Christmas is coming – family friendly Christmas activities in the Midlands

I can’t believe it’s September and I’ve skipped autumn, Halloween and all of the festivities and already begun planning ahead for Christmas. Last year we did manage to squeeze in some activities but just like everyone else, most of our plans were scuppered at the last minute and we were unable to participate in many of our family traditions. Every year at Christmas we love to gather together and share experiences. This usually begins with making our gingerbread village and doesn’t end until the last Christmas decorations have been taken down from the tree.

We have already booked in a few different activities and have found that so many people are excited to visit attractions and see live performances that tickets are selling out like hot cakes, so here’s a definitive list of some Midlands based family friendly days out to enjoy with your families this Christmas. As always please check websites and Facebook pages of each provider for the most up-to-date information / links provided are correct at time of publishing. Let’s make this year the best one ever!

1. The Polar Express

Based on the beautiful animated film starring Tom Hanks, which stormed its way in to the list of top Christmas movies of all time, there are several railways in and around the Midlands which offer immersive experiences. You can wear your pyjamas and transport your household directly in to the magic of Christmas on a magical train journey, sample a hot chocolate and maybe even meet the big guy in red yourself!

There are several places you can book which is bonus of living in the centre of the country – each railway creates its own magical experience and these tickets sell like hot cakes so keep an eye out of the social media pages and websites for re-releases and added dates :

❄️ Churnet Valley

❄️ Telford Steam Railway

❄️ The Severn Valley Railway

2. Christmas Lights

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing festive lights shine brightly as the nights draw in. I vividly recall the “light switch on” days of my childhood and now so many attractions in and around the Midlands host light trails with additional experiences to enjoy such as street food, craft markets and live music making the evening trips in winter worthwhile and enjoyable for all members of the family. Just remember to wrap up warm!

❄️ Warwick Castle – their festive light trail with the back drop of the castle is breathtaking. They host additional options such as stories with Santa for little believers to enjoy

❄️ Webbs of Wychbold are hosting a new light trail in their Riverside Gardens, and if last experiences of their grotto are anything to go by then this promises to be spectacular

❄️ The National Memorial Arboretum – from 7th to 18th December the arboretum will be illuminated with a kaleidoscope of colour after hours.

❄️ The Winter Glow in Malvern – Jingle the elf told me that this spectacular event with four attractions including an awesome ice rink and big wheel is not to be missed!

Festive Markets

There’s nothing more exciting than finding the perfect Christmas gifts for loved ones. I always find unique hand crafted treats from independent traders at street markets and tend to treat myself to sweet treats too. I like to try and visit as many different places as possible, especially smaller towns on the outskirts of the Midlands for a traditional expensive and these events really do make me feel festive.

❄️ The big one is back – Birmingham is hosting its famed Frankfurt Market once more and I couldn’t be more excited

❄️ Stratford Upon Avon – for a glorious Victorian themed market 9th -12th December

❄️ Worcester – their awesome market returns once more to bring festivities to town.

Theatre

Visiting the theatre at Christmas is a much loved family tradition , I have missed live performance so much this last eighteen months that I’m keen to squeeze in as many trips as possible. From Pantomime to ballet and everything in between, theatres across the Midlands all have some special events lined up, we are spoilt for choice with some awesome venues and shows this year.

❄️ The Stick Man – Julia Donaldsons much loved story is touring the Midlands with a special Performance at the Town Hall on Boxing Day

❄️Alice inWonderland – at the Old Rep until 17th December

❄️ The Snowman – hosted by Carrot Productions touring nationally and in Coventry on 23rd December

Something Different

❄️ The North Pole Experience in Nottingham at Thoresby Park is a new immersive family experience.

❄️ Winter Wonderland at the Midlands Snow Dome for thrill seekers and adventurers

❄️ Santa Safari – at West Midlands Safari Park for animal lovers what better place is there to meet Santa and have a fabulous day out?

It’s officially less than a hundred days to go until Christmas and so it’s okay to start playing Mariah Carey and looking forward to all of the festive fun!

Why beach huts are a Staycation Gamechanger

For those of us without our own home swimming pool,surely the next best thing is a trip to the beach! How convenient then, would it be to have your very own indoor space whilst you’re there? Over 20,000 British beach hut owners have prioritised exactly that. A creation that mimics all the home comforts you could need, is literally a short walk across the sand. 

 

What is a Beach Hut?

 

Essentially a beach hut is a glorified shed that sits in a row with others permanently along the coast line. Beach huts can be used for all manner of things from storing wetsuits, to hosting a table and chairs to eat at, to shelter from the rain or for making a cuppa after your swim in the sea. 

 

Where Do Beach Huts Come From?

 

Despite most people thinking that beach huts were originally thought up in Victorian times, the concept of a portable ‘room’ or ‘bathing machine’ as they were known actually began in the 1700s. 

 

Prior to that the only folk who spent time at the seaside were generally fishermen, smugglers and pirates. 

