Southsea

20 August, 2017

Considering I lived in Portsmouth for a couple of years it’s surprising what you discover when you go back with a different pair of eyes! We went to Southsea today, parked for free just off Eastern Parade and had a cheap day out full of fun.

We started off by visiting Portsmouth Natural History Museum (yes that was new to me!) which is just near the Canoe Lake.  It isn’t huge, but it is free and Isaac loved it. We spent about an hour pottering around looking at fossils and bones, doing jigsaws, looking at things under a microscope and meeting their dinosaur.  It’s also just got a brand newly renovated butterfly house on the side with some lovely big blue butterflies.

After that we headed outside. There is a nice gated play area with splash fountains, zip wire, playground and lots of hills and grass and places to picnic.  I think there is a larger splash pool further West near the Pyramids, but this one happily entertained Isaac and wasn’t too busy even for an August Sunday when the sun was shining.

We went for a paddle on a swan boat on the Lake – 20 minutes for £7.50 was reasonably expensive, but as everything else around the day was pretty much free I decided it was worth a treat – although my legs may not forgive me tomorrow!

We went for a play on the beach and threw stones in the sea – a necessity for a 4 year old boy.  Some brave sole was even swimming!  And then we headed back via stopping at the bouncy castles and slide (apparently also essential) – £2.50 for 10 minutes.

All in all, despite being suckered into paying for the boats and bouncy castle, plus two ice creams (it would have been rude of Mummy not to get one too right?) it was a fun and cheap-ish day out.

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Lappa Valley Railway

26 March, 2017

On Saturday we went to Lappa Valley Railway. On arrival you get your tickets, and you get into the park on a steam train.  Note, there is no way to walk into the park – so check the timetable before you go (which luckily I had!) and give yourself time to get in and seated – those arriving nearer the train time didn’t get a seat and had to wait 40 minutes for the next train – and at the current time the playground at the entrance is being worked on so there is nothing to do.

Once inside you are free to explore and go on anything as many or as little times as you like.  There are two other railways – one a small, and quite fast, circuit that you go round twice and the other a straight line, where you get a choice to exit at the other end and use the play field, or stay on. There is also a walk back from there.  Isaac (and Mummy!) liked the little one best.

There is a 18 hole crazy golf course – although the first half are more putting holes and less crazy (unless you are armed with a pre-schooler wielding a club!).  Isaac loved this, and luckily the park was quite quiet and we could wander in any order to whichever hole he chose!  Some of the crazy ones are quite tough for a little one, but seemed to keep him amused.

Mummy and Isaac went for a paddle on the canoes.  Nice and gentle, and Isaac liked that he got to paddle too – although was a little jealous that Mummy got the big paddle.  There was no times or route, or people forcing you into life jackets so all seemed relaxed and good fun.

We ate at the cafe – not a huge selection, but a few hot choices (jacket potato, sausage roll etc.) plus a selection of sandwiches and the typical kids “lunch box” you get most places.  Prices were in line with most places, so probably worth bringing a packed lunch and just supplementing with essential icecreams if you want to save some money.

Overall, a great place to visit with younger age children, but probably wouldn’t be enough to entertain older ones for long.  At this time of year for their “Winter Weekends” it was only £6 to get in which was a bargain – I think that about doubles from 1 April onwards.

Wildlife Tots: Winter Wonderland

3 January, 2017

stickmanLuckily for us the New Year Bank Holiday on Monday was a beautiful day – albeit freezing cold! Lucky, because I’d booked Isaac onto the Blashford Lakes Wildlife Tots which is an outdoor activity aimed at pre-school children run by volunteers from the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Isaac had loved the Nature Tots we did in Dorset on holiday back in September, and he enjoys going to Wild Things near us, so when I spotted this on over the holidays I thought it would be good to try.

We started the session in the Education Centre making our very own Stickman and snowflakes, giving everyone a chance to turn up and get ready.  Or actually should I say I initially started by trying to coax Isaac through the door as he suddenly decided to be incredibly shy and not want to go in, but luckily he got over that after I wafted a granola bar in his face!

stickman-trailAfter that we wrapped up warm and headed off outside to explore. As we went, one of the volunteers read us the story of the Stickman. And with each page of the book we got to play along his adventure. We found nice warm scarves hidden for him in the woods, we played Pooh Sticks on the bridge, we created a large nest for a swan, we made sand castles on a special “pop up” beach, we made snowmen (or rather dough men!) and we lit a fire (and made sure to put it out after we were finished).

