Tag Archives: Manchester

Review: Treetop Adventure Golf, Manchester

Last week Treetop Adventure Golf opened at The Printworks in Manchester. Being keen adventure golfers, we went along to check it out.

The Printworks is an entertainment centre in Manchester, near Victoria Train Station. We go to The Printworks quite a lot, there’s a cinema there and lots of bars and restaurants. The addition of the Treetop Adventure Golf is the icing on the cake for us; an afternoon playing adventure golf is an afternoon well spent as far as we are concerned.

Review: Treetop Adventure Golf, Manchester

The new Treetop Adventure Golf is located on the second floor of The Printworks and whilst it is tucked away around the back, it’s well signposted. There are two adventure golf courses to play and it costs £9.50 per person to play a round, or £31.50 for a family of four. Some discounts and reductions are available, but you can check the current prices here.

Treetop Adventure Golf is aimed at all kinds of people, from families, friends and students. During the day when we went there were mostly families playing; but late at night I suspect it attracts a different crowd.

Review: Treetop Adventure Golf, Manchester

There are two courses to choose from – Tropical Trail or Ancient Explorer. In the interests of thoroughness (and because we were having a really good time) we played both courses.

We began with the Tropical Trail, it’s a lush 18 hole adventure golf course which takes around 30-40 minutes to complete. Each hole is well thought out, with bunkers and obstacles to contend with. There are also interesting things, like talking toucans and trees which comment on the quality of your golfing. It’s compact but well done. The boys absolutely loved it, especially when they got a hole in one; someone comes round with stickers so you can show off your golfing prowess.

Once we’d finished the first course, you can play the “19th hole”. If you hit the ball at the target you get a free round of golf, though that’s only for the successful player. My son won another round, so we decided to try the Ancient Explorer course while we were there.

Review: Treetop Adventure Golf, Manchester

Although we all really enjoyed the Tropical Trail course, the Ancient Explorer was our favourite of the two. The obstacles were a bit more challenging and it felt a bit like Indiana Jones golf, and who wouldn’t enjoy that?

The new Treetop Adventure Golf at The Printworks is brilliant fun. It’s well thought out, there’s a good bar where you can get drinks, snacks and small meals and it’s really family friendly. The boys absolutely loved it and they’re very keen to go back. I liked that it was indoors and warm, which makes a big difference at this time of year. If I could change anything, I’d add a par for each hole so you know how well, or not so well you’re doing.

Review: Treetop Adventure Golf, Manchester

It’s exactly the kind of thing I’d do with the boys on a weekend, or with friends or work colleagues on a night out. I think it’s a great addition to The Printworks.

For more information about Treetop Adventure Golf at The Printworks, Manchester, visit their website.

We were invited to play a round of golf in exchange for this blog post. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

On Tuesday we visited the Grill in the Park restaurant at Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club for dinner. We’d been there last year for breakfast, so we were keen to see what dinner would be like. They’ve just undergone a complete refurb and unveiled their new menu, we were invited along to try the new menu for size.

We were looking forward to a nice quiet date night, some good food and a chance to relax without the demands of a small child. The Grill in the Park restaurant is really cosy, with booths and quiet, intimate corners to dine in. It’s just the place for a quiet dinner for two, a business dinner or for a group of friends.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

It’s a grill, so steak is high on the agenda. You can smell the steak cooking as you walk in and that is a very good thing. I’m a vegetarian, but the smell of cooking steak is possibly the only think that could turn me.

Executive chef, Tom Gardner has been with Worsley Park since 2014 and has created the new menu giving a twist on the grill menu. The menu looks really well balanced, with more than just a token veggie dish. They’ve invested £16,000 on a new grill, so most dishes have some grilled elements.

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

To begin with I opted for the Baby Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Cress Salad (£8) and my companion had the an Seared Scallops with Celeriac Puree, roasted hazelnuts and apple and fennel salad (£14).

I can’t resist roasted beetroot and there were two different kinds on my plate. The salad was well dressed and the half log portion of goats cheese was very generous. The log had been grilled and it had a really delicious char on it, I did find the goats cheese quite hard and I was expecting a softer goats cheese, but I suspect this wouldn’t have grilled quite so well.

