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!!)

Disney on Ice presents Passport to Adventure at Manchester Arena

On Wednesday evening I picked everyone up early from childcare, the big two got quickly changed in the car and we hopped a tram into town, eating butties on the way!  There’s nothing like the excitement of a cheeky after school adventure!  Of course they didn’t know where they were going – they never do.

We got off the tram at Manchester Victoria ready to climb the stairs to Manchester Arena only to be met with notices stating that backpacks were not to be allowed in the venue.  Of course it makes perfect sense, I understand why they’ve instigated that ruling.  Unfortunately I just didn’t know anything about it beforehand.  It wasn’t like there was even really anything in my backpack – just a camera and a few snacks – I tend to carry it out of habit, especially if I’m out with the three of them on my own.  I like to keep my hands free!

So I’m left standing there on my own, with three kids having to make the decision between chucking my bag away or taking them home again and missing out on the show . . . at this point I was extremely glad that they still didn’t know what we were actually going to see.  It took me a minute or two to get my head straight and to come up with a plan – having three little ones rabbiting on at you isn’t conducive to thinking properly!  I decided I would try and get a smaller bag to decant my things into and dump my rucksack.  I’d had it a couple of years and it was on it’s way out – I’d been looking for a replacement for a little while.  I decided that the value of my old bag versus the value of the tickets and experience meant the bag would have to go.  A quick trip to the M&S Simply Food in the train station for a carrier bag to decant my bag into and we were all set.

No backpacks allowed in Manchester Arena

By the time we’d got over this debacle and made our way round to the box office, we’d basically missed the VIP Meet & Greet so we didn’t get to see Mickey or any of the other characters this time.  I don’t think the kids were all that bothered though, they were just glad to be there and to see “The Gingers“.

We soon realised when the show started that the Passport to Adventure show is extremely similar to the Disney on Ice Silver Anniversary Celebration we had seen in Liverpool some 18 months ago.  It featured the same characters in the same order – and whilst still impressive, probably lacked the wow factor for us as we were left feeling that we’d seen it all before.

We're going on an adventure at Disney on Ice, Manchester Arena

That said, Ben and I both took great pleasure in watching the show through Amy’s eyes instead.  Although Ben and Chloe have been to two Disney on Ice shows previously, this was Amy’s first time.  I’d always felt she was too young to really appreciate it before, and too young to cope with such a late night.  She absolutely loved it – she was mesmerised by all the different characters from some of her favourite films (Frozen and The Little Mermaid are especially well watched in our house – though Chloe would have you believe she’s now too grown up for Frozen!)

Very excited to see Olaf

Highlights for us included the wonderful national costumes during It’s A Small World, the impressive use of flight for Peter Pan & Tinkerbell, and the enormous inflatable Ursula who held a commanding presence on the ice!  Of course the cherry on the cake was the Frozen performance at the end – Amy was beyond excited when Anna skated into view but almost burst when Olaf bumbled onto the ice!!  The clever use of special effects to make it “snow” added magic to the performance.

Enormous inflatable Ursula at Disney on Ice

Anna & Olaf at Disney on Ice, Manchester Arena

Snow effects during Frozen at Disney on Ice

Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure runs until Sunday 15th October in Manchester and TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE. Prices start around £31 per person including the booking fee and Venue Restoration Levy.

After Manchester, Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure will visit:

Arena Birmingham 18-29 October
SSE Arena, Belfast 3-5 November
Citywest Hotel, Dublin 10-12 November
FlyDSA Arena, formerly Sheffield Arena 15-19 November
The O2, London 20-30 December

Looking forward to the new year, tickets are now available for Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment hitting Liverpool Echo Arena on 11th April 2018.

Check out what The Brick Castle and Red Rose Mummy thought of Disney on Ice presents Passport to Adventure too!

*We attended Disney on Ice at Manchester Arena free of charge for the purpose of review, all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

In the Night Garden Live – A Guest Review

It’s safe to say that my three are past the point of being all that bothered about In the Night Garden, in fact it was never really a programme that caught on in our house at all despite being avid CBeebies fans.  However, we all know that the familiar plinky plonky music of In the Night Garden signifies bedtime for many a toddler and my friend’s son is no different.  When I was offered the chance to review In the Night Garden Live at the Trafford Centre this summer, rather than pass it up I asked my friend to go in my place and review the show for you. 

