Thursday, 14 July 2016

Old Hall Farm Attraction in the Lake District

We visited Old Hall Farm by chance on a bright but breezy day. We had originally had other plans, but unfortunately Grandad was feeling unwell and so we had a quick glance through some leaflets we had picked up on the local area, and decided to give this place a try. My children all love farm animals, and in fact dream of having their own little farm one day, and so with it being less than half an hour away from where we were staying in the Lake District (White Cross Bay) we decided to have a day out there instead of our original plan.

It was relatively easy to find with the Sat Nav, and it was also signposted from the main road, though the signs state 'Working Farm' as opposed to the actual name of the attraction. Once off the main road, there is a short distance to travel along country lanes, before the farm and the car park can be easily spotted.

On entry into the car park, we were greeted by a man who was sat at the entrance and directed us where to park. Once out of the car, the gentleman was very friendly and said that he hoped we had a lovely day. This was a nice welcome to have, and we made our way to the main entrance.

First impressions were that it seemed really quiet and relatively small. However, appearances can be deceiving, and whilst not the largest farm we have ever visited, there was certainly plenty to see and do.

I felt that the admission price was very reasonable at £24 for a family ticket for 2 adults and 3 children, as it usually costs me that just to take my children to the local play centre for an hour, so I was more than happy with the price we paid for entry. The lady working in the shop was very polite and told us where everything was, and there was a board just as you entered that had timings on for events throughout the day.

As we entered, we noticed a crowd around a beautiful  Clydesdale horse, and everyone was stood listening attentively to the staff member who was explaining all about the lives of working horses, the equipment they wear to plough the fields and how they are cared for. This is where this farm became very different to others we have visited, as Old Hall Farm actively encourages everyone to get involved, both children and adults, and you can literally participate in everything to do with the working life of the farm. My two sons were delighted to have the opportunity to groom the horse, and when one of the ladies leading the talk noticed that my 3 year old wanted to join in, she went and fetched some small steps so that he could climb up and brush the horses mane. He absolutely loved this!

Unfortunately I cannot remember the names of both the ladies that led the activities and talks throughout the day, but they were both very passionate about what they do, as well as being extremely informative. It was great to be able to ask questions and receive knowledgeable answers, and their enthusiasm and general cheeriness made the day an absolute delight.

All the visitors were then invited to help in the field to gather manure! Who would want to do that right? Well, believe me there were plenty of volunteers, as all the budding little farmers raised their hands, keen to participate. The horse was kitted out, and a large trailer attached, everyone gathered a spade and then followed the horse down to the field, where manure was eagerly thrown into the back of the trailer before being returned to the yard.

Once we were back in the main yard, we decided to explore and have a look at the vast array of old farming machinery displayed there. A lovely added touch in each of the sheds was a tv display that played information on farm life, and the way the equipment was used. Some of the equipment was in pristine condition, and others not so much, but it was very interesting to learn how farming used to be done, prior to the introduction of all the machinery and gadgets that are available to use now.

After this, we had a wander around the sheds, and met some lovely animals. There were chickens roaming, some huge pigs, and shetland ponies to name a few, aswel as a beautiful donkey.

Once we had met some animals, we decided to go to the play barn, we washed our hands, bought some ice cream and sat in the undercover seating. The play barn is literally towers of hay, with a big rope swing in the middle. The hay bales have all been securely fastened, and range from various heights with a mix of tunnels, steps and walkways around the barn. This is simple play at its finest, no fancy gimmicks, just hay and lots of it, and do you know what, the kids LOVED it! They spent a good hour in here after eating their ice cream, before moving outside where Riley chose to play on the mini tractors, and Emma and Ben went on the larger go karts.

After a play, we returned to the main yard area, where the Shetland Ponies had been brought outside along with the donkey, and it was nice to have the opportunity to get up close with the animals. There is the opportunity to feed the cows, sheep and ducks, and there is also the chance to try your hand at making butter using traditional methods. Before we knew it, several hours had passed, and yet we were still enjoying ourselves and finding new things to see and do.

The shop where you both enter and leave the attraction, was stocked with some lovely gifts that were also a reasonable price. My children had been given pocket money that morning that was burning a hole in their pockets, and they usually end up buying rubbish, but Riley managed to purchase a lovely large set of farm animals for only £4 and a small plastic tractor for £1.99. Both were really nice toys, and I was especially pleased with the farm animal set as they were a really nice size as well as good quality and offered great value for money.

