We’re quite lucky in the South West that we have a lot of places at our disposable to take the family. Although it gets a bit tricky having a 3 year old and a 15 year old, and now with the pup thrown into the mix don’t make for an easy family day out.
We didn’t take the teen with us this time as he had other plans but off we trudged with Isabelle and the dog in our boots and armed with coats, umbrellas and treats for the dog.
When we got there, we had a little surprise as the Discovery Trail (the easiest at 1.5 miles) had been set up as a Gruffalo hunt with clues and things to do along the way. This was the easiest of trails so perfect for Isabelle and a nice walk for us.
There were loads of families there and lots of people whizzing up and down on bikes for the different tracks (none of which I would try).
There were ample places to stop if you were to take a picnic and pleasingly we didn’t encounter any rubbish, apart from one poo bag (why do people go to the effort of bagging it up only to leave it there!).
It was dog heaven for Charlie who saw lots of other dogs along the way including a huge group of Shar pei dogs (belonging to several owners ? dog group).
We saw the Gruffalo’s den and met Mouse, Snake, Fox, Owl and sat on a singing seat. We also played on some giant wooden xylophones and hid from Daddy and Charlie in a maze.
And did we find the Gruffalo?
Yup and he wasn’t scary at all.
We ended the day with a gorgeous ice cream and a bowl of water and treats for Charlie, then home for a roast dinner.
Think we’ll go for one of the harder routes next time.
As part of the Blogger Programme for the Theatre Royal we were invited to go and watch The Emperor’s New Clothes by Stuff and Nonsense.
This is a story that I was told when I was little and I was going to get a copy of the book to read to Isabelle before we went, but I thought I would leave it as a surprise.
We did watch the clip on the Website which Isabelle really enjoyed.
The show was in the Drum which is a more intimate setting which is great for kids.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
The Emperor’s New Clothes is about an Emperor who has a fantastical wardrobe of clothes but doesn’t have a single thing to wear for his upcoming birthday. Thank goodness that two Fashion Designers learn of this and offer their services to make the Emperor a new outfit to wear to his birthday parade.
Little does the Emperor know that the Fashion Designers are two crooks (Claude and Hugo) hoping for a bag of gold by tricking the Emperor into wearing ‘no clothes’ and parade through the town on his horse.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is performed by Toby and Jenny as well as a whole host of really cool puppets.
The performance had very little in the way of props with the main prop being a wardrobe which they slept in, was the Emperor’s Palace and Claude performed some acrobatic’s in as well.
The show interchanged between people and puppets in a very fun way and it was easy to forget that there were only two performers on stage with lots of fun opening doors and drawers.
All the children (and adults) joined in with the performance with clapping and shouting.
And then there was the part of the parade where the Emperor paraded through his Kingdom wearing NO CLOTHES! Isabelle thought this was so funny and had her hand over her mouth laughing as the Emperor’s bottom stuck out of a window!
The show lasts an hour which is great for little one’s who get restless. As well as watching the show I love watching Isabelle’s reactions as she watches performance and she smiled, laughed, clapped and interacted the whole way through.
We both really enjoyed the show, and we were super excited to meet the cast including some of the fab puppets.
We met both Jenny and Toby who told us a bit about the background behind Stuff and Nothing and how long it takes to put together a production like this. Jenny and Toby have both had lots of training including going to ‘Clown School’ and Jenny is skilled in acrobatics.
Stuff and Nonsense is based in Bridport, Dorset and you can keep up to date with their performances by checking out their Facebook Page.
I loved the fact that they test all of their ideas on children to gage their reactions to see if it works. What better way to have the critical eye of a child who would boldly point out if they thought something was pants or not.
We got to hold some of the puppets which was quite awesome. I had a hold of Molly but I couldn’t work out how to keep her head up and Isabelle had a got with Molly’s pet pig which she loved as it was her favourite character. She mastered the mouth quite well.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is running at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until the 14th January so there’s still plenty of time to go and watch. It is recommended for 2 years + but they have some information available for you to read so you can work out if you think it would be suitable which you can read here. I would have taken Isabelle to see this at two though.
