Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

AD/Press Trip. Last year we went to the first ever Timber Festival and it really wowed us. We were keen to return again and return we did. Timber Festival is held in the National Forest at Feanedock in the Midlands, it’s a beautiful place and a great spot for a festival.

The National Forest has been growing since the early 1990s, over the last 25 years or so millions of new trees have been planted. It makes sense then, with climate change and climate emergency being high on the global agenda, that Timber is a family festival with a distinct environmental bent.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

For me it was a chance to have three days of chilling out, having fun and getting back to nature. For my outdoorsy son, he was looking forward to running around with his friends, building dens and learning more about nature. As ever, before we arrived I went through the programme and circled all the things I wanted to see and do, but as usual I missed quite a lot of those things, went with the flow and still ended up having the best time ever.

If you’ve ever been to the Just So Festival, Timber is a bit like that, but with a lot more things for adults and older children to do. The layout of the festival is a little different to last year, something which I approve of. It’s a large site, which is great because you don’t feel like you’re with hoards of other people, there’s a real feeling of space.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

We arrived late on Friday afternoon and pitched our tent in the accessible camping section between our two friends, Jenny at The Brick Castle and Rachel from Marvellous Mrs P. Each of us has our own physical challenges, so the accessible camping area was great for us all; and our kids get on very well together so spent much of the weekend playing beautifully, which was really nice.

After a quick meal we ambled off to wristband exchange and had our first look at the site. There’s a beautiful viewing spot at the top of a slope (which all the kids loved rolling down) and we arrived just in time for the start of a glorious sunset. We had a look around, got our bearings and a drink, had a little dance to the Woodland DJ on The Eyre Stage, and watched the sun go down. We had a plan for the next day, and nothing was going to stop us.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

Except when we woke up, the glorious sunshine had turned to rain. It was pretty heavy rain too. We sat in the tent, drank coffee and surveyed our options. We waited until the rain abated, then scuttled down to Field Notes because I really wanted to see Phill Jupitus. I managed to find a spot inside the tent, so I was at least dry while the rain hammered down outside. Phill was fantastic, interviewed by Radio 4 stalwart, Geoff Bird, Phill talked us through his six favourite Wilderness Tracks and regaled us with some great stories about his life and career. An hour very well spent.

By the time Phill had left the stage, the rain had more or less dried up. I found the boys in Cardboardia and we headed over to the Shivelight area, where I had high hopes of finding some chill. Shivelight is where I found my people. It’s a quiet area, tucked away from the hubbub where you can indulge in some yoga, forest bathing, tai chi or all manner of chilled out things.

The tai chi tent was heaving, which was a bit of a shame. Instead I headed to the guided meditation tent with Rachel, and made myself extremely comfortable. I put the headphones on and while a mediation played, I drifted off to a faraway chilled out place in my head. Rachel, being the wonder that she is had booked us both in for a relaxing hand massage afterwards in the Weleda shed. It was a perfect hour and a great way to go into the afternoon.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

Saturday afternoon involved lots of exploring. My son REALLY WANTED to make something in Cardboardia, it was busy and we had to book in, but that was a huge highlight for him. Cardboadia is a new area and was a huge tent where you could go and make cool things out of cardboard for the Cardboardia Parade on the Sunday, more of which later.

After a late lunch, we headed to As The Crow Flies to listen to some Forest Folk Stories from Tom the Tale Teller. While we were under the forest canopy, we explored the area a bit. It’s a great spot for kids especially, what with the Giant Marble Run, Hammer & Chisel and the Shadow Lanterns. There was also a great programme of performers including the inimitable storyteller, Ian Douglas and Professor Pumpernickel, as well as the Ukulele Chorus and a great selection of Campfire Bands and Storytellers.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

As the day turned to evening we all settled around the campfire. At some point throughout the day I’d managed to eat something which disagreed with me, so I retired back to my tent for the evening and the rest of the gang partied into the night. I’m not really sure about what happened while I wasn’t there, I just know that my son came back full of happy and pretty filthy. Thank goodness for the excellent festival shower block nearby.

Sunday morning arrived and I realised the clock was ticking on our festival experience (seriously, these things always need an extra day or something), so we breakfasted and then scampered down to the festival site. We headed to the Elemental area and we were wowed by the Shimmer tree, a sound and light installation where cymbals are turned into speakers and as the wind blows through them, the tree makes a beautiful and haunting noise. I could have sat under there for hours, it was magical.