Thanks to new medical advice that sea swimming was inherently good for you, people began visiting the beach and recognising how enjoyable it could be too.

 

The early bathing machines were essentially a horse drawn shed, deliberately portable so that bathers could travel from the top of the beach down into the sea and retaining their modesty whilst taking their naked dip.

 

Famously, King George III insisted that his own ‘medical bath’ would need not only the bathing machine but also a full quartet playing ‘God Save the King’ whilst doing so. 

 

By the time Queen Victoria was in power, visits to the beach and swimming in the sea in general was widely acceptable, but men and women would be kept separate. Queen Victoria had her very own beach hut built at Osbourne House in her beloved Isle of Wight in the 1840s.

 

By the 1900s, both sexes bathing together, along with wearing swimwear, had become the norm. That meant there was no longer a need for bathing machines to be moveable, and so the static beach huts we know and love today were born. 

 

Since then, demand has steadily risen for beach huts. No less so than during the pandemic, as Brits got accustomed to the potential loveliness and ease of a staycation. 

 

Quintessential Britishness

 

These picture-perfect mini houses by the sea are not just the ideal choice for a convenient, low maintenance staycation.

 

They’ve become a statement of personal expression too. 

 

The smartest pastel-hues to the vibrant paint-box beach huts are just the outsides.

Inside, they’re often fitted out to allow for all kinds of enjoyments, from comfortable beach sleep-overs tocharming summer evening dinner parties, with the sea air and sound of the tides setting the scene.

 

The Cost of a Beach Hut

 

These apparently unassuming huts are fast becoming one of the most desirable retro getaway opportunities.

 

So as you’d expect, the increased demand plus the modification of beach huts means a rise in prices too.  

 

Whilst back in 1980 you could buy your very ownbeach hut for just £100, in 2021 it’s feasible to pay awhopping £300,000 for a ‘high end’ luxury beach. 

 

Expensive Bournemouth, Brighton or Christchurch in the sunnier south or Wells-Next-The-Sea and Southwold on the spectacular east coast are some of the most desirable locations, which all ooze the unique andchilled, pure British ambience. 

 

Denisons, a specialist estate agents in the Christchurch area, confirm that prices have increased by 10% or so over the last year. 

 

In fact, of the 400 or so beach huts in Christchurch, Denisons tend to sell approximately five annually – sothe waiting lists can be long. 

 

Bearing in mind that the average UK property price is approximately £230,000, these prices are very steep, but beach hut converts wouldn’t change their lifestyle for a thing. 

 

In fact these low-maintenance little homes tend to remain in families for generations.

Unexpected Luxury

 

Traditional beach huts are usually made of timber, each with its own individual colour theme and modern or retro styling. 

 

The most beautiful can include sea-view decking, a barbeque or even a hot tub outside… but it’s on the inside that the 21st century has made the biggest impression. 

 

Some incorporate two, or even three-level living. Cosy mezzanine bedrooms, Wi-Fi, fully equipped solar-powered kitchen, hot water, toilet and maybe a cosy wood-burner and sofa, are all encased within classic whitewashed walls and wooden floorboards. 

Perhaps the ultimate luxury vision has been achieved by specialist architects Jak Studio. 

 

The Spy Glass beach hut at Eastbourne, combines nostalgia for this iconic symbol of Britishness, with a completely new physical form.  

 

Incredibly, the whole structure sits on a sleek timber turntable, allowing it to be rotated at will to track the movements of the sun. Owners can literally switch between the sand and the pier as their backdrop of choice!

 

Of course not all of our beach-life aspirations run so high. 

 

In many cases the beach hut contains little more than a set of deckchairs and the ubiquitous kettle and a game of boules. A simple yet charming way of bringing the whole family together at the beach, making the special memories that will last a lifetime.

 

The Beach Hut Checklist

 

Thinking about buying your own beach hut?

 

Be sure to check out all the facilities, such as car parking, bathroom availability, power sources (which may be solar or calor gas) and standpipes – remember there will be no mains water, and beach hut life is essentially camping with benefits!

 

It’s also wise to consider whether local facilities will be adequate when the sun does decide to disappear – cafes and restaurants, cinemas and play centres, zoos and castles are all worth investigating.

 

As they are outside, beach huts can of course be liable to erosion, flooding and even vandalism – so insurance is a must. A specialist company such as TL Risk Solutions, can provide comprehensive beach hut cover, with annual premiums from around £150 up to £400 or more.

 

Maintenance should be minimal, but it’s sensible to budget for a repaint every three or four years too.

 

Beach hut owners are effectively renting land from the local council, and this will incur an annual licensing charge that can reach £2,500 a year. 

 

Thoroughly investigate any additional local authority restrictions, for example around daytime-use only of beach huts, whether access to the beach itself is seasonal or year round, whether dogs are allowed, and whether the all-important barbecue will be permitted!

