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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.

Days Out, Farms, Halloween, Outdoors, Unusual

Pumpkin Picking in Essex at Cammas Hall Farm

Pumpkin picking in Essex

We visited Cammas Hall Farm earlier in the year for Strawberry Picking and had such a wonderful time. We truly fell in love with the place, you can read our review from our last visit here.  Now Autumn is upon us we thought it was the perfect time to visit Cammas Hall once again for some pumpkin Picking in Essex.

Pumpkin Picking In Essex spooky fields forever at cammas hall

Our visit

Upon arrival the tea barn and restaurant were decorated in a fun and spooky theme, with lots of fun Halloween themed gifts and treats to buy. You can even buy your pumpkin carving set if you don’t have one already. You can also colour your own pumpkin mask or get your child’s face painted for a small extra fee. I have to say the face painting was of a really good standard too!

 

Pumpkin Picking In Essex tea barnPumpkin Picking In Essex halloween goodies in shop

 

The tea barn sells sandwiches, light lunches and cakes. It can get pretty busy at peak times but the tables extend outside to the play area so there are plenty of places to sit. Whether it’s for a spot of lunch or my personal favourite a delicious scone with clotted cream and jam. (Now I eat a lot of scones and can personally recommend Cammas Hall scones, they were some of the best I’ve had!).

Halloween at Cammas Hall

During Pumpkin Picking season, you can ride the tractor trailer to the pumpkin field to pick your very own pumpkin. The staff are on hand if you have any trouble picking one. Once you’ve chosen your pumpkin, you hop back on the tractor trailer to return to the farm shop to make payment. If you don’t fancy going all the way to the pumpkin field there are plenty of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes available just outside the shop! They had some very unusual nobbly looking ones too!

 

Pumpkin Picking In Essex tractorPumpkin Picking In Essex at Cammas Hall Farm

During your visit you can get lost in the Maize Maze. For a small fee you can purchase an treasure hunt sheet from the shop. You then walk around the maze, finding the pictures and the hidden letters. If you are lucky enough to find them all and solve the mystery word, kids get a sweet treat as a reward back at the shop. In the centre of the maze is an open area with space hoppers to stop for some playtime half way round! Eden loved leading us around the maze and looking for clues!

Pumpkin Picking In Essex i the maize mazePumpkin Picking In Essex centre of the maize maze

After all that excitement, we relaxed on a picnic bench with a coffee while the children played happily in the outdoor play area. There is also a smaller gated play area which is handy for littler kids.We had a truly fantastic time pumpkin picking at Cammas Hall Farm and would recommend popping along during Half term for a visit.

A cheap and fun day out that the kids absolutely loved!

Pumpkin Picking In Essex

 

If you’re looking for other fun Halloween days out this half term, check out some of our favourites here.

Thank you for reading ‘Pumpkin Picking in Essex at Cammas Hall Farm’.

 

Pumpkin Picking In Essex Cammas Hall wheelbarrow

Crafts, Days Out, Farms, Home, Outdoors, Parks, Shows, Unusual

Entertain the kids this Halloween half term!

Halloween Half Term week

Halloween Half Term Days Out

Looking for ideas for Halloween Half Term? Here is a list of some of our favourite spooky and unusual days out over Halloween Half term in and around Essex.

Farms

Barleylands Farm Park are running Pumpkinfest during the Halloween Half term week. Halloween themed activities and a free pumpkin for each child. They have two spooky evenings Friday 27th & Saturday 28th October packed with thrills, spills and chills for tots to young teens.  With family friendly activities including Huge Fairground Ghost Train, Haunted Fairground House, Boo Barn, Witches Walk, Haze Maze, Spooky Toddler Story Time, Creepy Reptile Cave, Halloween Disco and spooky games. Book tickets online.

Hopefield Halloween at Hopefield Animal Sanctury on 29th October 11:00-16:00.  Halloween event with Fancy Dress Competition, Haunted Bus, Halloween arts and crafts and mask making fun, Halloween themed Love On The Rocks and fantastic face painting. Entrance: Adults: £6, Kids: £5, Under 3s are FREE.

 

 

 

Pick your own pumpkins

Cammas Hall Farm at Hatfield Broad Oak  you can pick your own pumpkin, enjoy a tractor and trailor ride, get lost in their Maize Maze, face painting or maybe make your own Halloween mask. Don’t forget to stop off for a Halloween treat in their Tea Barn.

The Pumpkin Patch at Basildon or Colchester. Free entry and open every weekend during October 10-4pm.

 

Pumpkin Patch Halloween Half TermThe Pumpkin Patch Halloween Half Term

 

Take a ride on a Halloween Train

Audley End Miniature Railway

Ride the spooky train deep into the woods to visit the witches. Every ticket includes craft making, face painting, story telling, a visit to the dance tent and a gift for every child. Book online.

