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 http://youtu.be/-Cnbgu7Kx8s), 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).