Category Archives: Days Out

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

Over the summer we travelled down to North Devon for our two week holiday. We knew that the weather would not be fabulous, so we tried to plan a few wet weather activities. With that in mind we took our Merlin Passes and decided to choose a rainy day and drive over to Weymouth in Dorset to visit the Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park.

What we’d not realised (and a quick visit to their website would have told us this) is that Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park is a largely outdoor attraction and on rainy days you will get very wet. 

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

It was a 2 hour plus drive from our holiday cottage, but we arrived late morning and promptly got soaked to the skin as we walked to the entrance. The fast track queue which Merlin Annual Passholders use was outside, so by the time we got into the park we were completely sodden. 

Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park is separated into several zones. Some of which are indoor, some are outdoor. As you can imagine on a very wet day the indoor zones were particularly crowded. 

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

The zones were – Harbourside; Nursery; Penguins; New Ideas Zone; Breed Rescue Protect; Ray Lagoon; Rockpool; Turtle Sanctuary; Seals; Rainforest; Shipwreck; Otters and Ocean Tunnel. In addition to these attractions, there is also a Wetlands Conservation Trail, a Splash Zone and Caribbean Cove – an outdoor adventure playground. 

We love Sea Life Centres and we’ve seen a lot of the indoor habitats before at other Sea Life Centres. Once we realised there were other exciting attractions we’ve never seen before, despite the heavy rain we made a beeline for them. Ben loved the penguins and the seals. The Turtle Sanctuary was in its own building complete with a huge turtle over the entrance. 

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

The otters which are Asian Short-Clawed Otters were a big hit. We both really enjoyed watching them run about, diving in and out of their pool and the dashing inside to tumble about in their beds. 

We were particularly impressed with the outdoor Rockpool area. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The indoor Rockpool areas at other Sea Life Centres are usually a series of supervised tanks you can put your hands in and touch the creatures. The same is true here, but it’s outside, partially under cover and every so often an artificial tide crashes out and floods the area. There is a warning, so you can step out of the way and not get wet, but it’s a great addition. The Rockpool area is home to creatures native to the UK, including starfish, shore crabs, anemones and sea urchins.

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

The outdoor areas were brilliant and a real treat. There was so much to see and do and we learned such a lot. On a dry day I know we would have made so much more of them. It was such a shame it was so wet, but that didn’t seem to bother the penguins, seals and otters quite as much as it did us.

We would absolutely visit the Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park again, just maybe on a dry day. 

For more information about Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park, visit their website.

If you’re visiting Weymouth you could also visit the Jurassic Skyline Tower which we reviewed here.

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

We’ve been going to the Just So Festival for four years now and each year we throw ourselves into the magic of it all. It is absolutely the highlight of our year. This year was no different, we arrived anticipating good things and we left sad that it was all over for another year. Just So Festival 2017 was an utterly enchanting experience.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

There’s so much going on at the Just So Festival, it’s impossible to fit everything you want to do into a weekend. We’d been quite organised before we arrived and I’d jotted down a timetable of things we’d like to see and do, knowing that we would miss some of what we’d selected, but we’d probably accidentally happen upon some Just So magic along the way.

It’s almost impossible to choose just five outstanding things from the Just So Festival 2017, but after much deliberation we’ve narrowed it down to these weird, wonderful and decidedly enchanting Just So moments –

The Just So Pillow Fight!

Ben took a bit of persuading to get stuck into the pillow fight, but once he could see his friends in there having fun there was no stopping him. The pillow fight is a completely bonkers but wonderful sight. Several hundred people bashing each other with pillows, most of which burst and feathers flew everywhere. The initial fight went on for about half an hour, with proceedings being halted a couple of times to retrieve children lost in the feathery mire. 

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

The fighting went on for several hours, with small skirmishes periodically breaking out. It was the most fun to take part in and almost as much fun to watch. The pillow fight is a definite highlight!

Campfire in the Spellbound Forest

The Spellbound Forest is my absolute favourite area at Just So. We always gather each night around the campfire to listen to storyteller Ian Douglas; marvel at Dieter’s mad science and sing our hearts out with resident Scout Master, Ian Mackintosh. This year something a little different happened in the forest, Ian Douglas got married at Just So and we were all invited to the Wedding Feast around the campfire. It was an evening of storytelling, song, celebration and magic. 