It was a lovely fun afternoon and I’d really recommend these outdoor Nature based groups – there are lots around. So long as you are prepared for the weather it is a great opportunity to get outdoors, have some fun and learn something too.

Intech aka Winchester Science Centre

31 December, 2016

On Thursday I took Isaac to Intech in Winchester. I previously went around 14 years ago when they first opened the current site for an event through work involving encouraging the new generation of kids to take an interest in science and technology, and had been meaning to take Isaac when he was old enough to enjoy the exhibits.

Intech6The centre is made up of two large floors of interactive exhibits, and although at 3 years old he can’t really appreciate the science behind them, I thought he was old enough to make the most of a day out. I wasn’t wrong as we spent five and a half hours there… and only left because it was closing time!

It was reasonably busy, being a cold Winters day in the school holidays, but not so much so that you had to wait more than one turn to have a go at anything.  Isaac was particularly fascinated with an exhibit called the Colon Café where you had to use a touch screen to chose some food choices, which produced a ticket you could then scan in various places inside a giant pink “colon” tunnel.

Intech8There was also a number of light tables where you could look at x-ray style pictures. There was a large human skeleton which was broken into pieces so you could put it together like a jigsaw – another favourite we had to visit around 6 times!

Some of the exhibits were a little dated, and a few not working, plus there was a large section of floor space fenced off downstairs which made it look a bit tatty.  Overall though there was plenty of exhibits to entertain.

In the centre of the lower floor was a walled, circular soft play area with sofas around the edge – a perfect excuse to chill out for a while safe in the knowledge the little man was enjoying himself and safe!

We visited the café for lunch – there was rather a long queue as they only had one working till, but the food was reasonable – Isaac had the kids meal deal of a sandwich, drink and three snack items for £4.95 which is pretty on par with most places.

The cost for an adult and child ticket was just about the £20 mark, so coupled with £10 for lunch it wasn’t a cheap day out, but I do think he really enjoyed it, and it saved me a day hanging out in the freezing cold outdoors somewhere!  There was a large indoor picnic area too so we could have taken lunch, although I am sure he’d have still dragged me for something else in the café.

One thing that was a bit disappointing was the lack of baby changing facilities, given that it is aimed at families.  There appeared to be just one upstairs and one downstairs and we ended up with quite a wait.

I’d like to go back sometime when he is older and visit the planetarium cinema too, although that costs extra again.

Christmas Eve

24 December, 2016

So it’s been a busy year, both at work and home with a lot of unplanned “stuff” that got in the way.  I love Christmas and always have – take after my Dad in that regard – and want Isaac to enjoy the magic especially while he’s young. We’ve been to a grotto, Christmas Tree Festival and Christmas parties, and most have gone down well, although this year Isaac seems to have decided Father Christmas is a bit on the scary side and we’ve had to use Mummy as a go between to get our presents!bauble-hunt-1

It’s going to be a fairly quiet Christmas Day at home though so I wanted Isaac to get excited and enjoy Christmas Eve in the company of some of his little buddies.  So deciding to play Super Mum I arranged a special gathering in our close for the kids.  I created a Bauble Hunt (basically “hid” a few baubles around the close for the kids to find), made them all up some reindeer food to sprinkle on Father Christmas runway (our shared drive), and made hot chocolate and home made Xmas Star shortbread biscuits (yay me, not just buying something!).

The evening was really cute, and I feel happy (and slightly smug at my efforts). Thinking that would wear them out so they’d happily go to bed afterwards… ha ha not so much, as Isaac still came back in and demanded ANOTHER Octonauts.  Sadly the tv was already asleep and we instead had to go to bed with just stories, ANOTHER glass of milk and ANOTHER treat from the magic reindeer advent calendar.

So Super Mum finished stuffing stockings, laying out presents and working out some kind of cooking schedule for tomorrow before crashing on the sofa to watch a cheesy Christmas film.

