Following on from my recent post of Things to do in Suffolk, after our recent visit to the Airstream Glamping park. I thought I’d turn my attention to places closer to home. The autumn and winter are the perfect time to get out and about locally. We have Pocahontas on our doorstep, along with Shorne Country Park which is a huge family favourite, Jeskyns Park and of course, our beloved Thanet where we have our caravan.

Even with all of these opportunities, I still have an enormous bucket list of where I’d like to take the girls on day trips close to home.

Things to do in Kent

Leeds Castle

Leeds castle

We have been to visit Leeds Castle on a number of occasions and we shall certainly be returning soon as there is always something exciting to see. This is also where we find our local Go Ape centre which the twins adore and want to return to soon.

Dover

Dover is high on my list as I took Thomas and Megan there when they were children and we visited Dover Castle, the Tunnels in the cliffs with a fascinating wartime history and of course, the notorious White Cliffs of Dover. I suggest taking a picnic along and making a day of it.

Canterbury

I adore Canterbury and now my niece has moved there to study at the university I shall hopefully be going down more often. Canterbury city is a marvellous place to wander, it has a powerful history to take in, hundreds of shops, pubs and restaurants to choose from, a cathedral to visit and plenty more to keep you amused and the children too. One of my favourite bars is the old Pound which sits outside the town wall. You can sit and drink in one of the cells!

Margate

shell grotto margate

How can I not mention Margate? If you are still thinking of a run-down, dilapidated seaside town you are very wrong and I strongly suggest you visit to see just how far Margate has come over the past few years. With the rebirth of Dreamland and the addition of the Turner Contemporary, Margate has become the place to be both in summer and winter. Walk the streets of the Old Town, visit the Shell Grotto, eat some delicious fish and chips and visit one of the many trendy bars and pubs that are popping up all over the place.

Hever Castle

The perfect example of an item on my bucket list! I remember visiting Hever Castle with the school when I was in junior school and it is a place I would love to take the twins. A romantic 13th century moated castle that was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, it has magnificent interiors to walk through and wonder about the time Anne herself lived there plus, award-winning gardens. Of course, the Maze is a definite visit!

If you are looking for somewhere special to stay, take a look at Kent and Sussex Cottages as they have a wonderful selection of all budgets and preferences.

Things to do in Sussex

Royal Pavillion

My great grandma used to live in Hove, just along from Brighton and we would visit her in the summer. One summer we visited the Royal Pavilion and I was smitten with the beautiful rooms and decor of the palace. I want to take the twins there so they too can experience this historical landmark.

South Downs and the Seven Sisters

Friends of mine recently posted some fabulous pictures on social media after a day trip to the Seven Sisters. I think it would be a perfect day trip with a picnic in tow. Hopefully, the sun would shine and I could grab some great photos!

Rye Harbour and nature reserve

Rye beach hut

We visited Rye a long time ago when the twins were still sharing a cot! We had a wonderful few days there and visited the town plus the local beach where I took the photo of this gorgeous beach hut. I would love to return and thoroughly recommend it to friends and family.

There are plenty of places to stay in all of the above areas but if you are looking for a cottage, that offers that little bit more, then take a look at Suffolk Secrets.

This is a collaborative post – all opinions are my own.

This summer the twins spent a fortnight with the grandparents whilst Paul and I worked (this has been the most difficult part of going full-time for me, not being able to spend the school holidays with my girls). At the end of the fortnight, Paul and I travelled up to the Midlands on Friday after work and we all spent the weekend together.

We have visited a number of places on previous visits, Sherwood Forest, White Post Farm and Newark, all of which are beautiful but this time the grandparents took us to Creswell Crags.

Creswell Crags

What is Creswell Crags?

It’s such a strange name that doesn’t give anything away, does it? But if you venture out to this beauty spot you’ll be surprised at what a great place it is for the family and especially for the kids.

map of creswell crags

The first thing that struck me was the fact that this place has been a stop off for travellers for thousands of years, we’re talking between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The limestone gorge has plenty of caves along the sides and in some of them, stone tools and animal remains have been found along with the most amazing Ice Age rock art proof of the dwellers that passed by many years ago.

