Places to go

Scran with Santa 2017 - Grottos with grub across the North East

Scran with Santa 2017 - Grottos with grub across the North East

This week Fenwick's breakfasts and teas with Santa went on sale...and went off sale. They sold out in a day. Whilst you might have been too late for those the good news is that this year there are SHEDLOADS (over 30 in fact) of other dining with Santa options. Tonnes of them, still with availability, so if it's not Christmas to you without feasting with Father Christmas then read on and decide if you would like, breakfast, lunch, tea or ice cream with the big man.

Broom House Farm - Durham

Broom House Farm - Durham

Todays post is about Broom House Farm in County Durham (not to be confused with the farm of the same name in Northumberland). Its coffee shop with brilliant facilities for kids and parents, and a woodland adventure trail. Can't quite picture what a  woodland adventure trail is? Neither could I, but thankfully I've taken a photograph of pretty much every leaf in the forest, so by the end of this post you should have a good idea, but if you picture a very spread out park in the middle of a wood, with games and tasks to carry out then it's a good place to start. 

Lets Play Big - Washington

Lets Play Big - Washington

Last week we visited Lets Play Big in Washington the brand new children's role play centre. I love these centres, they always seem a bit less hectic than soft play, and considering I'm often outnumbered by toddlers I appreciate that. 

#newcastlewithkids - February

#newcastlewithkids - February

Hello, February is over! In the blink of an eye. I'm so looking forward to the lighter nights in March. Summer is just around the corner... right? As always there are a whole host of events for kids, or places to visit, and this post might give you a few ideas. If you'd like my handpicked picks delivered to your email inbox every fortnight, then you can sign up for it here: Bubele. 

Another great place for ideas is Instagram - even soft plays look more appealing through a filter! I was surprised that there wasn't a hashtag which brought together all of things that you can do with kids in the North East, so I started my own. Check out #newcastlewithkids for some ideas about places to visit, and if you are on instagram then (a) follow me and (b) use the tag #newcastlewithkids on any photos you are uploading of the places you've taken the kids. Include anywhere in the North East anywhere that is travelling distance from Newcastle. 

Winter Farm Trips - free days out

Winter Farm Trips - free days out

This week one of my readers got in touch to ask for some suggestions for a winter's day out. Their toddler is turning two at the end of January, they had wanted to visit a farm, but found that lots of the bigger farm attractions are closed until the February half term. 

So I had a scout about and there are a few options still open if you have a child obsessed with Old McDonald, or just fancy a getting some fresh air and letting the kids have a run around outside. The best bit? Most of today's suggestions are free, or you just need to spend the price of a cup of coffee in a tea room. 

BILL QUAY FARM (FREE)

South Tyneside

Bill Quay Farm is lovely. It's pretty small. The type of place that we visit pretty regularly but only ever stay about 45 minutes. There are sheep, pigs, cows,  geese, goats, chickens in barns and fields outside. Some of them are obviously used to visitors as they'll come right up to you and there are signs up letting you know which of the animals you can touch in their pens. There is also a small animal room where you can see things like chinchillas and hamsters etc in cages. There is a cafe, but this is now closed until summer. The farm is a registered charity, and whilst they are free to visit they always appreciate donations. If you are looking to make a day of it, then it's pretty close to Role Play in Hebburn, a fab kids play centre that I always recommend. You can read about our visit there on this blog post

South Lakes Safari Zoo

South Lakes Safari Zoo

Super quick post today as I wanted to get something up whilst South Lakes Safari Zoo was still offering FREE entry. That's right totally free! I know, I thought it might be too good to be true, or be some catch somewhere but there really wasn't. 

I'd spotted on Facebook that South Lakes Safari Zoo was offering free admission until the end of December and thought it would make a nice day out for my baby's first birthday. I've never been before and have always been put off by the long drive, but spurred on by the great reviews I'd heard about it in Family Explorers Facebook group  (brilliant for getting ideas about places to visit) I thought we'd give it a go during our Christmas break.

Piccolo Music Classes - Now in Gateshead

Piccolo Music Classes - Now in Gateshead

Heads up Gateshead, there is a new pre-school class in town. The team from Piccolo Music have responded to popular demand and now offer classes on the other side of the river, and you can find them every Friday morning at the Winlaton Centre.

