Days Out With The Kids This Christmas

Yes I know we have only just put our sandals and summer dress aways but before you know it Christmas will be upon us and if you want to get those special days booked in then you really do have to start thinking about it now!

Christmas is by far my favourite time of year and I have compiled a list of a few of our favourites that I hope you might enjoy:

Lapland UK – This one just had to be top of my list as I have experienced nothing like it before. We were lucky enough to have our first trip there last year and we were absolutely blown away.

From helping the elves in Father Christmas’s toy factory, icing biscuits with Mother Christmas, taking to the ice in the most beautifully setting and finally meeting the main man himself who Frankie has named ‘the real’ Father Christmas it was sheer magic.

It brought a tear to my eye and I don’t think that day will ever be topped!

Hever Castle – For me Hever brings you everything you would imagine when you think of an English christmas celebration. The traditional fairground rides and beautiful christmas trail are perfect for the little ones, whilst the stunningly decorated castle is a sight that everyone will enjoy.

We are off there at the end of November so keep an eye out for what they have in store this year.

Chessington World Of Adventure – The Winter’s Tail event at Chessington World Of Adventure is always a fantastic day out. There is the chance to visit Santa in his grotto, ride on a few selected rides that are specially opened including our favourite – The Gruffly River Ride Adventure, decorate festive treats in the Gruffly kitchen and something new this year will be The Gruffalo Christmas Groove.

alongside all of this they are also offering sleepover packages and we can highly recommend a stay in their fantastic hotel.

Painshill Park – This one for us has the ultimate wow factor when it comes to the grotto. After a walk along a pretty lit walkway you find your way to the crystal grotto where Father Christmas is waiting to hand out his gifts.

It is certainly different from the norm and gets booked up extremely quickly so don’t leave it until the last minute.

Southbank – If you are looking for a day out with festive foods, quirky gifts and the perfect London backdrop then the christmas market at Southbank if definitey one for the list.

Hobbledown – I am so sad that I won’t be going along to the toddlers lunch with Father Christmas this year.

I have visited for many years now and it is the perfect trip for preschoolers where they decorate a biscuit, have some lunch and meet Santa in the cutest little wooden hut.

Winerville – We had our first trip here last year and it really exceeded our expectations. It is an uber cool experience in the heart of Clapham common offering a bit of everything from great food and drink to ice skating, roller skating, fairground rides, crazy golf and a whole lot more.

Disney On Ice – This has become somewhat of a tradition for us to visit a few days before christmas. The culmination of all our favourite Disney characters, the chill of the ice and the excitement of Christmas makes for a great day out.

National Trust – We have visited a fair few properties over the festive period and each one has its on unique and wonderful christmas feel. They offer visits to Father Christmas, crafts galore christmas markets and brilliant trails to wear the kids out which is always a bonus!

CBeebies Christmas Show:Thumbelina – Getting cosy in the cinema is perfect at this time of year and when its to watch a classic such as Thumbelina put on by some of your favourite Cbeebies characters then its always going to be a hit.

We are off to see this later in the year so keep an eye out for what we think!

RHS Wisley – Now the illuminated trail at Wisley is something I’ve heard so many good things about but haven’t actually got there yet. I think it will have to go on my list for this year.

Winter Wonderland – If you want Christmas on a grand scale then this is the place for you. Winter Wonderland is a huge area in Hyde Park full of fairground rides, food stalls, gifts, ice skating, shows and bucket loads more. We had our first trip there last year and had an amazing time!

Bocketts Farm – I love a farm visit over the christmas period and Bocketts offers an amazingly festive day out complete with a trip to santa in his hay barn.

The Snowman – My children laugh at how much I love The Snowman in any form. My first love was of course the illustrated character and I have loved watching how he has evolved over the years. We watched the stage show a few years ago which was absolutly spell binding and keep the attention of my younger two for over two hours which is no mean feat. This year there is also a magical exhibition at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, an immersive experience at The Backyard Cinema, a special story telling session at Bath Pavilions by the talented author Michael Morpurgo and a the most magical showing of the animated film at the Royal Albert Hall accompanied by the Royal Philamonic Orchestra.