Creswell Crags cave home

We are lucky to have a number of caves used in prehistoric times in Britain and walking around them brings a quick history lesson to life – not just for the children! It’s impossible to not think about how it would have been and looked all that time ago. How cold would the caves have been to sleep in? How would they have kept themselves warm and safe with no door to close?

Situated on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border Creswell Craggs has a large car park where you can leave the car all day for just £3. It is free to visit the site and walk around the lake and gorge and you can also stop off in the cafeteria and gift shop before making your way home.

There are two tours that you can book to attend The Ice Age Tour and the Rock Art Tour. We hadn’t booked anything and arrived at the wrong time to join a tour so it’s worth checking their website before you go for times and prices.

creswell crags flint knife blade

The Ice Age tour takes place in Robin Hood Cave, the largest cave on the site and you find out who lived there, why they were there and how the information was discovered.

The Rock Art tour shows the only Ice Age Rock Art known in Britain. It was discovered in 2003 and consists of engravings of animals, birds and motifs. The engravings are estimated to be 13,000 years old making Church Hole Cave the oldest in Britain.

Cresswell Crags pony ride

We chose to walk around Creswell Crags under our own steam. The walk is a leisurely one with the girls scrambling up every rock face they can to peek into the caves – which incidentally are closed and only opened by the tour guide. The photo above is down at the bottom of the gorge working our way back up to the centre. We also collected a bagful of wild blackberries on our way round and added them to our roulade pudding that nonna prepared that evening.

Cresswell Crags

There are lots of informative signs as you go round which the twins loved reading. I don’t think they could quite understand the extent of how old it all was but they found it fascinating and I know it’s the kind of information that stuck.

reswell crags

Down at the bottom of the gorge, we got caught in some light rain and the pair of them danced around having a good laugh and enjoying being outside in the fresh air.

creswell crags

Sometimes it’s when you least expect it that you get a really good photo. I love this one of Alice in the tree whilst we were waiting for the rain to stop.

Once we had completed the gorge, we worked our way back to the centre where there is a large green area with games for the children to play on – slides down the mammoth’s tusks and climbing frames. There are also some picnic tables, where we stopped for lunch and as you get to the top there is the gift shop full of fossils, semi-precious stones and plenty of other merchandise to tempt you.

If you don’t have a picnic, the coffee shop has snacks and drinks and there is also an exhibition that you can pay to enter too.

A great family day out enjoyed by all.

undercroft skate Southbank

My nan used to live in Waterloo and lots of our weekends as children were spent visiting her and staying over; the Southbank was our ‘park’ and both of my brothers would bring their skateboards along; they would watch the skilled skaters for hours and then they would try and learn new tricks. It was a continual source of inspiration for them.

In fact the Undercroft is known as the birthplace of British Skateboarding and celebrates 40 years. It is the home of skateboarders, BMX riders and graffiti artists making it one of the oldest recognised and still existing skateboarding spaces in the world.

undercroft skateboarding southbank

This weekend, I walked along with my daughter Megan as we made our way to the Royal Festival Hall for a jug of Pimms, I told her how her uncles spent hours and hours there trying to be as good as the others and we watched the amazing skateboarders perform in front of us, expertly using the ramps, jumps and curves (is that the technical word for the curved walls?) 

undercroft southbank

I love the Undercroft as it brings back so many happy memories of childhood. I love the art on the walls, the skills of the skateboarders who I could watch for hours and I love the buzz, the alive feeling I get when I am there. It’s special, you have to see it to understand.

At dinner I reminisced with my brother about those times and was disappointed to hear the Southbank Centre had plans to move the Undercroft and replace it with retail units as described in the Feilden Clegg Bradley’s controversial plans for a much more ambitious redevelopment.

brutalist buildings southbank

Of course it goes without saying that stretch along the Thames is a hugely popular area and would most likely rake in thousands no, millions but at what cost?

It’s true the 1960’s brutalist buildings are in desperate need of refurbishment but moving the Undercroft to a specially designed skatepark under Hungerford Bridge which is just a bit further along the way is not the solution, take a look at this video by Long Live Southbank and you’ll see why.

 

Even London’s mayor Boris Johnson stepped in saying he supports much of Southbank’s redevelopment plans, but not moving the skaters from the Undercroft.

