Coral Island, Blackpool

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure Justice League 2p machines

For many, Blackpool is the epitome of traditional British seaside holidays – but despite it being just an hour away from home, it’s not somewhere we ever go.  In fact, aside from a trip to the circus a few years ago, I don’t think we’d ever actually been during the day until our visit earlier this month!  Funny isn’t it that something can be right on your doorstep and yet you never take advantage of it.

Heading over to Blackpool on one of the hottest days of the year didn’t feel all that smart – I was worried that we’d get stuck in traffic, struggle to park, that it would be heaving and that we’d suffer in the heat (this is a major concern when your family is 40% ginger!).  We decided to set off early doors (I’m talking 8.45am) to beat the rush and actually made it over to Blackpool in little over an hour and easily found a parking space in the Bonny Street car park opposite Coral Island.

Coral Island is Blackpool’s largest indoor free admission family attraction – perfect positioned right on the seafront and ideal for passing the time on a rainy day or in our case, an air conditioned oasis in a heatwave!

From the moment you walk through the door, Coral Island is an assault on the senses – it’s dark and noisy with flashing lights drawing you in everywhere, tempting you to pour your holiday money into a vast array of games and machines.  Basically heaven for our children who have only ever really been to an arcade once before in Scarborough where they developed a heavy obsession for 2p machines (and who can blame them!)

Whilst we got our bearings and started to choose what things we might like to try out, Dave made a beeline for a change machine to make sure we had a ready supply of coins!  The kids were fascinated by the Pirate Flyer ride which literally takes you on a ride above everyone’s heads, giving you a great view of Coral Island in the process!  You have to buy your tokens before you go on the ride and one of ours got stuck in the machine, it took me a matter of moments to find a member of staff to help us out and remove the token from the machine.

Coral Island Pirate Ride

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - pirate ride

Next on our list was hitting up the 2p machines, where I honestly think we could have played all day.  We picked out machines which not only give out 2ps but prize tickets and so began our collection!  The kids were so excited when the machines spat out reams of tickets for them to gather up, you’d think they’d won the ticket lottery!

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure Justice League 2p machines

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure 2p machines - Amy

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure 2p machines giving out tickets

The Camel Derby was great fun, though the kids found it quite tricky and the other adults who were playing alongside us were difficult to beat – Dave couldn’t resist giving the kids a hand but we soon decided that it was probably not worth them playing again!

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure Camel Derby

Of course we couldn’t visit the Admiral’s Lounge, Island Slots or Casino as these areas are clearly fenced off and suitable for over 18s only but we did have a lot of fun playing Prize Bingo.  This isn’t quite the same as the old bingo dabber on a card situation, you sit yourself down in front of a screen, pop your coins in and basically press at the cards as the numbers are called – they are automatically highlighted for you and over the course of a few games both girls managed to win a line each giving them points to spend on a small prize.  (A flashing hedgehog and a light up ball if I remember rightly!)

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - Prize Bingo

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - Little girl playing Prize Bingo

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - Prize Bingo Winner

We loved that nothing was really that expensive so we didn’t feel we had to say no to rides or arcade games (though we did limit some of them to one turn!)

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - ride

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - bowling arcade game

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - Father and daughter playing air hockey

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - arcade games

One of the newest additions to Coral Island is a VR simulator ride – I warn you now, this isn’t cheap at £3 so was definitely a one go only ride, but Ben absolutely loved it!

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - new VR ride

When it comes to eating in Coral Island there are four restaurants offering a range of food and best of all, kids eat free! One under 10 eats free for every paying adult so we obviously had to pay for an extra children’s meal but this is fairly typical.  I let Dave choose where we ate and he picked out The Buccaneer – a fairly traditional pub with a piratey twist from the decor to the staff (yes, the staff were in full pirate costume which the kids loved!).  I had a lasagne (which was possibly the most tomatoey lasagne I’d ever had in my life but it filled a hole!) Dave and Ben went for burgers whilst the girls had chicken nuggets as is standard!

Coral Island | We're going on an adventure - Lasagne

Of course the most important thing to do before we left was to cash in ALL our tickets!  As it turns out, we didn’t actually have that many tickets at all compared to some of the people we saw feeding them into the “ticket eater” but we had enough for Ben to be able to choose a small toy from the Treasure Chest!

I think we spent about £40 on the arcades and the same again on dinner & drinks for five . . . we could have easily spent longer in Coral Island but we felt it was only right that we went for a quick paddle before our car parking ran out!  We’ve promised the kids we’ll go back another day.

Blackpool | We're going on an adventure

*We were invited to visit Coral Island and our expenses were paid however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Taking Time Out at The Spa Hotel, Ribby Hall Village

You know how sometimes life just seems to be careering on at full pelt and there seems to be nothing you can do to slow it down?  Things are crazy busy for us the moment – well always if I’m honest – but it seems to be particularly hectic at the moment with pretty much all our weekends booked up from the start of March through to the summer holidays combined with the usual frenzy of after school activities and tight work deadlines.  And whilst I do love to be busy, and much of what we are doing is super exciting, it can sometimes all feel a bit too much.