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

The Spellbound Forest is also the place to be for a whole raft of creative and nature based activities. We went on a wonderfully refreshing barefoot walk though the woods. Once again we made clay faces; we toasted marshmallows at campfire cookery; enjoyed the intimate little Theatre for One sessions and met the Wildlife Champions from Chester Zoo. There was no formal den building session this year, but our adventurer and his friends built their own and it was brilliant.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

Peekaboo and the Weleda Tent

With the boy being a strapping six years old, really we have no business being in the Peekaboo area (which is for babies and toddlers really). But this year there was a mud play area which was planted up with bee loving plants. Our little bee couldn’t stay away. He loved digging and discovering more about the plants.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

I also owe a debt of thanks to the Weleda team. I’d booked a free Skin Food Hand Massage which took place in a shed. On my way to the massage I fell over, skinned my knees and made my bottom lip wobble. They were very lovely to me when I arrived at the shed and let me sit down to gather my thoughts and gave me some cream for my knees. The hand massage was also excellent, I felt so relaxed and my hands were treated to some much needed TLC. 

Insect Eating, Wild Food & Foraging at The Social Barn

We all fancied learning more about foraging so off we went to the Social Barn. While we waited for the session to start the boys got stuck into some insect eating (dried mealworms and crickets), they also did some jellybean architecture and tried some wild food before we went off to explore the Rode Hall estate in search of foraged goodies.

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

Under the expert guidance of James Wood, professional wild food forager, we learned about how to find and cook elderberries, nettles, chestnuts, acorns and hawthorn berries. All the boys got stuck in, foraging for goodies and we even got to sample some of the wild food. I can say that I’ve eaten an uncooked nettle and it didn’t sting!

Just So Festival 2017: Joining the Bee Tribe

Just So is famous for its Tribal Tournament. Each year families dress up as owls, foxes, frogs, stags, lions, fish or bees. The new tribe this year were the Bees, being from Manchester we just had to be Manchester Worker Bees. There were lots and lots of bees this year, all in sunny yellow, sporting wings and striped socks. We’d been fairly low-key with out costumes, wearing yellow and black tops with bee wings and antennae. 

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

We fully embraced the Tribal Tournament this year, with the boys all buzzing about collecting the golden nuggets to give to the Queen Bee. Alas we didn’t win this year, but we had a good time trying. The foxes won and were a little smug about it. Maybe the bees need to bring them down a peg or two next year!

Just So Festival 2017: The best of the rest…

You could easily spend a week at Just So, but you have to squish it all in to just three days (or one day if you’ve got a day ticket). I couldn’t possibly list all the amazing stuff we did and saw and ate, but honourable mentions to go – The Baghdaddies; Stargazing at The Observatory; The Cautionary Tales of Animalia; How I Hacked My Way Into Space; The Actual reality Arcade; Dancing the Conga; The Forgotten Courtyard; Away with the Fairies and the wonderful wand making workshop; Bollywood dancing at Jitterbug; and the food, ALL the food!

Our 5 favourite things from the Just So Festival 2017

It was a wonderful weekend. It filled our hearts up with joy and creativity and adventure. We were happier, better people for our time at the Just So Festival 2017. Roll on next year!

Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2018 (17 – 19 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 25 August at www.justsofestival.org.uk at special early bird prices. Under 3s free.

Goodbye summer, hello again relentless routine

When I wake up tomorrow morning two things will happen. It’s my birthday so I’ll get smothered by my menfolk and the dog of questionable pedigree and loved to bits, which is nice. The other thing tomorrow brings is the return to school and the start of Year 2 for my precious little baby (now a big, tall and strong nearly 7 year old). It’s time to say goodbye summer!

As I tucked him up in bed tonight I shed a quiet tear to myself. We have had the most incredible summer. Seven weeks of fantastic memories, quality time together and just really fun stuff, much of which I’ve not yet had time to blog about, so do watch this space!

