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!

An Overnight Escape To The Hut – Deal

Lowdown has meant seeing a lot of our own four walls or taking trips to out local green spaces. I am extremely grateful that we have a lovely home and plenty of places to choose from when it comes to getting out and about, but after months of end not going to far afield and not seeing friends I was delighted when the lovely Hanna from The Savvy Mummy asked to meet up at her beautiful hut in Deal – Kent.

It’s only just over an hour from us and I was so happy to see a beautiful, smiling face greet us and the peaceful Kingsdown Holiday Park.

The park is home to a collection of stunning wooden huts, set in the middle of a beautiful green space just a stones throw away from the beach.

The park has so much to keep the children busy from mini golf to tennis, a well equipped play area to table tennis and the ability to allow you to let the kids roam free and find their own fun.

The Hut itself is a real home from home with a warm feeling as soon as you step in. The ground floor has a well equipment kitchen and a living space with a dining area which you sometimes don’t find in places such as this. There is also a good sized bathroom a double bedroom and a super cute children’s room complete with bunk beds and a disco ball light that kept the boys very amused!

My favourite part was the mezzanine floor that had bunting draped from each and every banister and had two good sized double beds. The cute triangular windows also have toy a gorgeous view of the grounds and the sea!

The Hut really is a tardis and is deceptively more spacious than than it looks. We are a big family and it could house us all with ease.

After exploring everything the park had to offer we jumped back in the car and took a short drive into Deal town centre to get some chips and have a dip in the sea before Hanna and the girls headed home.

If we had more time we could easily have made the walk into town as there is a wide a flat promenade that is perfect for the kids to scooter on and is definitely on our list for a return trip.

After a sad goodbye we headed back to the hut for the evening and the boys were eager to head out on their own around the park. This kind of thing always fills me with anxiety – not so much because I am worried about their safety as I felt completely space there, but I know how my youngest two have an extreme ability to annoy and I don’t want them to impose on others!

After a while and with regular checks from their big sister I relaxed a little and was able to have a cup of tea in peace whist they enjoyed their new found independence.

I’m not one to sit still for to long though and I was getting itchy feet, so I took Oscar on the few minute walk down to the sea front. This section of beach had a row of pretty cottages and two pubs which I have heard serve great food and have benches on the beach where people were enjoying a glass of wine whilst watching the sunset.

Me on Oscar however headed( pj’s on) down to the sea to see what we could find in the rock pools. My ever inquisitive youngest had a bit of a shock though when he got a sea urchin sucker onto his finger!

A little bit wet and weary we went back and enjoyed chocolate dipped marshmallows and got an early-ish night!

The next morning Frankie was up by the front door at the crack of dawn trying to spot his new found friends. For me lockdown has meant he has wanted to do very little aside from be stuck in front of a screen, so seeing him back to his old self and wanted to get out and about was amazing.

We brought a few of our own supplies for breakfast, but Hanna has left the kitchen well equipped with all the essential such as tea, coffee and cereal which was most unexpected and very welcome.

Toast, and a tidy up and it was time to say fair well to our over night home and head back into Deal to see what else there was to offer.

I had come across Deal Pier Kitchen whilst having a look online and had made it my mission to visit before we left.

I didn’t even realise Deal had a pier and unlike the usual fairground filled piers this was just home to the restaurant that sat right at the end.

The pier has a brutalist feel to it which I love and the restaurant has been built in keeping with this, keep the exterior dark, with plenty of glass to take in the stunning sea views.

There were lots of delicious choices on the menu, but being early we grabbed skinny fries and cake…great for the waistline!

Izzy was desperate to have mooch around the shops, I was not so much so with all the COVID regulations in place, but we window shopped and Deal had a good variety of your usual suspects as well as some pretty homeware and gifts shops in a pretty lame type setting.

I really felt we made the most of an overnight stay and packed in as much as we could with The Hut being the perfect place for us to do this.

The location was perfect to relax in and just let kids be kids and it allows you to do as little or as much as you want.

We had a wonderful stay and hope to be back very soon!

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.

Frankie’s Lego Inspired Birthday With The Hip Hooray Co.

[GIFTED] ‘All I want for my birthday is a party with my friends’ – this was a kick to the stomach after realising Frankie had reached the grand age of eight without having a party with his friends.