Food can be purchased from the shop, and again these were reasonable prices, and sandwiches, crisps etc were available. There was also a small tea room area, however we did not venture in there, so I am unsure as to what menu is available, but there was sufficient dining facilities to have your lunch there. However, if you fancied something more filling, I noticed that there was a pub offering cooked meals just a short walk down the road.

Overall, I would highly recommend this place. The entry price is very reasonable, the staff were extremely knowledgeable and friendly, and it is literally a little gem of a place. I definitely hope to be able to return here as a family again, in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Afternoon Tea with Peter Rabbit

This experience, has to be one of my most favourite activities that we have had as a family. We had originally booked it with the intention of it being a lovely treat for my youngest son Riley who absolutely loves Peter Rabbit, but we all ended up thoroughly enjoying it and the age ranges in our group were from 3 to 67!

The organisers have clearly put a lot of thought and effort into these events, which are bookable on their website here: Afternoon Tea with Peter Rabbit

Tickets cost £11.50 for an adult, and £8.50 for children and both offer excellent value for money. The staff and the service was absolutely fantastic and I literally cannot recommend it enough.

For the price you pay, you receive admission into the museum, an array of delicious food including pastries (the nicest sausage rolls ever), cakes, scones, sandwiches and plenty of tea, coffee and juice at the party. a storytelling experience with Beatrix Potter, the chance to meet and have a cuddle with Peter Rabbit, a balloon for all the children in the party, rabbit ear hats, and two lovely wrapped gifts for the children to open. Riley, Emma and Ben each received a tin of coloured pencils and a lovely A6 sized notebook.

The tea parties are held across the road from the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction. and if I was to have any negative comment regarding the experience it would just be that you have to wait outside until the party start time, and with there being many young children crowded together alongside a very busy main road, I was a bit worried about the safety aspect. There is a bit of room between the main door and the party room door, so personally I would utilise this space so that there is not too large a crowd outside as this also caused an inconvenience to pedestrians trying to get past.

On arrival, we were greeted by two lovely members of staff, one of whom asked for our family name and then told us which table we were seated at. All of the tables were named after characters from the stories and with there being limited tables it was very easy to find our seats. The tables were beautifully decorated and laid out, and my children were all very excited to see two wrapped presents by their seats. The food looked amazing, and once all the families had been seated we quickly tucked in.

There was certainly no shortage of food, as we all have very large appetites but there was plenty for us to enjoy and fill us up. Pots of tea and jugs of juice were readily available on the table, and a member of staff also walked around with coffee, so that was available too as an alternative.

Whilst enjoying the tea party, a lovely lady dressed as Beatrix Potter walks around the tables and interacts with the children and asks them lots of questions about themselves and also their favourite characters.  She was also more than happy to answer my childrens questions too, and she played the role of Beatrix Potter fantastically well. Once it looked as if families had finished eating, she invited all the children over to one side of the room, where she proceeded to tell them the Tale of Peter Rabbit. There was a wide range of ages at the tea party, but everyone sat there quietly and listened to every word. It really was wonderful to watch.

Once the story had been told, the children were informed that Peter Rabbit himself would be coming to visit them, and sure enough soon after, a staff member in a beautiful Peter Rabbit costume came in and the children all crowded round him to give him plenty of cuddles. Unfortunately due to the amount of children there, they don't offer the opportunity for individual photos which is a shame, as it would be a lovely memento of the day and I would have even happily paid extra for this, but seeing the smile on Riley's face as Peter Rabbit entered the room absolutely made my day, and I did manage to get a couple of well timed pictures of Riley giving him a hug.

The whole experience last approximately 2 hours, and then a further 45 minutes going around the museum across the road in the main building.  I was also told by a member of staff that in the summer holidays they also hold a show on the stage in the tea party room, and also offer Christmas Parties in December too, so if you are planning on visiting the area, it is definitely worth checking their website out to see if there are any tickets left for one of these events.

Overall, we had an amazing time, and will definitely be returning again in the future!

For further information please visit the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction website - Afternoon Tea with Peter Rabbit

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Our Visit to the Lake District - White Cross Bay Holiday Park

We recently visited White Cross Bay Holiday Park, which is a caravan and lodge park, that benefits from a beautiful lakeside setting and is nestled amongst the Lake District countryside a very short distance from Bowness-on-Windermere.

