Good, Safe Fun At Hever Castle

[PRESS TRIP] For those of you that follow me regularly you will know that we are all big fans of Hever Castle and we were delighted when they opened their doors again after lockdown.

As with anything we have done since restrictions have been lifted, we approached our first visit back with caution, but from the get go I needn’t have worried.

Pre-booking is essential, and time slots need to be selected to allow for small streams of people to enter at one time. This worked really well and we were able to get in quickly and easily.

Once we were inside the grounds there was plenty of room to run free and take in the beauty of the gardens.

All of the usual attractions aside from the maze are open with limited numbers allowed in for 30 mins at a time. Once your time is up there is a clean down before the next group of people are allowed in.

Of course this meant there was some waiting around and we didn’t get to spend as long as we usually would at each section. But I was happier to know that we were going into a place with limited numbers that was clean rather than having to stress about trying to social distance the children like I have at other places we have visited.

The play area is actually split into two sections and we manage to fit in two trips to both whilst we were there, with a cooling of session in the water maze in between which is always a favourite of ours.

We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the weather was just to glorious to miss so unfortunately I can’t comment on how long it was to get inside. However we did sit for a good while watching and feeding the huge fish!

Along with lots of other people we took a picnic and plotted up next to the water so the children could enjoy feeding the ducks whist we ate.

There were still plenty of food options if you prefer to eat there and of course lots of ice cream stops which we had to partake in!

It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to finish the day with a stroll through the wooded area which we always fine super quiet and the boys love as the can go off track, play by the steam and of course get covered in mud!

I can honestly say I was more than impressed with all the measures that have been put in place at Hever Castle to allow you to still have so much fun, whilst keeping you safe.

The castle will be getting its coating of autumnal leaves now and we can’t wait for our next visit to see this!

Messing About On The River With Go Boat

[GIFTED] I’m sure that anyone who has followed me for a while now will know of my love for water. Ordinarily the sea is my first passion, but anything that brings me close to the water makes me happy.

So as you can imagine when we went along to Kingston the other day to try out a trip on a boat with Go Boat you know how happy I was about this!

We regularly visit Kingston for a walk along the riverside and to grab a bite to eat and I have always seen the boats sauntering up and down the river and fancied getting onboard myself, so this was the perfect opportunity for me.

Go Boat is electric, self-drive picnic boat that has is situated along the Riverside Walk just on the edge of Kingston town centre.

Upon arrival we were created with a smile, lots of hand sanitiser and plenty of social distance markers which made us feel at ease right away.

All payments are contact free along with signing in and each boat is sanitised before each trip.

Safety instructions were given, life jackets were issued and we were shown to our boat. Each boat holds up to eight people and we took my Mum and Dad along…Dad was made to take the helm and become captain for the afternoon.

We all got comfortable whilst locating the umbrellas that were provided, and with the sun beating down they were very much welcome.

Our trip was for two hours which would allow us to get to Hampton Court and back but you can opt for just an hour or three hours which means you to take in both Teddingdon and Molesey Lock too.

With six of us in total there was still plenty of room to put your feet up and relax whilst taking in the sights of the stunning riverside houses, paddle boarders and swimmers and of course the grand Hampton Court Palace.

We took our own picnic with us which is a must if you ask me and I think if we had a return trip we would definitely go all out with this as the table really lends itself to this.

We ended our trip by passing under the bridge which the children absolutely loved – especially as I fell off the end of the bench trying to get a good picture!

The two hours absolutely flew by and my preconceived ideas about the boys being a pain were completely quashed. They loved sitting taking it all and helping grandad to steer and can’t wait to get onboard again soon, so I think the Paddington morning will have to be out next port of call!

Our First Trip To Godstone Farm After Lockdown

[PRESS TICKETS] Godstone Farm is one of our favourite places to visit and I can safely say I must have racked up a fair few visits with my crew over the years – so after months of being stuck inside with very limited time outside of our own four walls we couldn’t wait to have our first real trip out at Godstone Farm.

Ordinary Godstone Farm is really good at putting hygiene first and I was at ease knowing they would do their upmost to get the farm ready for visitors after lockdown.

I wasn’t disappointed as when we arrived there were very clear instructions as to what is expected of you on your visit and wash stations and hand sanitizer at every turn.