From there we explored the small but lovely Timber Maze. Ben enjoyed it so much that he wanted to do it again and again, so I left them to chase each other through the maze and found the Seams tent. The tent paid tribute to the coal seams which run underneath the Timber site. Inside you experience a multi-sensory journey inspired by the evocative names and diagrams of the geological seams beneath your feet. Through sound, light and smell you get a feel for underground life and emerge viewing the area in a new light.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

From there we went over to Halcyon Days, an area tailor-made for families. There were circus skills to be tried and enjoyed as well as Maypole dancing, archery; and a whole host of other things. The area we enjoyed the most was Beginners Luck, which was a selection of huge games, like Scrabble, Guess Who, Ludo and Tiddlywinks. It was great fun and we played in there for a good hour or so.

I can’t not mention the food at the festival. Though we were on a budget and catered for ourselves quite a lot, we allowed ourselves a couple of meals and some lovely ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort. They really do make the best ice cream in the world. My lunch on Sunday was a really very excellent vegetarian momo from the Tibetan Kitchen, something I would be very happy to eat over and over again.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

The range of food available was excellent, with really good vegan and vegetarian options. You could eat a different thing for every meal and never get bored. Plus Sunday was roasting and the beer tent on The Common was well stocked with ice cold cans of soft drinks which really hit the spot!

After lunch we wandered back over to the campfire for some more quality time with Ian Douglas and his stories, the boys descended on the nearby Hammer & Chisel and spent a happy hour hammering and sawing. We sat for a while, absolutely transfixed by If The trees Could Talk, a collection of fairy tales written by the LGBT+ community in South Derbyshire. It was incredibly moving and there were very few dry eyes around the campfire at the end. Beautiful stuff.

After our early afternoon chill out in the woods, we set off for the Cardboardia Parade. We didn’t really know what to expect from the parade, but the crowd was split into two rival factions, Miners and Trees. Everyone brought a cardboard weapon they’d made, and other cardboard things were handed out (it was much cooler than it sounds). Led by the brilliant Baghdaddies the parade marched through the site and up the hill where they was a bit of a mock skirmish. It was brilliant, my 8 year old loved it and was really sad when it was over. I think it was one of his highlights.

Family Festival Review: Timber Festival 2019

It was very very hot on the Sunday afternoon; so after the parade we retired to the shade for an ice cream and a little rest. We looked back on all the things we’d seen and done over the weekend; there was so much going on I feel like we missed most of it, but still packed in so much of the good stuff. The boy loved the As the Crow Flies area, Cardboardia and Halcyon Days. I was thrilled to see Phill Jupitus. I loved the music, the meditation, the whole chilled out vibe of the festival. Timber is just three beautiful, chilled out, educational, environmental days in the woods; and I can’t wait for next year!

Sign up to the eNews at www.timberfestival.org.uk to be the first to hear about dates and early bird release tickets for 2020.

We were invited guests of Timber Festival 2019. We were given tickets in exchange for a review, but we paid for everything else while we were there. All images and opinions are our own.

Today I learned a lesson about love…

I was at the gym this morning and something really big happened to me. It’s a bit of a story, a story about love, so pull up a chair and hug your brew.

Monday is the day I usually do two dance classes and a tai chi class. I’d dragged myself to the gym in pain, half way through my first class my back spasmed and my right knee gave out. Being the determined little bunny I am, I cracked on with the class. I might not have jumped, twisted and shimmied like I’d normally do, but I was determined to finish.

After my second dance class there’s a 15 minute pause before tai chi. I usually grab a mat, lie on the floor and stretch my back out for a bit. I did just that and whilst I was full of frustration and anger about hurting myself, despite wanting to pick myself up and go home, something made me stay for the tai chi.

The class began and after about 20 moves my knee made a massive clicking noise and the pain went. My back wasn’t feeling too bad either. I concentrated on the flowing movements and my breath, knowing that this 45 minute class is my one chance this week to empty my mind and quiet the shouting of my inner anxiety voice.

When I’m doing tai chi all I can really do is concentrate on the movements and breathe. About 25 minutes into the class my head emptied and a voice, maybe my inner voice kept telling me I was getting stronger and better, not for anyone, or because of anyone, but because I deserved it. I was doing it just for me, and that made me cry. Fat silent tears ran down my cheeks for several minutes while I held myself in that moment.

