Good Friday was just spectacular! The weather was so good that I completely forgot to write up the Easter events round-up so my apologies but if you are still stuck on ideas for what to do with the family, check out the below.
I’ve been on annual leave for the second half of the Easter holidays and have been taking the kids out (will post on that shortly) but yesterday was a kid-free day for me. I went out with my sister to enjoy a trip to a very special museum and then took a stroll around Leadenhall Market. As it was Good Friday, a lot of the shops were closed but there was a lovely French bakery that was still open and a couple other eateries.
Whether your coming from Richmond or Runcorn, Greenwich is a major tourism town that sees thousands of people paving its streets every year. This year has seen a rise in tourism again and with lockdown officially behind us all, the streets of Greenwich are starting to fill up.
I originally published this post in August 2020 but have revised it again to keep it current with this year’s events. Spending a day trip visiting Greenwich during the summer holidays can be easy, cheap and very enjoyable for the whole family. Train companies usually offer GroupSave discounts when travelling during summer holidays if you’re coming from outside of London.
As the UK is on the roadmap out of lockdown, rule of six regulations are reintroduced and the sun is starting to shine. As we take advantage of finally being able to see friends and family outdoors again, it is important we choose the right spot to help maintain social distancing guidelines.
With 3,000 of London’s parks to choose from, researchers at Essential Living can tell you which of London’s parks are ideal for a summer picnic. Taking the Ordnance Survey list of biggest parks, the team have extracted the six largest within Greater London to reveal where you can relax and enjoy your long overdue catch up with the comfort of large space.
Here are London’s 6 largest parks:
Richmond Park, Greater London – 9.53km²
Richmond Park, situated in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, is the largest of London’s Royal Parks with an impressive size of 9.53km², meaning it may be the best place to go for social distancing.
Essential Living has calculated that it could fit a whopping 684,788 visitors with everyone maintaining two metres between each other.
Along with its wide open spaces, grasslands and deer herds, there is the Pen Ponds Cafe, located near Broomfield Hill. Serving a wide range of hot and cold snacks and beverages, you are spoilt for choice with bacon rolls and freshly brewed coffee followed by ice cream and biscotti.
Hainault Forest Country Park – 3.62km²
Hainault Forest Country Park is a Country Park located in Greater London. With 3.62km² of space this park is perfect for keeping your distance from others, whilst still enjoying its open space parklands, numerous public footpaths, Hainault Forest Golf Club and Fox Burrow Farm.
If you run out of snacks or refreshments, you can nip to Le Bistro Loco for some freshly ground coffee, locally baked patisseries and hot paninis and sandwiches, which you can enjoy in the spacious outdoor seating area.
Bushy Park, Greater London – 3.45km²
Linked to Hampton Court Palace by the Longford River, Bushy Park is famed for its mix of waterways, gardens and grassland, and roaming herds of red and fallow deer. With 3.45km² of open space, maintaining social distancing isn’t an issue.
The Pheasantry Cafe refreshment point is located at the Diana Car Park, open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm in the winter. You can tuck into their traditional bacon rolls or a variety of sandwiches and hot dogs, whilst washing it down with a freshly brewed continental coffee or a nice refreshing fruit smoothie.
Hampstead Heath –3.16km²
Hampstead Heath is one of London’s most popular open spaces with beautiful countryside, located just four miles from Trafalgar Square, the heath has some of the best views and highest points in London for everyone to enjoy.
Open from 9 am until dusk, the Golders Hill Park Refreshment House is ideal for a quick healthy lunch bite to eat, offering takeout soups, pasta pots and salads. Customers have also mentioned their great cappuccinos and comfortingly hot cups of tea for the perfect winter warmer.
Wimbledon Common – 2.90km²
Wimbledon and Putney Commons are countryside escapes amidst the urban surroundings of Wimbledon, Putney and Kingston-upon-Thames. The Commons offers 1,140 acres of calm and tranquillity amid the urban surroundings of Wimbledon, providing an important home for wildlife and a place for visitors to relax and unwind.