You need to pre-book online before your visit, time slots have been made to stagger people on entry and numbers have been limited to make sure it is easy to stick to government guidelines.

Due to the amount of open space at the farm keeping your distance can be done with ease and in the few areas that it may become tricky, one way systems have been put in place and reminders dotted around the floor telling you to keep ‘2 pigs’ apart.

One of the first things that really struck me was the fact all the animals looked as happy to see the children as they were to see them. They we happy coming over the the children to say hi and the boys couldn’t have been happier.

We spent ages walking around and seeing if there had been any new arrivals since our last visit and I was happier than the boys I think to see the gorgeous little piglets that were only a few days old.

My children are always thinking about their bellies and although we took a picnic with us there were plenty of places to grab something to eat, and we enjoyed a coffee and an ice cream on our way to the play area; and I can say I was definitely tempted with the delicious looking pizzas.

My main worry of getting back out again was letting the boys on play equipment, but I shouldn’t have worried as the farm had carried out a deep clean and with it being so vast it was easy (even for my boys) to keep a good distance from others and still have a great time.

We finished our day with a walk around the Dino Trail and can safely say that even though a few areas of the farm have been closed we still had a day as full of fun and adventure as always and will be back again more than a few times over the summer I’m sure!

Getting Away From The Screens At Hever Castle

This half term Frankie seemed to hit the age where the only thing that was interesting him was screen time. The dreaded Xbox had firmly taken hold and anything I suggested doing was brushed aside.

However the mini dictator wasn’t going to get his own way and we headed out for some fresh air and to see what the Living With Nature event at Hever Castle was all about.

After a lot of complaining about having to leave the house, the minute the children left the car they made a run for it and bounded across the fields, making the most of all the beautiful open areas Hever has to offer.

The huge play area is always a favourite for us and we spent a good few hours picnicking, letting off steam and drinking delicious coffee and hot chocolates to keep us warm.

Frankie was especially snug in his cosy sweatshirt from T.J.Maxx.

Next up it was time to take a look at what was on offer at their Living With Nature week.

Hever is fabulous for children and they always manage to put on something exciting for them during the holidays and this half term they didn’t disappoint. The children got to watch an array of different birds of prey in the falconry display, meet a hedgehog and talked about bee keeping in the wildlife charity tent, make a super cute ladybird and bumble bee in the craft tent and explored the grounds whilst answering lots of questions in nature trail quiz.

We even managed to fit in a snowdrop walk which was so pretty and highly recommend.

Of course we couldn’t have a visit without a trip inside the castle. I always love looking at the grandness of all the rooms whilst the boys love to see the suits of armour and discussing how the poo would make it’s way from the toilet into the moat!

We managed to squeeze in an ice cream before the heavens opened and got us drenched…but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it!

For me Hever is a place where the adults can take in the beauty whilst the kids can just be kids and you can ask for much more than that can you.

Andy And The Band Premiere GIVEAWAY

CBeebies and CBBC have been a part of our life for as long as I can remember now and I have loved watching how much they have both evolved through the years as my little ones have grown.

The shows are always fun, interactive and educational which makes for a happy parents as well as children.

A new show is set to hit our screens on 29th February with Andy and The Band. The familiar and much loved character Andy is taking his band onboard the Rock and Roller tour bus and we can’t wait to see what adventures Andy, Moxy, Rio, Blue and Cousin Mac are going to get up to!

We are lucky enough to be attending the exclusive premiere of Andy And The Band and I am giving away a ticket for a family of four to come and join us too!

The premiere is taking place at 9.15am – 12 noon on 29th February at the Royal Institution, London and you will get the chance to see an array of familiar faces, a performance from the band and an exclusive screening find the show that will be broadcast live on CBebbies and CBBC.

In the comments tell me the name of the tour bus and click on the link below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Alice In Wonderland At Hever Castle

[PRESS EVENT] If I was ever asked to depict a traditional Christmas then Hever Castle would be it for me. We have just had our fourth Christmas visit and it is still as spellbinding and breathtaking as our first trip.

Fairy lights covering the pathways, lights illuminating the vast lake and snow dipped trees tucked away made for an amazing start to our visit.

