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Princess and the frog, a perfect first ballet

Eden’s first ballet

I have wanted to take Eden to a ballet for a while now. I saw tickets for The Princess and the Frog ballet come up on Little Bird during February half term. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to experience our first ballet together. If you haven’t discovered Little Bird yet they offer discounted tickets for all kinds of kids days out, it’s worth a look!

The Princess and the Frog ballet

The Princess and the Frog ballet was showing at Leicester Square Theatre in London. A 30 minute long show, narrated and made suitable for children of all ages but in particular children aged between 2-9.

We arrived 30 mins before our show time and found our seats within the theatre. Eden was very excited about seeing her first ballet, as was I.

First ballet, Eden standing with The Princess and the frog sign outside the theatreThe princess and the frog first ballet

The stage was simply dressed with a sparkly lit tree by a pond. As soon as the beautiful ballerina stepped onto the stage, Eden’s face lit up. The ballerina dressed in a gorgeous pink tutu with gold embroidery and tiara on her head looked very part the princess. She danced to the music so gracefully, it was so enchanting, almost hypnotic to watch. It’s safe to say Eden did not move an inch during the show.

The story of the princess and the frog was narrated and the princess ballerina and the joyful frog brought the story to life. The frog was fun and playful and wanted to be friends with the princess but the princess was not so keen. As the story progressed the pair became wonderful friends! The children loved watching the pair play hide and seek on stage and thought it hilarious when frog came down to the audience. To see the princess and the frog dance together at the end was truly beautiful and the children were transfixed. It lasted 30 minutes which was perfect timing for smaller ones, however I could of stayed for hours. Both myself and Eden found the show so enchanting and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Eden with the princess and the frog on stage at her first ballet

Photo opportunity

After the show, all the children had the opportunity to meet the characters on stage for a photo. This was a really nice touch and the queue moved very quickly. Eden was thrilled to meet the princess and the frog from her first ballet.The Princess and the Frog was produced by a company called Lets All Dance. They specialise in shows for children and families. For more information on their next show visit their website. I look forward to seeing their next production!

Eden with the princess and the frog

Thank you for reading ‘Princess and the frog, a perfect first ballet’.

Afternoon Tea, Eating Out, Food, Home

A Wizard’s Themed Afternoon Tea in Essex

The Cardamon Tea Lounge

A couple of years ago we found The Cardamon Tea Lounge in Colchester, Essex. We happened to be walking by and spotted this quaint little tea room and decided to give it a try. Since then it has been one of our firm favourite tea rooms. We aren’t the only ones that like it, it won the Essex Life Food and Drink Awards 2017 for Best Coffee/Tea Shop. Now its quickly becoming a popular spot for wonderful and imaginative Themed Afternoon Tea in Essex.

My daughter fell in love with this place right away and refers to it as the ‘Alice Cafe’. As you step inside there are so many wonderful trinkets and handmade crafts, many Alice in Wonderland themed and available to buy. There are teapots and cups as lampshades hanging from the ceiling and spoons as door handles. Every time I visit I see something new. My daughters favourite part is the little cupboard under the stairs, a cosy spot for the little ones to play.

Shop front of The Cardamon Tea Lounge in Colchester. Themed Afternoon Tea in EssexSome Alice in wonderland crafts and decorations Themed Afternoon Tea in Essex.

A Wizard’s Themed Afternoon Tea in Essex

The Cardamon Tea Lounge create wonderful and imaginative food and children’s platters, each with your chosen theme. Everything is made on the premises with such attention to detail. I particularly love their Alice in wonderland creations. It’s so much fun having your salad served in a giant teacup!

More recently The Cardamon Tea Lounge have been creating other themed afternoon teas. Introducing for any true Harry Potter fan ‘a Wizard’s Themed Afternoon Tea’. Both Eden and I are huge Harry Potter fans so as soon as I saw this, I couldn’t wait to try it. Any Witch or Wizard would be delighted with this magical wizard’s themed afternoon tea in Essex.

