A Sleepover At Alton Towers

A few weeks ago now we took the long journey to Alton Towers. I had not visited this theme park since I was sixteen and I was eager to see the changes and introduce the children to all the fun.

After a five hour drive we were more than happy to arrive at the Splash Landings Hotel. Its bright and cheery decor made for a warm welcome and once inside our family room we were pleasantly surprised by how spacious it was.

There were facilities to make a much needed cup of tea and before long beds had been claimed and we rested our heads in anticipation for a big day ahead. The room offered everything we need from cosy beds, a good shower and entertainment packs to keep the little ones amused. The only problem we encountered were our nightmare neighbours that keep us awake for half the night!

We headed down for breakfast and had a little bit more time to explore the hotel in the light of day where the children stood amazing by the huge waterpark that was housed in the centre of the hotel. Sadly we just didn’t have the time to try it out but it really did look absolutely amazing.

Time to fuel for the day we made our way to the restaurant to have our breakfast where there was a huge variety of food to choose from. From cereal and fruit to a full english breakfast.

The children loved being able to go an help themselves to cereal from the special machine and chose from the vast selection at the hot buffet. It was also a really refreshing change to have so much choice for Frankie and all his allergies.

Full to the brim it was time to head off to the park for a day of fun. There is a shuttle bus that you can catch to take you directly to the park but we chose to take the short walk.

Once inside we spilt up with Archie and Izzy heading off to the thrill seeking rides whist we stayed with the younger two and headed off to CBeebies Land.

CBeebies Land had been on our list of places to visit for a while now and as soon as I saw the boys faces light up as soon as they saw the huge, rainbow coloured welcome sign I knew that they were going to love every minute. They dashed back and forth for sometime before they finally decided on their first ride which as the In The Night Garden Magical Boat Ride that saw us winding through a little stream spotting all our favourite characters as we went, next up we took to the sky with the Go Jetters, played at being Postman Pat in the bright red van, took in the sights of the whole of Cbeebies Land with the ‘Get Set Go’ Tree Top Adventure.

We took a little break from the rides and took a walk around the much calmer Something Special Sensory Garden and found some familiar names in the walk of fame.

There was so much to see and do and so resfeshing to have such a huge area dedicated to preschoolers in a theme park as this is something that is so often missing.

A quick pitstop with our adrenaline junkies who came back buzzing from the excitement of the amazing Wicker Man and Oblivion. I think I was actually most exited that the two children they get on the least had spent some quality time together and enjoy each and every minute of it. Hot doughnuts are a must on a day out like this and we plotted up on the huge grassy area that was perfect to take in the pretty surrounds Alton Towers has to offer.

I was a little concerned that Frankie was going to be a bit left out when it came to the bigger rides but I needn’t have worried as there was a huge variety of family friendly rides that were a good middle ground for those that couldn’t enjoy the thrill seeking rides but still wanted something a little faster.

I loved that we could all take to the water in the River Rapids, Swing high and low in the Heave Ho and battle with our competitors on the Battle Galleons.

Fit to fall after a day full of fun and adventure we headed back on the monorail to the Crooked Spoon restaurant to fill our hungry bellies and rest our weary feet.

When we arrived I was really surprised at the laid-back, outdoorsy feel to it which was right up my street. The little play area directly outside meant that the children could happy play whist waiting on their food.

When in came to the food there was a great choose for both adults and children from juicy burgers and mouth water steaks to roasted summer vegetable carbonara and spicy Sri Lankan curry.

I opted for a classic prawn cocktail to start followed by a creamy chicken carbonara which came served with a beautifully crispy chuck of garlic bread. The larger men of the family dived into a huge bowl of loaded nachos that i couldn’t help but try followed by a mixed grill that definitely came with their seal of approval.

The little ones had a mixture of dishes such as soup and crusty rolls, fresh melon and delicious sausage and mash that they all devoured with not one complaint which is a rarity.

Im not sure how we managed but I couldn’t resist desert – especially cheesecake, and Izzy defintiy wasn’t going to turn down a gooey chocolate browniw with a side of ice-cream now was she!

The friendly, attentive staff who didn’t batter an eyelid when they had to clean up an entire glass of squash that was poured over the table minutes after we sat down and didn’t moan once about having to navigate the huge cuddly toys they had won earlier was a real bonus to a fantastic meal.

