Let’s be honest, we all love a free trail! Sheffield had one in 2016 with the Herd of Sheffield event, which you can read about here. However, the Sheffield Christmas Trail is a new event for the 2018 festive period.
What is the Sheffield Christmas Trail?
Not wanting to state the obvious, but it is a trail that starts on the Moor and finishes on Barkers Pool. However, the trail goes through Sheffield City Centre as you follow the clues to find “presents” for Santa. You need to download the “Sheffield Christmas Trail” app and follow the clues.
The clues aren’t difficult and you can get even more help via the app if you really need it. The presents are in various shops and so you might feel a little weird going into a shop and taking a scan of a QR code. However, you’ll get used to it after a while!
All of the clues are to be found by foot and for some of them, you need to follow a little trail, as found below.
How much does the Sheffield Christmas Trail cost?
Nothing – it’s free!!
What do I need for the Sheffield Christmas Trail?
You need to make sure you have your phone charged as you need to use the app and camera. Also, there is a fair bit of walking so good shoes would be useful. If you’re still using a pushchair for your child, it would be a good idea to bring it along!
How long does it take?
A lot depends on how quickly you and your group walk. However, I think that you could do it in a couple of hours, so long as you don’t fall out in the process!!
You can do the trail over a number of sessions, so long as you use the same app.
What do I win?
Eternal pride and glory. Oh, and a small prize from Santa’s Post Office for completing the trail.
Anything else I need to know?
As you need to go inside shops/cafes, then you need to be doing the trail whilst the shops are open. Also, you need to do the clues in order and so whilst you know where the finish is, you aren’t allowed to break the order!! Believe me, I tried to cheat!!
We were invited by Go Ape Temple Newsam to swing by and test out their relatively new attraction and we had a fantastic time monkey-ing around!! Ok, that’s enough of the puns, I promise!
How did we get on?
From the outside, Go Ape Temple Newsam looks imposing and fun at the same time! However, once we saw a friendly face behind the reception desk, it all seemed a lot more manageable! The pre-climb safety talk really helped and we were on our way upwards after about 10 minutes of checking-in.
Hopefully the pictures and videos throughout will show how much we enjoyed the session. We lasted 75 minutes before we got tired and we left with massive smiles on our faces, as well as a certificate!
The best part for Heidi was the zip wire as you can clearly see. Although for me, getting us both along the second loop was good as it involved a fair bit of courage for both of us!
Go Ape Temple Newsam has 3 different levels which cost different amounts. For younger children, you’ll have plenty of fun on Level 1. However, if you’re more adventurous, Levels 2 and 3 look amazing!
You have to be over 1m tall for any of the levels, over 1.2m for Level 2 and 1.4m for Level 3 so bear that in mind. However, there is a height chart at the venue to help!
We did Level 1, which covered 3 “loops” and that was scary enough for both of us! Even at this level, you go quite high in the trees with no safety netting between you and the ground! It was high enough that I dare not take my phone out to take a picture!
One of the good things about going to Go Ape Temple Newsam is that it builds additional trust between you and your child. They will be naturally scared of the height and probably the zip-wire, and you will be as well probably!! However, by helping and coaching, they can manage the situation and learn for themselves that they can do it.
As you can go on the obstacles together, if they are really struggling, you can hold their hand and take control. Also, the staff are really good and will help as much as possible.
It is an outdoor activity and as such, wear appropriate clothing! It does get cool high up in the trees, but the activity is strenuous and so you need to match them both up. One tip is that on Level 1, there is a tunnel to crawl through, and so I wouldn’t recommend shorts!
You tend to use your hands a fair bit and so you might want a pair of gloves, just in case. Also, decent trainers/outdoor shoes are a must. The last thing you want is to lose a shoe 30 feet in the air!
Let’s just put this out there – Go Ape Temple Newsam is safe. Yes, it is unnatural to be so high up. However, you wear a harness and are connected to a safety wire. As a result, it you fall off, you will just dangle in mid air and be able to get back onto the course.
You’re given safety cards to read and listen to a safety talk before you are put into harnesses which are very “snug”! If at any time you feel as though the harness is slack, or you feel unsafe, please ask a member of staff. However, safety is their highest priority!