I think due to the combination of his birthday being so close to Christmas and getting into a routine of doing a special day out with the older ones rather than a party, it has always just passed by without me getting anything arranged.

I was eager to resolve this and after discussions of a sleepover I sought the help of the lovely Tasha from The Hip Hooray Company.

I have followed her beautiful feed over on Instagram for a long time now and had high hopes that she was going to be able to create something special for Frankie and she certainly didn’t disappoint.

After a few emails to figure out what Frankie and myself were looking for and what his likes and loves were, Tasha soon came up with a Lego inspired theme that I fell in love with as soon as I saw it. It was the perfect idea for Frankie and gave me lots of ideas of what I was going to do to work around it.

The Hip Hooray Company specialise in sleepovers and luxe picnics for children and adults alike. There are teepees that are perfect for indoor sleepovers and even the option of bell tent hire for the warmer months.

We went for a teepee and picnic table package where every little detail was thought of and we couldn’t have been happier.

Tasha and her equally lovely Mum came along on the afternoon of the sleepover and set everything up for us, I didn’t have to lift a finger whilst Frankie stayed in the front room so he could have a grand reveal!

We had six teepees set up which come with a mattress, pillows, duvet and decorative cushions. To this bedside tables are added with little glass bottles for their drinks and nightlights and the teepees were given a finishing touch by being draped with bunting and fairy lights…I found the addition of lighting not only very pretty but good for those that aren’t keen on the dark.

As I said we also had the addition of a picnic table which I’m extremely glad we did as it was a great way to get them all seated to eat and doubled up as the perfect place for games that we played during the evening.

The table comes complete with tableware, lunch boxes that I used as the children’s goodie bags and of course popcorn boxes for the all important sleepover movie.

All set up and Frankie over the moon with what had been done the guests arrived and the fun began. Gaming was set to be a big part of the evening, but I made sure we had plenty of games to keep them amused too.

I went with the Lego theme and had a design your own mini figure area, a game to see who could break their mini figure out of ice the quickest, guess how much Lego was in the jar and plenty of games of who could build the biggest Lego tower in the shortest amount of time.

Take away pizza was on the menu but I also created a grazing section for them so they could go back and forth as and when they wanted too.

All played out it we time for a movie and popcorn maker from the Lekue microwave popcorn maker. It was so lovely to be able to be enjoyed in the cosy set up of the teepees and the fairy light lit room.

As expected bedtime took a while with six over excited eight year olds, but upon getting up in the morning they all said what a great nights sleep they had had in the teepees.

Before we knew it the party was over and the team were back to take down and put away after all the fun.

The party was noisy and not much sleep was had and this is exactly what I was expecting – but what I do know is that each and everyone of them had a wonderful and unique experience that they will remember for years to come and I couldn’t have hope for more.

2019 – Our Year In Pictures

I have been reflecting on the past year and kicking myself for not doing as much as I should, achieving as many goals as I wanted and generally beating myself up which isn’t a good thing at all.

After flicking through my camera roll I had a word with myself and realised that I am eternally grateful for my happy and healthy family and all the things we have accomplished in 2019 and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 brings us.

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.

Simple Pleasures At Croyde Bay Holiday Resort

[PRESS TRIP] Holidaying with children of varying ages can be somewhat of a task to say the least. Some want to be building sandcastles and hunting for seashells whilst others want to be hitting the shops exploring theme parks.

It isn’t always easy to cover all these bases and at times it can be a real headache, so I had high hopes that on our visit to Croyde Bay Resort I would be able to keep them all happy!

After a slightly nerve wracking but equally beautiful drive along the coastline of North Devon we arrived at what was going to be our home for the next few days and we couldn’t have been happier with what we found.

After collecting our keys and a little information from the super helpful and very friendly receptionist we were shown to our amazing lodge. We have stayed in similar accommodation to this lots of times before but have never found anything so beautifully designed and as well equipped as this.

The children were overjoyed to see a smart TV and quickly settled down to watch a bit of Netflix whilst I put a load of washing on from our last trip. It really was a home from home and we settled in the minute we arrived.

The whole lodge was extremely spacious with a good sized, open plan living area which had real sofas rather than the usual build in style you often find in this kind of lodge along with a great sized dining table.