Back in the middle of March I was invited to spend the day at The Spa Hotel, Ribby Hall Village with some blogger friends – this practically makes it work right?  Ribby Hall Village is about 45 miles from where we live but if I’m honest I don’t mind a bit of time on my own in the car so the drive really didn’t feel like much of a bind!  I arrived mid morning, was given a robe and flip flops and shown to the changing rooms where the lockers were explained to me.  There are no phones allowed in the spa which frankly is bliss – locking my phone away for a few hours and really switching off was exactly what the doctor ordered!

The Spa Hotel, Ribby Hall

The main purpose of our trip to Ribby Hall was to experience the Aqua Thermal Journey  – “an amazing journey, where mind and body are treated to all kinds of unique and tantalising treatments, varying in temperature to detoxify, relax and revitalise.”  Essentially this is a series of experiences – a mix of steam rooms, saunas and hot tubs – which gradual increase in temperature.  The idea being that alternating between increasingly hot and cold temperatures can “stimulate and and improve your circulation, relax aching muscles, cleanse and rejuvenate your skin, and boost your immune system, as well as feeling luxurious and invigorating.”  The website suggests that the Aqua Thermal Journey should take about two hours but it definitely took us longer – probably because we were chatting so much – and we ended up rushing the end of the journey as we had a booking for lunch in the The Orangery.  If I’m honest I think I could have merrily spent all day taking my time on working through the various steps of the Aqua Thermal Journey and lying on the very inviting loungers – which I actually didn’t get chance to do!

Because the idea of the Aqua Thermal Journey is that it steadily increases in temperature as you work your way through the journey, each step is numbered and a small explanation of the treatment and it’s purpose given outside the room.  Sally was thoroughly amused by my need to experience all of the steps in the recommended order, I couldn’t bring myself to miss any out or do them in a different order.  This is in part due to the fact I’m naturally someone who follows the rules but also because I wanted to make sure I was getting the full benefit!

Ribby Hall Aqua Thermal Journey

Following the Aqua Thermal Journey in order meant that yes I did tip a bucket of ice cold water over my head (or at least down my back) and whilst it was brutal, I actually did quite appreciate the intensity of it!  There was only one room which we all really struggled with – The Balinese Salt Inhalation Room is the hottest steam room at 49 degrees!  The salt infused vapour encourages detoxification and cleansing of the skin and lungs – which I loved in theory but actually just found really overwhelming – it made my eyes sting and I couldn’t settle into breathing comfortably so soon left to move onto the next step!

One of my favourite parts of the journey was sitting outside in the hot tub in the Zen Garden – it was a cold day, but bright and sunny so being able to sit in a steaming hot tub whilst looking out into the countryside was absolutely lovely!  (I did end up overheating a bit and having to get out but I think I had just sat in there for far too long!)

After experiencing the Aqua Thermal Journey we took ourselves off to The Orangery for a light lunch – I didn’t bother getting dressed as I had a treatment booked later in the day but I did feel a bit daft sitting in my swimming costume and robe as most of the other guests were fully clothed!  Lunch was delicious and the service, whilst lovely, was decidedly relaxed.  It was nice not to feel harassed or rushed but as Sarah had to get off to do the school run we could have done with things being served a little quicker!

I had quite a gap from the other girls living to my booked treatment but I can’t say that having to spend more time in the spa was any kind of hardship!  The only downside was that I had got muddled up with my times and ended up getting ready for my treatment a good half hour too early – time I could have spent in the pool or hot tub rather than hanging around in reception but that was my own fault for not checking my booking!

I’m a big fan of NEOM fragrances and use them at home, but hadn’t realised until I was browsing the Ribby Hall Spa website that they actually do treatments – it would be rude not to try one!  Having had a couple of facials fairly recently I decided to pick a body treatment – I think I could have happily chosen any of them but the NEOM Energise treatment stood out to me: “Using changes in temperature, speed-of-touch and different textures this treatment begins with the Neom Body Scrub with its potently invigorating oils of wild mint and mandarin. Your skin will be buffed head-to-toe, left feeling amazingly uplifted and ready to be enveloped in the NEOM energising cream clay wrap. Whilst you’re wrapped you’ll experience a 20 minute face and scalp massage plus specialist reflex foot massage techniques (and back massage for 90 minute treatment option).” 

Oh. My. Days.

It was amazing.

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like it!  The treatment started with a guided meditation which was played on a CD while the therapist started work.  Now this sounds a bit odd but it was actually lush, listening to the instructions and concentrating on my breathing helped me to really relax into the treatment making sure I got the best from it.  The products used smell heavenly (as you’d expect from NEOM) and the whole experience left me feel really relaxed, with beautifully soft skin.  I loved that this was a whole body treatment – not just a fancy scrub but a treatment from head to toe.  I would book it again in a heartbeat – and I’d also love to try some of the other NEOM treatments on offer!  I was only gutted that I hadn’t left myself time to chill out after the treatment and had to set off straight home!

