our alligence to a particular tribe – we just loved seeing the amazing costumes that people were wearing – full families dressed in tweed and fox tails, amazing owl capes and masks or sequin fish scale shawls. Some people really go to town on their tribal costumes and it’s a wondeful sight to behold. Amy was rather besotted with the leader of the Stags is must be said . . .
12. Incredible attention to detail
This isn’t just a few tents flung up in a field at the last minute with some children’s entertainers – the whole site is strewn with bunting, lights and general all round magic. Everywhere you turn there is something new to notice and discover.
13. So much to see and do
We were only on site for a day and in that time we could only touch on the amazing things on offer – story telling, dance perfomances, circus skills, live music, craft, a campfire sing along to name but a few. It would have been lovely to stay for the full weekend and really take our time to explore and immerse ourselves. I’d have loved to see how the site changed after dark with the campfire and light parade which I’m told was stunning.
14. You can plan your schedule . . . or not!
During the course of the day there were lots of times where we stumbled across performances just as they were finishing and thought that perhaps we should have been more oganised about what we wanted to do but in reality I think pottering around here and there was probably a really lovely way to explore what was on offer. I found myself thinking we had missed out on things until we were driving home and talking about all the things we had seen.
15. It’s not a grand money making scheme
Just So Festival isn’t about rinsing you of as much money as possible – it is run by a not-for-profit communiy interest company called “Wild Rumpus”. All the profit goes back into arts programmes to support emerging artists and the volunteers who run the event. Alongside this – those of us with press tickets were offered the chance to “Pay it Forward” and make a donation towards allowing someone else to attend the even too. Tickets were then passed onto the Gingerbread Project who work with local homeless single parent families.
We’ve had a crazy busy couple of weeks and have been really looking forward to a slower pace over half term. No rushing to get out of the house on a morning, no frantic panic looking for socks, shoes, book bags and clean t shirts. No dragging Chloe out of bed with the promise of a new dress if she managed to make it through half a term without a tantrum in the morning (which incidentally she did!) Just no real pressure. We’re all tired. Ben and Chloe have both been really emotional for the last week or so. This is fairly common for Chloe towards the school holidays but Ben usually manages to hold things together – I think a combination of his SATs, his after school commitments having trebled and fighting off a bug have all knocked him for six and last weekend we had tears over not being able to hold a chip butty properly! Yes. I know. We are so ready for half term.
To set our half term off on the right foot, we hopped a tram into town (my car has been in the garage but we had already decided that getting the tram would be a nice treat) and made our way to The Printworks which is just over the road from Manchester Victoria station.
The Printworks is billed as “Manchester’s Premier Entertainments Complex” housing an enormous 20 screen Odeon Cinema and a wide variety of places to eat and drink. This half term, from Tuesday 31st May through to Friday 3rd June it’s “Kids Week” at the Printworks with a range of free activities going on in The Pump Yard (including story telling, dancing and even vegetable planting) and plenty of family friendly options for a spot of lunch too.
We were invited along to The Printworks to enjoy a family film and some lunch. Although I knew Ben would really enjoy the new Angry Birds, we decided that Zootropolis was probably a better option as we were taking Amy too. Usually, if we’re going to take the kids to the cinema, we tend to just take the big two at the moment as they can sit happily through a film whereas Amy tends to get a bit fed up. She’s only 2.5yo after all. I must admit, I was much more up for watching Zootropolis having seen some clips and heard lots of great reviews.
The Odeon Cinema in The Printworks is enormous and set over several floors so the kids though that having to go up lots of escalators to get to our screening was great fun! The screening was relatively empty and we were able to have our pick of seats which is always nice! The seating is super comfy and really generous with leg room (something Dave and I often struggle with). The fact that the seats are fixed (rather than the fold up ones you so often get in the cinema) is great for little ones as I know my three often struggle with the flip up seats. It was a shame the arm rests were fixed though as Amy really wanted to curl up and lean on me for a snuggle but the arm rests were in the way.
The film was great, holding all our attention right the way through (well, except Amy – though she did better than I expected). Some parts of the film were “laugh out loud” hilarious, others a little scary. Ben actually snuggled right up to me and openly admitted to being frightened – not that he needed to, I could feel he was actually shaking a bit! Over all, the kids thought it was fantastic and I know they’ll happily watch it again.