You see the Undercroft wasn’t “designed” to be a skate park but the space was adapted by skaters – you can’t rebuild that. There were plenty of attempts during the 90’s to stop kids skating, gravel thrown down on the surfaces, parts of their area taken away but still they continued to do what they loved most.

The beauty of the Undercroft is that all levels of skaters use it and it has a “cool” factor among skaters. I like the fact that the Undercroft is a space that has grown, it has been nurtured for decades by people passionate about skateboarding, this fight comes from the heart and that is why I am adding my name to their battle so future skateboarders can discover the thrill of street skating in a safe place alongside top skateboarders.

royal festival hall 2014

Megan told me our Gracey has a skateboard on her birthday wishlist this year,  I took a look at the Z-Flex Skateboard – you never know, we may be looking at a future pro here.

Fortunately the Southbank Centre has recently won a £16 million grant towards the conservation and the refurbishment of the brutalist buildings, the Feilden Clegg Bradley is back to the drawing board to see what they can come up with and expects to make recommendations towards the end of the year and one last word is

You must visit the Festival of Love at the Royal Festival Hall this summer if you are in town, I had a quick look and it looks amazing, I’m definitely bringing the girls up to explore more this summer.

agape festival hall

watermouth castleTucked away on the northern coast of Devon is a beautiful castle dating back to 1825. It was built by Arthur Davie Basset for his bride Harriet, isn’t that so romantic?

Evidence of a labyrinth of tunnels leading to the harbour suggests it was a smuggling hotspot in years gone by. The last Basset abandoned the castle in 1945 and left it to deteriorate but in 1977 Richard Haines and his family bought it and turned it into one of the most magnificent tourist attractions in north Devon with entertainment for all the family.

We spent a day of our recent Whitsun break to Woolacombe enjoying the castle and its gardens for the cost of £46.00 for a family ticket. In our opinion it was money very well spent as there is so much to do for all of the family – even dad enjoyed the Longest Slide

watermouth castle inside

A trip through the castle with rooms showcasing life as it would have been; a castle employing around 40 staff with cooks, maids and butlers.

milkmaid milk

Then down to the dungeons where there is a fabulous display of early 20th Cenutry fairground games. Whilst the girls played the penny and 2p slot machines I stopped off at the mechanical palm reader, placed my palm on the plate, a rolling movement underneath my palm as the machine read my fortune and then out popped a tiny white card with my luck

palm reader

YOUR Hand denotes a very prosperous life; plenty of ups and downs, but you will smile through it all. You will be lucky in future over money matters and should choose first week in month for all important events. You are very just in your dealings and can be depended upon to do what is right. Your word is your bond.You are moderate in your desires and possess good intellect. Staunch in your friendship. Memory very good, and not likely to forget kindness

A sucker for the unknown and mystery I then had a consultation with Gipsy.

gipsy watermouth castle

I put my 10p in and twisted the knob to say I was a woman and the one to say my birthday was in April, Gipsy had this to say

You have been the focus of attention ever sine you came in here and have attracted many admiring glances – it’s no wonder some people get jealous.

If I could get out of this cabinet I would give you something to think about….

Today is your lucky day, I am telling you

and then I realised I’d turned the male birthday knob and not the female one but rather than have another go I held on to this good fortune slip as it made me smile.

the twins watermouth castle

Once out of the castle a short walk along a path then brings you to the fairground area which we all enjoyed. Merry Go Land,

merry go round watermouth castle

Adventure Land with Cooking Pot

cooking pot watermouth castle

and Snail Ride.

snail ride watermouth castle

We played Mini golf and visited Gnome Land, I think we were almost last to leave the place and could have easily stayed on longer.

mini golf

In fact there are even self catering flats to book both in the castle and in separate lodges dotted around this beautiful park with the most fantastic gardens that take your breath away. I would love to stay here one day.