Ribby Hall is certainly up there as one of the nicest spas I’ve visited.  That makes it sounds like I’ve been to loads – I haven’t – but I’ve certainly seen a fair range of quality and Ribby Hall sits nicely at the top end and I’m already planning a return trip with Dave!

*We were invited to experience the Aqua Thermal Journey free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain my own*

Disney on Ice – Worlds of Enchantment at Echo Arena Liverpool

Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

I can’t tell you how glad I was to get everyone into bed this evening – the levels of bickering and generally over-tired, over-emotional behaviour were reaching fever pitch and breakdown was imminent (I’m not sure which would have come first – mine or Amy’s).  However, it was all worth it.  You see my girls didn’t get to bed till after 10pm last night having travelled over to Liverpool to watch the latest Disney on Ice show – Worlds of Enchantment.

This was Chloe’s 4th Disney on Ice show and Amy’s 2nd – previously Amy had just been too little to manage the late night and whilst she’s still pretty small to be driving home from Liverpool at 9pm, she’s now more than capable of sitting and enjoying the show.  And enjoy the show she did.

This time, Ben decided to forgo his ticket in favour of a “lad’s night” with his best friend meaning that we were able to taking my goddaughter, Erin (who regular readers will be familiar with as she features fairly frequently on my blog!).  Previously when I’ve taken the kids to watch Disney on Ice, they haven’t known about it before hand but this time they’d been counting down for days with the excitement building.  In the past it hasn’t really occurred to me to dress them up, and I’ve tended to concentrate more on making sure they’re comfortable for the journey and the show itself but this time round we decided to let the girls wear their princess dresses which if I’m honest just seemed to add to the magic for them!

Meet Woody & Jessie at Disney on Ice

Meet Mickey Mouse at Disney on Ice

The Worlds of Enchantment show starts with a quick “Fit to Dance” performance which encourages the audience to get up and get moving – I was impressed to see Chloe leap up and bust out some moves, she normally takes a little while to warm up to these things!

The main show was split into four sections featuring Toy Story 3, Little Mermaid, Cars and Frozen with a short interval in the middle.

Having seen several Disney on Ice shows now I was super excited to see something different on the ice – Toy Story 3 and Cars haven’t featured before in the Disney on Ice shows that we’ve seen and if I’m honest I have more than a bit of a soft spot for the Toy Story trilogy so was thrilled to see some of my favourite characters performing.  As ever I found myself marvelling at how it’s even possible to skate as the back end of a donkey or dressed as a pig.  The Toy Story performance gave a whistle-stop tour of Toy Story 3 outlining the story from Andy packing up his toys to them arriving at Sunnyside, Lotso and eventually their escape – it’s amazing how much of the story can be condensed into a few songs and some skating!

Toy Story 3 Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

Lotso, Toy Story Disney on Ice

The Little Mermaid always plays out well on the ice featuring your favourite songs and, possibly one of my favourite costumes of the entire show – Ursuala.  The enormous inflatable Ursula which we’ve seen previously didn’t make an appearance last night but I think the Little Mermaid section was shorter than the Toy Story one – it certainly felt that way at any rate.

Little Mermaid - Disney on Ice

Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

Mother and daughter watching Disney on Ice, Worlds of Enchantment

After the interval (where poor Amy panicked that the show was over and she hadn’t seen Elsa) we were treated to Cars – which was a bit of an odd one as it didn’t involve any skaters just cars whizzing around expertly on the ice!  I’m fairly sure this was some fancy remote control trickery as I couldn’t see anyone inside the vehicles!!  Amy was super excited as one of her friends at Nursery loves Cars and she couldn’t stop telling me how much Noah would love this bit of the show and whilst it wasn’t my personal favourite I could see how exciting it would be for a Cars fan!

Cars at Disney on Ice

And then of course it was time for the grand finale, I’ve said it before but Frozen was made for the ice.  Every Disney on Ice show we’ve seen has featured Frozen and each time it is a spectacular of beautiful costumes, fake snow and amazing ice dancing.  Amy was beside herself – I think she actually enjoyed it more this time than she had the first time we took her!

Elsa from Frozen - Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

Olaf at Disney on Ice

Proving you really are never too old for Disney, my friend Sarah from Extraordinary Chaos watched the show with her teenage son and friend!

You can catch Disney on Ice, Worlds of Enchantment at Echo Area Liverpool until this Sunday before moving on to Nottingham, Cardiff and Aberdeen.

*We received complimentary tickets to Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Reddish Vale Farm – Perfect for Under 5s!

It’s been years since we last visited Reddish Vale Farm, so long in fact that I was pregnant with Amy.  On the basis that it isn’t too far away from home, not too expensive and had cows (a key factor in any farm visit!) we decided to pay a visit this Easter rather than travelling to a much larger but more expensive farm.

