Thursday, 30 November 2017

Visiting Santa's Grotto at Bridgemere Garden Centre, Nantwich - A Review

When we woke last Saturday morning, we were shocked to find a thin layer of snow that had settled on the ground, which made the perfect start for our day out to see Santa. Riley became convinced that we were travelling to the North Pole as we ventured further into the Cheshire countryside and the snow, hail and sleet began to fall at regular intervals.

We stopped for breakfast along the way and Riley sat fascinated as he watched the snow fall outside, excited to continue his trip to the 'North Pole' to see Santa. There really is nothing more magical than a child who believes he is about to meet the real Santa and his elves.

Once we had continued on our journey, we noticed that there were regular signs for Bridgemere from the main road once we had passed through Crewe. Our sat nav has a habit of sending us down little lanes, so it is always more reassuring to see signs that show you are going the right way! A short while later we arrived and made our way into the huge car park. Having never visited Bridgemere before, we were a little unsure as to what to expect, but seeing how large the car park was, gave me the initial impression that this is certainly a very popular place.

It was bitterly cold so before we left the car, I made sure that the children all had their gloves and hats on to keep them warm. We then made our way into the centre, to have a look around prior to our 11:15am time slot.

I could have literally spent thousands of pounds there, as beautiful items lay displayed absolutely everywhere you turned. There were hundreds of wonderful gift ideas, as well as stunning collections of Christmas decorations, flowers and plants. We arrived about half an hour before our entry time, so we had a quick browse around, whilst the children excitedly looked at all the different kinds of baubles that were available.




As our time slot approached, we made our way over to the beautiful grotto, where we were greeted by a lovely friendly elf, who brought some chocolates over to the children and made conversation with them all. Riley was so excited to be talking to a 'real' elf and he told her what he was hoping for from Santa on Christmas Day. I was already very impressed by the set up and the welcome we received and right from the beginning all the children were made to feel special and welcome.


Once all the guests for our time slot had arrived, we were invited into the cottage where we were told about the magic that could take place. We had not been expecting this and simply thought we would go straight through to Santa so this was a lovely surprise and made the experience much more interesting. The elf told the children that they could each plant a magic seed by collecting a pot, planting the seed and then enclosing it in sparkly paper. Whilst the children did this, the adults wrote each child's name on a stick, which was then placed into the pot.



Once all the children in our group had planted their magic seeds, another elf appeared at the door, who told us that Santa had fallen asleep and needed to be woken up. He encouraged the children to shout 'Wake up Santa' and after a couple of attempts, Riley was delighted to hear a very merry "Ho, Ho, Ho", from the other side of the door. We were all then invited in, where Santa gave us a lovely welcome.


The children were then all invited to place their magic seeds and pots, into the magic cupboard, where some mystifying trickery would take place. Once all the pots had been placed in the cupboard, everyone was encouraged to take a good look around the Grotto, spend some time with Santa himself, or go and select a special Christmas gift from the huge range that was available.



It was clear that a lot of effort had been put into the decorating of the grotto, with Christmas ornaments galore in beautiful and carefully created displays. It really was a lovely setting and we all enjoyed having a good look around Santa's home.

My children were also very excited by the gifts that were on offer. Children were welcome to pick something of their choosing from the large display and I was very impressed by the choice and quality of gifts that were available. There was something for all ages and I felt that this was a nice way of doing things so that children can pick something that they really like.


Once everyone had spent some time with Santa, one of the elves called us back over to the magic cupboard. To our surprise, the magic seeds had turned into real miniature Christmas trees. This was such a lovely touch and my children were delighted to be handed their own special tree. We thought that this was the end of the experience, so we were very surprised to then be led into another room, where the kids then had the chance to decorate their trees.

There was a nice selection of streamers and craft supplies and I made stars out of sparkly pipe cleaners to go on the tops of the trees.



The Santa's Grotto at Bridgemere Garden Centre costs £10 per child, which I think is excellent value for money given the experience the children get and the gifts that they get to take away with them. My children were delighted with their mini Christmas trees and couldn't wait to show their grandparents when they got home. If you would like to visit the Santa's Grotto, then Bridgemere recommend that you book online to secure your slot, which can be done via their website here: Wyevale Garden Centres

The Little Diggers Santa's Grotto Experience is also available at the following Wyevale Garden Centres: Andover, Bicester, Birchencliffe, Bridgemere, Cadbury, Carr Gate, Endsleigh, Huntingdon, Pennine, Podington, World's End.

Attraction details

Attraction - Bridgemere Garden Centre Santa's Grotto
Address - Bridgemere Garden World, Bridgemere, Nantwich, CW5 7QB
Cost - £10 per child
Dates - Daily from 1st December to 24th December
Times - Opening times vary, so please check their booking page for availability here: Tickets
Website - Wyevale Garden Centres
Twitter - @WyevaleGC
Facebook - Bridgemere - A Wyevale Garden Centre


Disclaimer: We were invited as guests to experience Bridgemere's Santa's Grotto for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. Opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Puxton Park Review & Upcoming Christmas Events!

