Category Archives: Days Out

Preview: Halloween with The Witches at Tatton Park

This October half term, get into the Halloween spirit with a week of witchy fun and mischief – part of Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures. Meet The Witches at Tatton Park, part of a year-long programme of events celebrating 100 years since the author’s birth.  

From Saturday 22 to Sunday 30 October, The Old Hall – the park’s oldest building – will be transformed into Hotel Magnificent (the scene of most of the action in Roald Dahl’s famous book) where visitors are invited to a Spooktacular Halloween Party and are invited to dress up, or not if you don’t want to.

The Witches at Tatton Park

This Witch Spotting Checklist will help you spot The Witches at Tatton Park….

  • They always wear gloves

o    Witches don’t have normal fingernails, they have thin claws, like cats – which is why they wear gloves ALL THE TIME, even indoors.

  • They are bald as a boiled egg

o    But many choose to wear very realistic wigs –don’t be fooled!

  • They have large nose holes

o    Real witches have an amazing sense of smell due to their very large nose holes – they can smell a child from across the street. And the cleaner the child, the easier they are to smell.

  • Their eyes change colour

o    If you look carefully at a real witch’s eye, you will notice the pupil changes colour – it will send shivers down your spine.

  • They have no toes

o    Real witches have feet with square ends – but they try to hide this by squeezing their feet into pretty shoes. Watch out for them limping!

  • They have blue spit

o    Real witches have spit so blue they can even use it to write with it.

Whilst you’re at Tatton Park,  head to The Farm and collect your conker from the Witches’ Tree. The whole family can join in a creepy and chilling conker challenge.  To top off the fun at the Farm there’s gazillions of fun to be had taking part in the Fantastic Mr Fox Farm trail.

Tatton Park is is bringing Roald Dahl’s imagination to life, with a host of children’s trails and events for all the family. Join Danny the Champion of the World in the gardens, Fantastic Mr Fox at the farm and Matilda in the mansion and you’ve got to be careful of The Enormous Crocodile out in the parkland!

The Witches at Tatton Park

This October half term is the perfect time for an autumnal visit to Tatton Park to catch the Roald Dahl themed activities and exhibitions. What better way of celebrating Halloween but by visiting The Witches at Tatton Park!

Get a Totally Tatton Twit Ticket and enjoy discounted entry to 3 of the Roald Dahl attractions. Family £27.50, Adult £11, Child £5.50. Car entry £6

For more information visit www.tattonpark.org.uk/Halloween

For more information about Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures and The Witches at Tatton Park visit www.tattonpark.org.uk/RoaldDahl

Days Out: Visiting The Blackpool Tower

As a child I spent a lot of time in Blackpool. Living in Manchester it was our nearest bit of seaside and we had family there, so it was a regular haunt. We thought Blackpool was probably the most amazing place on earth. We never really did the Pleasure Beach, but Blackpool Tower, with its beautiful ballroom, circus and million mile views was somewhere we seemed to visit quite a lot.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend we took the small boy to Blackpool. Our first stop was SEA LIFE Blackpool, which was brilliant. After we’d left SEA LIFE he was keen to hit the beach, but I wanted us to have a quick trip up the Blackpool Tower  before we all got covered in sand. 

Blackpool Tower

Although the Blackpool Tower is home to several famous attractions including the Ballroom, the tower circus, the tower dungeon and Jungle Jim’s, what we really wanted to see and do was the tower itself. 

As Merlin Card holders we showed our cards and got into the lift up to the Blackpool Tower Eye. This is a fairly recent addition to the tower. The first stop was the obligatory before attraction photograph. I always say yes to having these taken out of politeness, but we never buy them and they always look awful and/or really unnatural. The people in front of us declined, so we decided to as well and we were just waved through.

We joined a short queue for the 4D cinema experience. There are no seats in this cinema, so be prepared to stand for the short showing. The short film shows you the history of the tower and is a whistle-stop tour/flight around Blackpool complete with wind through your hair and foamy bubbles being blown at you. I found it quite exciting, the small boy wasn’t quite as keen. I think he was a bit nervous about going up the tower.

Blackpool Tower

Nervous faces…

Once you’ve watched the film you join the queue for the lifts up the tower. We had already decided to stay on the glass SkyWalk platform rather than climbing the stairs to the top. Both of my boys are a bit windy about heights and we thought we could go back another day and push it a little bit further with them.

