Category Archives: What’s fun in Herts?

A Super Summer Family Evening at Whipsnade’s Sunset Safari

Cheetahs, peacocks and zebras, oh my! Yes, it was that kind of evening at Whipsnade’s annual Sunset Safari…and those were just the high-flying aerial, acrobatic team feats. IMG_5120

Although there was a mild breeze, the weather was thoroughly cooperating for what is one of ZSL’s nicest family summer evening’s out. The far-reaching skies were ranging from reds, to yellows, to lavender and as the sun was setting over the Chiltern Hills you could feel the zoo come alive in ways that aren’t regularly experienced on your average day out.

It was a fantastic opportunity to go beyond the Whipsnade gates after closing time and see the zoo looking nothing like it normally does. As soon as you get past the entrance, you’re immediately drawn to the subtle music of chilled beats and the multi-coloured beanbag beds perfectly placed around the acrobatic apparatus…clearly where part of the evening’s bendy performers would amaze and delight.

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Intermingled between the aerial performances, there were hula-hooping leopards and stilt-walking peacocks strutting their stuff, mariachis bringing the sounds of Mexico as well as the entrancing steel drumming man. The variation of music throughout the evening kept the parents energetically relaxed and the kids happily dancing past their usual bedtime routine.

To add to the atmosphere there was plenty of food and drink to keep you satiated and interested: Pizza, Mexican, Thai, and of course the standard of hot dogs and burgers were all on offer. This and the added bar options make for a lovely evening out.

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Once fed and relaxed it was time to tour the zoo animals, after-hours. You can tour at your own pace, lookout for the zoo’s nocturnal animals, listen to talks, learn about conservation, and even pretend you’re a zoo vet for a moment.

All in all, it was a super summer sunset safari evening and one to look forward to on the calendar each year.

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Sensational Spa Day at Luton Hoo Hotel

Just before Christmas I had the opportunity for some much needed personal time and pampering. In the midst of all the holiday hype, I managed to find a morning where I could indulge myself into the relaxing retreat at the Luton Hoo Hotel Spa. img_0929It’s quite a magical place that helped me escape for just a little while and recharge my batteries.

From the moment you pass the majestic hotel gates and drive through the
countryside/golf course entrance you enter into an almost fairyland-esqe world that  begins melting and leaving the stresses of everyday life behind. Seriously; The Luton Hoo grounds are beautiful.

After parking my car and wandering through the woodland trails to the elegant spa entrance I was cheerfully greeted by the reception team, given a tour of the facilities and offered a cosy, terrycloth dressing gown to begin my experience.img_0940

 I  was booked in for the customized Luton Hoo Signature Treatment, but as I arrived early, had some time to decompress and take advantage of the offered facilities.

There’s a very calming atmosphere from the locker room to the spectacular (one of the best I’ve ever seen) oak framed pool area complete with infinity pool, vitality pool, and heat therapy suite.

img_0942After a little swim and sauna, I had a some time to spare before my treatment; Naturally, I ventured upstairs to the Relaxation Room to sample some herbal teas and dried fruit snacks while entranced by the sound of soothing music and the almost-sedative inducing fish tank bubbling. I almost didn’t need the treatment, though, as I was pretty much relaxed and ready for a nap.

I’m glad I held-out for the treatment, though (as if I’d miss it). The Luton Hoo Signature treatment, with the lovely Senior Therapist,  Becky, in charge, is 80 minutes of blissful calm. An ESPA-customized treatment specifically for Luton Hoo, the ritual takes you from a cleansing footbath to Balinese massage and can be incorporated with the most warming of hot stones. The ESPA oils are personalised to your liking and smell fantastic. Needless to say the overall experience left me ultra-relaxed and ready to take on the world. I’m even considering the Luton Hoo Spa membership just so I can unwind on demand.

Click here for more information on the Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa & here for Luton Hoo Spa Membership

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Review: “Mrs. Armitage and the Big Wave” A Great Family Day at the Theatre

Mrs. Armitage and her faithful dog, Breakspear, are off to the seaside for a day of surfing; but what happens while they’re waiting for the big wave makes Quentin Blake’s story a sincere display of true companionship, trust, problem solving, and eternal optimism.

