Saturday, 20 January 2018

February half term. Things to do in Northamptonshire

For us February half term is week commencing 12th February and includes Pancake Day and Valentine's.

I always find February half term is about chilling out a bit after the rude reality of returning to work/school after Christmas.  It's still gloomy and cold but the nights are getting lighter hoorah!  However if we stay in for too long cabin fever sets in and my son in particular starts climbing the walls.  So here are some ideas for what to do this half term.

Mini Meadow Farm NN6 6HZ.
Lambing season runs 12th February to 31st March.
I love this farm it is fairly small but has loads to do, feed the animals for a small extra charge, there's a new indoor play area, lovely café, huge indoor sand pit and if the weather is dry great outdoor play equipment. £4 per person.

West Lodge Rural Centre NN14 2SH.
A much bigger farm but this is reflected in the cost.  I've been several times for Halloween and loved it.  I've never actually visited in February but with lambing plus other babies being born I'm sure it will be a great day out. Per Person £6.50 online and £7.45 on the gate. Under 2's free and family tickets available.

Waddesdon Manor HP18 0JH - Super Hero week
Go on the trail and solve the clues and riddles to claim a reward.  11am to 3pm.  £3 per child and normal ground admission applies.

Stowe - Half term Women of Stowe trail
10am to 5pm.  Grab your coat and boots and take part in this self led trail. Booking not required.  Normal ground admission charges apply.  £12 per adult and £6 per child. Under 5's free.  National Trust Property. 

Half Term Fifa Soccer School at Northampton Town Football Club
Sessions run 14th, 15th and 16th February.  11.15 to 1 with half hour lunch break and then more activities 1.30 to 3pm.  For ages 8 to 15.  £15 per child with sibling discount.

Evenley Wood Garden NN13 5SH
Snow drop days.  3rd to 28th February.  9.30 to 4pm.  £5 per adult and children free.

Coton Manor NN6 8RQ
Snow drops.  17th to 4th March.  £7.50 adult and £3 child. 
I visited her for the Bluebells and it was gorgeous and I also went in the summer holidays but in typical British weather style in poured with rain so we had tea and cakes and cut our visit short.  Coton Manor is a lovely garden with flamingos, ducks and chickens roaming the grounds.

Wicksteed Park NN15 6NJ
10th to 18th February 10.30 to 6pm.  8 rides open £6 per person.
Astroslide & Dropslide, explore the Treetop Walk and Sycamore Circle, get dizzy on the Carousel and Sway Rider, get a hole in one on Crazy Golf,  and enjoy the Meerkat Burrows.
Wicksteed Park

Abington Park Museum
14th February Valentines Workshop time slots 1.15-2 .00 2.15-3 3.15-4 £3 per child suitable for 3+ years.
16th February Chinese New Year Workshop time slots 1.15-2 2.15-3 3.15-4 £2.50 per child suitable for all ages.
You can book online or call 01604 838110
Abington Park Musuem Booking

And finally of course an indoor play centre is a blessing and a curse during half term.  The kids can get rid of their energy and you can have a cup of tea/coffee but the noise can be horrific and I'm always mildly concerned about the ball pits!!!  For children (like my daughter) that have outgrown an indoor play centre Boost Trampoline Park is a great alternative.


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

13 Family Days out in Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire is lucky to have a great variety of family days out.  There are some brilliant country parks, farms and play areas in Northamptonshire for families to enjoy.  

Below are 13 of my families favourites for you to try in no particular order

Family day out #1
Sywell Country Park NN6 0QX

There is a large reservoir, 3 mile walk and areas to fish.  There is a nice small café with toddler play area next door, toilets, lovely enclosed sand and water play area and a woodland themed area with carved animals, tunnels and slides.

Sywell Country Park

Sywell Country Park

Family day out #2 
Irchester Country Park NN9 7DL

Fabulous children's play area as well as trails through 83 hectares of mixed woodland. My kids love climbing up the hills although we did get stuck once and had to double back on ourselves. There is a cafe, Jungle Parc UK and the Irchester Narrow Gauge Railway museum.

Irchester Country Park
Irchester Country Park Woodland

Irchester Country Park
Irchester Country Park
Family day out #3
Brixworth Country Park  NN6 9DG

You can go cycling, sailing, fishing and there's loads of lovely signposted walks.  There is a nice children's play area with activites for most age groups. There's also a café, bike hire and toilets.

Family day out #4
Salcey Forest NN7 2HX

This is as the name suggests a large forest. They are lovely walks, a large bridge so you can see the tops of the trees, small play area, café and toilets.  You can also cycle, horse ride, walk the dogs and there's a new adventure rope course.

At various times of the year they operate The Stick Man or Gruffalo trail. Your children can follow a signposted walk, spot the characters and take part in activities on the posters.

The treetop walk is currently closed but all others walks/café open.