With it being the first actually nice day of the Easter holidays, Reddish Vale Farm was understandably busy and we struggled to park onsite, having to drive back up the hill and park on of the nearby residential streets.  Luckily we found a spot not too far away and were able to make our way back down to the farm without a problem.

The farm had only been open about half an hour when we arrived and as such there was a bit of queue to get in but this moved reasonably quickly.  Of course this fed through into the first part of the farm being pretty crowded too and in hindsight perhaps we should have started in the play area and worked backwards.  The farm area was much quieter later in the day meaning there was plenty of room to mooch about and spend time at each animal pen.

Reddish Vale Farm - calves

Having been before, I knew that Reddish Vale Farm wasn’t very big but I think I’d forgotten just how small it actually is and I quickly worried that we were going to have wasted our money – it cost us somewhere in the region of £32 to get in (including a couple of buckets of carrots to feed the animals) which for a full day out would be great value but in reality turned out to be pretty expensive.

Because it was so busy we found ourselves moving on quite quickly from each animal pen to allow other people a chance to see and feed the animals and as such within an hour we had finished in the farm area itself.  I was quite disappointed as seeing the animals at our other favourite farms is the main focus of our day.  (Amy has been known to spend 45 minutes just watching the cows being milked at Smithills Farm!)

We made our way out to the new adventure play area – I say “new”, I don’t know how long it has been there but it’s certainly not something I’ve seen before and all the equipment looks pretty new so I wouldn’t think it has been more than a summer or two.  The playground equipment was spot on for Amy and Chloe, and whilst I would say it probably lacked the challenge Ben would like, it still kept him occupied for a good while – particularly the zip wire.

Reddish Vale Farm adventure playground

Zip wire at Reddish Vale Farm

We took ourselves off to the Tea Room for a drink and to share a cake before the kids tried out the soft play and bouncy castle – which if I’m honest I thought was an odd choice on their part considering the weather was so lovely but hey, who am I to argue.  There was a lengthy queue for the toilets at lunch time which was frustrating – especially as the majority of customers are small children who might not be able to hold it in!

All in we actually managed to spend about 4 hours at Reddish Vale by virtue of the weather – had it been cold or miserable I think we’d have been done within a couple of hours.  It was lovely to get out in the fresh air and see some calves but in all honesty I think our children are now too big for Reddish Vale Farm.

Here’s eleven reasons why we think Reddish Vale is great for Under 5s

It’s not huge – there isn’t too much walking for little legs

There’s a nice variety of typical farm animals in easy to see pens

There’s only one or two pens of each type of animal so it doesn’t get boring

The animals are used to being fed and petted

The soft play and bouncy castles are undercover for days when the weather is below par

The majority of the outdoor play area is easily accessible for little children – at 4.5yo Amy could go on everything independently

You can hand feed the animals with buckets of carrots purchased on entry (£1 a bucket)

There’s a small indoor petting area with chicks and rabbits to hold under staff supervision

There’s plenty of places to sit down to enjoy a drink and snack if you’ve brought them with you

The adjoining Tea Room offers a great variety of options for a snack or meal and isn’t too expensive.

Under 2s are free.

(I did film our day out which I will hopefully add in here later but for now by video editing software isn’t playing ball!!)

11 Reasons why Reddish Vale Farm is perfect for Under 5s

Three of our favourite farms to visit this Spring

Nothing screams spring like a visit to a farm to see all the new life!  With that in mind, here’s three of our favourite farms to visit this spring:

Smithills Open Farm

Smithills Open Farm near Bolton is a family run business with over 25 different types of animals – from cows, pigs and sheep to owls, llamas and pythons!  One of the main attractions of Smithills Open Farm for us is “Pet’s Corner” where you can feed and handle a variety of animals including the lambs and baby chicks! But, for Amy, the highlight of a visit to Smithills Open Farm is being able to watch her beloved cows be milked.  Amy has been known to stand for a full 45 minutes watching a milking session!  Smithills Open Farm have a cafe on site but you are welcome to take a picnic if you wish – there’s a number of picnic tables out near the play area and we’ve never struggled to find somewhere to sit.  There’s an indoor area filled with bouncy castles and inflatables but we’ve always been too busy to use it!  It’s also worth mentioning that there are donkey rides, you need to buy tickets for these at the kiosk but from memory they’re only a pound or so.

Adults: £8.00
Children: £7.00 (2 – 16 years, children under 2 are free)

Baby lambs at Smithills Open Farm

 

Reddish Vale Farm

It’s a long time since we’ve been to Reddish Vale Farm, near Stockport.  So long in fact, that I was pregnant with Amy!  It’s definitely time for us to plan a return.  One of the things we loved most about Reddish Vale Farm is that it isn’t huge making it perfect for little legs to explore.  You can buy a bucket of animal feed on your way in and feed many of the animals as well as petting them.  Once you’ve seen all the animals, there’s an outdoor play area as well as a covered soft play area with a bouncy castle to burn off some of that extra energy!