I recently had the privilege of experiencing the Ga Ga Theatre Company’s adaptation of this lovely story at the Abbey Theatre in St. Albans. We took the whole family to this hour-long production and it was a wonderful, interactive way of giving young children a taste for the theatre, as well as having a lovely morning together.

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The entire play uses two clearly talented actors each portraying a handful of upbeat, amusing characters. Different voices and accents are used to give real variance and depth to the characters and certainly keep the audience, especially the children, interested.

The main characters endure many situations as they’re ‘waiting for the big wave;’ and with each comes the choice of either giving up or staying positive and finding a solution. These scenarios also made for some good discussion with the kids after the show.  mrs_armitage_0393

The combination of quality acting, funny lines, simple, yet clever, props, and animated, projected sketches make for a well-integrated way of interpreting Blake’s story. Well done to the Ga Ga Theatre Company for this fun production. Looking forward to your next project soon.

For more information on the Ga Ga Theatre Company and their coming productions, see the website, here: http://www.gagatheatre.co.uk

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Herts Successful Designer Hosts Summer Children’s Jewellery Workshops

Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery began life in a spare room in Harriet’s home in 1998 and since then it has grown to be one of the most respected jewellery companies in the UK.

Harriet was originally taught to make jewellery by her father and made her first silver ring with him at the tender age of 4! Her crafting abilities flourished and by the time she was at primary school she was making and selling professional quality earrings to her classmates. At this time she was also giving the Covent Garden market traders a run for their money while selling her jewellery on a friend’s stall. Her love of design never waned and an Industrial Design degree at Brunel University was the perfect opportunity to pursue her three dimensional thinking skills. She achieved first class honours and the prestigious University Design Prize.

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Although Harriet enjoyed her post-graduate job in the computer industry, she continued to feel a desire to follow her creative side and for many years she had been taking on jewellery commissions for friends in her spare time. In 1998 when she had a queue of 33 commissions she knew it was time to follow her heart and she founded Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery. Expansion was quick and by early 2000 the company moved into its first studio in the North Hertfordshire village of Weston. Award followed award and by 2002 the business received a special commendation from the judges at the National Jewellery Awards.

In May 2005 despite being heavily pregnant with her first child, Harriet cut the ribbon and opened the second branch of Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery in Cambridge city centre. Harriet has continued to juggle motherhood and her expanding business ever since. No easy task for any working parent.

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2011 was an exciting milestone year as Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery was chosen as one of the first twenty jewellers worldwide to launch certified Fairtrade gold. Membership of the Responsible Jewellery Council soon followed and the business was the first independent to be certified by both organizations. The company has grown from strength to strength and has over 20 national and international awards to its name. Most recently Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery was awarded ‘Bridal Jewellery Retailer of the Year 2016’ at the Retail Jeweller UK Jewellery Awards, celebrated as the Oscars of jewellery retailing and what a glamorous night it was!

 

Harriet has always been a passionate campaigner for skills and education within her sector and has transformed the lives of countless design graduates and is also “Master” to a Worshipful Company of Goldsmith Apprentice. Closer to home, she organises competitions and events for children in her award-winning Hertfordshire Jewellery Centre, knowing from firsthand experience the importance of local events to keep children entertained. With our on-site coffee shop, parents have the added bonus of coffee, cake and a bit of time to themselves while the children are occupied. The Children’s Jewellery Making workshops are a wonderful opportunity for children to work with and learn from qualified jewellery designers. What could be better than unleashing a child’s creative side whilst keeping their hands and minds busy?

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Workshops will be taking place at the Hertfordshire Jewellery Centre throughout the summer.

More information can be found at www.hkjewellery.co.uk/children-s-jewellery-making-workshops

Six Tips to Being Confident with Outdoor Play

Philippa Statter, Environmental Education Officer for Groundwork Hertfordshire, has delivered a variety of outdoor play activities with parents and their children.