 

Remember that there may be options to rent out your beach hut at times when you just can’t get away. Rental is often by the day or week, and may be managed with a minimum of fuss by a local agent. Prices achieved will of course vary with location and facilities – from £1,375 a week for a three-bedroom, chalet-style beach hut in Tresco, Isles of Scilly, to £150 a week for a traditional wooden hut at Alum Chine, Bournemouth.

2021 may be the year of the staycation – but British beach huts have the style, situation and sheer ease of lifestyle which can be enjoyed for a lifetime.

A journey to health and wellness

I’ve written previously about how I lost a sense of self over lockdown. A year of sitting at home with nothing to do but bake really had an impact on my waist line which in turn had an impact on my identity.

As the world tentatively re-opened I decided I needed to turn things around and completely overhauled my lifestyle. I started at home with thirty days challenges for myself. Some based on fitness and others on my mental health, and some just for fun. I also began to change the way I eat and incorporated exercise in to my routines.

Then the summer holidays arrived and all routine went out of the window. With a four year old snack monster it would have been easy to slip back in to old habits and I certainly struggle to find time to head to the gym but I was set a little challenge by the team at Everyone Active. We participated in their week long everyone is family challenge – designed to promote health and wellness and make it fun for all the family.

There are four different week long programmes you can choose to participate in, each with a range of activities designed to make it fun for families to engage in sports and healthy activities together, at your local leisure centre or even from the comfort of your own home.

We chose our activities together from the adventure programme (of course) and decided to attempt a family swim session first of all. Arlo and Paloma are both aged 4, Lincoln is 6 and Logan is 9 so it’s been a challenge finding activities this summer which are appropriate and engaging for all of them to enjoy, but they all love the water so it was a great place to start.

On our first visit to the leisure centre we noticed the clip and climb walls and not being the type of kids to shy away from a challenge they insisted we book in for a session. With even the little ones feeling confident and wanting to brave the heights. There’s nothing more energising than getting to the top of a wall! We had a great time cheering each other on and conquering the heights.

This week we have also been participating in fun together outdoors – the activity planner suggested a bike ride but I couldn’t get four in the car to take to the park so we opted for scooters instead – the beauty of these activity plans is that they’re flexible and can be adapted to suit your family. We have been touring our local area and enjoying open spaces. I wear my fit bit and keep an eye on my step count so even if I can’t get to the gym I know I can hit my 10,000 step target which is easily achievable when chasing after these kids.

Of course I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours for myself, and I’ve been doing group exercise classes. I find working out in classes to be really motivating, I always want to finish the sets and pull another rep out of the bag when I see other people beside me putting the work in. I’ve been attending group classes since gyms’s opened their doors back in May and the support from others attending the classes is incredible too. It can be really intimidating attending a class for the first time but my advice is always to just go for it.

After all of this activity it seemed only fair to book in to visit the spa at Bromsgrove Leisure Centre, purely to give the place a thorough review. A couple of hours to myself relaxing and enjoying a treatment is just what I need after all of that hard work!

Everyone Active has leisure centres across the U.K. with a full schedule of family friendly activities and adult workout out classes to enjoy this summer holiday – and beyond. Check out your local leisure centre and find out what’s on, you could start your own family challenge, get the kids active and start your wellness journey.

Membership provided for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.


How to travel on a budget

There is nothing better than getting some time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life by going travelling. Travelling is a great opportunity to experience new cultures and seeing countries, giving you the chance to immerse yourself in new environments. 

 

Whether you are going travelling just for a week or two, or are going on an extended holiday for a few months, your trip doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. While of course the longer you are away, the more costs will start to add up, but by being money savvy you can enjoy your travels for cheaper.  So by planning your trip before you go, you can keep to a budget, but still have a great time away. 

 

Choose your destination carefully 

 

If you already have a figure in your head of how much money you have to spend on your trip then this will help you pick your travel destination. While some places are affordable and great for travelling when on a budget, others can be quite pricey. Therefore you should do some research before making travel arrangements to see the average cost of accommodation and eating costs for while you are away. The last thing you want to do is book your flights, to then find that the price of living is out of your budget completely. 

 

You may even find that there are some destinations close to home that will offer you a great travelling experience and allow you to save money when getting there. 

 

Find fun and free things to do 

 

While travelling on a budget, it is important to remember that there are many fun and exciting things to do and places to see that don’t have to cost you a penny. For example, throughout the UK there are picturesque beaches and fun museums that are completely free to enjoy. Heading down to Cornwall to the world-famous Fistral beach is a great way to take in the beautiful views, and you can even make a day of it by taking a picnic with you! 

 

Look out for deals and offers 

 

When it does come to booking and paying for excursions, trips, and travel, you should always look out for the best deals and offers. From family passes to ‘children eat free’ offers, you will be surprised how much money you can save simply by having a look online for some special offers. For example, Chill Factore has a range of offers and discounts available to help you save money while still learning to ski and snowboard. Their deals on snow activities can make it even more affordable for you to learn a new skill and experience something different during your summer holiday. 

