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28/50 Things – Climb A Huge Hill

11 Jul

Not ones to do things by halves, we started off our 50 Things challenge with something big.

Really big.

Huge, in fact.

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We had a whole day with nothing planned and son was keen to tick the first thing off his 50 Things list, so we packed a picnic and headed for the hills. Well, one hill in particular; Roseberry Topping. Situated on the northern edge of the North York Moors National Park, its distinctive peak is visible from miles around and is instantly recognisable. Standing at 320m high, it is not the biggest hill in the area, but it is quite a steep and challenging climb, especially for a four year old.

Although it doesn’t look it, it was a really warm day and son fell asleep in the car on the drive over. I hoped this would give him a little energy boost to tackle the climb as he is usually quite quick to complain he is tired when out walking. We arrived around lunchtime and, after a quick snack, set off along the track leading to the hill.

Through the gate at the end of the track, there are several different paths you can take. As son was leader of the expedition, he chose the wooden steps and led the way.

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The steps became quite steep in places and son needed a little help to get up some of the higher ones, but he was happy to keep climbing. After the wooden steps, we followed a stone path. This was much easier on the thighs! About half an hour after starting the walk, we found a bench and sat down for a drink. Son was surprised at how high we were as we had been too busy watching where to put our feet to take in the view.

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This is where the climb started to get a bit more difficult. The path became steeper and more uneven with larger stones and we were, at times, scrambling on all fours. After another twenty minutes or so, we came to a small, flat area of grass to sit and rest. Son said his legs were ‘a bit achy but they’ll be ok in five minutes’, I believed him of course and did not start making a plan of how to get him back down if he got too tired. *cough*

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From here, the end was in sight and it wasn’t long before we reached the summit. The look on son’s face was absolutely priceless. He was so proud of himself, he told all of the other people at the top that he was a real mountaineer now.

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So that’s the first of our 50 things completed. We can’t wait to get on with the other 49!

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Blue Mountain Mystery at Drayton Manor

17 Sep

Summer without my car has been difficult, we’ve really missed all the little trips out that we’re used to. The farm, country park, the beach; all journeys of twenty minutes or less which would take up to two hours to do using public transport. Needless to say, we’ve spent a lot of the summer at home, or doing the fifteen minute bus ride to the nearest park. As the end of summer was rapidly approaching, I knew we had no chance of a proper holiday but I really wanted to take son somewhere special, even if it was only for one day.

While I was busy looking for somewhere for us to go, a rather fabulous offer landed in my inbox. I wondered if it would be possible for us to accept as it would be quite a long journey and not one that I fancied tackling by train. But Grandad came to our rescue and offered to drive if I could sort everything else. So, that was it; we were going to Drayton Manor Park, home to Thomas Land, to see a special 4D screening of the brand new Thomas & Friends movie, ‘Blue Mountain Mystery’. Now if that’s not a special day out, I don’t know what is.

Drayton Manor is over three hours drive from here. I thought son would be too tired to fully enjoy his day after such a long time sat in the car, so we travelled down the day before and stayed in a hotel. With just a short drive to the Park in the morning, we were there shortly after opening at 9.30 and got a car parking space close to the entrance. The first thing son spotted as we parked the car was Cranky the crane, just visible through the trees.

“Look mammy! Cranky! It’s really Cranky!”

We were lucky that it was a quiet morning so we didn’t have to queue to get our tickets, we were through the main entrance and into Thomas Land in about five minutes. The rides didn’t actually start operating until 10.30, but we had a nice stroll around Thomas Land so that son could say hello to all the engines before heading into the zoo.

We didn’t spend very long here. Partly because I’m not a huge fan of animals in cages, partly because son was just too excited about Thomas Land. He didn’t care that the rides weren’t running, he just wanted to be there. Not that I can blame him, Thomas Land is brilliant!

The island of Sodor is really brought to life with the rides themed around favourite characters. Harold treated us to a helicopter ride, Bulstrode rocked us at Sodor docks and crazy Bertie bus took us on no ordinary bus ride! Our favourite by far was the Troublesome Trucks runaway coaster. I thought it might be a bit much for son, but he insisted on having a ride and then proved me wrong by laughing and chuckling the whole way round. I even bought the photo that was taken mid-ride as he loved it so much.

