Monday, 28 July 2014

Burton Agnes Hall, Burton Agnes, East Yorkshire

Burton Agnes Hall East Yorkshire

Burton Agnes Hall is a stately home and gardens not far from Bridlington in East Yorkshire. They run a number of events through the year, and on Sunday, we decided to go along to their Pirate and Princess Picnic Day. 

It was a very nice day, and very hot. It was also very busy. It opened at 11am. We got there at 11.20am and the main car park was filling up quickly. It cost us £19 to get in - two adults, two children, two under fives (who were free) - and I think this was pretty good value.

For this we got access to the grounds - the main house would have been £3 extra each so we gave it a miss - and all Pirate and Princess Picnic activities, which included bouncy castles, a magic show, balloon modelling, princess make-overs, and make-your-own princess crown or pirate mask. There was also an activity sheet with a treasure hunt. You found five clues dotted around the grounds, answered the questions, and found the hidden word. You exchanged your completed sheet for a small prize at the gift shop on your way out. 

Burton Agnes Hall is beautiful. It dates from Elizabethan times and has been with the same family for over 400 years. 

We didn't try the hall itself on this occasion (having three year olds in our group, stately home viewing is much too risky!) but the grounds were beautiful. There are lawned, formal gardens, and wild flower gardens. For the children there is a woodland walk, a hedge maze, and giant garden games.

All of these were rammed with children on Sunday and we couldn't get a game completed without a random princess or pirate bombing in and stealing a piece, much to my eldest child's chagrin. 

Burton Agnes Hall East Yorkshire

We spent over four hours here on Sunday and there was a lot to do. It probably wouldn't take that long on a normal visit, but for the pirate and princess event was about right. 

We took a picnic - as per the title - and there was plenty of places to sit and eat, although wet weather would have caused a problem because there wasn't an abundance of picnic tables. There was a courtyard cafe which looked reasonable enough but we didn't try it this time. The ice-cream from the van was lovely but it was possibly the world's slowest moving queue ever. 

We had a fab time at the Pirate and Princess picnic and will look out for future events at Burton Agnes Hall. 

Hints and tips - 

There are lots of steps to negotiate and though plenty of people had taken prams and pushchairs, quite a lot of the paths are gravel and could be hard work. 

There is a little walk from the main car park to the main house. It's safe on the whole but you have to cross a public country lane to get to the car park so be careful. 

There are water hazards and stinging plants to contend with but on the whole, the grounds are well looked after.

There are baby changing and disabled toilets as well as the usual, but there are only one set, which are in the main courtyard. This was a problem on Sunday when there was literally hundreds of young children in attendance, but will be more than enough for a regular day. As far as I could see, there are no more toilets available. 

There is a small play park behind the courtyard, and a nice gift shop tucked away, so visits are optional. 

For more information, please visit their website at Burton Agnes Hall East Yorkshire

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Review: Nikon Coolpix S32 - Waterproof, shockproof digital camera

We were sent a new camera a few weeks ago and are really very impressed.

If you're into DSLR cameras, and know stuff like the difference between types of lenses, then this isn't for you. However, if you want a reliable point-and-shoot with some nice features, that is pretty kid-proof, then it's worth a look!

Nikon Coolpix S32 Review

The Nikon Coolpix S32 is an ideal camera for travel - it's waterproof (you can submerge it to 10m for underwater pics), is shockproof (from 1.5m), light, small, and re-chargeable. It is 13.2 megapixels. It has Nikkor 3x Optical Zoom. 

The item comes with a rechargeable LiOn battery, a USB lead, and a plug. There is also a wrist strap and a cleaning brush. It does not come with a memory card, which you will need to make it work. I have a 4GB HDMI memory card which will hold around 500 photos. 

Nikon Coolpix S32 Review

The features are all accessed through the on-screen menu using four buttons. There are no fiddly dials, and the buttons can be used for pre-exposure and post-editing.

Nikon Coolpix S32 Review

The photo quality is reasonable for the price of the camera. If you want super-dooper quality then buy a DSLR. The camera has a lot of features.

It can...

