We had a fantastic visit to Blists Hill in Telford the other week! YOu pay for an annual ticket and it gets you in to the victorian town (open air museum) and a load of other museums that we have yet to explore! Ironbridge is so gorgeous and Blists Hill was a real hidden treasure. On the same lines as the Black Country Museum, it was nice to find similar in a different area.
We decided to dress in our Steampunk outfits for the day and invited a few friends to enjoy the day with us!
It was our very first visit to this Cotswold attraction and from the get-go, Fairytale Farm’s covid rules were very well thought out. One way systems, hand gel and having to order food from a window to avoid people hovering in the ticket office/ cafe.
Now, this place is a little bit Marmite. It is quaint and little kids love it, but there is a definite air of needing a bit of TLC.
Upon leaving this area, you then enter a sort-of courtyard area with a wishing well, the dwarves cottage and various sheds housing dioramas. Children immediately unhook themselves from parents and prams and rush around with glee; whilst the adults stumble about trying to get accustomed to sheds, flies buzzing around Snow White’s hot head and arthritic geese swaying to tinkling music amid hay bales and Easter Bunnies. The larger characters (mermaids, sea creatures, Snow and her alarming possie of small gentlemen etc) are all fibreglass statues, spray painted like the kiddies rides you see at funfairs. You know, Disney-esque with a touch of despair and self loathing. This aside, they are big, bright, great for photos and the main attraction for our intrepid adventurers.
I was rather looking forward to seeing the Mouse Village! Housed in an adjoining shed to the geese, you will find a large acrylic case with miniature houses and shops! It is such a great idea and a voice from the clouds asks you if you can spot fun things, such as a freshly dug grave and village stocks. There are apparently 15 mice living in this gorgeous township, although we went back 3 times and saw not a whisker. I had to tell a disappointed Betsy that they had gone to a secret club behind the church. Luckily she fell for it as she is 5 and still believes that Kinder Eggs grow out of her ears. The mice had evidently been in their village as evidence was all around. Like a Midsomer Murders episode, I scoured the place for clues… an overturned penny farthing bicycle…a broken lamp post with chewed wire…gnawed public bench…droppings throughout the bakery…it was like the apocalypse. So determined were we to see a rodent that we crouched down and waited in the darkness, in case the mice had migraine (micegrains?) from all the lights and music. Nowt.
I settled down on a picnic bench to enjoy a cream tea, whilst Betsy spent time in the sand pit. It is small, but she actually enjoyed this above everything else! Unfortunately the view in this area is great as directly behind is a security fence, housing an abandoned shed, bracken and rubbish. This could very easily have been hidden with large, colourful vinyl banners to improve the area, but maybe this was in fact a scene from an obscure fairy tale? Rubblestiltskin perhaps?
After this we headed on over to Fairytale Farm’s latest attraction. Yes kids, you too can milk Jack’s cow, just like in the book! With a backdrop of a large fibreglass beanstalk, kids can actually sit on a milking stool and pull on the red raw rubber udders of Daisy the cow. Fear not lactose weary parents! This bovine only produces water into the pale, which can them be poured into a milk/ water urn before letting someone else be the milk maid.
After tearing yourself away from Holstein teat yanking, you then have a corridor of more sheds. This time, you get to gaze through each window like the village weirdo. Press a button to light up each static scene abs hear an excerpt from the fairy tale! From Red Riding Hood’s wolf with glowing red eyes to the pert derrière of Hansel and Gretel’s witch, as she peers into her oven. My personal favourite was sleeping beauty. A beautifully hand painted room sets the scene as you gaze in wonder at Princess Aurora surrounded by her royal mosquito net. The set up was simple. A shop mannequin under a pink bedsheet, but the ‘closed eyelids’ made me giggle uncontrollably. It made me reminisce over my sister’s Bedtime Bernie. Anyone remember those? You would wet her eyes and they would suddenly go a very pale pink to simulate her sleeping. Although no one had licked Sleeping Beauty’s eyes, they had been cunningly painted a flesh tone to mimic eyelids. This may have worked, had they added false eyelashes at the bottom or clever shading, but the overall effect had me wondering whether she would suddenly sit up and start craving the taste of brains. This may have been part of the reason I loved it so much.