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

The scallops were a real hit. Three really plump and juicy scallops, well seasoned and nestled on top of some autumnal celeriac puree and alongside a small heap of sweet, crisp salad. It was a highlight.

Onward to the main course, I plumped for the vegetable fajitas (£12) with a side of sweet potato fries (£4). Whilst my better half couldn’t resist a grilled sirloin steak (£27) which comes with tomatoes, watercress, a flat mushroom and a sauce of your choice, he went for port and shallot. He also had a portion of steak cut chips (£4).

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

My vegetable fajitas arrived hot and sizzling in their dish, I’d asked for no mushrooms as I can’t eat them, so my sizzling dish was onions and peppers in a sweet sticky sauce. This came with two toasted wraps and sour cream, guacamole and salsa. This dish had all the potential to be really hearty and lovely, but I was a bit disappointed by it. The wraps were too crispy to roll into fajitas (I think the wraps should be warmed but not crispy) so I ended up using them as crispbreads and scooping the fillings on top.

I loved the onions and peppers, but I think the sauce was just a bit too sweet and after a while that began to cloy. It was so nearly there, if I order them next time I’ll ask for the wraps not to be toasted.

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

My husband’s grilled sirloin steak was a triumph. A thick, juicy steak with well cooked accompaniments. He always has his steak cooked medium-rare and it was perfectly pink with a lovely char. The sauce was rich and he cleaned his plate. The Grill in the Park do steaks very well.

We didn’t have room for pudding, but we forced ourselves. I went for Warm Pecan Pie with caramel ice cream (£5.50) and he had the Lemoncello & Raspberry Semifreddo with raspberry compote and summer berries (£5.50).

Review: The new menu at Grill in the Park, Worsley

Pudding was most definitely a highlight. His semifreddo was creamy and light, the perfect end to a rich meal. My warm pecan pie was something I will think about often in the coming weeks. The pastry was so light, thin and crisp, it was a joy. The pecans were soft, sticky and flavoursome and it was just perfectly put together. Pecan pie is my new favourite thing.

We had a lovely meal in cosy, intimate surroundings. I found fault with a few things, but not enough for me not to return again. We tried some absolutely wonderful dishes that night; but it is worth visiting Grill in the Park for the pecan pie alone! Go on, try it.

The Grill in the Park is at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club, for more information visit their website

We were invited guests of the Grill in the Park at Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club and our meal and drinks were complimentary. All images and opinions are our own.

Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

In August, M&S opened a branch of Marks and Spencer Opticians in their Manchester store. It’s been two years since my last eye test, so I went along to try out their new service. I booked my appointment at M&S Opticians online, which was quick and easy to do, my appointment was confirmed and all I needed to do was turn up on the day.

Since my good friend Claire at She Eats discovered she had a brain tumour during an eye test, it’s been in the back of my mind that I must get mine tested. Thankfully finding a brain tumour is pretty rare, but your eye health is a good indicator of your general health and can flag up conditions you might not have been aware of. Regular eye tests are a good thing, so don’t put them off.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

I went along to Marks and Spencer Opticians in Manchester. It’s located on the first floor next to the cafe. Feeling a bit nervous, I made my way upstairs and booked myself in. I was early so I spent a few minutes checking out the frames and trying a few pairs on.

I was ushered into a room where they did a few tests on me. Danielle was really reassuring and talked me through everything. For the most part all I had to do was sit and look while they blew air onto my eyeballs, took photographs of my retinas and did a test where I had to press a button each time I saw a flashing light in my periphery. It was very thorough.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

After the testing I was taken through to see the optician, Mohammed. He spent some time checking what my prescription was, I don’t think it’s changed much in two years, which is reassuring. He also had another look at my eyes and discovered that there was something a little bit amiss with one of my optic nerves. We had a chat about that and about how much sleep I don’t get. He suggested I use an eye wash a few times a week and he sent me back to the testing room to do a more thorough version of the peripheral vision test.