  • take video clips with sound
  • take photos of fireworks, or at night-time
  • you can turn the flash on or off as required (or set to auto flash)
  • take photos in cartoon, diorama, neon, bubble, mirror styles
  • can be set to take a black-and-white photo picking out a colour of your choice
  • take a series of photos one after another in succession
  • do self-timed photos

Here are a few photos I've taken using the camera

The above photo was taken using the 'backlight' setting. It's not perfect as you can see as it makes it a bit blurry, but with the light coming through the trees to the dark ground level area, it was a lot better than the photos I was getting through the standard mode. In this mode, the camera saves a 'standard' mode photo and a 'backlight' one, so you have two to choose from. Good for fluctuating light levels.

This photo was taken in diorama mode. It creates a focus through the middle and blurs the top and bottom. Good for landscapes.

At Disneyland Paris I used the 'series of pictures' setting a lot. This is where you hold the exposure button down and it takes a two or three photos a second. Helpful when your subject is moving. 

The Nikon Coolpix S32 has some nice design features where you can add frames and graphics to your photos as you take them. Great fun for children. I have no problem with letting even my youngest children use the camera as it is so robust and easy to use.

The above photo was taken using the 'highlight colours' feature. You can choose from one of twelve colours to highlight. In this shot I choose blue as there were a lot of bluebells about. It didn't find the bluebells but did find the denim jacket of my eldest.

And this is a video clip taken with the video button - the camera has an exposure button for video as well as photos - you don't have to fiddle with knobs and buttons should you feel the need to video something instead. The memory card holds up to 25 minutes of video.

Battery life

The battery life is quite good. I can do around 200 photos before it starts to run out of power. Of course, you can save power by not editing or playing back the photos if you don't need to. It charges up pretty quickly through a standard three-pin plug. The recharge lead doubles as the upload/USB lead so you only need the one. Infinitely better than having to carry spares, or having to find a gift shop with powerful enough batteries for your camera. 


Overall, as a family camera it is excellent value. They retail for less than £90 at the moment though you will need to supply your own HDMI memory card. It takes reasonable quality photos and is great for travel, and is fairly kid-proof.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

My Foursquare "achievements".

"Congrats! You just unlocked the Newbie badge."

In case you don't recognise this, this is from Foursquare - the app and site where you can record your travels near or far, checking in wherever you go and leaving tips for other Foursquare users.

Foursquare has become a bit of an obsession now. I try and check in to as many places as I can (mobile phone coverage allowing) and have unlocked a few badges, including the adventurer badge, and the shutterbug badge.

Here's a few that I would have unlocked if Foursquare made them available.....

Congrats! You unlocked The Losing Your Child at the Zoo badge.

Yes. Yes, I did. London Zoo to be precise. For about fifteen minutes. It was ok. She had one of those wristband ID tags on, and had the sense to go to the cafe and ask a member of staff for help, as instructed. Didn't stop me having heart failure though.

London Zoo human turtle
Aw look. She's so cherubic, and not AT ALL prone to going missing.

Congrats! You earned the Walk of Shame badge.

Yep. Major twin toddler meltdown as I dare to suggest we get back in the pushchair to go home whilst at a local museum. It was noisy, and the museum was fairly busy. Embarrassing.

Congrats! You earned the Downright Liar badge.

*proud face* If I'm struggling to get the toddlers to co-operate so we can get out of the door at a reasonable time, I tell them we're going to Peppa Pig World. We so aren't. But it works.

Well done! You earned the Inappropriate Art award.

You go to an art gallery and your child sees some life art. It's art right? It's not too bad, just a painting of a middle aged lady with her bajinglies out. In fact, it's just one picture among over 200. Your child has barely paid any attention to it, right? Wrong.  A couple of days later, when their teacher asks what they did at the weekend, they will draw it, bajinglies and all. In school. Well done indeed.

Congrats! You achieved the Mentally Scarring your Child For Life award.

I did. At Hornsea Mere, a local wildlife spot. Anyway, to cut a long story short, two of my children are not really as keen on ducks and geese as they were before. Or swans. Inconsiderate, feathered losers.

Hornsea March 2013 003
Geese. The epitome of evil.

Well done, you! You unlocked the Farted on by a Horse badge.