Epping Ongar Railway, Ongar

Are running 3 spooky ghost train events during Halloween Half term. Saturday 28th October 2017 (day + evening), Sunday 29th October 2017 (day only), and Tuesday 31st October 2017 (evening only). Don’f forget to visit the Halloween marquee at North Weird, where there is magic shows throughout the day, face painting, a silent disco and, for the grown ups, a bar. Each child receives a gift. Book online.

Audley End at Halloween Half Term

 

Essex Police Museum

Essex Police Museum in Chelmsford are offering Halloween crafts, make your own scary mask and trick or treat bag. Fancy dress welcome and free entry to the museum. £2 per child. 21st, 25th and 28th October 10:00 – 16:00.

Check their Facebook page for further details.

 

Essex Wildlife Trust

Essex Wildlife Trust have many Halloween Half Term activities across all of their centres, here are some of our favourites.

Hanningfield Resevoir have plenty of activities running through the Halloween half term, check their website for further details. Spooktastic Family Trail. Solve the spooky clues and track down the creepy creatures of Hanningfield Nature Reserve? Trail sheets £2.50 per child. Sun, 22/10/2017 – 10:00am – 3:00pm. No need to book.

Haunted Hanningfield on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October 10-3pm. Follow the spooky trail through the woods to the spooky House, dare you go in? Halloween treat for the brave. Bug hunting, Pumpkin carving and Halloween crafts in the Visitor Centre. Donation £8 per child. No booking necessary.

Belfairs Woodland Centre have Horrible Halloween crafts, drop in for some Halloween crafts on Saturday 28th October 10am -2pm.

Haunting Halloween at Langdon Nature ReserveSat, 28/10/2017 – 6:00pm – 9:00pm aimed at children 6yrs+. Follow the self-guided trail but beware of things that go bump in the night! Finish with stories and marshmallows at the camp fire. Three sessions available starting at 6pm, 6.30 or 7pm (younger children are advised to attend the earlier sessions) Family event aimed at children 6yrs+, must be accompanied by an adult at all times. £7 per person, booking essential.

 

Haunted Hanningfield Halloween Half TermHaunted Hanningfield Cabin Halloween Half Term

 

Halloween Book Reading

Free Book reading event of ‘The Seven Sisters’ by Sibel Beadle, local author of children’s book series ‘Witchy Travel Tales’. With craft activity and book signing at Barleylands function room on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd October and Saturday 28th and 29th October at the following times each day: 11-11:45am, 12-12:45pm and 1-1:45pm.

Broomstick Making

Make your own broomstick at Norsey Wood. Tuesday 24th October. 1pm – 2:30pm. £2.50 per child. Prebooking required.

 

Spooky Fest Wat Tyler Country Park

Spooky Fest running Monday 23rd October 2017 until Sunday 29th October 2017, 11am until 3pm. Three halloween themed mazes with live characters. Step back in time and walk around the haunted house, looking out for ghosts, ghouls and all things that fright. Meet the 2017 freaky clowns in the extra large Circus. Hook a duck, have your fortune read and see if you can escape the never ending corridors. Introducing the new vampire village. See the vampires hide out, rotting corpses, and spooky effects. Book tickets online. Children 4+ £5 each includes a sweet treat.

 

Lullingstone Castle & World Gardens

Lullingstone Castle just over in Kent is hosting some Halloween magic on the last day of the season. Pumpkin carving, spooky house and garden tours – perfect for all the family. Tom will give garden tours at 1pm and dusk tour at 5pm, learn about the origins of pumpkins, colours and varieties and children can spot the Halloween tricks in eerie torchlight! Fancy dress is welcome. 29th October 12-8pm.

Hedingham Castle

Halloween Weirdness and Wondercraft at Hedingham Castle. 10  Halloween themed workshops, creepy creatures, bash the rat or smash the skull, gooey cauldron of ghastly gunk, slithering reptiles, gory face painting, scary stories in the castle dungeon and a spectacular fiery finale! 10% discount when booking online.

 

Magic Shows

Monday Mayhem at Orsett Hall. Halloween Children’s Party with AJ Entertainers. 10.00am – 1.00pm and 2.00pm – 5.00pm. Entertainers, Balloon Modelling, Face Painting, Arts & Crafts, Mini Disco. Tickets £8.50, book online.

The Magic Frostie Halloween Show on 23 October at 14:00–15:30 at Wickford Community Centre. A Halloween themed show filled with music, Puppets, Balloons, Mind-Blowing Magic. Book online.

 

Thank you for reading ‘Entertain the kids this Halloween half term!’

Pumpkins Halloween Half Term

 

 

Castles/Houses, Days Out, Home, Museums, Outdoors, Unusual

Ingatestone Hall

Ingatestone Hall

We visited Ingatestone Hall one Sunday and had such a lovely time. A wonderful old house to explore with gardens and a tea room.