It was very easy to find from the main road, and there are several signs once you get close to help you find your way, followed by a large sign on arrival, so you really can't miss it. There is a small parking area by the main reception where you can park up whilst going to check in, and to get your code to operate the barrier system, which helps to keep the site safe and secure.

The reception area has recently been renovated following on from the Cumbria floods last year, and it has a smart, fresh appearance, with staff on hand ready to help. As it was a lovely sunny day when we arrived, they had actually moved the check in outside, which is a nice idea, and children had their own separate check in table, where they could pick up a goody bag that contained some colouring items, sweets, a toy and a schedule of activities which was a lovely touch and very welcoming.

Just inside the main door there is a large selection of leaflets on local attractions to help you plan your week, and adjacent to that is a noticeboard that details the activities and entertainment for the coming week. We received a great welcome which meant we had a great start to the holiday.

The site is nicely set out, and the different areas of the park have been named, so that it makes it easy to find your accommodation. The lodges and caravans all seemed to occupy nice sized plots, with space outside to sit in the sunshine or for the kids to have a play.

Once we had found our accommodation we quickly unloaded the car and went to explore our new surroundings. The first place we visited was the lakeside where we saw lots of lovely boats. There was still some visible damage from the floods that they have obviously been working hard to repair and it was quite shocking to see how high the water had actually got. The lakeside was very picturesque and Riley loved seeing all the ducks and swans by waters edge.

We were fortunate to have lovely weather for our arrival, so we had a great walk all around the site, had a quick wander around the facilities, and enjoyed an evening drink in the bar area whilst the children played on the playground, before returning to our lodge and relaxing on the decking and in the hot tub!

The following day there was a family fun day. Everyone was welcome and there were free activities for all to enjoy along with a small petting zoo. 

The leisure staff were really friendly and welcoming and encouraged my children to take part in all the activities that were on offer. There were two bouncy castles available, one for the smaller children and another for the older ones which my children really enjoyed. Next to these was a gladiator game, where you stood on podiums and tried to knock each other down onto the bouncy inflatable below. This was great fun to participate in and also really funny to watch others enjoy it too.

Under a sheltered canopy, next to the gladiator game, we found some lovely polite staff serving drinks and food at really reasonable prices. The burgers were absolutely delicious, and there was a nice choice of drinks available for both children and adults. Alongside this, was also face painting which was free of charge, and my daughter enjoyed being turned into a fox!

There was a "Beat the Goalie" game which proved to be really popular, again this was free of charge and you could win some great prizes. My children won a mini golf set each, and we really appreciated the gesture of the goalie, when he let my 3 year old score. I thought this was really kind of him as he could see how much my little boy wanted to try, but knew he probably wouldn't have scored without his help. The smile on my little boys face for the rest of the day was priceless!

Towards the far end of the grass area was a small petting zoo where the children could meet and stroke some animals, including ducks, goats and chickens. My youngest child Riley absolutely loves animals so he was in his element. We managed to enjoy a good couple of hours at the fun day and we were made to feel so welcome by all the staff. I asked the leisure manager whether the fun days were held every weekend and he explained that although not every weekend, they do put regular events on throughout the year, so if you are planning a visit it is worth checking out the White Cross Bay facebook page here, to see what events are planned during your stay.

In the evening we ventured to the restaurant for evening meal. We found the menu to feature a large variety of dishes that all looked and sounded delicious. There were plenty of tables available early in the evening when we visited, and the restaurant was nicely spread out amongst clean and modern decor. When you are ready to order, you do need to order at the bar, so there can be a bit of a queue as it gets busier, but the staff work hard to serve as quickly as possible whilst also being polite and courteous and not making you feel rushed.

Our initial thoughts of the menu were that some dishes were quite expensive, however when our meals arrived, the food was both delicious and plentiful and we ultimately felt that the price accurately reflected both the quality and quantity of the meal. They do also have deals throughout the week for early diners, aswel as some offers on desserts, and when we visited there were a large selection on offer for only £2 each, so it is worth checking what deals are on offer whilst you are there.

Within the bar and restaurant area there is a small arcade that features a variety of games along with plenty of 2p machines, which was great for keeping the kids occupied whilst they waited for their food, without it costing a small fortune, and in addition to the arcade there was also a park outside. After our meals we moved to a table outside so that we could enjoy our drinks outside whilst the children played safely on the park. They made many new friends very quickly, and we definitely felt that we had made the right decision in choosing to stay at White Cross Bay.