If you’re in north Devon you may also like to visit The Big Sheep

legoland windsor

This weekend saw the official opening of the DUPLO Valley Splash and Play area at LEGOLAND Windsor and we were lucky to be invited to test run it. We had a brilliant time and all our photos can be found on the Mari’s World Facebook page

LEGOLAND dog and picnic box

Top Ten Tips for visiting LEGOLAND

  1. Study the resort map before you go and work out a plan to make the most of your day
  2. Check any height restrictions in place, if the children are under the mark they will NOT be allowed on, save the tears and be prepared
  3. Consider investing in Q bot depending which time of year you are visiting, they will save serious time lost in queues.
  4. Work out pit stops for the children to let off steam like Brickville, Pirates Training Camp where they can run around and play
  5. Keep an eye on toilets and make sure they are used frequently.
  6. Take refillable water bottles as there are plenty of drinking water taps around the site
  7. There are plenty of restaurants but also green areas where you can eat a picnic too
  8. Work out show times and fit them into your schedule, they also make a nice break from walking
  9. Take costumes and towels for Duplo Valley Splash and Play area
  10. Look out for lockers to store bags, buggies to hire for the kids and what to do with under 4’s

What to do in LEGOLAND?

We arrived to a busy car park and it was just gone 10am once in we were faced with where to go first??

lego family LEGOLAND

The resort is big and there’s lots to do, if you’re a bit like me this can be a bit overwhelming without a plan.

legoland windsor spinning spider

Our first ride was the Spinning Spider, we hadn’t quite figured out how the Q bot system works so we queued like the rest of the world and waited our turn. On the exit I spotted the Q bot ‘ers waiting and watched them all let in first before the others patiently waiting in the queue.

Viking's Splash River LEGOLAND

Next was the Viking’s Splash River and we used the Q bot – we walked straight on. The ride is great but you will get wet. You pass by a wall of spectators waiting for you with water cannons and they aim right at you so be prepared. There are dryers at the exit for £2

Pirate Falls Dynamite Drench

Next stop was Pirate Falls Dynamite Drench. A boat ride, this one slower with no spinning tub but still more spectators waiting to shoot water at you combined with the final plunge down into the pool of water below means you will get wet. There were more dryers available here but again we didn’t stop as the weather strangely was quite warm.

NB. Pirate Shores has been completely revamped for 2014 read more here

Treasure chest LEGOLAND

We tried the rollercoaster known as The Dragon which is in the castle, it was quite scary but the girls loved it and asked to repeat this later in the day

Knight's Kingdom LEGOLAND

Look mummy dragon footprints!

dragon's footprints

We had lunch in the Crossed Ribs BBQ we ordered four set meals, Steak baguettes for us and pasta for the girls, very nice and came to £30 in all with refillable drinks.

steak baguette LEGOLAND

I really wanted to see Miniland

LEGOLAND MINILAND

 

London

London miniland LEGOLAND

Trafalgar Square – Spot the smallest LEGO models, each pigeon is made out of 5 bricks

Trafalgar Square LEGOLAND

Great Britain

MIniland LEGOLAND

Then it was time for Duplo Valley. Our walk to this area led us straight past the Raft River Racers where we were told ‘YOU WILL GET WET’ I hadn’t realised how wet. A brilliant ride, you sit in a raft at the top of one of two slides. Both rafts set off together and it’s a race to the bottom. As you slide the corners water seeps into your raft. Alice and I won but we both got drenched.

Drench towers LEGOLAND

Drench Towers was rammed with kids having loads of fun. A red bucket at the very top fills with water and once full it tips and empties out on whoever is below. The kids LOVED it, mum or dad may be required to enter.

Duplo Valley Spalsh and Play

For smaller guests there’s the Duplo Safari Park with fountains, taps and large animals on Duplo bricks, a gorgeous play area. Easy to watch from the side.

Brickville LEGOLAND

We visited Brickville (above)

The Duplo theatre

Duplo Theatre LEGOLAND

Traffic where the girls had driving lessons and were awarded Driving Licenses at the end and Boating School where the kids get to drive the boats

L drivers LEGOLAND

Duplo Airport

Duplo airport LEGOLAND

Fairytale Brook was so lovely I forgot to take photos and Atlantis Sub Store – A. Maz. Ing.

Atlantic Sub Store LEGOLAND

Kingdom of the Pharaohs, Orient Expedition, another couple of goes on The Dragon before finishing at the Pirate Training Camp

Keep out LEGOLAND

What a day and we didn’t get to go on everything either as there were lots of toilet calls luckily there are facilities all over the site

Toilet sign LEGOLAND

Have a great time because when you tell the kids the park is closing you’ll most likely get a reaction like this one

crying girls