They were very brave and both eventually managed to step out onto the 5cm thick glass. To be fair, the tower is 380ft tall and it is very strange standing on glass and being able to see all the way down.

Blackpool Tower

Blackpool Tower

I wonder how they clean the windows

It was a gloriously sunny day, the sky was a beautiful blue and you could see for miles and miles. On a clear day you can apparently see the Lake District, Liverpool and across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man.

Blackpool Tower

We spent quite a bit of time walking around on the SkyWalk platform, admiring Blackpool and beyond from all angles. We talked about going even higher up the tower, but we decided to leave that for another, slightly braver day.

I would have liked to have spent more time exploring the attractions at the tower, but the boys were very keen to get on the beach, but we will be back another day soon for a proper look around. 

For more information visit the Blackpool Tower website.

Just So Festival 2016 – A Magical Family Festival

The Just So Festival has a very special place in our hearts. This year was our third year, but our first year of camping. We’ve never camped before as a family, so we knew we were in for an adventure. Mix that with the magic of Just So and we managed to make a million memories and several hundred smiles, which was just what the doctor ordered.

We arrived on site on Friday afternoon, the festival was just beginning and as we pitched our tent in the Accessible Camping area, the heavens opened and we got our first soaking of the weekend. The folk at Just So aren’t easily put off having a good time, so I was sure rain would not stop play, and it didn’t.

Just So Festival 2016

There is so much to do at Just So. There are fixed areas like the Spellbound Forest (a forest with a campfire, a small hidden theatre and lots of activities and crafts happening all around); The High Seas with it’s travelling barn of merriment, huge pirate ship and sandpit, lantern making and more. As well as areas like the Village Green, Peekaboo (a tent village for babies and little ones), The Social, and brand new for this year, Tales of Animalia – a theatre hidden in the woods. As well as the Jitterbug Tent, Head Over Heels, Footlights and The Observatory.

Just So Festival 2016

Before we arrived we were sent a programme of events and I dutifully highlighted all the things I fancied, knowing that I would probably largely ignore my plans and just go with the flow, which is exactly how things should be. 

We explored the site, grabbed a few things to munch on for our tea, waved goodbye to daddy (he had to go home but promised to be back the next day) and we headed into the Spellbound Forest to listen to the Just So legend which is Ian Douglas and then take part in some singing around the campfire with Ian Mackintosh. The Campfire Song sessions soon became a firm favourite of ours, so we took part with gusto all three nights.

Just So Festival 2016

Throughout the weekend the early evening around the campfire sessions also included the exuberant David Gibb, Geoff Bird and terrifying and amazing (in equal measure) scientific experiments from the fantastic Dieter Wadeson.

We woke up on Saturday to a smattering of sunshine. Daddy returned and we headed off to explore. We headed straight for The High Seas to watch a performance of the laugh out loud “Shark Legs” and then for a quick play in the pirate sand pit. We walked through Sailcloth City – an avenue of sailcloth, with sailcloth dens and passageways to explore, and went to look at the lake. It was raining fairly hard by this point, so we watched the rowing boats on the lake for a short while and headed off to find some shelter.

Just So Festival 2016

One of the things I was most looking forward to was Les Enfants Terribles – The Fantastical Flying Exploratory Laboratory. Sadly we missed the first few minutes, struggled to get a decent spot to watch it and the sound wasn’t that great, so we did struggle a bit to keep up. The small boy climbed on my knee and we huddled together in the drizzle and watched the show. The performers bravely continued through the showers and we giggled at the madcap antics of Les Enfants. 

After the performance we headed back to the relative shelter of the Spellbound Forest. We watched as willow was woven into beautiful creations and nearby children were toasting marshmallows on the fire.

Just So Festival 2016

Out of the corner of my eye I spied a creature with terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws. Oh help! Oh no! It’s a Gruffalo. A very friendly Gruffalo who was very happy to meet all the children. He is a Just So favourite and it wouldn’t be the same without meeting him in the deep dark woods.

Just So Festival 2016

I managed to persuade the small boy to visit the Theatre for One in the Spellbound Forest. In the middle of the wood, under a canopy were six miniature theatre shows, each for one or two viewers. He settled down and watched a short puppet show about a mouse in a house and then watched an artist who painted his portrait, this is something which he loved. We are only sad that we didn’t managed to see all of the different performances over the weekend, but they were incredibly popular.

