Monday 17 July 2017

Colour in the garden

I love this time of year in the garden as so many plants are starting to flower and there are some gorgeous colours and shapes. Here are some of my favourite flowers which are all in shades of pink and purple!

Walk around Great Tower

William recently attended the County Explorer Scout camp at Great Tower Scout Activity Centre, we took him up there and then had a wander around the site.  

We walked up to Tower Rock first which is where you get the best views, it was a lovely evening and despite there being so many Explorer Scouts on site it was actually very peaceful sat at the top. 

The path from Tower Rock to Ghyll Head was quite overgrown with bracken, Luke enjoyed hiding in it!

The crate stacking is in what was the old conservation area, it was strange not seeing the fenced off area as it has been there for as long as I have been going to Great Tower! 

There was a good selection of fungi growing on the trees and a lot of dead wood that really need clearing. Whilst the campsite is looking better for not being used as much, we did feel that it does need a bit of forestry work to keep the site safe for the children using it.

Friday 14 July 2017

Treasure Island Review - Williamson Park Lancaster

As a reviewer for What's Good To Do we are very fortunate to visit the theatre on a regular basis. Of all the shows we see The Dukes annual outdoor production is always the highlight of the year for us. Williamson Park is such a beautiful location and has transported us to many different places over the years. The Dukes have been using the park for outdoor productions for the last 30 years and whilst we haven't been going quite that long we have been going over 20 years! We saw Jungle Book back in 1995 and have to say that the shows seem to get better every year. 

This year Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, Treasure Island has been given a thrilling new twist by the award-winning team behind last year’s sell-out production of The Hobbit. We were delighted to hear that The Hobbit won the 2016 UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children & Young People and were all excited to see what Debbie Oates’ adaptation of Treasure Island had in store for us.

The first scene was set in the newly renovated children’s play area, with members of the Dukes Youth Theatre entertaining the audience before the play started. Jem Hawkins played by Natasha Davidson discovers a treasure map in her uncle’s book and desperate to escape her home life decides to go in search of the treasure. To do this she needs a ship and crew and sets sail from Fleetwood Docks on the Hispaniola. The problem is – she’s picked the wrong crew: an opinionated parrot, a bunch of pirate buffoons and the terrifying Long John Silver! 

Performed with a cast of seven it was nice to see some familiar faces, Gareth Cassidy and Victoria Brazier have starred in previous park productions and Natasha Davidson played Belle in Beauty and the Beast. The play is suitable for all the family and includes plenty of humour; we especially liked the scene where Gareth Cassidy as pirate Tom Morgan had to retrace his steps which was incredibly well done and hilarious to watch. 

The play was split into six different scenes, each set in a different location in the park. There really can’t be a better place to stage an outdoor production; Williamson Park has beautiful parkland, woodland walks and breathtaking views. With the impressive Ashton memorial and lake very little additional scenery is needed. Walking around the park from scene to scene adds to the atmosphere and there is a friendly team to guide the audience safely to the next location. As night fell and we walked to the last scene the way was lit by lanterns, which added to the atmosphere and excitement of the night.

Putting on a show of this size takes an enormous amount of work; the technical team are amazing setting up the lighting and sound at each location and then moving on ahead of the audience between each scene. Special effects, background music and sounds add to the experience and we could clearly hear the dialogue. The words were perhaps not quite as clear when the pirates sang their songs however the words were printed in the programme so you could sing along if you wanted. The use of flags to represent the sea and the sails of the Hispaniola was also very effective. 

The costumes are striking, the tracksuited youths from the playground becoming the brightly dressed pirate crew and Jem’s brother becoming Long John Silver complete with wooden leg. Puppets, mainly operated by the younger cast members, also added to the show with a cat, giant lizard, shark and of course a very talkative parrot!
With Treasure Island it wasn’t difficult to include the lake into the play. As the cast escaped from Treasure Island and sailed away across the lake they were joined by unexpected extras…. in the shape of the resident ducks. It was quite obvious that the ducks were not happy that their lake had been invaded as they were settling down for the evening and the resulting loud quacking was an entertaining end to a brilliant evening.

Lasting three hours this is family entertainment at its best, with plenty of laughter, singing and smiling faces this is a lovely way to spend a summer’s evening. 

Williamson Park is easy to find, it is signposted from the A6 and parking is just £1 for the evening. The play starts at 7.15pm however many people take a picnic to eat before the show. Seating varies at each location, sometimes there are logs to sit on and in other locations the audience can sit on the ground. I would recommend taking a mat or blanket to sit on, especially when it is wet so you are not sat on the wet ground! The play continues whatever the weather so it is definitely worth checking the forecast before you leave and dressing appropriately. 