The house was built in the 1500’s and has been passed through fifteen generations of the Petre Family. The house is still occupied by the family until this day. Situated in the countryside just 1 mile from Ingatestone in Essex. It’s a splendid Tudor Mansion which retains its original Tudor form and appearance. Inside you will find oak-panelled rooms adorned with furniture and objects gathered over time from many different periods.

Ingatestone Hall - the front

The House

As you enter the house into the Inner Court there is a small shop selling gifts and souvenirs and a restaurant situated in The Summer Parlour. They serve light lunches, sandwiches, delicious cakes, and cream teas. Full afternoon teas can also be prebooked. There are lots of paintings on the walls and Eden sat happily drawing her own versions of them!

Ingatestone Hall, the summer parlour

Ingatestone Hall the cakes

Exploring the rooms

You start your self guided tour in The Stone Hall, a beautiful large oak panelled room. Each room is adorned with various pieces of furniture and objects collected over the years. There are also lots of personal photos and articles belonging to the family. Eden found looking around the house so interesting, looking at the paintings, tapestries, stuffed animals and various artifacts. She was amazed to find the priests hiding place hidden in the Study and found it fascinating that this was a hiding place for someone once upon a time. The secretive chamber is hidden within a cupboard, entry via a small alcove. At the opposite end there was once an opening where food might have been passed to the priest. Eden insisted on having a photo next to the Priests hiding place.

Ingatestone Hall  The Stone Hall

Ingatestone Hall Inside the Stone Hall

Ingatestone Hall The priests hole

 

There is also a second Priests hiding place on the main stair case. It had been lost for many years and was uncovered in 1855 when a child lost its toy through the floorboards in the room above.

There are many rooms to visit within Ingatestone Hall. The Dining Room was particularly impressive, the table laid out in fine silverware ready for entertaining. Upstairs in The Gallery there are lots of glass display cabinets filled with lace, coins and documents. There are so many interesting things to see, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Ingatestone Hall The Dining Hall

Ingatestone Hall The silverware

Ingatestone Hall  The Gallery

The Gardens

Ingatestone Hall is surrounded by ten acres of enclosed gardens comprising extensive lawns, walled garden and stew pond. In the garden there are several routes to take around the garden, whether it’s The Lime Walk lined with trees, The Nut walk named as it is lined with Hazel trees and The Wild Walk, an area to encourage wild life. Each one makes an interesting and exciting adventure for little ones. We spent lots of time exploring the gardens, Eden was so excited to explore. For her she found it magical, her imagination ran wild.

Ingatestone Hall Gardens

Ingatestone Hall Stew Pond

Ingatestone Hall the garden walks

Ingatestone Hall Eden and I

Visitor Information

The house and grounds are open from noon to 5 p.m.  (last entry 4 p.m.) on Wednesday, Sunday & Bank Holiday Monday afternoons from Easter until the end of September.

The house is now closed for public visits until Easter 2018 but open for special events.

There is free parking available in the Meadow Car Park.

Adults are £7 each

Pensioners £6

Children 5-16 £3

And under 5s are free.

The house is also open to other events and available to hire for weddings and parties. Please see their website for more information.

Thank you for reading Ingatestone Hall – A Review.

 

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Days Out, Home, Outdoors, Parks, Shows, Unusual

The Halloween Train – Audley End Miniature Railway

Halloween Train

Halloween Tradition

So Autumn is almost upon us and it’s time to start planning for one of our most favourite holidays… Halloween! It’s become part of our Halloween tradition to visit Audley End Miniature Railway and ride the Halloween Train. This will be our third year and Eden loves it so much she talks about it all year round!

If you haven’t visited Audley End Miniature Railway before, it’s definitely one to add to the list. It’s a wonderful train ride through the forest spotting Teddies with an enchanted fairy walk and fairy & elf festival! It’s such a lovely day out with the kids. You can read our previous post about it here.

The Halloween Train

Come Halloween time… Everywhere is decorated and themed in a spooky Halloween theme, even inside The Signal Box Cafe! It always looks so amazing! All the staff are dressed up too, it’s a wonderful sight. Every year so far the Halloween Train at Audley End has not disappointed.

 

Halloween Train Entrance

Halloween Train inside Signal box cafe

 

You are able to book the time of the train and then you can play and explore the rest of the facilities at your own leisure. At the platform you board the train and are waved off by the creepy conductor on a journey through the spooky forest. On your travels be sure to look out for all the spooky goings on! There are lots of fun Halloween things to spot whilst on your train ride but all aimed at children so nothing too scary. Halfway round you stop to visit the Witches who dance and cook up a witchy spell… if you’re lucky they may even give out a sweet treat too! Or as Eden would say ‘candy’!

