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  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, and of course to feed the ducks. 

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 in summer and a good couple of hours in the winter too – most of the time Arlo doesn’t want to come home. 

I’ve created a list 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 – Tree top Adventure

Tree Top adventure golf in the city centre starts at £4.50 and they have a 2 for 1 offer on at the moment which is fab for summer. It’s on the top floor of the bullring and features two different courses plus there’s a fab eatery with the most awesome pizzas and sweet treats. I visited with all four kids one afternoon and we took our time to complete a round together – we opted for a course which took us through some Aztec / jungle themed holes, each more extravagant and with increasing difficulty. Logan and Lincoln managed to ace it and ended up winning a free return trip at the last hole too. On the whole a fun unique experience but because it’s so fab it can get really busy. It’s worth speaking to the team about their sensory sessions – every month they host a quieter inclusive session which is great to hear about. 

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.

Ten children’s farms worth visiting in the Midlands

Are you looking for childrens farms in the West Midlands? Here’s a selection of some of our favourite places to visit farm animals in and around Birmingham.

1. Attwell Farm Park

Attwell Farm Park is relatively new on the scene but it’s been a favourite of ours for a while. A beautiful farm park in Worcestershire. There are the usual range of farm animals to meet and greet outdoors and in their huge barn, plus there’s a cow shed and a barn outdoors with smaller animals such as bunnies and pigmy goats. The reason Arlo loves Attwell Farm Park is because of the extras, they have a huge bouncing pillow, a decommissioned fire engine and a newly revamped outdoor play area – plus indoor soft play, ride on tractors and a giant sandpit in the play barn. A small on-site cafe serves a delicious array of well priced snacks too.

2. Umberslade Farm

Umberslade farm was one of the first we ever visited. They host animal talks throughout the day which are announced with a ringing bell. The farmyard pigs have the funniest names and the barn is home to lambs and calves which you can feed at the right time of year. My personal favourite is the shire horses, whereas Arlo loves the ponies because he had a trekking experience (book separately) as a Christmas treat last year. They have a wonderful indoor play area which is made from natural wood and a brillInt outdoor park area with climbing frames for all ages. The on-site cafe serves food and hot drinks too. Make sure you head out past the duck pond to greet the chickens and say hello to Curly Sue, Umberslade Farms oldest pig. If you fancy a long walk the Estate has very scenic views.

3. Hatton Country World

This is one of the more expensive family farm days out in the Midlands but it’s a worth visiting, especially around Easter time when it’s lambing season and all the baby chicks are around to meet too. When it comes to animals there’s no shortage of creatures, with snakes lizards and exotic animals as well as the usual farmyard animals. My favourite event is the sheep grand national which is thoroughly enjoyable to watch, and Arlo loves the bird of prey shows and experiences.

Hatton is also home to a shopping village and hosts regular events such as the drive in movies and arts and crafts faulted throughout the year.

4. Oak Tree children’s Farm

Oak Tree farm in Walsall is a low cost alternative, it’s £3 for a little bucket of animal food, it’s the kind of place to spend a couple of hours on a quiet afternoon, with a small play area and plenty of room for a picnic and treats from the cafe available.

5. Forge Mill Farm

This little farmyard is based on the Sandwell Valley site and is just that, a small yard with the usual farm animals but in the most beautiful Victorian setting. Adults entry is just £2, kids £1.50 and under 2’s are free. You can buy bags of animal food for under £1 and wander around as many times as you like. We like to spend about an hour here before trekking across the bridge and around Sandwell Valley Country Park and the Swan Lake.

6. Bodenham Arboretum

Okay so this isn’t a place where the children’s farm is the main attraction, but in the middle of the grounds there’s a working farm yard and so you can enjoy a lovely wander around the pools and through the “deep dark woods” before meeting the cows, chickens and donkeys and heading back towards the main pool to spot the fish and ducks.

7. Rays Farm

This is a little further out for us but a wonderful place to explore. The goat pen is a must – if you crouch down they will jump on your back. Rays farm has owls and a giant sandpit but the feature which sets Rays Farm apart is the woodland walk, which features the most beautiful wooden fairytale sculptures and is one of the best places for bluebells and wild garlic in the Spring.

8. Little Owl Farm

In Stourport this farm has one of our favourite petting experiences with the chicks and guinea pigs and have the friendliest and most patient teams. They have an indoor play area, cafe and all important ride on tractor too.