I was very keen to make a clay face, throughout the forest the trees are adorned with clay faces people have made. I watched the introduction by Barefoot Ceramics, then I look my lump of clay and made a lion head (with some additional help from the small boy). I had lots of messy fun with this and it’s something I’d like to do at home on one of our trees.

Just So Festival 2016

Another on my must see list were the Baghdaddies. I’ve seen them play live before and I adore them. They toured the festival playing their vibrant, upbeat, infection music, drawing everyone in like musical Pied Pipers. I really do suggest that as soon as you’ve finished reading this you go check them out on YouTube.

Just So Festival 2016

A wander through the woods to the Tales of Animalia area found us watching a very popular performance of Reynard the Fox. The boy was enchanted by it and was very excited to meet the performers afterwards. They were excellent, really chatty with the children and very happy to take photos. Later on that weekend we spotted Cyclops and his naughty flock of sheep making mischief around the festival site. It’s the never quite knowing what weirdness and wonder might be round each corner which makes Just So so special.

Just So Festival 2016

The food and drink at the festival was of an excellent standard. We ate incredibly well and it wasn’t outrageously expensive either. My festival favourites were the steaming cups of amazing hot chocolate (to keep me warm) and the corn on the cob. Things so simple but utterly delicious. We did spend a lot of time carefully choosing what we would eat and then each of us having envy over what the other had. There was lots of different types of food to choose from and lots and lots of choice for veggies and vegans which pleased me greatly. It was good to have a choice and not just an option.

Just So Festival 2016

It rained a lot over the weekend. It could have made us all miserable but in many ways we hardly noticed it. The muddy paths were managed so they didn’t become dangerous. I didn’t slip once. The festival toilets were quite nice (compared to the horror of festival toilets I remember from the 90’s).  Just So was relatively small and friendly with a really lovely chilled and happy atmosphere. I think I would live there if I could.

Just So Festival 2016

We had a really magical time at Just So. We’ve had a horrible few months and spending off the grid time together, doing and seeing weird and wondrous things has done us a lot of good. It’s helped build confidence, expand horizons, it’s made us laugh and (me) cry a little, but in a good way. It was without a shadow of a doubt the highlight of our summer, perhaps even the highlight of the year. 

If you can only go to the Just So Festival for the day, do it. But if you can go for the weekend, then you really should. It’s magical. 

Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2017 (18 – 20 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 26 August at www.justsofestival.org.uk at special early bird prices of £120 (adults), £45 (child) for weekend camping, £70 (adult), £25 (child) for 2 day non-camping, £40 (adult), £15 (child) for day tickets. Under 3s free.  

Review: Our visit to SEA LIFE Blackpool

Over the Bank Holiday weekend we decided to have a trip to SEA LIFE Blackpool. The sun was shining, we fancied some sea air and it’s only an hour away; so off we went. The boy was really excited, he loves SEA LIFE Manchester and we’d heard that SEA LIFE Blackpool was well worth visiting, especially if you’re gripped by Finding Dory fever! 

SEA LIFE Blackpool

When we got there we were offered the chance to go on a behind the scenes tour, it was an extra £3 each but I was really interested in “going backstage” so we booked our places (more of which later).

We were given a map, an activity trail sheet and pencil and a pair of rather fetching paper goggles to wear.

SEA LIFE Blackpool

SEA LIFE Blackpool is divided into lots of different zones, with different kinds of sea life in each area. We were most excited about the stingrays and the seahorses, but we knew there were lots of other things to explore. The zones at SEA LIFE Blackpool include the Rockpool (you can touch some of the creatures here), Atlantic Depths which has sea life including anemones, starfish, crabs, place, lobster and octopus. 

SEA LIFE Blackpool

I was very taken by the various different kinds of anemones, they were all so colourful, beautiful and delicate looking. I could happily spend hours looking at them all. 

Our next stop was the Quayside zone which was home to stingrays, rays, pollock, brill and dogfish. Stingrays are our favourite, so we spent quite a while watching them fly through the tank in the Stingray Adventure zone, it’s a mesmerising sight.

SEA LIFE Blackpool

Our next stop was a visit to our other favourites in the Kingdom of the Seahorse, a zone which is home to lion fish, unicorn fish, clown fish, regal tangs and of course, lots of seahorses (fun fact: my first pet was a pair of seahorses, one of which was called Ankle). Did you know that seahorses prefer to swim in pairs with their tails linked together? 