 

Halloween Train Platform sign

Halloween Train

Halloween Train Conductor

Halloween Train

Halloween Train Deep Forest Halt

Halloween Train ghosts

Halloween Train Witch

Halloween Activities

After you return back to the station you are free to explore the rest of the Halloween fun. It’s got better every year adding more fun things for the kids to do. This year they are promising: A Train Ride through the woods to visit the witches, craft making, face painting, story telling, a visit to the dance tent and a gift for every child.

 

Halloween Train Sign

Halloween Train Eden the witch

Tickets are now on sale on their website! We can’t wait to get dressed up and go again this year!

Thank you for reading ‘The Halloween Train – Audley End Miniature Railway’

Castles/Houses, Days Out, Home, Outdoors, Unusual

Rayleigh Windmill – A Review

Rayleigh windmill

Rayleigh Windmill

I previously listed Rayleigh Windmill in my top local free/cheap days out in Essex. You can see that list here.

Rayleigh Windmill is situated next to Rayleigh Mount and is a great place to visit with or without kids. There is a car park right outside and it is free to park on Sundays. You can also hire the Windmill for Weddings and other celebrations.

The Mill

Rayleigh Windmill is a 200 year old Grade II listed building where you can learn how the Windmill worked, try the quiz in the museum, and dress up in traditional costumes. An interesting and unusual day out for the kids.

We popped along one Sunday to have a look around. We found the volunteers that run the Windmill were very friendly and knowledgeable. They were happy to answer any questions we had and told us some of the history of the Windmill and The Mount, where Rayleigh Castle once stood.

Rayleigh windmill on the stairs
Rayleigh windmill climbing the windmill

 

Ground Floor and First Floors

On the ground floor was information about the Windmill and some children’s arts and crafts. We climbed up the narrow stairs to the first floor where we found a small museum. It housed lots of interesting historic pieces and there is a quiz that you can take part in. It was simply finding items on a list so even our 5 year old could manage it with a little help. Eden was fascinated to learn about the gas masks for used during the war and in particular one used for babies.

 

Rayleigh windmill pieces of history in the museum

Rayleigh windmill quiz

Rayleigh windmill adult gas mask

 

Second Floor

On the 2nd floor they regularly hold exhibitions and on this occasion there was an artist displaying her paintings for sale. Eden was also able to paint a picture which she was very happy about. She loves to draw and paint. Whilst we let her painting dry we climbed up to the top floor.

 

Rayleigh windmill painting exhibition

Rayleigh windmill Eden painting

 

Top Floor

The stairs do get much narrower and steeper as you climb, so bear this in mind before visiting. Eden managed the steps absolutely fine though. On the top floor was an amazing model of The Mount and how the castle would of once looked. We spent some time hunting for a tiny little brown rabbit. See if you can spot him! There is also some dressing up available and a large board with characters from the castle. Eden happily played with that whilst we had a look at the views from the top of the Windmill. They have some pocket money toys for sale on the top floor.

After climbing to the top of the Windmill, children are awarded with their very own certificate!

 

Rayleigh windmill Castle model

Rayleigh windmill on the top floor, castle display board
Rayleigh windmill Eden outside the windmill

Visit the Windmill

Entry is free for Rayleigh Windmill but a donation of £1 per person is suggested.

Opening times:

Wednesday 10:00am – 1:00pm

Saturday 1:00 – 4:00pm

Sunday 1:00 – 4:00pm

Please check their website before visiting for a full list of closures due to private functions.

There are no toilets at the mill but you can use the facilities in The Mill Arts Centre next door.

Parking is at Mill Hall Car Park which is a paid for car park but free after 1pm on Saturday and free all day Sunday.

For more information please visit their website.

After looking around Rayleigh Windmill we took a short walk around Rayleigh Mount. Climbing to the top of the steps to reach the top where the Castle once stood. We then walked around the outside. It only took about 15-20 mins so not too far for little legs.

Rayleigh mount

Rayleigh mount

Rayleigh windmill climbing rayleigh mount

Rayleigh windmill view from top of rayleigh mount

Eden is wearing a floral dress from Next, lemon leggings and Gold Converse High tops.

Thank you for reading ‘Rayleigh Windmill – A Review’.

Castles/Houses, Days Out, Outdoors, Unusual

Exploring Lullingstone Castle & The World Garden

Lullingstone Castle

Lullingstone Castle & The World Garden

Well I can’t actually believe I hadn’t heard about Lullingstone Castle & The World Gardens before. I have always visited old houses and castles since I were just a little girl. My love of them has continued to grow into my adult life. That is why I couldn’t understand why I had missed this little gem. It’s based in Kent so not too far to travel to from Essex. I will warn you now though it is slightly off the beaten track and not the easiest to find. Overlooking that, it is a wonderful place to visit.