On the Sunday we had booked for a family swimming session in the morning. You don't always have to book in advance but on busier weekends it is recommended that you book a slot, in order to ensure as many families can have a swim as possible. This method seemed to work quite well, however unfortunately just as we were getting ready for our session there was a power cut which plunged the changing rooms into complete darkness. We were asked to evacuate in accordance with their health and safety policies and told to wait outside. This didn't bother us at all, as at the end of the day, peoples health and safety has to be a priority and the staff added time on to the end of our session time. Sadly there were some families that were annoyed by this, and I was quite appalled by the manner in which some customers spoke to the staff. This is where I would like to highly commend the leisure staff, as despite being spoken to really rudely by several people demanding to be let back inside the building, the staff continued to remain polite and courteous and spoke to everyone in a very professional manner, despite it probably being very tempting to tell them where to go! Once everything had been checked and power restored, we were allowed back in and enjoyed the session. The pool temperature was just right, and there was plenty of space for everyone.

In addition to the swim sessions, they are many other bookable activities available throughout the week for a small charge. As we had days out planned for most of our stay we didn't participate in any of the activities but they included such things as archery, football and water walkerz to name a few.

In terms of location, we found this site to be ideal. There was the wonderful attraction of Brockhole, literally 10 minutes walk away, or a couple of minutes in the car, and Bowness-on-Windermere was only a short drive away. All the attractions we visited and that are listed on the left hand side menu were all within a 30 minute drive, so there was definitely plenty to see and do around the area.

Overall I would highly recommend White Cross Bay. We had booked our accommodation with an external provider on this occasion, but if we return in the future we will definitely look to book directly with the site, as they have a wide range of caravans and lodges available to suit all budgets and families. 

If you have any questions or queries about the site, then please feel free to comment below, or alternatively you can find further information on the links below:

Disclaimer: This review was written of my own accord based on my own opinion, and I received no payment or incentive for this review.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Best Things in Life are Free

The weather has been so lovely this weekend and so I was determined to get us out and about, but wanted to stay local. We are very fortunate to have so many parks, scenic walks, attractions and beaches all within ten minutes drive, but we decided that we were only going to venture down the road today and decided to visit Wepre Park, which is in Connahs Quay.

Wepre Park offers a visitor centre with small cafe, a children's play area, playing fields, a skate park and some beautiful woodland walks, and there is also plenty of free parking available. 

There are many routes that can be taken through the woods, but we chose to follow the path from the visitor centre that leads right through the woodland and takes you to the Ewloe Castle ruins on the opposite side. The walk there and back takes about an hour, and there are a few picnic benches along the way if you want to stop for a drink or snack. The walk is very easy and not at all strenuous, with just a little bit of effort needed when you reach near the castle and there are quite a few steps to walk up.

The castle itself is very mysterious, as not much is known about its history other than it is thought to have been completed by Welsh Prince Llywellyn ap Gruffudd around 1257AD. It was later abandoned a few years later and allowed to fall to ruin. I find things like this so fascinating and it really makes you wonder what life was like back then, so many years ago. It is a shame that not much more is known about its history as I am sure it would make for a very interesting story. There are steps on one side of the castle which allows you to climb to the top for a nice view over the woodland.

 After a good wander around, we made our way back to the visitor centre, stopping for a short game of pooh sticks on the bridge along the way, and a nice paddle in one of the shallow and slow parts of the river. My youngest was very excited to be looking around for bugs and other creatures, and he also enjoyed seeing the many birds flying amongst the trees. It is very popular with dog walkers and so we saw some lovely dogs during our walk who were having a great time getting exercise and being covered in mud!

Once we had returned to the visitor centre, we purchased some ice creams, and a couple of drinks and made use of the outside seating area. The cost of items in the cafe is really reasonable and they have numerous pocket money sweets for children too like 10p sherbets and ice pops along with a nice selection of cakes. They also serve offer a small hot food menu if you are after more than just a snack.

After enjoying our ice creams we spent a lovely half hour just on the children's play area. The play area has been well thought out and offers something for children of all ages. It is well maintained, clean and safe and our kids absolutely love it there. If you are in the North Wales area and looking for something fun and interesting to do, that won't cost a penny, then be sure to visit Wepre Park.

If you would like more information, then Flintshire County Council have produced an information booklet which can be downloaded here: Wepre Park