Think Money Travel Guide – Staffordshire

Baggeridge Country Park is a tranquil gem on the edge of the Black Country. It was formerly the site of Baggeridge Colliery and part of the Himley Estate that belonged to the Earls of Dudley, but it has now been transformed into a family haven, 150 beautiful acres of country park land.

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DSCN7303When I was asked by Think Money to write about a great budget day out in Staffordshire, I immediately thought of Baggeridge. Quite simply, it appeals to all ages. It has a lovely children’s adventure playground and park area, complete with a large sandpit. You can purchase a bucket and spade from the tearooms on site for just a couple of pounds ad kids have a great time making sandcastles.

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DSCN7300There are other activities at Baggeridge that will delight children. In summer mini golf, large inflatable slides and a miniature railway that is operated by volunteers, are all available most weekends. These activities carry a small fee, with the railway a donation.

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DSCN7304 The beauty of Baggeridge is all the open space, for walking, for playing, for relaxing and for enjoying picnics. We always take a picnic to Baggeridge, but there is a lovely tearoom that stocks ice cream, sandwiches and hot and cold drinks. We stocked up with extra cold drinks and an ice cream before we took a walk around the park, heading up to the look out point which has fantastic views across the Midlands.

Stunning views

Stunning views

Incredible views

Incredible views

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The other big attraction of Baggeridge is some fishing pools that are just perfect for pond dipping. You can buy a fishing net from the tea room for just £2, we got two and enjoyed catching a few tiny fish.

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Little Jetties for fishing

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Baggeridge Country Park is a perfect Staffordshire day out, where you can spend as little or as much as you want to. Take a picnic or enjoy the tearoom, take a football or buy a fishing net, the choice is yours, and with parking just £2.70 all day, you could do both.

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*This post was written in collaboration with Think Money as part of their travel guide.

Spending a day at Warwick Castle

When I was a child, my favourite family day out was not at a theme park, or even at the seaside. I was a true history buff (still am) and my idea of half-term heaven was a day spent at the stunning Warwick Castle. This beautiful Medieval masterpiece is a magical place that brings historical events and characters to life in the confines of those thick castle walls. Last week I passed my love of this fabulous place to my six year old son, also turning out to be a bit of a history lover (thanks to a school project about the Staffordshire Hoard). Our first family visit was a definite success.

Warwick Castle is a real castle, so often when we talk of Castles we are faced with ruins as a result of the Civil War, but Warwick was on the winning side during that period, and so it retained all it’s magnificent. The home of such historically important characters as Warwick the Kingmaker, and the site of a murder in the 17th century that is now linked to it’s reputed haunting, Warwick has all the ingredients to make history fascinating for adults and children alike.

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Beautiful Warwick Castle

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The Castle

Our visit took part on a gloriously sunny day, which meant the chance to explore the grounds and outdoor demonstrations. We started though by touring the  Great Hall and the State Rooms. Joe was fascinated by the suits of Armour, including models of armoured horses, and was very excited when one of the very helpful guides dressed him as a medieval Knight, complete with chainmail, shield and a rather large (but luckily very blunt) sword. There are plenty of guided tours, but we decided to take things at our own pace. I was fascinated by items pertaining to belong to Elizabeth 1st, and the death mask of Oliver Cromwell, whilst Joe loved unusual items like the very large cooking pot.

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Pete with Oliver Cromwell’s Death Mask

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That rather large cooking pot.

The Royal Weekend party is just a stunning way to bring history to life, recreating a Victorian weekend from the time when the captivating Daisy Brooke was the chatelaine at Warwick, and the mistress of the heir to the throne, Bertie aka Edward VII. The attention to detail in this part of the castle is wonderful, from the glasses of wine to the brushes on the dressing table. This is my favourite part of the castle – it really takes you back in time as you observe and eavesdrop on conversations from royalty to the hired help.

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Towers and Ramparts

The towers and ramparts at Warwick offer some amazing views across the River Avon and Warwickshire, but Joe was a little frightened to venture up the enormous Guy’s Tower, instead venturing up the Clarence Tower with his dad. The Time Tower offers a new attraction for 2015, with an interactive display telling the history of the castle from Saxon times to the present day. Joe particularly enjoyed this, especially the talking portraits that moved out of their frames, as if by magic.

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Food

We enjoyed the unlimited pizza and salad option at the Undercroft buffet restaurant. This is part of the castle itself, so offers another fantastic experience. There are plenty of different pizza options, both meat and vegetarian, and also garlic bread and a good choice of salads. Unlimited soft drinks are also included in the price, which is £10.95 for adults and £6.95 for children. We really enjoyed the food on offer and liked the buffet option, but there are other outlets including fish and chips, hotdogs, Warwick Cream teas and The Coach House Family restaurant.