Have you been to a Piccolo Music class before? They are different to any other baby groups that I've been to. The class is based around music and movement, and I think the best way to describe it is professional. Professional but relaxed. Confused? Read on, surely I'll make some sense at some point wont I?

Little Learners PreSchool Classes

Little Learners PreSchool Classes

Do you take your little ones to any pre-school classes? There are lots of different ones to choose from and it can be hard to find out exactly what you're in store for, so hopefully that is where I can help. I've been visiting a couple of different classes over the last few weeks, and I'll be posting photographs and details about them, so it should help you to decide if any of the classes are right for your baby or toddler. 

First up is Little Learners. I've followed the Little Learners's account on instagram for a while now, so I knew from their photos that messy play was a big part of their sessions. We had wanted to go along to their incredibly popular pre-school festival during the summer but unfortunately already had plans the day it was held, so it wasn't until Halloween that we got to accept their invitation to try them out. 

Scran with Santa - Grottos with grub across the north east

Scran with Santa - Grottos with grub across the north east

Can you believe we have only just had Bonfire night and I've already started banging on about Christmas? It's 7 weeks until the big day, but festive events start from early December so if you are looking for family Christmassy things to do in the North East then it is time to get booking.  

Hot on the heels from the sell out successes that were Halloween parties (where it seemed that any event with a couple of cobwebs in the window were fully booked back in September, leaving us unorganised parents wondering where to take our little pumpkins for their obligatory photos and E numbers) are the Christmas events! 

If anything I think the tinsel is a bigger seller than the Halloween parties. So many festive events are sold out already! Our chances to sing Christmassy power ballads with Chalk, join the Snow Puppies for a party at 7 Stories or take the North Pole Express from Tanfield Railway are gone. The tickets disappeared shortly after they went on sale!

There are still lots of family festive events to choose from though, so keep your eye's peeled for my upcoming posts with loads of suggestions. But what is Christmas without a mince pie? I'm always first in the queue for every buffet I've ever been to, so I'm kicking off the Christmas posts with one devoted to food. Below are the places you can feast with Father Christmas.

Shiremoor Adventure Playground - North Tyneside

Shiremoor Adventure Playground - North Tyneside

I'm back, after a summer of neglecting my blog, I've eventually got around to writing an actual post. We had a great summer, went to lots of places, have thousands of photos clogging up my phone and memory card, loads of ideas for blog posts, but it iss just so hard to find the time to actually sit down and write them. Especially now I am no longer a lady of ... leisure doesn't sound right... more like multiple nappy changes and cold cups of tea, as i'm now back at work! Mr Sprog is on paternity leave, looking after the kids until Christmas, so expect blog posts devoted to craft beer and Fifa to be uploaded soon.

So back in August I finally got around to visiting Shiremoor Adventure Playground. My sister had mentioned it to me a while ago, she had said they had toys, scooters etc, but I couldn't really picture it. Well when I got there it wasn't what I was expecting. There is a certain 'rough around the edges' element to it, and it reminded me of Byker Grove in that it has a youth club feel to it. There is sooooooo much to do, and I think older kids would adore it. As a parent to a toddler and baby I was slightly horrified about how big some of the equipment looked, but I feel the same when I watch kids on skateboards, or free jumping or whatever other fun kids have whilst putting themselves in danger. 

But what is is? Even after visiting i'm not sure I can adequately describe it. A youth club and park? There is a huge wooden frame, a massive sandpit, some terrifying rope swings, an allotment with chickens, a pool table, a basketball court, roller-skates, scooters and on the hot day that I visited there was the biggest paddling pool that i've seen too - but I'm guessing as it took me so long to write this post that won't be there any more. 

What it is though is FREE, which is amazing for what they have on offer. It's also staffed, and you have to sign in, so it shouldn't ever get too busy to the point of it being over-capacity. They are only open at certain hours (specific times at the bottom of this post) - afternoons after school, but during the day on weekends and school holidays. They are also closed until 13th September 2016 due to maintenance. What is also great about it, is that they run some sessions specifically for children with disabilities and their carers. 