Priory Farm – This has been our Christmas Eve tradition for a few years now. We stop off in the cafe for a mince pie and a warm drink, get the last of our foodie bits at the fab farm shop and a trek round the discovery walk to wear out the over excited little one.

Capturing The Wonder Of Mayfield Lavender With Rachel Thornhill

For the past few years the Mayfield Lavender fields in Banstead have been my first glimpse that summer has arrived. The magnificent sea of purple that fills the landscape and the beautiful smell that engulfs the air is a sight to be seen and one that I never ever tire of.

Mayfield Lavender has really gone from strength to strength and not only does it offer you the chance to enjoy this natural wonder there is also the opportunity to enjoy a huge range of scrutipous food and drink from the cafe such as juicy hotdogs, delectable homemade cakes and even a lavender cream tea which is still on my wishlist to try.

The shop is also fully stocked with goodies from tolliteries to lavender flavour sweets and of course a change to take home some of your very own lavender.

My little ones love being able to just run free through the fields but if you want a little more adventure then hop onboard the tractor for a ride around the fields to get a completly different perspective.

I am always the one holding the camera on our trips which I absolutly love, but this year it was a little different as we went along to meet the lovely Rachel Thornhill who is an expert when it comes to photography…especially at Mayfield Lavender.

Rachel is in fact one of the photographers recommend by Brendan Maye – The owner of Mayfield lavender and the moment I meet her I could understand why.

Her friendly smile and calm, welcoming nature put us all at ease when we arrived and she chatted at length with the children about what our morning was going to entail and how to care for the fields and the nature living there during the shoot.

I am not a fan of posed images and much prefer a playful, natural style of picture and this is exactly what Rachel tries to create. Capturing the children at play or us all in deep conversation creates a much more natural image and one that tells a story allowing it to be a more memorable capture and something to treasure for years to come.

During our shoot that lasted a little over an hour we got the change to explore, play, chat and giggle and at no point did the children get bored or restless as Rachel worked her magic and kept them happy and engaged throughout, she even managed to keep shooting when Oscar bundled in for cuddles.

What really sets her apart from other photographers is that she creates bespoke museum quality wall art and framed prints personal to you and hand made by professional printers in both the UK and Italy that are designed to stand the test of time, and become a part of your family story. The products are not available to buy from anywhere other than professional photographers, so really quite special?

Mayfield Lavender is a truly magical place that is pretty hard to find in the UK. It is a place to make special memories to keep for a lifetime and with something like a photoshoot with Rachel these special moments can be captured and remembered for many years to come.

*collaborated post

A Truly Traditional Christmas At Hever Castle

Hever Castle is a pretty spectacular place to visit at any time of year; from its stunning gardens to the grand castle itself it really is an immensely beautiful place.

This said we have never visited at Christmas and it was something I had heard such good things about that I couldn’t wait to explore what they had to offer this weekend.

We arrived to a tree lined walkway covered with sparkling lights and from this moment the Christmassy feeling kicked in and we were all super excited to get inside.

We headed straight to the castle where the centre courtyard held a crib that the children gazed at whist getting the most wonderful surprise of falling snow from the air.

The castle itself held countless trees that were all adored beautifully with a magnificent surprise of a whole grand hall lined with delicate white trees that were simply amazing.

From here the children climbed aboard the carousel, tried their hand at the coconut shy and spent a good while at the hook-a-duck stall that had some pretty impressive prizes.

Next stop was the Husky Hideout that Izzy had been itching to get to all day. It was so lovey that the children had a chance to get up so close to so many of the beautiful dogs who’s owners were all on hand to answer any…well lots of questions from my lot.

We then couldn’t walk past the cafe without popping in for a bite to eat. As usual I found it impossible to pass on a mince pie and when they come in the form of a tienesse swirl that makes them even more tempting.

