Saturday, 8 December 2012

Baby Wearing

The weather is too wet at the moment for a lot of our walks, so here is a post about how we used to "wear" Charlotte when she was little.
Whilst pregnant I was looking into other ways of wearing my baby other than structured baby carriers, having read about how they don't offer enough hip support (I don't know if this argument is still ongoing but in 2008 it was). There was also a programme on tv at the time regarding different parenting types and one of the mums had a moby wrap.

I did lots of reading up on moby wraps and also how easy they are to make from websites like the babywearer, headed to the shops with my mum for a very long piece of material. My mum hemmed the edges and also did a join down the middle (some sites advise against this, but we triple stitched and wouldn't wear when she got "really" heavy). I started wearing Charlotte from a month old, just round the house and then trips to the shops. A few months later we were often putting her in the wrap instead of the pushchair as it was so much easier. She settled really easily and the wrap is so versatile. A few different type of carries for front holds, and also back holds when she got that big bigger. I never did master a hip hold though.

When she was 9 months I decided to make a mei-tai type carrier. I mocked up a little prototype which Charlotte then carried her teddies in, and then went on to do mine.

Again the babywearer website was great for ideas and I did a slight modification of the "Man Tai". Instructions were really simple to follow and the results were great.

We both used it until Charlotte was 3 years old, first for front carries and then back carries when she was that much larger. If you go for a long day out it rolls up in the bottom of a bag and when they are tired in a few mins you can have them on your back falling asleep. No dragging that pushchair around when its not going to get used.

And here she is at almost 5 years old still fitting in the mei tai, little bit heavy for a long walk but she thought it great fun to be carried again.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Ice Skating at Millets Farm, Frilford, Oxfordshire

So its a cold wet winter day and we decided to go ice skating. Completely mad I know, and the rink is uncovered, but it was so much fun and ideal for kids of all ages. So long as they can walk they have skates to fit.
The ice rink was a real ice rink not fake at all, so feels realistic and is easier to skate on. You book in for a session (usually starting on the hour) and the session lasts 45mins, which is plenty of time and if you need a sit down or rest you can step of the rink for a bit.
Spaces are limited to a set number for each session so the rink is never going to get over crowded, plenty of space for all.

For children under a shoe size 10, they get skates that strap onto a shoe (Bob-Skates), these worked well with trainers but don't think they would work well with boots. They also have 2 blades so more chance of keeping young ones upright. The strap-on skates shorten or extended to the required length, probably up to a shoe size 12 if needed. A standard single bladed boot is available from shoe size 10.

 Quite a lot of families had hired Bobby seals, suitable for up to the age of 8. They looked a really good idea for some of the less confident children who were on single bladed skates, and parents can also push kids around on them (few races going on too).

There were always helpers on hand if you had fallen over to get you back up again, and take a nice group photo for us too. Friends and family joining you at Millets but lacking the balance for skating can watch you from the viewing platform, or grab a cake and coffee from the cafe next door (where we all dived in later for a hot chocolate to warm up... and what a wonderful hot chocolate it was).

We had such great fun and it was excellent to see Charlotte really skating and even managing to do a lap of the rink not holding anyone's hands.

Tickets can be booked in advance online or at the booking desk. In November they are doing half price tickets for some days, book online or in person you will need the voucher from the Millets magazine which you can pick up at the customer service desk. The rink is open until 8 January 2013.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Christmas in Oxfordshire

Its almost December and Christmas is just around the corner. The weather is getting colder (or should that be wetter) and the shops are filling up with tinsel and goodies for all. But for the little ones the all important bit is... Father Christmas is coming!

So where in Oxfordshire can you meet up with Father Christmas or take part in some Christmas activities?

Christmas lights are being turned on around Oxfordshire, and most towns are having special celebrations. Take a look to see when your town is being lit up.

Local family friendly Millet's Farm, for the fist year ever, have an ice rink, and it's already open. It will be there until 8 January. Santa has already arrived and his grotto will be open weekends until 10 December. From 10th December he will be in his grotto every day upto 24 December. We really want to try out that ice rink and I've been told by Millet's that's its suitable for all ages, so long as they can walk they can skate.

Oxford playhouse is showing "Where's Father Christmas?" from 11 December to 30 December (book your tickets early as it sells out). Last year we went to "Dear Father Christmas" and it was so much fun, all the kids, and adults, loved it. See our review of Dear Father Christmas.
The Playhouse also has an excellent pantomime every year and this year is Dick Whittington. Charlotte is getting to go with school and i'm so jealous, would love to go with her.

