Sunday 25 August 2019

A Family Day Out at Mapperton House, Dorset

It's always nice to visit new places and this week we spent a lovely sunny day at Mapperton House, Dorset. Home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, Mapperton is a beautiful manor house with 15 acres of stunning gardens.

I wondered how suitable it would be for a young family but actually, my kids had a really fun time and the gardens are perfect for a game of hide and seek! Mapperton also put on children's events throughout the holidays such as the Creepy Crawly Show which we were lucky enough to see.

House tours can also be booked and I believe these are very popular however we decided to keep our rabble outside - old houses and expensive things mixed with excitable children makes me a little nervous ;)

On arrival, and after a quick hello to Percy the tortoise, we picked up our tickets from the shop. We immediately spotted the creepy crawly tent so we headed there first. Wow, so many creatures to look at! It was great to meet the World Life team and they are very passionate about their work and the exotic animals that they have.

Elliot was very very keen to get stuck in and wanted to hold as many animals as possible including a millipede and a bearded dragon named Elliot!

Elliot really enjoyed their Creepy Crawly show and he had lots of questions for the team afterwards! It was really interesting and the perfect event for an animal mad little boy. World Life are actually going to be at Mapperton until the 29th August and I'd highly recommend catching one of their shows if you can.

It was soon time for lunch so we headed over to the Coach House - we had a picnic packed but we couldn't resist the cheese scones and delicious cakes! All the menu items use locally sourced ingredients and they offer a delicious selection of light meals, sandwiches and drinks.

The Mapperton Estate is tucked away in a steep north-south combe, surrounded by the lush green Dorset countryside. The gardens feature lots of interesting features such as fountains, grottoes, fish ponds, a croquet lawn, an orangery, topiary and lead down to the arboretum.

I confess that I am pretty clueless when it comes to flowers and plants but even a novice like myself could appreciate the beauty of the gardens!

We walked down towards the arboretum and found ourselves on the woodland walk. This is a pleasant stroll around the outskirts of the grounds and although steep in places, wasn't a problem for our toddler.

If you're planning on visiting Mapperton with children it's worth noting that the gardens are not buggy friendly as some areas are very steep in places due to the natural topography. Leave the buggy in the car and let your kids explore...although you will have to keep an eye on them around the ponds. Elliot said he fancied a swim as it was so hot so I had to keep a beady eye on him especially!

We really enjoyed our day at Mapperton and it was lovely to find a new place to explore. It's great that they are encouraging families to visit with the addition of events such as the creepy crawly show and I will definitely be recommending to our friends. I've just spotted on the website that they have a Halloween event on over the half term so I'll definitely be popping that on the calender - I bet the Autumn colours are stunning!

For more detailed information about the gardens and their history, take a look at the website . The gardens are open until 31st October 2019 from 10am to 5pm, Sunday to Thursday - tickets can be booked online

*Disclaimer - We received a free entry in exchange for an honest review

Saturday 17 August 2019

Getting Creative in the Summer Holidays with Made By Me Craft Parties

I dread rainy days in the Summer Holidays and the inevitable chorus of "I'm boooooooored!" followed by "Can we do some arts and crafts?!" I am #notapinterest mum by any means, my idea of arts and crafts is a bit of play doh or a ready to go craft kit from Hobbycraft!

Fortunately for us, there are people out there who are amazing at arts and crafts and we met one last week - Lexy who runs Made By Me Craft Parties. We were invited along to her Summer Craft Camp and we were excited to do some proper crafting!

When we arrived, the children were set up at the table with a colourful paper bag and asked to decorate it however they liked - there were a variety of different stickers and felt tips and they got to work creating a mini masterpiece. It's worth noting that this particular craft event was for children 6-13 years old however Lexy very kindly let Erin join in too with a bit of assistance from me :)

Once the bags were decorated we moved onto the 3D cardboard letters. Lexy bought out a big box of colourful wool and lots of washi tape. I've never used washi tape before but its a type of colourful masking tape that can be used to decorate pretty much anything and is perfect for children as it's really easy to tear off.

Elliot couldn't wait to get stuck into this activity and he decorated his letter at such speed however he did need a bit of a hand making it neat! Erin just wanted to stick on all the sparkly embellishments so I did the bulk of hers but I found it really relaxing winding the wool round and making it pretty. It was a really fun activity enjoyed by all!

After a quick squash and biscuit break we moved onto the pom pom making. I've actually made pom poms before but by using the old fashioned technique of a cardboard circle. Lexy showed the children how to create pom poms using a speciliast bit of a equipment that made it 100 times easier than the way I know! I was so impressed that I came home and ordered my very own pom pom gadget from eBay - you never know when you're going to need pom poms! :)

The final activity was creating wooden mobiles which I think was Elliot's favourite thing - his eye lit up when Lexy bought out a big box of buttons and he spent ages choosing the ones he wanted for his mobile.

 Lexy had a variety of different beads and buttons for the children to use and Erin really enjoyed theading these onto her wire. Although she's a lot younger than the minimum 6 years, this was an activity that she could really get involved with!