Moving on to the next zone – the Submarine Explorer to see creatures who usually live in the darker depths of the sea including jellyfish, puffa fish, eels and tangs. We loved the jellyfish. I’ve never really looked at them very closely before, but they had different coloured lights shining in the tanks so you could pick up the detail. They look like beautiful atomic clouds. 

SEA LIFE Blackpool

We passed through the Rainforest Adventure zone quite quickly, it was a busy area with people looking at the turtles, chameleons and frogs and we were starting to worry about missing our slot for the Behind the Scenes Tour. 

The next stop was the Shark Mission and Ocean Tunnel. Every SEA LIFE Centre has a tunnel to walk through and this one was full of sharks including black tip sharks, white tip sharks, bowmouth guitar sharks, shovel nose sharks, nurse sharks, stingrays and lots of other fish. We were lucky enough to have a shark come and have a rest next to us as we looked through the tunnel, The small boy was transfixed!

SEA LIFE Blackpool

The final zone is Jurassic Seas which has ancient creatures such as the nautilus and more beautiful anemones, we would like to have spent more time exploring this zone, but we were almost late for our tour.

We met Robbie who gave us the behind the scenes tour. We visited the breeding area, full of baby fish who are still too tiny to be out fending for themselves in the main tanks. We met some fish which had been donated to the centre because they’d grown too big and some jellyfish (which don’t have brains).

Robbie then showed us some “moults” which are the discarded shells of creatures who shed them as they grow, such as lobsters and crabs. He also showed us some sharks teeth. Sharks can grow new teeth within a day of losing one. 

SEA LIFE Blackpool

We met lots of creatures who were in quarantine, such as a very pretty blue spotted ribbon tail ray who had been donated to the centre. Apparently lots of people get rays for their aquariums at home, but they often sting their owners who then get rid of them, not always responsibly.

One of the most interesting creatures is the peacock mantis shrimp which has beautiful peacock colouring, but has to live in a special acrylic tank because he is so strong he can punch through glass and escape!

SEA LIFE Blackpool

I found the behind the scenes tour really fascinating and well worth the £3 extra, it’s really worth doing if you’re interested in the inner workings of SEA LIFE Blackpool and how they manage the environment in the tanks, as well as the quarantine and breeding programmes. 

Our visit to SEA LIFE Blackpool was incredibly interesting and we really enjoyed exploring the different zones. I am only sorry that we didn’t have longer to explore everywhere more thoroughly, but that is our fault, we should have booked a later tour. We will have to go back again and do it more thoroughly another time.

SEA LIFE Blackpool was fascinating and full of weird, wonderful and often beautiful creatures. I was enchanted by the jellyfish, anemones and all the colourful fish. It’s worth a visit to see those alone. 

For more information about visiting SEA LIFE Blackpool visit their website.

We are SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Ambassadors and we used our Merlin passes to gain entry.

Fishy Fact Finding at SEA LIFE Manchester

Recently one thousand families were put to the test at SEA LIFE Manchester to see how many of 10 fishy facts they were given during their visit they could remember.

Apparently the average score was only 5 correct questions out of 10,  with mums and dads out-performing their children by a narrow margin of just 2%.

During the summer school holidays, SEA LIFE are hosting Finding Dory trails and events at all their UK SEA LIFE centres. They thought it would be interesting to see how their visitors compare to Dory when it comes to remembering things.

Apparently the results were quite surprising, and seem to suggest that we can all can be a little forgetful from time to time.

Some of the simple facts and statistics that SEA LIFE Manchester visitors struggled to remember were:

  • There are seven species of sea turtle in the world’s oceans                        
  • The Emperor Penguin is the largest penguin
  • The most common octopus in UK waters is the Lesser Octopus

sea life

What is interesting about the survey is that the facts people remembered best were the ones about the harm humans are doing to our oceans and their inhabitants. Most could remember that an estimated 70 million sharks are being killed every year for their fins, or as bycatch for example.

It is encouraging that important conservation messages like this are filtering through and helping to raise awareness and support for marine conservation, something that popular films like Finding Dory will also help to do.

SEA LIFE’s themed event is running at the 12 UK centres until September 11th, and includes a trail inspired by Hank the cantankerous octopus – one of Finding Dory’s central characters.

For further information or to pre-book tickets online before your visit please go to www.visitsealife.com/manchester. Reduced prices are available for tickets booked in advance.

For regular news, updates and competitions, SEA LIFE Manchester is also on Facebook www.facebook.com/SEALIFEManchester and Twitter www.twitter.com/sealifemanc.