Only a very small group of very close people know I’m having a lot of treatment at the moment and going through some things. There have been some incredible people who have been with me throughout. I listed these fine people in my head and I began to cry again.

These people, these good friends who message me and check I’m ok are amazing. Call me soft if you want, but it occurred to me that this is what real love and friendship really is.

I thought about my son, when he was born and I held him, looked into his eyes and fell deeply in love with him. I thought then that I knew what pure love was, I was right, my son taught me a lesson about how to love other people, what unconditional love felt like to give, but I’ve never really been sure that I have ever received that.

My good friends are the ones who cheer for me, lift me, hold my hand, listen to my woes and tell me to get out there and kick some ass. I realised that each of them love me and they love me unconditionally. There’s no expectation that their love and friendship comes at a price. I don’t need to be thinner for them, or fitter, or more well-read; or do the washing up straight after dinner or whatever. They love and care for me exactly as I am.

Sure, I know each one of them probably hopes and wishes that I will find a peace, live pain free, and that I get as fit as I’d like to be; but they don’t need that to be a part of our relationship. I am perfect as I am, to them at least. So I cried all the way home knowing and understanding that for the first time in my life I have recognised that I am loved, and what’s more, I am loved unconditionally.

Today has been a real day of days. I’ve acknowledged that all the hard work and pain I’m going through now is just for me and not to please or appease a single other soul, and I’ve realised that I am loved and cared for. These are huge things.

Knowing and understanding that I am loved is really grounding. These are solid foundations I can build on. Today really feels like a massive turning point in my journey back to wellness. I feel full of love and I’m ready to start building on that. Bring it on.

Today I learned a lesson about love...

What my son’s school report doesn’t tell me

I’ve just had a message from school to say that your school report will be coming home tomorrow. This is perhaps my least favourite day of your school year.

I see a child who has made incredible leaps since September. I see a boy who loves reading, and writes me notes about how much he loves me. My boy is someone who skips down the road shouting out his three times table. I see a boy who needs extra help, but tries so hard to help himself.

Your school report will tell me facts, facts that I’m not that interested in really. It will tell me your scores for tests which mean nothing to me, you or your future. It will tell me where you’re expected to be at this age and where you actually are. What it won’t tell me is how happy you are at school. It won’t tell me about the kind things you did to make the new boy feel welcome, or that time you reeled off a huge list of Viking facts the rest of your class, and perhaps even your teacher hadn’t learned about yet.

It won’t uplift and shine a light on the huge efforts you’ve made with your writing this year and how you’ve gone from hating everything about writing to scribbling notes on every available scrap of paper, and sometimes even my walls. Your report won’t tell me about how you’ve grown to love drawing and even got pretty good at it. It won’t tell me about how good you are at swimming and martial arts, or how you are learning to identify all the different trees we pass on our walks.

Your school report will tell me in bald terms how you match up against your peers and where you are lagging behind. There may be passing mention of some of what makes you my bold, brilliant, funny, kind and interested boy, but your school report doesn’t define you to me.

Your school report is largely a time consuming tick box exercise for your teacher. It needs to be done, but its contents are of little or no interest to me. To me you are an individual with a million strengths. You are a unique and wonderful personality. I have no idea where you will go in life, what you will be, even who you will be. All I care about is that you are happy and healthy, that you are kind and you are liked and that you try hard. Not everyone can be good at everything, we’ve got to try a lot of things to find our strengths and you have a great many of those my darling, and most of them won’t be listed in your school report.

I won’t show you the report, it’ll be read and then put in a box for a future us to read. Maybe in ten or twenty years you will find it and read it. I hope when you do you will remember the boy who tried hard above all else and a boy who was happy and loved.

I have spoken to your teachers and met with them regularly. They know and love you as the enthusiastic and interested individual you are. They do know your strengths and your capabilities, they do know the giant leaps you have made this year. But this will not come across in your school report. If you read it, do not take it to heart my dear boy; you are all I could have wished you to be and more. I’d change nothing about you, except your ability to tidy your own room.

Four pieces of paper do not define you to me; they do not define your future or anything of any serious consequence. Keep being brilliant and interested in the world; please keep learning and wanting to learn. Keep trying hard, because that is all I could ever ask of you, my brilliant darling boy.

What my son's school report doesn't tell me

FREE Printable: Dinosaur Reading Log

Help to motivate your little dinosaur fans to read with this handy reading log. Just colour in a cute little dinosaur for every book they read, or for every 20 minutes they read for and reward them with a little treat for completing the sheet!