This is the one downside of Go Ape Temple Newsam – the toilets are a 5 minute walk away, near the Walled Garden. The toilets are not particularly pleasant either to be honest! Also, please make sure that you don’t need to go to the toilet whilst you are on the course. The staff will have to take your harness off and you’ll lose time on the course!
The Go Ape Temple Newsam staff are brilliantly friendly and helpful. You’ll come across 4 or 5 different staff during your session and each one was happy and supportive throughout. They clearly know their stuff and make sure that you’re safe.
Go Ape Temple Newsam Parking
Parking at Go Ape Temple Newsam is free and plentiful. The venue is near the playground and well sign-posted. Even on a Saturday morning, we found a spot just outside the venue. You might be lucky and have an ice cream afterwards (the certificate apparently gets you a small discount!)
All in all, we had a fantastic time and help Heidi and I bond even more. We will certainly be back, probably when we are both brave enough to take on the higher loops!
We were invited to Jackrabbits Pottery in Leeds to do a Christmas bauble print, but there are things to do all year round, either with or without the children!
Memories of your child in their early years should last a lifetime, and making a Christmas bauble is one of those memories! The experience will be different depending on the age of the child, but the fun will be there and the end result will be just as magical.
Making a Christmas print does rely on the help and guidance of a member of staff and so it is best to book ahead. As of Christmas 2018, they only do such a service during the week.
So, what happens…? You get to choose a bauble and then the staff will paint your child’s hand (or foot if you prefer) and gently guide the hand onto the bauble, to make the print. Sounds simple doesn’t it! However, because the staff are experts, they know what adjustments need to be made to make sure the print comes out right.
Then, the fun part! The Jackrabbits Pottery staff will help you design the rest of the bauble. You might want the child’s age, name and/or a festive message on there. As Heidi is 5, then this was left to her and in fact, it made it more personal to her. Obviously, if you’re taking a baby, the pressure is on you to make all the decisions. However, taking a slightly older child means that they can join in, and get even more out of the experience.
Once you have designed the rest of the bauble, the jackrabbits Pottery team will do all the clever artistic touches. Then they will give you a text and/or a time from which you can collect it from the shop.
Once you pick it up, it is yours forever, and you can do an unboxing video if your child is old enough!!
It’s not just baubles!
Jackrabbits Pottery is not just about the Christmas baubles. On a child free Sunday, we went here for date day before doing the bauble. It is such a relaxing place to visit!
The shop is full of items for you to paint, from egg cups, to clocks, to Christmas plates. At the start, you are given a little instructional talk by a member of staff. This is quite important as there is a certain knack to painting pottery!! Then, you let your creativity run wild!
At any point, ask a member of staff for guidance, because they are the experts! There is a colour chart on the wall that will help guide you and loads of tools to help you. You don’t need to bring anything with you!
You can do this with the children as well, but it really does depend on how much you trust your child! To start with, it might be best if you let your child paint one, whilst you help, rather than both of you paint one. Heidi wants to do this sometime and so I am sure we will be down again to paint a unicorn!
Most pottery pieces take a week to be completed, and again, you can pick them up from the shop.
You’re best to phone ahead to book a time as availability is limited!
Jackrabbits Pottery staff
The Jackrabbits Pottery staff are amazingly friendly and helpful. They want your piece of work to be as good as possible and so they will help and advise throughout.
As the bauble process is on a one-to-one basis, they really look after both you and your child, to make sure the visit is a success. Talking to Sarah, who owns Jackrabbits Pottery, you can tell how much the place means to her and her team. This shows in the friendly, open atmosphere of the shop.
Even though I was way out of my comfort zone, I felt so relaxed at the end of the visit!
A few of top tips to help you with your visit:
If doing a bauble print, dress your child in short sleeves/short trousers. It helps get a better print and stops paint going on the clothes!
The paint is fully washable, so you don’t need to worry too much about splashes going on there
The milkshakes are amazing! They do all sorts of amazing cakes as well, but we were trying to be a little healthy-ish!
Give yourself enough time to do the painting and for it to come back to you in about a week’s time.
Please Note: We were given the opportunity to do a Christmas bauble for the purposes of this post. However, no influence was made on its contents.