Here’s what they thought: 

In the Night Garden Live

It was early on Saturday morning when Large Fry woke up and what echoed down the monitor was ‘me see Makka Pakka now?‘  We’d only told him a couple of days ago but he was very excited to be seeing the real Makka Pakka & Upsy Daisy.  So we set off on our journey to Manchester to meet up with his cousin & Auntie to see the In The Night Garden Live show.

As soon as we arrived he spotted the posters and shouted at the top of his voice the names of the different characters.  He was super excited and when we met up with his cousin they ran together hand in hand to the entrance.  He also asked lots of questions about the arena & if it would burst if he bit it!

In the Night Garden Live - Showdome

We were greeted by some enthusiastic members of staff who engaged with Large Fry & contained his excitement whilst in the foyer & in the short, well organised queue.

Once inside the inflatable arena, before the show starts, they have a Pinky Ponk projected onto the wall which rotates around the room.  From the minute the two children saw this they were pointing at it shouting LOUDLY ‘it’s the Pinky Ponk!’ ‘Where the Pinky Ponk go?‘ Their eyes never left the ceiling as they were racing each other to spot where it would come from next.  Tracking it across the arena & looking at the stage kept them occupied for a while but just before the show started we were beginning to get a little overexcited to say the least!

There are two In the Night Garden Live shows to choose from this summer – each lasts just under an hour.  All the characters feature in both stories and they are completely unrelated tales so I would suggest it’s more a case of picking a convenient time than particularly needing to choose which show you see.  As it was, we saw the Ninky Nonk show, this is a show in which you see Iggle Piggle having an adventure with Upsy Daisy and losing his blanket.

In the Night Garden Live - Iggle Piggle in his boat

In The Night Garden Live combines a clever mix of puppetry and full costumes.  The puppeteers are all dressed in green so as to camouflage with the background and they also move around the stage props and scenery.  Every time a new character came on Large Fry would shout ‘me hug [insert random ITNG characters name]‘. This was a huge surprise & I dare say if we had opted for the character meet and greet after he would have gone shy and refused to look at the characters when up close anyway.  This is something you can book up when buying your tickets.

I have never seen Large Fry so animated & focused on anything like this EVER!  He was up on his feet dancing and singing along to the familiar songs.

ITNG Live - audience

ITNG Live is a 45 minute show, perfect for the children it is aimed at, Large Fry at 2 1/2 got a little restless towards the end but I think he was almost overstimulated by it all & too excited.  Even at 6 months his brother Small Fry is transfixed by Iggle Piggle and the whole of the ITNG crew on the tv but I wouldn’t run to a ticket for him for a year or two at least.

I would definitely recommend the show to anyone who has an enthusiastic ITNG fan or two in the family – I don’t think there was a child under the dome on Saturday who wasn’t excited, dancing or having a whale of a time.  It was magical to watch the looks on their faces & their awe and wonderment throughout.

In the Night Garden Live is running through till the end of August at the Trafford Centre and tickets are still available.  At £14.50 for a standard ticket (with adults & children paying the same price), this could be an expensive hour of entertainment but if you’ve got a real In the Night Garden fan in your household the look on their face might well be worth the spend! 

*We were invited to see In the Night Garden Live free of charge for the purposes of review – all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

A repeat visit to The Ice Cream Farm – Review

Top of Amy’s wish list for this summer holiday was a return visit to The Ice Cream Farm, Cheshire – we’d been twice last year and I was impressed that she had remembered.  As it was, Michelle and I had already planned a trip over for one of our Butler / Burgess adventures during the summer!

One of the things I love most about The Ice Cream Farm is that it’s perfectly possible to visit on a tight budget – entry to the attraction itself is free and this gives you access to the “Daisy’s Garden” play area (a space in which our children aged between 3 and 8 could play happily all day long if the weather allowed) and Fudge Farm (a small area with a range of animals – pigs, donkeys, hens – to visit).  Although picnics are not allowed in the venue itself, you could feasibly pop out to eat your lunch and then go back in – however with The Pantry offering such great value meals this isn’t something we’ve ever bothered to do!  I think when The Ice Cream Farm is free to enter, you don’t mind so much paying out for you lunch – it’s swings and roundabouts as they say.  Although a number of the attractions at The Ice Cream Farm carry an admission fee – it’s well worth investing in a Play Pass which essentially means you are buying play sessions in “bulk” and as such you benefit from a discount – the bigger Play Pass you buy, the more you save in the long run.

