Camp Bestival 2016 – It’s going to be out of this world…

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So the Camp Bestival theme for 2016 was announced a month or so ago – in case you missed it the theme is Outer Space! I don’t know about you but I am TOTALLY feeling the theme this year – even more so with the very wonderful Tim Peake currently orbiting the earth (what a fabulously charismatic and entertaining man he is too!) and obviously with the news of the sad departure of a cosmic hero and honorary spaceman, David Bowie, this week.  The space theme feels really apt right now.

From a recent press release, Rob da Bank had this to say:

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Need to start planning our fancy dress!

Camp Bestival is immense fun. If you’ve never been before than why not read some of my previous reports. I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice before, in 2012 and 2014, and I’m really looking forward to going back this year (it’s accidentally turning into an every-other-year thing…).

Camp Bestival 2014 Part 1 and Part 2
Camp Bestival 2012 Part 1 and
Part 2

There’s even a post offering my top tips for Camp Bestival, but as I’ve been again since I wrote this post I’ll be updating this a little nearer the time.

They’ve not yet announced the full line-up but so far Fatboy Slim, Tears for Fears and Jess Glynne are confirmed. My 10 year old daughter is a big fan of Jess Glynne so this is not something we can miss! I’m also quite excited to see Fatboy Slim. Mr M isn’t a fan but I used to love “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby” so would love to hear a few tracks from that to whisk me back to 1998!

Another thing I love about Camp Bestival is the food, oh the food. The WI tent is just about my favourite place to be when I need a cuppa – really reasonably priced and perfect for my fussy-eating son as they do basic sandwiches and tea-time cakes and they do it well. Hats off to these ladies who are pretty much rushed off their feet for the entire time!  The Jam Jar Bar are also going to be there – mega excited about this and the sound of a rhubarb martini! And of course, don’t forget the Feast Collective – full of artisan food producers, independent chefs and street vendors. There is ALWAYS something tasty to be found there.

I’m also looking forward to my children being that much older this year. Mine love their beds too much so in previous years we’ve not really stayed out that late. I’m hoping this year they’ll man up a bit so we can get to enjoy a bit more of the evening entertainment!

And with that, I’ll leave you with some words from the Starman himself…

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I’ll talk a bit more about Camp Bestival over the coming months, but if you are considering going, feel free to ask my any questions and visit the Camp Bestival website for more info on tickets and activities.

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Camping with the family at Goodwood Revival (Pt 1)

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Last year I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to try out the family camping at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and this year I was lucky enough to get to try out the family camping at the Goodwood Revival and also attend the show itself.

We’re no strangers to Goodwood Events, having attended the Revival once before and Festival of Speed several times over the past 10 years. Safe to say, we’re already big fans! It’s been a while since we’ve been to the Revival, and never with the children in tow, but they coped so marvellously at the Festival of Speed we thought they’d love it, and we weren’t wrong.

If you’ve never been to Goodwood Revival then let me tell you a little about it’s history. During the WWII, RAF Westhampnett was a key Battle of Britain airfield and home to several Spitfire squadrons. When the RAF closed the base after the war, the landowner – Freddie March, grandfather of the current Earl of March – turned the perimeter road in the Goodwood Motor Circuit and Britains first post-war motor racing meeting took place at Goodwood in 1948 and the circuit closed to contemporary motor racing in 1966. Exactly 50 years after that first meet, Goodwood Motor Circuit reopened with every detail recreated and so the Goodwood Revival was born!

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Since 1998, the circuit comes back to life ever September for a fantastic weekend that recreates the golden era of it’s glorious heyday. What this means is that this is a truly unforgettable weekend which is as much about the fashion and culture of the era as it is about the wonderful historic racing cars. People are actively encouraged to dress the part – it used to be more about the 1940s and early 1950s however it’s evolved somewhat, I am guessing with the popularity of repro vintage styles and I saw people in 60s get-ups as well as 70s (which makes no sense to me at all since the circuit closed in the mid-60s!).