We’d sat down this afternoon with a pen and paper and listed all the really fun, memorable stuff we’d done together and it was quite a list. Reading the list back and remembering everything just made my heart burst a bit. We’ve been very lucky, there’s been a budget of sorts we’ve stuck to and the cost of expensive days out has been tempered by packing a picnic and using vouchers or deals where we could. We did well and I am very sad it’s over.

 

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At the start of the summer we wrote a bucket list. But how did we get on? This is what we managed to tick off…

⇒ Build sandcastles on the beach in Devon
⇒ Sleep lots (Ben’s suggestion)
⇒ Visit Ben’s cousins in Devon
⇒ Go to the playground in the park
⇒ Visit the Sealife Centre at Weymouth
⇒ Go on a treasure hunt in Bude using Treasure Trails maps
⇒ Visit the castle fort in the park in Bideford
⇒ Count the stars at night, when camping at The Just So Festival
⇒ Sing around the Just So Campfire
⇒ Feed the animals at Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall 
⇒ Have a Cornish pasty picnic on the beach
⇒ Join the Tribal Tournament at The Just So Festival (we were bees!)

 

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But we also managed to do this…

Rockpooling in Woolacombe (and found an octopus)
⇒ Joined in the dog show at the Woolsery Show (and won!)
⇒ Went foraging at Just So Festival and ate dried mealworms & crickets
⇒ Built a den in the woods at Just So Festival
⇒ Joined in the massive Just So pillow fight!
⇒ Went out for lunch and ended up splashing in the water-features in Cathedral Gardens in Manchester 
⇒ Went to Chester Zoo with Daddy (loved the gibbons the best)
⇒ Found a Rhea egg at Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall
⇒ Went up the Jurassic Skyline attraction in Weymouth
⇒ Adopted Geoff & Ollie the otters at Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall
⇒ Massively grew in confidence with his swimming, loved the pool at Ribby Hall!
⇒ Met and touched the armadillos, a gecko, a cockroach, tortoise, rabbits, sheep, calves, pigs and reindeer at Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall

We’ve done lots, we’ve hardly fallen out with each other and every night we’ve gone to bed smiling with our heads and hearts full of adventure. I’ve loved it and so has he. It really has been the best summer ever.

I’ll have very mixed feelings in the morning, seeing him skip off to school again and hearing the house fall silent once more. It will be nice to catch up with some jobs and to tackle my to do list, but not as nice as doing what I love best, spending time with my boy.

PS. Happy birthday me x

 

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Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival, Dunham Massey

Throughout August The Lost Carnival has pitched up just south of Manchester, in the gardens of National Trust property, Dunham Massey in Cheshire. We went along to find out more about the carnival and to explore the beautiful gardens at Dunham Massey.

This is the third year The Lost Carnival has been in town, having previously been located in Bury and Crewe. The carnival is the brainchild of Wild Rumpus, the arts company specialising in unique outdoor productions which both children and adults can enjoy, such as the famous Just So Festival.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

This interactive circus carnival almost seamlessly ties in with the current exhibition in the house, Dunham’s Lost Years – A Victorian Tale of Love and Abandonment. The exhibition uncovers the controversial marriage of daring circus performer and beauty Catharine Cox to Dunham’s young heir, George Harry. The link is that the performers from The Lost Carnival will be rehearsing across the summer at Dunham “under the invitation” of Catharine Cox.

We arrived at Dunham Massey and parked in the vast car park (£6, free to National Trust members) and made our way to the visitors reception and picked up our tickets to the garden (adults £8.60, children £4.30, free to National Trust members). The Lost Carnival itself is free, but you need to buy a ticket to enter the garden area).

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

When you enter the garden (if you’re lucky like we were, you might spy some of the deer roaming the park) you are handed a Lost Carnival map which helpfully gives you some background to what’s going on and highlights the carnival areas for you to locate. Naturally we put our six year old in charge of the map and he guided us through the gardens expertly.

The Lost Carnival attractions are nicely spaced out around the gardens. I recommend you first head to the “Chant” area, where a carnival performer will teach you the chant, the actions and give you some clues about what you need to do while you’re there. From there we moved on to explore Popou’s Caravan. This is a gorgeous caravan filled with trinkets, maps and clues for kids to explore. It was very busy so we only managed a quick look inside. When my son emerged he only had one word – “wow”!