The show is at Williamson Park until the 12th August but with such a loyal following, some dates are already sold out so get your tickets booked soon! 

We received free tickets for the purpose of this review.

Monday 10 July 2017

Luke's first night hike

Mark has been waiting for a nice Saturday night to take the boys on a night hike and he also thought they could sleep on top of the fells. He looked at the forecast for Saturday and as it was going to be warm they decided to go then. They got all the equipment together, mats, rucsacks, sleeping bags and food and a stove and packed it into the rucsacks, Luke was very excited about sleeping on the fells and couldn't wait to get started.

They left just before midnight, they were waiting for William, who was working until 11pm, but when he arrived home he was shattered so decided to stay at home and get a good nights sleep! 

Luke normally moans when we go on a walk but Mark said he didn't moan once and they didn't stop for a rest as Luke was keen to get to the top!

They managed a couple of hours sleep before they woke to watch the sun rise.

Once the sun was up they cooked breakfast and used the Trekmates Flameless Cooking System to make a hot drink.

Whilst they didn't get a lot of sleep Luke had a great time and has already asked when they can do it again!

A Day out at SEA LIFE Blackpool

Popular wildlife and children's TV presenter Lizzie Daly is supporting SEA LIFE Blackpool, as it launches a conservation campaign highlighting the importance of bugs and insects to the world’s rainforests.

To showcase the project, SEA LIFE Blackpool has unveiled an amazing new display, featuring an array of creatures, such as Giant African land snails; hissing and death head cockroaches; praying mantis and giant grubs.

It is the latest in a wide range of conservation and awareness work being carried out at the popular Blackpool visitor attraction. Its aim is to highlight the vital role insects play in our rainforests – described as ‘the lungs of the world’ – where their habitat is under increasing threat and many face extinction.

The new drive will also include educating people looking to buy exotic creatures as pets about the complex challenges that brings, with the aim to get them to think twice.

Unfortunately we were unable to visit SEA LIFE Blackpool on the day Lizzie visited but we were able to go a few days later and see the new Rainforest area for ourselves.

Luke always enjoys visiting the SEA LIFE Centre and was looking forward to seeing the new Ranger Table and the new insects and creatures. He was quite keen to look at the Giant African land snails and the giant grubs, I wasn't quite as keen!!  

This new section in the Rainforest area is a great place to look at creatures and is full of fun, interesting facts. Whilst we were there we were talking to Sam, one of the staff and he was very knowledgeable about the creatures and Luke was very interested in everything Sam was telling us.

Matthew Titherington, general manager at SEA LIFE Blackpool, believes the new Rainforest Ranger Table display will also broaden people’s understanding of the peculiar and captivating creatures that play such an important role in rainforest eco-systems. Amongst other things, they act as a food source for other animals, increase the fertility of the soil and also help pollination.

Matthew explained: “We want people to find out more about where they live and what’s happening to their natural habitats. The new ranger table we have set up will for the first time enable visitors, especially children, to hold and get really close to these wonderful creatures under the watchful eye of SEA LIFE experts, who’ll be on hand to guide and talk about the different species.

I would always advise arriving at Blackpool SEALIFE early as it does tend to get busy, especially in bad weather. We were there just after it opened at 10am and walked straight in without needing to queue. We love it when it is quiet as you can take your time looking at everything and spend more time looking in the rock pool without feeling rushed. The rock pool has recently been re-furbished and as before you are encouraged to put your hands in the water to touch everything in the water. This is one of my favourite parts as I love looking at the starfish and seeing the crabs scuttle across the bottom of the pool.

As you walk round there is plenty of information about the areas you are in and screens with facts about the creatures you are looking at.

It is quite dark in places and because of this the lighting effects work really well, one little boy was just as interested in the dancing light octopus as he was the real creatures!

Luke's favourite section of SEALIFE is the Stingray Adventure, he loves watching the stingrays swim around the tank and the viewing ports are great for getting a closer view.

The amazing ocean walk-through tunnel gives you the chance to see life under the sea. SEA LIFE Blackpool have bred and raised sharks for 25 years and you can see Black Tip Sharks, White Tip Sharks, Stingrays, Bowmouth Guitar Sharks, Shovel Nose Sharks, Nurse Sharks through the large viewing window and watch them swim over you when you walk through the tunnel.

We had a great time at SEA LIFE Blackpool and I am sure we will be visiting again soon. If you are looking for something to do in the school holidays then it is well worth a visit. 

Disclaimer - We received free entry into SEA LIFE Blackpool for the purpose of this review.