Our lodge had three really good sized bedrooms with the main one having an en-suite too alongside the main bathroom which again unusually had a bath rather than just a shower room which is a very welcome addition when you have little ones.

All settled in we went of to explore and our first port of call of course was the beach which was literally a stones throw away from the resort.

We elongated the walk slightly by climbing to the top of the sand dunes and the I sat back and watched the children playfully roll down and run up over and over again. It’s little opportunities like this that allows them to really just be kids that is so important to me.

Croyde Bay was absolutely stunning and it’s rugged coastline lends itself perfectly to rock pooling, surfing and body boarding. We spent a good few hours exploring the bay and were so happy that we had this so close to the resort.

Bellies were rumbling by now so we headed back to freshen up and make our way over to the main hotel where we would be having our evening meal.

I’m not a big fan of on site clubhouses usually but Croyde Bay Resort has a lovely calm, laid back atmosphere with a main restaurant area along with a smaller bar area where we chose to have our evening meal.

The menu offered covered a good variety of dishes for both for adults and children alike with lots of locally sourced products and allergy friendly alternatives which is always so important to us.

I threw thing back to the 80’s with a prawn cocktail which was delicious and followed this with a juicy Exmoor streak and super crispy chips both cooked to perfection.

The children enjoyed a classic with sausage and chips and we all followed this up with super tasty desserts that were a feat for the eyes as well and the mouth.

Unusually I felt super relaxed at the table with the children and we finished off our evening with a couple of board games of which there are a whole host to choose from.

Ordinary I would be rushing through my dinner and hoping that we could get through a meal without them all creating, so it was lovely to be able to kick back, relax and really interact with each other as a family with these games.

We all slept soundly and decided we were going to get out and explore a little before the forecast rain hit, but before that we hit the buffet breakfast which was pretty immense. Again this is an addition to a self catering style holiday that I haven’t experienced before and it was great to have the option to eat out on site if you don’t fancy cooking for yourselves.

There was everything from a full English breakfast to pancakes with syrup, cereals and pastries, fresh fruit and yogurt and so much more.

All of this was easy for the children to access themselves which they loved and again it was a really informal set up which made it a lot more relaxing for me.

Izzy was itching to spend some of her holiday money so we took a trip into the town of Barnstable which had a good range of shops and restaurants, but I was looking for someone a little prettier to get a cream tea as it would be terrible to visit the West Country and not sample one wouldn’t it!

As I child I remember visiting and falling in love with Clovelly and I really wanted the children to experience what a gorgeous place it is. We headed down the super steep cobbled hill passing and petting the donkeys on the way, sampling some old fashioned sweets and of course getting my much wanted cream tea before getting down to the water front.

Devon really does home some amazing places to visit and this is one I’m definitely pleased I ticked of the list for the kids.

We headed back to the resort and whilst the boys played outside with the table football I prepared dinner. There is such a safe feel about this place I was more than happy for the boys to just outside the lodge enjoying their evening and having a little bit of freedom.

The predicted storm hit that evening so we stayed in and struggled up whilst listening to the howling winds and rain outside which I always strangely enjoy.

For our last full day we decided to stay local and make the most of what the resort and surrounding area had to offer so we hit the beach and then made use of the lovely on site swimming pool.

The pool had both a large and smaller pool which was perfect for us as Oscar still isn’t a great swimmer so I could keep an eye on him whilst still enjoying time in the pool with the older two. Throughout our stay the pool always stayed relatively quiet and uncrowned which is always good when you are trying to keep your eye on little ones that have more confidence than skill when it come to the water.

That evening we took a short walk into Croyde itself which I actually wish I had done when we first got there as for such a tiny village it had so much to offer. There was a great selection of independent shops and we struck lucky as there was a pop up event happening and we got to sample some amazing battered trout and chips before having some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted from the ice cream parlour.

Full up but not yet ready for bed we tried out hand at table tennis in the games room before hitting the sack.

We really did have a fantastic few days at Croyde Bay Resort enjoying simple activities and each other’s company in the comfort of the best equipped and homey lodge I have ever stayed in.

The location, the accommodation, the food and the general set up of this resort could not be faulted and it would make the perfect getaway for families of all ages.

We hope to be back very soon!

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.