Already full of the spirit of Christmas we headed towards the castle where we got to sip hot chocolates and mulled wine, feast on mince pies and cookies whilst taking in the splendour of the beautifully decorated rooms.

Warm and toasty we headed back out into the grounds and had some fun on the carousel and the magic hall of mirrors. The children and adults alike where all smiles throughout.

Next up we headed to see the main man himself. We were a little early so the friendly elves set the boys down to writing their wish lists to Father Christmas that they could then seal and place in the letter box which was a lovely touch.

Before we knew it we were being guided through the snowy paths by more friendly elves who chatted about all the things they had been up to before passing us over to Father Christmas who was nestled away in his cute wooden cabin.

He chatted away to the children for some time and was extremely warm and welcoming. After a little pep talk on being good…which was most welcome they all received a lovely gift and we headed out to finish the evening with the Alice In Wonderland trail.

This is always one of my favourite parts of the evening and this year was one of my favourite themes. The actors were as elaborate and engaging as ever and the decorations were a wonder to see, although Oscar found a few a little spooky this year.

The beauty of Hever’s Christmas attraction is that tickets are not needed to be booked in advance for everything so there is the opportunity to enjoy this right up until Christmas Eve.

FUNharmonics Family Concert – ZOG

[GIFTED] I think I must have walked past, taken pictures outside and wondered about the Southbank Centre more than a hundred times over the the years but have never ventured inside.

So I was over the moon when we were asked along to a the FUNharmonics family concert of ZOG that was being held there.

The Julia Donaldson, Alex Scheffler classic has been a favourite in our house for many years now and I was intrigued how the London Philharmonic Orchestra were going to execute it.

We arrived to collect our tickets and after getting our bearing we headed to a great area that had been set up with lots of ZOG inspired crafts to keep the little ones busy before the show. this was all included in the price of a ticket and was the perfect way to get them thinking about the story before the main event kicked off.

We took to our seats in the beautiful auditorium and listened to the huge orchestra warming up. The boys loved looking at a whole host of different instruments and had fun trying to guess what each one was called.

It wasn’t long before the performance was underway and I was hugely impressed with how interactive it was. The children got to answer questions to find gold stars that appeared on the big screen, there was singing, dancing and lots of information given on the orchestra in a super fun way that was perfect for the age range of the audience.

For the second part it was time to settle down and watch the super cute Dragon – ZOG.

As the animation was running we were treated to an amazing performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra that complemented the story perfectly.

The whole concert was far more interactive and educational than I was imagining and adults and children alike throughly enjoyed it, if all of the woops and cheers from the audience were anything to go by.

It really did bring a children’s classic to life and it is something that will remain firmly in our memory banks for many years to come.

The orchestra is turning to Beethoven in February for its next concert – Why Beethoven Threw The Stew and I’m sure it’s going to be as fabulous as ZOG so keep an eye out.

A New Adventure At Hever Castle

[GIFTED] Hever Castle has been one of our favourite places to go over the Christmas period, but for some reason until the other week we had never visited during the summer so I was very excited to see what it would hold at this time of year.

We arrived in the blistering heat with some friends and I was amazed at how stunning the gardens were in full bloom and as always the boys loved running off through each and every pathway that connects them.

We had a pretty swift walk as the children were eager to get to the new adventure playground that was a new addition to us.

As we arrived the mixture of wood and sand immediately appealed to me and the children took off within seconds to explore.

There was a huge sandpit with areas to climb and hide and in and as we walked through we discovered rope bridges, slides and a huge castle at the top which the boys absolutely loved.

Mine tend to get itchy feet pretty much anywhere we go and I was asked we spent a whole three hours there without a moan or groan…well aside from a couple of sand throwing incidents!

There is a coffee hut inside the play area which allowed me to have a natter over a drink whilst the children played.

We filled up on ice cream at the main cafe before heading into the maze which is always a big hit.

Next up was the water maze which again isn’t something we have had the pleasure of enjoying before.

It was so much prettier than I was expecting and was formed of a huge rock formation covered in foliage with pathways running around the outside with water squirting out at different times to surprise the children.

I wasn’t prepared so my lot went in fully clothed but I think that was half the fun!

Our last port of call of the day was to take a look out over the lake and to make some wishes in the fountain.

I love the serenity of this area and a row in one of the boats in on our list for our next visit.

