Go Ape Leeds Castle

After the enormous success of our first trip to Go Ape Leeds Castle in the autumn the girls jumped at the chance of taking their friends for a Junior Tree Tops Adventure for a Go Ape birthday party this year and to be totally honest I was relieved to escape the Frozen madness for once as my girls have really overdone that one. Let it go Marianne, let it go.

Go Ape Leeds Castle

We downloaded our invites from the Go Ape website and I let the girls write them out only to discover from one school mum that her daughter’s invite had Windsor Castle written on it instead of Leeds Castle :)

The maximum in a group is 8 and I had booked 2 group slots for our party of 15 children, we just had one place left to squeeze a twin brother onto who decided last minute to give it a go.

Our first group was sent off to the toilets before getting harnessed up as the adventure takes about an hour and when you’re up in the trees going to the loo presents some difficulties.

Go Ape safety chat

Each child is harnessed up and given a safety talk. We learnt new words like trolley and cable, the children learnt that only two people are allowed on a crossing at one time and only three people on a platform.

Go Ape Leeds Castle

A few of the children, actually quite a few but some not admitting it, were a little frightened at the prospect. I must admit from the ground it does look scary, I’m sure the mums and dads were asking what if my little one falls? But the beauty is once an instructor has attached their individual trolley’s to the cable they cannot come off until the very end of the zip wire unless an instructor comes and helps.

Go Ape trial route

There is a mini route for the kids to have a go on and get the hang of the trolley and how it all works before going up in the trees, this is a new addition since our last visit and I was very impressed with the idea.

Go Ape Leeds Castle

Once the children are up, parents are on the ground watching and cheering on. Please note you are allowed up with them if they are scared but you will have to return to reception and pay first.

You get two laps of the first ring and a further lap of a more difficult second ring. Most children will be a bit scared as they complete their first ring but the beauty of being in a group is children tend to copy what the others are doing and once they see their friends ahead and smiling they gain confidence. By the time they have come down the zipwire at the end of the first lap they cannot wait to go back up and do it all again.

Go Ape zipwire

We did have one very frightened little girl in our group and her dad paid to accompany her and there were still tears. An instructor went up to help them and with his guidance little miss made it all the way around, not only that she was so impressed and happy that she had done it she’s asked her parents if she can have her party there next year too.

It’s addictive and it’s great to be able to cheer your children on doing something they love and that gives them so much confidence in themselves.

Go Ape Leeds Castle

They came down from the trees hyper, but not a sugar rush or a ‘we’ve been inside too long’ kind of way. No this was a ‘WE DID IT!’ kind of way, and they were all hyped at how awesome they had been  and what they had achieved.

Go Ape Leeds Castle

We had booked the Forest Shelter for our afternoon tea, it costs an extra £20 and can sit around 40 people on the two long benches.

Go Ape Forest Shelter

I made up picnic boxes and took some girly flower garlands and pompoms to decorate.

birthday cake

The cake made by my wonderful friend Jo at Simply Gorgeous Cakes (thanks Jo – everyone thinks I made it) was superb and delicious too.

Rainbow birthday cake

Top Tips for a Go Ape Junior birthday party

1. Prepare carefully. Everything must be paid upfront in advance with no refunds from 48 hours beforehand. If people drop out make sure you get your refund early. I had paid for 16 children, once I knew who couldn’t come I was able to go back in and make alterations.

2. Give lots of information. I added a letter with the invite explaining there was free parking, to dress the girls in leggings and trainers – no open toes allowed. No earrings and punctuality is fundamental to not miss out on your slot.

3. Organise your teams. I put one twin at the font and another in the middle as they had already done it once and knew what to expect. this helped the others on their first round.

4. Have drinks on hand, it’s thirsty business in the trees.

5. Be prepared for all weathers as it will only be cancelled in extreme conditions. Gloves are handy in colder weather.

6. Tears and tantrums. Be prepared for some tears before starting, don’t lose sight that it is a BIG thing for little people. You may find your little one is a champion if you take the right attitude.

All in all a fantastic day and all of the parents were so proud of their children being such super heros for the day. I’d definitely book this again. I feel as if I gave my girls and their guests something more than a birthday party this year, a memory that hopefully will live on a long time from now.

If you want to Book now at Go Ape or call 0845 643 9236 to #ShareAdventure.

