A Calmer Christmas With Calmer Bannanas At Buckland Park Lake

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but the hustle and bustle, packed scedules and lack of time can take a toll on us all and the need to switch off from it all can be much needed.

Its not just the adults that need to take a break. I am definitly guily of trying to put too much on the kids at Christmas. I want these few short weeks a year to be crammed with as much magic as possible, but in reality it can all be a bit too much and they need something that give them a more chiiled day out – and this is were I was hoping the ‘Calmer Christmas Experince from Calmer Bananas would be perfect.

On Sunday morning we headed to Buckland Park Lake, Reigate to take part in this event. We parked up on the edge of the lake which was a stuiing sight to see and so surrene – however the boys were a little worried I was going to get them to join in with the wild swimmers!

We headed towards the gingerbread house where we were greeted by a super friendly elf that told us all about what our morning was going to hold. Buckets and scavenger hunt sheets in hand we headed off on our scavenger hunt to find all the pieces we needed to build our own snowman. In my head I had imagined a much lower key hunt, with us literally finding bits and pieces in the wooldna, so I was thrilled to discover a huge trail filled with activites, questions to answer and lots of little elves scattered aroynd to make it a really thetrical dispaly.

At each stop thier was something to keep the boys brains ticking over and thet loved the challange of having to complete a task to gain a piece towards their snowman.

After walking through the beautiful woodland we troated across a liitle bridge over a stream to play a few games of Pooh Sticks and made our final journey toward a pretty shleter nestled betwwen the trres. The numbers are kept low and we didnt bump into anyone the whole way round which made it even more speical and you didnt have the anxiety of having to rush trough tasks to let ohter people in for thier turn.

As a big fan of outdoor fun I actually think I was more excited at the sight of the shelter than the children. I was beatifuult decorated and homed an open fire where we sat down with a hot choclate after building our snowman.

Hot chocolate in hand and toes nicely warming up there was even more fun to come. We each had a gingerbread man to decorate and the boys made thier own christmas decorations. Whislt all these activites were being completed Mother Claus read the children christams stoires and sang a few songs to really get us in the christmas soirit.

There is also an option to have lunch whilst you are there and i was amamzed at the quality of the snack boxes. The boys has christmas tree shapped sandwithes, a candy cane cheese straw and a super cute reinderr brownie. so much thought had gone into it and they gave a big thumbs up for the taste test!

The adult boxes were just as good, and I enjoyed a festive treat with a turkey and cranberry sandwich, homemade sausage roll and a gooey chococlte brownie.

The whole experince was as relazing as i had hoped for. The boys are extremlly boysterous and can sometimes get more than a little over excited, but being ocupied the whole time gave them a mental workout, alonf with a good walk trough the woods, allowing them to really kick back and enjoy the peace and quiet of the calm actitives in the twnt.

This experience far excided my expectations and I would defintly put it top of our activites this year. It was someting differnt ans we will definlty be retrning next year!

A Weekend At Robin Hill Country Park

One of my resoultions for 2020 was to travel more with the kids – the Covid pandemic hit and all my plans were put on hold. One thing it did do though is to open my eyes to the amazing places we have here. Somewhere I haven’t been since I was a child is the Isle Of Wight, so when I was asked to visit I jumped at the chance.

I didn’t have any recollection of the Isle Of Wight and certianly didn’t remember visiting Robin Hill.

We got off to an early start and after a couple of hours drive we boarded the ferry and before we knew it we arrived in the Isle Of Wight. It was an easy 15 minute drive to Robin Hill where we were greeted with smiles and shown what was going own. With the map firmly in our grip we headed off to explore.

Robin Hill covers a huge 88 acres of beautiful parkland and woodland that has been transformed into a fabulous adventure area that is more than sympathetic to it’s stunning surroundings.

Frankie has reached that akward age where he thinks he is to grown up for most things I suggest these days. He’s too big for the park, he doesn’t want to go for county walks – the list is pretty endless. So when I saw him leap through the treetop canopy walkways to get to the Jungle Heights my heart was already won over…as was his.

High up aroungst the trees is Jungle Heights which was definitely the highlight of our trip. It is an collection of netted areas set amongst the woodland that you can run, climb and bounce on to your hearts content. As well as this there is a lovely little cafe area nestled away where the adults can grab a drink, sit back and watch the fun. Relaxing music is played through large speakers which made for a really calming atmosphere and I honestly could have sat there for hours.

Around this area is the Squirrel run where the little ones can start from the bottom and weave their way up to the top of the treetop walkway.

From here we headed over to the toboggans. Frankie took to these alone whilst I went on with Oscar. Frankie speed off into the distance while poor Oscar had to creep around the run with his nervous mother!

This was something the boys had never done before and they absolutley loved it. Next to this there were also some huge slides that the boys spent a lot of time working out how to get down them as fast as possible. The addition of sitting of their coat seemed to be the winning combination.

A liitle further along a jouney we stopped off at the huge ponds which were also home to the suspended bridges. It was so tranquil there and whist I enjoyed the beauty of the surrounding the boys weaved their way across the floating bridges.