Isabelle had already eyeballed the Fairy Wands that were on sale for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and quickly rushed over to buy one before we left the theatre.
We then had a wander around the Christmas Market before getting the train home which finished off the day perfectly.
Gone are the days where you went to see Father Christmas in Debenhams or at the school fair.
Seeing Father Christmas is an experience these days with themed days out in theme parks, holiday destinations and magical experiences.
A friend of ours recently went to Lapland which I think will be top of my list for things to do next Christmas (yikes thinking about next Christmas already). It looked amazing and I think will be just as enjoyable for us adults as it will be for the kids.
This year my in-laws treated us to tickets for the Polar Express train in Okehampton.
If you haven’t watched the film then you should add it to your Christmas film list to watch with the kids.
So the film is about a boy who doesn’t believe in Santa. On Christmas Eve a train stops outside of his house heading for the North Pole. The Conductor lets him on and he is given a golden ticket. All sorts of things happen on train in including meeting a man on the roof who claims to be the owner of the train and the King of the North Pole and dancing/singing waiters and chefs. When they finally reach the North Pole they meet Santa and the Elves the boy realises that Santa is real. One of the bells falls off the reins of the sleigh which seems to be broken as it doesn’t ring which he then loses on the train ride home. On Christmas morning the boy opens his presents and finds the bell which now rings as he has recaptured the spirit of Christmas and believes once more.
When we arrived at the station (in pyjamas) the train was in the station waiting to be boarded.
All the kids (and adults) were excited and there was a lovely atmosphere in anticipation of the train ride ahead.
Like in the film, the conductor came and shouted us all aboard and we went to find our seats.
We had a lovely conductor and the funniest two chefs running up and down our carriage singing and dancing on our journey to the North Pole.
We took the 6pm train so it was pitch black outside which I think added to the experience.
Then we reached the North Pole where Santa and his dancing elves where the sleigh was loaded up with an enormous sack of presents.
We were served hot chocolate and the chef’s brought round ‘magic cooling milk’ to cool the kids hot chocolate down and big chocolate chip cookies.
There was a magician with a strange ball that spun and hovered in his hand.
A naughty elf sneaked onto our train and ran up and down the train being chased by the conductor and the chef, and we also had an appearance by the man who is on the roof in the film.
Isabelle even had her golden ticket clipped with her initials in it and then so did Nanny Pat.
Then Santa made an appearance and Isabelle immediately lost her voice when he asked her what she was hoping for Christmas.
Isabelle was given a Bell by Santa which she’s been keeping by her bed ever since, and keeps checking that she believes by ringing it.
This was such a lovely family experience and it was lovely for Isabelle’s Nanny and Papa and Aunty to see.
The trains are running until the 28th December and there are some tickets still available.
Happy Christmas Everyone x
*This post was originally posted in December 2016.
Exciting news! My sidekick (Isabelle) and I have been selected to be resident bloggers for the Theatre Royal Plymouth which is really exciting.
The programme is much much more than attending and reviewing the many shows that they host there. We’ll be going behind the scenes, finding out about how the shows are put together, meeting the cast, checking out the cool costumes and props and getting knee-deep in the excitement surrounding the whole theatre experience.
We had our very first meet-up on Tuesday which was really lovely, and there was a real mix of personalities and reasons for wanting to get involved. Isabelle wasn’t able to attend on this occasion with it being a school night but she’s eager to get stuck in.
I’m not one for getting star-struck but it is nice spotting people that you recognise from the telly, but for Isabelle and I it’s the Witch from The Room on the Broom that drew us in the first place.
Having all of Julia Donaldson’s children’s books we’re huge fans, and have already seen ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ in theatre and loved it. If we were to meet ‘The Witch’ that would be totally awesome.