Lets Play Big - Hebburn

Lets Play Big - Hebburn

Well, South Tyneside is fast becoming the toddler activity capital of the North East. After we visited the fab Role Play cafe a couple of weeks ago, we headed back to Hebburn a few days later to look around the new messy play venture in Victoria Industrial Estate - Lets Play Big

Unlike most of the messy play classes that I know of, which operate from community centres or hired rooms, Lets Play Big is based within it's own unit in an industrial estate. It is open 7 days a week, running four sessions a day which makes it perfect for working families. Before I started my current maternity leave, I worked four days a week, and I remember searching online for classes that I could take my toddler to on my day off, and frequently being disappointed when something looked really good, but was only available on a Monday at 10am or something when I was working. It is even better for people who work five days a week, because as far as I know, whilst some classes are branching out into putting on the odd Saturday morning, there isn't anywhere else nearby where they offer this amount of pre-school classes over holiday time and weekends. 

Apart from the brilliant opening hours, Lets Play Big had really gone for it with the variety of tasks and crafts that kids could get involved with. I haven't been to loads of messy play groups, a handful of individual classes and we used to go to baby sensory when my toddler was tiny (obviously neglected second baby hasn't been to any sensory classes, she just gets dragged around to noisy toddler activities, and perhaps that was why she was so excited to be able to play during this visit.) So I can't say that I'm a messy play connoisseur, but I felt like Lets Play Big had put on so many great play stations, that even the most seasoned crafters and gloop-players would really enjoy the sessions. 

Role Play - Hebburn

Role Play - Hebburn

Yesterday we visited the brand new children's play centre in Hebburn. It's brilliant. Really well thought through. My toddler loved it (he cried when we were leaving) and (in my mind the most important bit) parent's can have a cup of tea, a sit down and actually get a bit of a rest. There is definitely a time and place for soft play, sometimes they are just what we are looking for if our toddler needs to work off some energy or if my husband is with us so one of us can go with him, whilst the other looks after the baby. But when you're the owner of a toddler they aren't really a place for a rest, and sometimes I don't want to crawl through a child sized tube, or hurt my feet climbing cargo nets to rescue a strandard little boy (why do cargo nets hurt so much or is that just me being a baby?) So this is where this type of play centre is perfect.

As the name suggests it all designed around role play, with lots of different stations where kids can play with toys and dress up pieces. There has been really good attention to detail and the whole place looks great. It is bright and colourful, and as soon as we walked through the door my toddler was off to explore. It is all based in one large airy room, at the centre of the room are tables and chairs, and the stations are built around the outskirts, this is great as it means that you can always see the kids from the table areas, so you don't have to be on top of them all of the time. It would be a great place to go if you are in charge of more than one child as you can always keep an eye on one of them whilst seeing to another. The baby was spending time with her granny, so wasn't with us this visit, but I noticed they had lots of high chairs, a baby walker and padded play gym for the smallest of visitors to use. It was lovely to have some 1:1 time to properly play with my toddler as we haven't had much of that since the baby came along. 

Beamish Museum - Festival of 50's

Beamish Museum - Festival of 50's

I love Beamish. I hadn't been for years, perhaps since I was at school, until I got an unlimited card this spring. Since then we've easily had our money's worth. I love that it's so picturesque, that I can go and have a good walk, but that there is always something there that my toddler will enjoy too. We visited on the first day of the Festival of the 50s, a four day celebration showcasing the 50s items the museum is accruing in preparation for opening the 50s area some time in the future. The 50s festival was great, it had a really good atmosphere, and I think that will be even more so over the weekend when there are activities planned. 

This review is in two parts, for all of the people who have been to Beamish time and time again, I'll show the pictures of the 50s weekend and encourage you if you have an unlimited card to visit at some point this weekend as it's a brilliant cheap day out as all of the daytime events are included in the annual pass. Then after the photos and write up of the festival, I'll include the best toddler friendly bits of Beamish that we visit time and time again. 

Playground Project and The Quay at The Baltic

Playground Project and The Quay at The Baltic

WOW. This afternoon we went to the family friendly opening of their newest exhibition, and interactive hands on selection of giant playground equipment. It's absolutely brilliant, one of the few activities that I think all kids from babies up until teens will enjoy, and it's perfect for a rainy day. Also like all the other exhibitions everything else in the Baltic it is FREE! 