Lullingstone Castle is one of the oldest family estates in England and has been home to the same family since the 15th Century. It is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays between 1st April and end of September and Sundays only in October. Please visit their website for exact opening times and dates prior to your visit. Entry is: Adults are £8, children £4 and under 5’s are free. There is also the option of a free guided tour of the house.

Lullingstone Castle Front Castle

Special Events

We visited Lullingstone Castle on a special event day, The Fire Engine Rally. It was a fantastic showcase of fire fighting history with engines and carts dating from the Victorian and Edwardian periods to the present day. We were also lucky enough to see some of them in action. We watched a demonstration of the fire engines responding to a fire incident overlooking the lake. It was really exciting, the children and adults all seemed to really enjoy it. The Castle is host to various events throughout the year. Including the last day of the season where they hold their Halloween Magic special event.

Lullingstone Castle Gatehouse view

Lullingstone Castle house with fire engine

Lullingstone Castle fire engine rally

 

Our Visit

Lullingstone Castle is an enchanting place to visit with plenty to see and explore. Set within 120 acres of Kent countyside. You enter via the Gatehouse to a beautiful view of the house and St Boltolph’s Parish Church to one side. The house is stunning both inside and out and overlooks a picturesque view across the lake. Henry VIII and Queen Anne were once regular visitors at Lullingstone Castle and ‘Queen Anne’s Bathhouse’ and an 18th century ice house can be found within the grounds.

We started our day with refreshments in the Castle Marquee. They serve sandwiches, homemade soup, sausage rolls, cakes, drinks and ice creams. They had a basket of picnic blankets for you to help yourself so you can enjoy your food outside in the impressive grounds of the castle. It was such a nice and relaxing spot to sit down and eat lunch among the lovely flowers, taking in the view. The food and cake were all really yummy and on that particular day they also offered BBQ sausages in a bun so Eden was very happy!

Lullingstone Castle flower bed overlooking castle

Lullingstone Castle Marquee

Lullingstone Castle picnic blankets

The Castle

After looking around the fire engines and watching the demonstrations we ventured inside the house. As the house is still inhabited not all the rooms are open to the public. The rooms that are open are really beautiful, fully dressed with antique furniture, paintings and artifacts. You enter into the impressive Great Hall and upstairs are the state rooms where you even get to see Queen Anne’s bed.

Lullingstone Castle The great hall

The World Gardens

Tom Hart Dyke the current heir to the estate started his plans for the World Gardens in the year 2000 and they have grown since then. The Gardens take you on an adventure around the world with some interesting and unusual plants to see. Eden absolutely loved exploring the Garden. In particular we liked the Hot ‘n’ Spikey house with over 1000 varieties of Cacti, the beautiful Moroccon Blue Room and The Cloud Room. Whilst exploring the gardens look out for some wacky sculptures.

Lullingstone Castle the world garden

Lullingstone Castle eden exploring the gardens

Lullingstone Castle Cactii room

Lullingstone Castle Blue Moroccan room

Orchid Meadow and Woodland Walk

After the gardens we crossed the small wooden bridge into the Orchid Meadow and woodland walk. After a short walk we found a wonderful spot for a game of poo sticks on the river. It was such a picturesque spot too.

Lullingstone Castle woodland walk

Lullingstone Castle river

St Boltolphs Parish Church

Within the grounds of the estate is St Boltolph’s Parish Church which contains some of the oldest stained glass windows in England. I am always so fascinated by churches and although small, it was really interesting with the beautifully carved tomb of Sir John Peché d 1521. The church still holds regular congregations to this day.

Lullingstone Castle inside st boltolphs

We had such a lovely family day at Lullingstone Castle and World Gardens I thoroughly recommend it. I love all things history and culture. My dad used to take myself and my sister from a young age to all these wonderful places. I can remember how exciting and how much fun it was. They always felt so magical and enchanting. Sometimes its not all about the usual zoos, farms or soft play centres but getting your kids to try experiencing something new…. Read about one of our favourite castles to visit here!

Lullingstone Castle us outside the house

Lullingstone Castle eden by the flowerbed

Thank you for reading ‘Exploring Lullingstone Castle & The World Garden’.

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Days Out, Outdoors, Unusual

Fairy & Elf Festival at Audley End Miniature Railway

Audley End Miniature Railway

Come rain or shine, the Fairy & Elf Festival at Audley End Miniature Railway will brighten your day! This is one of our favourite places to go, it is truly enchanting! We have visited the railway on many occasions previously. We especially love their Halloween and Easter trains. However this was our first visit to see the Elf & Fairy Festival in full swing!

We visited Audley End Miniature Railway on a miserable grey and rainy day. Initially I thought this would spoil our day but in actual fact we all had a fantastic day out. Even better was the fact the rain had put many others off attending so we had the place to ourselves. On arrival we collected our tickets, pencil and booklet detailing all the things to lookout for during our visit.

