Friday, 24 May 2019

Our Visit to Enginuity - A Review

You may have read our recent blog post regarding a trip to Blists Hill Victorian Town, which is a great place to visit for some family fun. However, located just ten minutes down the road, another of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums, called Enginuity, also provides a great learning experience for families of all ages. Therefore whilst in the area, we travelled the short distance to Coalbrookdale, to see what Enginuity was all about.

This museum is great for some hands-on activities, as well as a great place to get creative and test out your design skills. There are plenty of experiments, puzzles and learning opportunities as you make your way around the attraction, which really makes learning fun and exciting.

On arrival we found there to be a large car park, so we were able to find a spot with ease and then had a short walk over to the entrance. You can see the majority of the displays as you arrive in reception, so my children immediately spotted some activities that they wanted to try.


The first activity Ben wanted to try was all about electrical energy. There were numerous different objects that can be found in most households and you needed to try and power them by spinning the handles fast enough to create energy. Each appliance required a different amount of energy and you could select a number from 1 to 8 to take up the challenge. Items included a radio, blender and even a television. Ben found this really interesting and kept trying to see how long he could keep an item working for.


Another favourite with all my children was the large water dam, which provided plenty of opportunities for water play, as well as a series of challenges. Ben particularly liked the area where you needed to shoot water from the pipe into an adjacent bucket, which would then gradually fill up with enough water to make it tip. The challenges also encouraged my children to work together in different areas, which they all found really enjoyable.


We all loved how interactive the majority of the exhibits were and 'The Boiler' seemed very popular with guests, including my son Riley. He loved putting the fuel ( plastic balls) into the boiler and then turning the wheel to create the energy and make the balls flow.


Riley's favourite activity was to build an arch, where you had to connect foam blocks together to make a freestanding arch. It was a little tricky and it did take three of us to complete this successfully. I will also be honest and say that the arch fell down literally two seconds after this photo was taken! I was quite annoyed with myself though that I hadn't noticed that the number 5 blocks were the wrong way round.


Just behind this arch, was an indoor soft play area for toddlers, which I thought was a great idea as it gave smaller children somewhere safe to play that was nice and quiet and away from the busier activities.

My daughter's favourite challenge was to try and build an earthquake proof tower, where using the materials provided you had to create a building capable of withstanding a simulated earthquake. The boards would remain still whilst you were creating, then once you were confident that your creation was finished, you simply pressed a button and the boards would begin to move from side to side. Despite Emma's best efforts, her building fell quite quickly and she became quite determined to make something that was strong enough.

After we had tried all the exhibits that were downstairs, we made our way up towards the mezzanine floor. As we walked towards the steps, there was a really interesting display of genuine Robot Wars vehicles, along with a video that showed them in action. My children had never heard of the programme before, so they enjoyed watching the display and having a good look around the robots.

On the Mezzanine floor there were more informative exhibits as opposed to hands on activities, so we took some time to read through some of the information that was on display. Riley particularly enjoyed the drawing area where there was a challenge to design a carrot powered rabbit vehicle for a bunny to travel around in. There were some clips on the board so that you could add your creation to the display and Riley loved having a look through everyone elses ideas and designing his own. All the tables were neat and very well laid out, so he enjoyed sitting there for a while so that he could draw and colour in his rabbit-mobile.


One really good aspect of this attraction is that it is very accessible. The majority of activities are all located on the ground floor and there is a large amount of space between each one, making it suitable for prams or wheelchairs. The mezzanine floor is also served by a lift if required.

Overall we really enjoyed our visit to Enginuity and I felt that the exhibits were suitable for the whole family to enjoy and not just the children. This meant that we were able to join in and have fun with our kids and help them solve some of the challenges. It was great to see them reading the information that was provided on the exhibits, which ensured that they were also learning whilst having fun with the experiments.

We visited for two hours, which was just the right amount of time to try out everything without rushing. We also combined our visit with a trip to Blists Hill Victorian Town in the morning, which meant that we had a full day out together as opposed to just a couple of hours and I felt that this worked really well. There was plenty to see and do and any staff that we came across were also really helpful. As well as being a fun place to visit for a couple of hours, I can also imagine that this is a great place to visit with schools or clubs, as it is ideal for an educational trip.

I also believe that Enginuity is currently undergoing a redevelopment of the site and are adding some new exhibits, so we look forward to visiting again in the future and seeing the changes that have taken place.

To find out more about Enginuity or any of the other Ironbridge Gorge Museums, you can visit their website or social media pages on the following channels:

Address - Enginuity, 10 Wellington Road, Coalbrookdale, Telford, TF8 7DX
Website - https://www.ironbridge.org.uk/explore/enginuity/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/theironbridgegorgemuseums
Twitter - @blistshill


*Disclaimer - We were provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of writing an honest review of our visit. Our visit took place at the beginning of May 2019 and as Enginuity is currently undergoing some changes, it does mean that exhibits may vary in the future from those featured in our review.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Thames and Kosmos Engineering Makerspace Alien Robots Science Experiment Kit - A Review

Last week we were sent an Engineering Makerspace Alien Robots Science Experiment Kit from the Thames and Kosmos range for the purpose of writing an honest review of the product. The brand was not one that I was actually familiar with prior to writing this review, but I have since discovered that they are very highly regarded in the toy and educational market, with an extensive range of more than 80 science kits on sale.

The Engineering Makerspace range explores the physics of force, motion, energy, levers and more, which means that children can build and learn for fun, as they play. The range includes Kinetic Machines, Geared Up Gadgets, Alien Robots and Off Road Rovers.

My eldest son absolutely loves anything involving science and technology. He has been involved with some great scientific experiments whilst in primary school, but cannot wait to improve his science and maths knowledge when he moves on to high school next year. This was therefore the perfect product for him to try out and really got his brain thinking as being powered by STEM it focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.