Turns out that we were well jammy getting an a ticket for the opening event, because not only did we get to see the exhibit first, but the lovely people at the Baltic had even put on a spread for us. Drinks, cakes and fruit platters. Shows that it is worthwhile keeping an eye out on Facebook for event invitations, I'd seen this on on the great Family Explorers Facebook page. 

Young Explorers - Centre For Life

Young Explorers - Centre For Life

We love the Centre for Life, it's a great museum in it's own right, and if you visiting without children then you can easily fill a full day looking at the interactive exhibitions that they have on. This year they've given it a long overdue makeover and created an experiment zone, in the ground floor area that was starting to look a bit tired. But apart from all of that, the main reason, that I love it now that I have two small children is the excellent play space on the upstairs floor. That's what I've focussed on in this blog post, because it's where we go most often. 

My husband had an unexpected day off yesterday, and as we were in town anyway we thought we'd pop to the centre for life for a couple of hours, as we have annual passes. More about the costs of them vs single day tickets at the bottom, but I think the annual passes are really good value. If you don't have toddlers and you are going to go to Life every couple of years to see specific exhibitions then I think you can probably justify the cost of a day ticket. But as anyone with toddlers knows some days they are brilliant and spend hours lighting up wherever they are with their happy little faces, and other days they wander round crying because you won't let them hit their little sister or because they really really wanted that fifth tangerine and you are just the worst mother for not letting them have it. For this reason, I'm sometimes a little dubious about spending large amounts of money on single days, but I love having the annual pass so that we can just call in for an hour every so often. We went almost every week in the colder months. Now it's summer we're there less often, but it's always good to know that we can go there whenever we fancy. 

Plessey Woods Country Park

Plessey Woods Country Park

If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise...Well, not if you've read this blog because I've taken pictures of all of the lovely surprising bits, but if you go for a walk in Plessey Woods Country park I think that you'll like it. 

Earlier in the year I saw on Facebook that Plessey Woods were having an opening weekend, after they had added some sculptures and activity bits within their country park. I hadn't got around to visiting until this weekend, when the weather was beautiful. The warm sunshine probably helped, but even so it was a lovely place to take the kids for a walk. Our toddler managed to walk lots of it, loved stomping in the puddles and was happy to play along with me when I propped him up on some of the sculptures. I'd like to tell you the distance of the walk we did, and how long it took, but in typical me style the battery on my phone died half way through so I lost the data from the distance app that I was using. If we're doing confessions then I might as well fess up that we took the wrong turning at some point, so we missed at least one sculpture area (Totem Poles) and ended up carrying the double buggy up an exceptionally long and steep flight of stairs. So it's probably best that you look at the pretty pictures, and take no notice of any advice that I might give as I think most people would have done a better job at navigating a buggy friendly walk than we did. 

Wheelbirks Parlour (Stocksfield, Northumberland) - If Pinterest made kids areas...

Wheelbirks Parlour (Stocksfield, Northumberland) - If Pinterest made kids areas...

Last week we had an eventful visit to Wheelbirks, the farm shop and cafe in Stocksfield. I was having one of those days where everything goes wrong, mainly because I was making terrible decisions and mistakes every five minutes. I had parked up on the road leading to the farm to take a call, ended up talking for longer than I had realised and drained the car battery, leaving me stranded. After packing up the kids into the buggy and walking the rest of the way to the cafe, I realised the baby's nappy had exploded and handily my change of clothes for her were still in the car - so if you happened to be in Wheelbirks last Tuesday, I was the flustered sweaty one with the half dressed and suspiciously stained baby. I'd only planned to pop into the cafe for a coffee, but ended up there for hours waiting for the AA to rescue us. 

Whilst it wasn't ideal, even through my occasional bouts of tears (I was particularly emotional/sweary when I returned to the car and managed to drain the battery for a second time) I was at least aware that as far as places to be stranded in go I'd picked a good one. As well as having all of the sweet treats I needed to get me through the experience with minimal tears, it also has indoor and outdoor play space so my toddler could roam around and burn off some energy. The farm shop and cafe is based on Wheelbirks farm in Stocksfield, Northumberland. It has been decorated beautifully, the ice cream which is made on site is to die for, the play space keeps my toddler entertained for ages, and there are loads of tables in the orchard to sit and catch some sun if it's a nice day. All in all I think its a bit of a hidden gem.