At the end of the hour and a half, the kids were so chuffed with what they had created and I couldn't believe how fast the time had gone. It was great to have Lexy on hand for guidance with the activities and I have to say, she is so patient with the children!

As well as dedicated craft parties, Lexy also runs Dorset based events alongside another lady who has a fantastic biscuit decorating business. Some of the Mini Makes and Bakes events are also suitable for pre-schoolers so I'm definitely going to be looking at attending some of these with Erin

For more details about Lexy's parties and events, you can check out her website or you can find her on Facebook . 

Thank you, Lexy for bringing out the creativity in us! 

*Disclaimer - We were invited along to the event in exchange for an honest review - all words are my own and the smiles are 100% genuine! 

Monday 12 August 2019

Larmer Tree Festival 2019 - A Chilled, Family Festival

Before kids, my experience with festivals was one very very wet and muddy weekend at Glastonbury. I can't say I enjoyed it much and I decided that it was much easier to watch festivals from the comfort of my own home - with a clean toilet and no mud!

It wasn't until Elliot came along that we started to dip our toes into the festival world again. I realised that family festivals were a completely different ball game and you didn't even have to camp!!

This year we were invited to check out the Larmer Tree Festival which is located at the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens on the Dorset-Wiltshire border. We weren't able to camp for the entire weekend due to prior commitments so a day ticket was perfect for us. I love the fact you can get day tickets for these type of festivals, it's a perfect way to get a taste of everything without having to do without your creature comforts back at home.

We chose to go along on Sunday and it just so happened that this coincided with a performance from Elliot's idol, Andy Day and his band the Odd Socks! The kids are big fans (you might even say superfans!) so we were excited to see them live again.

We arrived at the festival site bright and early and were directed into the carpark by some very friendly stewards. This was something I noticed throughout the day, all the staff we encountered were very helpful and very friendly!

The festival site isn't overly huge so the carpark was only a short walk to the entrance (nothing like the mammoth walk at Camp Bestival!) and we were soon swapping our e-tickets for wristbands.

The first thing we spotted was the impressive Larmer Tree which is located in the Village area. Whilst we got our bearings, we decided that we'd start the day by sampling some of the many food offerings dotted around the festival. Paul and I had a lovely bacon sandwich and the kids shared a healthy smoothie and flaxjack.

Andy & The Odd Socks were due on the main stage at 11am so we decided to head for the main lawn and nab our favourite front row spot. Things were very calm on the main lawn however as there was a mass yoga session going on - it was very quiet, and very chilled out and it did make me giggle thinking how different the atmosphere would be in about half an hour when dinosaurs and giant footballs would be bouncing around!! It also made me giggle when eagle eye Elliot broke the quietness with a very loud "Andy!!!!!!" as he spotted his idol getting things ready on the stage!

Once the yoga had finished the lawn was quickly filled with families waiting to enjoy the show - and what a show it was! We have been to quite a few Odd Socks shows over the last couple of years but this one had such a great atmosphere from start to finish. Even a bit of rain didn't dampen the spirits!

Elliot and Erin had a fantastic time and it was lovely to see Erin getting so involved. After the show, we heard on the grapevine that the band would be coming out so we headed over to the side of the stage to see.

I always say this but the band are so lovely to their young fans - they always greet Elliot like an old friend and you can see from the photos below how happy this makes him! Erin also surprised us by not crying like she has done at every other Odd Socks meet & greet...I think they were starting to think it was something personal ;)

After that bit of excitement, we wanted to explore a bit more so we headed away from the main lawn and followed the nearest pathway. The brilliant thing about Larmer Tree Festival is that there are things to see around every corner, and there are lots of nooks and crannies and little paths to explore. Perfect for inquisitive children!

We ended up in the Lostwood area - a series of woodland pathways filled with art installations, secret spaces, a campfire and a whole host of musical instruments hanging from the branches. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before and was certainly popular with the children who could play the instruments to their heart's content. Elliot was quite taken with the guitars whilst Erin preferred the drums!

Although the festival is highly popular with families, it still felt intimate and not overcrowded at all. Walking through the Lostwood was busy but we never felt rushed along and there were plenty of instruments for everyone.

There were also lots of fantastic art installations - we stumbled upon some animal skulls that were decorated with beautiful bright designs. It's a pity we weren't there to see them at night time because I imagine they looked even cooler lit up.

Lostwood was also home to the Peachick Play Area and Baby Changing area - we didn't use this but it's great that there was an area dedicated to the little ones.

The Wilds area was a short hop from Lostwood and here we found the cinema showing a variety of classic films throughout the day and night. I'm sure if we had been staying the whole weekend, we would have ended up here! It looked very cosy and a great way to relax and take a break from the festival madness.

Woodland Crafts was a popular area in the Wilds with a huge array of workshops and crafts for the kids to get stuck into. The tents did look fairly busy when we popped our head in so we didn't get around to making anything for ourselves but I did see lots of homemade decorations dotted around the festival that had been created by mini festival-goers over the weekend!

We spent the next few hours exploring the woods and gardens and time just seemed to fly by - there were so many things to see, even just stopping to do a bit of people watching kept us busy!

