Saturday, 23 August 2014

West Midlands Safari Park Review

West Midlands Safari Park Review-August 2014

Disclaimer: all opinions expressed are my own. I have not been paid for this review by the companies mentioned.

There’s a lot to be said about pre-School children/toddlers. They develop likes quicker than some celebrities change partners. But one thing that is usually a given is they have a favourite animal. My little one loves animals-in particular penguins and big cats. I really have no idea where she developed this love for penguins as I am a lover of Giraffes and yes big cats. It’s a unique quirk of her personality and like any other parent we try to encourage her to have ‘likes’ that are specific to her and her only in the family.

As a child I have fond memories of visiting Farms, the odd Theme Park and the Zoo. I loved the Zoo. Exotic animals to look at in the UK?! Yes please! My particular love for a certain West Midlands Safari Park started back when in 1995 and I have been in love with it since.

Now that I have two children of my own to keep occupied I found a new reason to visit WMSP. I wanted little ones to learn about the animals that they cannot see walking around in the wild. I also want them to develop from a young age an ethos that includes conservation of animals (in particular those which are vulnerable). One of my biggest fears is there will be animals my girls won’t be able to see when they are older as they will become extinct. So my approach is this-actively encourage my children to visit Zoos/Farms/Sanctuaries and allow their love of animals to develop.

So enough of my mission to create children who understand the importance of conservation let’s get onto the bit you guys want to read about West Midlands Safari Park.

Safari's are thirty work; so be prepared
I shop as Tesco (before the do-gooders start calling for me to be stoned to death please note I haven’t done a shop at Tesco since pre-Ramadan 2014). I collect Clubcard points. I love the Clubcard points and when I get the chance to boost them I am literally on a high. I get giddy calculating my savings. Oh the sheer bliss of being frugal. After using my points last year to take little on to WMSP before her sister was born I decided I wanted to take her back there as she is now older and more into animals than when she was 2 & 1/2. As soon as the Clubcard ‘sale’ came up I was quick to order tickets for WMSP as well as tickets for Blackpool Zoo. Tickets to WMSP (excluding the rides) cost £17.99 per adult and £12.99 per child. Under threes are admitted free. This price also includes a return visit. However this visit must be carried out in the same car that you used on the original trip as the ticket has your car registration on (as well as noting how many people were in the car). If you some reason you cannot do this e.g. you sold your car you can contact WMSP with evidence of this fact and they are more than happy to help. Even when you purchase your tickets via the Club card scheme you are still given a free returns voucher which stretches your points even further. Even if you pay the full admissions price you are in for a treat (and so are the little ones).

One piece of advice I do have for those who hate queues. Always check the traffic updates for the route you will be taking and like any other attraction avoid peak times as the self drive safari will take you 2 hours which can be a problem with little ones in the car.

Smile for the camera
After a 90 minute drive to WMSP we had two very excited children who wanted to see the big cats and Pingu. We got to the park around 1:30 (don’t ask folks) and there were no queues into the park. We exchanged the vouchers for admission tickets and soon commenced the self drive 2 hour safari in the heart of the Midlands.  

Little one was extremely excited. We decided to take both our children out of their car seats. We weighed the pros and cons and decided that as the car would be traveling at a very slow speed we didn’t feel there was a need for them to be buckled in throughout the safari. Plus when we visited last year little one hated being stuck in one static position and that put a damper on her enjoyment. So we decided to let little ones roam around in the car. And we were not the only ones; other parents clearly had a similar idea as we saw many little people sitting on their parents laps.

Once we had snacks and drinks sorted (remember it was a 2 hour safari) we set of to enjoy the views.

The safari itself is 4 miles across 100 acres of land set in the heart of the Midlands between Kidderminster and Bewdley. The safari is organised by areas which are:

African Plains where you will find the herd of southern white rhinos, my favourites the giraffes as well as zebras, Ankole cattle, Congo buffalo, ostrich and eland (the largest of all antelope species (to name but a few)

The Grasslands is home to the Barbary sheep, the Persian fallow (which is endangered) and the Adder snake-yes a snake! Believe it or not it’s the only venomous snake that resides in the UK.

The Wild Woods is home to the very playful dholes.

Wild Asia is where you will find Asian water buffalos, sambar deer, Przewalkski’s horse, Philippine spotted deer, barasingha (translated=12 horns) as well as the magnificent greater one horned rhino who look like they are wearing a coat of truly pretty armour.

The Tiger Ridge where you’ve guessed it you will find the gorgeous stripy Tigers.

Cheetah Plains is home to the world’s fastest land mammal. Quite frankly I don’t favour my chances of outrunning these beauties that can reach up to 70 miles an hour.

Land of the Painted Dog-I don’t think I would ever say this about a predator but these guys are cute. But of course they are wild dogs so yes they are scary too.

Realm of the Lions is the patch of the Safari where you will find the stars of the show the African Lions. Simply beautiful.

Kingdom of the White Lions is what I look forward to out of the big cats. These beautiful creatures are not albino. Seeing these guys in the wild is very very rare so it’s a privilege to see them here.

Asian Lowlands is home to the addax, bactrian camels, fallow deer and banteng-to name a few of the residents of this part of the park.

Elephant Valley is now to the very happy and cheery African elephants which include a baby that my little one named Dumbo.

We were lucky enough to see the majority of the animals. We didn’t spot any adders (for which I am grateful for believe me).

Me feeding a giraffe
The park has clear signs dotted around reminding you to keep your windows closed (where appropriate) and whether or not you can feed the animals (feed boxes are available at the kiosks priced at £3.00 per box). There is also advice on how to feed animals which I found useful as I got the chance to feed the elegant and truly breathtaking giraffes. You put your hand out (arm full stretched) and open your hand. The animals happily take a nibble. And when you want to stop feeding the beauties you turn your hand and drop the feed on the floor and put your hand back in the car.

Once you complete the safari you will find ample parking. The park also provides lots of hand washing facilities as well as toilets that are clean. Hooray! Clean lavatories. Believe me it’s hard to find a venue that is clean during the holiday period. Yes there was a bit of a stink in the toilets but what would you expect? Little ones can sometimes ‘miss’ their aim and well a stink here and there can only be expected.