The Thames and Kosmos Engineering Makerspace Alien Robots Science Experiment Kit allows you to build 10 fun motorized models including a Walking Robot, a Flapping Bird and many more. It also features a battery-powered motor box which helps to bring the models to life.

The front of the box is really eyecatching with a large image of the Scorpion model on the front. There are also several further small images underneath this which show the motor and battery box, the Dragon Monster, Insectoid, Auto Robot and Frog Runner. This is great as it gives clear examples of some of the models that can be achieved. The top right hand corner clearly shows the age recommendation of 8+ which helps to clearly identify the suitable age range for the product.

The rear of the box features six further model images along with a picture of all the contents. I always like it when products do this, as it sets a clear expectation as to exactly what you will be receiving inside the box and doesn't leave it open to interpretation.


Ben couldn't wait to get started so he began to open the box and take out all of the contents, which he then laid on the table before he began. Initially he immediately thought that there were so many pieces that he wouldn't be able to do it, but when he started to look through the instruction booklet and saw how clear the instructions were, he was confident enough to give it a go.

Inside the box there were 30 different parts in varying quantities. This provided a total of 138 pieces along with the instruction booklet. This booklet provides not only the individual model guides, but also gives plenty of safety information, so it is important to read through this before beginning to build.

Ben decided to tackle the Scorpion first, which had really stood out to him on the front of the box. The guide images for the build are really clear and were much easier for Ben to follow than written words. He made one mistake when he got to part fifteen, but he soon realised his error and was able to figure this out and correct it with ease. This meant that he was also able to use his problem solving skills to find out where he had gone wrong.

Once he had put this right, he only had a few more steps until the model was completed. His elder sister had also become interested by this point, so she also helped him out with the final steps and it was great to see them working together so well.

It was then the moment to switch the Scorpion on which was loads of fun and it made us all jump as it began scurrying across the floor. We had expected it to be really slow, but it actually moved quite quickly and was quite loud too as the motor began to work. All my children then spent some time playing around with this and making it walk in different directions all over the kitchen floor.


Since then, Ben has gone on to build the Insectoid, Dragon Monster and Grabber Claw as he is working through the instruction booklet in order. He is now aiming to complete a new model every few days, which has made him feel like he has been given a new toy each week, even though they are all from exactly the same kit. You do of course need to dismantle the model to complete a new one, but this is also a fun process and Ben has enjoyed both elements of this.

Overall we all thought that this was an absolutely brilliant kit, that really encouraged my sons thought processes as well as giving him a great educational experience. He loved building the Scorpion and had a great sense of achievement once it had been completed and was so proud of the end result. He overcome some challenges in the build and was able to find out where he had gone wrong and rectify it, which helped him reach completion and also made the further builds easier as he learnt from his first mistake.

It quite literally kept him quiet for hours and he has since completed 4 of the models out of the 10. Therefore in terms of value for money (RRP £24.50) it is absolutely superb, as it is a product that can be varied and used over and over again. We have all been extremely impressed with this Thames and Kosmos kit and whilst I may not have known about them previously, they will definitely be my go-to brand going forwards when purchasing educational toys. In a word - FANTASTIC!

To find out more about the Thames and Kosmos range, then you can visit their website or social media pages on the following channels:

Website - www.thamesandkosmos.co.uk/product-category/engineering-makerspace 
Facebook - facebook.com/thamesandkosmosuk
Twitter - @thameskosmosuk
Instagram - @thamesandkosmosuk


*Disclaimer - We were sent this product on a complimentary basis for the purpose of writing an honest review of the product. All opinions are my own unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Dates for your Diary - The Countdown Is On Until Cheshire Fest 2019! 1st & 2nd June 2019.

The weather is getting warmer and the excitement is heating up, as Cheshire 2019 returns with its biggest programme of live performances, family fun and food and drink galore.

Taking place at the Manchester Rugby Club in Cheadle Hulme on Saturday 1st June and Sunday 2nd June, this years event promises to be the biggest and best Cheshire Fest yet, featuring a packed programme of family fun, entertainment, live music, food and drink.

The Cheshire Fest Main Stage will feature a fantastic line-up of the UK's best tribute acts across both days. The Fillers (The Killers) and Kazabian (Kasabian) will play on Saturday 1st June when the Big Hitters theme promises rock 'n' roll, indie pop and festival favourite inspired artists. They'll be joined by headliners Kings Ov Leon (Kings of Leon), along with The Phonics (Stereophonics) and Totally Tina (Tina Turner).

Meanwhile The Stones (The Rolling Stones) and Vicky Jackson as Pink take to the Cheshire Fest Main Stage on Sunday 2nd June for the Family Favourites line-up, featuring a whole host of all-time music greats for all ages. Get ready to dance as Bruno - A Tribute to Bruno Mars and Little Fix (Little Mix) perform. Critically acclaimed Queen tribute Flash close the weekend programme and will rock the festival ground to a memorable end.


 The all-new Acoustic Stage will complement the Cheshire Fest Main Stage programme. The new stage zone will be set amongst deckchair seating, hay bales and bunting, offer festivalgoers, the chance to chill-out in a relaxing environment.

Saturday's Acoustic Stage line-up includes Mancunian indie folk artist David Gorman; rising star Jess Kemp, whose music has been featured on BBC Introducing and Radio 2; the vintage sound of Chris Tavener; guitarist and songwriter Joel Gardner; irresistible indie, soul and funk from The Bright Black; indie singer songwriter Drew Selby; singer songwriter Lyza; uplifting indie band The Rosellas; the pulsating party sounds of Caroline Francess & The Lights; and the deeply personal music of singer songwriter Barratt; along with singer songwriter Jack Woodward, who released his second EP Higher to acclaim in 2018.