 

Pick the right accommodation 

 

A huge contributing factor of how much you spend while you are travelling is the type of accommodation that you decide to stay in. Many people consider b&bs and hotels to be the best and cheapest accommodation options while you are away. But in fact they could end up costing you more money in the long run. For example, if you were to stay in an apartment instead, while you may pay a little bit more up front, you will be able to prepare your meals from your accommodation instead of having to rely on eating out. The cost of eating out at cafes and restaurants for 3 meals a day can soon start to add up. So by having an apartment with kitchen facilities, you can eat at home and help cut down your spending. 

 

Pack the right things 

 

It goes without saying that you should always try to pack light when traveling, you also don’t want to leave anything behind and be forced to then buy it while you are away. Many shops make a fortune on tourists leaving necessities at home, such as sunscreen, and therefore bump up the price. Don’t fall into this common trap, and instead take the time to make a list of everything you need and ensure that you have packed it all before you set off. 

 

It is a common misconception that travelling can only be enjoyed by those with a lot of money, and instead, just by being careful and planning ahead, you can save considerably while on your travels and still benefit from new and varied experiences.

Take a walk with us around Bittell Reservoir

This secret beauty spot is on the very edge of Birmingham, I consider the canals at the Hopwood to be the border, I don’t know if that’s official or not but we always used to cross the canal and joke “now we’re in Brum, and now we aren’t” because when I was a kid it was the furthest I went on bike rides without parents. Now it’s a space that I love to take Arlo, especially through lockdown because I loved that it didn’t have a play area and we had no end of issues walking past those in our local parks when they were all taped up.

You’re unlikely to encounter crowds of other people as this space is really outdoors. There’s no cafe or toilet facilities so I suggest beginning and ending at either the Hopwood pub or one of the pubs in either Barnt Green, or thr Lickey Hills which gives you great free parking, and the chance to get food, a drink and use the loos. If it’s been raining recently then west suitable boots / wellies as this walk takes you along trails and bridle paths.

Our favourite spot to begin is where the waterways walk meets the Lickey Hills Trail and we wander along the road beside the streams and fishing pools, it’s a delight to spot the nesting swans, and eventually the cygnets ad they hatch. Just behind the water are rolling fields full of sheep and as you get to what appears to be a dead end you find a green gate and you might meet a cow or two.

At this point in time you can choose to go left or right, left takes you up towards the reservoir which has an open expanse of water behind a tall dam so do not let children run ahead! Or you can choose to go right along the bridle path. We usually go right and follow the muddy path. At first you feel as through you’re walking in the woods and a small stream sits alongside the path which is perfect for splashing.

On the left of the path is some beautiful woodland and at the right time of year you can spot a sea of bluebells which remain untouched as the woodland is private and can’t be trampled through, unlike most other bluebell woods, so it’s a sight to behold. Then eventually the path brings you out to walk beside the lower Bittel Reservoir, access to walk around it is gated off, however at various points along this path you can pause and view local wildlife – we have spotted Egrets from this spot.

At the end of this bridle path you can decide how tired your legs are. If you want to continue on then you can follow the full Barnt Green Waterways route which is a 5km wander through countryside, and back up and around round the lower reservoir however if you’re accompanying little legs are tired then you can take a shortcut here and walk up the Bittell Farm road to your right (observing the traffic) and then head straight back up to the Upper Bittell reservoir. If you started at the Hopwood then you’ll be beginning your route here.

From the road you can get good views to both stretches of water and then eventually take a left opposite the farm house. You’ll spot chickens, sheep and llamas in the field and know when to take the turn, and then wander up a trail past the animals, eventually finding the horses in the field and getting a great view across the railway line and beyond. There’s plenty of grassy space here to enjoy a snack stop too.

You climb over the stile and head down a pathway to come back down to the reservoir and the view across the water which greets you is always phenomenal. This is by far one of favourite places to wander in Birmingham because there’s just so much for little ones to experience. Every time we visit we encounter something new – from a new plant species to identify or a friendly cat from the farmhouse following us along the trail. There’s just something so fabulous about being outdoors and we feel so lucky to have this wonderful place on our doorstep.

The best parks in and around Birmingham for nature walks

When you’re half way in to the summer holidays and running out of ideas for things to do then a trip to the local park is the easiest thing to organise. Take a backpack with your lunch and some water, pop the bike or scooter in the car boot and away you go. You can keep kids amused for hours outdoors, especially if there’s a play area but we enjoy going a little off the beaten track and finding places to explore nature, especially after our trip to the theatre to see Sarah and Duck last week Arlo has been requesting to feed the ducks every morning.

I’ve collated a list of our favourite places to visit and I’ve printed off a selection of RSPB resources from twinkl.com which we use on our adventures, usually scavenger hunts and bird spotting sheets work best but you can find practically anything to suit your trip, we can spend all day outdoors and most of the time Arlo doesn’t want to come home.