If you’re the parent of a primary school aged child you will probably be tasked with listening to them read each night. We love listening to our son read and we love reading to him too. We regard it as a special quiet time where we sit together and get transported to another world.

It’s not all sitting on a magic carpet happily listening to a child read. Sometimes it’s a bit harder to get him to read, especially if he’s not interested in the books he’s been sent home with. In those situations we usually promise the reading of a favourite book once the less exciting school reading has been finished. That way we get the best of both worlds.

FREE Printable: Dinosaur Reading LogDownload your FREE Dinosaur Reading Log HERE!

Our son is very motivated by rewards, it doesn’t have to be big; a sticker or 20p for his jar is very well received. He loves dinosaurs so I devised this dinosaur reading log for him. If he reads for 20 minutes he gets to colour a cartoon dinosaur in. Or if he finishes a book within those 20 minutes he colours one in too.

Once he’s completed a sheet he gets a treat. Again it’s nothing huge; he might get to choose a Netflix film for us to watch with some popcorn, or he might get a trip out to his favourite local museum.

We’ve found that this dinosaur reading log really does help to motivate and encourage him to read. He’s obsessed with anything with dinosaur on, so this reading log is a real winner!

If you enjoyed this, you might also like this simple children’s book review template or this FREE Pokemon Reading Log.

FREE Printable: Dinosaur Reading Log

Win a pair of BBC Earth Blue Planet Plush Toys

AD/Gifted. In 2001 Sir David Attenborough brought us the Blue Planet series. 16 years later in 2017 Blue Planet II hit our screens and it has been credited with highlighting the serious problem of plastics in our oceans and the environmental impact we humans are causing. Blue Planet II was essential viewing for our family, it’s a series which young and old can learn so much from.

After watching and loving Blue Planet II, we made a point of visiting lots of aquariums to find out more about aquatic life. My 8 year old is really quite knowledgeable about marine life, and a lot of that is due to the work of Sir David Attenborough and his Blue Planet team.

BBC Earth Blue Planet Plush Toys

This month sees the launch of the BBC Earth Plush range from Posh Paws. This is a collection of Blue Planet II and Planet Earth II plush toys. They have been made with premium plush fabrics and they are spectacularly detailed. They’re really soft and huggable and we adore them!

The range of BBC Earth plushes includes:
  • 7″ Elephant, Panda, Tiger, Polar Bear, Penguin and Sea Turtle
  • 10″ Blue Planet II characters – Polar Bear, Sea Otter, Shark, Sea Turtle, Octopus and Penguin
  • 10″ Planet Earth II characters – Tiger, Elephant, Lion, Sloth, Panda and Grizzly Bear

BBC Earth Blue Planet Plush Toys

We were sent the Blue Planet II Sea Turtle, Octopus and Penguin to give a home to. The 10″ plush toys are £16.99 each and are so lovely.

First things first, lets take a look at the packaging. As you can imagine, plastic is kept to a minimum. The toys are mounted on a recyclable cardboard base. It’s impressive that the packaging is almost all recyclable and very in keeping with the ethos of the BBC Earth brand.

BBC Earth Blue Planet Plush Toys

There’s also a “Love me for life” tag, reminding people that these aren’t throwaway toys, they’re for life and if you no longer want them you can pass them on to someone who will love them again.

The plushes themselves are suitable from birth, very soft, squishy and cuddly. Each has the BBC Earth logo sewn onto them, a badge of authenticity if you will. Each creature has its own tag with interesting information about that animal. There’s also a QR code you can scan to be shown clips from Blue Planet II or Planet Earth II.

My favourite (because I do love an octopus) is the octopus. It’s got 8 legs which are slightly springy. They’ve been sewn in such a way that you can stretch them out and they spring back. The detail is terrific, the shell on the sea turtle, whilst soft, has a really detailed shell pattern, the eyes and facial features are really lifelike too. The penguin is adorable, he was my son’s favourite. He cuddled him all night and he likes everything about him.

BBC Earth Blue Planet Plush Toys

I think these BBC Earth plushes are fantastic. It’s really nice to see such good quality, true to life soft toys. They would make a great gift for an animal lover, young or old and scanning the QR code is such a good way of learning more about the cuddly creature in your care.

The BBC Earth Blue Planet Plush Toys are available from Waterstones and other retailers.