The Laing Art Gallery's Under 5 area and Little Artist Group

The Laing Art Gallery's Under 5 area and Little Artist Group

I've been meaning to try out The Laing Art Gallery's under 5 area and their weekly Tuesday group for a while. A friend of mine had mentioned that the kids room was a nice space, and I'd seen the brief info about the Little Artist class on the gallery's webpage. The class starts at 10:30 which always seems a bit early to get me, the two year old and the baby up, breakfasted, dressed and into Newcastle for. But the today the stars aligned (read the baby decided to wake us all up earlier than normal) so we headed in to check it out. 

Ridley Park - Blyth

On a freezing cold Saturday in April, we headed out with a few friends to Ridley Park in Blyth. I'd never been to this park before, but my husband had told me it was really impressive. Well he wasn't exaggerating. It was a lovely park, big enough to have a meander through for 15-20 minutes, green space for a kick about, loads of equipment for kids of a pretty wide age range and a cafe to grab a coffee and bit of cake.

Parking: There was a decent sized car park which was almost empty when we visited. I can imagine on a sunny summers day the car park would be heaving pretty early on, but if so there were plenty of spots to leave the care on the road surrounding the park.

The car park - it's opportunities to take glam photos like this that made me want to get into blogging!

The car park - it's opportunities to take glam photos like this that made me want to get into blogging!

Play areas: A short flat walk from the car park led to the main park where there were 3 distinct playing areas. A playground for 10 year olds and under, a junior park for 11 and over and a water feature area.

UPDATE: TWITTER TELLS ME THE WATER FEATURE WILL START ON 28TH MAY 2016 FOR THE SUMMER. The water wasn't on when we visited. The northumberland council website tells me that it's on 'most days' during the summer, from 11-6pm. I can imagine the toddler going nuts for this when it's operational, and as  it was freezing cold it was probably for the best so my toddler was exposed to fewer risk factors for hypothermia. You could see from the placement of water pumps that it would probably be quite dramatic when it was on, but unfortunately without the water sprinkling, my trusty iPhone photographs are a bit bland. The ground was a soft, anti slip material, although I feel like those 6 rocking animals might act like a magnet to excitable kids' heads when they are running around in the water. 

The water area - the silver spots on the ground are presumably where the water comes from in the Summer. 

The water area - the silver spots on the ground are presumably where the water comes from in the Summer. 

The Junior park for under 10s, was really well equipped with a few pieces which were different from the usual swings or roundabouts that you see in most parks. Below are photographs of all of the equipment in this section of the park. Including climbing pieces, slides, and water and sand features. The water feature, which was a tap with a series of tubes, turbines and mills for the water to travel through, wasn't on when we visited. Perhaps this is something else which is only operational during the summer months? Our toddler didn't seem to mind though and still had a play on it. 

Climbing equipment.

Climbing equipment.

The water feature

The water feature

Slide

Slide

The junior park was particularly well equipped with swings. There were 6 of the older kid style, 2 for little children, and then a big basket type swing which would fit a couple of kids in at the same time. 

The junior park was particularly well equipped with swings. There were 6 of the older kid style, 2 for little children, and then a big basket type swing which would fit a couple of kids in at the same time. 

The sandpit was designed like a ship. 

The sandpit was designed like a ship. 

One of the things which set Ridley Park apart from the other parks that I've been to before was the area for over 11s. The equipment in this section was frighteningly big. The type of park which is great when you are 11, then as soon as you have kids and lose your sense of humour and ability to see any fun in taking risks, it is quite terrifying. Mainly the climbing apparatus. I don't think my photos show just how high some of it went. 

This is the one. The one that I'll be hoping my kids don't spot when they are big enough to climb it. It was really high. 

This is the one. The one that I'll be hoping my kids don't spot when they are big enough to climb it. It was really high. 

As well as the play areas there were lots of grassy patches which you could spend a while walking around, have a picnic or play games on. 