The “Sea Creatures” Tour is at the Harrogate Convention Centre between 27th October to 25th November 2018. The exhibition shows over 50 full body specimens and 150 body parts and organs, all of which have been preserved using a plasination process. As such, it is something that should be seen, given how unique it is!
The Sea Creatures Exhibition
The “Sea Creatures” exhibition is an exhibition hall full of marine animals which have been preserved. Beside each exhibit, there is a narrative about the creature/body part, which helps aid understanding.
Some of the exhibits are full sized marine life, whereas some are organs of the animals. Pretty much everywhere you turn there is a different exhibit and, most importantly, you can learn about every single exhibit on show.
Whilst there is a zig-zag path around the exhibit, you can swim against the tide and go back, in case it is too busy at certain points. I went on the opening day, and it wasn’t massively busy, so you should be fine.
Is “Sea Creatures” Child Appropriate?
The short answer is that it depends! If your child is somewhat squeamish and doesn’t like looking at body parts etc, then is won’t be for them. However, if they are mature and are interested in marine biology, then this is for them.
There is very little for children to touch at “Sea Creatures” and so that could be a problem to some. I did notice some stressed parents having to constantly tell their children not to touch things!
However, at the end, there is a small softplay ballpool and facepainter (£5) so there is that. It might be that one adult watches the children in the play area whilst the other looks at the exhibition, and then you swap. There is also a small cafe and shop, should the need arise.
How long will it take?
I took around 30 minutes to go all the way round. However, I was child-free, so I wasn’t having to explain it to anyone! However, a friend of mine went and spent 2 hours going round. As such, you can make it last as long or as short as you want.
Is it value for money?
If you pay full price, then “Sea Creatures” is unlikely to be good value for money, unless you have a particular interest in the field. However, on the “Sea Creatures” website/social media, there are a offers being promoted, and so you should be able to get a good deal.
The “Sea Creatures” exhibition is at the Harrogate Convention Centre exhibition hall furthest away from the town centre. Therefore, you might want to look at parking at that side of town, rather than in the town. It is a flat walk, but a good 10 minute walk.
As we had our first child free weekend since April, we did something a little different and went to the Escape Hunt in Leeds. We didn’t know what to expect when we booked, but we had such an amazing time!!
The Set Up
Escape Hunt is located in The Light entertainment complex on the third floor where the cinemas are. It is a little bit hidden away but this means the waiting area is very calm and relaxing. As you enter, you’re greeted by a member of staff who will take your details and check you in. Then you are free to relax until your game begins.
Here, there is a mini-bar (which only takes cards) but also in the welcome room are mini games such as Jenga, Connect 4 and Draughts. We found this really relaxing and got us nice and chilled out for was about to come!
We played “Our Finest Hour” which was set in 1942 Germany. One of the key things with escape rooms is that you shouldn’t give away any secrets. As such, trying to write a blog post is rather difficult! However, I think it’s safe to say that you have to solve all the clues within an hour, to save Britain. As a result, there’s absolutely no pressure at all!!!
Apparently, this is the most difficult game room that Escape Hunt has to offer. Given that there was only 2 of us, this made it even more difficult! I would think that it is best with 3 or 4 people in the room, as any more than this and you’ll probably end up falling out and tripping over each other.
As mentioned, this was our first Escape Hunt room and so we did find it very difficult, especially with just two of us. However, we did learn how the game works as we went along. The Game Master (Mary) was excellent in providing us proper instructions before we started and so we had a good chance of succeeding.
Escape Hunt Top Tips!
One issue we did have was that my partner is hard of hearing. As such, I had to use the telephone at all times to receive clues from the Game Master. However, once Mary knew about this, she quickly stopped using a telephone and used the speaker system instead and this really helped. It would be best to let the staff know of any disabilities that your team has, so that they can make necessary arrangements.
Also, if you’re thinking about inviting older relatives to a game (hint: Christmas presents!), the game isn’t particularly physically strenuous. As a result, if you can stand for an hour you should be able to play the game relatively easily. Once you are enclosed in the room, it didn’t feel that you were trapped at any time. This is especially true as you were in regular contact with the Game Master.