After the film we were all more than ready for some lunch so we made our way over to Peachy Keens. This isn’t somewhere we’d been before but we’d heard great things about the “world buffet” from friends (including Jenny from The Brick Castle who visited recently). We were taken to a larger table in a fairly dingy corner of the restaurant which seemed to be being used as a staff room – when we arrived there was a member of staff laid down (!) in the adjacent booth and during the course of our meal there was always at least two staff members sat there. Whilst this wasn’t an issue per se as they weren’t disturbing us, it did make us feel we weren’t really part of the proper dinner experience and had been shoved out of the way.
Having never been to a buffet before, we explained to the kids that they could choose anything they wanted to eat and showed them all around the buffet first so they could see what was on offer. They were excited at the prospect of choosing and serving their own food and we told them it was a good chance to try different things. I was really surprised that rather than going straight for pizza and chicken nuggets, Ben’s first choice was chicken tikka masala! The girls stuck to the “safer”, tried & tested route of pizza, chips, chicken nuggets, crisps etc.
Dave tried Chinese food first whereas I went for Indian. We were both a little disappointed with the quality of the food – the chicken in the curry was very dry and over all the food seemed to be fairly bland. However, the kids were clearing their plates and going back for more – three times over! Although I wasn’t overly impressed with the quality of the food itself, I should point out that the buffet was all hot and well stocked. The staff regularly came to clear our empty plates from the table but made little effort to interact with us which was a shame as Amy was full of smiles and good manners each time they came over.
The desert stand looked the most enticing with bite size cake pieces, ice cream and a chocolate fountain. The chocolate fountain was fairly unappetising as it just looked a mess – I was glad that none of the kids seemed very interested in it. I picked up quite a plateful of tasty looking morsels, which unfortunately turned out to be fairly nothingy and I left most of them. The kids demolished their ice creams!
We left Peachy Keens with full tummies and happy kids. The relaxed dining experience is great for families and the all you can eat buffet represents great value. Whilst Dave and I are unlikely to go to Peachy Keens on our own, I do thinks its worth considering for a family lunch – especially if everyone likes to eat different things!
Our afternoon at The Printworks made for a really great way to start our half term holiday – everything was so easy and convenient so there was no stressing out. I would never really have thought of it as being a family friendly venue before having only experienced it at night but it’s definitely somewhere we’ll consider returning to in the future!
*We were invited to spend the afternoon at The Printworks free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*
As official blog ambassadors for Geronimo Festival we were invited to attend this weekend as VIPs. We chose to visit on the Saturday and my goodness did we strike it lucky with the weather! I’ve decided to write this post a little differently to my usual write ups after an adventure so I’d love to know what you think! Hopefully you’ll get a good feel for our day out without having to read a “diary of our day” if you see what I mean.
Without further ado here’s 20 things we love about Geronimo Festival:
1. Plenty of parking and no traffic to worry about – I had expected to perhaps queue off the road to get into Tatton Park or perhaps on the grounds themselves but everything flowed really nicely and we were directed into a parking space on the grass relatively close to the main event. It always galls me when events charge you a further £5 for parking on top of the entrance fee however this is a standard fee for parking at Tatton Park all year round so I imagine the Geronimo Festival organisers actually had very little to do with it. We also had no issues as we came to leave – the car park emptied out steadily with no big queues – at the end of a long day, this was a big win in my eyes!
2. Meet & Greets – As VIPs we had a special timetable for VIP meet & greet sessions in the VIP area but there were also timetabled meet and greets out in the public arena for a number of the performers. (It’s worth noting that not all of the performers were doing meet and greets and some were VIP only eg Cook & Line, which was a little disappointing for our friends who were with us.) We missed meeting Katy and Mr Bloom as we were on the other side of the site in a queue however, we loved meeting Alex Winters and Cook & Line – they were fabulous with the kids who were just so excited to see them in real life. Alex particularly was so lovely with the kids, making a special effort with Amy who was in her pushchair so that she wouldn’t be nervous of him. He just spoke to them all as though they already knew him (which of course they felt they did!)
3. No sneaky added extras – Once you’re inside the event all the activities are included within your ticket price, there’s no sneaky added extras tempting your kids and causing you to fork out again and again. This is a big win for me as I hate being made to feel the bad guy when I’m saying “No, I’m not spending any more on that”. It was great to know that we could just say yes to pretty much anything they wanted to do! (Of course there were plenty of stalls you could spend your money on if you felt so inclined however they were situated in such a way as to be able to avoid them easily if you wanted to.)