The Food

Before our visit we picked 4 sandwich choices from the menu. There were some really interesting and tempting flavours available. We chose ham, brie and apple, it was simply delicious, we also went for egg mayo, cream cheese and cucumber and salmon. We opted for mixed bread and when our sandwiches arrived one side was white and the other brown! What a great idea! The sandwiches were freshly made and simply delicious. They came served in a wooden chest! Our Wizard’s themed afternoon tea was filled with so many magical and exciting delights. We were treated to our very own multicoloured potions (which tasted amazing), popcorn served in a cauldron, and we even had our own mandrake cake! The scones were pumpkin spiced and the white chocolate and almond cake was light as air. Alongside the Wizards afternoon tea you can choose from over 50 variations of tea. We opted for the Dragonfruit tea and it was fruity and refreshing, it complemented the Afternoon Tea perfectly.

Wizards themed afternoon tea in EssexSandwiches in chest Harry Potter afternoon teaWizards themed afternoon tea, potions and mandrake chocolate cakeAfternoon tea cakes Harry Potter Wizard themed Tea cup in front of the Wizards Themed Afternoon Tea

Children’s Afternoon Tea Platter

The Cardamon Tea Lounge offers lots of wonderfully themed platters for children and the Wizard’s platter is no exception. The sandwiches were accompanied by many magical treats, a pretzel broomstick, a cauldron of popcorn, veggie sticks, a cupcake, sweets and a drink. Great value for £6.50 and Eden was so excited when it arrived, I think she enjoyed every bite!

Any witch or wizard would have a truly magical and enchanting time working their way through this Wizards feast!


Children’s Wizards platter Eden wearing Harry Potter glasses Wizards themed afternoon tea in Essex

Each month The Cardamon Tea Lounge will be changing their themed afternoon tea… next up ‘A Tale as Old as Time. There are so many exciting afternoon themed afternoon teas to come.  All afternoon tea’s should be prebooked, please get in touch with The Cardamon Tea Lounge, 44 St John’s Street, Colchester, Essex CO2 7AD. Telephone number: 01206 504180.

To read more about our favourite afternoon teas in Essex click here.

Wizards themed afternoon tea in Essex Harry Potter

Thank you for reading ‘A Wizard’s Afternoon Tea’.

Written in collaboration with The Cardamon Tea Lounge, we were invited along to review their afternoon tea, please note that all views and opinions are my own.

Days Out, Museums, Outdoors, Parks

February Half Term Days Out in Essex

Hanningfield reservior woods

Half term days out in Essex

So February half term is almost upon us and its another week to entertain the kids. So here are a few ideas for February half term days out in Essex.

Thames Chase Forest Centre

Tues 13th & Wed 14th February 2018 – Make your very own nest box to take home, plant wildflowers and design a poster.

Thurs 15th February 2018 – Follow a compass trail around the forest.

Drop in for as long as you like, no need to book. Why not also explore our natural play trail or collect a brilliant Highway Rat activity pack!

£3 donation per child.

For more info visit their website. Address: Broadfields,  Pike Lane, Upminster, RM14 3NS.

Hanningfield Reservoir

Hanningfield Reservoir in Downham, Billericay has the Wind in the Willows sculptures in the forest. A special map is available to purchase at the visitor centre. At each sculpture you can use the back of the map to make your very own brass rubbings of Badger, the Weasels, Ratty, Mole and Mr Toad. They are holding several activities during half term week:

Crazy Clay Creations – Tue, 13/02/2018 – 10:00am – 1:00pm. Make crafty creations to take home using clay. £3 per child. No need to book.

Brilliant Bugs Trail – Sun, 11/02/2018 – 10:00am – 4:00pm. Test your creepy crawly knowledge on our brilliant bugs nature trail. £2 per trail sheet. No need to book
For more information visit their website. Address: Hanningfield Reservoir Visitor Centre, Hawkswood Road, Downham, CM11 1WT,

Half term days out in Essex

Langdon Visitor Centre

Langdon Visitor Centre is in Lower Dunton Road in Basildon. It is a lovely nature reserve with a trail, meadows, woodlands and lakes. As you take a wander around the trail you will meet wonderful wooden characters from Peter Rabbit.