It’s taken me 10 years of working with children to fully realise that humans were born to play – whether young or old. When playing, some of the best learning happens. There’s pressure for parents to buy the best toys or electronic gadgets for their children but there is already a whole world of natural toys out there waiting to be explored. Children and adults love nothing better than to explore…

I grew up by the coast so was extremely lucky to have the beach on my doorstep but my fondest childhood memories are of being out in the garden. I was never happier than when I was outside in my little den in the compost heap, making mud pies. I was particularly proud of creating a red hair dye for my Cindy doll and I’m sure my parents got fed up of finding the leftovers of my flowery perfumes festering on the shelf! Things don’t change; I now work with parents and children to spread the word about outdoor play and its many benefits.

It’s hard for parents to find the balance between spending the time you would like to with your children and how much time you actually have. Outdoor play is free and you only need a little bit of time and a patch of green space. Most of us have access to the outdoors, whether that’s your own garden, a park or a grassy area with a bench! Of course the number one priority is that your children are safe and the best way of ensuring this is to make time to go out and play with them.

Okay, what do you do with just you and your children and some grass?

Using a cardboard tube as a telescope

 

Top tip 1: Let the children lead the way (but also lead by example yourself).

Observing what your child enjoys doing is the best way of tailoring the activities you do with them. Leading by example is also really important. My midwife friend told me, “A child is only born with two fears: a fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. All other fears are learnt.”

So when your child spots a spider scuttling away or a bee feeding on a flower, encourage them to enjoy the moment!

 

Top tip 2: Use simple everyday household items.

Free or low cost items make great toys. Empty yoghurt pots and sticks mean you can mix potions and kitchen roll tubes make great telescopes. If you have a pestle and mortar (or a bucket and a rolling pin!), you can make natural paint by crushing leaves or berries and adding water. (See top tip 4 for more info.)

Children love collecting things don’t they? Give them an empty egg box, yogurt pot or plastic bag and see what interesting things you can collect together… Encourage them to look for nature’s rubbish – things that nature doesn’t need any more, like fallen leaves, seed cases and berries. The best bit is that at the end, everything that’s been collected can just be thrown back into nature!

Father and son get stuck into creative play with sticks and string

 

Top tip 3: Let your children get dirty!

If they can relax into playing and exploring without needing to worry about mud or grass stains, it’ll be a lot more rewarding for everyone. If you need more convincing, read this interesting article from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-greenfield/germs-kids_b_4951388.html

 

Top tip 4: Focus on what is safe rather than what’s not!

When you’re in a public space it’s always worth giving the area a quick sweep with your eyes and feet to check for any hidden undesirables.

Once you’ve done that, you can concentrate on having fun. If you’re worried about what is safe to pick, here are some pointers:

Berries that are red, orange or yellow are a natural warning sign. Only pick berries if you definitely know what they are. Blackberries, hawthorns, elderberries and rose hips are all good. Keep your eyes open for prickly leaves. If your child does get stung by a stinging nettle, it’s not the end of the world.

Nature’s rubbish on the ground indicates what nature does not need any more so that’s a safe bet – you can pick it up without damaging the plant or animal that shed it!

Of course, this is all with the caveat of taking the necessary precautions to avoid triggering any specific allergies that your child has.

Top tip 5: Be risky in play.

If your child wants to climb a tree, roll down a hill or jump from one rock to another, then reward their courage and support them with the challenge! We have to deal with risk in life and, as a parent, you can manage this best for your child. Children grow up fast and being more adventurous with choice is an advantageous skill for later in life.

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Top tip 6: Be prepared for all weather.

We are naturally more engaged with the outdoors when it’s warm and sunny (a rare occurrence in this country, I know!) Remember the expression, “There’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothes.”

Your child will be happy out in the cold air if they are wrapped up warmly or out in the rain splashing in puddles if wearing wellies and a waterproof. For more fantastic ideas as to what to do in wintery weather check out the Wild Weather Book by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield.

Now, I hope you feel inspired to grab your coats and wellies and explore the outdoors through your child’s eyes!