We were fortunate to be able to go along and watch Big The Musical starring Jay McGuiness, Diana Vickers and Gary Wilmot based on the film with Tom Hanks (definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already).
We were given a backstage tour by Gary Wilmot, who was absolutely lovely and his love of performance and the credit he gave to the whole production team was lovely to see.
There were people everywhere, checking, cleaning and checking to make sure that everything was set for the night. I had thought that it would be totally manic with loads of stressy people dashing about, but it was very calm (even with just an hour to go).
We got to go on stage and have a look at Josh and Billy’s stage houses, as well as the toy shop. They have this enormous screen that weighs about 4 tons which provides the backdrops for the scenes and is rotated around from scene to scene. It’s not until you watch the show that you see how amazing this is.
The story is based in the 80’s about a boy who is just about to turn thirteen wanting to be ‘Big’. His wish is granted by the Zoltar machine at the Carnival when he wakes up trapped inside the body of a man. The only person who knows who he really is, is his best friend He finds himself alone and grown-up in New York to fend for himself until he befriends the local toy shop owner who likes his kid-like knowledge of cool toys. He then finds himself with a job and an apartment and all is great and exciting, even meeting a ‘grown-up woman’ who seems to have taken a liking to him. Life in the boardroom is fun but he’s ruffling feathers amongst the ‘real’ grown-ups and their lack of imagination and fun needed to make toys. Josh opens up the eyes of the ‘grown-ups’ and makes them remember what fun they had as kids before realising that being a kid himself wasn’t so bad and his quest to find a Zoltar machine to return to life as it once was.
I loved it from beginning to end! There was lots of humour and it was exciting throughout.
My favourite part was when the stage was turned into a giant piano and both Josh (Jay McGuiness) and George Macmillan (Gary Wilmot) danced on the keys.
Overall it was a great show and I actually had cheek ache from grinning.
I cannot wait to find out whats in store for us next.
Big The Musical is running at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth until the 12th November before it heads to the to Dublin and then onto the West End and is definitely worth a watch if you get the chance.
*This post was originally posted in November 2016.
Whether you take the kids Trick or Treating, organising your own events or have booked into an organised event there’s loads of Halloween Activities in the South West to take part in.
We went Trick or Treating for the first time last year. It’s not something that I would usually do but we were invited along with one of our neighbours and Isabelle had a lovely time. We stayed close to home and only went to houses with a pumpkin outside which seems to be an unwritten rule.
There’s loads of stuff on offer when West Town Farm opens it’s gates to the public. Poco Drom will be performing, Tractor Trailer rides, Pumpkin Carving, Fireside Story Telling, Apple Pressing, Feeding the Animals, Straw Bale den and much more. They also have a BBQ on the go where you can buy some scrummy food (vegetarian options as well). Child £3 Adult £4 Family £12 Under 3’s FREE!
Halloween Fun Run – Cowick Barton Playing Fields, Exeter.
Thursday 26th October. The Toddler run starts at 5pm and the under 16’s at 6pm.
Dress up in your scariest halloween outfit and head to Cowick Barton for a spooky fun-run. With storytelling, BBQ food, hot and cold drinks, and two Family Fun Runs. All monies raised go to Age UK Exeter.
The fun-packed evening will include art activities as well as food and music and coordinates with the gallery’s exhibition Frances Hatch : Red Earth Under My Nails. Families are invited to make their own spooky animation. Kids can also get up close to lizards, snakes and spiders! Add to your Halloween outfit with some scary face painting and glitter tattoos. Delicious local food will be on offer including wood-fired pizzas and Caribbean food, hot chocolate for little trick-or-treaters and there will be music to dance to and a bar. This event is FREE entry and crafts but there is food and drink available to buy.
Halloween Fright Night – Shaldon Zoo, Shaldon.
Friday 27th October 2017.
Get dressed up in your best Halloween Costume and head to Shaldon Zoo to meet the nocturnal animals and feed them some goulish treats. There will be spooky stories and a weird woodland walk. Woooooooo………
Halloween Party – The Twisted Oak, Ide.