Some of the events they are holding are:

Plant labels for Mr McGregor – Thu, 15/02/2018 – 1:00pm – 4:00pm. Follow Peter Rabbit Trail and visit the garden areas. Go inside to make some animal plant labels for you to take home. Drop in event but places may be limited at busy times. Accompanied children only.

Bug Craft – Fri, 16/02/2018 – 11:00am – 3:30pm. Get creative and design your own bugs in the indoor classroom.

For more information visit their website. Address: Langdon Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, Third Avenue, Lower Dunton Road.Basildon SS16 6EB.

Half term days out in Essex

Belfairs Woodland Centre

Valentine’s Crafts Drop In Day – Sun, 11/02/2018 – 10:00am – 3:00pm. Drop In Craft Day for Valentine’s themes crafts for children of all ages! No need to book.

There is a small charge per craft and children must be accompanied.

For more information visit their website.

Essex Wildlife Trust are holding lots of fun events at the other centres, but many of them you need to book in advance so I would advise visiting their website first. They range from Button Crafts, building bird boxes to Space Days and Fairytale Fun.

Museum of Power

The Museum includes numerous power-related exhibits that will interest all ages, many working examples of various power sources, machinery, equipment and tools. In addition, in the former workshop, the Steam Pump Tea Rooms offer a selection of refreshments. Outside in the grounds more attractions can be found including a model village, picnic area and the miniature railway.

Rock Painting for Kids – Take your youngsters along to the Museum of Power during the February Half Term Holiday and have fun painting and finding rocks around the museum grounds. This is a popular activity with children and adults alike. Note that the museum is closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays but open from Weds 14th to Sunday 18th February. Normal entry fee applies. Adults: £5.00; Concessions: Senior citizens and students: £4.50; Children 5 to 15 incl £2:00; Children 4 and under: FREE.

Please visit their facebook page or website for further details.  Museum of Power, Hatfield Road, Langford, Maldon, Essex CM9 6QA. Tel: +44 (0)1621 843183.

Essex Police Museum

An absolutely fascinating place, small but packed full of interesting facts and information and has an area aimed at children.

Fingerprint Art – Sat 10th Feb, Weds 14th Feb and Sat 17th Feb. How many different pictures can you make with your fingerprints? Can you make a fingerprint story? All crafts and resources are provided along with examples and staff on hand if needed. The museum is also open for browsing 10am – 4pm. The activity is suitable for all ages with varying levels of parental support. £2 per participant. All monies raised go directly to the Essex Police Museum to help fund it.

Visit their website for further information. Essex Police Museum, Chelmsford CM2 6DN.

Essex police museum - Half term days out in EssexEssex police museum fingerprinting

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Here’s an excuse to have some fun and get your hands dirty with a range of themed activities whatever the weather. The line-up includes a garden trail, splash puddles, vintage tractors, art & craft workshops (Mon-Fri only), storytelling (Tue only) and the Great British Mud Pie Off (Fri only).
Normal garden admission applies. For further information visit their website.

Havering Museum

Dinosaur Family Fun day. 15th Feb – Drop in with the family anytime between 11:00am and 3:00pm. Have fun exploring Britain’s dinosaur heritage through crafts, quizzes and other fun. Suitable for 4 – 10 year olds. No booking in advance required.

Admission: One adult admission of £3.00 admits up to four children FREE. Address: 19-21 High Street, Romford, Essex RM1 1JU.

Hylands House & Park

Hylands House is a personal favourite of mine since we got married here in 2010. Based in Chelmsford in Hylands Park, the Grade II listed house is set in gorgeous landscaped parkland, with pretty formal gardens to explore, cafe and a large adventure castle play area.
Free entry to the park and free onsite parking. To enter the house is £3.80 for adults and free for under 16s.

Weds14th Feb – Scrapbook Safari – Is your little one ready for the adventure of a lifetime, Scrapbook Safari is the perfect day out! After the children immerse themselves on an expedition around Hylands Estate, learning about the plants wildlife that surround them, the fun moves inside where they assemble their own scrapbook. Scrapbook Safari is aimed at primary school aged children and their parents. Booking is essential and can be made on their website.

Please check their website for opening dates and times of the house and cafe. For more information please visit their website.