The Museums area was great - Erin fell asleep at this point so whilst she was snoozing Elliot did some colouring and we learnt lots about the history of Larmer Tree Gardens from the Salisbury Museum. They also had lots of interesting artefacts on display including items that had been found at the Larmer Tree Gardens site over the years. 

One thing I love about festivals is the random and wacky things you can see when you're not expecting it! We certainly had a few of those moments including some really unique looking puppets that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Labyrinth!

We also caught a pop-up theatre company next to the Larmer Tree - I'm not totally sure what it was about but there were pirates...and the kids were transfixed!

Throughout the weekend, the many stage areas played host to a huge variety of acts including KT Tunstall, The Shires, Kate Tempest and Tom Odell who was a late addition to the line up after Jack Savoretti cancelled due to tonsillitis. The music side of things isn't a priority for us, aside from the family bands such as Andy's, the kids aren't really into bands yet but we managed to fill the entire day without actually seeing anyone else sing! We were happy just exploring the festival and taking in the atmosphere however we did see lots of families enjoying the live music.

One thing we did catch, however, was the carnival procession in the late afternoon sunshine. Winding its way up from the Lostwood, we heard it before we saw it and it was fantastic to see so many families taking part!

The Southampton Ukulele Jam caught my ear - they were a band of very enthusiastic ukulele players belting out some very familiar songs and I only wished we'd managed to catch another of their performances.

Of course, I can't review a festival and not talk more about the food - and there was so much on offer at Larmer Tree. Throughout the day we grazed on very very cheesy mac & cheese, lovely homemade icecreams, churros (is it even a festival without churros?!) and we might have made multiple trips to the Saint Valentine Liquorice stall! There were plenty of healthy options to be had and the smell of some of the stalls was just so tempting. Prices were a little steep but it's to be expected when you're at a festival and I don't mind paying when the food is really good!

We had a lovely day and it really is the perfect family festival. I feel like we only scratched the surface of what Larmer Tree had to offer for families and I hope we can return next year to experience more. 

*Disclaimer - We were provided with press tickets in return for an honest review - all words are my own and I think you can tell we had a lovely day by the big smiles in the photos :)

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Aiming High at ALTITUDE High Ropes Adventure - Bournemouth - Review

Last week we were invited down to Altitude High Ropes Adventure which is located in Littledown Park, Bournemouth. Although we don't live too far away (around a 25-minute drive), I haven't visited the Littledown area in years and I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived! 

Parking in the leisure centre (free parking for up to 3 hours), we immediately spotted a great looking adventure play area and paddling pool - had no idea this was here so this is definitely somewhere to add to our "places to visit" list!

Altitude can be found towards the back of the park and it's a pleasant stroll past the lake to get there. Look out for the zip line too which you will be whizzing down at some point! 

Once we arrived Elliot and my husband Paul got kitted out with harnesses and helmets. The high ropes adventure is divided into 5 sections: Low Ropes, High Ropes, Zip Wire, Climbing Wall and Power Fan Descender. 

The boys began their adventure on the climbing wall and my husband admitted that he found this bit tricky - Elliot, on the other hand, was up the wall like a mountain goat! The climbing wall features lots of challenging climbs to test you to the limit and was a great starting point for their high ropes adventure. 

Next came the Low Ropes adventure which is 5 metres above ground - this is suitable for 5+. The course features 9 exciting elements including crawl tunnel, cargo net, log bridge and swinging lots. 

I was really surprised by how easy Elliot made this look and he didn't falter at any point! They had the chance to complete the course twice, and the second time they could do it blindfolded if they wished. 

Next came the high ropes - and these are 10 metres off the ground so definitely not for the faint-hearted. Under 8's are allowed on the level but must be accompanied by an adult - Elliot was well up for it so Paul had no option but to clip on and follow! 

The high ropes course combines 12 testing elements which include Burma Bridge, Islands in the Sky, Stepping Stones and Swinging Tyres. It made me feel dizzy just looking up at them. 

The only part that Elliot struggled a bit on was the mini zip line - he wasn't quite heavy enough for it to go all the way so he had to kind of shuffle until it reached the end! 

When the boys had recovered from the high ropes, it was onto the Power Fan Descender - a terrifying leap of faith off a high platform. You plummet to the ground before being gently stopped just before you land - eek! 

They finished off the course by whizzing over the Littledown Lake on the 70-metre zip wire - what a way to end the day! 

We spent around 2.5 hours at Altitude and Elliot and Paul really enjoyed themselves. It was great to be able to do something a little different and we'd definitely recommend it. 

Need to Know...

- You MUST wear sensible shoes if planning on doing the course and will not be allowed on if wearing sandals/flip flops
- The minimum age is 5 years old
- There are picnic tables next to the course for spectators 
- Prices are cheaper if you book in advance and you can pay for the courses separately or together as a package - see here for info

If you would like to try Altitude High Ropes Adventure out for yourselves then BH Live have very kindly given me a 20% code to pass on to my readers - the code is ELLIOT20 

*Disclaimer - We were offered a family ticket in return for an honest review - all words are my own however I was too much of a wuss to actually try out the course so had to rely on the experiences of my son and husband ;) Thank you BH LIVE! 

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