I’m going to start with a negative but please, this is probably the only negative of the whole weekend so bear with me, but it does need mentioning and I’ll be brief. The signage and the traffic management when we arrived on the Friday night was shocking. It took us an hour to do a journey which should have taken less than 10 minutes and involved a lot of tooing and froing as the contractor employed to manage the traffic and car parks etc didn’t have a clue. Access to the campsites were near impossible due to road closures put in place when it was kick out time at the event and all this confusion (not helped by NO signs for the campsites until you were at the campsite itself) was the difference between putting the tent up in the daylight or the dark. You can imagine after a 4 hr drive we weren’t very happy about it. At this point I have to say a big thank you to Sara who manages the family campsite as she was extremely helpful giving us mobile phone directions, her inside local knowledge is priceless.

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Anyhow…shaking that negativity off, we had a good nights sleep and were able to see the family campsite a bit better in the daylight!

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Sara had done a wonderful job of making the campsite a pleasant and safe place for children with gated entry and an abundance of toys, sports and games available. There was electric hook-up available and the toilets and showers, whilst temporary, were what I would call luxury and not the normal festival style offering. Always clean with lovely hot water in the showers. There was even a beautifully bedecked baby changing hut that Sara had managed to make look like a mini baby spa!

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This time there was no catering on site, we did miss that a little as we’d enjoyed that at Festival of Speed however we had been told about this in advance – there was only 17 pitched so it probably wasn’t viable – and had prepared for this. There was however morning deliveries from a local deli, The Hungry Guest, who came to the campsite each day with beautiful breakfast pastries.  Sara was always on hand from early morning until late at night and you always got the feeling that you could ‘bother’ her at any time and she wouldn’t have minded.

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Transport between campsite and event was provided in the form of fantastic military trucks. This was a good novelty for the children and whilst it really wasn’t that far to walk (20 mins maybe?) after a long day it was a welcome relief to get in for the ride back to the campsite, especially as the people operating these vehicles clearly love them and were happy to talk about how they are used and the history.

On the Saturday night Sara had organised AAA Coaching to come to site and run some organised activities with the children which I thought was a really nice touch.  We decided to head ‘Over the Road’ on the Saturday night – an area at Goodwood Revival which is open later with bars, food, fairground etc and thus ensued another battle with the car parking management people who clearly didn’t know what they were doing. I felt a little sorry for the bus driver who collected us, who was told to go this way, then that way, then you can’t come this way, then go that way. He was very patient considering!

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All-in-all we really enjoyed the camping aspect of this trip, bar the traffic management chaos, though I have to say I probably preferred the set-up at the Festival of Speed which was situated on the racecourse.  I don’t think there was anything lacking, bar perhaps the ability to buy some hot food or an alcoholic beverage and the whole weekend was beautifully managed by Sara.  You couldn’t wish for a more helpful or friendlier host!

I’ll leave it there for today as I think that got longer than I expected! Tomorrow, will come Part 2, the event itself!

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PS I completely forgot to take photos of the campsite in all the excitement so I’ve borrowed these snaps from Sara’s Facebook page “Alliss in Wonderland”.

Review: SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham

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We were recently asked if we’d like to go and visit the SEA LIFE Centre in Birmingham. Having a child who has ambitions of becoming a marine biologist later in life (aim high son!) there was no way we could pass this up.  First off, a disclaimer, my photos aren’t great but as anyone who has been in a SEA LIFE Centre will know, the lighting (which is optimum for the fish!) does not exactly lend itself to taking photos so I’ve tried my best with my cranky old camera!

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Of course having a sea-life obsessed child also means that this wasn’t our first visit to a SEA LIFE Centre, oh no! We’ve recently visited the one in Blackpool and of course living so close to Birmingham, we’ve visited this particular one in the past too, however it was a couple of years back now and a few things have changed.  At SEA LIFE Centre’s they have a great trail for kids to follow where children collect ‘stamps’ in their dive log books. My two didn’t do this on this occasion as they’d recently done it, but it’s lots of fun and they get to press the stamps in themselves – and at the end, collect a medal from the gift shop!