 

Weymouth Sea Life and the Jurassic Skyline  

22 December, 2016

During our holiday back in September we went to visit the Weymouth Sea Life centre in Dorset. The first thing that shocked me as I was researching what to do on holiday was how expensive the tickets were, especially as the price for my 3 year old was the same as for an adult! Luckily there seems to be a few offers around if you look for them, and I found one that got us in for about half the price and included tickets to go on the Jurassic skyline tower too.  Then another blow as I realised you had to pay for parking on top of the entrance fee.

Our final sucker punch of the experience we didn’t find out until the day itself.  We had booked over the phone and the person I spoke to asked what entrance time we would like as apparently you have to book in half hour slots – I guess so they can control the flow of people entering.  So we had chosen 10am thinking we wanted to make the most of the day given the price, and according to both the person on the phone and their website that was the earliest opening time.  On the day we arrived for 10am, and after a short struggle with paying the car parking fees over the phone as we didn’t have enough change, we headed for the door… to find a gathering group of rather annoyed looking people.  It turns out they weren’t opening until 11am that day! So both their own website and the person we spoke to on the phone (who had insisted we pick a time) had got the opening times wrong.  Which meant we had an hour to kill hanging around, and had paid for an hours more parking than we need to have.  Needless to say we didn’t start the day in as good a mood as we could have!

Luckily the day we went the weather was good, which meant we could make the most of the different parts of the park, and our spirits picked up.  The sea life park itself was one of the larger ones I had been to and Isaac enjoyed some of the interactive elements – such as the small waterfall which gushed over the path in the rockpools area.  The park was laid out with a number of different buildings which meant that had the weather not been great you could still have enjoyed a lot of the park, but to get your money’s worth you really need to go on a dry day.

dorset6One building housed what was known as the New Ideas Zone where they had around 4 different interactive exhibits. The purpose being to see what went down well with the public that they might adopt in other parks.  One area of this had lots of different pools and cameras on long leads attached to big TV screens so that you could explore the different pools. Isaac loved this so it was the one we voted was a good idea!

Going in September meant the area with the children’s rides had closed as it was out of season (although the price was still the same!) but luckily we caught the last day of the Splash Pools being open. Another big hit with Isaac as he spent ages running in and out of water jets and going down the slide – despite it feeling freezing to us!

dorset15After some lunch in the restaurant we headed to the Skyline Tower.  It’s about a half hour walk from the sea life centre – there is a little train, but you have to pay extra so we decided to walk there and catch the train back when we were tired.  Sadly however, the train stops running about mid afternoon so we ended up walking back too!  The ride in the tower is about 15 minutes, and it was nice to fly up and see the coastline, although I don’t know that I would be bothered to go had it not been included in our tickets.

Overall, we did have a really lovely day and I would go again, but it is a shame that a few small things could have made our experience even better.  Definitely do a search for offers and double check what is open when and what is included before you go though!

The Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester

23 November, 2016

So the flyers said it was an award winning museum… and it certainly sounded cool, boasting life-sized reconstructions and hands-on displays.  So as we were looking for something a little more sedate, and trying to avoid the swimming pool and play areas following Isaac’s 24 hour sick bug we thought we’d give it a try.

dorset59As we drove up I could see a dinosaur outside – and yes it was large – but something in my head was making me wonder whether these “awards” were a bit like Rhod Gilbert’s Award Winning Mince Pie. (Which if you haven’t seen I highly recommend!)  It may have been that the building looked smaller than my house and the dinosaur outside was just literally that in a little fenced off courtyard by the building.  But we carried on in.

Inside, we paid up for the three of us – £22. We were handed a sheet of paper and pencil for Isaac, along with a magnifying glass.  It turned out that hidden through the museum there were a number of “clues” (letters) which spelt out something. On completion of the treasure hunt you got a prize.

Inside the museum was made up of about 5 rooms on two floors – rooms about the size of those in a normal house. Three of them were packed with all sorts of displays – from life size dinosaurs to fossils. One room had a large TV screen showing some short documentary. And then final room was a sort of kids interaction room – e.g. it had a number of boxes you could put your hand in to guess what was inside, or a couple of things where you had to guess whether a dinosaur would feel like this or that.

dorset63Overall we were there a lot longer than I expected given how small it was – but mainly because Isaac thought it was insanely funny to keep squeezing the horn inside one of the boxes. We sort of tried to encourage him to find the clues, but he wasn’t really interested.  Our “prize” at the end was a cheap plastic medal.