WIN A BBC Earth 10″ Octopus and Penguin

To be in with a chance to win a BBC Earth 10″ Octopus and Penguin, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a 10″ Octopus and Penguin from the BBC Earth range.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 11th August 2019.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be shared only with Posh Paws who will send the prize to the winner.
11. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
12. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Disclosure: We were sent these BBC Earth toys for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Win a copy of The Dinosaur Creativity Book

AD/Gifted. Dinosaurs have always been popular, especially in our house. My 8 year old spends a good chunk of his spare time reading and learning about dinosaurs. The Dinosaur Creativity Book is an activity book entirely devoted to all things dinosaur.

The Dinosaur Creativity Book

The Dinosaur Creativity Book by Penny Worms is suitable for ages 6+, costs £9.99 and is 80 pages of dino fun. Plus two pages of stickers. There is a brilliant glossy gatefold cover where you can create your own dinosaur sticker scenes with some of the 150 stickers included.

The book is  packed full of fun things to do; including a big dino quiz, how to draw dinosaurs, find the fossils, dino dot-to-dot and make your own mobile, plus lots, lots more!

There are so many things to do in this book, my 8 year old loved every page. He loves a good puzzle and a maze, he really liked the quiz and the pages of various dinosaur scales and pattern. There’s lots to go at here and it’s ideal for taking out and about and keeping them entertained during meals out of on holiday, as well as at home. The Dinosaur Creativity Book is a must for all dino fans!

There are several other books in the series from Carlton Books; The Space Creativity Book, The Dragons Creativity Book, The Unicorn Creativity Book and The Princess Creativity Book.

The Dinosaur Creativity Book is published by Carlton Books and costs £9.99. It is available online and from good bookshops.

The Dinosaur Creativity Book

WIN A COPY OF THE Dinosaur Creativity Book

To be in with a chance to win a copy of The Dinosaur Creativity Book, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a copy of The Dinosaur Creativity Book.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 21st July 2019.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be shared only with Carlton Books who will send the prize to the winner.
11. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
12. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of The Dinosaur Creativity Book for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Chronic Pain – How I’m helping myself

I have chronic pain. Every morning I wake up and I have to take painkillers so I can start my day. Alongside the pain I also am pretty numb from the waist down. I work hard to make it look to the outside world that I’m normal. Beyond the occasional hobble or fall I pass for average.

Back in 2013 I had two operations on my back. They were meant to stop me being in so much pain and to give me back some quality of life. They were reasonably successful; but every day I’m in pain and every day I wake up with numb feet and legs. I know that (hopefully far) in my future I’ll need to use a wheelchair, but until then I’m doing what I can’t keep myself on my feet.

Chronic Pain - How I'm helping myself

In September last year I turned 42. I took a look at my life and realised I spent too much time working and not enough time on me. After some serious consideration I joined a gym. This was a huge step for me. I’ve not really exercised since before my operations and although I walk a lot, doing proper exercise is a big deal.

I decided that I was probably horrifically unfit, so I decided to start with swimming and aqua classes. I’m glad I decided to take things easy at first, because starting to exercise again, even gently really hurt. After about four months I was starting to feel stronger and fitter. I’d lost a bit of weight and was ready to dip my toe into some of the classes.

I opted to start with Zumba Gold, this is a really low impact version of Zumba, perfect for people needing low impact exercise. After quite a few Zumba Gold classes, I added Tai Chi and a physio class called Body Maintenance into my weekly gym schedule. I hurt, but I feel great!

Since I’ve started exercising more I’ve lost a decent amount of weight. I’ve dropped a couple of dress sizes and I’m feeling stronger. I’d like to say my pain levels are less; but exercise will always hurt me and I need to manage that by being sensible, resting and taking my tablets like a good girl. I’d rather be active and working to be fitter and stronger than sat in my chair feeling gloomy about it all.

While I’m doing all I can to stay on my feet for longer; the reality is that like many people I will in the next decade or so need some aids around the house to help me. My husband does a lot of the bending and lifting around the house. My son helps me with anything I might struggle with, like emptying the washing machine. I already sit down to do most of my food prep and cooking in the kitchen, but grab rails in the bathroom will be useful soon and I’m pretty wobbly on the stairs, so we might need to install a stairlift, or at least give it some serious consideration in years to come.