Cafe: There was a really sweet cafe in the centre of the park, with places to sit both inside and out. I spotted at least two high chairs for the little people, and dogs were welcome inside too. The cafe supplied some games equipment (which in the interests of full disclosure I must point out some of it was tired, like when Eddie Izzard completed 50 marathons tired, a couple of the balls looked like they had been salvaged from a dog's mouth, but there was enough equipment in good enough state to have a kick about with) like balls, hula hoops, and a mini kids slide. I thought this was a really nice touch, and we had a good time chasing around one of the balls each time our toddler kicked it in the opposite direction to us. For the size of the cafe it had a very big menu, not just offering coffee and cakes, but full meals. We saw a few people tucking into baked potatoes and paninis and they looked really good. We treated ourselves to a millionaires shortbread and hot chocolate whilst I fed the baby, and they were lovely. Slightly disappointingly they'd added synthetic tasting chocolate sauce when decorating our plate which distracted a little bit from the rich, slightly bitter taste of the chocolate on the shortbread. Millionaires shortbread is one of my favourites, and this was definitely a really good one, and tasted home made. I'm sure it was, as we saw them bring out big trays of freshly cooked scones from the oven. The only downside to this cafe was that if you needed the loo, you needed to go outside and brave the elements, as the only ones available were the parks toilets. 

Spot the toddler hand. On this occasion I managed to intercept before he came into contact with the sweet goods. I think that leaves the total at Toddler 7 - me 1. 

Spot the toddler hand. On this occasion I managed to intercept before he came into contact with the sweet goods. I think that leaves the total at Toddler 7 - me 1. 

Baby Rosa enjoying the cafe. 

Baby Rosa enjoying the cafe. 

Toilets: Now for the weird bit of the review. With a baby and toddler needing their nappy changing, what feels like every 15 minutes, the toilets are pretty important to me. Important enough to take photos of, it seems. These pics were taken on my iPhone, but I think even a top of the range SLR couldn't save these pics from how grim they are. Probably my only negative part of the review of this park, but there were only one sets of toilets open. So two female toilets, and absolutely nowhere within them to change a baby. The green porta-cabin building were toilets too, but these were all locked up. Perhaps there were baby change within the disabled toilet? But I had asked within the cafe if there were any baby change in the park and they didn't know, so I'm not sure whether there are any baby change places in the park. Thankfully on our trip there were no tell-tale smells indicating an immediate nappy change required, so both the toddler and baby just had to wait until we got home. 

Would I recommend it? Absolutely, it was a perfect park for the colder weather, lots to entertain the little ones, bits of games equipment for us to use, and a lovely cafe for a cake. We'll definitely go back in the summer so that we can see the water area in action. We live about a half an hour drive away, but I think that if we were heading out for a day it would be worth making the trip to Ridley park for the great play spaces. 

 

Have you been to Ridley Park? What did you think? Did you find any baby change facilities? Have I missed anything out of this review? Leave me a comment below. 

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TOTS100

Geronimo Festival 2016 - Harewood House, Leeds

Letters spelling out GERONIMO met us at the entrance of the festival. 

Letters spelling out GERONIMO met us at the entrance of the festival. 

We booked our tickets to Geronimo Festival back in January, when this blog was just a twinkle in my eye. It looked fun, different to anything we'd been to before and handily it fell on the same weekend as my toddler's second birthday. Last year we'd had a small party which ended up being a surprising amount of work, so being a fuss-free celebration it ticked all of the boxes. The review i'd found of the previous year was pretty positive, so we went ahead and booked up. It wasn't cheap, but as we were visiting just before the toddler turned 2 we only had to pay for two adult tickets, which including car parking cost us about £45. My sister and her family joined us too, costing them almost £90 for the day. 

Getting there: We set off, raincoats in hand on a wet bank holiday Sunday. I optimistically checked the forecast every 20 minutes, but it was due to rain all day. It wasn't just the weather dampening our spirits either as a search of the twitter hashtag #geronimofest detailed 90 minute waits to get into the car park, and more alarmingly queues in the rain of up to an hour to get through the gates. Thankfully this was one of the few times that being perpetually late has played to our favour, as when we arrived at about 11:30 all of the queues had passed and we got straight into the carpark and waited about 10 mins to swap our tickets for wristbands. Getting in had been fairly straight-forward, although by the time we arrived the stewards directing traffic looked fairly shell shocked and didn't attempt to hide it when greeting us. They responded to any of our questions by telling us to ask at the gate, and I half expected them to curl into the fetal position if I asked again where we should park.  

