Crafting on the Edge at Kinver

Today’s adventure was a jaunt out to Kinver Edge, maintained by the National Trust .

We discovered a hillside covered in woodland and red sandstone. Kinver is famous for the Rock Houses that are there, which were lived in up until the 1950s, plus there are lots of caves and woodland walks to explore.

What attracted us today were the craft sessions being run – for £2 a child.

The boy was instantly captivated by the caves the crafts were being run in, and was only interested in building his own cave. Luckily the volunteers had everything from glitter to paper plates, twigs and leaves and a vast array of scrap paper and material.

With a paper plate, greenery and some sparkly bits, he crafted this ‘cave’ compete with a treasure bag hidden beneath the ‘camouflage’. Then he was off into the caves again!

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The girl was much more focused, and straight away headed for the rabbits and sparkles! She quietly chatted away with one of the helpers, and gradually produced a pretty woodland/countryside picture – my favourite bit is the bird.

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And then she was off into the caves as well!

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We were planning to then investigate the Rock Houses and the rest of the woodland, but behaviour, attention span and the weather began to deteriorate so we called it a morning.

The children definitely enjoyed themselves and I’m disappointed we didn’t get to explore further – but it’s only 30 minutes away, so it’s another adventure saved for another day!

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Hurtling Round Hartlebury

I’m on mummy duty for a couple of weeks, and I was mooching around Twitter looking for some ideas about a day out, and came across a link to Hartlebury Museum in Worcestershire for kids go free – thanks as always Sally! (click here for Raring2Go! or click here for Sally’s Twitter feed )

It’s a lovely place. With the Raring2Go! Voucher, and my boy being under 5, I only had to pay for me – £5.00, plus a £1 each for the children to do the craft activities.

There is tons going on, this week it’s all about the Romans, so we made Roman ‘clay face pots’

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We also had a good mooch around the museum, looking for ‘A-Z’ treasure hunts, and along the way we discovered some fantastic items:

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The children also had the chance to have a go at some archery (£2 for 4 arrows) and they adored this, so we had to do it twice!

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Especially as they both got bullseyes!!

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We got the chance to learn how to write in Roman Cursive script as well:

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And dress up a Roman Soldier:

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We had a lovely picnic, it stated dry enough for us to eat in the picnic area, plus I got to put the children in the stocks!

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We then had a little wander around the ‘Old Moat Coppice’ which is a small nature trail and picnic area – very pretty and a great place for hide and seek!

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We’ve had a great day – and the children want to go back next week for the ‘Greek’ crafts!

Park Fun With My Boy

My boy has been having behaviour problems at nursery school, so we set up a reward chart for him.

This week he has been good 4 days out of 5, so as the sun was shining off we went to the park as a reward.

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I know this last one isn’t very clear, but he was roly polying down the hill.

Lovely!

Searching for Santa

What better way is there to start the festive season, than putting on a hard hat, jumping in a canal barge & going deep into the limestone caves underneath Dudley?

No I haven’t gone potty. I’ve just got back from a fantastic afternoon searching for Santa and being entertained by an underground pantomime put on by the Dudley Canal Trust

Dudley Canal Trust is a great trip under normal circumstances, but their Christmas special is a brilliant way to get into the festive spirit. The trust is run as a charity and all the staff are volunteers.

For £9.95 per person, (same price for adults & children) you are treated to a journey through an underground winter wonderland. Each child gets to meet Father Christmas and receives a gift. The photograph is £6 on top, but there’s no obligation to buy, nor is there any hard sell. Each adult receives a hot drink & mince pie as part of their ticket.

Everyone dons an attractive hard hat, as the tunnels have very low rooves, and after a brief talk about what to do in an emergency, you’re off.

The driver gets the whole boat involved in shouting out & drumming up excitement. Any children at the front of the boat are asked to call out if they think they can see the way to Santa’s grotto.

It’s very important to practise the ‘boo’ & ‘hiss’ as the first stop on our search is the underground pantomime. This year it’s Snow White, and with a cast of four characters you get a good story, a fantastic wicked Lady (ahem!) Dudley and the chance to call out ‘Behind You!’, ‘oh yes he is!’ and there’s time for three songs & the campest Prince Charming I’ve ever seen!

You then find the secret way to Santa’s grotto and meet ‘Tiny the fairy’ who is Santa’s helper. He helps you call for Santa who appears with a huge sack of toys and an elf photographer. He comes in board the boat and spends time with every child. This takes quite a while, but Tiny chats to all the children and everyone’s turn comes around.

Santa was lovely, he had a quiet, personal chat with each child, and they had their picture taken and that could be with their brothers/sisters if that’s preferred.

And then it was all over! The whole trip takes an hour, and by the end everyone was singing along to the piped Christmas songs – altogether now: “jingle bells….”

We chose to have our hot drinks & mince pies at the end of the trip, and we let the children open their presents. My 4 year old boy got a beautiful wooden fishing game/jigsaw; and my 7 year old girl got a juggling Diablo, again beautiful quality. And yes, we decided to buy the photograph of the children as it was a nice way to remember a great day (even if Grandma is lurking in the background!)