Hylands houseWooden Castle olay area at Hylands House

Barleylands Farm Park

Lambing Live. All week 10am to 4pm. This February half term, join Barleylands for Lambing Live. Farmers will be on hand to answer all your questions regarding the adorable newborns plus there will be interactive talks about shepherding and much more. You’ll also be able to get up close with the newborn animals.

You can buy tickets on their website.  Barleylands, Barleylands Road, Billericay, Essex, CM11 2UD.

Hadleigh Park

Hadleigh Park are hosting Warrior Week, you need to book online in advance here.  Ages 6 years and older. Take part in a variety of activities including Archery, Slingshots, Spears and Target Games. They are also hosting a Teddy Bear Warriors for under 5’s on Tuesday 12th February.

Gruffalo Trail – Thorndon Country Park North

The Gruffalo Trail is in Thorndon Country Park North in Brentwood. It’s a great walk through the forest spotting all your favourite characters from The Gruffalo books by Julia Donaldson. There is a visitor centre where you can purchase a trail guide for 50p. There is also a gift shop, cafe and toilets with picnic area.
Free entry and parking onsite. There is a charge for parking.
They are holding several events through half term week, like Button crafts and plate decorating but you do need to book in advance.
For more information please visit their website.

The Gruffalos child sculpture in Thorndon Country Park Woods

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Eating Out, Family Life, My Sunday Photo

My Sunday Photo – 14/01/18

My Sunday Photo

This week my Sunday Photo is my crazy happy daughter… she is always so joyful and enthusiastic! Here she is laughing her head off yesterday.

We checked out one of the preview showings of Disney’s brand new movie ‘Coco’. It was absolutely brilliant. Set in Mexico, was such a lovely story and really touching too but with plenty of laughs and fun thrown in too. My mum really enjoyed it too. Really different from anything Disney have done before. We watched it in the Cineworld 4DX screen where all the seats move and air blows on you, along with scents, water and even bubbles… definitely brought the film to life and was so much fun.

After the cinema we headed to Frankie & Benny’s as the children’s menu is such great value and Eden loves it. This photo is Eden with her ‘Freakshake’ for dessert… I was trying to be ‘good’ so was a little envious! We had a truly lovely day today!

My Sunday Photo Eden with her freakshake milkshake with a mini donut on topMy Sunday Photo, Eden laughing whilst eating her freakshakeEden posing with the Coco board at the cinemaEden with her ice cream at the cinema

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Christmas, My Sunday Photo

My Sunday Photo – 10/12/17

My Sunday Photo

My Sunday Photo this week is a shot of Eden at ‘An Elf’s Wish’ Christmas experience at Nevendon Manor in Essex. You can read our full review of it here.Eden had a wonderful time, fully immersed in the magic of Christmas! She met the Snow Queen and Mrs Christmas, fed reindeer and decorated a Christmas tree before meeting Santa himself! A real festive treat!

My Sunday Photo, Eden in a snowy woodMy Sunday Photo, Eden standing with a giant candy caneMy Sunday Photo Eden standing looking at her present with santa in the background

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Christmas, Home, Unusual

An Elf’s Wish at Nevendon Manor – Christmas experience

An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor Santa

An Elf’s Wish at Nevendon Manor

We visited the Christmas experience ‘An Elf’s Wish’ at Nevendon Manor in Wickford. An Elf’s Wish’ is an original adaptation of the Father Christmas story & his whimsical elves. We have visited Nevendon Manor Events for several of their previous events and have always had a truly magical time. This is their first year hosting a Christmas event and we were excited to try it out. The events are an immersive outdoor theatre production. You can read about one of our previous visits to see Alice in Wonderland here.

On Arrival

As you arrive you collect your tickets and are given the option of purchasing a token for reindeer food for later on during the visit. There are a number stalls offering drinks, snacks and face painting for an additional charge. We opted for a hot chocolate, it was a nice cup of hot chocolate but a tad expensive at £3.20 each. Face painting was quite reasonable at £3.50 a head.

An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor sign

Hot Chocolate Stand at An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor


After a short wait we set off in our group on our exciting journey around Nevendon.  Our Christmas adventure started off at the Elf school! The characters were great fun, we were taught the elf welcome, our elf names and the children were able to write their Christmas wishes to give to Santa. Shortly after we met our guide Brumble the elf.


