Buckingham Palace

For the girls birthday my treat this year was tickets to go inside Buckingham Palace and see how a real princess lives, a Royal day out. With an entire year of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rapunzel and then the Frozen sisters Anna and Elsa I knew I was on the right track.

I wanted them to start learning about our British history and about the Royal Family too. They have spotted ‘baby George’ on the TV and in newspapers so the discussion has begun.

I found various Buckingham Palace tours on the Royal Collection Trust website and opted for a tour of the State Rooms and Garden Highlights tour. For 1 adult and two children under 17 the total cost was £63.75 and I think it’s important to note that most of this money goes into the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity, find out more where the money goes here

Changing of the guard

Our time was set for 11.45, in hindsight I wish I had chosen a later time as the Changing of the Guards starts daily at 11.15, it would have been great for the girls to witness that beforehand, however we did get a glimpse of the guards as they made their way to the palace and it was stunning.

I would advise getting there at least 15 minutes early, we got held up by the Changing of the Guards and I had to run the last bit and queue to collect tickets.

Guards of Buckingham Palace


On entering the palace all bags are scanned and checked, my rucksack was kept and taken to the end of the tour for me to collect later. NO PHOTOGRAPHY is allowed inside the palace or on the Garden Highlights tour either.

Then, if you wish you can collect an audio guide. We went for the Family Audio and the girls loved it. It gives a great description of each room and on the guide you can touch ‘Rex’ the resident corgi who will tell you lots of extra secrets about the rooms you pass through. There is also a section with games and extra buttons to touch to find out about the art, or gilding or other objects of interest that you see around you.

Buckingham Palace detail

I loved spotting where the Secret Door hides in the White Drawing Room which the queen uses from her personal quarters, closed to the public into the State Rooms. It’s very clever and you have to look hard to see it.

We stopped half way through the tour to sit and watch a brief film made from the Royal Family’s personal videos, this year the focus is on Royal childhood and there are lots of toys, prams, clothes and more from various members of the Royal family.

Buckingham Palace Bow room exit

We arrived in the Bow Room which is also the end of the tour of the State Rooms at around 1pm. The girls were in need of a drink and something to eat and I was disappointed to discover there was no where to eat a packed lunch.

I took them to the Palace cafe and ordered a scone, some water and a cup of tea to tide us over.

Buckingham Palace cafe

We also visited the Family Pavilion which was air conditioned and had tables laid out with sheets to do some drawing or dot to dots on. There was a box of clothes to dress up in and an area to play in. There was also a blackboard where the children were invited to write on, every day pictures are taken and shown to the queen so she gets to see every message left. Whilst we were there the board was wiped clean and set up for a new set of young visitors but I was assured the photo had been taken.

Buckingham Palace - family pavilion

At 2.15pm our Garden Highlights tour commenced. Again no photos were allowed which I was really disappointed at as it was one of the major reasons I had chosen this tour. Our guide was Alan Lion and he led us along a very interesting walk through the private gardens passing the Royal summer house and a beautiful rose garden. There are trees centuries old planted by many royals including Prince Albert and I learnt lots of facts, like Queen Charlotte kept an elephant in her back garden. That the garden had been home to a giraffe and a zebra in it’s time and that the pesky fox have killed off the flamingo population.

Buckingham Palace Garden

8 gardeners look after the 36 acres of land and we walked around one side ending up at the bottom.

We decided we wanted to see the shop so we back tracked up the path and I was pleased to see there were a few ideas in there that were in pocket money reach but mainly above.

A beautiful pink Faberge egg caught my eye and the price tag £9,995.00 made me gasp but I guess that’s what they cost these days? I’m not sure what husband’s reaction would have been  if I had returned with it?

Buckingham Palace souvenirs

The tin tray costs £7.50 from this year’s Limited Edition, the crowns above were around £10 and the cushions start at around £35.

The girls each chose a Princess Alice at £12.95 and I treated them to the book ‘Does the Queen wear her crown to bed?’ which we all read later that night and will act as a great reference book too.

Top Tips for a Royal Day Out

1. Keep in mind the Changing of the Guard at 11.15 when booking tickets, the roads are closed and it is busy, if you want to add this into your day get there for 10.15 – 10.30 for a good place.

2. If going with children I think leave out the Garden Highlights tour and maybe add on the Royal Mews for a visit to the Royal Carriages instead.