If I was to round up our experience of Alton Towers I would say it was a bundle of fun from beginning to end, thoroughly exausting and definitely worth a trip.

* We were invited to Alton Towers for the weekend for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Behind The Scenes At Sea Life

For many years now my gang have loved visiting Sea Life. They love being able the ability to wander around freely discovering all kinds of weird and wondful creatures that live under the sea…well actually a fare few that live above it too!

The other week we headed to Southbank for a trip around our favourite Sea Life and the chance to take a look behind the scenes with their behind the scenes tour.

In our usual fashion we were running late and had to rush in and get over to the behind the scenes tour. So a quick dash over the shark walkway which the boys weren’t to impressed about and a zig zag past everything else we got their just in time to be greeted by our friendly and thankfully laid back tour guide.

The doors were opened and we headed behind all the exhibits to a small area that was home to some very special creatures. I was a little apprehensive about taking this tour with Oscar as he is only four but only being 30 mins long it was the perfect timing to keep him engaged and I was so pleased to see that all three of them listening intently as we were shown round.

We got the chance to see some of the fish being feed, meet a beautiful chinese snapper turtle that had sadly been discarded by his owner, meet some super cool sea dragons that fast became my favourite of the day due to the male getting pregnant and so much more.

The children loved being shown the huge variety of food the animals were feed, thoroughly enjoyed being able to get hands on and touch things from lobster shells to egg pods, and the highlight for me was how much information they were given and were able to retain as the tour was done in such a relaxed, interactive and informative way.

Full to the brim with a whole host of knowledge on marine life we headed back out to explore the rest of Sea Life. One tip is to get there as early as you can to avoid the crowds although to be honest even though we were there in the middle of the school holidays it was really easy to navigate still and didn’t feel like we struggled to see things in any of the tanks.

The aquarium is set out in sections which include Shark Walk, Atlantic Coasts, Ray Lagoon, Rock Pool, Open Ocens, Ship Wreck, Ocean Tunnel, Nemo’s Coral Reef, Seahorse Kingdom, Creatures Of The Rainforest, Thames Walk, Penguin Point, Conservation Cove, Shark Reef and Ocean Invaders.

Each area has its own uniqueness to it and being in distinct groups means its a lot easier to for the children to understand where each creature is from.

The sharks were certainly a huge hit with the boys and we sat for ages watching them glide around the tanks in their majestic manner, they all got to touch a star fish which I think is such a wonderful experience and something you certainly can’t do everyday! For me the highlight had to be the seahorses as I am always in awe of their delicate beauty.

As we moved around each section I loved the fact it wasn’t all about gazing into tanks, We thoroughly enjoyed getting a shock from the jelly fish wall, getting a nip from a parihna and climbing on board a distressed ship that was getting battered with thunder and lightening.

For us Sea Life gets better and better on each visit and there really is something for people all ages to enjoy. We will be back very soon!

*We were asked along to Sea Life for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Camp Bestival In Pictures 2018

The summer is drawing to a close now and I can honestly say it’s been an awesome one with so much fabulous weather and all kinds of adventures for us it a real shame that it has to end.

I am however really grateful to have captured so many of these moments on camera with some of my favourite times being at this years Camp Bestival.

A picture really does paint a thousand words and I hope this little collection gives to an insight into what an amazing place Camp Bestival is!

A Rainy Day At Chessington World Of Adventures

I’m sure you are all going to think I have completely lost my mind when I say this, but I absolutely love visiting Chessington World Of Adventures on a rainy day! Don’t get me wrong torrential rain and thunderstorms might make me think twice but a bit of rain never hurt anyone!

In fact for me I find there are a whole heap of benefits to visiting on a rainy day. I mean there are a fair few water rides in the park anyway so why not just embrace it as once you’re wet you’re wet!

We arrived on Friday and within minutes the heavens opened and we took shelter in the Smokehouse BBQ which was a great way to fill our bellies before we started the day.

They offer a great range of BBQ style food such as pulled pork, chicken and hot dogs served with crunchy chips, sweet potato fries and the best creamed sweetcorn I’ve tasted.

Full up and ready to face the showers we made our way to our first ride of the day which is always the Gruffalo River Ride, a favourite of the boys as well as mine. With the majority of the queuing done undercover and the ride itself inside we stayed pretty dry.