Staying on the theme of theatres the Cornerstone Didcot is showing Miki  - based on the bestselling book by Stephen Mackey. This is for 3 - 10 year old so all the family can go along from 17-23 December.
And something Charlotte spotted in a magazine is Cinderella at the Kenton Theatre, Henley on the 21-29 December. They are also showing a puppet version of Rapunzel on 9 December.

How about getting the kids to do some Christmas crafts, drop into the Oxford Town Hall between now and the 6th January. There's also local craft stalls for present ideas, costumes to try on and a tree to decorate. How about a visit to Santa in his grotto on the 15, 20, 21 & 22 December?

The Pitt Rivers Museum and Museum of Natural History are doing letters from Santa with special post boxes from 22 December - 6 January. On a side note: The Natural History museum is closing on the 30 December for a year to restore its very leaky roof. The entrance and shop will remain open and the Pitt Rivers will not be affected.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Half Term Activites in Oxfordshire

So its almost half term, wondering how to stop the little ones getting under your feet. Take a look at just some of the (mostly Halloween themed) things going on in Oxfordshire.

BBOWT - Family fun days at College Lake, Woolley Firs and Sutton Courtenay. This years theme of course is haunted habitats and Halloween hallalabloo. As we have said many times before we LOVE the BBOWT family fun days as do many others.

Millets Farm - has a Halloween howl attraction all week where the maze is transformed into a spooky world along with bouncy castles, trampolines, chocolate apples and CSI:Millets. Something for every age.

Oxford Playhouse - for the younger ones there is story telling and craft activities or for those older children who love amateur dramatics or need some confidence building there are a number of drama workshops.

Museum of Oxford - has activities for the big draw going on and for the Halloween theme there is a Halloween Horrors Exploration Station, make your own vampire bats and witch's cat masks, and Halloween Hauntings.

Abingdon Museum - has something different organised on 31 October “Creative Clay” where an artist will help children draw on clay tiles, taking inspiration from the museum objects and exhibits.
The finished tiles will be taken away at the end of the day to be fired in a kiln and will return to the museum to form a big ceramic drawing.

Oxfordshire Museum - 30 Oct and 1 December there are activities for the Big Draw inspired by the museum.

River and Rowing Museum - has a big big bug experience which sounds excellent and for older ones learning about weather. Again they have activities for the big draw inspired by the museum.

Science Oxford Live - Now this sounds exciting "The Halloween Show" for kids 6+ on the 31 October.

Cotswold Wildlife Park - has lots of pumpkin people and a pumpkin trail along with interesting facts about bats, owls and wolves.

Cornerstone Didcot - has so many workshops going on paper penguins (which will go into their Christmas exhibition), sound effects for film, clay sculpture, mash-up choir and youth dance.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History - Winnie's Dinosaur Day, how fun does that sound for young ones. Witch and Dinosaur activities and Korky Paul visiting.

50 Things - Or if the weather is good why not go out and explore and tick off some of the things on the National Trusts 50 Things site. I'll start you off with some ideas of where to visit.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Trunki: Penelope the Princess Carriage

When we brought Charlotte a Trunki (Penelope) for her birthday we were a bit unsure of how much it would get used. She's 4 years old so we were wondering if she was still in the right age group for a Trunki. Would her legs be too long for pulling around? Would we ever use it for sitting on? Would it just be in the back of the cupboard for ever?
Well 9 months later and its been used plenty. We brought it knowing we had some holidays coming up, and its first trip was to Lanzarote. Charlotte loved filling it with her toys and hiding Barbies' shoes in the secret pockets (which I thought would be too small for anything useful but kids find a use), we downloaded the activity packs from the Trunki website and packed that along with lots of colouring pencils.
At the airport she was happily pulling "Penelope" along, oblivious to the people shooting in each direction not wanting their ankles bashed by her mad weaving. As the airport filled up we decided her pulling it was not the best idea so it was on our shoulder the rest of the trip.

On-board the plane and Trunki easily slipped under the seat on board our Thomson flight and was great for toys and snacks to keep her entertained. Our only downside with the really limited space on-board short haul flights you have to be good at opening and closing well without everything tipping out, but the clips for the case could do with being the other way around. You need the teddy bear straps to be on the top but when you go to close it the closing clips trap in the side. Took a bit of mastering that one.

"Penelope" happily sat in our apartment all week being ridden around on and storing our weeks worth of toys and books and colouring bits. We did the trunki diary every day and also learnt a bit of Spanish thanks to the trunki passport downloads, excellent idea that.
On the way home "Penelope" really came into her own, we were the last bus for our fight arriving at the airport and stuck at the back of an hour long queue. But with wand in hand, tiara on head and a princess carriage to sit on the hour long queue went easier than you can imagine, and she didn't have to stand up when the queue shuffled ahead at a snails place. More a princess glide on "Penelope". We even got comments of how well behaved our daughter was!