The Ice Cream Farm - wheelbarrows

After carefully consulting the weather forecast, and knowing it wasn’t likely to be all that nice, we planned out our day.  Now of course you can just turn up at The Ice Cream Farm and just pick and choose what you do as you’re going along – but we’ve learned from previous trips that it’s worth pre-booking things like Fun Factory or Honeycomb Canyon especially if it’s looking like the weather might be a bit dodgy as they can get really busy.  The Honeycomb Canyon is a firm favourite with our little crew so we booked in to do that first thing with the intention of having an early-ish lunch and then spending the afternoon playing outside (keeping the Fun Factory in mind as an option if the weather took a turn for the worse!).

The fairly poor weather forecast seemed to work in our favour as The Ice Cream Farm wasn’t anywhere near as busy as we had anticipated for a school holiday – we were able to park in the main car park without hunting out a space for a start!  (We have previously had to park in an overflow carpark on busy summer days and even seen people queuing to get in off the road!)

We made our way straight to Honeycomb Canyon where the kids got stuck in with the sand and water play.  The indoor set up is great as it means that the sand and water can be enjoyed all year round – there’s so much to explore and investigate and it is certainly a highlight of our visits to The Ice Cream Farm.  The only downside is that there isn’t all that much seating for adults, so if it does get busy you can find yourself hanging around the edges of the barn.  This is another reason why we chose to visit Honeycomb Canyon earlier in the day whilst it was still fairly quiet!  It’s worth bearing in mind that your children are unlikely to escape Honeycomb Canyon clean and dry . . . you really do need to take a towel and a change of clothes.  (Or we even saw a number of children wearing swimming costumes which I thought was pretty sensible – though could be cold in the winter!)

Sand and water play at The Ice Cream Farm

Water play at The Ice Cream Farm

Honeycomb Canyon at The Ice Cream Farm

After lots of fun in Honeycomb Canyon, we got everyone clean and dry and headed off to The Pantry for lunch.  As is now traditional for our visits to The Ice Cream Farm, Mich and I ordered jacket spuds – these are always delicious and great value too.  Although there is a children’s menu, we decided to go for bacon or sausage butties for the kids and some chips – these went down really well and filled them up nicely.  Of course we never have our pudding in The Pantry as we have to save ourselves for the mandatory trip to The Ice Cream Parlour!

Sausage butties in The Parlour at The Ice Cream Farm

With full tummies, we took ourselves outside to Daisy’s Garden where Mich and I found somewhere to sit and the kids disappeared off to play.  I’m sure I’ve said before that I wish there was a fence at the back of Daisy’s Garden to keep it a little more enclosed for the younger ones but our little gang are now pretty well trained and the chances of them running off to explore anywhere else are slim!  Amy and Erin had a right old time up and down the (very fast) slide whilst the bigger kids enjoyed the little sunken trampolines and a raised roundabout (which, Chloe later decided to play under running it like a hamster and landing herself in A&E – silly girl!) The magical ice cream tree never fails to draw everyone’s attention as the music plays and the freezing mist and soapy bubbles are released.   (Though the wind meant they were whisked away so quickly that if you blinked you would have missed it!)

Daisy Farm at The Ice Cream Farm

Best friends at The Ice Cream Farm

The magical ice cream tree at The Ice Cream Farm

The toadstool in Daisy's Garden at The Ice Cream Farm

After a quick wander around Fudge Farm we made our way back to The Ice Cream Parlour, just as it started to rain.  With a menu of over 50 flavours of award-winning ice cream to choose from, putting in an order for the seven of us is a complex business!  I was pleased to see that the queuing system from last year seemed to have been improved and service was really quick.  As always the ice creams are absolutely delicious – the Cherry Crumble was a particular highlight – both Mich and I said we wished we could buy tubs of ice cream to take home but they’d have never survived the journey!

Eating ice creams at The Ice Cream Farm

If you’re looking for a lovely family day out in the North West this summer then we would definitely recommend The Ice Cream Farm, it’s a firm favourite and Amy is already asking when we can go back!