Do. Not. Ask.

And the one I want to achieve.....

Congrats! You unlocked the Getting to The Pub On Your Own badge.

I wish.

If you are a fellow Foursquare addict, you can be my friend here.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Tree Top Junior, Go Ape! at Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire

This weekend, we decided that a nice country walk is for wimps, and we headed up to Dalby Forest instead to try out the Tree Top Junior course at Go Ape!

Go Ape! is a tree-top experience with zip wires, rope bridges, and swings, and the Tree Top Junior course is the kid-friendly version. It is recommended for 6 to 12 year olds and their accompanying adults. There is a minimum height restriction, so please check their website before booking. 

Go Ape! Dalby Forest is located not far from the southern entrance, and is opposite the main visitor centre. Parking is free, although there is a £7 entry charge per car to Dalby Forest itself. The loos are in the visitor centre, so make sure you abuse the facilities before you go to Go Ape! 

You book a time slot, turn up, and you're away. You can just show up and see what's available but it is very popular and you're risking not getting to play at all. 

Right, that's the technicalities out of the way! What did we actually think?

'We' were me, two ten-year olds, and a six-year old and we all thought it was super fun and a great experience.

Your harness is attached by an instructor to the central wire and you climb the stairs and follow the wire around the course. The clamp doesn't leave the wire between you joining at ground level and the bottom of the zip wire. It's all very clever stuff. 

You go across bridges made of wood, rope, and net, or balance on planks. There are about six bridges between trees, set at least ten metres up in the air, then you get to the zip wire. It was a bit scary the first time but once you're off, it's brilliant!

If you don't like it, you can bail out here. If you love it (like we did) you go back to the beginning and take the second, more challenging route. This is around another six bridges, slightly wobblier and a bit higher. Then back to the zip wire and off again. 

I think the six-year to twelve-year recommendation is about right. I wouldn't like to take anyone younger on, and as the course is set for children, it's not comfortable for anyone much taller. Some of it is quite tricky, and you need a degree of physical fitness. 

You can go back round again for a few more goes. After an hour, we'd had our turn, so we returned our harnesses and received our Go Ape! king of the jungle certificates and badges. Winners!

Who's a clever monkey?

Have a look at our video.....

Tickets cost from £17 per person (adults and children are the same price). There are 13 locations across the UK where the Tree Top junior course is available. You can find out more and book your tickets by clicking on the graphic below.

Have fun!

Disclosure - We were given free tickets to test out the Tree Top Junior adventure, and the above graphic is affiliate

Friday, 27 June 2014

YSP Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is just off J38 of the M1 north of Sheffield, and it is HUGE. It is the very extensive grounds of Bretton Hall, and it has been turned into a home for works of art from a wide range of sculptors, including Henry Moore, and Antony Gormley. 

It is free to get in although you do have to pay for car parking - It costs £8 per car for all day, though you can pay less for up to two hours if you're only paying a short visit. Remember your car registration plate as you pay at the visitor centre via a computerised system. 

The visitor centre is pretty impressive. It houses some indoor galleries with changing exhibitions, as well as the requisite toilets, baby changing, gift-shop, and cafe. If you pop to the reception desk, you can pick up a child-friendly map, as demonstrated here! Take a pencil so you can cross off things as you spot them. 

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a huge country estate with a choice of walks. You can't possibly do them all in one visit, especially with little legs in tow, so we chose to explore a couple of the areas. In all, we were there for four hours. 

YSP is home to wildlife. We spotted squirrels, field mice, swans, and a lot of geese with an insane number of goslings. They were very hungry/friendly, though I did tell one adult goose off for hissing at me, and it looked mortified and behaved itself immediately. We collected a lot of goose feathers for our treasure bag. 

 The artwork is fascinating, if you like that sort of thing. The children were disappointed not to be able to climb on every single piece, but some you are allowed to get up close to. 

Possibly their favourite was the field of 'trees' made out of reclaimed household paraphanalia such as toilets, dog kennels, and yes, even the kitchen sink. I think I'm in the wrong business.