I washed this down with a creamy gingerbread latte while the children sampled some very cute Christmas pudding shaped cookies.

A quick stop at the toilets gave us the unexpected surprise of snow covered trees that surround the small area by the gift shop. It was a wonderful surprise and really felt like a little winter wonderland.

We still had the Twelve Days Of Christmas trial to complete and this really exceeded my expectations.

The trail wound round the gardens and had pitstops at each of the sections from the familiar Christmas carol. It was decorated beautifully and a certain points you were greeted with riddles and activities to complete that the children revealed in.

This is also home to Santa’s Grotto that we didn’t visit this year but I must say looked amazing!

Our last port of call was the craft workshop where the children set to creating their very own christmas angel from all sorts of bits and pieces. There was sparkle and shine everywhere so Izzy was in her element.

I really could have spent the entire day here just taking in everything they had to offer. From surprise flurries of snow to the excitement of the fairground rides there was something for everyone to enjoy and we thoroughly did.

It was the epitome of a traditional christmas for me and a day that will have us coming back agin next year for sure.

*we were given tickets to this event for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Bringing The Inside Outside

As you are all well to aware the weather in the UK is extremely hit and miss and when we do get the odd spell of sunshine we all need to make to most of it.

One way to do this is to make the garden an extension of your home and get as much use out of it as you can.

We are always trying to bring the outside in by filling the house with pot plants and floral fabrics so why shouldn’t we switch things around and take the comforts of our home into the garden.

For me being in the outdoors is the perfect way to spend time as a family.

The poor wifi connection and lack of TV and computer screens allows us to enjoy quality time together whist enjoying the sunshine.

The great outdoors also offers so many benefits such as helping to improve concentration, relives stress, improves vision, boosts your immune system and many more things why would you not want to make the most of your time out there.

The added bonus now is there are so many great products on the market to make your garden an inviting and comfortable place to be.

Gone are the days of flimsy plastic tables and chairs that always have the tendency to buckle under to much weight.

These have been replaced with cosy ratan sofas and sturdy tables and chairs made from all kinds of different materials that replicate indoor furniture perfectly.

To this you can add plenty of throws and cushions to make for an even comfier experience and creating a welcoming  splash of colour.

Something that makes me want to make the most of my time outside is the addition of mood lighting in the form of candles and solar power lighting.

A few candles lit on the table can keep the bugs at bay is you find some citronella  candles and solar power bulbs placed in the tress and shrubbery allow you to stay out well after the sun goes down.

The garden really can be a feast for all your senses from the smell of fragrant flowers to the sound of the early morning bird call.

It’s a place to relax and unwind so why not make your garden a little haven to enjoy as a family.

What would your dream garden include?

*collaborated post 

Dinosaurs Invade London At Jurassic Kingdom

Who would have thought that tucked away in a suburban part of town there would be grand Georgian house with stunning grounds homing a whole host of dinosaurs!

Last week we went on the hunt for them and wasn’t disappointed.

After a more than a little fraught journey to from South London we made it to Osterley House in Isleworth, which a a stunning National Trust property with acres of beautiful land that is just perfect for hosting Jurassic Kingdom which is there from now until the 17th April.

It is accessible by public transport but a long walk from the train station for little legs or a short bus journey but the buses are only scheduled every 20 mins which was a long wait for my impatient children.

The car park however is huge and free to National Trust members of £7 all day.

Time slots are available to book easily on line for the event and I would suggest you allow yourself plenty of time as there is lots to see and do.

The Jurassic Park style entrance paved its way into the attraction itself which has you following a path through the grounds spotting dinosaurs as you go.


Some are static but the majority have moving limbs and sound effects which the children loved.

It is a far more interactive experience than I had imagined and there are dinosaurs that you can climb onto, a sand pit that lets the little ones try their hand at becoming an arciologist and digging out bones and an education tent where you can sit and watch a short show that explains a little more about dinosaurs.

As far as eating goes the places is perfect for picnicking as there are so many great places to pitch up. There is also a small selection of fast food stands where Izzy count resist the churros!