3. No food or drink can be eaten in the palace and there were no facilities to eat outside either, we had to hang around for the Garden tour but opposite the palace is St James Park with lots of green space to picnic on and a play area for children to let off steam.

4. If you go to St James Park take some bread to feed the ducks but only in the designated gravel area.

5. Don’t forget to get your tickets stamped on exit so you can return one more time within 12 months to see the same tour.

6. Nearest tube St James Park or Victoria; we walked from St James Park through the park.

guard at Buckingham palace

Talliston house Essex

In 1990 John Trevillian had a great idea; to take the most unassuming looking house, a 3 bed semi detached ex council house in Essex, and turn it into something really quite spectacular and so on 6th October, that year, at midday as he passed the threshold the Talliston House and Gardens Project was born.

I went along to Talliston House with a group of friends to see for myself. This is one of those projects that the more you dig the more you find and the more curious you get and the less you want to leave as something in the house inspires you, wraps you in warmth and it has you marvelling at all the wonderful things there are to see, smell and touch. It’s a bombardment to the senses.

Talliston Labyrinth

It’s a bit like stepping into a time machine as you open the gate to the front garden and you start to follow the labyrinth that takes you through the house passing each room which transports you to a different location and time in history.

The process is to deconstruct each room back to the brickwork and rebuild from scratch, so that upon completion not one square centimetre of the original house will remain (that’s inside and out). Using only those tradesmen essential to compliance with building regulations (structural, electric and gas), the rest of the skills (from carpentry, bricklaying and garden landscaping to the more esoteric like basket weaving, gold leafing and treehouse construction) have been learned during its lifecycle. During the project, we’ve also seen other craftspeople, artists, architects and volunteers get involved into what is now a veritable community.

A project with the time limit of 25 years. A project that will finish on 6th October 2015. A project that is in financial difficulty with the threat of being lost forever.

Talliston means ‘hidden place’ and each room in the house has a story. A story that incorporates over 1,650 antiques and authentic objects sourced from 27 countries. 

I don’t want to see this project fail so close to the finish line. So allow me to show you around the place

The Labyrinth

Front Garden | Earth | The Old Rectory

is based around an eighteenth century Anglican rectory house built upon a prehistoric standing stone circle – including a powerful earth-fast stone at the centre of the Yorkstone pathways. Stepping through the hornbeam thicket, you’ll enter a beautiful yet practical Victorian Gothic Revival labyrinth garden with working vegetable patch and knotwork cottage style garden. 

Is your first point on the labyrinth, as you can see it is yet to be completed but it’s taking shape. The gate is beautiful and once the surrounding green has grown it will create a unique window onto the house, a secret view.

Talliston House Garden

The enormous stone standing directly in front of the door took my breath away, it is placed perfectly on the north south east west axis and holds the map of the labyrinth.

talliston house labyrinth

There is a rabbit hole which will be unplugged soon and holds a surprise inside for inquisitive people and the closer you look the more surprises you will find, see the bee below, sign of industriousness.

Talliston house garden


The Watchtower

Living and Dining Room | Fire | The Mead Hall of TWR-Â-GÂN

Entered via The Hall of Mirrors which is yet to be finished but as you open the door on this room you will catch your breath. 

 talliston house The watchtower

You step into a Victorian watchtower, the entire room is inspired by Mead Hall of Twr-â-gân, a lot of Italian fabrics used in the room which have been especially made from antique templates. Look at this sofa and yes it was so comfy. The box in front holds Victorian games.

talliston house sofa italian

One last mention must go to the mouse hole in the room which can be found by lying on the floor and peering under the dresser

talliston house mouse hole

and so I opened the door, right? Look what I found!

talliston house mouse hole

The Voodoo Kitchen

Kitchen Extension | Earth | Manse L’Estrange

Possibly my favourite room, It’s bright and airy and based on a 1954 kitchen in New Orleans. I could have spent days in here looking at the ornaments and decorations around the room.

 talliston house voodoo kitchen

Legend has it that this locale was a favorite of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau at the height of her fame and power. Hereabouts she held her wild rituals and sacrifices, and fearful locals insist that the overgrown darkness of the trees near the Bayou’s mouth is still a place strictly to be avoided.
Here aresome of the finer details I discovered whilst looking around the room.

talliston house voodoo kitchen

The Fountain Courtyard

Back Garden | Water | Tigh Samhraidh

talliston fountain courtyard

Samhraidh Cottage in the Boyne Valley is thought to be the house of a witch. Constructed in 1875, the French Gothic style residence now belongs to a woman who has a long-time member of a small circus troupe known as Pandoro’s Travelling Fayre.

talliston fountain courtyard

The Office

Box-Room | Fire | Trevelyan Vean

talliston house office

Back in time to New York New York, 1929 and to a grand Jacobean mansion. Enter the office of writer and wealthy publisher, Jedediah Elston Trevillian. Its mix of oak furniture and cabinetry is less grandiose than other areas of the building, but does showcase the owner’s interest in the peculiar, the exotic and strange.