The Reddish Vale Tea Rooms are perfectly placed next door for a hot drink and a snack or even for a full lunch.

Adults- £5.50
Children- £6.50
Under 2s- FREE (Proof of age may be required)
OAPS- £5.00
Feeding cows at Reddish Vale Farm
Reddish Vale Farm is perfect for little ones

Canon Hall Farm

Canon Hall Farm is by far one of my favourite places to visit in the spring.  It’s the biggest but also the most expensive of the farms in this post.  My friend Hannah isn’t a fan of Canon Hall Farm as she says it’s “too sanitised” and not a “real farm” which I totally get, however I think most of us are quite happy to keep our feet clean!  We’ve visited Canon Hall Farm a couple of times now, both visits have been in the spring and as such we’ve been lucky enough to witness several births (one of which I even caught on camera last year!)

There’s so much to do at Canon Hall Farm with a number of outdoor play areas aimed at different ages of children (this is the first thing Ben mentions whenever we talk about Canon Hall Farm).  The fairly recent addition of a soft play area was a big hit for us last year when it was really cold the day we visited – a chance to warm up with a hot drink while the kids ran around for a bit was a joy!  You can watch milking demonstrations – though this is usually just a couple of cows rather than a herd like at Smithills, take a tractor ride, pet some of the smaller animals and see all manner of baby animals at various stages from raised viewing platforms.  For me, the raised viewing platforms are a game changer as it means that even the smallest visitor to Canon Hall Farm has a good chance of being able to see what’s going on!

Easter Adventure Tickets £9.95 per person valid until 08.04.18

Raised viewing platforms at Canon Hall Farm

Piglets at Canon Hall Farm

Will you be visiting a farm this spring?  I’d love to know your favourites too!

Thorpe Park Fright Nights 2017 – Review

Because a) I live too far away and b) I’m a massive scardy cat, I wasn’t able to attend the press launch of the 2017 Thorpe Park Fright Nights last night but I knew a girl who would!  So, let me introduce you to my good friend and guest reviewer Cesca:

Hi, I’m Cesca.  I am pretty lucky, I live in a bit of a “theme park Bermuda Triangle”, and am pretty much equi-distant to Thorpe Park, Chessington and Legoland.  So, when Colette asked if I would like to attend Thorpe Park’s Fright Night I jumped at the chance!

On reflection this was a little fool hardy, I’m still not sleeping properly at night after being scared by ET: The Extra Terrestrial when I was five. But, duty called, so I took myself over to the park on an autumnal Thursday night to experience what was on offer.

Fright Night 2017 includes seven horror filled activities, plus the usual rides.  On the launch night the 5 Fright Night mazes were open, and the park’s six biggest rides (Stealth, Swarm, Colossus, Saw : The Ride, Nemesis Inferno and Derren Brown’s Ghost Train) were running.

All throughout the park they’ve made a real effort with the Fright Night theming, it’s eerily dark, there are a few zombies on the loose and lots of scary noises and music are played which gets the old anxiety levels up!  We did Stealth first, which for those who’ve never been is a bit like Alton Towers’ Rita, but on steroids.  Daniela, my sister, is petrified of it for some reason so we were getting it done first.  Even then I had to shout at her when she tried to bottle it and get off in the loading bay!!

Thorpe Park Stealth - Fright Night

We then went on Swarm, which is another big coaster and really exhilarating in the dark! This looked amazing, with the car looping around a post apocalyptic wasteland themed area with menacing red lights on it.

At that point we happened to stumble across one of the mazes, Sanctum, which was themed around The Walking Dead series.  There are some rules common across all mazes: they are designed to SCARE you!  They are aimed at 13+ so aren’t suitable for young children.  They use sounds, smoke, lights and smells for an immersive experience and they use live actors.  The live actors WILL TOUCH you (and scare the living daylights out of you!!) but they will never hurt you.  Well it’s fair to say I screamed the whole way round, (the man with his intestines out was disgusting) but we managed to escape the Zombies successfully.

Thorpe Park Fright Nights 2017 - The Walking Dead

We then went on Derren Brown’s Ghost Train, which is a virtual reality Ghost Train (I’m not allowed to spoil the secret by saying any more than that); suffice to say it’s like no other Ghost Train you’ve been on before!!  I then forced my sister, who was still being a big jessie, onto Saw: The Ride, which is based on the Saw film franchise.  Think chainsaws, and lots of Billy the Puppets with a huge rollercoaster and you’re on the right lines. Well, it was so scary – it was pitch black and you couldn’t see what was coming!

Thorpe Park Fright Nights 2017 - Saw

Next was the Saw: Alive maze which was BRILLIANT!  You were taken through various torture rooms based on the film and there were dead bodies, and really bad smells, and body bags and body parts… and people trying to capture you to be the next victim.  It was a lot gorier than the other maze (but still good fun!)