I was understandably feeling a bit on edge at this point, but everyone was really reassuring and Mohammed the optician spoke to me again afterwards, once he’d checked the results and explained that it was just a small anomaly and wasn’t affecting my eyesight. It’s probably something worth keeping an eye on though.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

It was time to choose my new glasses. I’m a bit funny about my glasses, I like a particular style and round glasses do not suit me. There were hundreds of pairs to choose from, I spent a lot of time looking for what I wanted. I couldn’t find anything which really appealed in the ladies section, so I had a look at the men’s glasses. I was in luck, there were so many of the style I liked in the men’s section.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

Glasses at M&S Opticians start at £40. I chose the “Favian” frames, which are described as “flattering, easy to wear frames – a great choice for men”. These were £80 for the frames and another £30 for the lenses, so just £110 in total. I’ve previously paid A LOT of money for glasses, so I thought £110 was a really, really good price.

Two days later I got the call to collect my new glasses. I was impressed at how quickly they’d come back. I went into town a few days later to go and pick them up and was met by Paul, who took some time to fit my glasses. With them being men’s glasses they were a little loose, so the arms needed to be adjusted to fit me properly. This was done while I waited and I left, happy with my new specs.

Review: Putting Marks and Spencer Opticians to the test

I was really impressed with Marks and Spencer Opticians, they were very thorough and I felt very reassured after my tests. I also thought their prices were very competitive, I couldn’t find any fault with the service I received. I’m absolutely delighted with my new glasses. I think they look great on and they’re really comfortable to wear too.

For more information about M&S Opticians, or to book an appointment, visit their website.

I was invited to review Marks and Spencer Opticians and given a pair of glasses in exchange for this review. Nevertheless, all images and opinions are my own.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

We’re currently holidaying in Cornwall, and keen to make the most of our Merlin Annual Passes, this week we had a drive down to Gweek to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary which this year is celebrating 60 years of seal rescue, rehabilitation and release.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is part of the SEA LIFE group of attractions and set in the picturesque Helford Estuary, by the village of Gweek, in Cornwall. It’s probably the most southerly Merlin attraction in the UK; but well worth remembering to pack your passes for if you have them.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

One of the most exciting reasons to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary was that I’d spotted on their website that it was dog friendly. It’s harder than you’d think to find attractions which are genuinely dog friendly, so were delighted to get through the door and see so many happy dogs on days out with their families.

The sanctuary is located on the fairly steep side of the Helford Estuary. There is a safari bus to take people from the top to the bottom of the steep hill, but it isn’t by their own admission the most accessible of attractions; though they’ve tried their best and help is always at hand if you need it. Me, being unsteady on my feet took the safari bus option with my son, whilst my husband walked the dog down to the bottom. He beat us there and back both times, but the bus is brilliant for little legs, or unsteady adult ones.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is the first port of call for local seals who have been injured or who are ill. Each year around 50 seals are taken in by the sanctuary and given the care they need to get better. Most go on to be released back into the sea, but some have life changing injuries or conditions which can be best managed at the sanctuary.

At the sanctuary you can find common seals, grey seals, penguins, otters, sea lions as well as ponies, sheep and goats. There is also a rockpool area to explore and a wildlife walk through the woods. There’s a lot of learning to be had, from conservation work, to things we can do at home to help the plant. We found this very interesting and a great talking point.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

The self-led tour begins at the seal rescue hospital. We skipped the hospital as there were no seals in there, which is a good thing and carried to the bottom of the hill where there are a number of different pools; the common seals were in a new-ish looking pool next to the nursery pool which held the youngest pups in the sanctuary.

There were various talks and experiences throughout the day. The feeding sessions seemed to be the most popular; watching the resident seals in the convalescent pool get fed their fishy lunch whilst we were given a talk about the seals and what had happened to bring them to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary was especially interesting. The feeding of the penguins was also great fun.

The woodland walk was a really great addition. There’s a 500 metre walk to Otter Creek, but along the way there are lots of signs with facts and activities on. It’s also great for dogs (on leads) to stretch their legs in the cool shade of the woods.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

There are both permanent and temporary residents in the seal sanctuary, so the number of animals to visit can vary. However it is really well done, there is always a programme of events and a permanent selection of seals, penguins, sea lions and otters to see and learn about. The wildlife walk was great, very informative and a great place for kids to run off a bit of steam.

We were also really impressed with the cafes on site. They were not wildly expensive and we enjoyed a good lunch, though you can take a picnic if you’d prefer.

We had a really enjoyable and informative visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. It’s a genuinely dog friendly family attraction in Cornwall which we all really enjoyed visiting.