The queues at 11:30am were moving quickly

The queues at 11:30am were moving quickly

Our gang waiting to get into the festival, fair to say we are in various states of excitement

Our gang waiting to get into the festival, fair to say we are in various states of excitement

My 10 year old nephew Rohan enjoying sitting on his larger than life initial

My 10 year old nephew Rohan enjoying sitting on his larger than life initial

Once through the gates the festival started as it would continue. Chaotic, busy, weird and on occasion wonderful. Large grass covered letters spelled out Geronimo, and we joined the rest of the crowd who could spot an instragramable moment when they saw one, in climbing over them for a photo op. Looking around the grounds we could see lots of marquees, outdoor events and people, lots and lots of people.

Mud, people and intriguing tents. Who needs a map

Mud, people and intriguing tents. Who needs a map

There weren't any signs detailing the different areas, and we hadn't been given a map or program when we entered the festival, so we started an exploratory walk around the grounds. This resulted in 8 people walking off in different directions, sticking their heads in various marquees and joining queues without really knowing what they were for. Due to the differing ages of our respective kids we decided to split up from my sisters family so we could get a bit of a grasp about what we wanted to do. 

I'm not sure we ever really succeeded with this aim, but that isn't to say that we didn't have fun. We really did. However I was left with the sensation that due to the poor organisation of the event we missed out on some of the attractions we would have enjoyed. 

Attractions: Between our two families we had 5 children ranging from 10 years old to 4 months, with the exception of the baby who slept through a lot of it, they all found something that they loved. The toddler was enthralled by the baby disco, bouncy castle, and musical performers who were dotted around the festival. 

My 4 year old niece had a talent of picking the biggest queues to have fun in. She spotted the helter skelter when we first went into the festival and her parents naively joined the queue. An hour after we'd left them to explore my sister texted me to say they were still in the queue for the slide! Later, after another parent had kindly pointed us in the direction of the face painters, we joined the huge queue and waited about an hour. Thankfully Maggie made such a cute little dog that we thought it had been worth it, but this was an example where the poor organisation really had an impact on the day. The Sunday event was sold out, which prior to the festival left me feeling both smug that we'd got our tickets in good time, and slightly anxious that there were going to be too many people for it to run well. Sadly I think that this was the case. We were frequently left asking why the organisers hadn't managed to cater for the huge number of people visiting. Apparently 15000 tickets were sold. Yet we spotted only 2 face painters. 

Where the festival seemed to excel was with the older children's activities. This was probably because the fewer number meant there were almost no queues for some of the things they were interested in. They went on a large zip line at least 6 times each, and although they were slightly too small for the giant jump where they would have landed in a huge inflatable pillow, if they'd been big enough for this, we saw there were no queues for this all day. They also took part in a graffiti workshop creating images with spray paint and templates which they both loved.

The large jump for older children and adults

The large jump for older children and adults

Shows: Due to the ages of the kids with us, the only show we were really interested in was Mr Tumble. Therefore we didn't spend much time around the stages where there were various performers from CBBC throughout the day. I saw on twitter that there were lots of complaints about kids being unable to see the shows due to the height of the stages, and we did find that when Mr Tumble came on the stage it was difficult to catch sight of him. But having been to festivals before this was something that I was expecting. It was a shame that the large screen was located so far from the stage, but apparently this was due to the poor weather. I spoke with another mum who had seen lots of the shows, she said that she made sure she arrived at the stage early and that her kids had got a good view. We didn't bother to wait in the queue for the circus, but we heard that this was worth the 45 minute wait and a really good show. There were lots of performances which took place within the crowd, and were very good. We happened to catch a few minutes of a sheep sheering show, which was much funnier and more entertaining than it sounds, and we saw giant puppets, a princess on a beautiful white horse and too many other performers to mention throughout the day. 