Preview: Just So Festival 2016

One of our annual summer highlights is the Just So Festival which is held for three days every August at Rode Hall in Cheshire. The festival began in 2010 and this will be our third year there. It’s a weird and wonderful melting pot of music, storytelling, theatre, magic and adventure. We love it and this year will be our first full weekend there.

The Just So Festival 2016 takes place on 19th, 20th and 21st August. You can dip your toe in and go for a day, or fully immerse yourself in the festival experience and get a weekend ticket, or even book a camping ticket so you can stay over and enjoy the night time adventures including the lantern parade, pillow fights, the night sky spy and a magical midnight feast. 

Just So Festival 2016

The Just So Festival from Wild Rumpus is a three day treat for all the family, guaranteed to fuel your imaginations, it is packed full of wonderful sights and sounds, things to see and do and it’s a truly memorable event for all the right reasons.

This year there’s the outdoor cinema showing Labyrinth, Swallows and Amazons and The Wizard of Oz as well as circus workshops, Suitcase Stories, Travelling Treasury and other theatrical treats, such as the latest show from festival legends Les Enfants Terribles and stories around the campfire from the wonderful Ian Douglas.

Just So Festival 2016

This year we’ll be camping and I’m very excited about that. I’m already picking out some of the things we simply cannot miss at the Just So Festival 2016. Here are my top picks –

  • Sky Spy – join the Whizz Pop Bang magazine team for the ultimate bedtime wind down. Spotting patterns and shapes in the stars and trying to get a sense of just how vast our universe is. 
  • Ian Douglas – Campfire Stories
  • Les Enfants Terribles and their new outdoor show The Fantastical Flying Exploratory Laboratory
  • Samba Drumming Workshop
  • The Gruffalo visiting the Spellbound Forest
  • Midnight Feast on the Village Green with stories from Ian Douglas, songs from David and midnight shenanigans
  • Making Clay Faces and Bushcraft Wands
  • The Baghdaddies – one of the most fun bands I’ve ever seen live!
  • Circus Skills Workshop
  • Relaxation workshops including Indian Head Massage, Tai chi, Family Yoga and Laughter Yoga. 

There are hundreds more things to do at the festival, with something going on for all ages, from tiny babies to adults. 

One of the fun (but non-compulsory) elements of the festival is the famous Tribal Tournament. You and your family can dress up as a fish, frog, fox, owl, lion or stag and take part in the Tribal Parade on Sunday night to see which tribe comes out on top! Some of the costumes are amazing and it’s something we’ll need to put a bit of thought into as the festival approaches!

Just So Festival 2016

The Just So Festival is a wonderful, creative, imaginative, fantastic weekend for the whole family. It’s a lovely opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, meet some mermaids, dress up, be silly, be creative, learn, enjoy, explore and just be together as a family. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

The Just So Festival 2016 will take place at Rode Hall, Congleton, Cheshire on 19/20/21st August. For more information, or to book tickets for the Just So Festival 2016 visit their website.

Review: Geronimo Festival, Tatton Park 2016

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, we went to our first Geronimo Festival at Tatton Park. The sun was shining, we’d heeded the warnings about queuing traffic and left a bit later than we’d planned. The weather was glorious and we knew we’d be spending the whole day there, so it didn’t much matter to us if we were an hour or so late.

We arrived to a packed site, the parking was a fair bit away and with my mobility problems, I was worried about how tough the day would be and I was glad I’d asked my OH to bring my chair. There were no queues to get in, I guess leaving it a bit later meant that most of the crowds had already been through.

Geronimo Festival

There were maps available just through the entrance and the site seemed fairly logically laid out. Our first mistake was only bringing snacks and not a full picnic, so I settled down near the Geronostage Zone to watch Mr Bloom with the boy whilst my OH joined a queue, a queue which he stood in for an hour and 45 minutes, returning with some cold and odd tasting corn on the cob and some cold but tasty lentil curry and rice. We were not impressed and in hindsight we should have just had burger and chips from the fast moving queue or taken a proper picnic.

Geronimo Festival

The boy and I sat in front of the Geronostage Zone stage and watched a variety of acts, the sound quality wasn’t great and the boy got a bit bored and ended up just running around, even Swashbuckle couldn’t hold his attention. It was clear that we needed to move on to something which floated his boat.