After this avenue of awesomeness came a winding pathway through beautiful plants attracting bees and more fibreglass fun. Looming either side of the path were giant seahorses, dolphins and octopus (octopuses? Octopi?). By pushing a large button underneath the seahorse, you could hear the therapeutic lapping of waves! Want to know what dolphins sound like? Why, just give that big button a push to hear it’s clicks and squeaks! And what about an octopus? What fascinating sounds are we going to be able to hear that Blue Planet failed to record??? “Hello! I’m Ollie the Octopus!”
Onwards dear friends! A sensory wonderland of music, water and characters and through to a fantastic playground, with plenty of benches for resting relatives as the kids go nuts on slides, climbing frames and more. Betsy didn’t want to leave this bit and it felt safe and secure.
Our real treat was the Walk a Llama experience, which you can prebook with your entrance ticket at an additional cost. Boy, I was looking forward to this! In my head I envisaged a wild meadow, with happy llamas being lead gayley through buttercups and daisies. I wasn’t really expecting a tiny enclosure next to the carpark, but I do daydream big. We ended up waiting an hour as we were last in our group’s queue. By this time Horace, the largest llama, had started to get pee’d off with the exercise and was pretty skittish and grumpy as hell. Even the handler was having a few issues. The other two seemed fine. The mid sized one looked vaguely like Tina Turner and was rocking an Afro mullet, whilst the smallest was ADORABLE-BUBBLE with white fluff and protruding bottom teeth. Another reason why I wanted to take him home? His name was Hagrid. Finally it was our turn and Betsy took the rains of the cutie pie aforementioned. We had a friend with us, who was given Tina Turner. Guess who ended up with Llama Drama aka Horace aka Satan’s Poodle.
We all set off around the field, guided by the prison officer-esque lady in charge; barking orders like a scout leader going through a messy divorce as we desperately tried to control our increasingly frustrated llamas. Something (a butterfly, non-existent breeze, car horn on Isle of Wight) started Horace, who then leapt in front of me and literally DARED me to look him in the eyes. I wasn’t falling for it. I knew his twisted game. I was shaken, but determined to control the situation. Scout Leader Llama Lady was suuuuuper helpful shouting “LEAD ON! LEAD ON!”, whilst I cranked my head to the side and desperately stared at bushes, whilst nudging the devil sheep and praying it wouldn’t spit or stomp on me. Although probably stealing part of my soul, it eventually faced the correct way and we continued to the exit.
So all in all? This was one of the most bizarre places I have ever visited, but young kids will really enjoy it. Good weather is a must to make the most of everything on offer, as it is all outdoors. The paths are great for pushchairs and wheel chairs, but having to accept your boiling hot coffee through the top window of the cafe is a bit like taking your life in your own hands! Great little gift shop and hopefully the derelict shed area will eventually become a soft play area.
I thought I would share some more photos of Betsy and I dressed up on our costume walks! For over 10 weeks we have been keeping up morale (our own, our neighbours and friends online) by cosplaying our favourite characters.
My favourites have been our Harry Potter inspired walk (above), Frida Kahlo and her paint palette (scroll down for images) and Snow White with the Evil Queen!
I’ve enjoyed singing to the street and it’s great when people come out of their homes and watch from their gardens and paths from a safe distance.
Who would’ve thought that in these uncertain days of isolation that we could get so many people together (safely distanced) in joyful celebration and remembrance.
Flags were flying, bunting hung and the atmosphere was buzzing with excitement as the whole street prepared for the 75th anniversary of VE Day. This special day celebrates Winston Churchill’s famous speech that WW2 was finally over.
This anniversary has come at a time where community spirit is again so important in keeping spirits lifted in a difficult time.
On thursday evening Richard and I did a Zoom video interview for Studio 10, an Australian news programme on Channel 10. It aired at 11.40am Sydney time, although due to the time difference, we had to do the video call at 10.15pm!
On Friday morning at 9am I had a visit from the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire van and was interviewed live about the day’s upcoming events.