From here we moved onto the the Scorpion Express that my little adrenaline junkies love and I have to say speeding around the track whilst getting a face full of rain just added to the excitement.

Zufari was next on the list and I thought the animals might have been talking shelter so we were more than happy to see the giraffes and rhinos up close to the jeep in all their majestic glory.

Due to everyone being scared off by the weather the queue times were incredibly short for the summer holidays and we managed to get on all of our favourite rides within a few hours which allowed me some time to put my feet up in the cafe while the kids dried off in the Dragon’s Playhouse soft play area.

I feel like I’ve let you into a precious secret here but if you are not scared of getting a little wet then the short queue time, space inside restaurants and the calmer pace of things are definitely a huge bonus.

‘I am a Chessington Blogger Ambassador, I was given a Chessington Annual Pass to do this review with my family and I was not paid to do this post. If anyone would like to confirm any details in the post, please email press.office@chessington.co.uk’

Keeping The Kids Busy This Summer With David Lloyd

For some of us the long school summer holidays are already upon us or they are only a few days away and I’m sure that many of you are the same as me and having mixed feelings about it.

I absolutely adore having mine at home with me but it can also be a real struggle to keep them entertained and also work around them when all they want to do is have your attention.

This is where David Lloyd Health Clubs are an absolute godsend and offer anything from a fulfilled day with all the family, a few hours in a club or two to keep them occupied, full days of childcare and so much more.

With Oscar set to start school this September and Frankie needing a little extra extra push with swimming we are booking onto the intense course to really make sure they get their water wings ready!

It is not only swimming that All Stars at David Lloyd offer. They can learn skills in tennis and gymnastics too with the clubs expert coaches who make learning lots of fun!

As well as keeping fit as a family by swimming together, have a game of tennis or taking part in one of the family friendly circuit or spin classes the children can join in one of the many clubs that DL Kids offer. If sport isn’t their thing then there are plenty of other ways to keep them entertained such as film club, arts and crafts or Nintendo Wii sessions.

These clubs are a great way to keep them entertained and make new friends while you can take part in a class, head to the gym or even enjoy a treatment in the spa.

The holidays can be a really tricky time for working parents and finding childcare that the children will enjoy can be a real challenge. At David Lloyd you have the option of half or full days in their very resonantly priced holiday camps where the children can enjoy all the fun of DL Kids plus a yummy lunch…what could they possibly not enjoy about this!

My younger ones are pretty easy to please and are happy to give anything a go. My eldest son however is pretty hard to drag away from the Xbox but by some kind of miracle David Lloyd has managed to do that! He has loved coming to win as a family and of course fill his belly in the DLicious Cafe which is always a hit with us all for its deliiocs coffees, creamy smoothies and vast choice of healthy hot and cold meals. All of which can be enjoyed in the cafe itself or in the dedicated children’s area where the kids can left of steam in the soft play or spend some time on the built-in iPads.

Some thing he is yet to try is are the special 11+ gym, swimming and tennis sessions which he has his sights set on the summer.

With this wonderful weather we are having at the moment we also want to spend as much time as we can outside and David Lloyd has a large number of clubs with outdoor pools which we are itching to try out. Outdoor swimming in the UK is pretty limited these days so this really is a fantastic addition.

I’m sure there are things that I haven’t covered as the fun at David Lloyd is so expense you really need to see it to belive it. Why not nip along to your local club and see for yourself what a membership could offer you and your family this summer.

*collaborated post

Top Five Things We Are Looking Forward To At Camp Bestival This Year

With only a few weeks until Camp Bestival we are in full preparation mode with sparkles, glitter and face paint by the bucket load.

This is one of the most exciting times of the year for us and it looks like this year is going to be one to remember too!

Below I have left the top five things we are looking forward to this year and feel free to take a look HERE at all the other fun that is going to be going on.

Dingley Dell – The Dingley Dell….especially Lizzie’s Way is our favourite part of the festival. The laid back vibe and the chance for the children to really enjoy the natural surroundings are amazing.
The children use their imagination for hours in the role play style areas of Lizzie’s Way, learn woodwork skills in the National Trust area and get up close and personal to the cute little chicks at the farm corner.

Rob And Josie’s Gin Festival – With all the fun to be had for the children there has got to be a few things for the parents to enjoy and this year for me its going to be Rob And Josie’s Gin Festival. With over 50 gins from around the world and Rob And Josie’s very own one I’m hoping to sample just a few!