Earlier this year, we visited the wonderful Puxton Park which is set amongst 40 acres of countryside, in Somerset. There was so much to do there, that we didn't get the chance to do everything in one day, so we were delighted to have the opportunity to return a couple of weeks ago, for another fun packed family adventure!


Like our previous visit, there was no issue with parking as there is a huge car park available for guests, which is also free of charge. The young girl on reception was very welcoming and we purchased tickets for my parents, who had come along to join us for the day. Our entrance was slightly different on this occasion, as due to there being a Halloween theme running that week, we had the chance to walk through the spooky tunnel to reach the main site.

As soon as we were outdoors, the kids were adamant that we needed to take the obligatory funny photo, before continuing with our visit. 


When we last had our day out at Puxton Park, we missed out on a few things, which included the tractor ride & falconry display, so before we set off anywhere, I made sure that I checked the timings for these events to ensure that we did not miss them this time round. The children remembered the meerkats from their last visit, so we decided to start from the back of the attraction where they are located and work our way forwards throughout the day. 

As we made our way to the Meerkats, we passed some beautiful animals, so we stopped at regular intervals to say hello and take a look. One thing that really impressed us was how clean and tidy the whole park is. The paths are clear and well maintained, which made it great for Grandad to be able to walk along, without having to worry about any bumps or holes. As we got closer to the meerkat compound, the fence maze caught Riley's attention and he quickly ran in, determined to complete it all by himself. He did manage to do it on his own, then he did it again, and again, and again! In the end we sat down on a nearby bench as he seemed more than happy just running round and round the maze, whilst Emma and Ben enjoyed bouncing on some nearby trampolines.


Once I had finally managed to convince Riley to leave the maze (of course on the promise that he could return later) we went over to the meerkats, where we literally could have watched them for hours.

Opposite to the Meerkats is a large animal barn, that contains a variety of farm animals including sheep, goats, shetland ponies and alpacas. There is also a lovely petting zoo area where you can stroke and hold guinea pigs and rabbits. This whole area is nicely set out and very clean and tidy. Each enclosure has plenty of space for the animals and their homes are designed around a little town theme. Our personal favourite was 'Miceland'!



After spending some time with the animals, my phone alarm went off to alert me to the fact it was nearly time for the tractor ride. We therefore made our way over to join the queue. Riley was very excited by this point and couldn't wait to climb onboard the tractor trailer to go on a little journey. We hadn't been waiting long, before a young man arrived with the tractor and reversed the vehicle to the start of the queue. We took our seats and set off on our bumpy ride towards the large cow sheds. The driver stopped for a short while in each shed so that the children could see all the animals. He told us about the different breeds of cows and what food they could produce. The jersey cows were my favourite, they are so adorable! It was also very interesting to learn about all the work that goes in to producing some of the food & drink that we take for granted, such as milk, butter, cheese and ice cream. These are all so readily available in the supermarkets, but I hadn't actually thought much about how they were produced beforehand. It was therefore a bit of a learning curve for me, as well as for the kids.


Once our tractor ride was completed, both the kids and Grandad were hungry and thirsty, so we headed over to the Meadows Restaurant to get a bite to eat. There was a lovely selection of cakes available, as well as delicious looking hot meals. As I had already eaten a large breakfast that day, I decided not to purchase anything but Nana and Grandad both bought some sandwiches each and the kids all bought a lunch box that contained a sandwich, drink and some snacks.


After lunch, it was time for the falconry display. We were all really looking forward to watching this as hadn't had the chance to do so on our last visit, so we walked over to the display field and took a seat on one of the benches. The falconry expert introduced numerous birds to us including an Eagle and an Owl and told us more about each species. It was fascinating watching the speed that they can travel through the sky and it was also incredible to see them up close.



Riley's favourite part of the day however, was on the lovely little train ride, that took us on a journey around the small lake. This was really enjoyable and it was great to see Riley enjoying himself so much and making 'Choo Choo' noises as we travelled around.


The remainder of the day was spent enjoying the many play areas that are available for the children. These range from large adventure playgrounds, to fun filled sand play areas, as well as a huge three storey indoor soft play zone. There is certainly plenty of choice and more than enough to keep families of all ages entertained.


Once again we had an absolutely fantastic visit to Puxton Park and it is certainly one of my favourite attractions that we have visited in the South West of England. On both of our visits I have found the customer service to be exceptional, the whole park clean, tidy and well presented, and wonderful facilities and events to keep you busy in all weathers. We have been very lucky that on both of our visits we had lovely sunshine, but the soft play area, animal barn & cow shed are all indoors, so there is still plenty to see and do on a rainy day too.