Groundwork Hertfordshire is the community charity with a green heart. We are committed to changing places and changing lives. We work to improve people’s prospects, create better places, and encourage greener living and working. Visit www.groundwork.org.uk/east for more information.

HERTFORD THEATRE RELEASE: ALIENS LOVE UNDERPANTS

Big Wooden Horse and Nick Brooke Limited present:
Aliens Love Underpants

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Laugh your pants off with this number one bestselling children’s story, brought to life on stage for the very first time.
Hold on to your bloomers and prepare for a pant-abulous, knicker-tastic adventure.

This national bestseller and much-loved family favourite is reimagined for the stage for the very first
time, with special effects, original music, lots of aliens and many, many pants.
Created by children’s theatre company Big Wooden Horse and produced by Nick Brooke, this must-see production comes to Hertford Theatre as part of its nationwide tour.
Aliens Love Underpants tells the story of a gang of mischievous aliens on a visit to earth, travelling not to visit to the earthlings, but simply to steal their underpants!

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Silly, quirky and irresistibly fun, the show follows the aliens as they ransack the washing line on their search for pants–big and small, red or green. They love Grandma’s spotted bloomers, while Grandad’s long johns make for the perfect slide!
The book, written by Claire Freedman and illustrated by Ben Cort, was selected for Richard and Judy’s Children’s Book Club with the help of pupils from schools around the UK, and has been hugely popular since it was first published in 2007.
Director Adam Bampton-Smith said, “This funny and colourful book makes a wonderful stage show, which is just right for a family audience. It’s simply pantastic!”

Big Wooden Horse strive to present high quality theatre to younger audiences across the United Kingdom. They believe that young people deserve the highest quality that a professional theatre company can offer. The company’s productions aim to both entertain and inform young people, drawing from different cultures and traditions.

Nick Brooke Ltd, established in 2002, is a West End-based entertainment production company, specialising in children’s theatre. In 2005, the company presented its first children’s production, The Gruffalo, a stage adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s award-winning children’s picture book. This production has toured the UK extensively since then and has enjoyed six successful West End Christmas seasons. The company’s other children’s productions include We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

Tickets can be booked via www.hertfordtheatre.com or 01992 531500 and cost £11 each or £42 for a family ticket.

Hertfordshire’s Top-Ten (okay, 11) Favourite Half-Term Activities

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Half-term begins this weekend and, as always, it can be a wonderful, but difficult time for families. There’s so much time at home together and it’s tough keeping the kids interested and away from the screens…and heaven forbid it rains! This said, included are several half-term ideas for kids of all ages as well as the tag-along parents. Have a look through and email me on hertfordshire@mumsnetlocal.com if you have any questions or if there’s anything I’ve missed.

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We’ve also got a special half-term competition going to win a Sit-N-Stroll valued £289.99, so email me on hertfordshire@mumsnetlocal.com with the answer to the question asked, here: http://goo.gl/SfScaA

1. FUN FOR ALL AT THE GALLERIA THIS HALF TERM: 

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This May half term The Galleria, Hatfield’s outlet shopping centre, has plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained during the holidays.

Kids can enjoy the centre’s enormous jungle-themed adventure play area, Get Wild!, with its eclectic assortment of slides, tunnels, rope walks and climbing frames right in the heart of the shopping centre, it is the perfect place for children between the ages of 1-12 years to play and explore, there’s also a dedicated area for toddlers! Adults can keep watch from the side lines with a delicious cuppa and cake from Costa.

The Galleria is also hosting a pirate-themed indoor golf course, a challenging nine-hole mini course ruled by pirates, talking skeletons and pirate ships. Golfers of all ages can test their skills with the island greens and pre-historic cave challenges.

2. May Half Term Activities @ the Kids Village

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Our holiday activities and courses are back for May 2015! The full programme kicks off on Tuesday 26 May and runs through until Friday 29 May. We offer a range of holiday activities for children aged 0 – 17 years old.