Once we were parked up I was getting hungry. As a lot of you guys will know I prefer to take my own picnic for two main reasons-for variety and to be more cost effective. I noticed some of the prices at the food booth and noticed some of the prices. A portion of chips cost under £3.00. Drinks included Pepsi however I didn’t notice the prices on them. There were a variety of ice-creams including Wall’s ice-creams.

After a two hour drive around there was plenty more to see. For the older children and families there’s a Discovery Trail that will keep you amused whatever the weather. Activities include talks on various animals.

For those who love a good show don’t miss the 15 minute Sea Lion show. The theatre becomes quite packed so you may wish to get a seat about 15 minutes before the show.

If you like Creepy Crawlies you can have a look around the place (called Creepy Crawlies) which includes goliath tarantulas and a plague of locusts.

The SeaQuarium is home to Nemo (I meant clown fish) and piranhas.

And if that’s not enough to get your adventurous side you can visit Mark O’Shea’s Reptile World where you will meet crocodiles, snapping turtles and vipers!

For those like me who prefer fluffy creatures you will find them in the African Village and the Lemur Woods. You will find three types of Lemurs around all equally as fluffy as each other. And once you have walked around and enjoyed looking at them move onto our favourites-the Meerkats. These little creatures are not only our favourites thanks to clever TV marketing the fact they interact with their audiences makes them family friendly. Our little ones just stood there talking to these beautiful animals and they stood there listening. Stunning creatures and a must see at the Safari Park.

Whilst you are in this area of the park don’t forget to take a peak at the goats too who live nearby in the Goat Park.

And for the Pingu lovers out there you simply cannot miss the Penguin Cove which is home to a family of Humboldt penguins. These fun guys are great to watch. Both girls loved watching them. I’m sure little one was asking her sister for Pinga.

The Hippo Lake is well home to the hippos! You can take a walk up to the viewing platform to watch this huge animals relax in the lake. Great spot for taking photos of them too.

There are many facilities dotted around the park for families. There were various eateries, first aid points, toilets and shops to buy a memento or two. Little one dug for a dino egg (cost £3.00 per egg; however every player wins a prize). Once your little one finds the egg they get to pick a dinosaur toy. We picked a pink one and named her. She later married Rex from Toy Story. There were plenty of suitable backdrops for family photos too including a Safari Jeep all kited out for well a Safari.

And the fun doesn’t stop when you’ve seen all the animals. There’s also the Theme Park to explore (for an additional cost to the admission price). We decided to purchase a cub wristband which gave little one unlimited access to rides in the Tiny Tots Theme Park. These rides included a mini pirate ship, a train, magic carpet ride and our favourite a carousel (plus other rides). The wrist band cost £7.99 and covered 7 rides which little one could actually ride on. We thought that was a reasonable cost to keep little one entertained. She went on the rides a few times and liked the independence. This park of the park is designed for under 120 cm talk people making it ideal for little people like our oldest.

Older children can ride on the other rides that shape the Theme Park landscape however we chose not to look around the rides little ones wouldn’t be able to enjoy.

Adult wristbands cost £11.99 (16-64 years of age). Children’s cost £10.99 (2-15 years of age).
Summer nights mean longer opening times at the Park-9PM in fact giving families plenty of time to enjoy the park. We managed to last until around 6PM before we got tired. There was a picnic area situated in the Tiny Tots part of the Park which is where little one enjoyed her second picnic of the day.

Asian Elephant
There were plenty of bins dotted over the park and the park was clean and tidy. I am aware that paying the entry fees seems like a lot of money however this is now I justify the cost:
  • You get two visits for the price of one
  • You get a 2 hour safari drive
  • You get to see penguins
  • There’s a Sea Lion show
  • There are meerkats, Lemurs, goats-plenty of ‘fluffy’ animals for little ones to look at, interact with and enjoy being around
  • The park is clean and tidy
  • You can take your own picnic as there are picnic areas
  • The staff were friendly and interacted with children extremely well
  • If you want to pay extra and enjoy the rides you can do so
  • There are plenty show times enabling you to enjoy the shows throughout the day at a pace that suits your family rather than rushing around the park
  • It’s a Park that is built for families and caters for families.
And if you can get hold of the tickets via Tesco Clubcards or other schemes it’s even better value for money.

What did I think of the food?
We took our own picnic so cannot comment as little one only had an Ice-cream (feast).

What did we pack?
a white Tiger having a nap.

The usual-a change of clothes, changing bag, sunglasses for all the family, feeds for little one, picnic, cameras as well as a small first aid kit and wellie boots. Oh and various audio stories for in-car entertainment.

Would we go again?
Yes, yes yes. In fact we plan to go back around October time as the children enjoyed it (as did we).

Highlight of the kids day:
Too many to mention-although I think they loved the Penguins and Meerkat moments

Highlight of the adults day:
Feeding the giraffe and Ostrich! Little ones hid when they saw the animals coming over to the car.

A beautiful tiger-all photos are my own

Any advice for visitors:

Give yourself plenty of time between activities. Take enough snacks and drinks to keep you fueled during the 2 hour Safari. Keep costs down by taking your own picnic. Pack for the varied weather the Midlands is famed for. Don’t forget your camera.

Enjoy your day guys and if you visit let me know what you guys thought of it.



Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Keeping little ones amused in Summer