After that, we needed an ice cream, which was a perfectly timed decision as the Fat Controller and his brand new Station Mistress were just about to start a live show from his office balcony. Son enjoyed the songs and joining in with the ‘toot-toots’ and ‘peep-peeps’, but was not too impressed when the clown arrived and so we had to make a sharp exit. Not to worry though, as it was nearly time for the movie.

We made our way over to the 4D cinema where we were given some popcorn and bottled water before having a play with some fabulous new Thomas & Friends toys, which have been brought out to tie-in with the movie. The Fat Controller was also there chatting to everyone and I was quite surprised when son, unprompted, strolled over and offered him some popcorn! He wouldn’t give me any! It wasn’t long before the cinema doors opened and we took our seats.

In his latest adventure, Thomas is sent to work at the Blue Mountain Quarry where he spots an engine that he’s never seen before trying to hide. Thomas wants to know who this engine is and why he’s hiding but, well, it’s a mystery so I won’t spoil it for you! The 4D aspect of the film added a little extra fun with moving seats, bubbles and splashes of water and I thought it was good that the sound levels were slightly lower than other cinemas we’ve been to, making it perfect for little ears. Son loved the new movie, he has watched the DVD several times at home and still sits captivated all the way through. The theme tune is quite catchy and does have a habit of sticking in your head for the rest of the day though!

A quick bite to eat and we were ready to explore some more of the Park. We loved the pirate themed rides and the view from the Big Wheel was amazing. We had a ride on the carousel and popped back into Thomas Land to buy a gift for my nephew from the huge Thomas shop there. We put our feet up in the sunshine with a nice cuppa before heading back to the car for the long drive home. Son must have been exhausted, he was fast asleep in about ten minutes.

It really was a fantastic day out. We probably only covered half of the park and there were some rides in Thomas Land that we didn’t have time to go on either. I was really impressed by the amount of child-friendly rides there. Even though son is only three, he could go on every ride in Thomas Land and quite a few in the rest of Drayton Manor, although he had to be accompanied by an adult for some of them. I would love to take son back for the Magical Christmas at Thomas Land, I’m not sure we’ll manage it this year but we will definitely be visiting again.

*                    *                    *

For more information on Drayton Manor Park and Thomas Land, please visit http://www.draytonmanor.co.uk

You can find out more about the Blue Mountain Mystery here: http://www.thomasandfriends.com/bluemountain

Thomas and Friends can also be found on Facebook and Twitter

All opinions are honest and our own. We were given entry into Drayton Manor Park and the 4D screening, and a lovely goody bag free of charge for this review.

SIRF Friday: Labyrinth and Legging It

26 Aug

Late to bed, late to rise, makes for a good start to Friday at the festival. We had a bit of a full-on weekend lined up, so took it (relatively) easy and had a wander round the Labyrinth. It was built beside the ruins of a church, from recycled wood; packing cases, pallets etc. Around the maze were strange wooden creations and words that seemed simple or obvious but left you thinking about the kind of world we live in. Music drifted across the site from the small makeshift stage at one end, local artists entertaining us as we sat for a while on the hay bales. Lovely.

We would have liked to have spent more time here, but we had some family stuff that needed doing as well as a nap for son before the evening’s events.

This is where things started to get tricky. Running alongside SIRF is the Stockton Weekender. It started off as part of the festival but grew, and grew until it is now a festival itself. So there are now two separate festivals running at the same time. As there was only one entrance to the Weekender, it was quite a trek to move between sites if you wanted to try and see specific acts. Not easy with a three year old in tow. Son really wanted to see Beatlemania and ‘the jiggy music’ which I foolishly agreed to, even though they were on different sites.

We started off our evening back at the Labyrinth. As the sun went down, it took on an entirely different feel. Candles lit the way and a small campfire was built as people gathered around the stage. We just caught the end of Avital Raz, backed by a guy playing electric guitar with a violin bow, creating a very unique sound.