Elf school at An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

Eden writing her christmas wishes An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

Brumble the elf An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

The Story

Brumble the elf took us on our Christmas adventure on the quest to earn her jingle bell! During our journey we met many friendly characters! We walked through the wintry wood and met The Snow Queen, we helped her to make it snow again! The children posted their Christmas wishes and helped raise Christmas cheer! We got to decorate Christmas trees with a funny pair of lumberjacks who are responsible for growing the Christmas trees! We met Mother Christmas and some charming elves busy making toys ready for Christmas. We met some beautiful real reindeer and as we bought a token earlier had the opportunity to feed them too. We got a song and dance from the mechanic elves fixing Santa’s sleigh before meeting the big man himself Father Christmas. Each child and adult were given a gift and had the opportunity for a photo with Santa. Professional photos were also available for purchase.


Eden and brumble the elf An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

The Snow Queen An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

Eden hugging a tree to help the snow queen An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

Winter cabins An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

The lumberjack elves and Brumble elf An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

Candy Canes An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

The Reindeer at An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor


The Experience

The whole experience is such great fun for kids (and the adults). The children are made to feel like part of the production and to see their reaction is just magical. The characters really bring the story to life. The grounds are dressed beautifully and there is so much attention to detail.

I would of really liked to take some more time to walk through and appreciate the wintry wood and maybe  had a few more photo opportunities as it did move quite quickly but we really enjoyed our Christmas experience. An Elf’s Wish at Nevendon Manor wasn’t your usual Santa’s Grotto or Christmas Experience. It wasn’t all about Santa and his presents, it was more about the simple magic of Christmas and the characters that make it special. It was a complete pleasure to visit! Eden had a magical time and it made a lovely change from the usual Christmas experience!

You do need to book tickets in advance, please visit Nevendon Manor Event’s website for further details.


Santas cabin An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

Santa at An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

Eden and father christmas An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

Meeting Santa An Elf's Wish at Nevendon Manor

Thank you for reading ‘An Elf’s Wish at Nevendon Manor – Christmas experience’.

Christmas, My Sunday Photo

My Sunday Photo – 19/11/17

My Sunday Photo

For my Sunday Photo this week is a shot of these truly beautiful hand painted candle holders that I found at the German Christmas Market in Essex this week. Don’t they look so pretty when lit up! You can read about our visit here, it is such a lovely festive place to visit with lots of wonderful handmade and traditional gifts. We got a brilliant Russian Doll there!My Sunday Photo German Christmas Market in EssexMy Sunday Photo German Christmas Market in EssexThank you did reading ‘My Sunday Photo – 19/11/17’.

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Christmas, Days Out, Home, Lifestyle, Shopping, Unusual

A German Christmas Market in Essex

German Christmas Market in Essex

Every year I always promise myself a visit to a Christmas Market in Europe. Yet, every year life gets in the way and it just doesn’t happen. This year however the Christmas Market came to me! Meadowcroft Garden Centre in Battlesbridge plays host to a German Christmas Market in Essex.

Christmas German Market in Essex - A view of the stalls and seating area

On arrival

Outside you are greeted with festive baubles, reindeer and Christmas Trees inviting you inside. As you step through the doors you are transported into the festive atmosphere of a German market. Inside there are 20 traditional wooden market stalls. They are filled with many delights from Nutcrackers to Cuckoo clocks, along with lots of wonderful Yuletide gifts. Its a great opportunity to get some unique Christmas presents this year. We particularly liked the handmade Russian dolls. Eden picked one of these as her reward for receiving the Head Teachers Award this week! It was difficult to choose just one, there were so many beautifully designed dolls of various sizes.