Jack Woodward returns to entertain The Acoustic Stage audience also on Sunday. He will be joined by acoustic singer Sam Lyon; John Dhali with his indie soul sounds; acoustic singer songwriter Jordan Philips; folk duo Waiting 4 Bob; Kieran Dobson and The State, inspired by Talking Heads, Nick Cave, and The Smiths; singer songwriter Charlie Airey; the heart-felt music of Manchester-born Paul Smith; the talented storytelling songs of Sion Jones; and energy acoustic trio Girls Bike complete the talented acoustic programme.

The event will be packed with fun for young festivalgoers as they sing, dance, and play all weekend at The Kids Stage and Play Park. Little ones will want to come dressed as their favourite characters as their heroes come to life. Disney legends Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Mary Poppins will perform classic songs and meet their young fans. And for kids that prefer capes and comic books, a cast of superheroes including the amazing Iron Man, massive green Hulk, and the caped crusader himself Batman will definitely attract crowds, with plenty of selfie opportunities guaranteed!

This year's Kids Stage boasts four incredibly talented young singers from The Voice Kids, witness the stars of tomorrow perform live in Cheshire over both days. The youngest jazz and blues artist in the UK, Astrid will perform, as well as Warrington-based Jennifer King. The Voice Kids' semi-finalist Mandy Scarlett and multi-talented Lola from Team Danny will also wow the crowds.


Street dancer Junior Frood is the UK Freestyle Champion, catch him on Saturday, whilst future stars Isaac Lancel Watkinson and Girl Talk perform on Sunday. Super talented Isaac plays a mean guitar and has a fantastic voice. Girl Talk are back by popular demand after their fab performance of 2017 - four bubbly, energetic girls who can sing, rap and dance.

More local talent comes from Aimz Bolly Dance, with their incredible Bollywood Dance performances and The 5 Star Unique Talent Theatre School both on Saturday, followed by the YBSD Theatre School on Sunday.

Endless fun activities and attractions will keep young festivalgoers busy throughout the weekend as they find themselves face to face with a Giant T-Rex; go hi-tech and walk in the boots of a Wild West sheriff or become a famous rock star thanks to VRYourself; or craft sand art and slime in the Craft Tent.

The Play Park is the perfect place to burn off that Summer excitement with inflatables from Bonkers World. The silent disco is also back by popular demand, with Shush having everyone dancing to music as they listen on wireless headphones. Bring the Fire Project will close the Kids Stage programme, treating audiences to a fantastic fire dancing finale.


All this entertainment and family fun will see festivalgoers work up an appetite, but they won't go thirsty or hungry at Cheshire Fest who have brought together the finest selection of local independents and quality festival traders. Street food from around the world will be complemented by real ales, craft beers, ciders, as well as a gin garden and a cocktail bar.

The Street Food Village will offer international cuisines, vegan and vegetarian options - something to suit everyone's tastes.

Local favourites Chilli Banana, which has bases in Bramhall Village and Alderley Edge, is one of the region's most highly regarded vendors of Thai and South East Asian food. While the infamous Porky Pig menu will be familiar with regulars to Old Trafford football ground and the Manchester food markets.

Flavors of Africa will offer rich and nutritious dishes; Cantonese and Schezuan Chinese dishes with a kick come from Panda Catering; traditional steak burgers and fish and chips from Oh So British; melt in the mouth snacks from Hoggie Hog Roast; choose your toppings from Wildfire Pizza; homemade delights and delicacies from the Eastern Mediterranean from Levant Street Food; while Turks Wraps offer charcoal-grilled chicken, halloumi wraps and kebab with sauces from around The Med.

A visit to Mashed Tea Tent will cleanse the palette so visitors can move on to sample sweet treats. Los Churros Amigos will fill the air with the sweet scents of its 100% vegan star-shaped Churros; Hanky Panky Pancakes is tempting with a feast of toppings and sweet sauces; Cheshire Bake House will offer more traditional desserts; with delicious smoothies from Straw & Spoon.

Where there's fabulous food, a diverse drinks selection follows. Cheshire Fest will host more than 100 real ales, craft beers and ciders produced by the best independent breweries across the UK and Europe. Hosted by Funky Brands, the extensive range will delight any beer connoisseur.

On the Saturday the spotlight will be on award-winning Tiny Rebel brewery from Newport, South Wales. Festivalgoers can meet the team behind Tiny Rebel at a special 'meet the brewer' event at Cheshire Fest on Saturday 1st June, where they will be showcasing 10 beers.

The Funky Brands real ale, craft beer and cider tents will also feature Kelham Island Brewery, Dark Star Brewing Co, Anarchy Brew Co, Cross Bay Brewery, Thornbridge Brewery, SeaCider, Ilkley Brewery, Oakham Ales, Fynne Ales, Lilley's Cider Barn, and Saltaire Brewery.

Festivalgoers looking for a lighter choice of beverage may be tempted by the Champagne and Prosecco Bar. Or if you're partial to a cocktail then you'll be well catered for. Renowned for its Spinningfields venue, The Alchemist will be on-hand with their pop-up cocktail unit the Alchemistress, offering some of its finest and quirkiest creations.

Relax in the oasis of The Gin Garden. Sponsored by Fever-Tree, there will be more than 20 gins available from the best distilleries. Enjoy a chilled gin and tonic near the Acoustic Stage.

Cheshire Fest 2019 promises to be the event to kick-start Summer, bring your entire family and join your neighbours for an unforgettable weekend.