Escape Hunt is targeted for groups of adults as well as for children over the age of 10. This feels just about right. Children younger than 10 would probably lack the concentration and would probably get frustrated at the number of clues that need to be solved.
If you have to take a child in to Escape Hunt, you need to have enough people in the group to interact and involve for child whilst trying to complete the puzzle. As such, I wouldn’t recommend taking a child under the age of 10. However, the fabulous Noel did say that they had younger children in for a birthday party. They also make a really big effort to open the game up to younger children.
So, how did we get on?! Seeing as though we were playing the hardest game, there’s just two of us and one of those was hard of hearing, I feel so he did remarkably well!!
We managed to do with puzzle in 59 minutes and 30 seconds!! One of the great things about Escape Hunt is that they give you a really good debrief afterwards. They tell you what you did well and what you had difficulties with and so you can feel better about things afterwards.
One thing to be aware of is that at the end of the game you are probably emotionally drained. As a result, reserve judgement until the morning after because you’ll either be on a real high, a real low, or mentally exhausted!
Going to Escape Hunt is a real challenge, both in terms of the game but also for relationships of the people you play with! It is quite eye opening as to how you interact with other people and how you learn. It would be a great team building exercise at work and probably something I will talk to my manager at work about!
For a child free evening, Escape Hunt provides something really, really different to anything else out there. Another good thing is the fact it is in Leeds City Centre so you can carry on your evening afterwards. I really hope that we could go back again at some point to play the other games!
IMPORTANT! We played the Escape Hunt room free of charge for the purposes of this blog post. However, no attempts have been made to influence this post.
I was invited to Leeds Golf Centre in North Leeds to check out their facilities, especially their signature course, Wike Ridge. This was one time when I was “Matthew” and not “dad” and as weird as it sounds, it was a nice change. Anyway, less about me and more about Leeds Golf Centre!
The signature course is a fully-fledged championship standard course, ranging from 5472 yards to 6535 yards, depending on tee choice. As a result, it isn’t for complete novices!!
The course is of very high quality, with smooth quick greens and well presented fairways. As you can see, the bunkers are of decent condition (including rake!) which makes you feel as though you’re a professional!
This certainly isn’t a “standard” course with the water hazards and amazing views over North Leeds and the views and walk was almost as good as the course itself!
My personal favourite hole was the 9th. Mainly because it was the hole I got a par on!! Although it is a par 4, you can almost drive the green. I landed the tee shot into the greenside bunker before getting out and two-putting. I felt like I won a title!
This was the first time I had played since being a dad (5+ years!) and so the length of the course does take it out of you. As a result, don’t be afraid to call it a day early before it stops being fun!!
One note is that it can be difficult to find the next tee, but the best way is to follow the gravel track following the fairway round. However, after the 1st green, you need to double back on you to the right to get to the 2nd tee!
When you enter the Leeds Golf Centre complex, there is a decent sized free car park, and you walk round the back to check-in at the golf shop. Here you can rent a set of clubs, trolley or even a buggy (maybe next time!).
Within the clubhouse are changing rooms, a restaurant serving snacks, drinks and meals, as well as toilets. Yes, I am that person who takes pictures of the toilets!
There is also a cafe and toilet at the end of the 9th hole of the Wike Ridge course. Please note that this is the only toilet on the course.
The dress code
This is one thing that can cause issues, especially for newbies to golf courses. There is a specific page on the Leeds Golf Centre website about the dress code and the fact that they are relaxed about things. This is such a good thing! For the Wike Ridge course, they only ask that you don’t wear jeans or tracksuit bottoms, as well as a polo collared shirt.
For the rest of the facilities, there is no dress code at all. Result!
The other activities
As well as the Wike Ridge course, there are other facilities at Leeds Golf Centre to entertain. If a full course isn’t for you and/or you want to bring your child along, the 12 hole, par 3 “The Oaks” course would be ideal for you. There is also the increasingly popular Footgolf, where there are 6 specially designed holes from 39 to 90 yards long. This would be ideal to bring a teenage son who had little interest in golf!
All in all, Leeds Golf Centre has loads on offer, even if you’re not a proficient golfer. The course was busy on a Sunday morning, so make sure you pre-book online. If you’re a solo player, it can be slow at times, but the other players were very good in allowing me to play through.