Wonderful Wonderland Telford Review
Disclaimer: This review is based on a trip we took to Wonderland in August 2014. This review is not endorsed and I paid for the tickets from my own pocket.
Fairytales; a place you escaped to as a child. A place that was not only magical but a safe haven from the harsh world of being a child with strict parents who wouldn’t let you stay out late, you weren’t allowed unlimited amounts of fizzy pop like your friends. It was a place you wanted to go. You wanted to climb into the book and sit and watch the dwarfs sing their way to the mines. But as you grew up that world was pushed to the back of your mind as other thoughts started to develop. Nursery rhymes no longer appeal as your musical tastes morph quickly.
Your world became cluttered with make up, boy bands, latest fashion trends and gossip from the playground and later college canteen. Sometimes though when the world became a daunting place some of us wanted to escape to that place in the Fairytales. The place where the woodlands were full of small cottages, Rapunzel lived up a tower and Snow White spent her days cleaning and cooking for her 7 little friends. As I became an adult my love of Fairytales never faded.
I still love Disney movies and believe it or not I believe in the type of love Rapunzel shares with Eugene in Tangled. The love that makes you fuzzy. I also believe in a love that is pure-the love that a Mother feels for her newborn; the feeling that never ever goes away.
So fast forward to be being a parent of a 3 year old. A three year old that owns a lot of glittery pink princess like stuff-dolls, books, fancy dress costumes...crowns everything. Little one happily lives in a world where Mother Gothel lives in the castle near us (the castle being a church). Her dresses come from the same shop as where the princesses would shop-in her world she is a Princess in training. So what would be the best thing ever for a child who loves Princesses and Fairytales? Well that was the question and we decided to look into a place called Wonderland.
Which way; this way. That way.
Wonderland Telford is a place where Snow white lives in the woods and you can pan for gold. The Mad Hatter can be seen wondering around. Alice can be seen wondering around in between tea parties. It’s a place where Fairytales are brought to life. Yes you read that correctly-Fairytales come to life.
After a bit of research I came across a Groupon offer for Wonderland and started planning our visit. The idea of brushing shoulders with fairies and characters out of world famous Fairytales had me giddy; and when I explained to little one where we were going I no longer had a child I could persuade to calm down. We planned the trip as I always do; packed the bags, bought the snacks/food supplies and we got the car ready to make the hour long journey to Telford.
After reading varying reviews I was hoping that the magical appeal would outweigh the old, battered and tired venue I was picturing. I hoped my 3 and a half year old would run into enough of her Fairytale friends to be excited about being at Wonderland.
When we got to Wonderland we found the car park which is currently experiencing some work. It was quite packed to say the least; possibly because it was free parking on the day and Telford Town park is also quite close by. After five minutes we managed to find a slot. We parked up, got the pushchair in order and loaded on the supplies for the day.
The first member of staff we came across was a young man at the main who was very cheerful and friendly. Clearly he liked his job; he chatted away to little one who explained she was here to see the fairies. We exchanged our voucher for our admission stickers and away we went. The first thing I noticed was the venue wasn’t noisy; there was a genuine happy buzz of children laughing in the air.
The park was clean with ample bins dotted about to help keep Wonderland clean. Little one became memorised instantly as we walked around.
She came across the Giant who she wanted to ask if he’d seen Jack lately. Quickly she joined a queue to go on the white rabbit ride and became excited at having a cart to herself. Queuing time was less than five minutes and soon we were walking around Wonderland discovering the world of Fairytales through the eyes of a child. There wasn’t just exploring to do and cottages and houses to find; there were also rides (yes rides) to experience. And like any good attraction aimed at families of young ones these rides were suitable for little one.
The idea of being in the woods and seeing Snow Whites house for the first time was magical. Little one was not aware of the fact that Mama found the robotic movements of Snow White extremely scary; she was more concerned about the fact the dwarfs were not opening the door. And as we manoeuvred around Wonderland we came across:
  • The Gingerbread Mans House
  • Humpty Dumpty & the Kings Soldiers
  • The Mat Hatter
  •  Alice (from Alice in Wonderland)
  •  Woodland Fairy (we kept calling her Tinkerbell)
  •  Snow White-who in my opinion suited the role so well
  •  The Gold Mine where the dwarfs work (and you can pan for gold and even buy gems for a couple of quid. But you will need to find a couple of white pieces of *gold* whilst panning for gold too).
  •  Little Red Riding Hood
  •  Goldilocks and the Three Bears  
  • The Three Little Pigs-plus Mr Fox who was preparing to cook the pigs
  • The Shoe House-complete with lots of children
  • The crooked house-with the little old man having a cup of tea 
  • Ben 10 (yes I accept that is fairly random. What is intriguing is he was hanging out with Alice)
  • Santa's Cottage-but he was on Holiday
  • Dinosaurs
Before anyone points out that Humpty Dumpty is from a Nursery Rhyme I know. Wonderland also features Nursery Rhyme characters but they didn't really appeal to a 3 year old obsessed with Fairytales.
We also noticed a Maze but didn’t get the chance to try it as oldest became very tired.
And there was also Crazy Golf-again we didn’t get the chance to try this although my two don’t really understand the concept of golf; yet.
Indoor soft play-which I think was enjoyed more by the youngest. It was a small-ish area however was well maintained and clean.
And the excitement didn’t stop there. Oh no. There were rides to try.
Our favourites included:
  • The Mad Hatters Tea Party (both bambinos loved this ride) 
  • White Rabbit Ride
  • Santa’s Sleigh (both children went on with an adult)
  • The carousel (which both children loved)
  • Alice’s Bouncy Castle-not sure if there are many 3 year olds who don’t like bouncy castles?
  • The Fairy Disco-yes it's not a ride but it kept little ones amused with games for around 30 minutes!
So as you can see there was plenty to keep little ones amused. Then at PM a disco started. Yes a disco with games. And the children were more than willing to dance and sing along.
We bought our picnic from a Supermarket as I was pushed for time. We noticed plenty of clean places to enjoy our picnic. If the weather is good and you can fit a picnic blanket in the grassy area which hosts the stage and maypole would be a great place to enjoy your food. You may find insects hovering about as there are trees dotted about.
We didn’t use the food facilities so in all honesty cannot review them.
First Aid:
We didn’t need to use this facility but as always I was carrying a small First Aid kit.
Little one was so tired that we didn’t actually get to go in the gift shop.
The toilets were actually clean. No horrid smells. No puddles of mysterious liquids. Plenty of soap and taps that work-hooray! I like the idea that there are signs promoting hygiene in the baby changing facilities. You are asked to spray the changing mat and wipe it after use-great stuff. I did notice that they had run out of blue towels by PM.
Ticket pricing:
I used a Groupon voucher which we purchased for £12.00 for a family of four. Considering that I found this day out as a bargain as both children enjoyed it. There were plenty of photo opportunities as the characters were more than happy to stop and pose for a photo or two.
Under two’s are free to enter Wonderland.
Standard prices are:
Adults £7.45
Children £7.95
OAP: £6.45
Now I know a lot of parents will be up in arms about the price but please keep in mind that you are getting an outdoor adventure, rides, soft play and even a disco for the price. If you look at it like that the price is fabulous. I pay around £4.00 for just soft play so an extra £3.95 seems a bargain to me. So even at full price Wonderland is simply wonderful.
What to pack:
The usual really.
  • Food if you plan to take your own picnic.
  • Picnic blanket
  • Nappy changing bag-with supplies
  • Bottles/formula/baby food  
  • Mini first aid kit 
  • Spare clothes
  • Raincoats, wellies and other weather appropriate clothing
  • Camera
Would I go again?
It’s about the little ones-and they loved it. Yes the park does look a bit dated and some of the paths seem to have seen better days. However finding an attraction that is stroller friendly and caters for the needs of little ones can sometimes prove impossible. Plus the park wasn’t full bursting at the seems-even in summer holidays which is a blessing. The staff were friendly, the park was clean. There was more than enough to keep little ones amused.
There’s a Pirates and Princesses event on the August Bank Holiday Monday (25th). I may go back-you never know. Maybe Wonderland will want us to come back and try the Maze and Crazy Golf?! We will return to the enchanted woodland of Wonderland.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Gulliver's Warrington review

The wonderful world of Gulliver’s-Warrington

Note: I am writing this review based on my own experiences. I paid for our own tickets-this review is not endorsed by anyone.