Twinkl are offering a 6 month Ultimate account worth approximately £50 to one lucky entrant! Twinkl is a digital resource library offering over 750,000 educational resources that support parents and teachers across practically all subjects and age-groups. Thousands of these are available at no cost but, with an Ultimate subscription, you can unlock Twinkl’s full range of materials including their interactive games, 3D AR models and even receive printed original eBooks sent straight to your door.

Terms and conditions apply – This giveaway is live until midnight on 31st August. The winner will be selected at random.

Twinkl have created a family staycation guide with resources linked to places to visit all across the U.K. Middleton Lakes which is the closest site to me are featured and Twinkl are working alongside the RSPB with resources crated for The wild challenge, which is a great way to keep kids busy. The idea is you complete nature related challenges, upload pictures as ‘evidence’ after registering on the RSPB website and then earn your medals. Tap the infograph below to find out more.

Your evidence can be photographs or even examples of your children’s art work, and twinkl resources are perfect prompts – you can get creative and enjoy making memories together. There’s minibeast hunts, rockpooling guides, snail art and all sorts of fun project inspiration.

You can complete most of the activities by exploring parks close to home, hence I’ve created a lost of some of the best parks in Birmingham which is full of hidden green spaces if you know where to look. You can have a grand outdoor adventure in the middle of the city, its not just about feeding the ducks.

Whilst I’m here, bread isn’t the greatest thing for ducks so stick to small quantities and try taking out oats with you instead. I always keep a box in my car boot so we can take a pit stop whenever we pass a duck pond.

Without further a do, here’s our top parks in and around Birmingham for you to explore:

1. The Leasowes

Postcode: B62 8DH

Free parking here on site, with a small play area and plenty of open space to explore. Woodlands, grasslands, streams and lakes. This site is a designated site of scientific interest and a must visit. No toilet facilities available.

2. Sutton Park

Postcode: B74 2YT

Parking is free (various sites)

Sutton Park is a huge National nature reserve and you could live in Birmingham your whole life and still not have the chance to explore it all. Feeding the ducks is great fun but if you’re lucky you might spot wild grazing horses too!

3. Cannon Hill Park

Postcode: B13 8RD

Car park: fees charged (pay via RingGo app)

This park in central Birmingham is easily accessible via public transport and home to two pools, with swan boats for hire. There are play areas and other paid for activities such as mini golf, a fun fair and a train.

The MAC is on site with a cafe and toilet facilities for users.

4. Edgebaston Reservoir

Postcode: B16 9EE

Car parking is free on site.

There’s a surfaced 2k route around making this ideal for scooters and pushchairs. The Edgbaston Watersports Activity centre is on site for more high octane adventures.

5. Earlswood Lakes

Postcode: B94 5RZ

These are for more of a natural experience, the trails around the lake can be quite uneven and muddy but here is the place to spot a greater variety of wetland birds and take great photographs.

6. Chase Water

Postcode: WS8 7NL

An environmentally friendly attraction that includes a visitor centre, lakeside cafe, activities such as wake-boarding, sailing, water skiing, nature walks and nearby heritage steam railway

7. Rowheath Pavillion

Postcode: B30 1HH

Parking free.

One of our favourite local parks with a beautiful small pool to wander around and an expansive lawn behind the pavilion for picnics. They have a brand new natural woodland themed play area which is great for clambering on. Every weekend you can find street food vendors serving an array of treats, and there’s a licenced bar and cafe on site too. Toilet facilities are available in the sports block.

8. Bittell Reservoir

Postcode: B45 8BH

On street parking (please respect the local community). It’s easier to start a walk from Barnt Green station and follow the North Worcestershire Path. This is a country route and not suitable for prams and can get very muddy. This reservoir is the home of the Barnt Green Sailing club and there’s public walkways around one side of the reservoir and then up and around country trails. You’re out on your own here with no toilet facilities etc so plan ahead. It’s worth the effort for the views and the wildlife. Read our walkthrough here.

9. The canals

The network of canals throughout Birmingham provides ample opportunity to find ducks and maybe even go fishing – it’s a different way to get from one place to another and see the city wandering along the towpaths. You could try going from the Mailbox to Broadstreet right in the City Centre, or head out to places like Alvechurch Marina. Some areas are nicer than others, plan your routes ahead.

10. Arrow Valley

Postcode: B98 OLJ

Parking is free. This park in Redditch has just added a brand play area which Arlo loves. There’s also gym/exercise equipment and fabulous trails around the lake to enjoy a leisurely stroll or a fast paced jog. The park often hosts funfairs and other events too. There’s a cafe and toilet facilities on site.

11. Sanders Park

Postcode: B61 7JP

Bromsgroves most beautiful park, with a great play area, duck pond and skate park plus cafe and toilet facilities. There’s a bandstand which often hosts events, a bowling green and tennis courts available to hire too.