Part of the fun is spying carnival attractions through the trees and discovering secrets and clues in the gardens. I was enchanted by the zoetrope, one of those devices where you turn the handle and watch through the slats to see a horse galloping and an acrobat performing stunts on its back. 

Wandering through the gardens to the “Dressing Room” we met a glamorous carnival seamstress who whispered secrets about the missing star-crossed lovers Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue. She asked us to help her out finishing a beautiful costume. We sewed a bright button onto a wedding dress (I wonder who that is for) and had the chance to try on some of the carnival costumes.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

Further down the gardens in The Orangery we stopped to write a letter to the heads of the rival carnivals (and those star-crossed lovers) Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue, imploring them to return to the carnival. After we’d had a little sit down while he wrote his letter, we wandered through the gardens to find hula hoopers hooping, so the boys had a little go.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

There was enough carnival activity to make things interesting for my son; but not too much that it overwhelmed the tranquility and beauty of the gardens. Apart from the carnival itself, we had a great time exploring the extensive gardens which have formal and informal areas. We were lucky that the weather was so sunny and kind to us. The gardens are equally fine on rainy days. There are plenty of sheltered spots under the trees if it’s really pouring.

Immerse yourself in the world of the two of the greatest carnival families, the Birds and the Ingenues and see if you can help them bring the heads of the rival carnivals Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue back to their families again.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

The Lost Carnival is on until 30 August, from 10.30am – 4.30pm daily at Dunham Massey. Parking and entrance to the garden is free to National Trust members. For non-members a charge applies – visit the website for more information.

We were invited guests of The National Trust. We were given complimentary tickets and parking in exchange for this write up. All images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

Earlier this week my husband and son went rockpooling in North Devon with the National Trust. They returned rosy-cheeked and brimming with enthusiasm for what they’d found and experienced. In a rare guest post, my husband shares their wonderful morning in Woolacombe. Over to Matthew…

A few weeks before we came down to Devon on holiday, I was beginning to keep an eye out for things to do. I saw a link somebody had shared on Facebook about guided rockpooling with the National Trust in Woolacombe. The “Rockpool Rambles” looked quite interesting and I thought that both me and the lad could learn something.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

We holiday in Devon quite a lot and we tend to plan ahead a little bit, but also take each day as it comes especially with the weather. On one of the days the rockpooling was scheduled it was going to be mixed weather, so we decided to hop in the car, head to Woolacombe and take our chances.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

When we arrived, the heavens opened. Undeterred, the lad and I put on our waterproofs and sandals and headed down to the Combesgate part of the beach. Here, our guides, Ed and Dave met us and our fellow rockpoolers and gave us our nets and buckets and a short briefing about what to look for and a couple of things not to do such as climbing on the rocks covered with barnacles as they’re very rough and feel like a cheese grater if you happen to slip on them.

Off exploring we went and we quickly came across some sea lettuce, followed by our first starfish of the day. Ed and Dave pointed out that the barnacles make a snap, crackle and pop noise, so we listened out for that too. Around the corner there were starfish aplenty; along with beadlet anemones and small hermit crabs, as well as limpets and mussels.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

There were excited cries from the group as small fish were seen darting for cover in the pools. Rockpool prawns were seen, captured and temporarily put in buckets while we examined them. The lad did very well to find a secluded rockpool and a snakelocks anemone in the water. We lifted a stone and out popped a five bearded rockling. By the end of the session, the clouds parted and the sun came out. The best was saved till last when a little red octopus was spotted swimming across one of the larger pools. It was a wonderful sight and one we will remember for a long time.

The guided rock pooling is a fantastic way to spend an hour and half. It costs just £1 per person, and it probably can’t be bettered.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

The little red thing you can see in the photo above is a little octopus. What a find!

For more information about Rockpooling in North Devon and the Rockpool Rambles run by the National Trust, visit the NT website.