Fairy & Elf Festival EntranceFairy & Elf Festival Entrance

The train

We arrived earlier than our designated train time so had time for lunch in the Signal Box Cafe before hopping on the train. I can personally vouch for the hot chocolate with a huge pile of cream and marshmallows!

Suitably refreshed we boarded the train and went off on our adventure through the woods. Eden loved spotting all the teddy bears as you go through the forest. She also really enjoys going through the tunnels. The train ride is so much fun!

Fairy & Elf Festival Audley End miniature railway
Fairy & Elf Festival Us on the train
Fairy & Elf Festival Forest deep haltFairy & Elf Festival Eden and the train driver

The Fairy Walk

After the train ride we decided to go on the Fairy Walk through the forest. First off we were greeted by cheery and bright Fairies, even though it was grey outside. With their help Eden made her pencil into a glittery sparkly fairy wand! A quick photo beneath the beautiful flower arch before setting off to hunt for Fairies in the wood.

Eden really enjoys looking out for the Fairies along the route and ticking them off in her booklet. We stopped and carefully read about each fairy. Each one has their own story, it’s so enchanting. There are lots of Fairies, elfs and other woodland folk to look out for along the trail.

Fairy & Elf Festival Making her wandFairy & Elf Festival Eden and the Fairies Fairy & Elf Festival Fairy walk entrance Fairy & Elf Festival Reading the signs Fairy & Elf Festival Fairy in the wood Fairy & Elf Festival Fairy in the wood

Fairy & Elf Festival

The Fairy and Elf Festival really makes a lovely difference to your visit. This is a new addition from our previous visit and made it an extra special visit for Eden.
We enjoyed some fairy crafts, Eden made a glittery mermaid and I got to make a colourful rainbow cloud! The whole area looked so magical with fairy bell tents, toadstools and colourful bunting. It really captures the little one’s imaginations! Eden ran around excitedly playing with all the outdoor games. Even in the rain we didn’t mind a bit.

In one of the tents they offered free face painting and hair braiding. Eden was very excited by this and dashed in to get hers done. After getting her face painted Eden settled down for some story telling with a fairy! Eden loves story time, even more so when a fairy is telling the story!

Fairy & Elf Festival Eden at the festivalFairy & Elf Festival Playing hooplaFairy & Elf Festival Playing games Fairy & Elf Festival Fairy craftsFairy & Elf Festival Fairy face painting Fairy & Elf Festival Story time Fairy & Elf FestivalFairy & Elf FestivalFairy & Elf Festival Eden and her mermaid

It was such a beautiful afternoon, rain or shine it didn’t spoil our time. I thought it would be a total washout but Eden got to splash in puddles in her wellies and loved the magic of the festival. We had some truly magical family time together!

When the weather is behaving itself a little better there is also a kids playground area, a bouncy castle and swing chairs. I believe there is a small charge for the bouncy castle. They also have a costume parade in the afternoon.

You may also be interested in reading about our favourite free and fun days out in Essex for kids, you can read more here.

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Days Out, Museums, Outdoors, Parks, Unusual

Fun and free kids days out in Essex!

Okay so we are now welcoming the kid’s summer holidays. Some of us with welcome arms while others are more likely burrowing their heads in their hands! It can be daunting, thinking ahead of 6 weeks of entertaining your offspring! It can also be super expensive so here is my list of my favourite fun and free kids days out in Essex!
So in no particular order:

Free kids days out in Essex

1. Priory Park, Southend

Priory Park is a particularly picturesque park, not only does it have a large children’s play area, it has a lake, a woodland walk, a cafe, beautiful walled formal gardens and it’s the home to Prittlewell Priory Museum. The Priory originally formed part of a Cluniac Monastery dating back to 1180. There are plenty of nice spots for picnicking and letting the kids run off some steam.
The museum is free to enter and if you particularly enjoyed your visit then donations are welcomed.
Free parking onsite (although not a huge car park).
Opening times – Summer opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10:10 – 17:00
Bank holidays 10:00 – 17:00
For more information visit their website.

2. Wind in the Willows Sculptures at Hanningfield Resevoir

Hanningfield Resevoir in Downham, Billericay is a great family day out. Stick on your wellies and take a wander through the woods to spot the well known characters from Wind in the Willows. 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.
You can visit for free but there is a suggested donation amount of £2 per adult, £1 per child or £5 per family.
They are also offering a range of children’s activities during the summer holidays for just a £3 donation.
The visitor centre has a refreshment area, gift shop and toilets with baby changing facilities. There is also a viewing area with views out across the Reservoir where you can relax and enjoy watching the wildlife.
There is free parking available onsite.
Open Daily: 9am – 5pm.
For more information visit their website.