12. The Vale

A small pond nestled amongst the student Village in Edgbaston, on Edgbaston Park Rd. There’s no designated parking but if you’re local or happen to be visiting the city this is a nice outdoor space to explore, and I’ve even been down to rescue a lost parakeet in this area so you might get lucky and find some more tropical birds to add to your lists.

13. Edgebaston pools

Postcode: B15 2RT

Accessible via paid entry to WinterBourne House and Gardens, so this isn’t a free day out but a nice trip to take, maybe with grandparents who would enjoy the beautiful gardens too.

14. Bournville Boating Pond

Postcode: B30 1QS

On street parking available. This small pond is home to the local model boat sailing club which meets most Sunday’s and its a sight to behold. A great spot to pause and feed the ducks, and have a stretch of the legs especially if you’re visiting nearby Cadbury World. If you’re around in the evening you might spot the local herons too. No cafe or toilet facilities.

15. Sandwell Valley

Postcode: B71 4BG

Parking: small charge

This vast expanse of woodland offers plenty to explore, with lakes perfect for spotting nesting herons in the spring if you head off the beaten track. There’s Forge Mill Farm on site along with huge play areas, a splash pad and plenty of activities to enjoy.

16. Kingsbury Water Park

Postcode: B76 0DY

Parking: £4.50 all day

A vast area of multiple lakes to explore – to get around I recommend hiring bicycles which are great fun. There’s the Echills Wood Railway, two huge play areas and a visitor centre and cafe with toilets on site too.

Other places to explore in and around Birmingham are:

Cofton Reservoir, Cofton Hackett, B45 8GW

Thimblemill Pool, Thimblemill Road, Smethwick, B67 5RG

River Rea, Mill Lane, Northfield, Birmingham, B31 2RT

Moor Pool, Moor Pool Ave, Birmingham B17 9HN

Shard End Lake in Norman Chamberlain Playing Fields, Kendrick Ave, Shard End B34 7SA

Sarehole Mill, Cole Bank Rd, Hall Green B13 0BD

Valley Parkway, Bournville Ln, Birmingham B30 2HP

Frankley Reservoir, Birmingham B32 4BN

Beacon Park, Swan Road, Lichfield WS13 6QZ

Swan Pool, West Bromwich B71 4BQ

Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, Alrewas, Burton-on-Trent, DE13 7DN

Ryton Pools Country Park, Ryton Rd, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry CV8 3BH

Holly Wood Nature Reserve near Great Barr, B43 6EA

Meriden Park, Moorend Ave, Chelmsley Wood, B37 5TB

Malvern and Bruetons Park, Warwick Rd, B91 3HA

Elmdon Park, Tanhouse Farm Road, Solihull, B92 9EY

Bourne Pool, Wheats Garden Centre, Chester Rd, WS9 0PW

New Hall Valley Country Park, Wilde Green Rd, B76 1NL

Plantsbrook Local Nature Reserve, Eachelhurst Rd, B76 1DZ

Witton Lakes Park, Gipsy Lane, B23 7AS

Swanshurst Park, Yardley Wood Rd, B13 0TB

Newbridge Farm Recreation Ground, Yardley Green Rd.

Kingfisher Country Park, Cole Valley Rd, B28 0DG

Ward End Park, Ward End Park Rd, B8 3PH

Trittiford Park, Priory Rd, B28 0TB

Moseley Bog, Wake Green Rd, B13 9YP

Moseley Park, Alcester Rd, B13 8HJ

Pype Hayes Park, Chester Rd, B24 0NR

Grove Park, Harbourne Park Rd, B17 0BJ

Kings Heath Park, Vicarage Rd, B14 7TQ

Handsworth Park, Holly Rd, B20 2BY

Perry Park, Perry Avenue, B42 1RP

Kings Norton Park, Pershore Rd South

Small Heath Park, Coventry Rd, B10 0PL

Manor Farm Park, Bristol Rd South, B31 2AB

Brookvale Park, Park Rd, B23 7YT

Lifford Reservoir (off tunnel lane) B30

Salford Park, Lichfield Rd, B6 7SS

Shenley Fields, Shenley Fields Rd, B29 5AL

Lickey Hills, Warren Lane, B45 8ER


Family days out for a tenner in Birmingham

We are deep in to the summer holidays and I’m already on the hunt for days out which don’t cost the earth and keep the kids busy. Arlo is four now and I can no longer take advantage of “kids under three go free” – we’ve visited all of our local parks for play areas and scooter rides which are a great free day out (aside from car parking). We also have some big trips to look forwards to but it’s nice to be able to pack a lunch and head out and about for a little adventure without breaking the bank. Heres a selection of our favourite things to do which come in at less than a tenner per child!

1. RAF Cosford

It’s free to book a visit – select your time slot on the website. Just pay £5 for parking, it’s an additional £5 for the 4D cinema experience. 40 mins drive from central Brum this is an awesome day out and fun for all the family.