I can see they had tried to put on interactive displays, and there was a couple of iPads dotted around to make it look like it hadn’t all been there since prehistoric times, but overall I felt it was possibly more suited to school visits.  Paying £6 for Isaac, at just 3 years old, felt too much as he really was too young to appreciate most of it.  I think they should have made it free for under 5s.

Warmwell

19 September, 2016

dorset5Spent a lovely week (well bar 24 hours of Isaac puking in a cafe, McDonalds and his bed in the middle of the night!) staying in a lodge at Warmwell in Dorset. Our lodge was one of the further ones from the centre of the camp which made it quiet, although to be fair the camp never felt crowded at any point. We hit it lucky with the weather for the week too.

The park had lots to keep Isaac entertained, including free toddler sessions, a big pool with wave machine and flume, a giant soft play centre with bouncy castle/obstacle course, outdoor play areas and a ski slope… although one of his favourite pass times was stealing money from Daddy to play the Whack a Minion game in the arcade!
dorset34

We spent most days going out and about exploring, rather than staying on site, but it was nice to have plenty to keep Isaac entertained where we were at base camp.  He absolutely loved the swiss bob sledges and the staff at the ski centre were friendly and didn’t clock watch so we certainly got our money’s worth too. It’s a shame that things on site opened or started quite late (usually about 10am) so it meant if you wanted to do those it was difficult to do as well as going out somewhere.

Overall a lovely place to stay, with plenty to do in the area. Some of the entertainment was a little cheesy, but you could avoid that if you wished.  The food in the restaurant was good and reasonably priced – we wanted to try the fish and chip shop too but that seemed to close quite early and we missed it the night we fancied going.  The shop opening hours were also quite short, compared to I guess what seems the norm everywhere now – there was a Coop a short drive away, but I’d recommend getting your shopping in early to save the need for any evening drives.

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Upton Country Park – a hidden gem!

15 September, 2016

dorset18On Thursday through some magic googling I had managed to find mention of a “Nature Tots” event which sounded good.  It was running at Upton Country Park near Poole.  The park is free to get into, and parking is free, although there is a box for donations.  The Nature Tots event was £3 and turned out to be great!

We started off on a Butterfly hunt – they had hidden photographs of butterflies all the way through the park and gave each child a scavenger hunt sheet so they could tick off each one they found.  Then we headed back to the hut for some craft fun – creating butterflies – before heading out again on a real bug hunt with our magnifying glasses.  The whole session was about 2 hours long and Isaac absolutely loved it.  Isaac got given an RSPB badge at the end – it was their first ever session, of what I think now runs weekly – shame we don’t live closer!

dorset29After the Nature Tots we went for lunch in the café.  They unfortunately didn’t seem to have any kind of children’s menu, but we asked if they would do a child size portion. Someone disappeared off to ask, and came back and said they could do something for us which was nice, but shame they didn’t have something as standard as it might put many people off eating with kids.

After lunch Isaac enjoyed splashing around in the Walled Garden Splash Fountain, and climbing on the wooden play trail.

The park was really lovely, and a real hidden gem. Everything was nicely integrated in the park, feeling natural and yet fun for all ages.  We had a whole day’s entertainment for not much money and we could easily have spent more time there.

Photography Course at Witley Common

21 January, 2013

Last year I was lucky enough to win a £10 voucher for Going Digital and I felt it was time to go get a bit of inspiration and try some new things out, so last Autumn I booked myself onto their Part 2 DSLR course at Witley Common in Surrey.  The weather on the day was a bit disappointing, and did rain for a while, but we spent some time inside trying out some different macro photography with toy models and learning about different lighting conditions.

Once it did dry off we headed out into the woods to try some movement photography.  It wasn’t the best location for this as we weren’t really near anything that would have made a great subject for it, but we did manage to test our skills by pairing up and running around spinning umbrellas!

My absolute favourite part of the day though was learning some more about the use of the flash to get some really nice sharp images.  By setting the flash you didn’t have to worry so much about getting the shutter speed right for the aperture, and could just get some great macro shots.  I was particularly pleased with how this one came out of the horse chestnut.

Chestnut

Overall another enjoyable course and I’d recommend Going Digital – they are small classes with lots of chance to ask questions and try out your new skills.  A few more shots from the day here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/helenapugsley/sets/72157631731841571/


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