Disclosure: Go Ape kindly gave us 4 free places for the purpose of this review.

white post farm feeding the animals

White Post Farm is one of the East Midlands most popular visitor attractions and after spending a day there last year with the family I can totally see why.

white post farm bull

They’ve been open to the public for 20 years now and the place is huge so make sure you allow lots of time to visit, they are open from 10 am to 5pm every day of the year apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day and it’s best to make a day out of it.

white post farm pigs

We visited last summer and once again, I never got around to writing our day up so with the excuse of Time Traveller here I go.

white post farm birds

There is an ample car park on site that is free of charge and entrance is via the shop, There is also another shop on site which sells animals and goods you may need for your pets. When you buy your tickets you will see small food bags made up on sale, buy them as one of the key fun things to do is to feed the animals here.

white post farm incubator

White Post Farm opens out in front of you with barns to the right and open fields to the left. We decided to visit the barns first and were delighted to see the pigs, goats and the most fascinating trip around the bird section where we watched the complete life cycle from egg to hatching through to young chick and beyond.

white post farm egg facts

I really was impressed at the facts lined up on the wall and the girls enjoyed reading them out loud.

white post farm egg joke

There were also some great jokes too which made me laugh out loud, like this one :)

white post farm feeding time

Once we had seen the farmyard barns we went outside and helped out with milking the sheep, the girls loved this activity and did it with just a little help from us.

white post farm

We walked around the fields of deer, goats, bull, cows, llamas and horse stopping here and there to feed who took our fancy. The girls giggled at the hungrier, greedier animals and were a little upset that the horses didn’t come over to eat anything.

white post farm go kart

Once we had fed the outside animals the girls played on the go kart ring, a lot. It is included in the price and is an excellent idea. The girls played on it for ages.

white post farm combine harvester

If your children are too young for go karts, don’t worry there’s an excellent playground with loads and loads of tricycles. It’s a fenced in area with tables and benches for parents to sit at. There’s even a small kiosk selling drinks and ice creams.

white post farm

Our next stop was to visit the reptiles, snakes and  spiders. I can’t fathom why someone would want to keep them as pets but people do and there are plenty on sale here, I’m just glad they were all tucked away in their cages and tanks but then we passed into the reptiles barn and there was a lovely young lady with one of these in her hands. The girls walked over and held him too pleased with themselves and remarking on the feel of him in their hands. I didn’t go near him.

white post farm snake for sale

Meercats, hamsters, mice. We walked through barn after barn of animals on display reading the information given along our way.

white post farm soft play

Luckily at this point we found a fabulous play centre and the girls ran off once again to let off steam.

We also stopped for lunch in the restaurant which was very reasonably priced had a great menu and looks out over a garden where the children can also play.

white post farm goat mountain

What next, you are possibly wondering? Well we came across a goat mountain! How funny. We bought some more feed from a machine close by and then using pulleys the girls would pop the feed in a container and then work it up to the top of the mountain for the goats to scramble over each other to eat.

This was a huge success and we had to replenish our feed afterwards as we ran out it was such fun.

white post farm show

After such a busy day what we needed now was some downtime and once again White Post Farm came up trumps as they organise a show with the farm animals.

In a large barn kitted out with benches to sit on and a long slope for children to sit you can sit and watch the farm animals being brought in and walked up to a point on the stage whilst the entertainer tells stories and jokes about each animal, highly entertaining and a great excuse to sit down for five minutes. Actually it lasted a lot longer than five minutes.

white post farm

Needless to say the shop has many souvenir items on offer, there are also some very interesting food and drink products on sale which are made on base or locally.

Definitely a great day out and one we will do again next time we’re up visiting my mum.

white post farm

For more information on White Post Farm take a look at their website

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Mia's riding School - Legoland Windsor

Legoland Windsor invited us to visit their brand new Heartlake City area dedicated to the Friends LEGO that we love.

Fortunately for us the sun shone as we leapt out of our beds at 6.30 am to drive over, we had been asked to get there by 8.30am so we could visit the area before the park opened to the public.

The M25 played ball and we rolled up early before the press team had even set up, that is how eager we were. On our fist visit to Legoland a few years ago the girls burst in to tears at the end of the day and we told them we had to go home. On our second visit to check out the revamped Pirates Shores, which they both thoroughly enjoyed, they asked when there would be a Heartlake City or a Disney Princess area put in too? Maybe they knew something we didn’t?

Heartlake City LEGOLAND Windsor

Heartlake City has been placed over by the hotel part of the complex and the buildings that were there have been freshly painted in wonderful bright colours that match the Friends range, there is a Pet Salon, a Mall and lots of other fabulous Lego builds to spot like this cute puppy, this sweet bunny and the Friends themselves.

legoland friends windsor

We had a breakfast of smoothie and brioche (or croissant) just by the harbour where the shows take place. And talking of shows at 9.30 along came the gang of Friends and they put on a spectacular show for us.

Heartlake City Friends - legoland windsor

We sat mesmerised for a good 20 minutes watching as they played out a story of friendship and helping each other out. I liked it, it touched upon working as a team to help each other out and supporting one another in difficult moments.