When you have children your idea of entertainment and a day out are no longer a an afternoon of shopping followed by dinner at a fancy restaurant. Oh no. Soft play will be your ultimate destination and if you are lucky a leftover Happy Meal will be your five star lunch (as voted for by kiddies). Your DVD collection will be replaced by Scooby Doo, Disney and random films that your little cherubs have developed a thing for (Minions anyone?). And a day out starts with military planning. You check the weather, stroller access, what food outlets are on site and how much it will cost to keep your bambinos entertained. You then buy tickets, plan wardrobes and pack your nappy changing bag like you are off into the Sahara dessert or Antarctic depending on what time of the year it is. You then pack a bag of snacks and drinks. Then and maybe then you can sleep easy and leave the house by a reasonable hour. Okay so now that you understand that you are not the only parent who runs around like a loony on redbull let’s get cracking (by the way Mamas-I have a list that I use when I am packing for days out-if you would like it please let me know).

My three and half year old have developed a thrill seekers streak. She wants everyone to drive faster, and wants to go down slides head first. I do wonder if my love of adrenaline rides has worn off on little one but that’s a different story. After our semi-disastrous trip to Alton Towers I decided that I should look for a venue aimed just at kids. No really these places exist outside the world of soft play zones. The venue also needed to be within at least an hours drive-after all my 1 year old doesn’t enjoy audiobooks the way the older one does (oh yes, your CD collection will consist of Disney soundtracks-altogether now "the cold never bothered me annnnnyyyyywaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy). So with that we decided to give Gullivers World in Warrington a go.

Cost wise I must admit we had a strike of good luck-the park had discounted tickets for their Ben and Holly weekend and as some parents will know a lot of little folk are madly in love with these lovable fairies and elves. So I booked tickets at £9.00 per person. I checked the weather *sunshine-wow* and did some research online to access what was worth potentially queuing for. Some of the reviews slated the park no end. Other reviews were glowing (easily pleased perhaps?). Either way I was going to experience this place for myself.

We got to the park at around 11:30 (with oldest dresses as a Princess) and there was ample parking available-on a grassy area. We noted that if we wanted to park on the official car park we needed to arrive earlier. We decided to arrive late as my children can only really last between 3-4 hours before their batteries run flat.

We noticed a queue for tickets and bypassed them with our printed out online bargains. The staff were friendly and told us what time we could expect Ben and Holly to make an appearance on the main stage.

As soon as we got into the park the oldest was happy-very happy. The type of happy were children scream with delight. The park was clean with enough bins dotted around to keep it clean. We had a brief sit down whilst little ones had an early lunch of sandwiches (we took our own packed lunch based on the reviews of the eateries at the park-I won’t risk eating horrid food I have to pay silly money for). After lunch we waited in a small queue to have our photos taken with Ben and Holly. There was no pushing or shoving-the kids were very well behaved and the parents too.

We got our photos taken and quickly moved onto the rides. The first thing I noticed was-NO QUEUES for the rides. You read that right! No queues! And...most of the rides were suitable for a three and a half to ride-across the whole park. Not only that but a lot of rides were under cover so if rain did appear it wouldn’t spoil the day. And the icing on the cake? There were rides the oldest could ride alone and rides we could take littlest on too.

Best rides & some worth avoiding:

The best bits:
  • Tree top Swings
  • Carousel
  • Leonard’s flying raft
  • Caterpillar Rollercoaster
  • Runaway train coaster
  • Mad hatters Tea party (cups)
  • Barrel ride
  • Ellie’s Animal Merry Go Round
  • Pirate ship
  • Adventure Canyons (especially in damp/hot weather-insect overload)
  • Tomb raiders-I’ve never seen a more bored 3 and a half year old in my life *enough said*
  • Water rides-unless you have a poncho to protect clothing as wet kids tend to be grumpy. I’ve seen some cheap ponchos around so buy before you go.
Okay it’s rant time....

Hygiene of the toilets and baby changing facilities

The smell of wee drives me insane. For crying out loud how hard is it to maintain clean floors when you claim to check the toilets every hour?! I used the toilets near Ellie’s Animal Merry Go Round and there was enough water on the floor to provide a group of barbie dolls with a lake. There were two toilets that needed a good clean (why do some people NOT flush toilets?!). The smell? Bloody awful. Baby changing facilities were okay-but still needed a good clean to be up to my standards (sorry there Gulliver’s).

I also had the misfortune of using one set of toilets that had net curtains in them that looked like they needed binning. Yuck. The rest of the park was clean and tidy.

I would suggest that you do not sit near the bins or pedalos to have something to eat. The wasps will drive you insane (that’s if you have any sanity left with being the parent of a toddler/pre-schooler).

We only purchased a bottle of water and ice creams on site. The prices were reasonable.
As mentioned before this was due to reviews we read. Plus let’s face it-food is generally overpriced at Theme parks. We did see a parent complaining the fresh doughnuts she had purchased were rock hard. Not sure if they are meant to be inedible. A new diet trend perhaps? We took our own food and found plenty of suitable places to sit down and enjoy food. There is also sheltered picnic areas for when the weather is less than sunny.

First aid:
We didn’t require it however I always carry a small kit with me. I have three kits made up and left in changing bags and in the bag we take with us to the local park. Plasters, a few antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream and dry antiseptic spray and we are usually good to go.