For more details you can visit the Cheshire Fest website or their social media pages on the following channels:

Website - www.cheshirefest.co.uk
Facebook - facebook.com/cheshirefest
Twitter - @festcheshire

Listing Details

Event - Cheshire Fest
Venue - Manchester Rugby Club, Grove Lane, Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, SK8 7NB
Dates - Saturday 1st June and Sunday 2nd June 2019
Times - Saturday 12pm to 11pm / Sunday 12pm to 11pm

Book online at www.cheshirefest.co.uk

Tickets
Child (aged 6 to 15): Single Day £8* / Weekend £12.75*
Adult (16+): Single Day £17.50* / Weekend £25.50*
VIP Tickets (18+, private tent and viewing area with washroom facilities, and a bottle of Prosecco on arrival) Single Day £50* / Weekend £90*

* Ticket prices are subject to booking and administration fees.


* Disclaimer - This is a press release from BEA.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Revisiting the Wonderful Blists Hill Victorian Town - A Review

Blists Hill is a beautiful replica of a small industrial town, that genuinely makes you feel as though you have travelled back in time. It is jam packed full of interesting exhibits, informative demonstrations and plenty of activities for families to join in with. It is a marvellous representation of the Victorian community, which makes it a fun and educational day out for visitors of all ages.

It is part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums and we have very fond memories of our last visit to this attraction two years ago. We therefore decided to pay a return visit to this wonderful site, so that we could write an up to date review of the Blists Hill Victorian Town for our readers.

On the bank holiday Monday, we set off on the journey from our home in North Wales to Telford in Shropshire, which is a 90 minute drive. It was an easy journey that took us along some picturesque routes in parts, albeit with plenty of roundabouts, but we made good time and arrived at our destination for 11am. We followed the directions provided on the sat nav, however it was well sign posted from the main roads. Owing to it's popularity, there was a queue to enter the attraction, but visitors were attended to quickly and attentively. This ensured that no-one had to wait for too long before being able to enter and travel back in time to the Victorian era.


As we entered the street, my children immediately remembered the bank, so they insisted on a quick visit to exchange some of their coins. You can step inside the bank and swap modern day currency for older coins and then use these to purchase items in the shops. If you have any left over at the end of the day, you simply swap them back over before you leave. We think that this is such a fun idea and it really gets visitors thinking about the difference in value from years gone by. It is also interesting being able to compare the old style bank with today's modern facilities.

Located nearby was the chemist, which also features a small dental surgery inside. If you have a fear of the dentist, then Victorian dentistry would definitely not be for you, as there were a vast range of weird and scary looking instruments in use. The chemist displayed a vast collection of potions and lotions with bottles of all shapes and sizes. There were also some soaps and toiletries that were available for purchase which smelt really nice.


As we made our way along the street we searched inside the open shops and buildings. We found the post office interesting and there was a man sat outside making rugs and talking to visitors as they walked past. A beautiful horse was being led through the streets and Riley was looking forward to seeing more of the horses and other animals later in the day.

My children were very excited to visit the sweet shop again, which was definitely one of their highlights from our previous trip. There was a great range of sweets to choose from and you could choose to pay in new or old money, with the price list displaying both options.


Opposite the sweet shop is a wonderful photography suite which was my personal favourite from our last trip. Unfortunately we were on quite a tight schedule on this day, so decided to give this a miss on this occasion, but if you are a first time visitor, then it is definitely something not to be missed and provides you with a wonderful keepsake from your trip to Blists Hill.

For a very reasonable charge, you can dress up in Victorian clothing and have a picture portrait taken of you in traditional style. There is a large dressing room where you can select the clothes that you would like to wear, along with guidance and suggestions from a member of staff. Once everyone is dressed up, then you are taken through to a studio to have your picture taken against a traditional Victorian backdrop. Here is an image of my son Ben getting ready for his photo from our visit two years ago.


We continued our exploration around the site, before Ben requested a trip to the Doctor's house. As we entered, we were greeted by a lovely lady who welcomed us into the home and also then proceeded to talk to my children about activities that they may have done in Victorian times. Riley was very interested to learn more about flower pressing and he was shown how to do it, so that he could try it himself in the future.

We had a look in the waiting room and wondered how doctors managed appointments back then, prior to computers and modern technology.

Just past the surgery were some lovely farm animals, including pigs and chickens. Riley absolutely loves pigs, so he stood watching and talking to them for a while, before we proceeded to walk down the hill and past the G R Morton Ironworks.


Located at the bottom of this hill is a traditional funfair that both children and adults can enjoy, with a selection of fairground rides and stalls. There is an additional charge for these, but it is not overpriced and a go on the carousel costs only £1.50. In addition to the carousel there was also a swing roundabout, traditional swing boats and a coconut shy, making it a great place to stop and enjoy some Victorian fun. There are also some picnic benches and seating nearby, so it is also the ideal picnic area, with plenty to see and do.

Opposite the fairground is the old school house, where the very strict Mr Stern teaches his lessons. Visitors can attend the school at a time specified on the day and form an orderly queue outside before entering the classroom. When we arrived the queue was already very long, so we decided to walk round to the viewing windows instead, where you can see and hear everything that is going on inside. My children watched in amazement as visitors came in and took their seats, whilst Mr Stern shouted at them to be quiet and to hurry up so lesson could begin. The class then began by singing the hymn 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' under his watchful eye.


Ben said that Mr Stern was quite scary and was glad that he wasn't his real teacher, but he also found it really interesting how everyone immediately listened and behaved. We continued to watch the lesson for some time, before Riley asked if we could go and see the big boat, which he had remembered from our previous visit. We therefore made our way across to the big building, just a bit further down the path.

This purpose built building, houses what is believed to be the last known surviving Lower Severn Trow, which would have previously transported cargo along the River Severn. There is plenty of information and facts to read about the boat, along with a video that can be watched prior to climbing the stairs to the walkway. This allows visitors to get a marvellous view of the boat from all angles including a birds eye view from above. Both of my boys really love exploring boats, so they found this part of the attraction really interesting.