Salcey forest play area family day out in Northamptonshire
Salcey Forest Play Area

Salcey Forest Treetop Walk Family Day Out in Northamptonshire
Salcey Forest Treetop Walk
Family day out #5
Stanwick Lakes, Northamptonshire NN9 6GY

At Stanwick Lakes there are loads of activities. The central adventure play area with climbing tower and water play appeals to all age groups. On 2 of the walks you will find assault courses, tyre swings and zip wires.
There is a bird hide and feeding station to watch the wildlife. You can use the café or picnic sites dotted about the site.
I think this maybe my favourite.  We have visited loads as the play area is so good and walk manageable with young children. This is popular with cyclists and has bike hire. Parking varies from £2.60 to £5.60 depending on time of year and length of stay.  My top tip if busy is to pay for parking in the visitors centre.

Family day out #6
Abington Park NN3 3HN

Abington Park is Northampton's oldest and most popular park. It contains a museum, sports facilities, a cafe, lakes, and a garden for the blind. There is a band stand where live music is played on Sundays during the summer, a large play area and church.  Lots of events are held throughout the year such as Race for Life, Fun Fairs, National play day, Half term activities in the museum. 
I love Abington Park and it is my local but am finding the play area could do with a few larger pieces of equipment for the older children like a zip wire or larger climbing frames as it does not suit teens who have outgrown the equipment. Free parking all around the park.

Family day out #7 
Castle Ashby NN7 1LQ

Castle Ashby is a beautiful house and gardens & my happy place. You can wander around the gardens, visit the selection of animals including the famous meerkats, let the kids let of steam in the play area and enjoy the tea rooms. It has summer and winter opening times. During the winter you pay £5 to park and can still use the gardens but tea rooms and other facilities are closed. In the summer adults are £8, children 5-16 £2.00 and under 5's free. (These prices are current Feb 2020).
The scones here are delicious and its a lovely place to escape for a few hours. Even with children in tow it seems peaceful, although the tea rooms can get very busy but there is now loads of outdoor seating.
It has themed events throughout the year and we love the Easter egg hunt and Halloween pumpkin hunt.
Closed over the winter months but you can still visit the gardens and pay £5 to park.  Cafe and shop closed but still a lovely place to visit.

Castle Ashby Meerkats family day out in Northamptonshire
Castle Ashby Meerkats

Castle Ashby play area family day out in Northamptonshire
Castle Ashby Play Area
Family day out #8
Wicksteed Park, Northamptonshire NN15 6NJ

Theme park & play area.  Over 30 rides, lake, picnic areas and food outlets.  Prices vary depending on time of year and whether you have wristbands or tickets so it is best to check the website

We have been for various birthday trips and the kids loved it. For their age group there was loads to go on and we had a brilliant day. The food wasn't too expensive and you can take picnics.  Most queues were quite short so you could fit a lot in and not have moany children waiting to go on things.

Wicksteed Park chairswings family day out in Northamptonshire
Wicksteed Park

Family day out #9
Gullivers land MK15 0DT

Just outside the 'Shire this is a theme park designed for children aged 2-13 years.  Prices vary depending on height, time of year and whether booked online or on the doors so definitely check the website

The park is in zones and easy to navigate.  It is a bit dated but brilliant fun and very good value.  We've been 3 times and always had fun.

Family day out #10
Rookery Open Farm NN12 7SJ

This is a small farm, with a large indoor play area and lovely large outdoor area with massive bouncy castles for when the weather is nice.  You can pet the baby goats and enter the pens which my kids love.  £7 adult and £6.50 child.  You could combine this destination with a walk along the canal and lunch or an ice cream.

Rookery Farm goat pens family day out in Northamptonshire
Baby kid goats at Rookery Open Farm

Family day out #11
West Lodge Rural Centre, Northamptonshire, NN14 2SH

Check website for prices' as can vary but as a rough guide about £6 per person under 2's are free. Family tickets are available and cheaper if you book online in advance. 

Lovely farm with animals you can pet, talks, walks, play area, barrel rides which are very popular, pig races and pony rides. The barrel rides are free but pony rides have an additional fee.  They have themed events throughout the year which are fab. We went during October half term for Halloween and the kids loved it although the spooky tractor ride was a little too scary for my son.

Family day out #12
Boost Trampoline Park & Riverside Hub

Technically this is 2 but I have put together as in some location (Riverside) and can cater for all ages.  Riverside Hub is an excellent indoor play area with the addition of a climbing tree, go-karts and sensory play.  Prices vary depending on age and standard/school days so check the website for details.  Riverside Hub
Boost is a huge trampoline park an hour is £10 but it really does wear kids out and it is £5 a session for under 5's. They do have special offers for 2 hour jumps. Boost is currently being refurbished & 3 new activity stations being installed. The new slide is open (Feb 2020).

Family day out #13
Mini Meadows Farm, Welford, NN6 6HZ

A lovely farm on the outskirts of Northampton.  Play areas, large covered sand pit, animals inside and out.  Café and lots of picnic areas.  £5 per person entry and £2 for a bucket of food for the animals.  Open 10am to 5pm after 3pm admission is £2.50 per person.

Hope this has given you some inspiration for days out with your children.  What's your favourite family day out in Northamptonshire?

Emma xxx

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Monday, 15 January 2018

Stanwick Lakes in Northamptonshire

Stanwick Lakes is one of our favourite places for some fresh air and exercise in Northamptonshire.  It suits both children (aged 9 and 13) and I love it too.