Find out more about The Cornish Sea Sanctuary by visiting their website.

Disclosure: We are Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors this year. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: Pride and Prejudice, Ordsall Hall Salford

Having lived in Manchester all my life, I felt I probably knew most of the hidden gems and worst kept secrets of my city. This week I discovered a Tudor secret, hidden in plain sight, surrounded by modern houses, apartment blocks and industrial buildings – Ordsall Hall is the most stunning Tudor building I’ve ever seen and it’s tucked away near Salford Quays. On Wednesday I took a good friend (an Austen fanatic) to see Pride and Prejudice at Ordsall Hall.

Review: Pride and Prejudice, Ordsall Hall Salford

This summer, Ordsall Hall is hosting a number of outdoor theatre productions and thankfully the weather seems to be behaving itself, so all you need is a folding chair and a cardigan for when the sun goes down. Ordsall Hall provides a wonderful backdrop to productions like Pride and Prejudice. It is incredibly beautiful and it’s worth turning up a little bit early so you can have a look around before the performance begins.

Review: Pride and Prejudice, Ordsall Hall Salford

We arrived a little late due to a confused satnav and a full car park, but we eventually settled down in our camping chairs a few minutes before the performance began. The five actors were mingling and chatting with the audience, which was a nice touch as somehow outdoor theatre seems a little bit more intimate and this made it more so. Heartbreak Productions are experts in outdoor theatre, spending their summer touring up and down the country.

Pride and Prejudice is the incredibly well known tale of the Bennet sisters, a host of charming young bachelors and of course the dashing Mr Darcy. All of the many roles were performed by a troop of just five actors who seamlessly managed to portray this large cast of characters with a simple change in posture or a different hat. It was marvellous, it really was.

Review: Pride and Prejudice, Ordsall Hall Salford

We were gripped by this story, told on a simple stage by very talented actors with the exceptionally lovely backdrop of Ordsall Hall. They had the audience stood up, learning to curtsy and bow, and we learned a simple dance. It was all great fun and I now feel well prepared to enter Georgian polite society.

Experiencing Pride and Prejudice at Ordsall Hall was a wonderful experience. It was a delightful evening of comedy, romance, and some will-they-won’t-they. But we all know they will, eventually.

Review: Pride and Prejudice, Ordsall Hall Salford

Although I’ve seen outdoor plays before, never in such delightful surroundings. There are a number of other plays being performed at Ordsall Hall this summer and they’re well worth taking a look at. There’s something for everyone at Ordsall Hall this summer!

Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Ordsall Hall and we were gifted tickets to see Pride and Prejudice in exchange for this review. All images and opinions are our own.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 – Judging Day

On Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th July Didsbury village is being judged by the RHS North West in Bloom judges. Last year Didsbury won both the Urban Community category and a Gold; so there are high expectations for Didsbury in Bloom 2018.

The road I live on, Ford Lane is one of the areas which is judged. We have a green at the top of the road and flower filled planters all the way down the lane. It looks lovely, but it doesn’t happen by magic; a team of hard-working residents lovingly maintain the planters and keep the lane looking good all year round.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

In the weeks running up to judging day, more residents do their bit by helping to tidy the green or water the planters outside their homes. I’m slowly trying to make our front garden more attractive, but it’s a slow process, not helped by the lack of rain.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 had the twin themes of Remembrance and they also celebrated the centenary of women winning the right to vote. There has been a team of wonderful volunteers who have been working with schools to plant and maintain a poppy path running from Didsbury Park to School lane. The verges have been cleared and planted with poppy seeds which were harvested from the fields in France, then scattered by school children. In bloom they are a lovely, arresting sight. It’s well worth taking a detour to wander down the lane to see the poppies and remember them.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

2018 has been a challenging year for gardeners, especially over the last few weeks. Manchester has had an unseasonal amount of not rain, or sunshine as it’s sometimes known. We’ve been enjoying/enduring a heatwave and our usually lush green at the top of the road is now a brown.

We’ve been draining our water butts and recycling our bath water to keep the planters looking healthy, but the grass has had to take one for the team. I hope the judges will take the current weather conditions into consideration and not hold our brown lawns against us.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

I think despite the challenges, Ford Lane is looking fantastic. It’s a shame the heatwave has taken its toll on the main flower bed on the green; but all of the other planters are beautifully blousy with blooms. I love the Votes for Women bike most of all I think.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

All of the Didsbury in Bloom volunteers have worked so hard this year, I take my hat off to them. Thank you for making Didsbury extra beautiful all your round!