Geronimo Festival

I was keen to go at watch the Imaginary Menagerie show from Les Enfants Terrible’s, a show which I’ve seen before but really enjoyed. We settled down to watch it and he was utterly gripped and engaged by the whole thing from start to finish. Afterwards we explored the site, dipped into the craft tent, popped to the fairly nice festival toilets, looked at the stalls – the boy got a dinosaur tail, and saw a whale and a big dinosaur. We grabbed a coffee to power us through and ambled over to the Arena Zone.

For us the Arena Zone was the best thing about the Geronimo Festival, we watched the Motorcycle Imps display team roar their bikes over ramps and through fire, the boy was rapt. After the motorcycle display we wandered around meeting a huge puppet giraffe, a disco nun on a motorised piano, some horsey ladies, a scary dinosaur and much more, these were probably my favourite parts of the Geronimo Festival, accidentally stumbling upon some incredibly bonkers sight.

Geronimo Festival

Towards the end of the afternoon we were keen to take part in the Jedi Training, we arrived early and bagged decent seats in the tent, but there weren’t enough lightsabres to go around and disappointed, the small and tired boy lay down on the floor and didn’t want to join in, so we left the tent which was probably for the best as we ended up watching a fantastic display in the Arena Zone – the Horsemen of the Knight. Ben has talked of virtually nothing else since, watching the galloping horses in the joust and the Knights in combat, it was probably the highlight of our day.

Geronimo Festival

Geronimo Festival

Once the Knights had finished we stayed put to watch the Sheepdog Show. I’m rather fond of this and I’m sure I’ve seen this shepherdess work at the Cumberland Show, herding geese and ducks and showing off the skill of the dogs and their handler. Once that was finished everyone seemed to be packing up and going home, so we did the same.

Geronimo Festival

The weather had been very kind and had given us a great day, but Tatton Park was heaving and it did feel a bit like there were just too many people there. The day had been a sell out so it was busy and there were big queues. After queueing for so long for food we were all queued out, so refused to even consider queueing for anything for more than a couple of minutes.

If I were to go again I would plan my day better, I’d take a proper picnic, I’d focus less on the Geronostage and spend more time around the Arena Zone, I’d also explore more of the things happening in the fringe. There were aspects of the festival I really loved and things I was indifferent to, but I think all festivals are like that. There are so many things to do, see and join in with that there will always be things you like and don’t like, and so much you just don’t get time to see or do.

There was so much for the kids to do and Ben did enjoy himself, he ran around a lot and discovered and learned new things, his horizons were expanded and his imagination fuelled, which is one of the biggest reasons for taking him to events like this. The Geronimo Festival is a unique family experience and if you can experience it then I think it’s worth a visit.

Geronimo Festival

You can find out more about the Geronimo Festival on their website.

We were invited guests of the Geronimo Festival and were not asked to pay for our tickets, all images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: Join the Stick Man Activity Trail

This summer, in 23 forests across England The Forestry Commission have set up Stick Man Activity Trails  for families to explore. The trails are based on Julia Donaldson’s beloved character and the Forestry Commission is aiming to help get kids outdoors and get moving this summer.

The Stick Man Trails have been on throughout the year at various locations up and down England, and this summer they’re encouraging little ones to get active by joining in with some fun activities, games and races. In some of the selected forests there will be special days where visitors can join in the fun and meet Stick Man himself, and some sites will have self-led arenas where visitors can use the sports equipment to host their own games.

Stick Man Activity Trail

Everyone who signs up on the website will be able to download a free Stick Man Games kit including fantastic games and activities that kids can do with sticks and includes top tips to help them become a sporting champion as well as cut-out medals and certificates. You can also invite all of family and friends along to join the party with the downloadable Stick Man themed invitations!

Join Stick Man on his quest to get back to his family tree and be reunited with his ‘Stick Lady Love’ and ‘Stick children three.’ The Stick Man activity trails lead children and families through the forests using activity points which allow them to live the epic adventures of Stick Man, whilst also learning about the importance of forests for people and wildlife alike.

Stick Man Activity Trail

We’ll be heading off to explore the Stick Man Activity Trail in Grizedale Forest in the Lake District this June. At Grizedale we’ll be following the trail, exploring the forest and taking part in the Stick man games and hoping to reunite Sitck Man with his stick family. Grizedale Forest will be hosting an arena with self-led games from 8-30 June 2016.

For more more information about the Stick Man Games, activity packs and trails are available from www.forestry.gov.uk/stickman.