Since "Penelope's" first outing she's also made it to Disneyland Paris, a few trips to Cornwall and plenty of overnight stays at grandparents. Its big enough to fit clothes in for a 2 nights overnight stay, or enough small toys, books and teddy for a longer trip. Its amazing what we can squeeze in.
Was she a good buy, overall yes. We may not use her for the pulling along but she is great for sitting on in airports, wonderful for kids to get involved in the packing (if it doesn't fit in "Penelope" it doesn't get taken) and the designs are really appealing. I think we will still get a few more years use out of "Penelope" before she wants something a bit more grown up.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Carnglaze Caverns, St Neot, Cornwall

We have been visiting Carnglaze Caverns for some years now, but the last two years Charlotte has been the perfect age for exploring the gardens. She's not quite so interested yet in the history of the caves.

The caves were once a slate mine, and you can go around 3 caverns that have been created by the miners, there is a natural lake in one cave with crystal clear water. You have to wear hard hats when in the caves, always a giggle when you look silly. It gets quite chilly and sometimes damp down there so a jumper and flat shoes are a must. There are quite a few steps, and its quite dark so not great with very young children as you will be carrying them.

The top cavern is known at the rum store as this is where the navy stored their rum during the second world war. Along one wall there is a collection of minerals from the south west. The main part of the cavern is often used as a concert venue due to the amazing acoustics, along another wall are hard hats signed by artists that have performed there, local, international and some famous names.
The caverns also have a wedding licence, you will see unlit tea lights dotted around, these are lit up for weddings and it must look truly magical all lit up, there is even a boat on the lake that can be used for weddings.
Carnglaze used to give organised tours around the caverns, but in recent years have gone for self guided tours, it would be hard to get lost, you are armed with a torch and map and you can follow the signs easily. There are information boards dotted around (and light switches if someone has turned some of the lights off) to read giving you an idea of what it would have been like working by candle light 200 years ago.
Above ground is Charlottes favourite part, the Enchanted Dell and gardens. Its a lovely walk through little paths that weave up the hill side above the caverns and then back round exiting at the car park. Along the way you will find lots of little fairies and woodland folk.

There is a number of picnic benches if you want to take some food on a lovely day and there are 2 lovely little gift shops to visit.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Seaton Sensory Garden, Seaton, Cornwall

We often go for a stroll along Seaton beach to see the big waves breaking along the shore, its a shingle beach and dogs are allowed on the beach all year round so more suitable for a bracing walk than a sunbathe.

Behind the car park is Seaton Valley Countryside Park, which is a lovely walk up the valley, and part of it is wheelchair and pushchair accessible, they also have some new fitness equipment along part of the route turning it into a trim trail too.

What we discovered on our walk this time which we have never spotted before is the Sensory Garden. Its a beautiful little garden to wonder around, sit and think and pause for a moment, play hide and seek around the bushes. Sadly its looking a little bit uncared for and slightly over grown, but this adds to the exploring nature for the kids.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Monkey Sanctuary, Looe, Cornwall

We visit Cornwall a couple of times a year but until now never been to The Monkey Sanctuary, and now we are wondering why we haven't been before as it was a really good day out.

 The Monkey Sanctuary is down quite a few country lanes, but very well sign posted. We were surprised by how many cars we were following and so pleased nothing was coming the other way. This being Cornwall what should be a single track road isn't.
Along the walk in were funny little monkey statues that Charlotte would spot amongst the trees and a wonderful view down to the coast. The lady at the entrance gave a quick brief on what you can and can't do and then we were off to explore.

The monkeys houses are built into the hill/cliff side. There are currently 37 monkeys and on the day we went must have seen about 15 of them. Some of them are playful and lively and others a bit more calm and some hiding away not wanting to be seen. Near each monkey house is a keeper to explain about the upkeep of the animals and their history. If you get to stop for a while and listen (Charlotte doesn't let us stop for talks very often) its really fascinating stuff and shows just how much the keepers really care about the animals they are looking after.

We would all love monkeys to be in the wild not in captivity, but things don't work out like that. The sanctuary is a rescue centre for those who have been kept as pets, some were circus acts and others came from zoos. There is a display room that goes into detail of how some of the animals were brought up, some of the foods they had been fed (or taunted with), and the cage that one monkey (Joey) had lived in for 9 years. Charlotte had a go at the monkey puzzle, which was easy for her with her little fingers but not so easy for the rest of us.