Things we missed out on: Annoyingly we did miss out on some of the things that we would have been interested in, and I think that the poor information and planning on behalf of the festival was to blame. We stumbled upon the under three area after we'd been at the festival for a few hours. Here were a group of tents offering tumble tots sessions, soft play, and music and dance classes. We were informed that all of the tumble tots sessions were fully booked, which was frustrating as we hadn't been told on entry what sessions needed to be booked in advance. In all fairness the tumble tots staff member told us that we could wait at the door and when people started leaving that they'd let people in on a one in one out basis, but we decided just to explore the rest of the festival instead of waiting. As we left the festival we spotted the woodland area which we hadn't seen at all whilst we were inside. I think that my nephews would have really enjoyed playing in this area where there were nets in the trees to climb on, but there had been no signposting to this inside so we didn't see it until it was too late. 

Toilets and Baby Change: I saw some negative comments on twitter about the baby change facilities, but again I think this must have been due to poor signage. There was what I thought were very good provision for baby change within the under three areas, but we didn't see one sign throughout the whole festival letting people know where they were. Baby change was within a marquee, with at least 8 changing tables, with hand gel, baby wipes and nappies available if you found yourself separated from your change bag or running out of nappies. There was a breastfeeding tent there for people who wanted to have somewhere private to feed their baby, but again we just stumbled upon this as opposed to seeing any signs. There were toilets scattered around the event, and some did have long queues. However other areas didn't have any queues at any point throughout the day so we always used these. They did run out of toilet paper half way through the day which was annoying.

We didn't have to wait to use the toilets. 

We didn't have to wait to use the toilets. 

Food: This was another area where the queues were a nightmare. Until about 3pm it looked like each food queue would be at least an hour. That was whether you wanted a full meal, or just a cup of tea. It was frustrating and again left us feeling like the festival hadn't managed to adequately prepare for the number of tickets sold. There were places to eat foods if you'd brought picnics such as a small undercover picnic table areas, and we saw lots of people eating their picnics in the tents. However usually the ground wasn't covered so it didn't look particularly comfortable.

Queues for most of the day for the food vans

Queues for most of the day for the food vans

Some undercover picnic benches

Some undercover picnic benches

Overall: Perhaps this review has been overly negative, as overall we did have a brilliant day. There was so much to see and do, and it was really quite different to anything that we'd been to before. I almost wished that we'd arranged to stay in Leeds and had tickets for the second day, as I think having gleaned the knowledge we had from day one we could have had an even better time on a return visit. I think we easily could have spent another 5 hours at the event and still had things to do. I think this is where the organisers need to listen to the feedback on twitter, facebook and the various blogs which have been written about the event. The variety and type of attractions and events put on throughout the festival was brilliant, but there needed to be more of them so that people's lasting memory of the day was about the excitement of what they did do, instead of just waiting in queues all day long. They also need to provide people with more information, through adequate signage, information packs and actual staff who are working for geronimo as opposed to being part of a specific attraction. 

Tips for anyone going to Tatton Park at the end of the month or going to Geronimo 2017:

  • Expect traffic and queues to get into the carpark. Think about heading a good hour before the start time, or to arrive an hour or so after to miss the worst of it. 
  • Bring your own food, flask and waterproof picnic blanket. Don't waste any of your day in the huge queues for food.
  • If the information provided hasn't been improved, then try and spend the first half an hour walking around and covering all of the ground, putting your heads in as many tents as you can to work out just what is inside, whether you'd be interested in it, and if so if it needs to be booked in advance. 

Would I recommend it? This is a tough one, as I thought that it was a brilliant event, but that there are so many areas for improvement. I think that I would personally return next year, hoping that the organisers have learned from this year, and using the knowledge that I have from this year. But I would be wary of recommending it to anyone else until I'd seen that improvements had been made. I hope that the organisers can dust themselves off and think about the improvements which can be made for next year, as I think Geronimo has the potential to be something really special. The quality and variety of shows, attractions and events were excellent, they had thought of something for everyone. However there just weren't enough for the amount of people who had bought a ticket. 

 

Did you go to Geronimo Festival 2016? What were your thoughts? Do you agree? Think that the smoke filled bubbles at the event went to my head? Please leave us a comment with letting us know what you thought of the event.