We then headed over to The Big Top, a circus themed maze with lots of scary clowns.  My sister and I both liked that they were all so different – this one had really bass heavy dance music playing and really good lighting effects.  The strobes totally played with my vision I got so disorientated.  And there a clown that took a shining to me and followed me round the whole maze.  Joy.

Thorpe Park Fright Nights - The Big Top

Our final ride of the night was Nemesis Inferno, which is similar to the original Nemesis – fast, thrilling and disorientating.  We finished the night with a maze, Platform 15, which was based on a train and abandoned village and used the old railway tracks of the Canada Creek railway (going back to the 80’s there!).  This one was more spooky than scary, other than the bit at the end which was terrifying!  Again, totally different to the other ones we tried.  At that point we left, checking over our shoulders approximately every 30 seconds on the way back to the car to make sure we didn’t have a stowaway in tow!

Both Daniela and I thoroughly enjoyed Fright Night. If you don’t like being scared or feeling afraid of what might be ahead it’s probably not for you, but we think they’ve got the balance of fear, excitement and laughter just right.  The attention to detail and the quality of the actors & acting is first rate.  The length of the attractions is just right, too – at the point when it’s getting a bit too much you realise you’ve reached the end.

Thorpe Park Fright Nights 2017

Top tips for Fright Night 2017:

Stay in the middle: you go round the attractions in groups. If you are a little nervous, stay in the middle of the pack. Those at the front come across the surprises first, and those on the back usually end up with things tailing them, or being separated from the main group (as happened to us).

Mix it up: whilst all the mazes are different, there are some similarities and you could become desensitised if you went on all 5 in a row (“oh look, another severed head, yawn”) which would be a shame.  We found that interspersing rides with mazes avoided this.

Plan your trip: this is stating obvious, but Fright Nights are very popular.  Book your tickets in advance, don’t just turn up on the off chance (like we did in 2008 to find out it was full at 10am – we’d all taken a day’s leave too – I was not popular that day), and expect long queues (they are expecting 3+ hours for the mazes on the busiest nights).  Think about the things you really don’t want to miss and aim for those as it’s unlikely you’ll get round it all.

Sleep with the light on when you get home: well it can’t hurt, right? Better safe than sorry…

Our thanks to Colette, We’re Going on an Adventure and Thorpe Park for a great night!

This year’s Fright Nights run from tonight (29.09) through to Halloween – don’t forget to book in advance! 

The new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo

During half term we visited Chester Zoo to check out the newly opened PLAY! space featuring a range of different areas created by play experts and launched at the end of May.  The Madagascar PLAY! space is a really active adventure play area designed to encourage children to explore and have fun.

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo

We first arrived at the PLAY! space around lunch time – this wasn’t entirely intentional but just happened to be the point at which we stumbled across it whilst exploring the rest of the zoo.  The Madagascar PLAY! Base Camp is conveniently situated near a couple of eateries and with plenty of outdoor spaces for picnics – and as such it was extremely busy at lunch time on a sunny day in the middle of half term!  This is of course to be expected and didn’t really pose too much of a problem, we were still able to find a picnic table to eat our lunch (which we had bought on site after not really planning ahead and forgetting to take a picnic!) but it did mean that it was harder to keep an eye on all three children when they wanted to play in different spaces.  After a short play we agreed that we would go and explore the rest of the zoo and then come back to the PLAY! Base Camp towards the end of the day for an ice cream and some time to play.

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo - Lost Forest

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo - Lost Forest

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo - baobab tree

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo - baobab tree

This turned out to be a good plan – the Madagascar PLAY! Base Camp was still busy but we felt there was room to breathe.  We were able to let them explore more as it was easier to keep them in our line of view with less people around.  The PLAY! space centres around the Lost Forest which, with its scramble nets and various climbing opportunities, was right up Ben’s street.  To the side of the Lost Forest, we found the sandy beach with its shipwreck which Amy was really excited by.  The sand was beautiful and clean (as you’d expect having only been open for a week or so).  The girls loved being able to take their shoes off and feel the sand between their toes!  And finally, we led them to the dry river bed which I must admit I had a love / hate relationship with!  On a hot sunny day, it was a joy to see so many children splashing about and exploring the different pumps and dams, working together as a team to fill up different sections of the river bed and paddling around barefoot.  Had the weather been colder I’d have been more bothered about the potential for wet clothes and miserable children!  Visiting the PLAY! space on our way out of the zoo was a stroke of genius in this instance as it meant I wasn’t really bothered if they got soaked, I’d have just stripped them off when we got to the car.  As it was, the flow of water through the river bed is fairly minimal – obviously if you sat down in it you’d get pretty wet but for the sake of splashing about a bit with your feet you’d struggle to get too soggy.  That said, next time I will make sure I’ve got a towel and a change of clothes with me – just in case!