There is a bat cave with a night vision cctv so you can pick out the bats, very cool, and a wildlife room that covers the other animals that live on the site (think insects and birds not zoo animals). There is cctv set up in one of the birds nest and we could see the mother blackbird feeding her babies.

There is a lovely garden to walk around and a great childrens play area. The day we went there was a entertainer in the play area doing tricks for the kids. I'm guessing this was an extra put on for the summer holidays, the kids really loved it... and even some of the adults joined in with "boo, hiss, you're rubbish" when he dropped the items he was juggling.

On our way out we were getting hungry so took a look at the Tree Top cafe. We are veggies but other family members were meat eaters so went in with open mind of ok we will head to Looe for lunch if there is nothing carnivores can eat (usually its the other way around). We shouldn't have worried as the selection is excellent and the food was so good I wanted another plateful. They try to use local suppliers where possible, the cider came from Cornish Orchards just down the road and you can buy a bottle or 2 in the shop, which we did. The tree-top part made the cafe a unique experience.

The Monkey Sanctuary was a great find, and if you gift aid you get free return entry for a year so we will be back next time we are down that way. I would recommend combining your day with a trip to Seaton or Looe as its positioned between the two. Seaton has a dog friendly beach and a lovely walk up the valley, or Looe with a family beach, boat trips and shops.

As I said earlier it is built on a hill/cliff side so navigation with babies is not so easy. There were plenty of people dragging stollers up and down the slopes and steps but anything bigger or heavier would not be easy to manage. Its quite a small site so younger walkers shouldn't have too much trouble but i would pop babies into a carrier.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Abingdon-on-Thames Heritage Open Day 2012

We are so lucky in Abingdon to have a lot of history to look back on and some fantastic buildings. Heritage open day is a great day to get behind some of those closed doors we walk past every day and to peer at what is hidden behind. The owners of the private buildings are always so friendly and welcoming when they open their doors and show so much care in preserving their buildings.

On the odd year we have missed the hod as we are in other parts of the country, it's made us realise what a lot of effort the town puts into the day. One town we went to the only open doors related thing going was a tour of a recycling plant!

This year the hod is on the weekend of  8 - 9 September and seems to have more open than ever before and Twickenham House, a grade II listed mansion recently converted to apartments, is a possible 'last chance to see'. A good visit for children will be the old magistrates court with bench and cells and a magistrate to tell you about her experiences there or drop into meet the mayor in the parlour at the Old Abbey House. But the first stop on your visit should be the market place to pick up a what's on leaflet and map from the volunteers so you get plenty of updated information.

There are a number of organised walks over the weekend, I think we will be going on the Abingdon Abbey Walk as this is nice and short but if you're up to it I know the boundary walk is excellent as we have done this on new years day before.

Due to the age of some buildings it's not always easy to navigate with a pushchair so I would recommend popping young ones into a baby carrier if they aren't up for the walk. We have done this in the past and it's worked out well.

To find out more about the heritage open day see their website where you can download a leaflet with all the buildings that are open and their times, and the best about the weekend, its all free.

Many thanks to the organisers of the heritage open day for letting me use their images.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Cornerstone Cafe Bar - pop-up activity hub, Didcot, Oxfordshire

It's not often we make it along to the Orchard Centre in Didcot, but we heard about the pop-up activity hub in the Cornerstone and thought we could combine it with a bit of shopping.

You know what it's like when you're shopping, kids are getting weary and tired, you really want a coffee and rest but you know 5 minutes after you have settled, they will want to be up and about and doing something else. This is where the activity hub comes in... you get a nice and relaxing coffee and cake while they get to do some colouring, sticking and games. The kids can also enjoy things like smoothies, kids lunchboxes, cakes, fruit pots, ice creams or even candy floss.

 The Cornerstone cafe has set out special craft tables with paper, pencils, glue, sparkles, glitter, everything you need to get sticking and making. We saw plenty of kids sitting there quietly working away on their masterpieces. Dotted around tables were game classics like connect 4 or modern ones like wobbly teeth, and a giant snakes and ladders on the floor.

We then had a go at the gingerbread decorating competition (you can chose to decorate a cake too and there is a charge of £2), with lots of different icing colours and an assortment of smarties, hundreds and thousands etc. To finish off our trip Charlotte got to have some candyfloss, and we also got to watch an extremely nice man making it. The candy floss must have tasted excellent as she gobbled it down in minutes and we weren't allowed any!