At 11.30am I started my live singing set, which was also featured on Facebook for those in carehomes, hospitals, workplaces and homes worldwide. Viewers in America, France, Germany, Australia and Britain all joined me as I sang a selection of 1940’s classics to my neighbours and the photographer from Stratford Herld. I had a slight hiccup in Watch the Birdie, when my ‘mummy head’ clicked in as betsy hurt her finger. All words went out of my head as I watched and mentally checked that she was ok, whilst mumbling incoherent nonsense through the microphone. Ok, good Richard is getting her a plaster. BHAM! Back to singing head. Where am I in the song? Shoot this is going out live! Ok, just smile and look like you know what you’re doing… “Watch the Birdie, let’s take a candied camera shot, Watch the Birdie come on let’s give it all you’ve got, Watch the Birdie just pick a flop-n-derp-n-bop and hold it!” ha ha ha!
I decided to raise funds for Combat Stress, my favourite charity, who help veterans young and old (as well as their families) dealing with depression, PTSD and anxiety. There are already too many vets dealing with homelessness, addiction and psychological problems associated with their time fighting for their country. Combat Stress is here to assist those struggling. For those who would like to donate, you can do so HERE and 100% of the donations will go to the charity. The link will be active for 2 weeks after VE Day, do if it is no longer working, you can contact me directly!
It was so wonderful seeing everyone enjoying themselves and coming together as a proud nation. It just shows that even in these depressing and worrying times, we can create strength and joy to see us through.
There was music playing, people having picnics and BBQ’s and even an ice cream wagon giving out free ice creams and waffles! Thank you to all who made the day so incredible special and memorable, and remember…just pick a flop-n-derp-n-bop and hold it!
I hope you have all been staying safe and healthy in these unsettling times! It can be incredibly intense and claustrophobic being isolated, but you are doing great.
To update you with what I’ve been up to…every single week day, my 4 year old daughter and I dress up in a different theme and take our 1 hour of exercise time. My plan was to create some crazily cool memories for Betsy, focus on something fun by dressing up and bring some morale to the street. I suffer with depression quite badly and love the escapism of fancy dress or costuming. The fact I can use this outlet as a ray of sunshine for other people and keep my mental health more-or-less stable in these uncertain times is brilliant.
I began by writing a list of characters we could do and even bought a mic that has a little inbuilt speaker so that I could sing to the residents too. At first we only saw a couple of people looking, but now most of the street waves or twitches their curtains at 11.30am each morning!
When I moved here 4 years ago I became familiar with about 4 people in my street. Who would’ve known that a desperately worrying time would lead to so many more friendships being formed from 2 metres away?
So far we’ve done Disney Princesses, Unicorns, rainbows, fairies, Maleficent and a dragon, Steampunk dolls, Mary Poppins, Dorothy Gale (Wizard of Oz) and Glinda the Good Witch, 1940’s, 1950’s and my favourite… Santa and his elf!
It was BAKING this Tuesday and I was dressed in full Father Christmas outfit, complete with beard, wig and hat. I had ordered a pack of 50 toilet rolls that I stacked inside my cart, which was decorated with tinsel, a reindeer and more! I put some vintage festive songs on my Bluetooth speaker and we made our way down the road. Everyone who waved got a toilet roll and I ran out! I left one on a parked ambulance, along with some sweets. “Ho ho ho! Meeeeerrrrry Covidmas!”
What else have I done? Oh! I wrote a parody of ‘It’s in His Kiss’ (made famous by Cher in Mermaids). It’s called ‘Is it Covid’ and you can see it HERE.
I’ll keep you updated on happenings. I’m just trying real hard not to lose my marbles. X
Today we made a trip to the stunning Fawsley Hall Hotel and Spa for a Harry Potter inspired Afternoon Tea! Dressed for the theme, we entered the jaw-dropping hall, which was the perfect setting for our spellbinding lunch.
After a glass of Butterbeer, we were treated to fresh loose-leaf tea and 3 tiers of sandwiches, scones and cakes. The sandwiches were cheese and pickle, ham and mustard, cucumber and cream cheese, egg and little brioche buns with salmon mousse. On to the scones and I was very relieved to see that they were freshly made and not frozen ones! The pots contained strawberry jam and a very generous helping of clotted cream (the first time I haven’t had to ask for extra!).
