Christmas at the Lower Drayton play Barn

We have had the most wonderful time at the play barn. We love it here anyway with one of the biggest indoor soft play areas and all the usual farm animals to meet and greet but it’s had a festive make over which makes it all the more magical. When we arrived we were greeted by a friendly elf who handed us over our passports and gave us a little bit of orientation – the kids of course wanted to have a run around the soft play before we did anything so we enjoyed our adults complimentary hot drinks tokens from Honey Pots Cafe before starting our adventure.

The adventure began when we took a trip up in the “naughty or nice” lift and were greeted at the top by several elves who enthralled the kids. Stamping their passport for the first time and getting them involved in a conversation about Christmas to suss out if they’d been nice enough to meet Santa – and sure enough the kids were all invited to meet the big guy himself who enjoyed having a chat with them all and was happy to let us snap away lots of pictures. One of the good elf’s captured a family picture for us all too.

After our Santa meet the kids were given free reign to choose their own gifts from Santa’s toy shop and there were lots of different toys to choose from – all surprisingly good quality for a grotto and each managed to find something they loved before we moved on to complete our passport stamps.

Upstairs in the play barn the party rooms have been beautifully transformed in to different workshops – our first was a glitter heaven and each of the children were invited to get crafty with their own wooden decorations. Our elves were on hand to help with every step and fully prepared with all the colours and supplies they needed to achieve their stamp.

The upper soft play pitch has been turned in to a faux snow ball fight zone – with white balls and balloons everywhere this is a lovely zone for a high octane snowball tournament or a sensory moment for little ones to soak up the lights colours and textures. We had a little play and earnt another passport stamp before we checked out my personal favourite room – the gingerbread bakery.

The staging for this room wouldn’t be out of place in one of the garden centres we’ve visited recently, the attention to detail is brilliant and the kids were invited to pop on their aprons and get busy with some sweets and icing to decorate their own gingerbread cookies. Again our elves were very attentive and made sure every child had a lovely experience and a fabulous cookie to take home (or munch on).

My sister and I got a little bit emotional with the kids writing their letters to Santa, it’s the first time they’ve really been able to write their own letters – Arlo asked for robots and bakugans, Lincoln asked for a scooter and Paloma just wrote to say “I love you, from Paloma” – they spent so much time writing neatly before posting letters.

In between all of the activities we managed to head out to see the animals – Arlo asked a very patient elf the name of every single small animal and put her to the test – Rocket the Guinea pig was a firm fave and he decided to name the baby chicks after Santa’s reindeer – and then ran out of names so then we had Rudolph 2, 3, 4, 5…. You get the picture!

Downstairs at Honey Pots we opted for a couple of portions of chips and a toastie meal deal – there was quite a variety of different food options including hot/cold and lots of great looking cakes too. The kids ran around the indoor soft play for a while and then we ventured to the picnic barn with the big slides and the inflatables – we practically had this space to ourselves and spent a good hour running around like loons before the cold defeated us and we went inside.

Ham and cheese toastie meal deal from Honey Potts

Our passport had one final activity left to complete so we went to find out what the story was all about and found a movie screen with hay bales and blankets set up for a viewing of a mischievous elf story featuring many characters we had met throughout the day. It was at this point we realised we hadn’t been outdoors and absolutely needed to find the zip wire and bouncing pillow.

As the sun set we had the outdoor area to ourselves and had one final hurrah with some role play in the fire engines before we said our goodbyes to the elves and the cattle who were turning in for the night. I genuinely can’t recommend this experience highly enough. It was a fabulous day throughout and the team at the farm were working so hard to make sure every child had a magical time. The place has everything you need to capture that Christmas spirit and get you feeling festive.

Xmas at the farm is available to book until Christmas Eve – peak and off peak pricing applies – check out their website here for more information.

Our tickets today were provided for the purposes of review however as always all thought and opinions expressed are our own

Panto’s back – Oh Yes it is!!! Beauty and the Beast at The Belgrade – review

Beauty and the Beast at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry is the must see panto experience in the Midlands this winter. Be transported to the town of Middle Widdle on the Piddle (somewhere near to – but not quite Nuneaton) for a few hours of silly fun with Billy, his mum Dolly Mix, alongside Maurice, Grub and of course the stars of the show Beauty and the Beast alongside a dance troupe who perform as gremlin waiters, skeletons and villagers as well as an Olympic mop team!

Bought to the Belgrade by Imagine theatre, a production company run by husband and wife team Steve and Sarah Boden, Beauty and the Beast is a sheer delight for its entire three hours running time. There was so much jam packed in to this performance we have far too many highlights to share but I have to say that we really did have a wonderful experience full of belly laughs – it was obvious just how happy the cast were to be treading the boards once more and this feeling was echoed by the audience in the auditorium.

We visited for a matinee performance: my mom, Arlo and my nephew Logan and each of us had our own favourite moments from the show so I can truly say that there’s something for everyone and it’s a real family friendly panto.