We chose to walk via the upper lake, which could have been a mistake as the paths were extremely muddy and the walk goes very close to the lake itself, which is a hazard for tots and young children. It was beautiful though, and we got to see parts of the old Bretton Hall estate including a Grecian style folly, and a wonderful shell grotto. 

From inside the shell grotto on the upper lake at YSP

The art isn't all completely child-friendly. There is some art which is life art and produces sniggers/questions/stares from my children, like the sculpture of a water nymph, shown below left.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a great place to use my nature trail spotters sheet - there is a free download for you to print out. For a country park walk, YSP is a lovely place. You can walk dogs on designated paths, and there are wheelchair/pram friendly routes. 

The only real complaint we had was the lack of picnic areas. There was a large(ish) area with picnic tables near the visitor centre, but we didn't spot any near the lake. There wasn't really any benches to sit and eat around the upper lake area we visited. 

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is very popular but it didn't feel at all crowded. There are water hazards, hungry geese, a LOT of sheep poo, and no loos apart from those in the visitor centre and the gallery around 2km away, but it is a gorgeous place and fantastic for wearing little ones out. 

Here are some more pics from our visit.

The waterfall between the upper and lower lakes at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Inside the visitor centre at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The formal gardens at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

If you like all things Yorkshire, please come and follow our Pinterest board Kids Days Out in Yorkshire

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Father's Day: Ideas for days out with Dad

Father's Day is coming this Sunday, the 15th June.

The weather looks like it's going to be cloudy or sunny, depending where you live, and hopefully not a lot of rain. It'll be a good day to get out and about with Dad as a special family treat. 

Here's a few places we've been which are good for a trip with Dad.....

Adventure Golf - Dads love a bit of crazy golf. There are loads of places to play around the UK - we've been to Pirate Island in Castleford and we had lots of swashbuckling fun. With balls. 

Stonehenge - if Dad is a history fan, then Stonehenge is fab. The brand new visitor centre which has recently opened is a great addition to this already popular heritage site. 

Vikings! - Jorvik Viking Centre is brilliant if it rains. This museum is a trip back in time to explore York at the time of Vikings. There are also skeletons, and a piece of Viking poo! Awesome. :)

LEGO! - Dads love a bit of retro play time, and Lego offers plenty of days out options, including the Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester. Build cars, race them, and even ride giant ones. Catch a 4D film, and get a building lesson off a Lego master builder. 

Football - Lots of football stadiums do tours, including the famous Wembley Stadium. Who's your Dad's favourite team? 

Train-spotting - If your Dad or Grandad loves trains, then a ride on a steam railway is a wonderful day out. Try the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for some fantastic scenery and a trip to the village of Goathland, famous for Heartbeat and for Hogsmeade Train Station. 

See more suggestions on our Pinterest board!

VOUCHERS!! - Have a trawl through this page and see if there are vouchers for an attraction near you. There are for all parts of the UK. You will need to check the expiry dates, and restrictions, and you will need to print them out. There are some BOGOF vouchers and also some 'Kids Go Free'. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Feature: The Story of Woburn Forest - Center Parcs

A sponsored post brought to you in association with Center Parcs

We've haven't yet been to Center Parcs. We'll get there eventually no doubt in our mission to try out every attraction and holiday park in the UK. It does look awesome.

Center Parcs have told me all about their new park - Center Parcs Woburn Forest - in Bedfordshire. It has been more than a decade in the making and Center Parcs have spent £250 million on making their latest resort perfect. They have invested more than money, having spent more than 70,000 hours training the new staff, of which 90% are from the local area. 

Woburn Forest houses over 600 lodges as well as luxury hotel rooms, and spa suites. More importantly, the resort is home to over 6,000 cushions!

A lot of the money has been spent developing the requisite Subtropical Swimming Paradise. It features three water rides, children's play pools, and Wild Water Rapids. 

Woburn Forest also has a cycle hire centre, archery, and Segway experience. There's plenty for kids to do including a play area, tennis courts, pottery painting, and a roller rink. There is also a good choice of family-friendly restaurants. 

But best of all Woburn Forest contains an Aqua Sana Spa. In fact, let's ditch the kids, forget the roller-skating and explore the six spas in peace. Sounds blissful! 

Anyone for Center Parcs?  :) 


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