You can see some clips from our day in our first #sixweeksofsummer vlog:

*We were invited to visit The Ice Cream Farm and given a Play Pass in exchange for writing this review.  All thoughts and opinions remain our own*

The Ice Cream Farm, Cheshire - Is this the perfect family day out?

FREEDOME, Cheshire Oaks – Review

FREEDOME is more than just a trampoline park.  Situated above the bowling alley on the Coliseum Leisure Park next to the Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village, FREEDOME is the next generation of Freestyle Aerial Parks and I just knew that Ben was going to love it!

Before you can jump at FREEDOME you need to fill in a fairly long Risk Acknowledgement & Waiver Form – this can be completed online at home to save time on arrival or on one of the screens in reception.  It does rather feel like you’re signing your life away but essentially you’re agreeing to take full responsibility for yourself and your children on site.  Once you’ve signed the forms you’re given a sticker with your jump times on to be worn on your clothes.  You will also need to take off your shoes and slip on a pair of bright yellow & black FREEDOME socks (these are compulsory and cost £2 a pair).  Finally, there is a safety video to watch before you are let loose on the trampolines!

FREEDOME socks

The FREEDOME Park is split into different zones and our Open Jump tickets meant that Chloe, Ben and Dave could jump wherever they wanted.  Unfortunately the minimum age for an Open Jump is 5yrs old so Amy just had to watch this time.  In all honesty I’m glad she wasn’t allowed to jump as I think I would have been quite worried about her with some of the older children pulling off impressive tricks and gymnastic feats.  Amy was really good about it but you could see she was desperate to just join in and kept jumping about next to me whilst we were watching!  She did say she wished there was somewhere for her to be able to play while the big two were jumping and I must admit I think she was right – a small play area for little ones would have been a real bonus but I think if we were to take Ben and Chloe again, I’d just take Amy to do something else for an hour or so rather than having her watch.  (FREEDOME do offer toddler bouncing sessions during the week though I still think I’d prefer her to be a bit older and in more control of her body before she had a go!)

Whilst Ben and Chloe were busy bouncing, Amy and I watched from the sidelines for a bit and then moved up to the cafe and viewing area where I treated her to a slush – I must admit that the service was a little on the slow side and whilst there were tables available, there was a distinct lack of seating at the viewing window, not helped by people “reserving” seats for friends and family who were down next to the trampolines.  Obviously you want to be able to keep an eye on your children while they are jumping so this meant lots of people were just stood – and I had to hold Amy so she could see until a stool became available.  Of course this is just a minor irritation but worth mentioning just the same.

Slush at FREEDOME

So, as I said earlier, FREEDOME isn’t just your basic trampoline park – there’s all sorts of stuff going on:

The Freestyle court is comprised of a large interlaced trampoline bed with pathways intersecting the trampolines and sprung walls for bouncing off!  It’s really important not to bounce on the same trampoline space as someone else and to use the pathways in between when moving around the Freestyle court.  When we arrived at 10.30am there was plenty of space for jumping and even as FREEDOME got busier, I don’t think there was ever a time when they kids couldn’t find somewhere to bounce.  Ben particularly loved the longer stretches of trampoline that allowed him to perfect his front flips or spring over the obstacles.

Seat drops at FREEDOME

Springing over the obstacles at FREEDOME

FREEDOME trampolines

The Warrior Course is akin to the Ninja Warrior TV programme that Dave and Ben have enjoyed watching in the past so Ben was keen to crack on and have a go.  There were two routes across the course and one was definitely much harder than the other – so Dave obviously had to have a go at that one!  It’s a matter of pride isn’t it . . . ?

FREEDOME Warrior course

FREEDOME warrior obstacle course

The Ultimate Dodgeball courts do exactly what they say on the tin and give you the opportunity to practice your dodgeball skills with your mates – we didn’t try this one out as I’m not sure that Chloe would have particularly enjoyed having people chuck balls at her!

In the back corner is the FreeSlam  – for practising and perfecting those trick-shot slam dunks – again not something we tried out with Ben and Chloe this morning, though I think Dave would have quite enjoyed it given half the chance.

For those of you wanting to practice your tricks and flips or basically just chuck yourself about a bit, Freeform is the place for you.  The enormous airbag provides a safe landing which Dave & Ben had lots of fun with but turned out to be a huge source of frustration for Chloe who just didn’t have the nerve to follow through on the flips she was so desperate to master!