By this point we had started to get a little hungry, so we walked back up the hill to the towns main street to enjoy some fish and chips. I will be honest when I say that these are the nicest fish and chips that I have ever tasted and were absolutely delicious, cooked using the traditional method of beef dripping. We couldn't find any picnic benches available in the beer garden located next door, so we took our food over to some well placed rocks by the river and sat there whilst we enjoyed our food.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museums recommend that you allow at least three hours for your visit and I would definitely agree, although you could spend much longer there if you decided to take part in all of the activities and demonstrations which are available. The fairground is seasonal so only operates in the summer months, but there is also plenty of other things to see and do for the remainder of the year.

During our visit there was the opportunity to take part in some traditional maypole dancing, try out some candle dipping, ride in a horse and cart, experience the fun of the fair, enjoy a lesson with Mr Stern and also witness a good old sing song in the local pub.

The shops are full of interesting items as well as staff on hand to tell you more about how life would have been in the Victorian period. In the pharmacy you can learn all about the lotions and potions that were used, whilst in the bakery you can view them preparing bread for sale (which you can also buy once it is ready).


Overall we had a fantastic time and it is somewhere that I am sure we will return to again in the future. It is an attraction that is suitable for all ages and I love that fact that both times we have visited it has been a different experience and we have learnt something new. Days out as a family are often fun, but Blists Hill also has that educational element that all my children find really interesting.

There is no shortage of things to see and do and I particularly like how friendly and helpful the staff are around the town. Blists Hill Victorian Town has a wonderful atmosphere and a real feeling of authenticity. I would therefore happily recommend this attraction to families looking for a fun and informative day out together.

Attraction Details

You can find out more about Blists Hill Victorian Town by visiting their website or social media pages, which can be found on the following channels:

Address: Blists Hill Victorian Town, Legges Way, Madeley, Telford, TF7 5UD.
Website: https://www.ironbridge.org.uk/explore/blists-hill-victorian-town/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theironbridgegorgemuseums
Twitter: https://twitter.com/blistshill

Entry prices are as follows:

Adult Entry - £18.50
60+  - £13.50
Child with Gift Aid - £11.50

You can also purchase Annual Passport Tickets which includes admission to all 10 Ironbridge Gorge museums for 12 months. Further details on these can be found here.

Opening Times: The attraction is open 7 days a week from 10am til 4:30pm from 25th March to 29th September 2019.


*Disclaimer - We were provided with complimentary entry to the attraction for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience. Opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. Prices/dates/opening times correct at time of writing but are of course subject to change.




Monday, 13 May 2019

Windermere Lake Cruises & The Lakeland Motor Museum - A Review

In a recent blog post, I reviewed our experience at the Treetop Nets located at Brockhole Visitor Centre in the Lake District. We had an incredible time and plenty of fun, but once our two hour session was over, we were keen to see what else there was on offer in the area, as well as having a little bit of time to relax.

It can often be hard to find an activity where the parents get a little bit of time to chill out, without the kids immediately declaring their boredom, but we found the perfect solution by combining a Windermere Lake Cruise with a trip to the Lakeland Motor Museum.

We walked the short distance from the Treetop Nets to the Brockhole jetty, where there was a Windermere Lake Cruises ticket desk to purchase your tickets. You can also buy them online if you prefer and then simply exchange your booking confirmation for the tickets on arrival. We did the latter and exchanged our online booking voucher for tickets with minimal fuss. I had printed a copy of the timetable off the day before, so that we knew exactly where and when we could catch the boats throughout the day.

We had a Freedom of the Lake ticket including Lakeland Motor Museum entry, which meant that it could be used on any of the boats for a duration of 24 hours and that we could also use it to visit the museum. However, if you did only wish to travel on a particular route, then you can buy tickets specifically for the journey that you require. There are a great range of ticket options available, along with the choice of adding an attraction for greater value for money. Attractions that can be added are the Lakeland Motor Museum, the Lakes Aquarium and the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Steam Railway.


There was plenty of seating for us to wait on until our boat arrived and then when it started to come into the jetty, all the customers began to form an orderly queue. On first glance it looked as though our boat was nearly full, so I was slightly worried about us being able to find seats altogether. Whilst it was busy, there were in fact still plenty of seats available on the upper deck, so my family and I sat on two rows upstairs, so that we could get a great view of the scenery.

We had decided that we would travel to Bowness first, prior to visiting the Motor Museum, so as our boat travelled on a circular route, this meant that we firstly had to travel to Ambleside, before returning back past Brockhole and onto Bowness. This was a really relaxing and enjoyable boat journey which had the most picturesque backdrop to our travels. The boat guide pointed out some areas of significance and also highlighted some peaks to us in the distance. My children really enjoyed looking out for wildlife, as well as trying to spot some of the hotels and landmarks that were mentioned on the journey.


As we continued our journey to Bowness, we passed numerous other watercraft all enjoying time out on the lake. This varied from yachts and motor boats to kayaks and paddle boards. Riley loved waving to everyone as they went past and it was great to see so many people wave back.

On arrival in Bowness, my children immediately spotted an outdoor stall selling ice cream, so we disembarked and had a little walk around the waterfront, before purchasing a cone each for us all. There was also a little arcade that we played in for a while, before we continued further up the road in order to explore some of the town.

We had last visited the area a couple of years ago, so Riley couldn't quite remember his last trip, so we walked up to the outside of the Beatrix Potter Museum and took him for a look inside the shop. Both my boys collect coins, so they were keen to see if they had any of the new Peter Rabbit coins on sale.


After we had spent a short time in Bowness, we decided to catch another boat and then continue our onward journey to the Lakeland Motor Museum. I had printed the timetable off from the website previously, but there were also plenty of leaflets and boards which advised when the next departures were. Our boat was already boarding at the jetty and fortunately there wasn't a large queue, so we were able to get onboard straight away and find some seats.