What to pack:
  • A picnic (if you are looking at a frugal meal)
  • A small cool bag to keep drinks cool in. I froze a couple of boxes of juice and took them out in the morning. Not only did we have cool drinks but the boxes kept the food cool too.
  • Hats, glasses, sun cream
  • If you are visiting in potential wet weather take wellies
  • Your camera-unlike places like Alton Towers Gulliver's
  • have limited on ride photography
  • Wipes-ideally the antibacterial ones you use around the home. For use on chairs, baby changing and even toilets.
  • Your usual baby changing supplies
  • Your usual baby feeding stuff. I recommend that you take food pouches for little ones as they are easier to transport.
Ticket pricing
Buying in advance like many other things is more cost effective than buying on the day. There are plenty of special events at Gulliver’s Warrington-from weekends dedicated to Grandparents to Father’s Day events which often include special discounts (e.g. Daddy goes free).

Would I go again?
Well we did. We visited twice in June. We attended the Ben and Holly Weekend and then a Toddler Thursday where we paid £5.00 per person. The only ride we noticed closed was the pedalos. Would I pay full price? That’s a hard one. Yes I would only because this place made little ones happy.

We went into the shop to have a little look around and walked out with a Princess Gully mouse. She cost us less than £15.00.

Final thoughts:
Yes the park would do with a bit of a makeover. A lick of paint would be lovely. The park does look tired however let’s be realistic; kids love this place. Children can ride the majority of rides-which is the appeal of this place. Not many three year olds will notice how the paint in chipped and some of the gazebo fabric needs repairing/replacing. What matters is the little one have fun-and they did.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The hype was the best bit-a review and rant about Cbeebies Land @ Alton Towers

Disclaimer: This review expresses my own personal views and is not endorsed by a third party. These opinions are based on my visit to Cbeebies Land on the 2nd of June 2014. The Merlin passes we own as a family were bought with our own hard earned money.

Alton Towers how I used to love thee. Then a magical change happened in 2010 and I became a parent. At first I wondered if I would ever love theme parks the way I loved them before. Then I discovered that those rides which I thought were a waste of precious theme park space were actually for little people-game on!

Fast forward to 2014 and I now have two bambinos. The little one who is under 1 clearly at this stage doesn’t understand the delights and thrill of the theme park setting whereas the three and half year old does. And team her understanding with the Merlin adverts for ‘Cbeebies land’ that is hard to avoid on channels such as Nick Junior and a day at Alton Towers is an instant smash hit-or so it would seem.

We planned our visit with military precision. I have a list of items I take on day trips which includes a spare set of clothes per child, plasters, more than enough spare nappies and healthy nibbles. I checked the weather and with a chance of rain I packed my little ones wellies. Sun cream was slapped on, kids strapped in. Pushchair tyres checked. Everyone present. Merlin Passes packed. It was time to go (of course my husbands check list for a day out consists of: having car washed, mini valet and topping up fuel).

The excitement built up the closer we got to Postman Pat and friends. Our little one kept asking if we were there yet. Saying that though she actually asked that before we pulled out of our street.

We got to Alton Towers and hit a bit of a queue on the way in. No biggie I thought. Maybe they are families with teenagers. But as he got closer to a car parking space it dawned on me that a lot of parents had the same idea as me-they brought their children to cbeebies land the first day Schools were open again to make the most of the park. After all under 4’s maybe free however parents/guardians pay nearly £50.00 for the joy of tagging along to the place where the magical allegedly never ends.

We were still extremely excited. We ended up joining a very long queue for the Monorail to the park (really who in the right mind would want to walk with toddlers/preschoolers for 15/20 to get to the park?).

After getting to the pay kiosks the queues dispersed as people filtered themselves to the queues with less customers. We still queued as we needed a ticket for little one and we also wanted to get our car parking ticket on the way in rather than later when the park exists would be very busy. As usual there were people attempting to sell tickets to the park by the kiosks at a heavily discount price.

Parking is £6.00 which personally I think is a lot when you think your car is left at it’s own risk. Has anyone ever seen any security on the car parks? No, neither have I. I do think Merlin Pass holders should be offered a discount on parking-but that’s a different rant I shall save for later.

We went through the turn stalls and were officially in the park. We quickly made our way to Cbeebies land. And as soon as we got there my disappointment started. There were no ‘characters’ to be seen anywhere. Cbeebies related music and sounds were being blasted. Yes the area is covered with familiar looking images but it had the feel of a fairground. Cheap. Almost tacky. But our little ones were excited so we played along. We found a seat for my husband to wait with the little one whilst I took the older one on some rides. Now please prepare yourselves as I am about to shout:


Sorry the shouting isn’t over:


Nope I’m not done guys:

It’S AN ABSOLUTELY NOT ACCEPTABLE to believe 3 year olds or 4 year olds will wait for 70 minutes to get on a ride! Who came up with limited number of rides in Cbeebies Land should face the axe (okay so I'm getting a bit emotional-still someone needs to look at the problem here).

Oh and instead of doing something logical to keep children entertained they were selling their BBC theme balloons for £5.00! Blimey Merlin empty out parents before home time won’t you? And for a fiver you could get your face painted outside of Cbeebies land however the stall was chained up. Plenty of vendors were offering ice-cream. The cheapest I noticed was the Walls ‘feet’ ice cream lollies from the 80’s at £1.50 each in Cbeebies land and at the ice-cream van situated outside of Cbeebies land towards Mutiny Bay.

Ice-cream near Wobble World is in my opinion over priced. £1.95 for one scoop of carte dor ice cream?

Listen up Alton Towers bosses-you need to soften the blow of shocking long waits. How’s about the following:

Balloon modeling (and give the balloons to children waiting in the queues).

Face painters-you shockingly charge £5-7.00 for this service. You need to offer quick face painting at a reduced price if not free to children in the queues. Also where are the characters? Surely kids will be able to meet postman pat? That adds to the atmosphere. May a photo opportunity can help kids in the queues too. And lastly BUBBLES! Bubbles distract children like no ones business.

What about general entertainers? Entertainers to keep children happy. How about jugglers? Actually I think I have given you enough ideas for free.

Also-the parent and toddler ticket should also be offered in Summer. Parents with little ones are highly unlikely to tackle the bigger rides when they are visiting with children so please be reasonable and offer a ticket price that is affordable for this audience.

Please someone tell me the bosses at Alton Towers have young children and they understand how they work?!