Stanwick Lakes is off the Stanwick roundabout on the A45 in Northamptonshire 8 miles from Wellingborough.  For Satnav purposes the postcode is NN9 6GY.  The site is open from 7am to 9pm (Summer time) and Visitor centre for information, snacks, toilets and indoor toddler play area is open 10am to 5pm. Car parking charges vary depending on time spent there and season.  Currently £2.80 in winter and between £3.80 and £5.80 in the summer. 

The most impressive thing for the kids is the enormous central play area, with climbing frames, slides, swings, water play areas, sand and tunnels.  On either side is a walk/cycle track for you to explore.  One way takes you to the obstacle course for older children.   The other way takes you on a nice loop and past a zip wire, tyre swings and rope bridge.  There are several bird hides too and lots of lakes.  The whole area is very popular with families, walkers, bird watchers, cyclists and horse riders (permit required).

In the summer months Stanwick Lakes can get very busy and I've often ended up in the overflow car park but in the winter it is quite quiet and a great way to blow away the cobwebs.  Do be prepared for mud though as in the Winter months (especially if we've had lots of rain) certain areas can get boggy especially the obstacle course area.  My kids love it though.  Mud and puddles equals fun.  Just remember a big bag to put all the muddy stuff in and maybe some spare clothes.

In the summer lots of families take picnics and the kids playing in the central area wear swimming costumes and run about for hours.  There's also a BBQ area next to this for super prepared families.  So take along a disposable BBQ, your sausages and enjoy!

Tyre swing

The rope bridge

Zip wire fun

The site also runs a holiday club which might be of benefit to some families.  It is run during Easter, May and Summer holidays providing activities for up to 23 children aged between 5 and 11 years.

The site is host to a multitude of events from shows in the outdoor theatre, Twelfth Night and The Legend of King Arthur are on this year (2020).  Craft workshops with Stanwick Stitchers and patchwork quilt sit & sew, half term children activities, health walks commencing 5th March at 10am (weekly) and quarterly run 15th March, 14th June, 13th September and 29th November 10.15am 5K, 10K or half marathon!

Next time you are in the area I 100% recommend Stanwick Lakes.  Both children give Stanwick Lakes a 10 out of 10!  We really do love it you'll have a great time.

If you are looking for more parks and playgrounds in Northamptonshire then check out my guide Parks and playgrounds in Northamptonshire

Emma xxx

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For loads of days out ideas click on the link below for an interactive map and reviews.

Days Out Now

Stanwick Lakes
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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Breakfree/Daily Mail Holiday Offer

Update 15th January 2019: Current local promo opens midnight.

Codes are - splash, spade, shell, swim, treat, lilo
(If it doesn't work try all capitals & no space at the end)

Doesn't matter what local newspaper you choose.

Easter and October half term are usually available. Remember the May bank holiday has changed to 8th May due to VE remembrance.

For parents with pre-schoolers absolutely loads of dates to choose from.

Go, go, go!

Happy booking.

**original post**

Every year I book a holiday through the Breakfree/Daily Mail promotion and squeeze in a cheaper holiday to break up the year.  We usually go away for Easter or October half term.

I'd like to share with you the hows and top tips for anybody new to this holiday promotion.

Daily Mail Campaign booked through Breakfree Holidays

Collect five different passwords from the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday.  The current promo started Saturday 30th December and booking online opened at Midnight Wednesday 3rd January.

The promotion will close on 26th February.

The booking codes you need for this current promotion are



You can also book for postal booking form which is in the Daily Mail.

Prices are from £15 per person and based on 4.  So the cheapest deal available is £60.  For peak holidays a supplement of £6 per person is added so the cheapest deal is £84.

Depending on the site you choose other supplements are added.  My advice is to always price up the holiday you are looking for direct with the holiday provider so you can see what savings are available.

An example of supplementary charges are £8.75 per unit per night for service charge, £12.50 per person per break for entertainment passes (under 5's free).  Most sites offer some dates with half price offers on these charges or even free but are always off peak.

If you have pre school children there are loads of dates and cheap deals available including Butlins Tots breaks.

Prices are higher than they used to be but you can still save money.  On the holiday I have just booked I have saved £133 and potentially £190.  I have booked a comfort van and from experience this means I will either receive a standard or deluxe van at Haven. 

There is an amazing closed Facebook group called Breakfreeholidays run by Jason Milner and Gillian Read.  They do a fantastic job of updating and running a huge page and its the best place to get codes and dates.

Here's a link to the Facebook group Breakfreeholidays

Breakfree also run a local paper promotion which starts today (3rd January)

Prices are from £10/£15.  Collect 6 passwords from your local paper.  Booking opens 6th January.  First code is CHUMS
Booking Link

I have used this before but do not know as much about the supplementary charges so make sure you read all the information before booking.

Happy holiday searching and hope you get what you want.

I checked just before typing this and most of Easter has gone but there was availability for May Half Term and some for end of August.  For the pre schoolers lots of availability.

Emma xxx