2. Bowling and a Burger

Ten Pin Bowling at Star City is offering a summer holiday deal which includes one game of bowling AND a burger with a side of chips for £5 which is an absolute bargain!

3. Thinktank

Okay tickets are £10.25 but for this you get access to Mini Brum, the science garden and four floors of exhibits which will take you all day to explore. You can’t say fairer than that!

4. Catch a movie

Check your local cinemas for kids showings, my local cinemas have some great offers:

  • Cineworld – movies for juniors £2.50
  • Vue – mini mornings £2.49 (book online)

5. Conkers

This outdoors adventure playground is great for kids with mountains of energy. Kids tickets are £7 and you can spend all day with the enchanted forest play zone, the tree top walk and there’s even an indoor interactive zone for when rain halts play

6. Umberslade Adventure

Another outdoorsy activity – this playground in the middle of the forest has a low ropes course, a commando course, zip lines, a dedicated den building area and ply areas for little ones all for £7. You can choose to participate in additional activities on site for a small extra fee.

7. Mini golf

Adventure Mini Golf at Star City is £5 for under 5’s and £8.50 for over’s, or head to Mr Mulligans at Broadway Plaza for a weekday round of twelve holes for £6.50. Tree Top adventure golf in the city centre starts at £4.50 and they have a 2 for 1 offer on at the moment.

8. Fun on the farm

There’s lots of different animal themed attractions in around the Midlands, check out my recent blog here with details of our top ten children’s farms to explore. Forge Mill at Sandwell Valley is a great value mini visit, where you can feed the animals in the yard – adults £3 and kids £2.50 and then of course explore the parks and surrounding lakes for the cost of a car Park ticket.

9. Bounce

There are a variety of trampoline parks around the city but for a really fun experience then the inflatables are called for – check out Inflatanation which is £9.99 or Infla Ninja for a glow in the dark experience at £8.99.

10. Stay Cool at the snow dome

When the weather outside gets unbearably hot then head to the snow dome to cool off. Entry to the snow fun park is £9.50 for kids and adults are from £4.95 and they also do parent and tots sessions for under 4’s which are £12.

We hope you find your own fabulous adventures, share your experiences with us on social media by tagging us on Instagram or Facebook and if you have any more suggestions let us know and we can add them to the blog!

For free days out to explore nature check out my guide to parks in Birmingham here

Paultons Park – The home of Peppa Pig World

Paultons Park is perhaps best known for being the home to the one and only Peppa pig world, however there is so much to explore, this family owned and family friendly theme park is one of the best in the U.K. and with so much to explore I wanted to share with you some of our best bits and hints and tips for your visit.

First things first check the website and download the app to plan your day. If your child is old enough and tall enough to enjoy some of the rollercoaster rides then I would head to the opposite side of the park first thing and leave exploring Peppa Pig World until later on – the majority of toddlers were napping in their strollers by mid afternoon as parents enjoyed picnics in the beautiful gardens and we found queue sizes for the most popular rides had reduced dramatically by then.

Pack your swimsuits – Paultons park has one of the biggest Splash Pads Arlo has ever experienced, and a smaller version too. We hired lockers for £4 just near to the main entrance which we could use as many times as we needed through the whole day and this was great as we doubled back to use the splash pad twice when the sun was highest in the sky as it was great to cool off. We also stored our picnic and snack bags here to save carrying too much around the park with us. One good thing about this theme park is that there’s plenty of taps throughout to refill your water bottles so if you’re on a budget then you can take everything you need and not spend any extra money at all.

The Lost Kingdom

We began our day in the Lost Kingdom, arriving early we spent a little time in the gardens before the gates opened meeting flamingoes and other exotic birds before rushing to try out some of the rollercoasters first, and we found that we didn’t need to queue longer than ten minutes for some of the biggest rides. I noticed that the attention to detail within the grounds of the park is second to none. The levels of cleanliness are second to none and the botanicals are chosen to really compliment each areas themes. It really did feel like Jurassic Park with the exotic palms and ferns and we found dinosaurs around every corner much to Arlo’s delight. There were also plenty of benches dotted around to take a rest. As a side note I clocked up 20,000 steps on my Fitbit!

We spent about an hour on this side of the park before finding the splash pad and having a pause to review the app and check some ride queue times to decide where to explore next. There were digital notice boards around the park displaying queue times which helped massively.

Critters Creek

Critters Creek was top of the list for Arlo, we we went to the Beastie Burrow to meet and greet all sorts of creatures such as the most beautifully coloured chameleon and then heading on to the Cat O Pillar coaster where we had lots of fun spotting some mixed up critters – have you ever seen a donkey with wings before? This area was the quietest in the whole park and fun to enjoy a more relaxed pace to break up the day. The gardens just beside this area provided great picnic spots for families too.