The Top Musical Lineup – Music is something we all love as a family and w all have such varing tastes, so Camp Bestival is great to explore new music as well as some old favourites…its always good to embarrass the teens by singing and dancing to some of the golden oldies from our youth.
This year we are going to be treated to some brilliants acts such as Rick Astley, HRVY, Clean Bandit, Basement Jaxx, Simple Minds, Orbital, The Undertones and so many more.

The Literary Institute – This is an area that we’ve not ventured in to before but with so much going on in here this year I will be making a trip or two. I am also a very excited as well as a little nervous to be joining the lovely Natalie from Style Me Sunday on stage to support her amazing Warrior Woman Project.

The Feast Collective – We are huge foodies and I hands down say we’ve not been to a festival that has such a wide range of amazing food. The Feast Collective is one of our favourite areas and is returning for its fifth year.
From DJ BBQ who pumps out amazing tunes whilst serving mouth watering meats to Zoes Ghana Kitchen who rustle up the most devious vegan food there really id something for every taste.

This really is just a snippet of the fun that is offer this year and there is still time to GET YOUR TICKETS now so hurry up and get booking!

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

Camp Bestival 2018 Family Ticket GIVEAWAY

With only a few short weeks left until the summer holidays begin I’m sure that a lot of you are already thinking about how to fill those long six weeks. We already have a few exciting things planned with one of them kicking off the holidays in the best way ever – Camp Bestival.

We are literally on countdown now as there is under five weeks to go and the line up is looking as incredible as ever!

Lulworth Castle will soon be turned into one of the most immense festivals you could wish to take your little ones too with entertainment from Mr Tumble, Dick and Dom, Mister Maker And The Shapes, Dinosaur World Live, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Gruesome Nature Live and bundles more!

If it is music you are looking for then you are in for a treat as taking to the stage this year are Simple Minds, Rick Astley, Clean Bandit, Orbital, Basement Jaxx, Shed Seven, Tokyo Myers, Declan McKenna, DJ Sara Cox taking things back to the 80,s and for the teens there is YouTube sensation, HRVY.

Something that always appeals to us as a family is the huge range of food on offer and this year seems to be just as good with traders such as River Cottage and the Feast Collective, DJ BBQ and his BBQ Zoo, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen and one I’m very much looking forward too – Rob and Josie’s Gin Festival.

There is a huge choice of accommodation to which may come as a surprise to many of you. Not only can you pitch up yourself, there is also the option to pick a more luxurious stay in one of the yurts, tipis or gypsy caravans that really would make your stay all that more special.

If this sounds like your kind of thing…and lets face it who wouldn’t then I have a family ticket up for grabs and you can enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

T&Cs

•The prize includes weekend tickets to Camp Bestival for two adults and up to four children (under 18)

• Prize is non-transferrable

• Winners names will be added to a guest list for wristband collection onsite

• ID will be required for collection

• Full Camp Bestival T&Cs here

Family Photography Workshop With Sharp Shots Photography Club

It was a few years ago when I first met the lovely Lillian Spibey from Sharp Shots Photography Club whist she was running Sharp Shots Photography Club workshop at Priory Farm in Surrey. Lilian in fact runs the UK’s largest kids and teens photography company and has taught over 2000 students aged between 7-15. The courses run after school and on site at numerous locations across the south East of England.

Izzy chose this course as her birthday gift as her passion for photography had just started to take hold and she enjoyed every single minute of it!

She came away with a firm vision of where she wanted her new found skills to take her and has been putting them into practice ever since.

Im sure that Izzy’s love of photography has been passed down by me as since I started my blog a little over three years ago now photography is the biggest and most loved part of it.

When I first started all I was armed with was my IPhone and no clue of how to take a photo at all. Over the years I have upgraded to my beloved Olympus Pen, followed countless photographers on Instagram and just gone with what I think would make a good picture.

I really feel that from the start of my blogging journey my photography has improved but I had got to the point when some professional intervention was needed as there were things I just couldn’t get the knack of no matter how hard I tried.

So when I was approached by Lilian to come along to a workshop she was putting on for bloggers and their children I was over the moon.

We headed off early to meet everyone in London where Lilian greeted us with her calm and welcoming manner which put us all at ease and eager to get some tips from the experts.

Sharp Shots Photography Club aims to provide you with life long photography skills teaching you how to use your digital camera along with composition skills to allow you to take the best photo you can.