I’m feeling very festive now, so apologies if I suddenly burst into song or randomly thrust mistletoe in your face!

Merry Christmas to everyone!

The Wirral, The Final Frontier

A family trip to Merseyside to visit the parents for bonfire night gave us the chance for another day trip.

This time we decided to try out the Spaceport, which is based at the Mersey ferry port of Seacombe on The Wirral. In the past we’d seen a Dr. Who exhibition advertised, but at the moment it’s featuring a Wallace & Gromit exhibition – how could we resist!

After a brief ride into Liverpool city centre on the local trains, we walked up to the pier head, near the famous Liver Buildings

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If you haven’t been to the area before, or recently, forget all the images of Brookside or Bread (showing my age now!), the regeneration of Liverpool’s waterfront is worth the trip on its own!

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We were able to buy our ferry & Spaceport tickets at the ferry terminal – a family ticket (2 adults & 3 children for £20) and hopped onto the ferry. The ferry always makes me smile. As it arrives at each dock, you will here Gerry & The Pacemakers belting out the classic “Ferry, Cross the Mersey”, but the audio commentary as you cross the river is fascinating & a great way to learn about the history of the region.

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Spaceport is right next to the first stop at Seacombe, and all the staff in the exhibit were informative, friendly & helpful.

We started our space exploration by entering ‘The Pod’. This is a small simulator with a central screen you stand around. On here you can watch you’re journey into the Solar System, and as you accelerate, the lights pulse and the floor vibrates. My 4 year old boy, wasn’t sure about this, and as we got out, sobbed “I want to go back to Earth!”

After this brief emotional hiccough, we began to explore the exhibition. The ground floor takes you on a tour around the Solar System with plenty of information, pictures, video and hands on experiments for all ages to find something they can engage in.

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My boy’s favourite was the ‘pinball’ style game to try and get the ‘probe’ into Neptune’s gravitational pull!

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My favourite were the scales that told you your weight on different planets – if only we were on Uranus!

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We then headed upstairs to the Wallace & Gromit exhibition, which again was excellent.

There was a game were you had to control Wallace’s shopping trolley to collect his list groceries and some film sets to look at.

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There were also some film sets & a huge model of the rocket Wallace builds in ‘A Grand Day Out’

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One of the best bits in this section was the sound lab. There’s a recording of Wallace saying “Gromit! Launch the probe!” and a microphone with three buttons under it. You push whichever button takes your fancy and answer Wallace – the buttons change your voice to ‘Alien’ (my favourite!), ‘Low’ (my boy’s favourite) or ‘Echo’ (my girl’s favourite). We played in there for quite some time, getting progressively gigglier!

There was other games, a ‘moon’ soft play section and colouring activities in this section and a photo spot, where you could pose with Wallace & Gromit.

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After this, we went into the Planetarium. This was fantastic. We were shown a film about what it takes to become an astronaut. This covered some fairly scientific detail, and used cartoons & CGI to illustrate some of the concepts. If you go, look out for the sequence involving ‘Chad’ – its very clever and very funny. This was all narrated by Ewan McGregor, so there was something for all the family to enjoy!

We had a fantastic day out, and although not cheap, there was something for all our family to enjoy and enthuse about from age 4 to 60!

Mummy Took Us To The Zoo

It was the last day of October half term, I needed to nip up to Derbyshire to collect a package, so I had a google around to see what was around the area so I could make a day of it with the children.

After a bit of searching, I came across Blackbrook Zoological Park near Leek in Staffordshire. It looked perfect.

Out in the countryside it was a perfect setting – absolutely breathtaking landscape, and the layout of the 32 acre park was thoughtfully done.

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The zoo specialises in exotic birds and has over 3000 birds, ranging from chickens

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To penguins

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And many others, including my favourites – pelicans which we saw being fed

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They also have a good selection of other animals, including meerkats, tortoise, deer, lemurs & zebra

During our visit, we saw feeding times for the meerkats (they love eggs), the penguin & the pelicans – the children loved this, especially when a sardine got stuck in a branch and the pelicans tried to get it.

There’s a cafe on site, which has a small but decent menu – ranging from sandwiches & panini to burgers. The children had the healthy lunch, which was sandwiches, a handful of crisps, a biscuit, a piece of fruit, a drink & a toy for £3.95. I had a baguette, which came with a side salad, crisps and coleslaw. The service was a little slow, but the staff were apologetic and friendly (the computer in the kitchen had crashed) and the quality of the food was first class.

The children also had a play in the small, but well stocked playground.

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My boy’s favourites were the flamingos

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My girl’s were the penguins.

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We had a fantastic day, and we will be going back. If you decide to visit, the wonderful @raring2gokiddi on twitter can point you in the direction of a voucher to get 1 child in free. If you’re not on twitter, the website is here: Raring2go (change location to Derby, and go to the link for vouchers).

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