Will I be back? Absolutely! I had forgotten how good the game was and I felt like my own person as opposed to being “dad” for a few hours. I just need to find my golf balls in all the trees!!
Full disclosure: I received a free round for the purposes of this blog post. This was provided by www.onlinegolf.co.uk who also send me some merchandise, including some golf balls. They had no editing influence on this post.
A wet August Bank Holiday weekend made us search for indoor activities, especially ones which allowed Heidi to burn off some energy. We came across Funzy, which is Bradford’s newest attractions and thought that we would give it a go. This is what we found…
So, what is Funzy? Think of it as a huge bouncy castle with slides and climbing parts. That probably undersells it a little because it is also a bit like an obstacle course as well. There are bits to climb under and through and obstacles to avoid. There isn’t a set path and so if you just want to bounce, there is a flat part. If you just want to do the big slides, you can just do that.
You have to sign a waiver form before starting, but there isn’t anything considered dangerous in my opinion. However, with bouncing and physical exercise, there is clearly a health risk, especially with ankles and knees.
Under 4’s are only allowed in the mini area and that feels right as the main area will be too big for them and they wouldn’t be able to do much. We had a pair of 5 year olds with us, and they got on absolutely fine with no help. For children that age, you’re probably best to go on with them, just for support, especially as at the beginning. This is because it can feel a bit daunting at first.
If you can, please dress as if you’re going for a work–out! It is energetic activity and if you end up following your child around, you will be hot and sweaty! There were people wearing jeans and I don’t know how they coped to be honest!!
As at August 2018, it costs £9.95 for everyone aged 4 and over, with under 4’s costing £2.95 for an hour. An additional hour costs £5.95. Spectators are free of charge.
Unless you are super fit or your child has endless energy, you will not need the extra hour! It is really hard work and after an hour, you will have had enough. Check out the Funzy website to see if there are any online discount codes before turning up.
There is a snack bar, lockers and toilets, as well as a seating area for spectators/recovery. The snack bar was decently priced, with 2 slushies and a can of coke costing less than £5. As you can see, the toilets are decent and there is enough room in the cubicles to be able to get changed. (I’m definitely not putting a photo of me getting changed!!)
The location is ideal really, with it being in the middle of Bradford, in the Leisure Exchange Centre. However, it is on the ground floor, downstairs from Cineworld. As a result, if you’re parking in the multi-story, try and park on the lower floors. There is loads of parking available, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
If you want to make a day of it, I have a blog post about the Hollywood Bowl in Bradford, which is here.
I’m writing this the morning after going to Funzy and whilst my legs ache, it is because it is a good workout. We had a really good time there and I am sure that we will be back, both with children and without! It is open 10am to 10pm and so trips after school in the evening are a possibility, All in all, Funzy is a really lively, fun place and hopefully it will be a great success going forward.
When can you go to a shopping centre, have a great time and not go in any shops or spend any money?! Well, the White Rose Shopping Centre has you covered this summer with a Wallace and Gromit sculpture trail throughout the centre.
UPDATE: This event has finished!
For only £2, you can buy a map from Customer Services and the map shows you exactly where the Wallace and Gromit characters are. Also, Customer Services have a limited range of merchandise. The merchandise is hidden away a bit on the counter so the little ones don’t realise that they are there!!
All the proceeds from the sales of the maps and merchandise go to the Wallace and Gromit Grand Appeal charity.
There is nothing majorly complex about the trail, but you will need a map for 2 of the sculptures. This is because they aren’t in the main of the shopping centre, but I’m not going to give any clues!!
The Wallace and Gromit trail is a nice bit of light hearted entertainment as you walk around the shopping centre. I’m sure that it will make the kids walk quicker, knowing that there is something to find just ahead.
If you were to do the trail without looking in any of the shops it will probably take you about half an hour. However, I guess that it depends on how quickly you walk. Also, it depends on how easily you find the 2 which are hidden away a little.
Going to a “Tractor Fest” doesn’t immediately jump out as a good way to spend the day with a child. However, Tractor Fest at Newby Hall is more than just about tractors!