Dotted around the park there are lots of little extras to keep you entertained, such as falconary exibitions which we sadly missed and a circus play area which was great place to stop and warm up under the shelter of the tent whilst they honed their circus skills.

To end our day we decided to hop on board the tractor ride so we could spot anything we might have missed. It was turing to dusk by now and it was beautiful to see the park as the sun was coming down. It was also an opportunity to see the lights coming on for the evening event that was just going to start. I was gutted the boys were too tired to stay as it looked like such a fun filled evening – it does however give us the excuse to return next year.

All tired out we made on last stop at Colossus, which is a huge ship ride that the boys went on countless times – I honestly don’t know how they weren’t ill.

Robin Hill was more than I had expected it to be. They offer a place were kids can just be kids alongside stunning scenery that the adults can enjoy too. You really can make a whole day of it and we loved it so much we made a return trip the very next day!

Would you like to visit Robin Hill?

Inside Tower Bridge

[PRESS TRIP] I have passed over Tower Bridge countless times either on foot or by car and the magnitude of it never fails to amaze me. The iconic blue immediately catches my eye and it has always been one of my favourite London landmarks. I have passed this love down to my children who all get equally as excited as me at the sight.

So can you imagine the excitement levels when I told them we would be taking a trip inside – well this was filled with a little apprehension as both Frankie and I are not good with heights!

A short walk along the river chatting about what we might see and do once we arrived and we were there to be greeted by a lovley lady who gave us lots in infromation on the bridge whilst we waited in the short queue. It was then time to make our way inside. We took the small windy staircase of the North Tower up to the top which was great to add to or anticipation, but for those with buggies or access issues there was a lift that could be used.

On the way up there were lots of interesting facts to read, most of which I had no idea about. Once inside the walkway we were greeeted with a light and airy area with panoramic views across London. We purchased a view guide and the boys loved matching up the landmarks in the book when they came across them, and there were also guides on the windows that were really useful.

But of course what we were most looking forward to was the glass floor and it didn’t disappoint! Being 42 metres above the river gave you the most amazing perspective. Oscar was well away and was speeding across trying to spot people and look for his favourite cars. Frankie was a little more coy to begin with – as was I, but I was actually pleasantly suprised that my usual fear wasn’t that great and I got to really enjoy the moment.

Next up was the descent through the South Tower. As we made our was down we got to learn a little about the people who worked inside Tower Bridge and inside the stunning Bascle Chambers if you look closly enough you will spot some statues of these workers. A little futher down there were tools and uniforms of the staff on display that Oscar was particuarly taken with.

As we came out of the South Tower I thought this was the end of our trip and I was pleasantly surprised that we acually needed to follow the blue line along to the engine rooms. the blue line was made to commemorate the people of Tower Bridge and it was lovely to take this all in as we walked.

I wasnt really to excited about going into the engine rooms as I had a preconceived idea it would just be full of machinery and not too interesting. This was quashed as soon as we arrived. The boys made a bee line for the interactive exhibit that showed you the workings of the engines and then much to my amazement we found the most beautiful looking steam engines. Painted in the most vivid green and red, thet really were a sight to behold.

From here there was more things for the boys to get thier hands on and the loved finding out facts about the people who had made histrry on the bridge with their crazy acts, such as the brave Albert Gunter who jumped the open bridge to save a double decker bus full of people!

The Tower Bridge experience exceeded our expectations and Oscar has even been back at school writng about this as his favoruite experience of the holidays. Now we need to try an book again to see the bridge lifting whilst we are on there!

The Mary Rose Museum:1545 Immersive Experience When Their World Ended

[PRESS EVENT] In 1982 the world watched on as the infamous Mary Rose was bought back to the surface after the devastating sinking of the ship back in 1545 which is still one of the biggest mysteries in nautical history. It stands to this day to be the biggest historical excavation of its kind with over 19 thousand artefacts recovered from the wreckage.

One of the most devestating facts about the sinking of the Mary Rose is that 500 men lost thier lives that day and the new immersive experience, 1545-When Their World Ended at The Mary Rose Museum has been added to the museum to celebrte those lives lost.

I was lucky enough to be be invited along to the lauch of this new instillation and from the minute I set foot on the port I was completly taken with the grandeur and wonder it held. We took the short walk along to the museum, passing HMS Victory and were finally greeted by Henry V111 himself.

The first port of call – pardon the pun, was the new experience itself. We had a short introduction and then we were lead into a darkened room where KIng Henry V111 told us tales of the times before we boarded the Mary Rose and got to re-live those final moments whilst the the screen in front of us filled with water and capsised the boat.

This was a great introduction to the musum itslef, where we took in the magic of all the artefacts that have been found from tiny, intricate dice to the full skeleton of a dog that had been on board and the many, many wepons from cannons to cross bows that must hold so many stories.

On thing that excited me most about my visit was the love and passion the flowed from each and every memeber of staff I spoke to. They were more than happy to answer questions, no matter how silly and the knowledge that held was absolutely dumbfounding.

Ive saved the best until last and that really has to be the Mary Rose herself, and to be honest no picture or video can do her justice, she really does have to be seen to be belived – so what are you waiting for!

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.

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.

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!