The children also has a great time making us of the National trust facilities which are always a winner by tree climbing, den building and swinging on the rope swings.

All in all it is the perfect day out for dino fans and even those that aren’t so keen could easy make us and enjoy everything else Jurrasic Kingdom has to offer.

*we were given tickets for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Country Kids

Cultivating Little Ones Green Fingers

The sun has been raising its head a little over the past few weeks and after a winter of neglect it is time to get out into the garden and get it ready to enjoy over the spring and summer months.

The garden is the perfect place to teach your child so many wonderful things, so why not don your gardening gear and see what your garden has to offer.

A company that covers functional yet fun clothing for adults and children alike is Engelbert Strauss. They supply high quality pieces that will withstand being out in muck and grime of the garden whist still looking good.

Stimulates The Senses – The colours of the flowers, the scent they give off, the texture of the dirt and the taste of the fruit and veg that can grow there will engage your children’s sense of smell, taste, touch, sight and sound.

Builds Motor Skills – Digging with thier spades, filling up the watering can and picking out weeds will all help to build your child’s gross and fine motor skills.

Learning About Lifecycles – From planting that very first seed to watching a flower grow and then eventually wilt and die, will teach your child the importance of the lifecycle of plants.

The same thing can be done with fruit and veg. Simple things like strawberries and tomatoes are easy to grow and the children will love being able to watch them get bigger by the day and then enjoy the fruits of their labour once they ripen.

Our local garden centre is full of great items to get things started and allows the children to be immersed in the whole process right from the start by picking out the seeds or plants at the garden centre and taking them home to cultivate them all by themselves. 

Bug Hunting – Children love a bug hunt and what better place than just outside your backdoor is there to explore where all the creepy crawlies live.

So with the Easter holidays approaching why not keep these things and mind and set up a few activities to enjoy outside.

How about growing some juicy strawberries, planting some seeds to see who can grow the tallest sunflower or make a list of some of the most common mini beasts and see how many you can find.

*collaborated post

My Top Five Places For Snowdrop Hunting In Surrey

One of the biggest things I love about the UK are our changing seasons. 

I may moan continually about the amount of cold weather we have here but once those first signs of Spring start to show I get super excited about the warmer weather we have to look forward to, and start plans for when we are going to get out and enjoy the longer days and the glimmers of sunshine.

For me one of the first signs that Spring is on its way is the arrival of the pretty snowdrops and here are my top five places to go and enjoy them for the short time they are around.

Gatton Park, Reigate

We took a trip to Gatton Park the other day as always were really pleased with the display of snowdrops and pretty yellow aconites that cover the banks and are scattered throughout the stunning Japanesse gardens.

There are often activities put on for the children too. We didn’t see any on our trip last week but enjoyed some snowdrop related crafts last year.

Painshill, Cobham

Painshill is a favourite destination for us at Christmas time but is also very special at this time of year.

You can take in the sights of the beaufiful spring flowers whist visiting the stunning crystal grotto and gothic towers that Painshill is so rightly famous for.

Wisley, Woking

The snowdrops at Wisley cover a few different areas and are a beautiful sight to see.

Whist you are there a trip to the butterflies is a must, as well as taking in the sights of the vast, gorgeously cultivated gardens.

Polsden Lacey, Great Bookham

The magnificent home and gardens of Polsden Lacey make the perfect home for a beautiful trail of snowdrops that line Lime Walk all the way from the reception to the grounds at the back of the house.

A trip to the adventure playground is also well worth a visit!

Winkworth Arboretum, Godalming

Another National Trust favourite for snowdrop hunting is Winkworth Arboretum that hosts thousands of varieties covering the beautiful grounds that are perfect for exploring at this time of year.    


Wishing For Fairies At Our Door

From 1-100 we all love the magical image of fairies and elves.  Cute little nymphs floating around and spreading their magic everywhere they go.

The innocence of childhood just magnifies this, so what could be better than housing your own fairy in your home or garden.