It really is a fantastic idea and works so well - in fact before we knew it, our 2 hour free parking time was up and we hadn't even managed to get round to the shopping!

The activity hub is only on for 2 weeks and is now in its last few days, so hurry down there as the last day is Saturday 25th August. If it goes well Daniel, the very lovely manager, hopes to be able to run this again in other holiday seasons. We wish him every success as we would happily go back again and would love it even more if there was something like this in Abingdon.

The drinks and activity's were kindly provided by Daniel from Elegant Cuisine through Publicity Oxford but all views are my own.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Abingdon County Hall Museum and Buns in the Basement, Abingdon, Oxfordshire

Abingdon County Hall Museum opened a few weeks back after an extensive refit, the museum is a stunning building, located right in the centre opposite the market place and a short walk from the river and car parks.
Access to the musuem has always been difficult, and still is. The only accessible area is the basement, I will get to this later. If taking young children you will either have to leave the pushchair at the bottom of the stairs or get some strong muscles and carry it up.

Charlotte does museums at lightning speed and we managed both rooms in about 20 minutes. A few things stopped her in her tracks to look at. Photos of the recent bun throwing and some of the old buns that had been perserved on display, the MGB car which was one of the last one off the line at the Abingdon factory (you can watch the video of how it got into the museum here, a dressing up box, drawers to open and peer in, a dolls house. On good days you can also go onto the roof for fantastic views across the town, we didn't go up as children have to be over 6 (there is also a small charge) but I believe the roof has been relaid as the boarding up there used to get very slippery and wasn't open very often.

The displays all look wonderful and very informative, we got a sneak look at how Oxfordshire Museum Services were creating the displays and what their brief was when we went round the Museum Resource Centre in Standlake a few months back. The time, effort and dedication was all worth while as it looks fantastic. On a separate note if you have older children or those with longer attention spans the Museum Resource Centre has another open day on 14th October 2012, its really worth a visit to see things you would rarely see on display.

There is a brand new lift at the back of the museum that will take you down to the basement. Here you will find the education room, the old water pump that served the town and Buns in the Basement, run by the lovely Phil and Kate from throwing buns. This a must do last stop on your trip round the museum for a coffee and cake or salad, jacket potato or quiche.

The museum and buns in the basement is open Tuesday - Sunday and bank holiday Mondays 10am - 4pm.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Rescue Princess Party, Mostly Books, Abingdon

We are so lucky to have not 1 but 2 independent book shop in Abingdon and its even better when they put on events to get children excited about books. The Rescue Princess Party at Mostly Books was one such occasion and anything to do with princesses means Charlotte wants to go, add the word dressing up and suddenly she is snow white and at the door raring to go.
The author of the Rescue Princesses series of books, Paula Harrison, was on hand when we arrived already giving out quiz sheets to see which princess you are most like, once all the girls had arrived it was a few questions and then story telling time. All the girls sat so still and quiet, it was lovely. They then all learnt a royal curtsey collected a sticker and then went animal tracking in the courtyard. Queue lots of excited princesses darting around finding the tracks and matching the animals on their sheet, this was a really great idea. Soon biscuits and squash came out followed by sparkly crowns to decorate.

Charlotte really enjoyed the morning, on Monday the 'Hugless Douglas' creator David Melling will be dropping in for drawings and activities, which sadly we can't attended in person (but readitdaddy may be following on twitter). Keep on eye on Mostly Books website for other happens in the future.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Oxford Playhouse Play Out Tent - Bath Time

We have just got home from the really excellent Bath Time show from the Oxford Playhouse Play Out Tent at Millets Farm, Frilford. There are 2 showings a day, 12 & 2 or 12 & 3 (each day seems to vary) and in between shows lots of activities to do like colouring, dressing up and reading.

The play was so good and had adults and children laughing, clapping, singing the whole way through. I won't spoil any of it for you but I expect in our bath tonight Charlotte will be using the shower as a microphone, making a beard pretending to be Grandad, renaming her duck Ernie and wanting 20 more of them. So long as she doesn't attempt to fix the taps we should be ok!
This is a great way to get young children to experience a theatre production without going to a theatre, and it was all free.
The Play Out Tent is touring Oxfordshire over the next week. It will be back at Millets Farm tomorrow and then moving on. Check out the Playhouse website for where next (Kidlington 8 August and Wilderness Festival 10-12 August).

Friday, 27 July 2012

What to do in the School Holidays - part 2

How about some free things going on during the summer, all those days out can work out quite expensive.

Abingdon Museum has just reopened after a refit and the excellent cafe throwing buns has opened buns in the basement. The museum is on our to do list this summer as we haven't been since its reopened.