9. All Things Wild

Not just a farm, if you’re needing a full day out with more animals than you can date to dream of then this is the ideal place. Their dinosaur field alone is better than the WMSP exhibition. (Disclaimer: the dinosaurs aren’t real)

They have two outdoor play areas, an indoor soft play and the “biggest and bestest” mud kitchen ever! (According to Arlo). My favourite however is the barefoot Walk.

10. Sedgley Adventure Centre

This is the place to visit for forest fun, a whole new area to explore for outdoor lovers, and the main attraction is mini golf surrounded by Animals which you can pet. It’s quite a surreal experience I must admit but so much fun to be had. This isn’t a huge place to explore but great for a couple of hours.

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 days out under £10 click here and for my guide to parks in Birmingham great for nature lovers click here

Visiting the Confetti Fields

This blog is going to be full of pictures, and I’m not even going to apologise for it.

The confetti fields have become some what of an Instagram sensation of recent years because of course it’s so beautiful everyone wants to get themselves the perfect new profile picture (including me). I first visited with Arlo’s as a baby and the sight of the vast spread of Delphiniums in all sorts of colours overwhelmed me. I wasn’t prepared, but of Course baby Arlo had 2/3 spare outfits in the bag and so we had a little photo shoot in the glorious sunshine.

If you’ve never heard of the Confetti fields, they’re owned by The Real Flower Petal confetti Company which is based in Wick, just past Pershore (a village worth visiting on its own merit) in the Midlands. The company makes wedding confetti from Delphinium Flowers which is of course a fabulous environmentally friendly product and as a side hustle, which has become a viral social media sensation, the company began opening up its fields for visitors to capture the flowers in full bloom just before the harvest.

This of course occurs for a short time and varies year to year based on weather conditions. Now this not so secret place has become a number one spot for photo opportunities and so when tickets are released they sell out fast – at this time of writing there are opportunities to visit but please check the website.

So the practical things to consider when visiting: this place is a field and as such is bumpy and muddy in places so you need to be prepared for this. Pack sturdy shoes, try a baby carrier if you want to walk down through the flowers as a pram won’t fit. The company provides portaloos and has a small pop up cafe which sells cake, ice cream and coffee’s – I strongly suggest bringing a picnic and a blanket to make the most of your time here. Arlo managed to find a fab spot to rest and enjoy his chocolate brownie.

The delphiniums really are the star of the show and as we visited on opening weekend we were met with an array of colour, you can see the potential in these flowers to bloom even brighter over the next few weeks of summer with buds waiting to burst all over. This year however we spotted a wildflower meadow as we arrived which was worth pausing to explore and photograph. If you’re planning on posting your pictures to Instagram then the best place to find the best hashtags is Catherine’s article here from her blog, The Growing Family. Get all these beautiful photographs out for the world to see.

This year due to social distancing restrictions the tickets were checked by the team upon entrance to the car park, which was a really efficient way to manage things and avoiding any long queues just to get in to the field. We had an arrival time and it was suggested to spend two hours at the fields to help maintain number levels and make it fair for everyone. This was plenty of time to walk in and around the fields twice and zig zag off the beaten paths too.

At various vantage spots around the fields props have been carefully placed, from haybales to the lookout tower and a vintage tractor and bus, there’s so many views to capture it’s impossible. In fact I put my phone away for half an hour just to enjoy myself and the atmosphere.

We played hide and seek together and raced along the back straight of the field where we met the team members working hard and driving back and forth to pick flowers and load them on to the wagon for sale at the exit. Everyone we met working seemed happy, and how could you not be surrounded by such beauty?

Arlo is a lover of nature and constantly outdoors, so he was in his element and I snapped away capturing him enjoying himself, and we watched from a distance as professional photographers set up shoots with models and extravagant costumes. (I think he was convinced that the fairies were real).

One thing I did do was pack a magnifying glass, an egg box and a scavenger hunt resource for him to play with – and he literally lay down in the ditches to greet all creatures great and small – he didn’t stay clean for long but I didn’t mind as he was having a great time. If you’re planning to visit to get some pictures then it’s worth considering what kinds of things will keep the kids busy and enjoying the day as we spotted a lot of disgruntled kids on our walk around.

As we left the field I chose to purchase two bouquets, one for us at home and one for nanny – Arlo wanted to carry the gift proudly but the bunch was bigger than him – at £10 these are extremely reasonably priced, cut fresh and hand tied by a team working at out in the middle of the fields all day.

On our way back to the car we decided to head over to the wildflower meadow and Arlo ran off miles ahead. He was most impressed with the ladybirds and bees in this area, not to mention that this field had the “whole rainbow of colours.”

The confetti fields are only open until 4th July this year so head over to their website to book