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One of the first things we noticed had changed since our last visit was the addition of penguins at the entrance. This went down a treat with my two children, in fact, I wasn’t sure we’d get to see much else in there as it was hard to tear them away! They were being fed when we were there and it was very cute to see them bobbing in and out of the water. The penguins they keep here at Birmingham are classified as near-threatened so SEA LIFE are doing great work and I’d go as far to see this was my favourite part of the attraction, loved these little guys.

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There are so many fabulous creatures to take in at the SEA LIFE centre, it would be impossible to list them all but here are three of our absolute favourites:

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Everyone loves a clown fish right? They must be one of the cheeriest little fishes ever! We’re always really excited when we clap eyes on them swimming around.

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My daughter is sea horse obsessed and I must admit they fascinate me. So elegant and graceful, such a shame that their habitats keep getting destroyed, endangering them further.

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We all love a ray! This polka dot version was my favourite of all of them, I’ve never seen one quite like it. I love their little smiley faces. Okay, I know I am not being anatomically correct but they looking like big grinning faces to me and I like it!

There’s of course many other things to see and we really enjoyed listening to some of the creature talks which are always interesting and perfectly targeted to the children.  I would have loved to have seen more of the otters but these were incredibly popular and we managed to get to that point just as the talk kicked off which meant we couldn’t get near the little critters! Next time.  We all also really enjoyed the 4D cinema experience which was excellent fun, whilst helping to teach children valuable lessons about not littering at the same time!

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It’s important to remember that whilst SEA LIFE is a fun attraction they are also doing some really important conservation work towards protecting our oceans and the sea life that lives within it.  The have breeding programmes, rescue and rehoming missions and run campaigns such as the whales and dolphins campaign to stop them being kept in captivity.

We really enjoyed our visit to the SEA LIFE centre and hope to return soon. It’s a great facility, both fun and interesting and the excellent work they are doing cannot be denied. I noticed they do VIP feeding experiences with those lovely penguins and am thinking about that for a birthday present for my son next year!

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You can visit the SEA LIFE Birmingham website here to find out more, they’ve got some special events coming up and also make sure you follow their Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up to date with everything that is going on at Birmingham.

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Review: The Blackpool Tower Circus

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You may have seen a while back that I was invited for a weekend in Blackpool to check out everything that it has to offer as part of the #BlackpoolsBack campaign. If not you can read that post here.  We had a great time, bar an Exorcist-style vomiting episode which was dealt with beautifully by the Hilton Blackpool staff and today I wanted to share one of my favourite attractions with you, The Blackpool Tower Circus.  Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photos inside the circus, I’m guessing so as not to distract the performers from their death-defying feats so images here are stock.

I’ll start by saying, we are not circus people at all. Like a lot of children (and adults!) my children are quite wary of clowns, I’d say my son was almost clown-phobic, so telling them we were going to the circus didn’t exactly fill them with glee. I however had read the reviews of the circus on TripAdvisor which were generally very positive and showed them pictures of the clowns on the official website where they could see they weren’t really scary clowns at all and so appeased, off we skipped to the Blackpool Tower.

The Tower Circus opened in 1894 is positioned at the base of The Blackpool Tower, between it’s four legs. I was immediately in awe of this room. I’ve been to The Blackpool Tower before and seen the famous ballroom but never knew this existed!

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Really beautiful and it was a great atmosphere.

The Blackpool Tower Circus is produced by Mooky the Clown, who has been part of the Circus for 23 years, and he is accompanied by his brother, Mr Boo, who has also been part of the Circus for 23 years! There’s a live band providing all the music which is well synced with the performances and I think having a live band really added to the attraction.

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See? Non-scary clowns.