The Didsbury in Bloom 2018 team won’t know the results of the judging for a little while yet; but we have high hopes of repeating the success of previous years.

Didsbury in Bloom 2018 - Judging Day

Read more about Didsbury – Five fabulous things about Didsbury Village.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart

Growing up in Manchester, a regular pudding at school was Manchester Tart. A traditional Manchester Tart is a shortcrust pastry case, topped with a layer of raspberry jam and bananas which is then covered in crème pâtissière and sprinkled with desiccated coconut. This is a slightly tweaked version of a traditional Manchester Tart, I don’t like bananas so I’ve left them out. Other people don’t like the coconut, which can easily be left out too.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart

My Grandma was an accomplished pastry chef and school cook. When she died I inherited her cookbook collection. The jewel in the cookbook crown was a large hard-backed book filled with her handwritten recipes which she’d developed over the years. In this book in her best copperplate handwriting was her recipe for Manchester Tart. Over the years, the original tart was probably served to thousands of Mancunian school children.

This delicious tart was a favourite school dinner treat and is based on the similar but fairly ancient Manchester Pudding.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart

I’ve not so much reinvented it, but left the bananas out. Feel free to add them back in, or leave out the coconut if you prefer. It’s quite forgiving really, as long as you’ve got a layer of good jam and lots of crème pâtissière you can’t go wrong!

Traditional Manchester Tart

Ingredients:
1 packet of ready-roll shortcrust pastry – or you can make your own
½ jar of raspberry jam
1 tablespoon of desiccated coconut
2 vanilla pods
800ml double cream
5 egg yolks
4 tsp corn flour
100g caster sugar

Method:
Pre-heat your oven to 200°.

Grease an 8 inch tart tin and gently press the pastry into it and trim the pastry roughly, you can tidy it up once it has baked. Place some baking paper and baking beads on top of your pastry and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and beads and put back into the oven to crisp up for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool.

To make the crème pâtissière, split your vanilla pods and scrape out some of the seeds, put the pods and seeds in a pan with 500mls of the double cream. Warm this gently, stirring frequently until it is near boiling point. Remove from the heat and take out the vanilla pods.

Meanwhile whisk your egg yolks, corn flour and caster sugar together in a large bowl. Then slowly (so you don’t scramble the mixture) add some of the heated cream to the bowl, keep adding gradually, whisking all the time until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat gently, whisking all the time until it is near boiling and thick. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. There are a number of ways you can prevent your crème pâtissière from forming a skin; personally I like to go back to it every five minutes or so and give it a good whisk, this will also help it cool a little quicker. If you don’t want to do this, you can lay a piece of cling film directly on the top of the crème pâtissière.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart

You will need to leave it for around an hour to cool properly.

In the meantime, whisk the remaining 300mls of double cream until it is in firm peaks. Once the crème pâtissière is cool you can carefully whisk the two together.

If you’re using the coconut, in a small pan warm the desiccated coconut up. Keep stirring until it is lightly toasted and fragrant.

To construct the tart, trim the edges of the pastry case with a sharp knife so they look neat. In your cooled pastry case generously spread your raspberry jam on the bottom. If you want to add thinly sliced banana to your tart, this is the time to do it.

Carefully fill the pastry case with the crème pâtissière mixture, smoothing it off and sprinkling the top with the toasted desiccated coconut. Put the tart in the fridge to cool overnight.

There are quite a lot of steps to making this tart, which is partly why I cheated and used ready-made pastry. Manchester Tart really is worth making at least once, and crème pâtissière is nothing to be scared of!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like to try this Cornflake Tart or my lemon and elderflower gin meringue pie.

Recipe: Wonderfully Mancunian Manchester Tart

What’s On at the Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall this Summer

I love a bit of outdoor theatre. Before we became parents we were regular visitors to theatre productions in our local park. When the sun is shining, there’s nothing quite so special as watching some good theatre in the great outdoors; with a chilled glass of fizz and a nice picnic there’s nothing better. So far, this summer has been a corker and Ordsall Hall in Salford have a full programme of open air theatre productions to enjoy.