There was a choice of seating available and as the weather had become quite cold and overcast, we decided to sit downstairs for the next part of our journey. There were some long seats with tables in between, along with large picture windows at the side, so you could still see all the scenery as you travelled. A small refreshment shop was also located downstairs, so we enjoyed some hot drinks and snacks to warm us up.

All of the journeys that we had with Lake Windermere Cruises were really smooth along the water and not bumpy at all. I sometimes get a bit dizzy or light headed when travelling on boats, but these cruises were really relaxing and enjoyable and it was nice to be able to enjoy this time together as a family.

If, like us, you decide to visit the Lakeland Motor Museum, then you will need to catch a bus once you arrive at Lakeside. These run regularly and in time with the boat arrivals and departures, with the journey on the bus taking approximately 10 minutes. It is a great little service which makes exploring the area really easy.


On our arrival to the Lakeland Motor Museum, my children immediately remembered it. It has some superb displays and exhibits that my kids always find really fascinating. The museum itself is located within a converted mill and it boasts a massive collection of over 30,000 exhibits that cover a wide range of transportation from the twentieth century. As well as the main museum, there is also a separate exhibit in an adjacent building, that is dedicated to The Bluebird and the racing career of Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell.

As we entered the main shop and reception area, my children were provided with some quiz books that they could fill in as we had a look around and they were really pleased to see that some of the questions were different from our previous visit. The quiz book encouraged them to read the information on the displays, which helped them to learn more and gain a greater understanding of the vehicle that they were looking at.

My eldest son found the original prices of the cars really interesting, so he downloaded an app whilst there, that allowed you to convert historical prices into the modern day equivalent. One vehicle originally cost £400 new which sounded so inexpensive, but once you converted this to today's money, it would have been the same as thousands of pounds.


There were some new exhibits in place that had arrived since our last visit, so it was great to be able to have a look at some new vehicles that we had not seen before. It is actually quite amazing how they manage to fit so many displays in one place. Everything is so well laid out and the route through the museum is really easy to follow. The extensive car collection covers a large time span and features some wonderful cars ranging from prestige and luxurious, to performance and iconic.


Along with the vehicles, there are also some really fun shop displays, as well as old vehicle and fuel station signs all adorned along the walls. As an added bonus there is also a small room upstairs that features some old arcade style games. Each of the games cost 20p to play and there is a change machine so that you can exchange a £1 for a few coins. My son Ben loved the Super Steer-A-Ball game and managed to get his timing to perfection so that he could complete the route successfully.

There was also a fantastic display of bicycles and motorbikes upstairs in what was quite a magnificent collection. With so many to look at and compare, it was really interesting to view some of the older and more unique designs that varied quite a lot to todays modern comparisons.


My youngest son Riley really enjoyed learning about the Bluebird and he even chose to watch the video that played in the exhibit, sitting nice and quietly and listening to everything that was being said in the documentary. He absolutely loves to learn and find out new and interesting facts, so he was amazed hearing all about the record attempts that took place on the lake. Another couple visiting actually commented on how well behaved and quiet he was, which was a lovely compliment to receive.

Once we had finished looking around all of the exhibits, we returned to the shop with our completed quiz books so that the children could claim their prize. They were all rewarded for their efforts with a lovely little medal, which Riley was particularly proud of, especially as he had managed to answer most of the questions all by himself.


Overall we had a fantastic time with both Windermere Lake Cruises and the Lakeside Motor Museum. The boats looked really well maintained and all the staff on board seemed very accommodating and friendly. A small refreshments bar on board ensured that we could buy some hot drinks and snacks, whilst enjoying a leisurely cruise around the lake. Riley absolutely loved waving to the other boats that went past, whilst Ben enjoyed looking for wildlife both in and around the lake. The on-board commentary ensured that we didn't miss anything of significance and this also kept the children interested as they tried to spot what was being described by the guide.

The Lakeland Motor Museum was well enjoyed by my children and although we have visited previously, they still found it just as fascinating as our previous visit. There were some new exhibits that we had not seen before and the quiz that children are provided with on entry was also different. My kids really enjoyed looking for all the answers throughout the museum and also had a great time playing on the vintage games in the upper floor. Both attractions were superb and it was a fantastic way to spend a relaxing afternoon together.

For more information on Windermere Lake Cruises or the Lakeland Motor Museum, then you can visit their websites or their social media pages on the following channels:

Windermere Lake Cruises

Website - https://www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/windermerelakecruises
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Windermereboats
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/windermerelakecruises/

Lakeland Motor Museum

Address: Lakeland Motor Museum Ltd, Old Blue Mill, Backbarrow, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 8TA
Website - www.lakelandmotormuseum.co.uk
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/LakelandMotorMuseum/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/LakeMotorMuseum
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/lakelandmotor/


*Disclaimer - We were provided with a complimentary Freedom of the Lake & Motor Museum Ticket for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. Opinions are my own unless stated otherwise.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Our Review of the Treetop Nets in Windermere, Lake District

As a family we are always on the look out for fun new activities to try, especially ones that we can all enjoy together. We enjoy adventure and being outdoors, so when we heard about the Treetop Nets in the Lake District, this sounded like the perfect activity for us to experience. We therefore decided to head up north during the bank holiday weekend to spend the day in Cumbria and see what kind of family fun there was to enjoy.

The Treetop Nets at the Brockhole Visitor Centre in Windermere, are suspended nets located high up in the trees and feature giant trampolines, tunnels and slides. Due to the fact that you are enclosed with nets around the side, it also means that there is no need to wear a harness and you can simply jump, run and explore your way through the treetops. We were all really excited to try this out and my children were particular keen to test out the slides, which were described as being super fast!