The show is full of slapstick humour in between sets of amazingly talented acrobats and circus performances which literally left me hiding behind my coat. No joke, there were edge of the seat moments. We’ve all seen circus acts on TV etc but seeing them perform them right in front of your eyes is another thing altogether. I was petrified for them, but of course, they’re pros and it all ended well. Phew!   One of the most spectacular things to happen was when the ring filled up with water, this was pretty impressive as it’s a lot of water. I had to read up about it afterwards and apparently the circus ring can be lowered into a pool of water and holds 42,000 gallons at a depth of 4ft 6inches. The Tower Circus is one of four left in the world that can do this!

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We gasped, we hid, we laughed and we thoroughly enjoyed!

Would we go back? Of course we would! It was fabulous entertainment for the whole family, with another over-the-heads-of-children adult jokes to make us snigger. We loved Mooky and Mr Boo, they were fabulous.

If there’s one attraction NOT TO MISS in Blackpool, it is The Blackpool Tower Circus which runs from 26th May 2015 to 1st November 2015. Visit the website for more info. I heard rumours that there is also a panto in the winter – would love to see this!

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Image Credits: 
1: My own!
2: Manchester Evening News
3: The Mirror
4: Visit Blackpool

Festive Family Days Out

Every December, in the run up to Christmas, we like to take the children on a festive day out. It helps build up the excitement towards the big day (like they need any help) and it’s just seems like a nice thing to do, with the whole family, to get us all in the festive spirit.

These days there is an absolute wealth of places to go and “Santa experiences” are springing up left, right and centre in all manner of places so it can actually be hard quite hard to choose one. I’m starting to find it even harder now my children are getting that much older as I worry that some of the experiences might be a little too young for them, and these days out aren’t cheap so I’m really conscious of making the wrong decision.

I am just at the point now of planning our festive family day out for 2014 (and I realise I’ve left it a little late as it seems lots of places are already booked up!) and I thought I’d take a look back at some of the festive fun we’ve had in the past. Here are our top three festive experiences!

Drayton’s Magical Christmas

When we first went a couple of years ago this was completely centred around Thomas Land and therefore really was a day for the little ones. It seems now that they’ve incorporated a lot more for older children and the whole family. My two children loved Thomas Land when they were younger and enjoyed meeting Father Christmas, watching festive shows and the highlight of the day for them most certainly was the “snow” that fell in Thomas Land through out the day.  The majority of the attractions were outside though so it was pretty chilly in December!

Image Credit: http://www.jdtravelservices.co.uk/

Image Credit: http://www.jdtravelservices.co.uk/

Great Central Railway Santa Specials

One of our favourite trips was on the Santa steam train with Great Central Railway. We completely surprised our children with this trip so they had no idea what was coming – they nearly popped when they realised they were going on a train trip. We hopped on the train for a round trip, enjoyed cookies, mince pies and even a cheeky glass of sherry and the children got to meet Santa on board who gave them each a present. There was also a children’s entertainer on the train to get everyone into the festive spirit. It was a really nice experience and one I would definitely do again.

Image Credit: http://www.inloughborough.com/

Image Credit: http://www.inloughborough.com/

Santa at the Servants Quarter at Shugborough Hall

Last year we went to the magnificent Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire to meet Santa (actually one of the best Santa’s I’ve seen recently). The Victorian Servant’s Quarters had been festively decorated and we even got to help Mrs Claus stir her Christmas pudding and make a wish. There was a little land train to ride on and lots of Christmas activities to partake in. And best of all? Yes, they also had fake snow showers! Such an amazing hit with the children.

Image Credit: http://enjoystaffordshire.wordpress.com/

Image Credit: http://enjoystaffordshire.wordpress.com/

 

That’s really whet my appetite now, I’m looking forward to planning this years excursion!

What about you? Have you been on any Santa experiences or festive days out that you recommend? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

I recently teamed up with Dr. Oetker and became part of their pizza blog panel and this post was written in as part of my involvement with the Dr. Oetker brand. Check out their Facebook page where you can read the posts of other members of the blog panel and also look out for exclusive competitions.

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