Puxton Park Christmas Events

Puxton Park is open all year round except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. They have a great range of fun festive events planned for the next few weeks, that are sure to delight and entertain families of all ages.

They have gone all out with their plans for this year and have even created a brand new attraction especially for Christmas! The space between the JCB Dig Sandpit and the Crazee Golf Course, has been transformed into a Santa's Grotto, with adjoining events room. This new feature will be a comfortable home to both Father and Mrs Christmas, as well as their loyal elves. Santa's Grotto will be open every weekend in December from 10am til 4pm and December 19th to 23rd from 10am til 4pm. The Grotto will also be open on Christmas Eve from 10am til 2pm. Guests are invited to enjoy the new Cosy Cottage and Events room where they can visit the Puxton reindeer, enjoy Christmas stories, create beautiful crafts and even watch some Christmas films. For an additional charge of £5 children can also visit Father Christmas and recieve a special present.

In addition to the Santa's Grotto, Puxton Park will also be hosting their very first Grand Light Switch On Event, which shall be taking place on the 2nd December. The event will commence at 3pm, with the light switch on at 4pm and closing at 5:30pm. There will also be some very special guests in attendance as the cast of the Weston Playhouse's Aladdin pantomime come along to enjoy the festivities, including TV celebrity John Altman, who played Eastender's Nasty Nick. An official ribbon cutting ceremony for the parks newest attraction 'The Cosy Cottage' will also take place.

From the 19th to the 22nd December, Puxton Park will also be hosting their annual supper with Santa. This event includes a buffet tea, ice cream, funky disco and a present from Santa. After the meal, children are invited to play in the spectacular 3-story soft play area, whilst parents can sit back, relax and enjoy a tea or coffee. This event does carry a charge, so to obtain the most up to date information or to reserve & purchase tickets, please either visit reception or call on 01934 523500.

Attraction Details

Puxton Park, Cowslip Lane, Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset
Parking - Yes, there is plenty of free parking available.
Opening times - Daily from 9am til 5:30-pm Monday to Sunday (excl. 25th/26th December and 1st January).
Entry prices - Entrance costs vary, so please visit Ticket Prices to obtain the most up to date information.
Website - www.puxton.co.uk/
Twitter - @PuxtonPark
Facebook - Puxton Park

*Disclaimer - We received a complimentary family ticket to provide our honest opinion and review of the attraction. We purchased three additional tickets for our accompanying guests. All opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Dates for your Diary - The Bear at Waterside Arts, Sale - 5th December to 6th January 2018

With Christmas only weeks away, I have recently been bringing you details of some fantastic family-friendly festive events. From the 5th December 2017 to the 6th January 2018, The Bear will be strolling into Sale to provide audiences with a heart-warming and humerous wintry tale.

Based on the much-loved children's book 'The Bear' by Raymond Briggs, this beautiful theatrical adaptation is brought to you by Pins & Needles Productions. The team was also behind the hugely successful Father Christmas show and they are delighted to be bringing to life, another of Raymond Briggs stories.


The Bear offers an unforgettable experience for the whole family, as well as being the perfect introduction to theatre, with its dazzling puppetry, delicious music, dreamy storytelling and dozens of laughs.

Ever wondered what it would be like to sit on a polar bears lap? Or ride on its back? Have you ever tried to give a bear a bath? Or clear up its poo?! Looking after a bear is exhausting stuff.

One night when she's fast asleep, an enormous snowy white bear, climbs into Tilly's bedroom. It has a big black tongue and a yawn as big as your head. But Tilly's not scared.

So come and join Tilly and her great big white friend on a wild and magical adventure.

The production is recommended for children aged between 3 and 11 and there are also a number of Slumber Shows taking place. At the 6pm shows, PJ's are encouraged to be worn and cookies and milk will also be available to buy for little ones.

The Bear previews on Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th December and officially opens from Thursday 7th December until Saturday 6th January 2018. There are both schools and public performances available and show times vary. For further information please visit thebearlive.com

Listing Details

Show - The Bear
Venue - Waterside, 1 Waterside Plaza, Sale, Trafford, M33 7ZF
Dates - 5th December 2017 to 6th January 2018, with preview, relaxed and BSL performances also available on selected dates. 
Times - Show times vary, so please see thebearlive.com for the most up to date information.
Box Office - 0161 912 5616
Ticket prices - £16.50/ £14.50/ £12.50
School tickets - £10 - 1 teacher goes free with every 9 students booked.
Running time - Approximately 55 minutes with no interval.


Monday, 27 November 2017

Dick Whittington at the Manchester Opera House - Competition

Get ready for a Fan-Dabi-Dozi time in Manchester this festive season, as John Barrowman and The Krankies lead the cast in this year's must see pantomime Dick Whittington, taking place at the Manchester Opera House, from Saturday 9th December 2017 to Sunday 7th January 2018!

Produced by Qdos Entertainment, the world's biggest pantomime producer, the show will include a spectacular 3D sequence, which will see audiences travel on a very special adventure alongside Dick Whittington and his trusty cat!