The sets were beautiful with all manner of small details adding to the enchantment of the story. As we entered the theatre the stage was set with the castles on each side and between acts the props and sets changed swiftly to immerse us in to the middle of the action. The same level of attention to detail was apparent in the costumes – and none more so than in the extravagant outfits worn by Dame Dolly Mix, played by Iain Lauchlan, whose mere stage presence had us in fits of giggles. Lots of cheeky innuendos kept the grown ups amused throughout the performance, Logan smirked throughout all the cheeky toilet humour and Arlo kept asking me if the flying saucer fascinator was real.

My mom’s favourite scene of the entire show consisted of Dame Dolly Mix with a fork, alongside Grub with a fish, Billy with a Bucket of water and Maurice with a blonde wig. I can’t even begin to explain what was going on, but we really appreciated the intricacy of the choreography and how challenging this must have been to perform – Arlo’s was sat beside me squealing with laughter as Billy managed to get poked in the bum and slapped with a wet fish! This skit bought the house down and rightly so – brilliant comedic timing!

Arlo’s favourite moment was the scene where the wolves managed to outsmart Billy and his mom – every child was out of their seats exclaiming “he’s behind you” and it was just so thrilling at that moment to look around as a parent and see so many children at panto for the first time and relishing in every moment. I found it quite emotional, and then when Beauty (Ruby Eva) and the Beast danced together to Iris by the Goo Goo dolls it sent me over the edge and I held my breath. I remember being four or five and seeing the Disney movie for the first time and being mesmerised – and for a moment I was experiencing those same feelings. The music chosen for the show really was spot on and had us all clapping along.

The one tune which has stayed with us all afternoon is “Soapy Soapy” (to the tune of Hokey Cokey) – a fabulous slapstick scene where poor Maurice (Peter Watts) was stripped down to his pants in the name of comedy. He did marvellously in this non speaking scene, where the stage was set with a huge sheet and Dolly and Billy went to town with bubbles and mops – it was chaos on the stage and had me laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks …. I also have to give a mention to the Beyoncé style moves from Maurice during the “best song in the entire show!” Great comic timing – it’s such a shame his character got thrown to the wolves in the end.

Honestly I could rave about this show all day – Arlo’s fallen asleep talking to me about mop stealing “naughty nickers” and said he had the best time ever. Thank you for inviting us to the show – Beauty and the Beast is running at The Belgrade until 4th Jan 2022 – good luck to the troupe for the rest of this run – next years panto will be Jack and the Beanstalk – we can’t wait to come back and see you again!

The enchanted garden at Webbs of Wychbold – review

Quite possibly the most beautiful festive experience I’ve ever had. It’s impossible to describe just how magical the light trail around the riverside gardens is but I will do my best – my pictures do not do this justice at all. Arlo at age four was enthralled throughout and I was left feeling quite emotional and overwhelmed by the environment, especially when we walked through the woodland path and found a rainbow bridge having recently lost our pet cat.

We usually visit Santa at the grotto Webbs Garden Centres – this event is entirely new and the attention to detail the team have put in to decorating the gardens is truly remarkable, it’s a beautiful place to visit anyway but this is something else. There are the most beautiful light installations throughout, with different themed areas and displays to happen upon, and lights placed in some of the best places to also showcase the beauty of the gardens themselves. Plenty of different spots to pause for festive family photos.

I highly recommend this to families looking for a festive experience. Arlo is four and so found them entire hour we spent in the gardens magical – he recognised the stories behind the gingerbread man and the Jack and the bean stalk displays but his favourite element was the woodland walk with all the different animals. The entire experience took us about an hour.

The theme is based on fairy tales you will instantly recognise with large books throughout featuring popular quotes. The entire garden is filled with Christmas music and sound effects as you walk around I’m not sure if they’re on a loop or there are motion sensors as each display had its own unique sounds. We heard “fe fi fo fum” as we passed the giant and ran across the bridge as we heard a troll.

If you’re familiar with the gardens you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that Santa is near to the hobbit house, in a purpose built hut, and he was lovely and chatty with Arlo, reminding him of course to be good and to leave him a mince pie on the big day. Just before we turned the corner to greet him snow machines were bursting out flakes from their spots hidden in the trees and Arlo gasped in amazement.

The important info:
adults £16 / kids £10 / under twos free off peak (£18/£12 through December) book here

Suitable for prams and wheelchairs throughout as the entire route is on pathways

Open from 4.30pm. And this was just right for us as it began to get dark as we entered.

There are lanterns to purchase at the beginning £3 each or two for £5

A little hot chocolate hut in the middle selling some festive treats like candy canes etc.

There is a pop up marquee at the end with a toasty fire, drinks and snacks to purchase. Arlo had a kids hotdog and chips and I drooled at the red velvet cake.

You greet Santa near the end of the experience, you don’t book, just have a little chat as you pass by his hut and of course take some pictures – his elf gives the little ones a set of stickers and a badge.