Yes, there are tractors – hundreds and hundreds of tractors in fact. They come from far and wide from all over the country to the event. However, there are all over types of agricultural machinery from motors to plough, diggers to trailers so don’t think that tractors are all that is on offer!!
In fact, it has more of a feel of a Country Show than a pure “Tractor Fest”. This is because there were shops, food stalls, and children’s activities. The children’s activities included the Police Tractor, land train and ride on mini tractors/cars (£3 for 15 minutes). There is also a helter-skelter, dodgems and a mini train roundabout.
There is also the lovely Newby Hall gardens a short walk away from the main festival which is free for Tractor Fest. Here there is a mini train to ride (£2.20 each for a 10 minute ride – brilliant value!) a really good playground and a water/splash area. Because of this, a spare change of clothes is advisable!!
Just a few things to bear in mind:
– It is an outdoor attraction so you need dry weather!
– It is held in a farmers field and so a sturdy pair of shoes (and pushchair!) are advisable/
– The main Tractor Fest doesn’t seem to have baby change facilities. The best place is in Newby Hall Gardens. Likewise, the best toilets are down there.
The parking is free and plentiful and due to the volume of cars, make sure you make a note of where you parked your car. The car park entry and exit was very efficient and organised. Even though the car park was busy, the event did not feel busy.
You will see a good number of “farmer” types who come to Tractor Fest for the tractors. It was pleasantly surprising to see how many young children were there, especially in the Gardens. It shows that there is much more to Tractor Fest than tractors, and the free admission for under 4’s really helps with this!
We were at Tractor Fest for 4 hours and we had a really good time throughout. The 2 year old (it wasn’t my weekend to have Heidi) fell asleep towards the end through the combination of fresh air, exercise and mental stimulation. That’s not a bad thing at all!!
Hopefully next year, Heidi will have chance to experience the fun (in the sun hopefully!).
As you might have read on a previous blog post, we travelled by National Express to Chester Zoo, and you can read about it here.
Given that Chester Zoo is so far for most, I thought that it would be good idea to come up with some pointers which might help you have a fab visit. This will hopefully lead to a peaceful journey home with children fast asleep!!
Plan what you want to see.
The park is so big, you are unlikely to be able to see everything, especially if you have children. As such, plan what you want to see and build the day around that. Either that, or spread the visit over 2 days. There are so many animals to see, from Bats (not suitable for those who don’t like the dark!) to Zebras and Elephants.
Go to the Islands first. This one came from the kind people at Chester Zoo as the boat ride and general attractions in that part of the park gets busier in the afternoon. The last thing you want to do it wait for nearly an hour to go on a boat ride!
Let the kids play!
There are decent play areas dotted around and whilst it is easy to want to keep them seeing all the animals. However, they need a break as well. There is a small water area and so you might want to pack a spare change of clothes (and visit it towards the end of the day!)
Consider the refillable drink option.
If it is warm, this option will be well worth it, especially as you won’t load your bag up with heavy drinks before setting off. However, I couldn’t find a refill station in The Islands so refill before you head over there.
Dress as if you’re off on Safari.
The park is big and so wear decent shoes and comfortable clothes, especially if it is going to be warm. You probably don’t need to wear the khaki’s, but when in Rome….!! As the park is so big, you might want to see if the old pushchair still works. You can hire stollers, which looked like a good idea at about 3pm!!
If you’re going to buy a present, don’t wait until the park closes.
The queues at the shop at the entrance/exit were huge as the park was closing. It might be better to visit halfway during the day and drop it off in the car, or visit one further into the park when it comes to leaving the park.
Probably the highlight was seeing the giraffes run for their freshly prepared food, which was pretty special. Heidi also played hide and seek with some animals who thought that it would be a good idea to run in and out of their indoor area!
There are loads of toilets dotted about and they are really well signposted (having had to make a dash following a “I need a wee” call from Heidi!!). There are also enough food outlets around so you won’t go hungry. The BBQ place smelt amazing and that might be the best place to eat (it’s near a kids play area!)
Overall, we had a really good time at Chester Zoo, and we were blessed with almost perfect weather conditions. The journey back was very quiet to say the least as we were all a bit tired!! I do think that if we went back, we would try and go for 2 days and make a weekend of it!!