Michael Harrison, Managing Director of Qdos Entertainment's pantomimes said "We're absolutely delighted that the ultimate showman, John Barrowman, will be leading the cast of this year's Manchester Opera House pantomime. John is always a favourite with panto audiences, which is no surprise given his immense talent. We're also thrilled that panto-legends The Krankies will be spending another season with John, their timeless comedy is loved by audiences of all ages."

The title role of Dick Whittington, will be played by John Barrowman, who has enjoyed an acclaimed and hugely varied career, including music, presenting and writing with performances on television and film, in the West End and on Broadway. His numerous stage credits include leading roles in Sunset Boulevard, Anything Goes, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and Company. He was on the TV judging panel of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and Any Dream Will Do alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber, and also hosted his own primetime Saturday night programme for the BBC, Tonight's the Night.


John is perhaps best-known for his iconic role as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who for the BBC, a role that proved so popular he became the leading role in it's spin-off series, Torchwood, which made John a household name. He has also released eleven studio albums and two concert DVD's. John is currently starring as Malcolm Merlyn in the acclaimed US television show Arrow, based on the DC Comic crime-fighter Green Arrow which is now in its sixth series.

John Barrowman said "I am so looking forward to coming to Manchester. We've pretty much hit all corners of the UK with this show and the one thing that I think is great about it, is that it's a great family show. We have a great time, that's the reason I come back every year to do panto with QDOS. It's one of the best introductions to live theatre for children, and one of the things we have to keep doing is the tradition of live theatre. We're going to bring the magic of the Barrowman-Krankie panto to Manchester. I have lots of friends in Manchester too, I can't wait."

Joining John are the legendary double act The Krankies playing Councillor and Jimmy Krankie. Having entertained audiences with their slapstick for over 50 years, Dick Whittington will mark the couple's seventh pantomime season playing alongside John Barrowman. Ian & Janette Tough, who last year celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary, have been stalwarts on the cabaret circuit and on television since the 1970's, enjoying a varied career including sold-out residencies at major theatres across the UK, appearances at the Royal Variety Performance and their own television programmes The Krankies Klub and The Krankies Elektronik Komic and released two singles, Fan Dabi-Dozi, based on their much-loved catchphrase and Wee Jimmy Krankie.

Photo Credit: Phil Tragen

Sarah Bleasdale, General Manager of the Palace Theatre and Opera House said "It is with great pleasure that we welcome back to Manchester, the world's biggest Panto Producer Qdos Entertainment after 10 years and what a show they are returning with. Bringing some of the biggest names in showbusiness and comedy, John Barrowman and The Krankies, in one of the most traditional of Panto titles. We are all really excited and I know that Manchester audiences are in for an absolute treat, it's sure to be an unforgettable show for all the family this festive period."

Listing Details

Show - Dick Whittington with John Barrowman and The Krankies
Dates - Saturday 9th December 2017 to Sunday 7th January 2018
Times - Performance times vary, so please visit the ATG Tickets website for the most up to date information.
Ticket prices - From £12 (booking/transaction fee will also apply)
Address - Opera House Manchester, 3 Quay Street, Manchester, M3 3HP
Box Office - 0844 871 3018 or for group bookings 0333 009 5390
Website - www.atgtickets.com/Manchester

We also have a fantastic competition for our readers, to give you the chance to win a family ticket to see Dick Whittington at the Manchester Opera House on Tuesday 12th December at 7pm. If you would like to enter then please read the terms and conditions & submit your entry using the gleam form below. Good Luck!

Win a Family Ticket to see Dick Whittington at Manchester Opera House
Terms & Conditions

  • There is 1 (one) prize of a family ticket to the 7pm performance on Tuesday 12th December 2017 at Opera House Manchester, 3 Quay Street, Manchester, M3 3HP.
  • A family ticket is for 2 adults and 2 children, or alternatively 1 adult and 3 children.
  • The winner shall be required to collect their family ticket from the box office, prior to the show.
  • Tickets are non-transferable and there is no cash alternative.
  • There will be no contribution made towards travel.
  • Tickets are valid for the date/time/venue specified only and cannot be used on an alternative date or time, or at a different venue.
  • Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 years or older.
  • Competition closes on December 7th 2017 at noon. The winner shall be drawn at random and contacted via email on the same day.
  • Due to the time restrictive nature of the prize, the winner shall have 48 hours to reply to the email to confirm their acceptance of the prize, before another winner from the remaining eligible entrants is drawn.
  • No bulk or third party entries.
  • The winners details shall be shared with the promoter, for the purpose of prize fulfilment.
Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

John Fowler Holidays - Sandy Meadows Lodge Park Review

A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of spending a lovely few days at Sandy Meadows Lodge Park, located in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset. Sandy Meadows is owned by John Fowler Holidays, who have been established for over 60 years. Their aim is to provide families with a wonderful UK holiday that includes comfortable accommodation, an action packed entertainment programme and on-site facilities.