Hever really does cater for all ages and because of this it is one of my favourite places for a day out with the whole family. There is action and adventure for the kids whist the chance for the adults to take in the beauty and the amazing history the whole place is steeped in.

There is always something new to see and experience and a whole activities that run throughout the year such as the Knights And Princesses School that is running right now.

A trip here would make the perfect treat to end the summer with.

A Candy Making Masterclass With Spun Candy

[GIFTED] As usual today my sense of direction failed me and we ended up crashing and bashing our way into Spun Candy in East London.

Luckily we were greeted by the lovely Hannah who got us all set and ready to join the rest of the group who were all there to take part in a candy making masterclass.

All set to go and a little more relaxed after a glass of Prosecco was placed in my hand the two bubbly confectioners talked us through the art of making handmade hard and soft rock confectionery.

We were guided through the process of the heating of the sugar, the addition of the colours and flavours and finally the mixing of it all until we finally got to see the final product.

I have watched bits and pieces on the TV before but nothing is like seeing how much thought, care, attention and elbow grease goes into this process.

A huge sticky horn of goodness was created and now it was our turn to get hands on and make our very own lollies.

We were shown a couple of examples to try and were also encouraged to use or own ideas and imaginations to make something that was very much our own labour of love.

There was help every step of the way and I relished in watching the children just go for it and try their best to come up with some amazing creations.

The boys ran back and forth grabby pieces of candy and eagerly asking for help to come up with new ideas and I was super impressed with how well they both did; but I have to say I was pretty taken back by how engrossed the class kept Izzy.

This holiday the teen has certainly been unleashed and I can count on one hand the amount of actives that haven’t caused an eye roll or a deep breath at every moment. Instead she took in all the information, exclaiming it was like a fun science lesson and then really let her creative side out which meant so much to me and was lovely to see.

At the end of the class we all gathered in the shop at the front of the store where there were the most amazing lollies on display…Donald Trump seemed to go down a treat with the boys!

We were all awarded a certificate for our hard work and it was lovely to listen to everyone congratulating each other.

Spun Candy offer a whole host of different masterclass and parties to suit a range of different tastes and after such a great experience today I urge you to take a look as there was so much fun had by all!

My Top Ten Cheap Summer Holiday Activities

I love having the kids home for the summer…well most of the time, but my purse certainly feels the strain so I always try to find as many cheap activities to get us out of the house as I can I have have listed my top ten here for you to take a look at.

  • IKEA – This Is my saviour at least a couple of times during the holidays. We head over there early to grab their cheap breakfast and avoid the queues and then the kids absolutely love walking around and playing house in all the different room set ups. As long as I can resist popping candles and pot plants into my trolley then it makes for a really cheap day out.
  • Swimming – Over the summer months a lot of council run pools offer free or heavily subsidised swimming for kids. This is perfect to keep my teens busy for free as well as the little ones. Check out Croydon Pools or Donyings, Redhill if you are a Surrey local.
  • The Library– Most libraries run a reading scheme over summer that gives the children a chance to use the library and gain merits of different kinds once they complete different stages.
  • Fruit Picking – This is something I love as much as the children to be honest. They get the chance to see where the fruit is grown and then can go home and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
  • Soft Play – To be honest soft play is never my first choice of activity but the kids absolutely love it and many independent soft play facilities such as Little Lambs Soft Play have some great offers running over this period.
  • National Trust – We have had a National Trust card for a few years now and it really is so worth the money. A couple of trips and you will have covered the years membership and it gives you a whole hosts of homes and gardens to discover and lots of activities to take part in once you’re there.
  • Play Dates – A change is as good as a rest so they say. Sharing play dates is a great way to get out of the house, see friends and save on having a big day out.
  • The Park – For us a trip to the park is good wherever the weather. There is puddle jumping when the rain shows it’s face or bug hunting and picnicking when the sun comes out to play.
  • Hit The Beach – A trip to the beach is great whatever the weather too. For the price of a packet of chips or an ice cream you can have a whole day of exploring.
  • Food Shopping – Now this one is a little random but all my children have loved to help with the food shop. They can read items off the list and find them on the shelves and even get all the ingredients to then get home and help out with dinner. For me it’s an essential thing to do that can be made fun!