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo - beach

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo - dry river bed

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo - water play

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo - riverbed

The Madagascar PLAY! Base Camp is a really great addition to Chester Zoo.  If I’m honest my three would probably have been quite happy to play about at Base Camp for most of the day and took some coaxing to leave at home time (thank goodness for ice cream bribes . . . )  A visit to Chester Zoo isn’t a cheap day out – at around £100 for our family of five if we pre-book online – and for that price I want to see lots of animals, not watch the kids clamber around on a posh climbing frame!  Next time we visit I will definitely save our visit to PLAY! Base Camp for the end of the day when they can play for as long as they like without me worrying that we need to get on and make sure we’ve seen everything before home time!

new Madagascar PLAY! space at Chester Zoo - skipping lane

If you want to see footage from the PLAY! space and what else we got up to whilst we were at Chester Zoo then check out our video here:

*We were invited to visit Chester Zoo free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*  

Bank Holiday Adventures with Piri Allergy

This spring & summer we are working with Piri Allergy to prove that life is just more fun when you get outdoors!  We spent a good chunk of our Easter holidays “Wild Living” in the Lake District with Ben McNutt from Woodsmoke which was so far out of our comfort zone we could barely see it any more, but honestly just the most amazing experience.  (If you missed this I will link in a series of posts and videos at the end so you can catch up!)

Continuing with the theme of “getting outdoors” we had a very busy Bank Holiday weekend trying out a range of different adventures and testing our limits.

Saturday – Smithills Open Farm, Bolton

Smithills Open Farm is one of our favourite places.  I first visited with the kids on a Butler / Burgess day out last spring and Dave took Amy back in the autumn when they were having a special day out together.

We're going on an adventure at Smithills Open Farm with Piri Allergy

We're going on an adventure at Smithills Open Farm with Piri Allergy

Amy particularly loves Smithills Open Farm because she’s basically obsessed with cows – she will happily stand and watched them be milked for the full milking session if you let her.  Previously she hasn’t been quite brave enough to touch or feed the cows but over the course of our visit last weekend she over came this and stroked some of the calves.  (She’s still not a massive fan of being licked by them but then who is?!)

Amy and the cows at Smithills Open Farm with Piri Allergy

Stroking the calves at Smithills Open Farm with Piri Allergy

Our visit also included that typically British summertime activity of a donkey ride along with feeding and holding a whole range of animals in Pet’s Corner.  Now I’ve mentioned before that I’m allergic to dogs (and cats but I would never go near enough to one for that to affect me because I can’t stand them!) but I genuinely don’t know how far my animal based allergies go – it’s a fairly safe bet that sitting feeding lambs, stroking donkeys and cuddling rabbits could all be things which would set off an allergic reaction be it aggravating my asthma or breaking out in hives.  Of course I have no desire to let my allergies stop either me or my family doing the things we love so a quick dose of Piriton before we set out for the day meant I didn’t have to worry about it.

Riding donkeys at Smithills Open Farm with Piri Allergy
Stroking lambs at Smithills Open Farm with Piri Allergy

Sunday – City Cycling Tour 

Dave has been a fairly keen cyclist for a few years now but I’ve barely had my bum near a bike saddle in twenty five years.  I had a bike briefly in a my mid twenties but never really got on with it and it was soon banished to the garage.  Ben has been able to ride a bike for about a year now but he hadn’t been out on it since last summer so it was safe to say that we were all a little nervous about how a city cycling tour would pan out!  Dave spent a bit of time planning out a route but soon realised that it was a good 3 mile ride just to get from the bike shop to any of the planned cycle routes.

We're going on an adventure - Family cycling tour round Manchester with Piri Allergy

In the end we just set off and with the help of Google Maps managed to stick to cycle paths to get us from Salford out to Whalley Range at which point Amy had fallen asleep in the trailer and I  had started to panic that he was going to take us too far out so that Ben & I wouldn’t manage to get back!  We decided to head to nearby Fallowfield to show Ben where I had lived as a student and the infamous post box which Dave had leap-frogged the night we got together!  We did attempt to stop for some lunch however it would appear you can only eat in Fallowfield if you’re over 18 so we ended up with a bag of crisps each and hopped back on our bikes to ride back up into the city centre.  Ben was gaining in the confidence all the time and thankfully the cycle paths up through Rusholme are quite wide and mostly separated from main road as it’s a really busy road.  We stopped outside the old MMU Student Union on Oxford Road for a quick selfie as it was there that Dave and I met some sixteen years ago!

Colette & Dave outside the old MMU Student Union with Piri Allergy

We hit a bit of problem when we made it back to the city centre as we basically needed to get across the course of the Great Manchester Run . . . honestly you couldn’t make it up.  In the end we had to walk alongside our bikes following the route of the run through the crowds until we made it past the finish line and could cross over!  If I’m honest I was quite glad of the walk as my bum was really starting to suffer!  All in we cycled somewhere in the region of 1o miles.  The cycling itself was fine but I was definitely saddle sore and my hands hurt.  I enjoyed our family bike ride far more than I had expected but I would definitely avoid such busy roads in future as it was pretty nerve wracking and also meant that the ride was quite “stop -start” in places.