The journey from our home in North Wales to Windermere takes approximately one hour and forty minutes, so we decided to set off early at 7:30am so that we could stop for breakfast somewhere along the way. We had booked our session on the Treetop Nets for 10am, so this gave us just enough time to enjoy a bite to eat and have a pleasant drive.

Our booking confirmation provided plenty of important information, so I had made sure that we had all read through this the day before. There are plenty of health and safety rules which are for the customers own benefit, so it is important to be aware of these and adhere to them both prior and during participation.

It is really important to wear appropriate clothing for the outdoors and for walking and bouncing on the nets, so flip flops and sandals are an absolute no! My husband and children all opted for joggers or leggings with trainers so that they could move about easily, whilst I opted for jeans and pumps. Long hair needs to be tied back so I made sure that Emma's was in a high ponytail before we arrived and I took a hair bobble along with me so that I could tie my own hair back whilst there. You are also not permitted to wear jewellery of any kind, this is because they can be easily caught in the netting which could cause you an injury, so it is best to make sure everything is left safely at home as there are no secure lockers on site.

You are advised to arrive 15 minutes early to allow time to park, pay for your parking ticket, make your way to the Treetop Nets and sign in with reception. I would definitely recommend arriving a bit earlier if you can as we arrived 15 minutes early, but had issues with the parking ticket machine (as did the lady in front of us), so by the time we had resolved this and walked to the reception area, we only just made our 10am slot. It is better to be early and play on the neighbouring park whilst you wait, than to be late and risk missing your session.


Once we had reached reception, we were greeted by a lovely member of staff who asked us to fill in some consent forms. Both my husband and I had to sign to confirm that we accepted the risks of taking part and then I also had to sign on behalf of the children. Another member of staff then took us to an outdoor briefing where we were told the do's and don'ts and given advice on how to use the slides. She also carried out a check to make sure that none of us were wearing any jewellery and provided us with some bags that we could use to go down the slides. These are essential for using on the slides if you want to avoid any risk of injury or rope burns. We were then free to explore!

Each session lasts two hours and on first glance I wasn't convinced that it would keep us entertained for that length of time. I predicted that we would all be done after an hour, but I will happily admit that I was wrong and in fact the full two hour session flew by. Initially Emma, Ben and my husband all ran off in different directions, whilst I stayed with our youngest son Riley. He was very nervous and apprehensive to begin with and would get scared if he looked down. We began by walking gently and holding onto the sides, so that he could get use to how it felt walking on the nets. This gradually helped to build his confidence and he began to move more into the middle, but he was adamant that he would not be going down any slides. After about twenty minutes he gained the confidence to start bouncing and really began to enjoy himself. Before long there was no stopping him as he ran and bounced his way through the nets.

At this point he was still unsure about the slides, but said that he would think about it and he watched on as his brother and sister went down them. His elder brother then managed to convince him to try one of the tunnels and he spent ten minutes just going back and forth through it. He absolutely loved it and found it quite a challenge to get out at the other end, which he thought was hilarious as his brother had to keep helping him out.


Emma and Ben then decided to spend sometime in the Ball Zone which is a huge netted area that contains large rubber balls (about birthing/gym ball size). Personally I found this area to be a little too busy for Riley who is 6 and it seemed more suitable for the older children and adults who were playing Dodgeball with the balls. I did notice that in the second hour of our session there was a member of staff supervising this area which was reassuring and play did seem much calmer during this time. Both Emma and Ben did enjoy it there though and were of a similar age to the others playing, so they just avoided any balls that were thrown or simply laughed it off if they did get caught by one. They stayed in this area for a good half an hour, so whilst it wasn't ideal for Riley, it was very enjoyable for them.

There was however, plenty of other areas for Riley to play so my husband and I set about trying to encourage him to go down the slides. Riley soon agreed that if I went down the slides first then he would have a go too. It sounded like the perfect deal to me, so I shuffled into my bag and set off down to the bottom of the slide. After a few minutes of doubt, Riley finally agreed and once he had gone down the slide once, there was absolutely no stopping him as he then went on the slides over and over again.


One thing that I particularly liked about the Treetop Nets was the Under 7's Chill Out Zone, so if it did ever seem too busy, or if your little one simply needs a break, then you can head there for some quieter time and play. There was plenty of space and it also had its own slide, so we did utilise this area on a couple of occasions especially at the beginning of our session when Riley was still building his confidence.

My only disappointment with the whole attraction, was how quick the two hour session seemed to pass! None of my children wanted to leave and before we had even walked out of the Treetop Net area, they were already asking when we could do it again. Both my husband and I enjoyed it just as much as the kids and it was nice to be able to take part in the activity with them, as opposed to just supervising.

Overall we had an absolutely fantastic time at the Treetop Nets and it is somewhere that we will definitely be visiting again. I thought the layout was great and I also liked the fact that there were picnic benches underneath the nets, so you could take a break when you needed to, or enjoy a snack and a drink. It didn't feel crowded at all at any point and because the ball zone seemed to be the most popular area, there were times where it felt like we had the remainder of the nets to ourselves which was great. The slides were really fun and fast and most importantly everything felt really safe. At no point did I feel worried or nervous about the nets being suspended in the air and seeing numerous staff members walking around and supervising was also very reassuring. Ultimately we had a brilliant time and my children have already requested a return visit in the summer holidays, which I have happily agreed to. The Treetop Nets are a fun experience for the whole family and we cannot wait to go back!