I made a short video clip for you to get an idea but it didn’t capture the sound in parts. Once you go in a bit you can hear the show

After the show we got to meet all of the friends, here are Andrea the singer and musician of the group and Stephanie the confident natural leader who likes writing and ballet.

Andrea and Stephanie Lego Friends

And here we meet Emma the fashionista, Olivia the environmentalist and Mia the animal lover.

Emma Olivia Mia Lego friends

A very exciting moment was trying the new ride in Heartlake City, Mia’s Riding School which is a circle with ponies around the edge which you sit on facing outwards, a sturdy back rises to hold you firmly in your seat (see top photo) and the ride moved up and down a banana shaped course as it spins at the same time. You leave your tummy behind a few times but the girls loved it and went on it three times! You have to be 1.20 tall to go on.

Mia's Riding School Legoland windsor

We took some time to visit the entire park going back to our longtime favourites such as the Driving School which has a revamp and is looking great. 3 visits again!

LEGOLAND Windsor Driving School

And as I took the girls up the ramp home at the end of the day we passed through Miniland, one of my favourites. There was a huge picture of Taylor Swift made out of Lego but I’m sorry my photo didn’t come out, you’ll have to go see for yourself. Here’s a view with my beloved London in the distance.

Legoland windsor Miniland

A huge thank you to LEGOLAND for inviting us to spend the day with them.  We were given free entry and  fast track wristbands in return for this post.  All opinions and images are our own.  

Time Traveller time, if you are new to the Travel Blogger Linky then please nip over here to find the rules. I apologise for missing last week (half term and a broken laptop!) and I will catch up on your posts from then as soon as possible, thank you so much for joining in again, I look forward to reading about your travels and pinning them on my board.



Sherwood Forest Robin Hood

This is the perfect example of posts that never got written as I have been twice to Sherwood Forest since mum and granddad moved ‘up north’ and my blog post got forgotten, photos archived and other writing took precedence. So as a true Time Traveller I shall now take you there – twice in fact, as my visits were at different times of the year, winter 2009 and summer 2014.

Time Traveller is the Linky for bloggers who write about their travels, if you haven’t been anywhere recently then choose a good post from your archives or write one up that you never got round to writing. Add it to the Linky at the bottom of this post and try to visit a couple of others too.

Robin Hood and his Merry Men

Sherwood Forest statue

I must let you into a secret first, when I lived in Italy and Thomas was about 4, Disney brought out the animated Robin Hood film. It was on relentlessly in our house as my son adored it. Friends popping in for a cup of tea would note his addiction to the Merry Men and as my name is Marianne they nicknamed me Lady Marion. The name stuck and still today they call me ‘Lady’.

Sherwood Forest is where the legend of Robin Hood takes place. The legend started way before books were printed and has been going strong for 600 years, the tales would have been originally told by ballad singers and storytellers, relaying his adventures to the listeners.

Sherwood Forest banners

Robin Hood is mentioned in a poem dated around 1400, a 550 year old note found in a Latin dictionary in Eton school library which mentions him as an outlaw ‘infesting’ Sherwood Forest. A William Robinhood was tried for robbery in 1261 and a Robert Hood is mentioned in Kind Edward II’s household accounts around 1300.

Many mentions throughout time but nothing definite, the mystery lives on.

Visiting Sherwood Forest

Once I discovered that mum lived close to the forest the destination shot up my hit list, after innumerable sittings of Robin Hood, both Disney and other versions I needed to see the Major Oak with my own eyes.

sherwood forest autumn trees

The Major Oak is possibly 800 – 1000 years old and is surrounded by many other veteran oaks that have stood soundly for five centuries and more.

Sherwood forest summer trees

It’s a 15 – 20 minute walk from the visitor centre through the forest along well kept paths that are suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Here are my two on their first visit in 2009 in the twin buggy. Alice left, Bessie right.

Twins in Sherwood Forest 2009

Each season holds a different spectacle, the colours change, the wildlife changes and so does the smell and temperature for that matter.

Sherwood forest major oak in winter

On arrival you will discover the tree is fenced off preventing anyone getting up close but allowing a lot of space for photographs. I have read since this is also to prevent the soil over the tree’s roots becoming compacted. The boughs are so heavy they are assisted with supports placed strategically around the bottom. It is a marvellous sight and one that deserves time and attention.

Sherwood Forest Major oak

For children there are plenty of wooden sculptures and interactive information boards plus a vast open area inviting them to run and play freely.

Sherwood Forest collage

Sherwood was a royal hunting forest in it’s prime, an expanse of land where the king and his noble men would practise hunting and falconry, today during the summer months you can find birds of prey on show with their masters who put on displays too.

Sherwood Forest birds of prey

There are three marked circular trails to follow through the forest all starting at the visitor centre where you can also pick up a map.

Blue route – 1 mile a surfaced route via the Major Oak

Green route – 1 and 3/4 miles passing by some of Sherwood’s veteran oaks, heath and grassland.