Tornado Springs

New for 2021 this area of the park transports you in to middle America and it feels like you’ve arrived just after a hurricane has made an exit. There’s cows stuck in rooftops and all sorts of fun things to spot, especially if you can keep your eyes open on the Storm Chaser. This was the busiest area in the park for us and we loved the hustle and bustle, queue of for twenty minutes at peak time for the Storm chaser was worth it, worth it for the adrenaline rush!

Arlo’s favourite thing to do in this land was the play area which was fun for him to run around in for a good half an hour and give us a moments rest. We decided to eat at the nearby Route 83 Diner and so he could play whilst we were waiting for our food order. The food here was simple basket meals, surprisingly good for theme Park food, with a hot dog and chips costing around the £10 mark. This restaurant was fairly busy, we ordered using self service screens and then waited about fifteen minutes. Finding a table was easy they were being cleaned by the team as soon as they were vacated for quick rotation. I may as well add at this point that I noticed the toilets throughout the park were also maintained to a high standard and there were family friendly facilities everywhere too.

Arlo earnt his driving licence in this area and enjoyed the big thrill seeking rides – even if he seemed a little anxious at first so after this I decided we all needed another tranquil pause, going on the Rio Grande train ride was a nice relaxing ride and the time where Arlo got his first glimpse of Peppa Pig World as we went on a trail around the grounds. I spotted some more quiet corners which I noted for later on.

Just at the far end of the park is a working water wheel, and an enclosure of pelicans with some picnic benches, and a lovely lake to wander around. I think it’s great that Paultons Park balances the high octane areas with enough spaces to take a break away from the crowds, especially with the high number of families with young children. I had a little time to read about the history of the grounds and John and Anne’s garden, there’s a nature walk near to the Lost Kingdo which is a other quiet space to walk in a woodland environment which is great if you need a shaded cooler spot on a warm day too. If you’re an adult taking older children to the park then it’s great to note that there spaces to escape from the hustle and bustle whilst the kids have fun, or maybe a spot to walk a baby in the pram whilst the siblings queue up with another adult.

Peppa Pig World

The main event of course is Peppa Pig world and it really does feel as though you’ve stepped in to another dimension, the music and scenery transports you directly in to the cartoon and again the attention to detail does not go unnoticed. There’s rides for every possible feature of the popular TV show you can imagine, and they’re all expertly designed playing close attention to the illustrative style of the cartoon. From hot air balloons to George’s dinosaur and everything in between.

We tried out the queens flying Coach ride first mid afternoon because it had a five minute queue time and I wanted to get a good view over the park to let Arlo decide what to go on next. Each of the rides in this area had a queue time of about ten-fifteen minutes which we didn’t mind. We spent our time playing eye spy and chatting about Peppa Pig – Arlo was most excited about being able to go on to the Dinosaur adventure alone. The rides in this area are all designed with young children in mind making it the ideal first family friendly theme park to visit and give them a taste for adventure.

You could easily book a nearby hotel and take two days to explore everything the park has to offer, with short breaks available to book on the website if you like to tick every ride off the list. Tickets are £37.75 for all over 1m tall if you book in advance on the website.

We were kindly invited to review Paultons Park with complimentary tickets however as always all opinions are my own

Sarah and Duck at the outdoor amphitheater

The Mac has done it again. Our first experience of live theatre in over a year was simply delightful. We were transported in to the whimsical world of Sarah and Duck, the BAFTA award winning children’s show for an hour on a summer afternoon. The setting for this performance is the outdoor amphitheatre at the MAC in Cannon Hill park which is just perfect because you can meet ducks before and after the show walking around the pools in the park. Click here to book your tickets this weekend.

Just before the show started we had the chance to read a book we bought from the merchandise on offer which included several of the story books and of course plushie versions of Sarah and Duck themselves.

The performance features all of the much loved characters recognisable from the books and tv show, even the flamingo and they’re all bought to life through skilled puppetry, designed by Lauren McEwen. Seeing how the stage props came together was magical in itself, turning the construction of the big top circus in to a song and seeing it spring in to life was like watching masterful design in action. The attention to detail was incredible and nothing went unnoticed by Arlo. Transforming the stage set in to a zoo to meet the penguins, and then back to the big top after a huge gust of wind blew it over, and then back to the park bench was masterful.

The show was engaging throughout, set at just the right pace for pre-schoolers. Continued repetition of words and phrases, sing along moments, a and audience participation kept Arlo occupied and interested in the storyline. I’m surprised at just how many references to the show the writers Pete Glanville and Sarah Gomes-Harris managed to include. If you love Sarah and Duck then you’ll know what I mean when I say the moon and the ribbon sisters were spot on!

The Mac always hosts great performances and the opportunity to experience a show in the amphitheatre doesn’t come around often, so head over this weekend – the performance is outdoors so be prepared with sun cream and/or waterproofs as it’s so unpredictable.

The Sarah and Duck show is on tour so head to their website to check out if they’re coming to your town.