We couldn't wait for our holiday to begin and a few days prior to our arrival, we received a welcome email that also provided our check in time. We had booked to stay in a 4 bedroom luxury hot tub lodge on the Sandy Meadows Lodge Park, which is adjacent to Sandy Glade. The facilities here are shared, so although the lodge park has a separate name, you are free to enjoy the entertainment and facilities on offer at the adjoining site. This includes the swimming pool, park, shop, on-site cafe, bar and evening entertainment. There is also an activities programme that is run by the 'Stripeys' that children from both sites are welcome to participate in.

Our Arrival

We live approximately three and a half hours away from Burnham-on-Sea and didn't fancy travelling in heavy traffic, so we set off at around 6am. With a stop on the way, this meant we reached the site by 10am. I visited reception to make them aware that we had arrived early and although we were unable to check in until 2pm, they said that we were more than welcome to enjoy the facilities available whilst we waited. The lady at the desk was very friendly and helpful and also told us to check back in a couple of hours, just in case our lodge was ready slightly earlier. We rummaged through the boot of the car to find all our swimwear and towels and made our way over to the swimming pool.

After a relaxing hour long swim and a short play on the park, I popped back to reception on the off chance that our lodge was ready. I was delighted to find that it was and so the receptionist handed me the key, an entertainment booklet, passcode for the swimming pool and the entry code for the Sandy Meadows gates, as well as providing me with directions to our lodge. This was neatly presented in a John Fowler Holidays envelope which gave me a safe and secure place to store all the information I had been given.

From the main reception on Sandy Glade to the lodge park on Sandy Meadows it takes approximately 10 minutes to walk, or just a couple of minutes in the car. We drove over excitedly, ready to explore our accommodation and unpack.

Accommodation

The accommodation was absolutely stunning and featured everything we could have hoped for. As soon as we arrived on the park, we could tell this was going to be luxurious, with both the lodges and their surroundings well cared for and maintained.


Our lodge looked huge from the outside and had a lovely large decking area that overlooked the fields in front. In addition to this, there was a nice modern hot tub, that had privacy screening all around it. The maintenance man on site saw us arrive and informed us that we would be unable to use the hot tub until at least 5pm as it had just been cleaned and refilled, so it would take a while to heat up. This was fine with us, as by the time we had unpacked and had a look around, it would probably be early evening before we had the chance to use it anyway.


We stayed in a 4 bedroom lodge, which featured 2 double bedrooms and 2 twin rooms. This was of ample size for our party of 7 and there was plenty of space for all of us. As we entered the lodge we walked into a small cloakroom area which led into the open plan lounge, dining and kitchen area.




It was immediately apparent how luxurious and comfortable the lodge was. The children excitedly ran from room to room to explore what was going to be their home for the week. We were all shocked at how big the bedrooms were and all the storage that was available. There were two shower rooms, which both had two doors, meaning that it could be used as a en-suite from the bedroom, or alternatively, they could be accessed from the hallway. This worked out really well for us as it meant that my parents could have one bathroom to themselves, whilst the kids and I had the other.



The kitchen had everything that you could think of, including a washing machine, dishwasher, microwave and oven. Plates, cups, glasses and utensils were also provided. We did notice that there were only 4 tumbler style glasses and we also couldn't find any placemats for the dining table. I therefore simply made a note of this and alerted reception when we went over to Dunes in the evening. By the time we had got back from bingo on our first evening, these had been placed in the lodge ready for our return. Excellent service!



Facilities

There were plenty of on-site facilities, to help ensure that all guests have everything they need. Chef's Corner provided tasty takeaway and sit down cafe meals, that were all of a reasonable price. There was a nice selection of comfort food available, which is always a nice treat when you are on holiday. The service was very friendly and quick and although it certainly isn't a five star fine dining restaurant, it does offer you a relaxing place to go, for when you just don't fancy cooking yourself, which is always a great option to have.

Located next door to Chef's Corner, was a well stocked shop, that had all the daily essentials that you would need, as well as a selection of toys for the children. We had already done a big shop prior to our arrival, but it was useful for us to pop to this shop to get a couple of small things we had forgotten.


Another facility that was popular with my children was the NextGen arcade, that was located to the right hand side of the Dunes Bar. My children enjoyed playing on the 2p machines and would spend £1 each night trying to win some little prizes, whilst we waited for the bingo games to start. Riley really enjoyed another game too, where you had to steer a wheel that was connected to a basket and catch the eggs that dropped from above. This was a really fun game and at 50p a go, it didn't break the bank either.


The Dunes bar was a lovely place to go in the evening, with modern decor and comfortable seating throughout. We enjoyed spending our evenings in here and felt that there were plenty of tables and seating options for groups & families of all sizes.