Last summers’ outdoor theatre events at Ordsall Hall, Salford’s stunning tudor manor house was a sell out. This summer there are seven more open-air theatre shows booked to perform at Ordsall Hall, including performances for families and theatre fans of all ages.

What’s On at the Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall this Summer

Pride and Prejudice – 18 July 2018
Performed by outdoor theatre specialists, Heartbreak Productions, join Heartbreak and a host of charming young bachelors (yes, Mr Darcy will be there!) for an evening of comedy, romance and more than one come-uppance plus pop-up gin bar.

Twelfth Night – Thursday 26 July 2018
The world’s first cycling theatre company, The Handlebards return to Ordsall Hall to perform Twelfth Night. The all-male company pedal from venue to venue with all the set, props and costume necessary to perform environmentally sustainable Shakespeare across the globe. In usual HandleBards style, expect riotous amounts of energy, a fair old whack of chaos, and a great deal of laughter.

What's On at the Open Air Theatre at Ordsall Hall this Summer

Romeo and Juliet – Wednesday 1 August 2018
On 1st August, HandleBards return with their all-female troupe in the beautiful gardens of Ordsall Hall for Romeo and Juliet as you’ve never seen it before! In usual HandleBards style, you can expect riotous amounts of energy, a fair old whack of chaos, and a great deal of laughter.

The Princess and The Giant – Thursday 9 August 2018
For families with children, Folksy Theatre returns to the gardens of Ordsall Hall to perform the children’s favourite The Princess and the Giant at two performances at 10.30am and 2.30pm. This family friendly performance will be filled with music, puppetry and wonderful characters. Bring a picnic and enjoy some wonderful family theatre in the sunshine.

The Railway Children – Thursday 16 August 2018
All aboard! Full steam ahead! Find your travel companions and take your seats for Heartbreak Productions’ outdoor adaptation of The Railway Children, the classic children’s tale by Edith Nesbit.

Living by the railway line, the children spend quite a bit of time watching the trains and making some unexpected friendships. Can Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis solve the mystery of what happened to their father?

Pirate Pearl and the Big Blue Monster! – Thursday 23 August 2018
For families with younger children; the Little Blue Monster Company will present their brand new family friendly production; Pirate Pearl and the Big Blue Monster! Pirate Pearl lives aboard the good ship Mirabel with her crusty old shipmate – Grandpa Bert! She’s not a real pirate – but Pearl loves to imagine she’s sailing the seven seas on a swashbuckling pirate adventure. Under 2s go free!

Love’s Labour’s Lost – Sunday 26 August 2018
Folksy Theatre returns to the gardens of Ordsall Hall to perform one of Shakespeare’s best loved comedies – Love’s Labour’s Lost. The King of Navarre and his lords swear off food, women and sleep in order to study for three years. No sooner have they made their oath when the Princess of France arrives on business, with her ladies-in-waiting. How will the King and his Lord’s resolve hold up? Whatever happens, expect live music, audience interaction and downright silliness.

For more information about what’s on at Ordsall Hall this summer, or to book tickets, visit their website.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

When we heard that SEA LIFE Manchester were unveiling a new exhibit, we had to go down and check it out. SEA LIFE Manchester is one of our favourite places to spend a few hours and we were keen to meet the new resident –  a Japanese Spider Crab!

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

Japanese Spider Crabs can measure over 5 metres claw to claw, and can live to up to 100 years old! There are three Japanese Spider Crabs at SEA LIFE Manchester in a huge new tank area. Given they can grow up to the size of a small car, even though they seem huge, they still have plenty of growing to do.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

The hard shell of the Japanese Spider Crab helps to protect them from larger predators such as octopuses, but giant spider crabs also use camouflage. The crab’s bumpy shell can help them to blend into the rocky ocean floor. They really are incredible creatures. Almost nightmarish in appearance, but apparently they are quite placid creatures. It felt really special to see these deep-sea creatures close up.