Okay so there were 70 minutes queues to go on the Postman Pat Ride. So we couldn’t get on. Then there was a 70 minute queue to get on the in the night garden boat right. And then there was an 45 minute wait to get into Justin’s pie making factory. Okay Merlin. Let’s talk. These rides I assume as targeted at Cbeebies viewers-yes? How many of these viewers do you think will wait in excess of an hour to get on a ride?

So I know Alton Towers will say queues are the fairest way to get people onto rides; I agree. However I think you need to take a look at this system whereby no ride has a queue that’s longer than say 30 minutes. Maybe the ride queue can be ‘closed’ at the 30 minute mark and reopened once it gets to 3 minutes? And rides that are less busy should be ‘pushed’ by the staff. Other areas of the park should also be ‘highlighted’ for those who do have children who are able to go on a small selection of other rides. More needs to be done about these queues in Cbeebies Land.

We managed to get onto the Numtums ride (10 minute wait-acceptable for a pre-schooler). And Charlie and Lola’s house which little one loved. It’s awfully small though. We loved the projected ‘sea’ with ‘fish fingers’ swimming in it. Once little one set food on the water the fish swam away and ripples formed. Good entertainment for crawling babies too.

The queues spoiled the day. My husband was intrigued by where the older children came from (‘don’t they go School?’). There was sadly no way our little one would be able to queue that long. So we made our way to Mutiny Bay for a bit to eat at Eastern Spice.

The mini review on this place is the prices are reasonable and of course as I was looking for somewhere that did burgers (as little one requested one at 8 in the morning) the only halal place at Alton Towers is this. We have chicken burgers and chips which were £4.99 per person. Burgers are served in a pitta. Chips are chunky. Nothing to write home about however I do have some suggestions for these guys:

How’s about a dressing on the lettuce in the burger?

And is the possible to have some seasoning on the chips? I mean yes you have salt and vinegar. I’m talking something spicier.

Also summers here. How’s about something lighter? Chaats (Indo/Pak salads) are filling and great in summer.

The prices for the food in my opinion were reasonable. £2.00 for a bottle of diet coke was a bit too much though. But I guess that’s what you pay across the park and businesses need to break even.

After dinner we headed to cloud cuckoo land as there were a few rides we felt little one would love to go on and hopefully the queues would be less too. After a lovely journey via the sky ride we managed to go on the carousel, driving school, wobbleworld (which is a giant bouncy castle.

It was bloody good however I wasn’t allowed on-actually no parents were allowed on) and our little ones favourite the froghopper. The queues were almost non-existent in this part of the park-there was a slight wait for Ice Age-4D however I put that down to people wanting an easy ride after lunch.

I do have a bone to pick in regards to the cost of the ‘driving licence’ which is an optional extra you can purchase after you’ve attended the driving school. It cost £10.00 for a piece of card placed in a cover. Okay yes, it’s nice and pink for little girls however there’s no discount for Merlin pass holders. That doesn’t seem fair considering it does contain a photo which are discounted via the pass. But £10.00? Seriously I think the price would be better at £5.00 per child. What if you have two or three children wanting licence?

We headed back to Cbeebies land and found queues were still around but were now at 45 minutes .That is still a long wait. Little one went on the numtums ride again and wanted to go see Charlie and Lola too. According to the staff the rides should have closed at PM but were extended to 5:30. Alton Towers bosses that simply isn’t enough!

More needs to be put in place to make this Cbeebies land a hit as it should be. I’m not a person that constantly complains-however I am fully aware that if enough customers complain that the service being offered is simply not acceptable something will need to be done. I am not saying boycott the venue-I’m saying let Merlin/Alton Towers know the service being offered via Cbeebies land is a shambles. I’m sorry to keep repeating this but the idea of a 3/4 year old waiting 70 minutes to get on a ride is flawed. Someone needs to go back to the drawing board. It doesn’t bare thinking about what the queues will be like in August. Shudder at the thought of those queues.

Will I be going back? Well we have Merlin passes so actually I will be going back to see if Alton Towers have wised up to the fact they have possible misunderstood their clientele for Cbeebies Land. Will I review Alton Towers again? Yes, as I do hope they buckle up soon.

I think realistically though you need a lot of spending money because there are too many 'extras' aimed at little ones. To keep costs down you could take a picnic in disposable containers so you wouldn't need to carry the empty items around. Ice-cream prices start at £1.50 so depending on the heat you may purchase two during the day per child. Then there are balloons. Oh and don't get me started on the games you 'could win' a minion on. Plus photos. Oh and 'driving licences' at £10.00 a pop. Balloons at £5.00 each. Face painting at £5-7.00. Shocking prices make a very expensive day out. You could be frugal but you would need to get your children on side before you go and explain the situation. My three year old is a bit too young to understand how items in Alton Towers are more expensive then elsewhere as it's about making money. But hey, if you do manage to get your kids on board with the idea of a frugal trip to Cbeebies Land and beyond I say kudos to you.

Let’s hope Alton Towers take note and something is done about bedlam that is Cbeebies Land. In the meantime my little one thinks Postman Pat is poorly and Justin’s factory was closed due to Monster being naughty. Those are the lies I told which I plan to stick to Alton Towers! I won’t let my little one cry because a load of bigwigs didn’t quite understand the mentality of their target audience.

Do I think Cbeebies Land is a value for money day out? Absolutely not-sorry Alton Towers. Under 4’s maybe free but just think of the cost of the parents/guardians. Then there's the various cleverly placed 'extras' children want and parents usually give into pressure as it's a day out for their children.

As I write this I am thinking about this weekend coming. We are off to Gulliver’s World for a Teddy Bears Picnic and to meet Ben and Holly and if their service is not up to scratch I will let you know.



End of rant...I mean review.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Surviving the Birth...Birth announcement

So I can make the major announcement...I gave birth to our second daughter at the end of June 2013. To say the pregnancy was rocky post 20 weeks was an understatement however I managed to get through it...but not as we planned it. Before I go any further I would like to say becoming a parent is a blessing regardless of how you give birth; and what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger.

Now I’m no tree hugging, sling wearing drug free birth advocator however I truly wanted a VBAC which for novice parents is a virginal delivery after a previous section. My thoughts on it were the recovery time was much quicker than another section. It’s actually in my novice opinion less painful on a long term scale and it’s less traumatic if the VBAC does smoothly. So ideally a BVAC was a good option-having a toddler at home changes your priorities too.