  • Family Fun Swim Sessions
  • Learn to Swim
  • Mini Boots
  • Archery
  • Stroke Improvement
  • Multi Activity Day Camps
  • Arsenal Ladies Football
  • Climbing
  • Teen Gym

3. Awesome Engineers LEGO Whitsun Workshop

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Awesome Engineers workshops allow primary school age children to build an Awesome Engineers LEGO model. Each class has a maximum of 15 pupils, along with supporting adults (optional). The sessions start with a short presentation on the model; then each child gets hands-on with a set to build, play with and modify the model. Once the model is complete, each child has a worksheet to fill in (KS1, KS2 lower or KS2 higher), asking questions about maths or science ideas seen in the model, which is aligned to the primary school curriculum. Each session lasts approximately 60 minutes.

In addition to the workshop, there will be a free-play area where children can build their own creations in LEGO or Duplo. Finally there will be a few interesting LEGO models on show, along with information on future Awesome Engineer activities, Fairy Bricks (see our charities page) and Bright Bricks Ltd.

4. Drop-in Badge Making

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Just pop-in to Verulamium Museum and design and colour a badge of your favourite Roman object. Suitable for children aged 3-11 years. All children must be accompanied by an adult. £1 per badge. Entry charge to the Museum for non residents applies.

5. Meet Shaun the Sheep 

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Shoppers are invited to meet and greet Shaun the Sheep when he will be visiting the Marlowes Shopping Centre in Hemel Hempstead on Wednesday 27th May.

This popular children’s TV characters will be appearing at intervals throughout the day from 11am to 4pm, and children will be able to meet and have their photos taken with him. Meet and Greet appearances will take place at 11am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm & 3.30pm.

6. Magnificent Masks and Marvellous Mosaics

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Create your own decorative masks and marvellous mosaic pictures. Then use the museum collections as inspiration to create your own individual artwork using the wide variety of craft materials on offer.

7. Rickmansworth Craftbomb 

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Come and join the fun in Rickmansworth this half term at an exciting outdoor Craftbomb event, in continued celebration of Voluntary Arts Week 2015.

The Rickmansworth Craftbomb is a family friendly drop-in event
run by the Three Rivers District Council’s Leisure Team with Artistsmeet, and is open to people of all ages! We will be making colourful artworks from textiles and recycled materials to decorate one of the nearby trees.
No booking is required, just turn up on the day outside Watersmeet and get ready to make, whatever the weather! You are also very welcome to bring along your own craft!

All details are on the Artistsmeet Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/artistsmeet
For more information call 01923 776611 or email elaine.johnson@threerivers.gov.uk

8. Kid’s Spring Gardening Clubs

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For children aged between 4 and 10 years, book a space to join our Head Gardener for a morning of fun in the Luton Hoo Walled Garden!

Thursday 28th May – Sow a salad!

Children must be accompanied by an adult. Places are limited and must be pre-booked.

For all details please visit us at http://www.lutonhooestate.co.uk/events or call 01582 721 443

9. Hatfield House Garden Show

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This year’s Garden Show will include the garden, trade stands and entertainment for all ages.

10. Kenbworth House Dinosaur Trail & Adventure playground

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Dinosaur Trail: 

Our famous Dinosaur Trail in the Wilderness Garden is very popular with younger visitors. The 70 life-sized dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures can be found grazing amongst the shrubbery. Exploring the woodland paths, children can learn about the T-Rex, the Woolly Mammoth and other fascinating pre-historic creatures. There are information boards throughout the Dinosaur Trail and a huge chalk board for creating your own ‘cave-man drawings’. Look out for the wind-up sound box and make some dinosaur roars.

Adventure Playground:
The Adventure Playground is a favourite destination for our young visitors. Children can play all day one the swings, slides and play equipment. There is also a zip wire and a new bouncy castle, plus a trim trail for grow-ups. Have fun with the new interactive splash-play water features.

11. Hertfordshire County Show

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Join us for the 129th Annual Hertfordshire County Show, The Showground, Redbourn (Junction 9 – M1). AL3 7PT
Gates open 8.30am to 5.30pm each day. Free public car parking.

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