There are also the Hygge pods close by to book for a special treat £25 per head for a festive afternoon tea and Prosecco (minimum four people)

Of course the garden centre is open too and worth popping in just to see the displays inside and make some festive purchases. Arlo loves the sing along snowmen right at the entrance. Webbs of Wychbold is the place to visit to invi tree the festive spirit in for 2021.

The haunted castle – Warwick Castle at Halloween

We love all things spooky – Halloween is bigger than Christmas in this household and so we jumped at the chance to attend a press day at Warwick Castle at the launch of their Halloween extravaganza. With all sorts of spooky attractions there’s great fun for all the family to enjoy with the castle providing the perfect backdrop to events.

We arrived before lunch time on a crisp Autumn day and were given our map and information about new events attractions for the half term and so spent a little time checking this out, planning our day and deciding which way to walk – there’s a handy app to download with all of this information and we booked some of the free attractions using the app but the team are abandoning this process for a walk up process.

So first things first – the boys wanted to see the Falconers Quest. This is the birds of prey show which takes place on the lawns at the back of the castle in front of the boat house and I have to say as a bird fan, it’s truly magnificent to behold. The show is the most exciting bird show I have ever been lucky enough to see with a sound system playing out an immersive story about the quest of a young man who dreams of working at the castle and has to prove himself. The birds swoop overhead throughout to the delight of the audience and I can’t put into words how breathtaking this experience truly is.

As the show finished we ambled up the lawn and to the castle – taking a rather backwards route and we quickly started to notice some strange happenings. With a headless horseman standing proudly in the shadow of the keep Arlo was quickly immersed in to Halloween mode. The team of animators working in the grounds really made the day special – we found that wearing costumes helped us to stand out and that they all wanted to engage in conversations about how to find the horseman’s head and who could have possibly cut it off.

On the lawn at intervals throughout the day were troll hunting and spell casting sessions held by more characters which delighted the children who gathered around to wave swords and wands around frantically. Arlo’s four so was just the right age for this and nothing was too “spooky” for him. We sat at nearby picnic tables to enjoy our packed lunch but noticed families around us enjoying pizzas from a street food stall which smelt amazing. There are various outlets dotted around for food and hot drinks.

In the courtyard grounds of the castle was “dead centre stage” and all long day various performances kept the crowd entertained – from puppets to a ghoulish disco and more. There was plenty of bench seating available for us to sit down and enjoy the shows – most of the time the kids were jumping around at the front and enjoying the music accompanied by ghoulish knights and ladies. It was here Arlo met the court Jester who I have to say was the kindest soul we met all day and he really took the time to engage with all the children who were shrieking with delight.

We went and walked along the castle ramparts to take in the views – this isn’t for the faint hearted because the spiral staircases and dizzying heights combined with the spooky Halloween vibe do send shivers down your spine but we felt proud (and somewhat relieved) to have made it!

Upstairs down scares was set up in the main Castle. I’ve done lots of scary mazes at various attractions so had a little idea of what to expect but for Arlo this was a first. The team who set this event up must have had so much fun coming up with concepts for each room, and again a fabulous team of actors and animators entertained us with more spooky humour which was pitched just right for kids – apart from the final room and jump scare with ghosts which had me screaming and running for the doors. I’d avoid this one if you have kids who are easily scared. I won’t ruin the surprises with pictures, it will take about fifteen to twenty minutes to wander around through the rooms and enjoy the experience.

The witches tower was the attraction which was in highest demand. There was no filming allowed for this experience which was truly unique – essentially an immersive story time for little ones with “Nightshade” the witch telling us all about her plans to turn a prince in to a frog and then getting us involved in the trouble. Again the attention to detail with the staging of the entire tower experience, from decor running up the stair well to the props in the entrance was magnificent – there was something spooky to spot everywhere you looked and I admire the creativity.

The Warwick witches are just fabulous. Staying in character seamlessly and pausing for photos with every single person who asked whilst also managing the entrance to the attraction. There are so many awesome opportunities to take pictures at the Castle that I’ll be sharing Halloween content for days. I’m not sure they expected a mid thirties witch to join the queue of five year olds in fancy dress but I felt right at home next to the cauldron!

Thank you so much to the team at White Tiger PR for inviting us again to enjoy this experience – we had a great time and highly recommend the Castle at Halloween for families looking to book a spooky adventure and also enjoy a full day out. We managed to clock up 14,000 steps through the day and didn’t leave until 5pm. There’s also a whole host of castle after dark experiences to book and of course the grounds and usual exhibits to explore and enjoy too.

Warwick Castle, Warwick, Warwickshire, CV34 6AH
The Haunted Castle runs from 23 -31 October 2021, from 10am to 5pm daily and features over 20 spellbinding shows and attractions., 01926 406610
Day tickets from £26 per person (3+).

Children under three receive free entry.
Visitors can download the Warwick Castle app to see showtimes and a detailed map to make visits even easier

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.

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 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

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.