When you’ve got medical complications (Diabetes in my case) the NHS don’t sit back and let things go with the flow...oh no. You see I was blessed to be under a trusted team of medics who were planning my every move...from my insulin doses to my pending birth. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go post 38 weeks-Diabetics rarely do so. I’d be induced-the word that causes many women to have bad sweats, sleepless nights and some even go off their food and into a depression.

So inducing what the hell is it? To cut my own story short it’s when your medical team artificially ‘ripen’ your cervix or manage to ‘break your waters’ to bring on contractions. Sounds pretty damn easy and uncomplicated right? However there are many things that the medical team are considering and you should too. Firstly if you are being induced with a Pessary (a tiny tablet placed in the cervix region to ripen it) it can take up to 24 hours to see progress. You will have internal examinations during this time. They don’t hurt but they are UNCOMFORTABLE and to some extent you wish it was over before it’s even started. A Midwife usually places the pessary in. And if your cervix is ‘favorable there is a chance the Midwife could ‘break your waters’ with a small hook (think crochet hook). This is usually enough to bring on contractions. However if you are not contracting regularly or are not establishing labour at a rate that will help you you will be put onto a Hormone drip which basically causes contractions in MOST cases (yes not all). The hormones are started at 1.5 and move up the scale in dominations of one every half an hour up to 9. Most women are told they will need to be cranked up to 9 before they see contractions. Not a problem as you want the baby out. What some don’t tell you in these CONTRACTIONS ARE INTENSE. They are literally back to back...quick successions with not much time in between to catch your breath. The pain is there...and most of the time you are expected to just breathe through it.

So after having my waters broken at 2PM I was monitored and at 7PM I was attached to the Drip. By 10PM I was feeling the contractions but the monitor wasn’t recording anything major happening. I was told that because my Blood Pressure was rising if I hadn’t made progress by 2AM I would be having a section. By 1AM my BP was rising sharply and the decision was made to check me over and prep me for the section. These words were the ones I really didn’t want to here...and who would realistically?

So after being told my cervix was doing nothing I was prepared for the inevitable. Its never easy to accept things that go against what you prepared your mind for; and if the truth be known I had a gut feeling about the Induction in essence failing and having to go for a section AGAIN. However I was practicing PMA-Positive Mental Attitude. I believed in the positive and happy and prepared mentally for a long tiring birth but with the light at the end of the tunnel being the idea that 12 hours after having baby I would be able to go home to my family. But it didn’t work out like that.

So a few minutes past 3AM and we became the parents of a baby girl...weighing in at 3.4KG. We have yet to decide on names however we plan to register her next week. In the UK you have 42 days to register a birth giving any family ample time to decide on names. I seriously think this is the most important first step for any parents-after all you are giving your child a name they will be known by for life. It’s not like picking a lunch box which once broken you will replace-it’s there identification.

During this birth I had Gas & Air and a Local Anesthetic (I had an Epidural with our first baby). The Gas helped me through the examinations and the quick and strong contractions. The other pain killer was a must if you wanted to remain ‘awake’ to see baby being born..well to an extent. To be honest the team around me and the assistance they provided was brilliant. I’m not sure if there are many countries in the world were citizens can boast about their Government Hospitals doing such a good job however the reality is Tax Payers fund them so they are not FREE as some in other countries make out. Am I a Tax Payer? As a SAHM at present I no longer pay Tax luckily my partner does. Do I feel bad about using the NHS whilst not being a Tax Payer from Migrant grandparents? No; as I see if my status as a Non-Tax payer is a temp one. I started working at the age of 16 (alongside College) and never claimed benefits such as JSA (Job Seekers Allowance) and became a SAHM when I turned 28. That to me is a long stretch of employment and should demonstrate that I believe in working but as it is at present being at home full time makes more sense than working. Have you seen Childcare costs? Daylight robbery. Charities are rallying together to solve world Poverty. Truth is that’s an important cause however if we don’t fix the problems within the UK e.g. making it viable for Mothers to return to work to improve their families quality of life we will see more of the UK dip into Poverty. No I’m not over thinking things; I’m being realistic. But that’s another Blog entry for another day.

After five nights in Hospital (which I just about managed) we were released home. I felt like I was behind bars in Hospital but we were kept in because the Hospital were convinced little one had an infection. Now little one does have a complication of two-if I said she has Reflux my regular readers will be mumbling ‘AGAIN?’. Yes it’s true Munchys little sister has the problem as her. No biggie; a quick diagnosis and we are on Wysoy milk,Infant Gaviscon and Ranitidine (Zantac). It’s working for us at the it’s good. We’ve added Colief drops as little one had quite bad Colic but as a lot of parents will know Colief if reduced for little ones from 3-4 months. A Reflux baby means we will be weaning fact from around 16 weeks. That means we have about 13 1/2 weeks to go! Really time does go by quickly.

So that’s about it for now...I’m not the Mother of two girls. As if stands I feel my family is complete. Will I change this train of thought in a year or twos time? I doubt it. What about 5 years time? Maybe; but at 35 won’t I be ‘past it’ for having babies? Time shall be the greatest test for me. I have a lot planned for myself over the next two years...I know that sounds selfish however my plans are to better myself and carve out my writers career. I’m not getting any younger however my experience of life are definitely building up and I could share a tale or two.

If there are any Mamas reading this wondering where the advice element is of this entry here goes;
  • please please please rest when your baby rests if this is at all possible!
  • If you have had a section is it NOT the end of the world; you will survive but please listen to your Doctor/Nurse if they are telling you to take it easy/easier.
  • Consider taking post pregnancy vitamins-vitamin B complex is always a good one to look into for energy purposes.
  • Avoid too much caffiene if you can.
  • Take ALL help offered to you. There really is no shame in taking help.
  • If your little one was born during nice weather PLEASE make the most of the outdoors if you can. Fresh air really does help with the Baby Blues (NOT PND-that's different).
  • Keep life as simple as possible for at least the first 6 weeks possibly up to 12 weeks where most parents start to feel human again.
  • Understand you will feel guilty about leaving your baby, or not spending time with your partner or other children.
  • Hug your partner-it really will make you feel good.
  • Try and remember that any phase is only that-a Phase.
  • Babies change ALOT in the first year espeically in the first 16 weeks. As they grow their sleep stretches to longer spells so there is hope for all Mamas who need more sleep!
  • Take as many photos as you can-I look back on the photos of Munchy and wonder when she started to grow THAT quickly when the truth is she was always growing I was too busy being her parent to assess as I went along.
  • Don't even bother comparing your child to other people's bundles-you will go mad at the white lies some people tell to make their child seem like a Angel 24/7.
  • Try and join a parent and baby group-for your own sanity.