Family friendly fun at The Printworks Manchester

Filling the days during half term and the long summer holidays with interesting a varied things to do can be a bit of a hassle. It’s nice to punctuate our afternoons at home and visits to the local park with some proper trips out. The Printworks in Manchester invited the small boy and a friend to spend some time there this half term, taking in a movie, going for lunch together and generally hanging out and having fun.

We were at the 10.10am showing of Thomas & Friends: The Great Race and the cinema was largely empty, we sat in the premier seats which were red leather and very comfortable. Lots of leg room and space to stretch out if you need to. Off-peak tickets are a reasonable £4.50 for adults and £4 for children, so it’s not quite as bank breaking as my local cinema. 

The Printworks

We’d booked in at the Odeon cinema to see Thomas & Friends: The Great Race. The boys are both big Thomas fans and we (Tobi’s mum Sarah and I) were a little worried that it might be a bit young for them, but this was perfectly pitched. Both boys sat beautifully throughout the film, quietly munching through little bags of popcorn and this gentle story of those really useful engines kept them very happily entertained. They both gave Thomas & Friends: The Great Race the double thumbs up at the end!

Thomas & Friends: The Great Race is a must if you’re a little Thomas fan, full of excitement and adventure, the film tells the story of the preparations on Sodor for The Great Race and how our plucky hero Thomas saves the day in more ways than one. The film introduced a whole raft of international engines including a charming Indian tank engine called Ashima. There might have been something in my eye at the end. I’m such a sap!

The Printworks

After the film we spotted that The Printworks had set up a number of giant games to play with, so with a bit of time to kill before we went for lunch, we got stuck in. Ben was immediately drawn to the giant Lego bricks and eventually had to be forcibly parted from them. Tobi went in and played Connect 4, Snakes & Ladders and finished off with an epic game of Draughts. The giant games were brilliant, both boys loved them and it burnt off a little bit of energy before lunch.

There are so many family friendly restaurants to choose from at The Printworks, but we opted to try the all you can eat world buffet at Peachy Keens. The Monday-Friday lunchtime price is very reasonable at £8.99 per adult and £4.49 per child plus drinks. 

Peachy Keens is up some stairs near the Hard Rock end of the building, climb the stairs or go up in the lift and you find a very unpromising looking grey door at the top, I did have to look around to check I was going the right way. Beyond the door opens up into an all you can eat paradise with food from all over the world to choose from. 

The Printworks

We were shown to a table and ordered drinks and we set the boys up with their starter snacks. There were lots of colourful and fresh salad dishes to choose from as well as spring rolls, samosas, chicken, ribs and other nibbles. We loaded up our plates and got stuck in. The food was fresh and hot, and lots to choose from, so however fussy you or your kids are they’re bound to find something tasty for them.

Moving onto the main course you could choose from Chinese, Indian, Thai, English food, Italian pasta and pizza. There are several stations set up where you can have a meal prepared to your specifications made in front of you, and there are row after row of ready prepared meals to help yourself to as well as a fresh bread station (try the garlic naan, you won’t be sorry).

I headed to the pasta station with Ben and watched as the chef made him a fresh dish of penne with pesto and cream for his lunch. I fancied something a little spicier so I opted for noodles with a vegetable Thai green curry which was delicious. It had a kick but it didn’t blow my head off, something I appreciated and I’d definitely have this again. I liked the fact that all the food was labelled so you knew what you were having and all the veggie options were clearly labelled too.

The Printworks

Tobi went for pizza with a side of veg and Sarah had a selection of the Chinese dishes available on the day. We all enjoyed our lunch mains and it was time for pudding. Being lactose intolerant pudding is an increasingly depressing thing for me, but there were a few options open to me so I managed a sweet nibble and that was enough.

The boys went for ice cream with sauce and sweets with marshmallows smothered in chocolate from the chocolate fountain. Sarah chose a small selection of the little puds and declared the passion-fruit mousse delicious.  

The Printworks

I liked Peachy Keens, the staff were helpful and very chatty with the boys, it was as clean as a whistle and I liked the really big range of foods available, even on a fairly quiet Tuesday lunchtime, though it had filled up by the time we came to leave. 

We’d all thoroughly enjoyed our day out at The Printworks. The cinema was a real treat and the boys were brilliant, they loved the games although that was a one off, and the all you can eat meal at Peachy Keens was a lot of fun and excellent family for money, especially on family days out. It’s definitely a day out we’ll be repeating again. Dinner and a movie, you can’t beat it!