Our favourite facility though, had to be the one that was back at our lodge, The Hot Tub! We loved being able to relax in here everyday and we were also very impressed with how well maintained they are. During our stay a maintenance worker, would come and check the chemical levels of it twice a day which we thought was really good. We have stayed in lodges with hot tubs, owned by other holiday parks in the past and the hot tubs haven't been checked once during our stay, so we felt that this showed excellent customer care by John Fowler Holidays.



Activities

Activities were scheduled for each day, which were ran by the Stripeys or leisure staff. During the week that we stayed there was football, water walking zorbs, pool kayaking & games. We had hoped that there would be some Halloween activities planned, but I was told that these had taken place the week before, as that had been the local half term and they were busier then. Whilst I can understand this, it would have been nice if there had been something on the 31st at least for all the children on site. The activities seemed well run and organised and there were certainly many happy participants, especially at the football!

The swimming pool offered a fun place to go for a swim and it didn't feel too crowded at any point. There were a couple of changing cubicles, showers and toilets located around the outside of the pool, as well as some seating and tables for anyone wanting to supervise their children. The water temperature was just right, a little cool on entry but absolutely perfect once you are in and have started swimming. There was also a lifeguard on duty, which I always find very reassuring.

Evening Entertainment

Evening entertainment is held on the sister park of Sandy Glade in the Dunes Bar. This would begin at 6pm with kids club, which involved some games, dancing and the chance to have a meet and greet with one of the on site mascots. My children took part in this every night and loved the games, especially Hide & Seek and Shuffle Bum!


The Dunes Bar was very clean and tidy, with nice and modern decor throughout. There was plenty of seating, however I can imagine that it probably gets extremely busy during the peak season. Television screens were displayed in several areas, that provided details on entertainment or activities that were taking place throughout the week and there were also some larger screens near the main bar, that showed the sports channels for anyone wanting to catch up on the football. The bar service was friendly and the drinks were reasonably priced.


Once kids club was over then it was time to purchase your bingo tickets, with kids being able to buy theirs from the Foxy Shop for £1 and adults could buy theirs at the bar. Each bingo booklet contains five games and both the kids and adults bingo are played at the same time, which seems to work really well. The first four games are for a line only, with the final game being for a full house. Prizes are calculated based on ticket sales, so the value of these changed each night, dependent on how many booklets were sold. Children's prizes were for toys to a certain value from the Foxy Shop, whilst adults played for a cash prize. My husband won £15 on our first night which paid for a nice round of drinks for us all.

Once the bingo games were finished, then there would be further entertainment that continued on til late. This varied from quizzes to live cabaret acts, however we always chose to leave after the Bingo games as Riley would start to get tired. There was certainly a nice selection of acts available throughout the week though, so we felt that there was something for everyone in terms of evening entertainment.

Nearby

There is a huge amount to do in the local area, ranging from museums & fairgrounds to beaches and beauty spots, such as Cheddar Gorge and Wells. Popular attractions include Brean Leisure Park, Wookey Hole, Cheddar Gorge, Weston-Super-Mare Pier, Puxton Park, The World's Largest Helicopter Museum, Animal Park and Bristol Zoo to name a few. There are also many others that are within driving distance of the holiday park.

During our stay we visited Bristol Zoo, Puxton Park and Brean Leisure Park, which all offered fantastic family fun days out.

There were several supermarkets nearby including Tesco & Lidl, so if you didn't fancy taking food with you, there is no worry about doing a big shop once you get there. A well stocked co-op store is also only a couple of minutes down the road.

Overall

Overall, we had an absolutely wonderful time at Sandy Meadows Lodge Park. The site was well cared for, clean and tidy, which made the park a pleasure to be on. The staff were all very friendly and worked extremely hard to try and ensure that the guests have a wonderful holiday.


Our lodge was a comfortable and luxurious place to stay and it was lovely to be able to sit out on the verandah in the afternoon and enjoy a glass of wine, whilst just watching the clouds float by. The outdoor seating was also really good quality so again the feeling of luxury continued outdoors too.


The view was very peaceful and despite visiting at the end of October and beginning of November, we were fortunate to have lovely weather for that time of year, which improved our stay even further.
From the tranquility of the lodge park, to the music and atmosphere in the bar, everything was just perfect for our stay. If you are looking for a lovely UK family break, with plenty to do both onsite and nearby, then I highly recommend Sandy Meadows by John Fowler Holidays.


Further Information

If you would like to obtain further information on Sandy Meadows, or learn more about their other parks located in the South West of England, then you can find more information on their website, or social media channels which can be found here:

Website: John Fowler Holidays
Facebook: John Fowler Holiday Parks
Twitter: @JohnFowlerHols
Instagram: @johnfowlerholidays
YouTube: John Fowler Holidays

There are also some fantastic savings to be made on 2018 holidays at the moment, which makes it a great time to book your holiday for next year!


*Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post & we received a discounted media rate stay for our visit. All opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Dates for your Diary - The Siege of Christmas at Contact Theatre, Manchester

It is only a matter of weeks now until Christmas and there is a whole host of fun events taking place throughout December, that are sure to get you in the festive spirit.

One of those wonderful events is The Siege of Christmas, being held at Contact, from Wednesday 13th December to Wednesday 20th December 2017. Following last years sell-out production, Contact and Slung Low have once again joined forces, to present this high-octane, energetic and family friendly performance piece.

This theatrical adventure, allows you to immerse yourself in this interactive and fast-paced Christmas show. Once you are armed with your individual headphones, instructions and clues will be provided as the action kicks off from the theatre's main entrance. You can join your hosts who will lead you on your way, on this festive and fun-filled assignment throughout the building's many spaces, which have been transformed into a Winter Wonderland.

Photo Credit: Joel Chester-Fildes
The show is sure to delight thrill-seekers of all ages, as well as highlight the wonderful work that Contact continues to produce with its Young Company - for many of whom this marks their first professional engagement.

So book your tickets and get ready for militant mince pies, rapping wrapping paper and other unexpected seasonal surprises. Remember.... Christmas won't be Christmas until the Siege has ended!

Alan Lane, Director at Slung Low says: "We were overwhelmed by the audience response to The Siege of Christmas and the chance to revisit it and work again with the excellent Contact Young Company is one we're really excited about."

For more information or to book tickets, please visit www.contactmcr.com

Listing Details

The Siege of Christmas

Venue: Contact, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6JA
Box Office: 0161 274 0600
Website: www.contactmcr.com
Dates: Wednesday 13th December to Wednesday 20th December
Times: 11am, 2pm & 6pm

Tickets are available priced £13, £7 for concessions and £5 for Under 10's.

Groups booking offers are also available.

Photo Credit: Joel Chester-Fildes

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Our Visit to Bristol Zoo Gardens - A Review

We actually came across Bristol Zoo Gardens by accident as we were travelling to Burnham-on-Sea during the October half term. I noticed a sign for it as we were driving along the motorway and realising that it was less than an hour away from our accommodation, I found the website online to see what the attraction had on offer.

The website was very informative and provided a really good insight into zoo life, the animals and the facilities that were available. There was plenty of information for visitors, as well as further facts about the Bristol Zoo Garden's charitable mission and conservation work.

I also learnt a little bit more about the history of the zoo and was astonished to find that it is actually the fifth oldest zoo in the world, having first opened its doors to the public, back in July 1836. Since then the zoo has helped save over 175 species from extinction both in human care and in the wild. Over 90 million guests have visited the zoo over the years which is an incredible number! Having discovered more about Bristol Zoo Gardens, I made the decision that it was somewhere we would definitely have to visit.

We were very lucky with the weather during the half term week and managed to pick a day to visit, that was abundant with sunshine. We followed the sat nav using the postcode provided, however this did take us over the Clifton Suspension bridge (toll required) and along some small roads. My parents who decided to come along with us for the day, followed the signs from the motorway instead and found it with no problems.

When we arrived at the car park, we found that the parking costs £3 or a reduced rate of £1 for Zoo members. This is cash only and is paid to an attendant on arrival, so make sure you have some change spare. It isn't a huge car park, so I would recommend arriving early during peak periods to make sure you can find a space with ease. Once you have parked up, it is then a short walk to the entrance.

Credit: Emma Foster
The main entrance was very welcoming and the staff all seemed very friendly and polite. We were asked if we would like a map and whether there was any information we required before entering. The children could see all the items available in the shop behind the main kiosk and so we had to make a promise to let them have a look around before leaving. Once we had obtained our tickets and map, we made our way out of the foyer and into the beautiful Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Although I had read all the information on the website beforehand, I was still a little unsure as to what to expect and how the layout would be. It soon became apparent that the whole zoo looped round so it was easy to visit each enclosure in order, whilst surrounded by the beautiful landscaped gardens and features. The first animals we came across were the flamingos. They all looked so elegant and perfectly still whilst resting on one leg. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to stay in this area too long as the children heard a loud roar on the opposite side of the path, so they all ran over excitedly, with us not far behind.


The lions were absolutely magnificent and it was quite breathtaking to be able to see such stunning creatures up close. I could have literally stood there for hours just watching them and they didn't seem phased at all by the public observing through the glass viewing panel. All around me I could hear the gasps of children along with shouts of "Wow" as everyone watched whilst they prowled around the enclosure. There was also an informative sign nearby, that provided plenty of information on the Asiatic Lions, which I always find interesting to read.




Next, we made our way through the Twilight World which featured a wide range of nocturnal animals. As you would expect, it was very dark inside and Grandad struggled a bit to see his way through, but managed ok with a little bit of guidance from the grandkids! On leaving the Twilight World we entered the fruit bat enclosure which then led us out to the Red Pandas. Whilst our family was busy watching the Red Panda's climb down from the tree, I took Riley over to the Carousel on the Piazza where he enjoyed a short ride. He was very excited to find a painted pebble as we made our way back to the rest of the family, especially as someone had decorated it with Peppa's teddy!