I feel so much better for joining the gym and generally being more active. It’s good for mind, body and soul and I definitely need a bit of all three. A year ago I would have looked at myself and thought I was not the gym going type. Even when I joined I was fully prepared to hate it; but being there is one of the highlights of my week. I can really tell when I’ve not been for a few days, my mood drops and I feel physically sluggish. I think even though the exercise does make me hurt, generally my underlying pain levels are slightly less. It feels good to be more in control of it, rather than it being in control of me.

This is a collaborative post.

Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall, Salford

AD/Complimentary Tickets. Summer to me is picnics in the park, festivals and being outside for as much as I can, weather permitting. I spend so much of the year indoors hunched over a laptop, it seems silly not to spend what I can outside enjoying the fresh air and whatever sunshine Manchester sees fit to provide. With the sunshine starting to put in a more regular appearance; last week I hopped on the tram to Exchange Quay and indulged myself in a bit of open air theatre at Ordsall Hall. I went to see Macbeth performed by Three Inch Fools.

Macbeth was performed in the grounds of this beautiful (I mean really beautiful) Tudor manor house near Media City in Salford. I live in Didsbury, so it’s just a really easy tram ride away for me. There’s also lots of parking on site if you prefer.

Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall, Salford

Last year I watched Pride and Prejudice at Ordsall Hall, it was during the heatwave and it was a beautiful evening. This year the weather has been a bit more miss than hit, but on the longest day we were blessed with warm sunshine and a glorious sunset. I was glad I took my big coat though, when the sun tucked itself away behind a building, the temperature quickly dropped.

I arrived and as we had pre-booked a picnic, so I went straight to the cafe to pick up my bag of goodies. An adult picnic bag is £8.95 and contains a sandwich, crisps, a nice drink, a piece of fruit and a slice of homemade cake. You can upgrade your picnic bag with a glass of prosecco for an extra £1. The cafe is lovely and sells very good hot drinks, snacks and cake; so if you’ve missed out on the pre-booked picnic you can also stock up on goodies there.

Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall, Salford

As with most open air theatre, you’re best off taking your own camping chair or a good rug to sit on. Most people had their own chairs and I brought mine on the tram, no one stared. I met up with some of my friends who had bagged a spot right next to the stage and we all settled into our chairs, munching on our picnics.

Macbeth was brilliant. The five actors from Three Inch Fools whirled and swirled around the small stage, bringing the story to life and entertaining the crowd. It really was one of the loveliest open air theatre experiences I’ve had. I was glad I got there early and bagged a seat close to the stage; it really made me feel very close to the action.

The atmosphere at these events is great. It’s really chilled out, with the actors sometimes leaping into the audience and in one memorable scene, swigging pimms from the can of an audience member. There’s usually an interval too; a chance to pop to the loo and get a hot drink and a snack if you want; or just to explore Ordsall Hall a bit.

Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall, Salford

A visit to the open air theatre is a lovely thing to do with friends or family. It’s a great experience and a slightly more relaxed and casual way of going to the theatre. Ordsall Hall is a really stunning venue and really easy to access too.

Ordsall Hall have a great programme of open air theatre lined up for this summer –
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 21st July
  • Gangsta Granny, 31st July & 27th August
  • The Tempest, 3rd August
  • Much Ado About Nothing, 11th August
  • Wuthering Heights, 15th August

You can find out more about what’s on at Ordsall Hall this summer on their website.

Disclosure: We were given complimentary tickets and a picnic in exchange for this post. All images and opinions are our own.

Toy Review: Pop Pops Snotz Series 1 from Yulu

AD/Gifted. My son loves collectables. Anything he can collect and then swap with friends in the playground is an absolute dream for him. Over the years we’ve had all kinds of things, but his latest slimy obsession is Pop Pops Snotz.

Pop Pops Snotz are bubbles of green slime (in various shades) which you pop by squashing them with your fist. The bubble bursts and the green snot-like ooze comes out. In some of the snot bubbles you’ll find a small collectable figure, which you can trade with your friends.

Toy Review: Pop Pops Snotz Series 1 from Yulu

These new Pop Pops Snotz come in various different pack sizes –
  • 3 Pack Series 1 Starter Pack
  • 6 Pack Series 1 Starter Pack
  • 12 Pack Series 1 Deluxe Pack

Each pack contains a collectors leaflet and a varying number of collectable figures. There are 60 figures to collect in series 1, so you’ve got to pop a lot of snot bubbles to find all 60 of the collectable gross Snotz characters.