Saturday 28th October 2017. Starts at 4pm.
A fun family Halloween Party where everybody can dress up and have a boogie. There will be a prize for the best costume and if you take your carved pumpkin along you can enter it into the Pumpkin Competition. Food and drink available.
There are loads of great things happening at Crealy for Halloween. Meet Scooby Doo (24th – 28th Oct) who will appear throughout the day, take a look around The Creaky Hotel (over 8’s), head into the Wilderness to find the Treehouse Trolls, meet creepy crawlies at Patch’s Bug Show, try your luck at the Trick or Treat Station – will you get a treat or be tricked? Carve your own pumpkin (all kids get a FREE pumpkin) and watch the Jolly-Ween Singing Pumpkin Show. To top it all off there will be firework displays on 28th and 29th October. Usual ticket prices apply.
Halloween Horrors – Paignton Zoo, Paignton.
21st October – 31st October 2017.
Take part in the Trick or Treat trail for a prize at the end. You can hop aboard the Ghost Train and take part of in the Crocodile Swamp Discovery, Bug Talks with bug eating challenges and a Maned Wolf talk. You can also take part in making your own slime. Normal ticket prices apply + £1.50 for the Trick or Treat map.
Killerton is a great place to take the kids. Follow the Pumpkin Trail whilst discovering all the great things at Killerton. Swish through the leaves, explore the bear house, walk through the woodlands and take a tour around the house. Don’t forget to finish off with a nice slice of cake! Normal admission prices apply.
There are various things happening at A La Ronde including the Fang-tastic Family Trail (21st – 29th Oct 10.30 – 4pm) as well as a House Trail where you can spot spooky creatures and on 24th October there lots of family Halloween activities for all the family to take part in. Normal admission applies + £2 for some activities.
Head to Bicton for Halloween crafts and visit the Witches Grotto. On the 26th October there will be a Halloween Train Ride (Over 2’s Only) for a spooky train ride in the dark which will finish off with hot chocolate and spooky muffins.
As well as all the usual things to do there will be loads of fun activities including pumpkin carving, the Hallowe’en treasure trail, spooky arts & crafts. Don’t miss the Family Halloween Show in the Barnyard Theatre on Friday 27th, Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th October featuring Angus and the witch.
Enter into a world of spookiness in the Old Riding School, where children can enjoy face painting and glitter tattoos, pumpkins crafts and ghostly games. Meet the weird and wonderful characters at the potion making shows at 12pm and 2pm. Collect your ticket on arrival, £3 per child to take part. Open from 11am to 4pm, whatever the weather. Hot drinks and snacks available. This has been marked for 4 – 11 year olds but suitable for all. There is also a child friendly ghost tour where you may see some creepy crawlies along the way. There are also some after dark activities for the adults.
Why not visit the scariest house in Devon and dare to knock at the door for your TRICK or TREAT? Meet the ‘Vampfylde’ family if they dare to join us and then enjoy some ‘ghoulish food’ in the cafe. There are areas for ALL ages including small children. There is a caution of strobe lighting for this event.
This half term discover the Halloween Horrors that have invaded Torquay’s Dinosaur World. Save the dinosaurs from the wicked witch and the ghastly ghosts and ghouls, and take the Halloween Horrors Hunt to win a Dinosaur Expert Certificate and a FREE 160-million-year-old fossil. From 3.30pm everyday visit the ‘Lights Out Torch Tour’ to explore the exhibition in the dark, listen to a scary ghost story, and meet Terry the baby T Rex.
Halloween Tram of Terror – Seaton Tramway, Seaton.
23rd – 29th October 2017.
Travel on the “Tram of Terror” with our gruesome tram drivers to Colyton Station where there will be spooky entertainment. Fancy dress is optional. Take part in spooky entertainment and activities and Halloween games at Colyton Station. Revolting refreshments are also available. Ticket prices Adult £14.95, Child £12.95 and Under 3’s FREE.