3. Peter Rabbit Sculptures at 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. They are also offering lots of children’s activities during the summer holidays from scavenger hunts to making arts and crafts for just a £3 donation. No booking required, check their website or Facebook page for details.
The visitor centre sells refreshments, has a gift shop and toilets with baby changing. To the rear of the visitor centre is a pretty wildlife garden.
There is free parking onsite.
Open Daily: 9am – 5pm.
For more information visit their website.

4. Hollytrees Museum and Colchester Castle Park

Hollytrees Museum is a great museum set in Colchester Castle Park overlooking the picturesque Colchester Castle. There is a cafe, formal gardens and children’s playground with large sand play area to explore.
The museum gives a glance into life in Colchester and how it has evolved over the years. It has some really interesting exhibits and interactive to kids interested and entertained.
Free entry.
Opening times of Hollytrees Museum:
Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm
Sunday 11am to 5pm
Parking is not available on site, you would need to use Colchester Town car parks.
You can visit the Castle Museum but there is a fee to enter.

5. Stick Man Trail at Weald Country Park

Weald Country Park is set within 500 acres of parkland in Brentwood and home to The Stickman Play Trail. A fun trail bringing to life the story by Julia Donaldson encouraging imaginative play. A gorgeous walk through the woodland and parkland with activities to explore at each stop. You can purchase a map at the visitor centre. There is also a deer to visit, cafe, play area, gift shop and toilets.
Free entry and parking is onsite, there is a charge for parking however.
For more information please visit their website.

6. 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 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.
Please check their website for opening dates and times of the house and cafe. Please also be aware that it will be closed for visiting during mid August for V Festival.
For more information please visit their website.

7. Canvey Island Transport Museum

The museum in Canvey Island is the home to a selection of vintage buses, coaches and classic cars. In addition to the museum there is a model railway and gift shop selling die-cast models and transport souvenirs.
Entry is free but donations are welcomed.
Open Sundays 2017: 16th July; Every Sunday in August; 3rd & 17th September; 1st & 15th October.
Opening times 10am to 5pm.
For more information visit their website.

8. Chelmsford Museum at Oaklands Park

Chelmsford Museum is actually in Oaklands Park situated Moulsham Street, Chelmsford.
Set within gorgeous grounds with two fantastic playgrounds for the children, one for older children and one for younger.
Chelmsford Museum has some really interesting exhibits and also houses Essex Regiment Museum.
During the summer holidays they are hosting a number of Back in Time themed craft sessions for school aged children. Children are encouraged to get creative, using the museum’s collections and displays for inspiration. £3 per child.
Free entry and free parking is available onsite.
Opening times:
Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm
Sunday 1pm to 4pm
For more information please visit their website.

9. Join the Animal Agents Challenge at your local library.

Essex libraries are encouraging children to sign up to their Animal Agents challenge this summer. They need to read 6 books to earn their Animal Agents certificate and medal, collecting stickers along the way. Children can read library books of their choice.
Challenge runs Saturday 15 July to Saturday 2 September.
Pop by your local library to find out more.

10. Rayleigh Windmill

Rayleigh Windmill is a 200 year old Grade II listed building where you can learn how the Windmill worked, try the quiz in the museum, dress up in traditional costumes.
Entry is free of charge but a donation of £1 per person is suggested.
Opening times:
Wednesday 10:00am – 1:00pm
Saturday 1:00 – 4:00pm
Sunday 1:00 – 4:00pm
Parking is at Mill Hall Car Park which is a paid for car park but free after 1pm on Saturday and free all day Sunday.
For more information please visit their website.

11. Great Notley Discovery Park

Great Notley Discovery Park is situated in Braintree. A great place to explore with the kids with interactive play equipment and sensory trails.
There is a cafe onsite, toilets and car parking.
Free Entry.
Opening times: The park is open daily from 08.00 till dusk
The visitor centre and cafe is open daily from 10.00 till 16.00. (Except 25 December).

12. Thames Chase Nature Reserve.

Thames Chase Nature Reserve based in Pike Lane, Upminster has a great nature trail with activities as you go round. It also boasts a play area, very nice cafe, gift shop and bicycle hire. It’s a great place to take the kids bikes to cycle round.
There are some great wooden structures as you go around the trail for the kids to play and climb on.
They are organising a range of children’s activities through the summer holidays on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week from 25th July to 24th August between 10:30am and 12:30pm. £3 donation per child.
Free entry.
Opening times: 10am-5pm weekdays and weekend (10-4pm in the winter).
Includes café and shop with toilets and baby changing.
Parking is onsite for a small fee.
For more information please visit their website.

13. Wat Tyler Park

Wat Tyler Country Park in Pitsea, Basildon has 125 acres of country walks, wildlife spotting adventure play area for kids and a miniature railway. The park has a fascinating history and was originally an explosives factory. There are informative signs as you walk around the trail.
There is a cafe and gift shop onsite with toilets and baby changing.
Free entry and free parking onsite.
Railway runs in the school holidays, adults £2.50 and children £1.50.
Opening times:
Monday to Sunday 10:00 – 16:45.
For more information please visit their website.