We were treated to our day at The Printworks in return for this review. All images and opinions are our own.

My tips for surviving family festivals in the UK

If you’re off on a day out, or you’ve got tickets to a family festival or event, it makes sense to plan ahead and prepare yourself for all eventualities. In the UK “all eventualities” essentially means prepare yourself for the weather, all of the weather.

We live in Manchester, which is not known as the rainy city for nothing (though it doesn’t actually rain as much as you’d think). We try to get out and about as much as we can, which often means standing in a muddy field getting rained on, but still managing to squeeze some fun out of our precious family time together. Here are my tips for surviving and enjoying outdoor events in the UK.

Check the weather forecast. This will give you a vague idea of what the weather is likely to do on the day of the event or festival. Although if it says it’ll be sunny I’d still stick a brolly in the car just in case.

Pack a Picnic. Regardless of whether the event has food on offer or not, I always pack some emergency provisions. At the very least a couple of bottles of water and enough snacks to tide a hungry tum over until a pulled pork burger can be foraged from the nearest street food vendor.

Plan your day. Check out what’s on, what time it’s on and where it is. If there’s something you especially want to see or do, then it helps to know where on the festival site it’s happening and when. It’s often worth printing out a little map of the site and an events listing, or taking a screenshot on your phone to refer to if you need to.

Take something to sit on. Festivals, events and days out can be a loooong day and you can guarantee there won’t be enough seating for everyone. Take something to sit on. A picnic blanket with a waterproof backing is invaluable, but if you don’t want to carry that around, a bin bag for each family member to sit on works just as well and is much lighter and easier to carry. I have a bad back so can’t sit on the floor, so I take a little camping chair to sit on and my son often climbs on my knee for a cuddle. I wouldn’t be without my chair.

Wear suitable clothing. Rain or shine if you get a couple of thousand people in a field you will need to wear wellies or good stout walking boots. If driving rain is predicted and you’re still going to the event, then pack a mac and wear waterproof clothing. Be prepared to get wet and have dry clothes waiting in the car.

surviving family festivals

Take a change of clothes. If you’re going in your car it’s easy to pack a change of clothing and leave that and a cosy blanket in the car. My son always snuggles under a blanket on the way home and we wouldn’t be without it. The thought of being able to change at the car if you need to can get you through an afternoon of dampness.

If you can’t take a change of clothes (including dry socks and shoes) to change into for the drive home, then I’d recommend packing a pair of dry socks sealed in a plastic bag. Dry feet can make the difference between abject misery and a tolerable bus ride home.

Bring a brolly. We keep a big golfing umbrella in the car as well as a small one to slip into my bag. When we arrive at the festival we make the choice which, if any to bring with us. If it’s raining then the golfing umbrella, especially when teamed with my camping chair makes a nice little shelter from the rain, and when it’s very sunny the brolly offers a little shade.

Use sun cream. Even if it’s cloudy in the UK, you can catch the sun by standing in a field all day. Slap on the factor 30 and top up regularly. Wear a sun hat and keep hydrated.

Bring some baby wipes. As a parent I’m never more than 2 metres away from a pack of baby wipes, they are an everyday essential and invaluable at events and festivals. From cleaning sticky fingers before lunch, dealing with the worst of the mud, for toilet times and for making yourself presentable for the journey home. We don’t leave home without them.

Take cash money. Festivals and events can very easily be done on a budget, but once you’re in you’ll have to buy everything you need and it probably comes at a premium. We tend to pack a picnic and then buy some treats like ice cream when we’re there. Just don’t turn up thinking you can pay for everything with your card, cash is king and most events don’t have ATMs on site.

If you’re prepared for the changeable and sometimes really miserable UK weather, you’ve thought about food, transport and you’ve planned your day then hopefully your family day out will go off without a hitch. Maybe I’m a bit odd, but I’ve started to have low expectations of what an event or festival will be like before I get there, that way I’m rarely disappointed and often surprised and enchanted by what happens on the day.

I have a bit of a go with the flow attitude to life and almost everything I do, which does mean that you can sometimes find me dancing in the rain. You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you prepare to spend a day in that weather. Come rain or shine you will find us having fun in a field somewhere this summer and I hope you won’t let a little rain stop play either.

Do you have any top tips for surviving family festivals and events?

surviving family festivals