There’s 15 great things for you to do with your little ones.
If you live in the South West and find any other great nuggets, do let me know in the comments.
Yey we’ve ticked another one off the Family Bucket List as we visited The Orange Elephant today.
The kids have both been before but with grandparents so this was a first for both Chris and I and it definitely won’t be the last.
It wasn’t a long journey for us and excitement got the better of Isabelle as the signposts signalled our closeness.
Pulling in there was plenty of parking which is always a bonus.
The view of the entrance and the Meadow was lovely, and then the smell of the pig, cow and sheep pooh took over confirming that we were indeed on a working farm.
What is there to do?
Isabelle wasn’t interested in having a look around at all. All she was interested in finding was the ice cream selection, all the while wondering what toppings and sauces they had!
She wasn’t disappointed.
There were loads to choose from including Lemon Pavlova, Muddy Green Wellies (you’ll have to visit to find out what that one is) and Mango just to name a few. There was a choice of cones, toppings, sauces, and an impressive selection of ice cream sundaes.
With all the amazing flavours and the time she took to choose, she chose a plain cone with vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce and marshmallows.
Admission to The Orange Elephant are extremely reasonable and we decided to get a season pass for £12.00 which admits five people (adults or children). The season ends at the end of September, but I’ve got a feeling that we will be making use of the pass.
After paying we were given our orange stickers and our maze map and off we went to find the Summer Meadow.
We encountered sheep, pigs, chickens, and cows. The sheep weren’t really bothered with us, but the pigs were quite nosy and we got a great snout picture. A calf came to greet us and the chickens were very friendly.
If you look in the chicken pen, you can see that these are special chickens that lay green eggs!!
We went around the Maize Maze with Isabelle’s excellent map reading skills and then headed for a play in the park.
There were plenty of picnic tables and grassy areas to sit for a picnic.
There were plenty of swings and slides to go on, and an assault course which Isabelle really loves to do.
When she’d finished playing we headed back to the cafe as us parents hadn’t had a chance to taste the ice cream!
The Ice Cream
We chose the (Award-Winning) Lemon Pavlova and the Chocolate Brownie Sundaes which we shared and little cheeky minx managed to wangle another ice cream.
I didn’t take a picture but I loved the signs on the toilet doors – Heifers (ladies) and Bulls (Gents).
After finishing our sundaes (very filling indeed) we had another go in the park to round the trip off.
But not before asking about the possibility of having Isabelle’s birthday party there.
What we thought
So in summary The Orange Elephant is definitely worth a visit. It gets both adult and kid thumbs up, and I would recommend a season pass as it’s somewhere that you can nip to if you have a spare couple of hours to let the kids let off some steam and finish it off with a cheeky ice-cream.
It’s Easter Holiday time and definitely time to get out and about with the kids. The weather should be a lot better, although Saturday was definitely a cinema day with torrential rain. Here are 11 Easter Activities in the South West that I’ve found.
We have a half work, half time off Easter Holiday’s this year but here are some great ideas to get out and about with the kids in the South West.
£1 for a clue sheet – Just complete the trail and claim your prize!
Easter Egg Hunt – The Miniature Pony Centre 14th, 16th and 17th April
As well as all the usual fun stuff to do at the pony centre including pony rides, indoor and outdoor play they are holding an Easter Egg Hunt with a fancy dress theme and entertainment from Dan the Hat and Jack’s Zoo.
There’s loads of stuff going on at the World of Country Life including Easter themed arts and crafts, meet the Easter Bunny, Ferret racing, an Easter Egg Hunt and The Chicken Run (which is a surprise event).
Join in the Giant Easter Egg Hunt, Egg Rolling, Egg Tossing and guess the weight of the Easter Egg as well as meeting and feeding the animals. If you go on Good Friday before 11am you may be lucky enough to get a free hot cross bun with your cuppa.