My son absolutely loved popping the bubbles and playing with the slime. There are a couple of things I would do when he is having a popping session.

  • Make sure you do it on a wipe clean surface
  • Have something they can wipe their hands on as they pop
  • Have a bowl or container ready to keep the slime in
  • We also had a container for the empty bubbles

As much fun as the Pop Pops Snotz were, I have a bit of a problem with the waste they made. The bubbles you pop are made of plastic and I’m not sure how recyclable that is, there’s also no pot supplied or available to store the slime in, so ours is in a clean jam jar for now. It’s a great idea, I’m just a bit mindful of the waste aspect and I feel this could have been done better, perhaps with more recyclable or compostable options.

Toy Review: Pop Pops Snotz Series 1 from Yulu

Despite this, my son continues to love Pop Pops Snotz. I’m not sure if it’s the snot popping or the collectable element he likes most. They’re an occasional treat, a slimy, snotty, slightly disgusting occasional treat; perfect for 8 year olds!

You can buy Pop Pops Snotz from a range of retailers and online (affiliate link).

Disclosure: We were sent some Pop Pops Snotz to try in exchange for a blog post. All images and opinions are our own.

15 Fantastic things to do in Blackpool

Living in Manchester and having been a semi regular visitor to Blackpool since I was in a pram, so I like to think I know the town reasonably well. We recently visited the area for a weekend of glamping, so I’ve compiled a list of some good stuff to do in the area.

The Blackpool Tower – the tower is such an iconic place to visit. I always like to race up to the top to see how far I can see. The tower is packed with attractions and things to do, you can happily spend a whole day here.

The Sandcastle Waterpark – don’t forget your trunks! The Sandcastle is a brilliant place to spend the day with the family, riding the slides and splashing about.

Blackpool Tower Dungeon – Not for small children, but if you love being spooked, a visit to the dungeon is a must.

Blackpool SEA LIFE Centre – being beside the sea, this SEA LIFE Centre gives visitors a great, and often hands on idea about the creatures which lurk beneath the waves.

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

Madame Tussauds Blackpool – a rainy day activity for sure! Visit all your favourite famous faces, and have a drink in the replica Rovers Return.

The Blackpool Tower Circus – the show changes every year, but it’s always funny, frivolous and fabulous. It’s a brilliant family show in a beautiful theatre.

Coral Island (other arcades are available) – I can never resist a trip to an arcade, it’s a great place to spend up your loose change and win a few prizes with the family.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach – spend a day riding the roller-coasters at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Classic seaside fun!

Blackpool Zoo – one of the best zoos in the UK, Blackpool Zoo has everything from a children’s farm, to elephants and sealions.

Blackpool Rail Trail and Walk – For keen walkers and explorers, the Rail Trail sounds excellent. The Rail Trail begins at Blackpool North station and takes you along the streets lined with local shops, down onto the Promenade and beyond. It’s a great way to explore the area and see things you might usually miss.

Blackpool Comedy Carpet – the comedy carpet is probably my favourite place to visit in Blackpool. It’s 2,200 metres square of comedy quotes from 1000 of our favourite comedians. Every time I visit I seem to find something I’d not seen before. It’s a real treat and is located in front of the Tower on the Promenade.

15 Fantastic things to do in Blackpool

Blackpool Lifeboat Station – The Lifeboat Station is on the Central Promenade. It’s one of only two RNLI stations to house three inshore lifeboats – an Atlantic 85 and two D class lifeboats. There’s a visitors centre and shop and a visit to the lifeboat station is a great place to learn more about this lifesaving charity.

Blackpool Illuminations – Were you even brought up in the north if you didn’t go and see the illuminations. Bigger, brighter and better each year, the illuminations are a solid tradition.

Heritage Tram Tours  – take a ride along the world famous tramway aboard a piece of moving history! It’s a fun way to see the sights aboard one of their vintage trams.

Marton Mere Nature Reserve – a short drive from the town, but a must for nature lovers, Marton Mere Nature Reserve. There’s an otter enclosure, pond dipping zone, an inspirational eco-garden and the opportunity to enjoy close-up encounters with around 100 species of international water-birds as they swim, feed and wander in wetlands custom-designed to mimic their natural homes.

Blackpool is so much more than these 15 attractions and things to do I’ve picked out. Have I missed any must see things? Please comment below to add to the list!

15 Fantastic things to do in Blackpool