SEA LIFE Manchester has been given a bit of a makeover since we were last there just before Christmas. A few things have been moved about or refreshed, with, I’m pleased to say, another jellyfish tank in the building. You can crawl through the fluorescent world of the floating moon jellyfish in their brand new 360-degree doughnut tank. I adore jellyfish and we always spend lots of time watching them swim about. They’re very relaxing to watch.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

We also stopped by the Jurassic Ranger area to have a look at the fossils. The Ranger expertly told us all about the fossils she had on display and let us touch some. She also gave the kids a sharks tooth each to take home with them as a souvenir. It was really interesting to find out more about sharks and sharks teeth, especially as that’s one of his topics at school this year.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

SEA LIFE Manchester is one of our favourite places to visit. I’m pleased to see it’s been given a little makeover in parts. The centre is packed full of beautiful, weird and wonderful creatures; it’s well worth a visit for a few hours if you’re wanted a few hours of wonder and awe.

Find out more about what’s on at SEA LIFE Manchester on their website.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

Disclosure: We are Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors this year. All images and opinions are our own.

Little Sports Coaching – learn new footballing skills

Like most boys born in Manchester, my son has grown up with a football at his feet. He’s not a natural-born striker, but he enjoys having a kick-about in the park and it’s nice to encourage a love of sports at an early age. This month he joined the Little Sports Coaching Mini Soccer programme in Manchester where he hoped to learn a few new skills to show off in the park.

Little Sports Coaching launched in 2006 as a sports coaching organisation.  They work in nurseries and primary schools; run soccer schools, multi sports, dance and gymnastics classes, holiday camps, one to one coaching sessions, children’s parties and even have their own junior football team. 

Little Sports Coaching - learn new footballing skills

My son has trained with them before at school; so he already knew some of the coaches when he arrived at the Manchester Health Academy in Wythenshawe, Manchester for his first session. They were really welcoming and gave him his own brightly coloured kit (it’s very bright, so there’s no losing him in a crowd when he wears it).

He got straight in with a warm-up kick about with the other players in his group. There were about 8 children in each group and when the weather isn’t terrible they get to play outside on the astroturf. Some of the kids were amazing and obviously had been attending for several years. Ben got stuck in and made sure he was near the coach, listening and paying attention to what he was told to do.

Little Sports Coaching - learn new footballing skills

During the Mini Soccer programme players learned a selection of skills including dribbling, passing, shooting, heading and much more; plus each session includes taking part in five-a-side football matches to practice those skills.

The Mini Soccer sessions last for two hours with a short break in the middle. A bottle of water is essential and players are encouraged to bring a snack to eat such as fruit. Although kit is provided, players will need comfortable trainers or football boots if they’re playing outside.

Parents don’t have to stay for the sessions, but you can do if you’d like. I’ll be honest and say we slipped away for half an hour to pick up a few bits from a nearby retail park. He was busy concentrating and probably didn’t even notice we’d gone.

Little Sports Coaching - learn new footballing skills

At the end of each session the coaches award a player of the week trophy for a player who has shown improvement; or who has tried extra hard, listened well or been a good team player. The trophy is kept for one week and when it’s returned the player gets a certificate to keep. It’s a nice little motivator to do well.

The coaches are engaging, encouraging and professional. You can tell they really enjoy helping to coach these young players. It’s clear from sitting on the sidelines for a few hours that the kids love the sessions too. There’s something special about watching a group of kids form a team and play together; watching them learn new skills and grow in confidence too.

Two hours of football is quite a lot to ask my son to play on a hot June afternoon. He does flag a bit towards the end; but the rest of his team are all still running about and picking up any slack he leaves.

He’s had three training sessions with Little Sports Coaching now and he really enjoys going. When he gets home he’s hungry, thirsty and tired, which is how I think it should be. He’s had a good run around and learned some new football skills. He’s learned quite a lot of other things too; like teamwork, listening skills, he’s concentrated on what he’s doing and what he should be doing and most of all, he’s had a lot of fun doing it. Isn’t that what taking part in sports is really all about?

Little Sports Coaching - learn new footballing skills

Little Sports Coaching offer a wide range of sports coaching including football, dance and multi-sports across Manchester and the North West. Each session of Mini Soccer costs £6 which for two hours worth of coaching is excellent value.

To find out more about Little Sports Coaching, visit their website www.littlesportscoaching.co.uk/mini-soccer.

Disclosure: We were offered four Little Sports Coaching sessions and the kit in exchange for this review. All images and opinions are our own.