The clever people at My Own Fairy have enabled you to do this with their beautiful fairy doors that can be placed anywhere you wish.

It could be proudly placed on the skirting board in your little ones bedroom, nested away in a corner of the kitchen or hidden in a secret place in your garden just as we did with ours.

  
I found a good space on the side of our shed and attached the door with ease, I then set out the super cute stepping stones to create a pathway to the fairy house.

With the little tube of fairy dust that is supplied I sprinkled it over the ground around the door to attract the fairy.

  
Lastly I popped the tiny key on one of the stepping stones for the fairy to pick up when she finds her new home.

 
The children were absolutely amazed when they saw it and spent the entire afternoon in and out of the back door seeing if she had been!

  

We are going to get some pretty flowers to add to the outside and I’m planning on getting them to write her little notes as I know they will be ecstatic to receive one in return!

This would be a lovely addition to any home to help nurture the fabulous imagination that children possess.  

Top Easter Activities In And Around Surrey

Easter for us is time with the family, days out and of course lots of chocolate!!

Why not combine them all and plan a few day trips over the Easter holidays.  I have compiled a few of my top activities that are either in Surrey or only a short drive away.

Priory Farm

  

Priory Farm in Nutfield is our go to place whenever we fancy good food and letting off some steam in the fresh air.

They have a wonderful coffee shop serving hot and cold food with an adjoining play area so you can relax while the little ones play.  A huge pirate ship to climb aboard, garden centre and farm shop selling great products and the highlight for us which is the discovery walk.

From the 19th March until 11th April the discovery walk will have a spring themed quiz for the little ones to follow and on the 25th March you will be able to take part in their Little Bunnies Easter Hunt.

Tulleys Farm 

Tulleys Farm in West Sussex is only a short drive and any event they put on is well worth the trip.

The farm itself has play areas, a huge farm shop and lots of small animals to take a look at.

Their events are slightly more expensive than most but you certainly get a lot for your money.

This year from 25th March to 1st April you can spot eggs whist on a wagon ride, take a look at some beautiful newborn lambs, take part in the egg and bunny hunt, have a go at the duck races and much more.

Cadbury’s Easter Egg Hunt, National Trust

  

If you are a follower of my blog you will know my love of National Trust homes and gardens.  They offer the perfect environment to switch off from the fast paced world we live in and just enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.

Each year they put on fantastic Easter egg hunts that usually involve exploring the grounds looking for clues to fill in on your quiz sheet that can then be taken back to claim your prize.  

Over the years we have been to Morden Hall and Chartwell, both of which are great.  We tried Box Hill last year but unfortunately so did a lot of other people and we couldn’t get parked!  Saying this the car park has recently been extended so might be worth a go.

Penshurst Place

  
I visited Penshurst Place in Kent for the first time last year and was taken back by its beauty.

The immaculately kept grounds are wonderful to walk round and make the perfect setting for Easter activities.

This year from 25th March to 10th April they have story telling sessions and crafts to take part in and an Easter hunt all about the animals that live in the grounds.

On Easter Sunday and Monday Ardvark Productions will be there telling a humorous story of the Easter bunny.

Bocketts Farm

  

Bocketts is top of my list for farms in Surrey.  They have fantastic indoor and outdoor play areas, animal handling sessions, tractor rides and their famous pig races that the children love!

For their Easter Eggstravaganza they have  a trail to follow which leads to to a chocolaty treat at the end, chick and duck handeling, and the chance to get up close to the newborn lambs.

They are also opening a brand new outdoor play area at the end of March that we can’t wait to try out.

Painshill 

   

 
This year we had a trip to Painshill to visit Father Christmas and were astounded by how beautiful the whole place is.

There are exquisite follies scattered throughout the grounds to explore, with our favourite being the crystal grotto.

On Easter Sunday and Monday you can go along to take part in their egg hunt to find the eggs scattered through the the grounds to claim your prize at the end.

I hope that you have found somewhere that takes your fancy and I would love to know how you get on with all your hunting!