Exploring Bude with a Treasure Trails map

Every summer for the last 15 years we have holidayed near Bude in North Cornwall. It’s an area we both know pretty well, we have both separately been coming here since we were babes in arms. It’s stunning, when the sun shines there is nowhere better and there are things to do if you can tear yourself away from the beach. Now we have the boy and the dog to entertain, our holidays are less book-beach-pub and more play-paddle-ice cream. Today we decided to do something different, we downloaded a Treasure Trails map, explored Bude and discovered something new about one of our favourite places.

Exploring Bude with a Treasure Trails map

The Bude Treasure Trails map has a murder mystery theme and we’d picked it (there were a few different trails in the area) because it was short and dog friendly. The route should have taken 90 minutes and was only 1.5 miles. I’m not sure if the distance was accurate, but I clocked up 9000 steps on my fitbit during the walk. 

We began in the car park near the Tourist Information Centre and made our way up to St Michael and All Angels Church (I’m going to be a bit vague about the route, lest I give any clues away). Fortuitously, we arrived at the church during coffee morning, so we left clutching courgette and poppy-seed buns to nibble as we walked.

Exploring Bude with a Treasure Trails map

The map and clues took us on a winding route down by the Bude canal and over to Bude Castle – a building I’ve never explored before but one we will be visiting properly later in the week. We ambled into town, up the high street and across to the headland with stunning views over Summerleaze beach, the famous Bude Sea Pool and beyond. 

The route took us over 3 hours, but we had several pit-stops along the way; coffee at Bude Castle; a spot of lunch at Life’s a Beach, overlooking Summerleaze beach and of course the coffee morning at the church. 

Exploring Bude with a Treasure Trails map

We discovered some beautiful, secret, interesting parts of Bude we’ve never noticed before. The Treasure Trails map encouraged us to look up, look down, look at nooks and crannies and to really take note of our surroundings. Plus finding out who dunnit was pretty fun too!

Top Tips for doing Treasure Trails 

⊗ Take a pen
⊗ Don’t entrust your only pen to the person most likely to lose it
⊗ Put your map in a plastic pocket to protect it from the elements
⊗ Wear shoes you’re comfortable walking in
⊗ Don’t forget your sun cream (and brolly)
⊗ Allow extra time for coffee breaks and ice cream

Order your Treasure Trail online and either print it out yourself, or they can send you your trail in the post. There are 1000 trails to choose from across the UK, you can search for a trail on the Treasure Trails website. The description helpfully tells you how much walking (or sometimes cycling or driving) you will need to do; how long it should take and if the trail is accessible or not.

Each Trail is an A5 booklet of 8 pages and costs £6.99. They have three themes; Murder Mystery, Treasure Hunt and Spy Mission. It depends on your location which theme you’ll be given, but all the details for each trail can be found on their website

The Treasure Trails are a brilliant way to spend a few hours exploring with your family. We had such a fun time together. Our six year old has been asking (and asking, and asking) about doing another one tomorrow – a ringing endorsement if ever there was one!

If you’re visiting Bude and would like to follow the trail we did, you can find it here.

Exploring Bude with a Treasure Trails map

Note: We were given this Treasure Trails map for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own. We loved it and we’re sure your family will too!

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

We’re on holiday in Devon this week and the weather hasn’t been great. We’d brought our Merlin Annual Passes with us, so when a wet day was forecast we decided to drive to our nearest SEA LIFE Centre in Weymouth. We were also drawn to Weymouth because we wanted to visit the Jurassic Skyline tower which promised 360° views across the Jurassic Coast. 

We arrived at the Jurassic Skyline tower which is on the end of Weymouth Pier. The staff in the ticket office did warn us that due to the weather we wouldn’t be able to see much, but we’d driven for three hours (130 miles) to get here, so we had to try it. Unsurprisingly given the weather, there was not a queue. We showed our Merlin Passes and we were waved through to a sheltered area where we waited for a few minutes for the gondola doors to open. 

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

We were ushered in and we were the only people in the Jurassic Skyline gondola. The gondola has a bench to sit on and windows all around, so on a clear day you should be able to see for miles. Sadly it was raining heavily and visibility was very poor. Apologies for the really dull, dark photographs, but they are a true representation of the day we visited.