Red route – 3 and 1/2 miles perfect for getting away from the busier parts of the park.

Sherwood Forest visitors centre

You can visit the Forest Table Restaurant for drinks and snacks, cooked lunch and even a Sunday carvery. A Robin Hood souvenir shop where you can pick up fancy dress, bow and arrows and all sorts of medieval replicas.

There is also an exhibition which my girls loved looking around and a video theatre showing a short video introducing you to Robin Hood Country.

Sherwood Forest 2009 Mum and brother

The Forest is open every day apart from Christmas Day between 10 am and 5 pm and it is free to visit.

It is very easy to get to and there is plenty of parking at the entrance to the National Nature Reserve, there is a small charge.

It is dog friendly but they must be kept on a lead in designated areas and cleaning up is essential.

You can find all sorts of information on the Nottinghamshire website and plan your day accordingly.

Time Travellers Linky: for writers who love to get round

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s posts last week, thank you so much for joining in. If you write about travel please link up one of your posts, be it recent or from your archives and do try to visit a couple of other bloggers and comment.



Tower of London

Possibly one of the most intriguing, gory and fascinating places to visit in London has to be the Tower of London, home to the Crown Jewels and many a king and queen from Britain’s history. I have been a few times now but the most recent visit with the girls over half term was a fantastic day out.

Tower of London Yeoman

I made sure we arrived early in the morning as I knew there was lots to see and do. As we walked through the entrance a Yeoman, also known as a Beefeater, stood waiting to start his tour. So I hung around as the tour is free and packed with interesting facts.

Tower of London Traitors Gate

We saw where the Ravens’ nests are. We learnt about Traitors Gate and the Bloody Tower.

Tower of London Raven

We saw where heads used to be chopped off and I caught a raven flying over in my photo which I’m pretty pleased about. Here’s a close up of the monument erected in the beheading area.

Tower of london chop heads

The yeoman also mentioned the Beauchamp tower, seen in the photo above behind the flying raven, where the prisoners were kept until their fate was decided. Sometimes it was for years and there is a lot of graffiti on the walls from hundreds of years ago.

Tower of London Graffiti

The Yeoman tour is great for adults and older children but by the third stop of the tour my two were getting bored and wanted to move on so we walked over to join the queue to see the Crown Jewels.

Tower of London Yeoman tour

It was a long queue and even on entering the building there is still a long route to follow and lots of foreigners trying to overtake.

imperial state crown

 

The Crown Jewels are fascinating for all ages but no photos were allowed. The twins were in awe with the guards outside The Jewel House, we stood and watched them march up and down a few times. The girls were delighted to hear them talking as they met in the middle and tried to understand what they were saying.

Tower of London Jewel House guard

After this we sat down on one of the many benches in the sunshine and ate our sandwiches before visiting the White Tower, or the central building with the four turrets.

Tower of London white tower armour

Again you follow the route laid out passing through the vast rooms filled with armour from the Arsenal, coins from the Royal Mint and records from the Tower Record Office where I spotted an old map on the wall showing our home town of Gravesend calling it Gravesend Beach.

Tower of London Gravesend beach

We walked right to the top of the building where there is a wonderful dragon made up of all sorts of materials.

Tower of London Dragon

Then there’s the long walk down, down, down one of the turrets, a tight spiral staircase leading out into the sunshine once again.

Looking out of the Beauchamp Tower

We decided to visit the Beauchamp Tower for a closer look at the graffiti and the rooms of the State Prison before heading off to the Bloody Tower.

Tower fo London view of Tower bridge

There is a long walkway running around the castle which gives off the most spectacular views of London, this is taken outside the Bloody Tower looking over the Thames at Tower Bridge.

Tower of London Menagerie

I didn’t know that the Tower of London had been home to London Zoo until moving it to Regent’s Park. Known as the Menagerie and home to lions, tygers, lynx and a porqupine as recorded by Hentzner in 1598 one of the first visitors to record his impressions. The girls tried out the cage on show.

As we walked around the top wall back to the centre and on our way to the exit I couldn’t help but stop and take a snap of this fabulous view of The City of London.

Tower of London view of the city of london

Our visit for now was complete, the girls were tired, I was too and we left wanting to return one day as there was so much more to see.

Tower of London white tower

My Top tips for visiting

  • If you would like to visit the Tower of London or find out more information take a look a the official website where booking online also allows discounts.
  • I would really recommend following the Yeoman’s tour which is free of charge.
  • There are plenty of benches to sit and eat a sandwich or for a rest throughout what can be a long day.
  • Pick up a trail at the Welcome Centre for the children to use as they make their way around the site
  • Keep an eye on the What’s On page for events organised throughout the year and school holidays.

All photos taken with iPhone 4