We all sat around in a large group where I was very happy to see the lovely Emily from Family Four Fun who had also come along. Each person introduced themselves and told us what they were hoping to gain from the day which was lovely as their were such a wide variety of aims with a lot of them involving the need to know the basics which is where we started.

I know for me this was of upmost importance as I have to admit since getting my camera over two years ago I have been pretty scared to use anything other than auto and I was really eager to move away from this. Izzy was just excited to explore her surrounding and get snap happy around the park.

Lilian started with the theory side of things and we got the chance to see how other photographers put different techniques to use in their style of photography and the mechanics behind how the camera actually works which was extremelly interesting. Her background and passion for what she does makes her the perfect teacher and things that I have found daunting before were made so much simpler through her explanations.

We learnt to master the basics such as shutter speed, how to focus, depth of field and how to get the most out of your pictures by putting yourself in different positions to get that perfect angle.

For me it was all about getting something different from my photography. I feel I always opt for a close up as this is what I feel most comfortable with and it was great to be able to try out different shutter speeds to gain some fantastic images with the passing traffic and pretty ribbons.

Cameras are amazing pieces of equipment that can give you such a different perspective on the same scene and I am so pleased that I have now been armed with the knowledge to try different things out.

I think though what I gained most from this workshop is how differently children take to new things. I was certainly very tentative about changing my style and was apprehensive about taking a step away from what I am used to; where as Izzy embraced it all with our any apprehension and gained some wonderful images because of just that.

Below I have left a section of her favourite shoots from the day, ones that I am extremely proud of.

Going over my own photos I’ve been pretty critical, but have learnt from the kids to be more gun hoe with my approach and will certainly be trying out my new found knowledge a lot more in the future. Here are a few of my favs from the day.

We both came away from the day with our heads bursting with new ideas and even more passion for photography! Izzy can’t wait to sign up to another course this summer and I am hoping on getting on another one too!

Exploring Stories With Pizza Express And Puffin Books

If a poll was taken with my family on which was their favourite restaurant I know that Pizza Express would win hands down!

The children love the delicious food that is served quickly to quash those all to familiar ‘I’m starving’ moans and as a parent I love the family friendly vibe that you get in each and every restaurant. The hustle and bustle means I don’t feel I need to be continually asking the kids to be quiet and with the great activities that are always on offer there is actually not much chance for fidgety bums and fingers to get restless.

It was in fact an exciting new activity pack and competition that Puffin Books have created for Pizza Express that saw us making our way to one of their Brighton branches last week.

We were taken to our seats by our super friendly waiter that handed the children their activities packs and they got started on them straight away. The Story Explorers Adventure Journal was full to the brim with activities and games inspired by different books and it really got the children’s creative juices flowing.

After trying to create their own Grey Huffley from their favourite series – Diary Of A Wimpy Kid they feasted on a starter of dough balls and vegetable crudités while I indulged in some delicately battered calamari that I had to keep Izzy away from!

Actually if you are a fans of Diary Of The Wimpy Kid too then there is a brilliant competition you can enter where you can design your own book cover and submit it online for your chance to win a family portrait down for you by Jeff Kinney, the author of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid himself.

As we waited on our mains we were treated to a visit from caricaturist Sean Savage who created a fantastic portrait of us all. The kids absolutely loved it and found the size of my teeth hilarious!

With our special memento safely tucked away we ate a delicious selection of pizza and pasta that didn’t fail to disappoint.

Aside from being so family friendly another highlight of Pizza Express for us is the way they cater for Frankie and his multiple allergies. The kids menu can be adapted perfectly which always makes him feel inclusive rather than having to have something completely different which can happen in so many other restaurants.

We had a quick break between courses where it was Izzy’s job to make up the chatter boxes that came in the activity packs. These are always a hit with us and they played for ages asking each other questions to unveil the final answer.

A meal out isn’t complete without desert and at Pizza Express you really are spoilt for choice. The children dived into ice cream sundaes and brownies whilst I went for the mini biscoff cheesecake dolcetti which I told myself was a lighter option!

Full to the brim and bursting with ideas on stories they were going to create and illustrate when they got home really meant that Pizza Express has been a feast for our minds as well as our bellies and we highly reccomend a trip there soon so you don’t miss out on all the fun!

*Collaborated post