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

The Jurassic Skyline gondola rises smoothly up the tower and does a full 360° rotation twice with an informative commentary throughout. You can buy an information pack for £1 which can help you pinpoint the sights along the coast and it gives you some more information about the Jurassic coastline.

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

It costs £7.50 per person and the whole experience took around 20 minutes. On a good clear day I think it would absolutely be worth the money. If I could have seen more of the coastline I probably would have done it twice just because I enjoyed the experience so much. The ride up the tower was smooth and even though I’m quite scared of heights I felt perfectly safe, even with strong winds buffeting the tower.

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

It’s a shame the weather was so bad and the visibility so poor on the day we visited the Jurassic Skyline. Better luck next time!

For more information about the Jurassic Skyline in Weymouth, visit their website.

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Taking part in the Dog Show at the Woolsery Agricultural Show

Today we went along to the Woolsery Agricultural Show in North Devon. Despite a drizzly start to the day, the sun shone for the most part. We saw the show advertised and on a whim we decided to go along and enter our nine month old pup in the dog show. It was not purely for pedigree pups, but scruffs, crosses and mongrels were welcome to enter too. We entered with no real expectation of success. Penny is a lively pup with fairly uncertain parentage, so we didn’t rate her chances against seasoned, well-groomed pups whose owners knew what they were doing.

Taking part in the Dogs Show at the Woolsery Agricultural Show

There were 15 classes to enter and rosettes would be awarded to the first six placing dogs in each category, with the first place dog from each being put forward to Best in Show.

1. Best Puppy any breed – 6 to 12 months old
2. Best Large breed
3. Best Small breed
4. Best Cross-bred
5. Best Rescue
6. Best Veteran – 8 years and over
7. Best Condition
8. Best Scruff
9. Best Child handler – 12 years and under
10. The waggiest tail
11. The most appealing eyes
12. Best pair (match or mismatch)
13. Prettiest bitch
14. Most Handsome dog
15. The one the judge would most like to take home with them 

Taking part in the Dogs Show at the Woolsery Agricultural Show

We entered a few categories, we faced disappointment in Best Puppy. Penny was very nervous as it was her first time in the show ring and showed herself up by hiding from the judge. Undeterred we entered her for the Best Cross-Breed and we were delighted when she came 4th.

We had some time before her next category – Best Scruff came up, so we stretched our legs, explored the Woolsery Agricultural Show, found some lunch and gave Penny a nice cool bowl of water. We were sure she would do well in Best Scruff since she is a big gangly scruffy thing, but we were wrong. She failed to place at all in Best Scruff. Maybe she’s too pretty to be scruffy? A change of plan was required, if she’s too pretty to be scruffy, should we enter her in the Prettiest Bitch category?

Reader, we did just that. After some deliberation, we were astonished when the judge handed us the 1st rosette. Penny is the prettiest bitch in Devon (or at least the prettiest bitch entered in that category at the Woolsery Agricultural Show). We were absolutely delighted!

Taking part in the Dogs Show at the Woolsery Agricultural Show

Because we’d come first in Prettiest Bitch, we were put forward for Best in Show. We were certain she wouldn’t win that one and we were right. There was stiff competition, with some dogs there being proper pedigree show dogs, as well as a small collection of scruffs and mutts. We were happy just to be there. 

We were thrilled, we hadn’t expected to come away with any rosettes, but to come home with a 1st and a 4th was amazing. We’d only gone because we thought it would be a fun thing to do and it really was. Have we got the dog show bug? Probably, but we have got some work to do before next year!

Days Out: Blackpool Sea Life Centre

The small boy and I love visiting Sea Life Centres. We share a love of jellyfish, stingrays and sharks so wherever we go in the UK, if there’s a Sea Life Centre nearby we will be there! Earlier this year we had a couple of days in Blackpool and while we were in town we took the chance to visit the Blackpool Sea Life Centre. 

Days Out: Blackpool Sea Life Centre

Blackpool Sea Life Centre is on the promenade, about five minutes walk down from Blackpool Tower. There are ticket deals to be had, so if you’re planning to go buying tickets in advance, or multi-attraction tickets are a good bet. We have a Merlin card, so we just showed those on the way in and we were given a guide and waved through.