I’m not sure when I will next be Blogging friends so I would like to wish my Muslim Readers a Blessed Ramadan and Eid. I plan to be blogging by Christmas so I won’t be wishing my Christian readers that just yet.

Got a question about my birth story? Or a blog entry suggestion? Let me know below.

God Bless;

Munchy and her little sisters Mama..xx

Thursday, 18 April 2013

It's finally Spring!

It’s finally Spring-YAY!

Although this entry is full of the joys of Spring I wish to take a moment and and reflect on the following events of this week.

Firstly the start of this week was the annual Boston Marathon. It’s attended by hundreds of thousands of folk as well as thousands who participate. We all wish to do good in this life; and those folk who take part in Marathons is of course sponsored for a good cause. To target them in my humble opinion was a direct attack on the good-it’s as simple as that. The attack that killed three people and injured numerous more was not only an attack on America is was attack on those who like us wish to do good. I pray that the person (s) responsible for such a horrific attack is found hung and quartered. Well of course capital punishment is no longer in operation but I hope they are found and justice is given to the victims.

The earthquake on the Iran-Pakistan border. After the 2005 earthquake of Kashmir any news of an earthquake in the region makes my stomach turn. Although it was a big earthquake the destruction it caused has been far less. It’s a small blessing yes; but a blessing still.

The Funeral of Margaret Thatcher. If you are in the UK it will be hard for you to escape the death and funeral of the late Prime Minister. I won’t talk to much about what she did, what I agree with or what I think she did wrong but what I do want to say is those who are still sitting around criticizing what she did when she was in power for 3 terms need to stop blaming others for the fact they still haven’t moved on or tried to make a difference she she left office. We will all leave a legacy upon our death; so instead of just throwing stones as each other and shouting we don’t agree with such and such we need to turn the negative into a positive and get on with life and make a positive contribution-especially parents who wish for their child to do the same.

Okay so I heard that Spring is going to finally rock England. You guys will not believe how happy those words make me. No really. When you are pregnant, tired and and have developed a dislike of cold bitter short days the idea of Spring is like Heaven. So when I heard about Spring I was excited; kind of like a child in a sweetshop. The idea of Spring cleaning, fixing the garden and looking forward to Summer. Oh yes Summer. Although you expect a three month stretch of hot weather I’ve become accustomed to accepting three weeks of great weather as a good Summer.

Now I know my regular readers are wondering why I am not talking about the fact there is a months gap on my blog. Well truth be told you already know the reason. I am having a bumpy ride with pregnancy number 2. There I’ve said it. With pregnancies the idea of ‘practice makes perfect’ really doesn’t apply. I know that may have scare some of you but look at it like this-no two children are the same so why would the pregnancy be so?

Now with pregnancy number 1 I was tired yes and of course I was on insulin for my Diabetes but I felt fine. This time round I have had bad sickness, Lambrintitus, two bad infections and the scare of my Kidneys leaking protein (which can be a sign of Preclampsia). I’ve been on two courses of antibiotics, prescription painkillers for the pain and have even done a 24 hour urine collection. Oh yes it’s all fun.

But it’s a part of the package of pregnancy. After all the blood tests and so on turns out I’m actually fine. Yes I have hearing problems in one earth due to the Lambrintitus and I get dizzy and need to lie down more than I would like to think about. I get tired but then I do have a toddler too. I cannot eat fried food or spicy chili sauce as they cause heartburn. I can’t sleep through the night as I get uncomfortable. I did myself worrying about how my toddler will take to her new sibling. I also worry about the birth and the idea of being induced again (if I want a VBAC-that’s a vaginal birth after a c-section).

But you know what I’m good. I’m like the millions of mums out there who have concerns and think about them and and then something else comes along and all of a sudden your path or worry changes to something else.

What else have I been up to? Well we've just marked our seventh Wedding Anniversary and yes guys I feel old. Although saying that I got married when I was nearly 23; which to be honest now seems like a ridicilously young age to make such a bit commitment about your life. Then again some people get married at 18 and live happy and joyful marital lives for decades.

Spring for me a true time of reflection and to make plans. I know we all set our new years resolutions but truthfully how many people keep them? I use Spring to go back to my bucket list and think about what I plan to do and by when. Spring is like a new beginning and I think it should be embraced as so.

So here is my short but sweet list of things you should try during this Season. The fresh air alone during Spring is excellent for blowing out the cob-webs!

My top lists of things to do:

  • Take you little one to feed the ducks

  • Fly a kite

  • If you have a bike go for a bike ride

  • For those of us who love nail art-why not try a pastel shade of nail enamel to make the beginning of Spring?

  • Go on a nature hunt-but instead of looking for things to take home take photos of Spring flowers, take bark rubbings etc

  • If you have time take up a new hobby-look up books in your local Library for inspiration.

  • Plant some seeds-sunflowers are great for children. If you want to consider vegetables consider tomatoes-kids love them!

  • If you don’t have a garden how about growing cress indoors?

  • Clean your front door and give the exterior a lick of paint-it will truly make you happy inside

  • Make a list of the D.I.Y projects you have around the home and create a realistic timeframe to complete them in.

  • Try a new activity with your child-how about baking, gardening, water activities, pavement chalk (the list is endless and you can try my favourite Pinterest for inspiration)

  • If you are not able to go away this year start looking at days out that you can afford and start planning to make the most of the area. I recently did a search of my area and found two farms within a 30 minute drive. Not bad. Plus they are both affordable and worth taking a look at.

  • Now is the time to DECLUTTER, declutter declutter. Tackle that cabinet, wardrobe or even the children’s room if that’s what you need to do! If decluttering is a scary thought consider a mini Spring clean and go from there.

  • Have a cuppa in the sunshine. Yes it’s cold; but wrap up warm and enjoy the anticipation of the Summer that will soon be here and will be become a distant memory.

I’m sure that list will keep you all busy. If you want to create your own to do list for Spring just search for Spring Bucket Lists.

Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten my core value and reasons for writing this blog-parenting! I will be back soon with a review of a Pink Lining Changing bag. I’m all giddy just thinking about the name.

Be safe and enjoy Spring!