In late 1925, Trevillian died in this room aged 86 – and in a bizarre final twist to the eccentric’s life, his estate, company and fortune were willed not to his squabbling family, but instead to a seven-year-old boy caught trespassing in the grounds on the day of his death.

talliston house books office

The Room of Dreams

Guest bedroom | Air | Eish Al Kamar

Talliston houe room of dreams

This was my favourite room, I would love to sleep in here and have the opportunity to dream long dreams and wake up and remember them, to wonder about their significance and see if there was a message in them.

It’s is based on a private guest room in the Alhambra palace in Grenada, Spain. The room’s name refers to the seasonal rising of the moon behind the Atlas Mountains, appearing as an ivory egg in the bowl-shaped nest cradled against the shadows of the peaks.

Talliston house room of dreams

The Haunted Bedroom

Master Bedroom | Fire | Master Jack’s Bedroom

Talliston House Haunted bedroom

Spooky, eerie and uncomfortable are words I would use to describe this room. I couldn’t wait to get out but on the other hand was intrigued and ventured further in to explore. Which is probably how a haunted room is supposed to make you feel.

Based on a room in Stonehaven in Scotland, this bedchamber is a copy of the room decorated for the Macpherson’s first child Jack. Jack always complained of noises but it was only after his death that the first true hauntings began. The couple locked the room and sealed it with holy symbols vowing never to set foot in there again.
Talliston house haunted bedroom
Can you see the boys shoes under the chair with the ouija board on it? Creepy huh?

My tour sadly had to end here so I could rush back for the school run at 3pm but there is more to see and explore. Take a look a the Talliston website

There is so much more to discover and explore in this house and it’s an incredibly special place I really do suggest a viewing. 
If you can help in any way to keep the project going until then please take a look at the various ways you can below and join in and be a part of this genius idea.

We know the ultimate funding goal is ambitious, but laid out below is every financial target we need to reach to save the project – and even a small amount for enough people will be enough to keep the project alive.

Berrynarbour cottage

One lovely English village we visited was Berrynarbor Devon, just inland on the road from Coombe Martin to Watermouth Castle.

It’s hilly, quiet and very peaceful. Most of the houses are whitewashed with black slate roofs and the gardens are beautiful, lots of colour and different blooms, it’s a real pleasure to stroll along the main road.

In fact the village has won quite a few prizes for best kept village.

berrynarbour bus stop

But what caught my eye are the flowerpot men that inhabit the village too. As you walk along the road you can spot them in gardens, or up poles, taking a rest on a wall or simply looking down at you. The girls thought it was fantastic.

Berrynarbour 1

The story goes that a man, resident of Berrynarbor was made redundant quite unexpectedly and to keep himself busy he started to make some flowerpot men. His friends and neighbours bought one from his collection to support him and slowly, slowly the village became quite populated. Can you spot the flowerpot man in the photo below?

berrynarbour 2

This gentleman stopped making them after a while but the local shopkeeper asked him permission to continue, so you can now pop along to the local shop and choose your own model for £30.

berrynarbour 3

berrynarbour 4

berrynarbour 5

berrynarbour 6


berrynarbour 7




There are a couple of pubs and a cafe/restaurant for refreshments and the village often have garden walks or other interesting events to check out.

berrynarbour wall of flowers

berrynarbour bus stop

Meet our very own Flower Pot lady, Candi. The girls were delighted as it reminds them of their beloved Candi of the Skyline Gang at Butlins

candi flowerpot

She now sits proudly in our back garden as a lovely reminder of a beautiful place far, far away.

gruffalo forestry commision

News Flash: Britain is being invaded by Gruffalos!