Freeform front flips onto air bag at FREEDOME

Air bag for front flips and tricks at FREEDOME

Lexi’s Ladder proved to be too much of a challenge for Ben who fell off the first rung of the wobbly rope ladder every time he tried – thankfully there’s a super soft foam pit to cushion the blow!

In the middle of the session, we were surprised when the lights were turned down low and the UV lighting turned on so that everyone’s socks glowed up in the dark along with the white sections of Dave’s t shirt and lots of fluorescent clothing that some of the other children were wearing.  It was rather reminiscent of the Sunday mornings I spent in night clubs many moons ago!  This was just a taste of the Glow sessions which take place on Friday & Saturday nights featuring UV lighting and house music – it sounds like a lot of fun!

UV lighting at FREEDOME

An Open Jump can be booked in for 1 hour, 90 minutes or 2 hours. Knowing how much Ben and Chloe were going to love their time at FEEDOME we decided to go the whole hog and book them a 2 hour session (costing £15 per person).  With hindsight I would suggest that 90 minutes would have been perfect.  An hour seemed to be over very quickly but two hours was just too long – they were both exhausted and although they wanted to carry on jumping, you could see they were losing control of their limbs and Chloe was getting increasingly frustrated with herself.  We ended up leaving about ten minutes early for our own sanity!

If you’re looking for a way to burn off some energy this summer holiday then you won’t go far wrong with FREEDOME – the kids absolutely loved it, and I don’t think Dave would be complaining if we went back either!  (Poor Amy just wants to be 5 so she can jump with the big two!)

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

Freedome Trampoline Park - Cheshire Oaks

Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest – Our Three Bed Executive Lodge

Our three bed executive lodge at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest provided us with the perfect base for a weekend of relaxation, adventure and quality family time.  As a family of five we are increasingly finding that renting self-catering holiday homes instead of booking hotel rooms is the way forward so we were excited to see what our accommodation at Center Parcs had to offer.

Three bed Executive Lodge at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest

Having never stayed with Center Parcs before I can’t compare our Executive Lodge to their more basic offerings however I can tell you that we were impressed by the spacious, family friendly layout.

The Lodge comprised of a large open plan living space with a well equipped kitchen and a dining table to seat eight along with three bedrooms – two doubles and a twin, each with their own en-suite bathroom.  Our Executive Lodge also had a sauna though I must admit this wasn’t something we were particularly interested in using and would have been much more excited had we had a hot tub to lounge in after the kids were in bed!

The beds were comfortable – not too soft, not too firm – with plenty of pillows and luxury bed linen which was a joy to slip into after a long day of family fun!  Nobody had any trouble sleeping that’s for sure.

Double bedroom - Executive Lodge at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest

Twin bedroom - Executive Lodge at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest

Shower Room - Three bed Executive Lodge at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest

The Executive Lodges offer a daily maid service which was such a treat – the benefits of a self catering property with the freshly made beds of a hotel room!  It was so lovely to come back to our accommodation after a morning at the pool to find the dishwasher had been emptied and the beds made, it’s the little things that can make such a difference isn’t it?

Although we didn’t watch much TV the kids were frustrated by the lack of channels, that said Dave and I did find ourselves watching a badger on one of the site channels one night whilst waiting for Love Island!  It was surprisingly engaging – a bit like Big Brother with wildlife I guess.  Each room also featured a flat screen TV but I don’t think we even turned them on.

Had the weather been kinder to us then our private outside space would have been wonderful – we had a table to seat six, space for a BBQ and room to play without being overlooked by other guests.  As it was, it was fairly grey all weekend so during the odd moments of sunshine we popped across the road to the adventure play area rather than sitting around at the Lodge.  I must admit I would have loved to have been able to sit out there of an evening and enjoying a gin & tonic!

Outside area - Three bed Executive Lodge at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest

Outside space - Three bed Executive Lodge at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest

As part of our booking we had a “Family Grocery Pack” waiting for us on arrival – this is something which can be ordered online beforehand and is really handy as it means you’re all set up for breakfast the following day without having to think about it too much.  As it was we planned to self-cater the majority of our trip – personally I think it’s just easier (and cheaper) when you’re travelling with little ones.  Although there was plenty of cupboard space and a wine fridge (which Dave took something of a shine too) the actually fridge itself was fairly small and it took some careful packing to fit in our groceries for the weekend – certainly something to bear in mind when you are planning your meals beforehand.

