Friday, 23 December 2011

A Festive Walk: Broad Arboretum, Earth Trust, Little Wittenham, Oxfordshire

Approx time: 1 hour
Paths: grass
Points of interest: pond, wildlife, trees
Amenities: parking (toilets and cafe seasonal)
Grading: bumpy underfoot so all terrain buggy
Weather: all seasons

We have passed this walk many times but finally got round to it and we really enjoyed it. Why is it festive, have a look for the Christmas trees,
 holly and reindeer.
But its also great in the summer with a bench over looking the pond and a picnic table. Only downside to the walk was having to retrace your steps back to the car park.

Start at the Earth Trust car park, and if you face the buildings take the grass footpath to your right that heads out across the fields. After a while the footpath bears right, keep the farm outbuildings on your right and carry along towards a signpost.
 At the signpost turn right towards the arboretum.
There is a circular path around the arboretum. When complete retrace your steps back to the car park, note the excellent views across to Wittenham Clumps.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Guest Post: Dear Father Christmas

Hi There. Guest Blogger "ReaditDaddy" checking in to moonlight on my wife's excellent blog. Bear with me, haven't quite got the hang of the controls yet - but I'm here to tell you all about "Dear Father Christmas".
Any event hosted at the Burton Taylor room at the Oxford Playhouse is destined to be a cosy, intimate gathering and "Dear Father Christmas" - a children's play for 3-6 year olds, was no exception.

Telling the story of a mischievous Elf, her boss Mr TickTock, and the preparations for Santa's big night, "Dear Father Christmas" largely takes place in Santa's Post Room and with an effervescent cast of two (oh, and Father Christmas himself of course), the play was an interactive fun experience that pressed all the right buttons with Charlotte.

All the Elf wants to do is travel the world, see interesting sights and then come back to sort through Santa's post. Instead she's stuck in the post room but there are lots of willing new elves to help her sort the mail, tidy up and solve the mystery of the missing polar bear - Santa's oldest and dearest friend.

Adults are encouraged to take part too (they call us "giants" don't you know!), but the focus is on getting children involved - making hats and elf ears, constructing paper chains to cheer up Santa's christmas tree - and joining in with the songs and activities that happen throughout the play.

Even for a slightly curmudgeonly sort, the play was good fun and Charlotte absolutely loved every minute of it. I think her favourite bit was probably when the polar bear reappeared and crept quietly through the audience (only one child cried his head off at this bit).

It's not really suitable for older children (quite a few kept making quiet comments about the cast basically playing all the different characters) but the two main cast members were brilliant, and Father Christmas did very well for his first dramatic role :)

All in all a great time was had by all - though it did feel a bit of a cheat that paying extra to spend time with Father Christmas after the play didn't quite happen as expected (I think we were expecting to sit on Santa's knee and tell him Charlotte wanted Barbie Washing Hair and Daddy wanted A Lego Technics VW Camper - but it was rather crowded and a bit of a push and a shove instead).

Despite the request for parents not to take photos, one couple decided to continually take pictures through the latter half of the show - which was a bit annoying but all in all it was a perfect hour-long mix of song, dance, activities and fun that sets the scene for the festive period perfectly. Dear Father Christmas runs until 24 December at the Oxford Playhouse

Charlotte's best bit - The polar bear

Daddy's favourite bit - Alright, a tiny little crush on the elf. She was very cute.

Rating - 4 out of 5 stars

(oops, I forgot - we don't do that here - but I'm sure CanIWalkMummy won't mind!)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Windsor Castle, Windsor

After our successful trip to Buckingham Palace we thought we would visit Windsor Castle. The first Saturday of each month they have children's activities, and also in December they have 2 state rooms set up with a Christmas theme display.
On approach we noticed the Royal Standard was flying, we tried to do Queen and corgi spotting. We were told by some very helpful guides that a good place to spot her was from the Crimson Drawing Room as this overlooks the queens garden but alas she wasn't there.

We collected our excellent audio guides, with a children's version for Charlotte to listen to, to take us round. The audio guides are really good with so much information, Charlotte really does listen to it as she asks us to find the things they are talking about. After passing the jubilee gardens and up to Edward IV tower where you get a wonderful view across the Upper Ward and quadrangle, this is where important visitors are greeted.

Heading towards the Henry III tower was the moat education room where Charlotte got to do some colouring and look at some pictures.

We headed to the State Apartments, and passed Queen Mary's Dolls house, which was fascinating with so much detail to it, also on display were dolls dresses which were so wonderfully made. The state rooms were quite different to Buckingham Palace, being a castle there was a lot of armour and swords on display. The fire in 1992 was covered quite a bit as you walk through the rooms that were destroyed. The difference in the old and new is obvious but the rooms are still to such high stadard and in keeping with the rest of the castle. The room containing all the Shields for the Knights of the Royal Garter was stunning.
We had lunch in the Undercroft Cafe, it was a little pricey but the food was wonderful.

We then went to St. Georges Chapel, where we got to sit in the inner chapel and look again at the shields and crowns for each of the Knights of the Royal Garter. We noticed coffins and shrines for most of the previous kings and queens, the most opulent was for Queen Victoria's children and grandchildren.
We had a really good few hours going round Windsor Castle, and even readitdaddy left having enjoyed it more than he expected.