Christmas German Market in Essex - elves

Christmas German Market in Essex - festive market stall with dried orange arrangements

 German Market in Essex - dried orange gifts

Christmas German Market in Essex - close picture of a cuckoo clock

Christmas German Market in Essex - Brightly lit up candle holders

Christmas German Market in Essex - A selection of brightly coloured russian dolls

Treat yourself

Whilst shopping you can treat yourself to some German beer or hot Gluhwein or maybe something to eat. They serve Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, Belgian waffles, along with lots of sweet treats. We really enjoyed our Bratwurst sausage in a bun with lots of mustard. There are plenty of seats in the middle to sit and soak in the festive atmosphere of the German Christmas Market. We also bought some of the Schokokuss chocolates they came in a variety of flavours and are filled with sweet whipped egg whites and are not too dissimilar to marshmallow.


Christmas German Market in Essex Food stall

Christmas German Market in Essex - Trays of chocolate treats

Christmas German Market in Essex - German beer bottle lined up

Gift Shop

Aswell as the German market, there is a lovely gift shopped stocked with lots of gorgeous Christmas decorations and gifts. There is also a really nice cafe there, we enjoyed a delicious cream tea after our Bratwurst!

The Christmas German Market in Essex is FREE OF CHARGE to enter. It is open from 10th November to Christmas Eve, during the garden centre opening hours:-

09:30 – 17:30 Monday to Saturday and 10:00 – 17:00 on Sundays.

I would definitely recommend a visit to get you in the festive mood! Thank you for reading ‘A German Christmas Market in Essex’.

Days Out, Farms, Halloween, Home, Outdoors, Unusual

Spooky Nights at Barleylands

Spooky nights at barleylands blog

Spooky nights at Barleylands

We had such a fantastic Halloween half term this year. We picked pumpkins, made scary cupcakes, rode the spooky train and went out trick or treating. One of our highlights of Halloween was the Spooky Nights at Barleylands Farm Park in Essex.  I wasn’t too sure what to expect on the night, but they had promised a ghost train so I knew that Eden would be so excited to try that out!

On arrival

On arrival we were shown where to park the car, popped on our wrist bands, given a map and then shown into Barleylands Village. I had no idea that the whole village would be part of the Halloween fun. On the reverse of our map was a list of shops with a special code word to visit for trick or treating. Say the code word and receive a sweet treat! It was such a brilliant idea, safe trick or treating around the shopping village. Eden was so excited to get the code word and whisper it to the shopkeeper to get her reward. The shops were decorated and shopkeepers dressed up, it all added to the brilliant atmosphere!

Spooky Nights at Barleylands Eden trick or treating

In the barn was a Halloween disco, carnival games and a Zombie Maze. Eden went into the maze with her daddy. She clung to him and was a little frightened of the zombies. This was perfect for the braver kids… the zombies just wandered around the maze but were not threatening in anyway. Eden still wasn’t too keen though, lol!


Halloween Hoopla with skull heads Spooky Nights at Barleylands

Inside the Farm

Inside the farm, the play barn was buzzing, there were zombies roaming around, fairground rides and witches! So much to see and do. After visiting the Witchy Walk and walking through the scary barn we visited the Terror Hotel. This was perfect for bigger kids, a creepy walk through experience that I wimped out of! Eden and her daddy braved it though! There was also a brilliant 3 tier ghost train, which was very popular, it was so much fun and worth the wait.

We also met some creepy critters, in the Creepy Crawly Cave. Eden got to stroke a snake and see some bugs and spiders!


Spooky Nights at Barleylands Terror hotel

Terror Hotel Outside Spooky Nights at Barleylands

Close up of a witch Spooky Nights at Barleylands

The Ghost Train Spooky Nights at Barleylands


Eden meeting a snake Spooky Nights at Barleylands


Aerial view of the farm and fairground rides Spooky Nights at Barleylands

We had such a fabulous time, the evening flew by so quickly, we didn’t want it to end. I think they could benefit by maybe staying open another hour. We were sad to go but that was because we literally had the best family Halloween fun. The evening really appealed to both little ones, bigger kids… and adults too! Absolutely worth a visit next Halloween! One for the list, Spooky Nights at Barleylands, you will not be disappointed!

For more info on Barleylands events, please see their website. For more ideas for Halloween in Essex, please take a look here.

Three witches Spooky Nights at Barleylands

Thank you for reading ‘Spooky Nights at Barleylands’.

Written in collaboration with Barleylands Farm Park but all views and opinions are my own.