“Is it time for the jiggy music now?” Err… no. There was almost a major meltdown from an already tired toddler, but Sarah Proctor saved the day. A hugely talented singer songwriter with a fantastic voice, who managed to hold his attention until he said, “I think that maybe she could be my new girlfriend”, with a cheeky smile and a slow nod of the head. Look out, Sarah! James Hammill was up next, but other than the fact he can knock out a pretty good tune or three, I know absolutely nothing else about him.

Finally, it was time for the jiggy music as Mike McGrother and The Rogues took to the stage. Newly formed and unrehearsed, about ten musicians (mostly from other local bands, I think) belted out a selection of Pogues hits with the aid of chords being shouted across the stage and the words being held up by an audience member. Absolutely brilliant. Son had a ball; shrieking, clapping and grinning from ear to ear. He wanted to go and dance at the front but was too scared as it was dark, so had to make do with spinning me round instead.

As soon as the Rogues had finished, we nipped over to the ruined church to see the Lanterns Of Terracotta Warriors Exhibition. The lanterns were originally made to mark the Beijing Olympics and this was the first time they had been seen outside China.

I hadn’t expected much really, I only popped in because I thought it would make a nice photograph, so the atmosphere inside the old church took me completely by surprise. Even with a main road and a circus just outside, as you stepped through the arched doorway the sounds seemed to melt away to almost silence. On a warm, summery night, the air was cool and an air of stillness and calm filled the ruins. It would have been lovely to stay a while and wander between the lanterns, but time was ticking on.

As I mentioned before, the layout of the sites was not great. The entrance to the Weekender was at the opposite end of the site to where we were. If there had been an entrance at this end, it would have been about half a mile to the main stage. The way it was set out meant going way past the main stage, then doubling back to actually get in, making it about a mile in total. There was less than 15 minutes of Beatlemania’s set left. I had a three year old in a pushchair and a couple of bags to carry. I am so unfit it’s ridiculous.

“Can we see the Beatles now, mammy, pleeeaaase, can we?” I should have explained that we were too far away, told him they’d finished early, anything so that he didn’t get his hopes up. What I actually said was, “Course we can. Hold on tight, mammy’s gonna leg it.” What??? What the hell did I just say? Oh crap.

Son thought it was brilliant, he was cheering me on all the way. Half way there and we could hear Beatlemania, but they were on the other side of the fence singing Back in the USSR. They’ll never finish with that, I thought, we’ve got a few minutes. My head went a bit fuzzy after that. I remember making it on site, son shouting “to the front” and pointing manically, getting him out of the pushchair and lifting him up…and they walked off stage.

Son’s face fell. “But where have they gone, mammy?”

I *may* have shouted something at the empty stage, like “how about getting back out here and singing us some songs, don’t you know I’ve just legged it across town for you lot?” Not that it made any difference as I’m sure the encore would have been planned already! Ha ha, we made it! They even saved son’s two favourite Beatles songs until the very end when he was up on my shoulders, waving his arms and singing along. Couldn’t have timed it any better, a superb end to the night.

 

 

ShowOff Showcase

Everybody’s Gone SIRFin’…

19 Aug

…SIRFin’… by the Tees?!!?

And what fun we had too! A couple of weeks ago we went to the 25th Stockton International Riverside Festival. It’s a fantastic free festival featuring a variety of performances from around the world. I remember going as a child and it was one of the few things that I missed when I lived down south, so I’ve been looking forward to the time when my son was old enough to enjoy it too.

I took him last year, just for a couple of hours. He seemed to enjoy it but that was enough for him and I don’t think he was impressed by the lack of ZingZillas. This year, however, he was a proper little festival goer.

The first show we saw was the official opening event, Prometheus Awakes, on the Thursday night. As it didn’t start until 10pm, son was told he could only go if he had a sleep in the afternoon. He had already seen some pictures of what was on and was really excited about going. I mean, what three year old wouldn’t get excited about going out after bedtime to see an 8 metre tall puppet walk down the high street?

With images projected onto nearby buildings, dancers on stage and mass aerial choreography, a cast of over 60 disabled and non-disabled volunteers from the north-east, not to mention the giant form of Prometheus making his way down the high street, it was a spectacular start to the festival. There is a video on the SIRF website if you’d like to see for yourself.