In the undercroft buffet

In the undercroft buffet

The grounds

There is so much to see and do in the grounds. We watched the birds of prey display, with Joe gasping as the huge Condor swooped down over our heads. We then visited the birds of prey mews where the birds sit so perfectly I actually asked my husband if they were real (I know – durrrr!). On such a beautiful day, many people were just sitting on the river bank enjoying the day, and the area around the Conservatory and peacock garden was very busy. This is one area that I totally fell in love with, the Conservatory is just beautiful and serves a great cream tea, whilst the fact that the peacocks roam free just fascinated Joe.

By the Millhouse - another place you can visit at Warwick Castle

By the Millhouse – another place you can visit at Warwick Castle

The birds of prey are just fabulous.

The birds of prey are just fabulous.

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One of the many amazing views from the Mount

The Conservatory - a must visit for afternoon tea

The Conservatory – a must visit for afternoon tea

One addition that I certainly don’t remember from my childhood visits is the Pageant Playground. This is a lovely, children’s wooden playground resembling a medieval fort, perhaps based on the original Warwick Castle. This is a great area for allowing parents to have a sit down while kids can run off any excess energy and indulge in battles using the shields and swords they will have picked up at the numerous gift shops (quite reasonably priced – Joe had a plastic sword and axe priced at £3 each). We finished our visit with a trip to the playground, knowing this would tire Joe out for the journey home.

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Sir Joe.

Sir Joe.

Warwick Castle is a true day out, you can literally spend the whole day there absorbed in the pomp and history of the wonderful building and its spectacular grounds. It is now an established favourite with my family and we can’t wait for our next visit.

11173355_748566375241466_8466174921137309083_nTo plan a visit, find admission and opening times, please visit the Warwick Castle website here.

*We were given free admission to Warwick Castle in return for a honest review.

Family Fever

The National Trust launches ‘Nature Misses you’

There are still three weeks left of the Summer holidays for most of us, and if now is the time when ideas to keep the kids occupied are starting to run dry, then it is the perfect opportunity to take a look at the ideas that the National Trust has for getting children outside and enjoying the fresh air, the environment and nature.

The National Trust has, this summer, launched a new initiative called ‘Nature Misses you’. They have researched the activities that different generations partake in, for leisure and family time, and the research has shown, that with each passing generation, we are spending less time outdoors. The National trust feels that the activity ideas they put together as part of the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ could help to address some of these issues, by getting families to do fun things together in the great outdoors. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you can find the full list of activities here.)

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I think spending time outdoors is absolutely essential for health and wellbeing, and that it also is a whole lot of fun. As a family, we have been crossing things off the list that we have already done, and with an upcoming weeks holiday in Wales, we have highlighted more of the activities that we are going to try.

Here are some things that we have already crossed off.

Roll down a really big hill. (Number 2 on the list)

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Build a den (Number 4 on the list)

forestry commision 062Great fun at the Forestry commission in Cannock Chase – there have partly built dens that you can add to – Joe loved this.

Run around in the rain (number 6 on the list)

084This is a much younger Joe having fun in puddles. Rain should never be a reason for staying indoors!

Play in the Snow (Number 15 in the list)

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Create some wild art (Number 18 in the list)

10439470_623864107711694_7057920189297689307_nWe made these fishes with sticks from our garden and then attached them to the fence. We made them outside too, which was fun – although there was glue all over the paving slabs…

Jump over Waves (Number 20 on the list)

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Pick fruit that is growing in the wild (Number 21 on the list)

DSCN8432We cheated a little with this one, as we visited a local fruit farm. Still a whole lot of fun though, and the strawberries were amazing.

Catch a fish with a net and find some frogspawn (Number 8 and 32 on the list)

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Discover what’s in a pond. (Number 35 on the list)

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Go swimming in the sea (Number 42 on the list)

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Learn to ride a horse (Number 48 on the list)

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These are just some of the activities we have done so far, we have also played pooh sticks and skimmed stones (Nu. 19 and 5 respectively) and made daisy chains and trails. Next up is to check out a cave, and to hunt for bugs. There is literally so much to do on the list.

You can find out more on the new App, it’s available on iOS and Android.

Don’t forget to get involved with the conversation on Twitter and Instagram too, use the hash tag #50things and #NatureMissesYou.

Super Busy Mum