Ashmolean Museum, oxford, has museum pick and mix every wed and Thursday up to 16 August and a Friday tour and draw up to the 17 August. Few others things going on so have a look at their family whats on page

Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, has various family drop-in sessions and also activities for older children

Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers have joined forces with some joint events an Olympic adventure trail every day, Tuesday and Wednesday backpack activities and 23-24 August Museum Masquerades.

The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock, is one of our favourite in the area, there is always lots to see and do for the children. During the holidays there are lots of activities for a small fee.

Take a splash, with the sun still shining why not take a trip to the Abbey Meadows in Abingdon or Hinksey Park in Oxford to splash in the water feature, or take your swim suits and have a dip in the pool.

Get into a book, check out whats on at your local library this summer, activities on at most libraries and they are all taking part in this summers story lab summer reading challenge

Oxford Family Sports Day 2012, will be at Bury Knowle Park, Headington on Sunday 12 August. This sounds like a great day to try something new, or watch the demonstrations.

Back to the paid things again:
Botanic Gardens, Oxford, have a different family friendly event every Thursday afternoon

Harcourt Arboretum, Oxford, has a different arboretum Olympics each Tuesday afternoon, and also from now until 2 September a geo-caching treasure hunt. Explorer backpacks are also available to borrow every day from the ticket office.

Oxford Playhouse has one production on this summer for the kids, wheels on the bus on the 13/14/15 August. Shows at the Playhouse are always excellent and this one is worth a visit with young ones.

Monday, 23 July 2012

What to do in the School Holidays - Part 1

The school holidays have started and while the kids are having a great time some parents are already wishing it was September. So what is there going on in Oxfordshire over the next 6 weeks, here is a short round-up of things local to us.

BBOWT have family fun days at some of their larger sites, different themes each week. Examples are animal games, wild about dinosaurs, remarkable raptors, Bug Hunt Safari, wildlife detective and many more. Take a look at their whats on page to see whats near you some are free and some a small donation. 

Earth Trust have a summer clumps club, forest school for preschoolers, family bushcraft day and a night time bat walk, check out their whats on pages for more info 

Millets Farm the maize maze is due to open this weekend... little bit late due to the weather but better late than never. We've never actually been round the maze before, maybe a visit with our preschool friends is in order before they all go onto school. Each Wednesday during the holidays there is a different themed activity at at cost of £2.99 per child. I like the sound of the wildlife wooden wind chimes. Events page for more info.

Mostly Books wheres wally hunt finishes this weekend July 28th... so better get skates on with this one. There will be a party on the 28th. One event I think I better get a ticket to is Rescue Princess Party with author Paula Harrison on the 7th August, this is just up Charlottes street. 13th August is 'Hugless Douglas' creator David Melling doing drawings and activities.

Part 2 of this post is to follow... so many things to do!!!

Legoland, Windsor

We love Legoland so much that we seem to return every year, and this year Charlotte was now tall enough to go on the big rides. Mummy doesn't do rides very well but Daddy happily obliged on all those I couldn't stomach. We loved them all, the big ones, the scary ones, the more sedate ones, something for every age. I think our family favourite ride is Atlantis, the submarine ride. This is excellent but over so quickly... I wish it was longer. The fish ponds at the end for the kids to feel the sea urchins and crabs were excellent. We got really soaked on Pirates Fall which was Mummy's favourite, Daddy's favourite ride is The Dragon roller-coaster and Charlotte's was the L-driving school. At 4 she is still 2 years off the bigger driving school, and I can't wait for her to be old enough for that. When my brother and I were younger we went to Legoland Denmark and I still remember the driving school there, and I've kept my driving licence.
New for 2012 was the amazing looking Legoland hotel, living only an hour away we had no reason to stay but I would have loved to sneak in and look around. Also new was the Star Wars miniland experience, or geek central for Daddy! Mummy doesn't do star wars but Daddy and Charlotte said it was excellent.
The weather was a bit unpredictable the day we went, but thankfully we managed to time it so when it rained we could dive into the theatre for a 4D experience. This was the first time we have done this and it was excellent, so well done conveying all the emotion with no words just expression and with the added 4D extras.
We had reviewed Legloand last year, but its just so much fun that I thought I would do another update.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Bekonscot Model Village and Railway, Buckinghamshire

We had a really lovely day at the very popular Bekonscot Model Village. Bekonscot is one of the oldest original model villages in the world with quite a history that you can read about on their website or whilst going round the site. I don't remember the numbers but whilst there I read a notice about model villages dying out and there being so many less than a number of years ago, so its great to see this model village so busy and they also donate a lot of money to local and national charities.