4. Amazing burgers – We could have taken a picnic with us but we decided it was only right that we sample what was on offer from the different food vendors (and because I couldn’t be bothered to organise and carry one). There was plenty of choice to suit everyone though you must be prepared to pay through the nose, these are festival prices after all. Dave and I thoroughly enjoyed our chicken, spiced beef and grilled halloumi burgers from “V Fresh Street Food” (£6.50 each)
5. Ice-cream – Of course it would have been rude not to enjoy an ice cream on such a beautifully sunny day! Again these are not the cheapest ice creams you’ll ever buy at around £3 a pop but boy were they worth it.
6. Donkey rides – Who says donkey rides are just for the seaside! The queue for the donkey rides moved relatively quickly as there was a group of donkeys taking around 8 children at a time for a couple of laps around their enclosure. (Ben was particularly amused that his donkey was called Finn just like his best friend!)
7. Alex Winters & Mr Yipadee – I know I already mentioned Alex when I talked about the meet and greet but I feel he needs a mention all of his own! He was great fun to watch on stage with Mr Yipadee and the kids thought he was hilarious. They really interacted with the crowd, leaving the stage to involve everyone in an enormous Conga was a particular highlight.
8. Time with friends – We were really lucky to spend the day with some of our best friends which of course just added to our enjoyment of the day!
9. Zip wire – Ben is a tried and tested thrill seeker so we knew the Zip Wire was a must. The queue for the climbing activity and zip wire was a really test of patience for our 5 year old boys (I think they queued for around an hour while the girls played on the bouncy castles!) so it certainly wasn’t an activity you’d do more than once but safe to say they all loved it.
10. Helter-skelter – Ben and Chloe spotted the Helter-Skelter the moment we got out of the car and were very excited by it! The queue seemed to be pretty steady throughout the day but moved quite quickly. Ben was off like a shot when it was his turn whereas Chloe chose to ride down with me. She panicked initially but once she realised I had tight hold of her she loved it!
11. Mountain bike display – Dave and Ben really enjoyed the lads performing tricks and stunts on their bikes. I just hope Ben didn’t get any ideas!!
12. Circus skills – This kept our little gang entertained for quite some time with a wide range of equipment laid out ready for them to test out their circus abilities. I think we might have our very own little circus troupe within another few years with a bit of practice!
13. Princess walk about – Chloe was enthralled with the princesses and whilst I wasn’t particularly impressed with Elsa, I thought Cinderella was lovely. Chloe thought they were all wonderful though and kept spotting them during the day and running off to wave at them all. For a princess mad little girl this was heaven seeing princesses wandering around the festival!
14. Sofa area – although we didn’t actually sit down here we loved the idea of having loads of old sofas and standard lamps set out like a great big cosy living room in the middle of the site! It made for the perfect area to relax and chill out (particularly if you had a little one to feed.)
15. Samba workshop & parade– The samba parade and workshop was a really lovely end to the day. Chloe loved watching the dancers and having a go herself. Both Ben and Chlo really enjoyed having a go with the instruments and the samba parade itself meant that the whole day ended on a real high as it guided people towards the gates.
16. Bouncy castles – With at least 4 bouncy castles and no time limits this was just kid heaven! It kept our girls occupied whilst the boys stood in a rather long queue for the zip wire and climbing area.
17. Beautiful surroundings – if you haven’t been to Tatton Park before you really should add it to your list of places to visit. There’s so much beautiful park land to explore for your £5 car parking fee and our kids adore the adventure playground. We can easily while away a day there with a picnic (and plan to do so more than once this summer!)
18. It was clean underfoot – Despite the fact the weather had been pretty wet in the run up to the event the ground was impressively dry and yielded no need for the wellies we had chosen to wear (though I shouldn’t think that was the case for the rest of the weekend)19. Hammocks – Who doesn’t love a hammock?! These made a beautiful bright centrepiece to the site and I can’t say I didn’t want to get in there myself!
20. The sunshine – cheers to whoever ordered that one! I’d been frantically checking the weather all week and was thrilled with the steady forecast of warm but cloudy. As it turned out we really struck it lucky and got the most perfect bank holiday weather of bright blue skies and sunshine. It was a real joy to feel the sun on our faces for a change and was most definitely the icing on the cake of an already fabulous day.
There are so many things we didn’t even get chance to visit – the petting zoo, the under 3 foot area, the craft tents to name but a few! The festival really did provide something for everyone and we’ll definitely be looking to go back next year!
I’ll leave you with this video of some of our highlights:
*Disclaimer – We were invited to attend Geronimo Festival free of charge as blogger ambassadors for the purposes of writing this review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*