Monday – Go Ape, Delamere Forest 

Regular readers will know that Ben is something of a thrill seeker (he’s desperate to hit the magical 1m 40 to be able to go on all the biggest theme park rides)!  He has been keen to visit Go Ape for quite a while now so he was particularly excited about our trip to Delamere Forest on Bank Holiday Monday.

Exploring Delamere Forest with Piri Allergy

Of course a forest full of trees is not necessarily an attractive prospect if you suffer from hayfever.  Ben and I both dosed up on the appropriate Piri Allergy products to make sure that we wouldn’t have our adventure ruined by our allergies!

Safey equipment at Go Ape, Delamere Forest with Piri Allergy

Testing the equipment at Go Ape with Pri Allergy

Once we had put on our safety equipment and had a go on the practice course to make sure we knew how everything worked it was time to get on with it.  I must admit I was really impressed with just how confident Chloe was once she got up onto the course, she clearly trusted her equipment and just got on with it!  Amy was also very brave considering she hadn’t really wanted to do it in the first place!

Adventure kids at Go Ape

Excited faces at Go Ape, Delamere

The biggest challenge arose when we got to the end of the course and were faced with the zip wire.  Chloe broke down in tears and couldn’t bring herself to do it.  I think the fact that she was the first in the queue didn’t really help matters so to give her time to get to grips with it we swapped her round and Dave went down first followed by Amy!! Yes, three year old Amy.  She was clearly nervous but she just jumped off and did it.  Dave said she was smiling when she got to the bottom but she didn’t want to go back up again!  Obviously we didn’t push her as we were just so impressed with her for doing it in the first place.  Ben obviously just launched himself off with no fear, even pulling out a dab on the way down!  Once the others had had a go it was Chloe’s turn to try again.  I reminded her of the time she got to the top of the water slide at Splash Landings and refused to go down but then absolutely loved it once I’d made her get on.  With lots of help and coaxing from a fabulous member of Go Ape staff, she took the leap. . . . and guess what?  She loved it.  Of course she did.

Zip wire at Go Ape, Delamere Forest with Piri Allergy

Chloe feeling nervous about the zip wire

Chloe braving the zip wire at Go Ape

We're going on an adventure at Go Ape, Delamere Forest

Having conquered the first course, Amy decided to sit out and watch from the ground, Ben set off around the more challenging course on his own whilst I did the main course with Chloe again.

Amy waited for the big two on the ground at Go Ape

There’s quite a step up between the two courses and whilst Ben was able to manage it by himself, Chloe found it considerably more challenging so after having a go with Dave, she reverted back to the first course for her final turn.

Chloe conquers the more challenging course at Go Ape, Delamere Forest

Dabbing on the zip wire at Go Ape, Delamere Forest
All said and done Go Ape was a great success.  Ben came home and immediately told Mich that she must take Finn because he’d love it!  In all honesty, although Amy was tall enough I don’t really think she was old enough to properly enjoy the experience and I certainly wouldn’t’ take her again until she’s quite a bit bigger as one go round the course doesn’t really offer great value for money!  As it is I’ve booked a similar activity for them all this coming weekend but Amy will be doing a course that’s just a metre off the ground so I think it will be more along the lines of the practice trail which she was perfectly happy with!

Dave and I were both especially proud of the girls for overcoming their fears and giving it a go!

Team photo at Go Ape

Of course we’ve made a video of our adventures so you can get a real flavour of our Piri Allergy adventures there too!

We’ve now finished our Piri Allergy advetures and, later this month, I will be writing all about how we’ve benefited from getting outside this spring & summer.  Of course, in the meantime keep an eye on the Piri Hub, my instagram and youtube!

Getting outdoors with Piri Allergy this summer

* Wild Living with Piri Allergy at Woodsmoke

* Ecotherapy & Tree Climbing at Woodsmoke

* Rambling, Scrambling and Sinking Sand with Piri Allergy at Woodsmoke

*This post forms part of a paid collaboration with Piri Allergy* 

11 Reasons to visit Cannon Hall Farm this spring

Canon Hall Farm in the Spring

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!

We're going on an adventure to Cannon Hall Farm

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.

Milking at Cannon Hall Farm

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.

Play area at Cannon Hall Farm

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.

Watching lambing at Cannon Hall Farm

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

Piglets at Cannon Hall Farm

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 birthday day out in Whitby

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.

Mum & kids in Whitby

Granny & Amy in Whitby

Boxer puppy in Whitby

Daddy & Ben in Whitby

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!

Watching the waves crashing onto the rocks in Whitby

Waves splashing in Whitby

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?

Amy and Grandad in Whitby

Girls eating chips from The Magpie Cafe, Whitby

Donkey rides on the beach in Whitby

Chloe's first donkey ride of the year in Whitby

Little girl enjoying a 99 ice cream in Whitby

I won’t be leaving it another five years before we return Whitby I can promise you that!