One thing that I was already impressed with, was the maintenance of the site. Everywhere was really well kept, clean and tidy. I was also pleased that there was plenty of benches scattered at regular intervals along the terrace, providing a lovely area to sit down and simply enjoy the surroundings. Grandad is disabled and so it was ideal for him to have somewhere he could sit and rest whilst the kids ran around.

Credit: Emma Foster
Our next stop was the Reptile House, where we saw some very large and fascinating creatures, including bright and colourful frogs, as well as large and scary looking snakes. My son Riley loved looking at all the reptiles, especially the lizards.

Credit: Emma Foster

Credit: Emma Foster
The exit from the Reptile House, took us to the Aquarium entrance, where we found an abundance of vibrant and lively fish. My children always enjoy looking for "Nemo's & Dory's" and so they were very happy to find a beautiful Dory near the exit.


By this point we had started to get a little thirsty so decided to purchase a drink. We made our way to The Hide Cafe Restaurant, which is a really nice dining area. On arrival you are taken to a table and provided with menus, then someone comes back to take your order. I found this to be a really lovely setting for a sit down meal, but thought it was a bit formal for just a few soft drinks and I also felt a bit awkard about taking up such a large table for just a drink. My husband then spotted a kiosk that had opened outside serving hot & cold drinks, along with some savoury snacks such as sausage rolls and pies, so we made our way over to this instead and enjoyed our drinks on one of the outdoor picnic benches instead. If we had wanted to have a meal though, then I wouldn't have hesitated to stay in The Hide Cafe Restaurant as it looked lovely, with a good selection of food available.

Credit: Emma Foster


After our drinks, we began to explore the monkey jungle and our favourite part of the zoo, which was the Lemur enclosure. We were fascinated watching the lemurs run around us and there were staff on hand to answer the hundreds of questions that the kids kept firing at them. It was amazing to witness them running around our feet and then swinging and chasing one another through the trees.



My children stopped to take a look at the map and saw that we were by Gorilla Island. We were just in time for the Gorilla talk and feed, so we hurried over to find out more about these incredible animals. We were astonished by just how big they were and Riley was convinced that the one in the picture below was actually a statue, until he put his hand in the air to catch a lettuce that had been thrown over.



Their size and physique was incredible and it was really interesting to hear about the diet the Gorilla's eat. We had seen a large board at the entrance to Gorilla Island that details Jock's daily menu and we had intially thought this was a joke!


In addition to the Gorilla talk, the map detailed numerous other talk and feeding sessions ranging from Lion's and Meerkats, to Penguins and Seals, which is always really useful if you want to learn more. We were going to visit the Seal and Penguin Coasts after Gorilla Island, but Ben spotted the sign for the Children's play area, so all the children quickly demanded a visit to the park for a play.


There was a wide range of play equipment available, as well as a sand play area. My only negative comment, would be that it was very hard for some of the smaller children to climb up to the slide and could have done with some additional steps inside the tower. Some children were able to pull themselves up with ease, but Riley and a few others were struggling. It was also in such a position that it was hard for parents to help from the outside. That being said, Riley did manage it twice and enjoyed the slide very much once he had managed to reach the top.


Once the children had finished burning off some energy in the Play Area, we returned back to the Seal and Penguin Coasts area, where we enjoyed a lovely stroll through the enclosure. The penguins all seemed busy, wandering around together, whilst the seals rolled gently in the water.

Credit: Emma Foster
We ended our visit to Bristol Zoo Gardens, with a lovely walk through the Butterfly Forest, where stunning butterflies of all different colours, flew around us. Some of them were really beautiful and Riley enjoyed looking for all the different species, that were on a sheet we had been provided with as we entered. There was also a fascinating area where you could see the cocoons that had been built ready for butterflies to emerge from.


As we made our way to the exit, the children enjoyed a quick run around the Turtle Maze. This was a lovely fun area, surrounded by lawns that looked really peaceful and well cared for. We all agreed that we had enjoyed a wonderful day at Bristol Zoo Gardens and felt that it was a great attraction for families to enjoy together. Nana and Grandad also commented on how beautiful it was and that they felt the layout was perfect and easy to follow. Overall we were very impressed and had a brilliant time. We would definitely return in the future and would recommend to others.

Attraction Details

Address: Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton, Bristol, BS83HA
Website: www.bristolzoo.org.uk
Opening times: 9am til 5pm, 364 days a year.
Ticket Prices: Tickets can be purchased both online or on the gate. Prices vary, so please visit the Bristol Zoo website to obtain the most up to date details here: Ticket Information

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. Opinions and photographs are my own, unless stated otherwise.