June 7th readers is the date to write in your diary or circle on your calendar as that is the day The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson’s and Axel Scheffler’s adorable ogre turns 15.

gruffalo statues forestry commission

It is no big secret that we are HUGE fans of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child too, in fact we told you all about our visit to The Gruffalo Trail in Thorndon Park Essex last October and many of you have since been to visit and loved it as much as we did.

shy gruffalo forestry commission

Well when the Forestry Commision found out The Gruffalo was going to be celebrating his 15th this year they put some very special plans into action which are to be revealed all over the UK on his special day, June 7th.

gruffalo forestry commission

They asked Neil Bruce, the sculptor of the beautiful wooden sculptures in Thorndon Park, to sculpt another 15 statues in his honour and we were invited this weekend to a secret location to see Neil at work and help him out a little bit.

gruffalo statue forestry commission neil bruce

What an honour and I love secrets too.


We headed off to the secret location (kept secret because sadly there are people out there who want to sabotage the surprise) and this is what we found waiting, 4 Gruffalos inside almost ready for departure, 3 outside almost completed plus one to work on. Mission Gruffalo UK.

Note the massive uncut trunks standing next to the finished Gruffalo to get an idea of the mammoth task at hand but Neil is taking it all in his stride. He told me he’s not a sculptor by nature but works as a Forester (Not sure if that’s the right term) in Thorndon Park.  He created the trail and due to the enormous interest has now taken on this next job.

sleeping gruffalo


he has made each Gruffalo different to the next and included one who is fast asleep. He invited the children over to see him and there were huge shouts of ‘Wake up Gruffalo!’ but he was a very deep sleeper, even when they climbed on top of him.

gruffalo painting neil bruce forestry commission


Then Neil surprised us all as he handed out paint brushes and proper paint to the kids asking them to help paint him. The little people couldn’t believe their good luck and there was a lot of dipping brushes into the huge pot of paint, I even had a couple of goes myself, well you would wouldn’t you?

gruffalo painting


Our day was complimented with a proper Gruffalo tea party and that’s another thing, if you visit the Forestry Commision website you will be able to download a whole Birthday Party Picnic pack so you can celebrate his birthday too, what are you waiting for?

gruffalo cupcakes

gruffalo cupcakes



Travelodge double room

What better way to enjoy the sunshine this summer than by heading to a festival that showcases some of your favourite musicians, bands and artistes from around the world? While you could easily head to a field in the middle of nowhere to enjoy the mud-ridden festivals such as Glastonbury or Download, you could alternatively stay in the heart of London and enjoy one (or more) of the London festivals that this vibrant city has to offer. Stay in the city affordably by booking a Travelodge in Covent Garden, right in the heart of the city, and enjoy one of these fantastic festivals that can be found in the city this summer. 

Lovebox – Victoria Park – 18-19th July 

If you’re up for a party and a chance to dance your socks off, Lovebox is it! With plenty of artistes being announced already, including the awesome Chase & Status, attendees will be in for a real treat this July. From live bands to DJs and electronic acts, Lovebox is a melting pot of all things funky, with both underground and mainstream names topping the bill. 

lovebox logo

Wireless – Finsbury Park – 4-6th July 

Having moved home, again, Wireless is back this year at its new digs in Finsbury Park, with a star-studded line-up to suit. From Kanye West to Pharrell Williams, you can guarantee yourself a festival to remember, with some awesome R&B and hip-hop tunes to fill the air. If this is your scene, Wireless is the place to be this July. 

Field Day – Victoria Park – 7-8th June 

It’s the first time that this festival spans an entire weekend, and that change should go down a storm with fans of the event. With a whole host of alternative acts planned, ranging from pop and rock to dance, Field Day is arguably one of the best festivals in the city and it’s certainly one not to be missed. 

Whether you’ve been to the festival before, or you’re willing to try something a little different, Field Day has a whole load of talent ready in the wings this year, including rock giants, Pixies, that’ll be sure to bring in an almighty crowd. 

British Summer Time – Hyde Park

This 10-day stint that gives people the chance to appreciate music of all shapes and sounds is back, with some top names topping the bill throughout the festival. From boy band faves, McBusted (McFly and Busted combined) and Backstreet Boys, to Canadian rocker Neil Young, Hyde Park is in for a treat this summer, and so is anyone who decides to join the party. 

So what if the heavens decide to open and flood the grounds with rain? So what if mud seeps into your shoes as you try and wade through the fields and walkways? Grab your wellies, your shades and your best dance moves and spend a weekend appreciating the festival experience in the heart of London this summer. Festivals don’t have to be in the middle of nowhere, you know! 

 Disclosure: This is a partnered post