14. Hadleigh Castle

Hadleigh Castle is situated in Castle Lane, Hadleigh. The ruins of the castle are set high upon a hill overlooking the Essex marshes and Thames estuary. A gorgeous spot for settling down for a picnic and letting the kids let off some steam exploring the castle ruins.
Free entry all year round at any reasonable time.
It is situated right next to the Salvation Army Tea Rooms and Rare Breeds Farm with car park. Please note there is a charge for car parking.
Entry to the Farm isn’t free but it is very reasonable and is well worth a visit if in the area. They have a Willow maze, play area and lots of rare breed friendly animals to see.

15. 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.
Opens at 09:30am.
For more information please visit their website.

So this is about fun and free kids days out in Essex. The following day out is not free but is very cheap and definitely a worth mention.

Canvey Island

You can get an all day wrist band for £5 to go on the fairground rides! It’s brilliant value for money and lots of rides to keep the little one happy. They also have the beach right next door, soft play centre opposite just incase it rains and Movie Starr cinema where tickets are just £3.50.

Please note all information was incorrect at time of publishing, please check venue websites or Facebook pages before you visit for up to date information or changes.

Thank you for reading ‘Fun and free kids days out in Essex!’. If you can think of any other great free days out in Essex, let me know!

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Eating Out, Farms, Outdoors, Unusual

Fruit Picking In Essex – Lathcoats Farm

fruit picking in esse lathcoats farm

Fruit Picking

Lathcoats Farm is a lovely fruit farm and a great day out with the kids fruit Picking in Essex. Situated in Galleywood just outside Chelmsford, not too far from the A12 so it’s very easy to get to.

They have Pick Your Own fruit, a farm shop, The Bee Shed Coffee House, a small natural play area for the kids and some animals to visit.

Pick Your Own Fruit

Lathcoats Farm have over 40 varieties of apples, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants and many other fruit available. Fruit picking runs from around June to August. There is a calendar giving dates of when fruit is ready to pick on their website, along with regular updates on fruit availability. You should also check their Facebook page before going. Sadly it’s coming to the end of the fruit picking season for this year but Lathcoats is still worth a visit, with or without the kids!

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Strawberry tent
The Bee Shed Coffee House

The Bee Shed Coffee House serves food where the ingredients are sourced from their local trusted farm shop suppliers.

Serving breakfast and lunch, there is a really good menu with a great selection of food to choose from. They serve sandwiches, panini’s, ploughmens and jacket potatoes. You can even treat yourself to a slice of homemade cake. I can personally recommend the Cream Tea, the scones served with Rodda’s clotted cream and Tiptree Jam were fresh and delicious.

From the vast menu, we opted for a deluxe toasted sandwich filled with Dan Hull Ham, Hanningfield smoked cheddar & sweet apple chutney. It was incredibly tasty and a definite step up from your bog standard cheese and ham toastie!

They have some good children’s options and serve a children’s platter which comes with a roll, cake, crisps, a piece of fruit and a drink for £3.75 which is great value. Eden ordered the children’s bacon roll and she loved it!

They also serve afternoon teas which is now on my list to try! You can read about some of my favourite afternoon tea venues here. There is plenty of seating available inside and outside is a small terrace. Although there may be a longer queue on busier days, the food was served very quickly.

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm The Bee Shed Coffee House
Outside Area

Behind the coffee house is a small natural play area, a track with ride on cars for the little ones and some farm animals to visit.

We met the goats, donkeys and pigs on our visit. The goats were super friendly and Eden enjoyed feeding them some grass, she thought it was hilarious in fact. She also enjoyed spending lots of time hopping across the tiled stepping stones in the natural play area. Kids love the simple things, it is so nice to get them outdoors.

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Natural Play area

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Eden in the play area

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Outside

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Donkeys

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Pigs

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Eden feeding the goats

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Eden and the goat

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Eden and the goat
The Farm Shop

The farm shop is well stocked with lots of lovely treats from local suppliers, fresh eggs, artisan breads, fruit and vegetables, speciality meringues, handmade chocolates, Tiptree Jams and savoury goods, there’s plenty to tempt you.

We didn’t pick our own strawberries on this occasion but bought some from the farm shop and they were some of the biggest strawberries I’ve ever seen! They were perfect topped with lots of cream.

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Farm shop entrance

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Inside the farm shop

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Meringues

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Apples in shop

Fruit picking in Essex Lathcoats Farm Apples
Thank you reading ‘Fruit picking in Essex – Lathcoats Farm’.

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Fruit picking in Essex at lathcoats Farm