As you can see by my photos, the cakes and tarts were certainly Honeydukes worthy and brought a smile to all of our faces. I enjoyed the chocolate cauldron, filled with mousse, but there was an awful lot of chocolate on the plate so I had to be careful (migraines). It would’ve been nice to have a fresh fruit tart to bring a little tartness to all the sweet flavours and balance the palette, but it was still I wonderful spectacle and experience.
Half way through, one of the waitresses brought out a few broomsticks and Betsy enjoyed zooming up and down the room with hers. She has yet to get into Harry Potter, but I dressed her as Hermione Granger in the hopes that some spark would stick!
It was lovely to see Mr Mew dressed up and he may as well have been wearing an invisibility cloak when sat on the sofas! Almost identical patterning on his outfit as the upholstery! Ha ha ha!
My lovely friend Charlotte came with us. With a spidery headdress and flashes of red from her crinoline, it gave her a Merry Widow air! I decided on loosely basing my outfit on a young Professor McGonagall, with tartan skirt and matching ribbon in my shoes.
All in all a magical afternoon was had by all and we look forward to hearing of other themed teas and dinners to get involved in!
Well, I was hoping that by October, Betsy would have an awesome new bed and slight theme change in her bedroom.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, but I did get one thing done at least! Although she has blackout curtains, the early morning and late afternoon summer sunshine beamed through the top and sides at ridiculous-o-clock each day. I decided to get her some blackout blinds and fancied some with stars on. I just could find anything quite right! I didn’t want a pattern, but more the feeling of looking out at a magical night sky.
I luckily found Art Fever UK on Etsy. Located in Warwickshire, they have a super little workshop and a really friendly service. My messages were answered quickly and I decided to go and meet them and collect my order instead of waiting for the courier!
How great does this look? You can literally choose from thousands of stock images or use your own photos to get printed on custom blinds or canvases! The quality is fantastic and as they are made to measure, it was the perfect fit for Betsy’s window.
I had a wonderful time chatting in the office and meeting their two resident doggies. So flipping cute!
I can’t wait to get a different design for our bedroom now! If anyone else suffers with migraines, you’ll know how important a really dark room is and sometimes curtains just aren’t enough. So whether you are redecorating in the new year and want to theme a room or just want a decorative blackout blind for a better night’s sleep, I definitely recommend these guys!
On the first Sunday of December, we booked the Breakfast with Santa at Wyevale Garden Centre!
I thought a good old English breakfast was a fine way to start the festive season and as I had never had one at Wyevale, this was the perfect opportunity.
Crackers festooned the tables, twinkling lights welcomed us and Father Christmas’ favourite elf helped bring drinks, answer queries and add to the wonderful atmosphere. We had pre-chosen our meals (hot breakfast all round!), so it was just a case of getting our hot drinks (all refilled for free!) and await our food. It did take quite a while to arrive, BUT it was worth the wait. I would rather not compromise quality with speed, I mean… what would you rather have? Cardboard bacon cooked hours ago and put under a hot lamp or freshly cooked-to-order yumminess? Exactly.
The wait wasn’t that bad as the children were all given ginger bread men and icing pens, could go in the soft play area and had colouring sheets with crayons too.
After our hearty meal, the elf encouraged all the children to shout for Santa and low and behold he answered their screams of excitement. Bell in hand, he walked around every table, talking to the visitors, high-five’ing the kids and offering cuddles to anyone who wanted them!
Once he had done the rounds Father Christmas took a seat and awaited the children and their wish lists. After a chat with their favourite festive celeb, the kids got a chance to choose a gift from an overwhelming display of soft toys, crafts and games. I was really impressed with the wide choice available and got rather jealous too…
The experience is £8 for adults (inclusive of full English breakfast, toast, free refills on teas, coffee, cappuccino etc), £10 for children (inclusive of mini full English, soft drink with free refills, gingerbread man with icing pens, visit with Santa Claus and a choice of gift). If you think that a full English is about £7, the fact that you get as many tea and coffee refills as you like is a really sweet deal. I think maybe giving parents a 10% discount voucher for the store would be a nice gesture too and I may suggest this to Wyevale myself.
I felt that the experience was definitely worth the money and the fact that they have an indoor soft play area really helps. The staff were cheerful, attentive and helpful, whilst the food was fresh and delicious. I will definitely be back for more breakfasts in the future!