To find out more about Treetop Nets or to book tickets, then you can visit their website or social media pages on the following channels:

Website - https://www.treetoptrek.co.uk
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TreetopLakeDistrict
Twitter - https://twitter.com/TreetopTrekUK
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/treetoplakedistrict/

Address: Treetop Nets, Brockhole Visitor Centre, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1LJ
Cost: £20 per adult/child over 5 / £13 for supervisors and under 5's


*Disclaimer - We were provided with a complimentary 2 hour session for the purpose of writing an honest review of the attraction and our experience. Opinions are my own unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Poopsie Sparkly Critters - A Review

You may remember that just before Christmas we had the opportunity to test and review the Poopsie Slime Surprise Unicorn. It was a fun, slime filled, activity toy that Riley absolutely loved. He was therefore really excited when we were recently sent the Poopsie Sparkly Critters, which either spit or poop slime.

There are a total of 16 to collect in the series, with each sparkly critter resembling a super cute animal with a sparkly unicorn horn. These sparkly critters will then either spit or poop slime, depending on which one is hidden inside. The slime can then be transformed by adding Unicorn Magic, Unicorn Shimmer, and if you are very lucky you may even get the ultra-rare Unicorn Sparkle.

Each Sparkly Critter belongs to one of seven groups and can either be a regular, rare or ultra-rare figure. These groups and their Sparkly Critter members are as follows:

Bougie Poops - Le Fluff (Regular), Fleece (Rare), Drama (Rare)
Doodies of the Forest - Cinnamon (Ultra-Rare), Sugar (Rare)
Disco Doo-Doos - Nanners (Regular), Chloe (Rare)
Turdz of Paradise - Stripes (Regular), Bamboo (Regular), Oopsie Starlight (Ultra-Rare)
Early Bird Turdz - Flutter (Rare), Dots (Regular)
Under the Poocific - Bubbles (Rare)
Junk Foodie Doodies - Singe (Ultra-Rare), Cheeky (Regular), Rainbow Brightstar (Ultra-Rare)

Riley was so excited to find out which Sparkly Critter he had received, so he set about opening the packaging. This is a really cool design which resembles a can of fizzy pop. It is really bright, colourful and eye catching. I helped Riley with the plastic wrapper on the outside of the can and he then began to peel back the cardboard opening.


Inside we found that the inner compartments rotated and in each section was a different bag to open. Riley carefully removed each of the bags and then he felt each of them to try and figure out which bag contained the critter, as he wanted to save that one til last. As he began to open each bag he kept trying to guess which figure he had. He was hoping to get something different from a unicorn with him already having a Poopsie unicorn previously, so he was delighted to find Bamboo inside his Sparkly Critter bag which resembles a lovely Panda. After opening all the bags we found that the full contents were:

  • 1 x Sparkly Critter which contained slime powder
  • 1 x Sparkly Critter dummy
  • 1 x Silly Soda Can
  • 1 x Slime Storage Bag
  • 1 x Unicorn Spoon
  • 1 x Unicorn Magic powder
  • 1 x Unicorn Shimmer
  • 1 x instructions
  • 1 x collectors sheet

As I opened the instructions I immediately had a little panic as they looked huge, but on closer inspection I realised that this was because they had been repeated in several languages. After breathing a huge sigh of relief, I had a quick read through them to see how we could create the slime.

There are 13 steps to follow on the instruction sheet, but the whole process is actually really simple. I could see that we would need a container to squirt the slime into, so before we began I made sure that we had something handy, along with a towel just in case of any spillages. We chose to use one of the plastic inners from inside an Easter egg box which ended up working really well for us.

To begin with I filled the silly soda can with water, whilst Riley removed the dummy from the cirtters mouth. It is important to make sure that you keep the critter upright whilst doing this to prevent some of the slime powder from falling out. Riley then tilted the critter backwards, inserted the straw into its mouth and pushed the plunger all the way down to feed all of the water.

We then placed the dummy back into the critter's mouth and Riley passed it to me to shake. You need to shake it up and down vigorously for one minute, before emptying the slimy water. If there is a heart opening on the critters bottom then it will poop, but if it doesn't then it will spit, so it is important to check this before emptying.

We then held the critter over the plastic easter egg tray and Riley squeezed it hard to remove all of the slime. At first it just appears like coloured water, so you need to leave it for 15-20 minutes to allow for it to set. It came out a bright green colour which my son thought was great!


The waiting time was the hardest part of the slime making process, so we used this time to open Riley's other Sparkly Critter so he could have two different sets of slime and critters to play with. His second set contained Chloe from the Disco Doo-Doos group, which produced a different coloured slime in Blue. It can always be a bit nerve-wracking with surprise toys as to whether you might receive a duplicate, so Riley was really happy to have two different Sparkly Critters and two different colours of slime.

Once our first slime was ready, we opened the Unicorn Magic and poured the powder into the centre of the slime. We added it a little at a time and mixed it in with the unicorn spoon. We then added the unicorn shimmer which made the slime really sparkly and glittery. Riley then set about mixing it with his hands which he thought was great fun. When he had finished playing with it, he simply popped it into the storage bag, ready to be played with another day.

He said that the slime felt a little bit different to others we had made before and that it was really squidgy, soft and super stretchy!


Overall we thought that the Poopsie Sparkly Critters were great fun. Both Riley and I found the slime making process really simple and my son loved the surprise element and the anticipation of seeing which Sparkly Critter he had inside the fizzy pop can. I thought that it was a really unique and clever design, with the added bonus of it being very easy to clean. Everything worked as it should and there were no leakages or spillages whilst we made the slime. We also really liked the fact that funky storage bags were included, which gave Riley somewhere safe to store his slime, so that it can be played with again in the future. The product has a retail price of around £14.99 which I think is really good value for money and I would happily buy these for my son or as gifts for others.

Poopsie Sparkly Critters can currently be found in most good toy retailers including Argos, Asda, Smyths Toys Superstores and Amazon.


*Disclaimer - We were gifted these toys for the purpose of writing an honest review of the product. Opinions are my own unless stated otherwise. This post contains an Amazon affiliate link which means that I may receive a small commission should you choose to purchase this product from them.