The area around the model village is a housing estate, and limited car parking is provided on the church grounds opposite or local roads.
When we arrived we headed straight for the lake and played with the little power boats and then onto the children's playground which is really well designed (this is meant to be at the end of the village, but we went the wrong way around!). Beside this was the cafe with indoor and outdoor seating (some covered areas if it rains) where we had our picnic, we did buy ice creams in the cafe and the selection of food looked really nice.

We then spent ages going around the model village, you could easily walk around 2 or 3 times and spot something different. There is also a raised platform for an aerial view. There is a very complex gauge 1 model railway running around the site, which all the kids got excited about watching them going into and out of the tunnels. A few highlights are:  a miniature Bekonscot village with some great puns for the shop names, a lovely traditional fair, look for the lady washing her windows, a coal mine (very popular with the children), a burning building, ascot race course and a working water mill. Even the gardens are amazing, with minature trees and plants all trimmed to scale.

An extra cost to the entrance fee is a trip on the narrow gauge railway, which was a fun but short experience.

The site is really child friendly, and no problem at all for pushchairs. We had a really great time and could have spent a lot longer wondering around looking at everything.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Disneyland Paris

We have a mini princess in the making in our house, I'm sure a lot of 4 year old girls are in love with Disney Princesses and so we got this bright idea of taking Charlotte to Disneyland Paris for a last holiday before she starts school... ahh is she really that big now.
What a real princess of a holiday it turned out to be. We went to London the night before and spent the night in Kings Cross Premier Inn, and for a budget London hotel this was great and so close to the train station, they served up an excellent breakfast that kept us going all day.
We splashed out on standard premier tickets for the direct Eurostar train to Disneyland. Its not first class but the extra leg room and a nice light breakfast was great, the bag given to the kids at St Pancras station starved off any train boredom and got us all excited about Disney (not that we weren't already brimming over with excitement) and before you know it we were delivered to the doors of the park.
A short walk from the station to our hotel the Newport Bay, we were greeted with huge queues but we had pushed the boat out again and upgraded to admirals floor so skipped the big queues and checked straight in and up too our room. No time to look at the wonderful view over the lake we were keen to get into the Disney magic. And magic it was, everything Disney does is amazing.

A few things we did to make our holiday extra special was booking a character dinner at Inventions (the restaurant within the Disneyland hotel), really excellent food. It was buffet service and we went back a good few times to fill our plate up. We booked for 6pm which turned out to be a quiet time to go and meet Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Suzy, Perla and Gepetto. Charlotte danced with Mickey, he also conducted whilst she sang its a small world, Pluto drew a picture of a bone when we asked what is favourite food was. Such a memorable evening we didn't want it to end.

We also booked a princess make-over, again at the Disneyland hotel. Various packages to chose from but we went for the 60 euro package of make-up, hair, tiara, photo shoot and single photo. We took along our snow white dress and added a Belle tiara. she looked so pretty and was a lovely surprise.

To top it off we then went for lunch with the Disney Princesses at Cinderella's restaurant. This is not a cheap dinner but its such an amazing moment to have lunch with a prince and 3 princesses. Being Cinderella's restaurant you are guaranteed to meet Cinderella but we also met Prince Charming, Belle and Aurora. They were all so friendly and lovely and chatty. Cinderella and Prince Charming danced in front of us and then they all came to greet us and they also danced with Charlotte.

Around the park we met Buzz light year, who is so tall all the little ones were a bit scared of him, Tigger who is so bouncy, Eyeore, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Duffy Bear, Rapunzel and Tiana.
We seemed to badly time the shows in the studio park but did make Lighting McQueen stunt show which was fantastic and made us all jump and hold our breathe.

The 20th celebration fireworks at park closing time were amazing, we were all wowed by the Jubilee celebrations with the projections onto Buckingham Palace, well this was Disney's version onto the castle 25mins felt like a few seconds there are no words to say how stunning and amazing it was. We saw it twice from different directions but could happily watch it again and again.