Family Grocery Pack Contents - Three bed Executive Lodge at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest

Fridge space in Three bed Executive Lodge at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest

Everything about our Executive Lodge was well thought out – there was plenty of storage space for bike helmets, coats, bags or even a pushchair in a cupboard right near the door.  This cupboard also housed the usual household bits and bobs – an ironing board, a mop – all the things you have no desire to use on holiday but might actually need.  I loved that the patio doors had leaf stickers on them – not just for decoration but to make sure people realised the doors were shut so they wouldn’t walk into them.  Each bathroom had a large towel rail which heated up quickly and was great for drying out your swimming stuff ready for the next day!  The Executive Lodge was a really generous size for a family of five – Dave and I both said it would have been ideal for a family of four plus Grandparents.  We loved how close it was to the Adventure Play Area and the Village Centre which was easily within walking distance (though we tended to cycle just for the novelty factor!)

I filmed a quick video tour of our Executive Lodge if you want to get a better feel for the size and layout:

Watch out for another post soon about what we got up to during our stay!

*We stayed with Center Parcs free of charge for the purposes of writing this post.  All thoughts and opinions remain my own*

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* 

Gruffalo Spotters Trail at Delamere Forest

Gruffalo Spotters is the latest incarnation of the much loved Forestry Commission Gruffalo Trails in 26 forests across the UK (check here to find your nearest one!) and this time features a fantastic app to bring the characters to life.

The closest forest to us with a Gruffalo Spotters Trail is Delamere Forest where we’ve completed the two previous Gruffalo Trails (The original Gruffalo Trail and Gruffalo Orienteering) so it was only right that we went there this weekend to try out the new Gruffalo Spotters app!

Gruffalo Spotters Trail - Delamere Forest

Mich and I had been checking the weather forecast fairly obsessively in the run up to our planned adventure, knowing this was our only chance to do the new Gruffalo Spotters Trail together before the summer holidays.  Even right up till Saturday night it looked like we were going to be well and truly rained off however Sunday morning came round bright and sunny with only a mild threat of rain mid-afternoon.  We decided to take our chances and packed up our picnic bags.  What we hadn’t banked on was that we were going to rock up at Delamere Forest around about the same time as thousands of women running the Race for Life . . . right around the same track we were planning to walk!  Luckily, after the initial surge of pink t shirts had swarmed past us we were relatively unaffected by the race thankfully.

Exploring Delamere Forest

Clambering round Delamere Forest

The new Gruffalo Spotters Trail takes much the same path as the previous trails and covers just shy of two miles which is a perfectly doable walk for little ones.  Despite the heavy rain during the week the path was dry and clean.  It is a well trodden path through the forest and accessible by pushchair, though not completely flat so be prepared for some good uphill trudging at points.

The Gruffalo Spotters app is free and widely available from all the usual places – it’s advisable to download this before you arrive at the forest just in case you’ve got poor reception or don’t want to use up your data allowance!

Gruffalo Spotters clues

We found the mouse at Delamere Forest

Posing for photos with the footprints at Delamere Forest

All along the trail you will spot clues as to who the next character might be before coming across a sign to tell you who you have found.  Nearby there are two footprint markers (these are both the same – it just saves you waiting too long when there are other families on the trail).  Now this is the clever bit, pointing your phone’s camera at the footprint marker using the app brings the characters to life – a little sketch runs through for each character as though they are really there in front of you!  Once you’ve watched the little animation you can hop into the scene and have your photo taken with the characters!  Our little gang thought this was hilarious.  We struggled to get a decent picture with the Gruffalo himself as he’s a fairly large character and we couldn’t get the kids to spread out enough around the space – in all honesty by this point they were quite tired and more than ready for a picnic lunch so patience was wearing thin!

Gruffalo Spotters augmented reality app

Gruffalo Spotters app at Delamere Forest

Taking photos with the augmented Gruffalo Spotters app

I’d love to be able to share some of the pictures with you however we struggled to get them off my phone and then they just disappeared completely – which was a bit of a shame!

Thankfully, the original Gruffalo statue remains in his usual spot, towards the end of the trail, ready for photos!

Butler / Burgess day out hunting for the Gruffalo at Delamere Forest