Like all Sea Life Centres, Blackpool Sea Life Centre is laid out in zones – Rockpool, Atlantic Depths, Quayside zone, Stingray Adventure zone, Kingdom of the Seahorse, Submarine Explorer, Rainforest Adventure zone, Shark Mission and Ocean Tunnel and lastly the Jurassic Seas zone. 

Blackpool Sea Life Centre

We have been to Blackpool Sea Life Centre before and we really like spending time in the Ocean Tunnel and the Stingray Adventure Zone. When we visited this time, we spent quite a lot of time with the octopus.

Whenever we’ve seen octopus before they’ve always been hidden away in the back of the tank having a sleep. This time the octopus was curled up in the corner at the front of the tank. We stopped to have a proper look at this amazing creature and we caught its eye. We’re not sure if we spooked it (we don’t tap on tanks or anything) or if it just wanted to show off for us, but we had a good five minutes with it swimming around and puffing itself up for us. Thank you Mr Octopus.

Blackpool Sea Life Centre

We also spent quite a lot of time watching the stingrays. There was a really good viewing area where you could pop your head in the domes inside the tank and watch all the fish and stingrays swim by. Sadly we’d just missed the stingray feeding session, but it did mean we had the area almost entirely to ourselves for a little while.

Blackpool Sea Life Centre is a really good sized aquarium with a fantastic collection of weird and wonderful creatures. It’s slap bang in the middle of Blackpool prom and the perfect place to take the family if it’s raining, or too sunny, or if you just want to spend a couple of hours feeling chilled out watching the creatures.

If you time your visit carefully you might catch them feeding the sharks. Or you could go backstage to find out more, or maybe catch a special talk. My tip is to go as soon as it opens when it’s quiet and it feels like it’s just you and the fish. 

I wonder which Sea Life Centre we’ll visit next?

Blackpool Sea Life Centre

For more information about Blackpool Sea Life Centre visit their website.

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.

What’s on our Summer Bucket List for 2017?

I was speaking to a teacher this morning who excitedly told me there were “seven more sleeps” until the school holidays begin, this is a number which fills me with terror and excitement in equal measure. It may seem like a long time to fill with activities, but I think those six weeks will go in the blink of an eye. I asked him last night what he wanted to do over the holidays and together we came up with a summer bucket list of sorts.

We have some sketchy plans for the six weeks our six year old son will be off school and out of routine. I want him to relax, have fun and enjoy being six. We also want to really work hard on getting him ready for the big leap into Year 2, so lots of reading, some work books and lots of counting in twos, fives and tens. 

During the school holidays we are going on holiday in North Devon (right on the Cornish border) and there’s lots to do there. We will be going to the Just So Festival in August and Ben and I will be leaving Daddy and the dog at home and going to Ribby Hall for five days. In between we have trips out and fun things planned, plus plenty of rest days at home so we can chill out and get bored.

What’s on our Summer Bucket List for 2017?

⇒ Build sandcastles on the beach in Devon
⇒ Sleep lots (Ben’s suggestion)
⇒ Visit Ben’s cousins in Devon
⇒ Go to the playground in the park
⇒ Visit Westward Ho! and see if the shipwrecks are still visible
⇒ Go crabbing and have fish and chips in Appledore
⇒ Visit the Sealife Centre at Weymouth
⇒ Have lunch at the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster
⇒ Go on some treasure hunts using Treasure Trails maps
⇒ Visit the castle fort in the park in Bideford
⇒ Go fossil hunting in Lyme Regis
⇒ Count the stars at night, when camping at The Just So Festival
⇒ Go for a dip in the Bude Pool
⇒ Sing around the Just So Campfire
⇒ Visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester
⇒ Feed the animals at Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall 
⇒ Bake and decorate cakes for our nice neighbours
⇒ Build a bug hotel for our garden
⇒ Have a Cornish pasty picnic on the beach
⇒ Join the Tribal Tournament at The Just So Festival (we are buzzing!)

What's on our Summer Bucket List for 2017?

Check back at the end of the summer to see how we got on!

What’s on your summer bucket list?