I think Charlotte's favourite ride was its a small world which we did 7 times, I'm still singing the song now. She even enjoyed the scary rides like the haunted house and Pirates of the Caribbean. There were long queues for some of the popular rides so we didn't manage everything but we had a fantastic 4 nights. We were very sorry to be leaving the Disney magic to come back home but we were so tired we couldn't wait for a nice lie in. We are now saving for Florida... this may take us some time!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Open Farm Sunday 2012

Sunday 17 June is Open Farm Sunday. Sadly we can't go this year but we had such an excellent time last year. The weather was so wet and miserable I don't think the farmer was expecting anyone to turn up but turn up we did. We visited Hill Top Farm in Steventon (a cattle farm, which sadly isn't open this year) and got a superb tractor tour of the farm and information about all their crops, a look around the cattle, join in with feeding the young cows, tour of the outbuildings which they converted into offices and lease out to bring in much needed money. Hill Top Farm is family run and was lovely to hear about how farming had changed over the years and what new ideas and technologies are being brought to the farm.
Every farm has something different going on, so take a look at the Open Farm Sunday website and see what your local farm is doing, anything from meet the animals, bale climbing, nature trails, tractor rides, farm shops etc

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire

Slimbridge Wetland Centre is a great place for people of all ages, not just those who are into photographing wildlife as there is plenty of things for everyone. Charlotte was a bit 'seen one duck seen them all' but there were plenty of boards around to explain the different types of ducks, and the reserve is split into areas of the continent. Plenty of quiet bird hides for those who like to spot something more unusual and out of the way of the popular central areas. For the kids there was a number of play parks, there was a canoe safari (looked great but we didn't go on it) and the best bit welly boot land. On the day we went it was more swimming costume and crocs. Welly boot land is a stream that you can build dams on to learn about the flow of water... or just run and splash in to cool off on a hot day.

There are areas you can hand feed the ducks, hands-on session with frogs and toads, otter feeding session. Check the noticeboards for a what's on that day when you arrive, there was a lot more on than we managed to do or space to mention here. There were some great pond dipping areas, but sadly no nets, we were really looking forward to the pond dipping too, was a really fun pond dipping game available. We took our own packed lunch, there are plenty of benches and picnic areas around, but we did stop for a drink in the restaurant and the selection looked quite good.

The whole area is flat and really accessible, including a lot of the hides, the whole reserve is really well planned out.
We had a really fun day, and it was a full packed day, as we left Charlotte asked when we will be going back... would like to say its because she liked seeing all the birds but I think it was more to do with welly boot land.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire

We recently visited here for the Cadburys Easter Trail (which was excellent fun even if a little wet), but the Manor and grounds open most of the year. The house is open for part of the year but we haven't yet gone round the house, the grounds are impressive enough.

The gardens are stunning and quite something to walk around, with view points across the county along the way, big slopes that make you want to be 5 again and roll down them, also aviary's home to a collection of exotic birds, garden sculptures and fountains.

The very poplar outdoor playground is wonderful to visit and good for children of all ages and spread across the side of a hill with footpaths between the stages. There is a very lovely restaurant and stables cafe, which sells some amazing cakes. Throughout the year there are regular family friendly events.
All areas are easily accessible for pushchairs and prams

Abbey Meadows Outdoor Pool, Abingdon

The Abbey Meadows outdoor swimming pool has just opened for the summer season until 9th September 2012. The sun has come out and so its time to enjoy the pool. We visited a few times last year and often had the pool to ourselves, under 16's also swim for free have a look at the soll leisure website take along the form and a passport sized photo on your first visit. Take a look at our review from last summer to see how great it is.
The water feature in the Abbey Meadows is also now open, very popular with the kids and its free. Along with crazy golf, tennis courts and 9-hole pitch and putt course.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth, Hampshire

 At 170m above Portsmouth Harbour is the Spinnaker Tower, right on the waterfront at Gunwharf Quays. We had gone to Portsmouth on a rather wet day, but thankfully by late afternoon the sun was out and it was lovely and bright giving us a great view across Portsmouth.

A lift takes you up to viewing deck 1 at 100m above sea level (there are 3 "decks"), its not a glass lift which I was very pleased about. The first viewing deck is the largest and as has a glass floor in the middle. Charlotte who was the bravest of us all was on there rolling around, jumping and running. I managed to walk across but Daddy stayed some way off as he is scared of heights. The 1st deck has glass walls on 3 sides and photos to pinpoint certain attractions.

Its up some steps to viewing deck 2, which also has a cafe, this is where we left daddy whilst Charlotte and I headed up to the Crows Nest (110m above sea level). This is the smallest deck, glass on 3 sides but with an open roof, you really do get the best views from up there. The lift to go back down departs from deck 2.

Charlotte really enjoyed walking on the glass floor, and we really loved the views across Portsmouth to Isle of Wight, watching the boats come and go.

I was surprised by how small the viewing decks were, on busy days you could be jostling for space at the windows, but that's only as we were comparing it to the Sky Tower, Calgary, Canada. One negative was having to pay for children from the age of 3, a 3 year old isn't going to appreciate it as much as an older child.