Next to the famous Windmill Museum, the Windmill Tearooms is the perfect pit-stop for a refreshing bite if you are on a relaxing summer stroll. They continued to provide for walkers despite lockdown, offering a choice of hot and cold drinks as well as their selection of homemade cakes, tray bakes and famous bread pudding.
Hampton Court Park – 2.59km²
Hampton Court Park is a walled royal park managed by the Historic Royal Palaces, lies between the gardens of Hampton Court Palace and Kingston upon Thames and Surbiton in south west London. Its beautiful open space is perfect for those socially distanced gatherings (up to 6 people only though, remember).
The Molesey Lock cafe situated by Hampton Court Bridge has a wonderful garden oasis, perfect for enjoying their freshly made sandwiches and wonderful pots of tea. Perfect for fulfilling the needs of passers-by on their long journey.
Press release originally published by Essential Living
Note: Methodology and Data Sources Using the Ordnance Survey’s list of 100 biggest parks, we extracted the six largest parks within Greater London and calculated how many people could visit the park based on its size and also keeping two metres away from each other. This was calculated by multiplying the number of people that can fit in a 1km2 area whilst keeping 2 metres distance between them (71,856) by the area of each park.
Get those trainers, walking shoes or wellies on and get ready to start exploring again as London and the rest of the UK gear up to leave lockdown 3.0 behind. There’s so many wonderful places you can visit outdoors that there’s no excuse not to head out for some fresh air and scenic sights.
The walkway by The Tide is now completed and looks magical in all its colourful glory, thanks to artist Liz West. More on how you can visit the walkway below. A lot of businesses are still shut until April 12th but it’s only a couple weeks away. Make the most of this time now by going to places you wouldn’t normally go to because we all know once the restaurants and cafes open, we’ll be finding ourselves a spot there as soon as we can or slotting in as many retail therapy moments as possible.
Whilst I couldn’t find any free Easter Egg hunt events in Greenwich this year (there’s one in Canary Wharf – see below), but there are Easter egg hunt events dotted about London. The Big Easter Egg Hunt in Chislehurst is our closest one on Saturday 3rd April, 2-4pm. More details and booking on Eventbrite. There’s also an Easter Adventure Quest for kids at Eltham Palace on now until April 18th but there’s a fee. Check out the website for more details.
Spring is here to bring us more sun, warmer days and outdoor events…
Greenwich Market re-opens April 1st 2021
FINALLY, the markets will be re-opening in just a couple days! Food stalls are scheduled to reopen April 1 however arts & crafts, vintage stalls and retail shops will reopen April 12 inline with government guidelines. The management team will be working hard to make sure the market is covid-safe but remember to also do your part by wearing your mask and social distancing whenever possible.
Crosstown Doughnuts have just launched their delicious Easter spiced doughnuts filled with cinnamon custard filling. YUMMY! These limited edition selection boxes are perfect for gifting. Pre-order now as they’re only available from March 29 to April 5.
Greenwich Peninsula has commissioned artist Liz West to create a new installation; Hundreds and Thousands for The Tide in 2021. The artwork wraps 700m of the walkway’s glass balustrades, creating a ribbon of undulating colour. Just in time as we transition from spring to summer.
To celebrate Hundreds and Thousands, will be a series of collaborative artistic responses exploring the human colour experience.
NOW Gallery will be welcoming one of the UK’s most pioneering young fashion designers, Nicholas Daley, to debut at the gallery. The fully immersive exhibition titled, RETURN TO SLYGO will celebrate the coming together of Nicholas’s multicultural Jamaican-Scottish roots with his passion for music in a multi-sensory installation.
Canary Wharf has a line of treats set up for us this Easter.
Their ongoing commission ‘Captivated by Colour’ by artist Camille Walala on the Adams Plaza Bridge is still on show. Following the success of London Mural Festival, Camille’s playful yet impactful design has now become a part of the city’s permanent art collection. If you’re visiting, make sure you get a shot before you leave, it’s a great backdrop for any selfie! There’s lots of artwork all around the estate, you can download their art map to find them all.
Secret Sunrise X Canary Wharf: Happy Egg-stravaganza
Saturday 3rd April, 9-10am
This family-friendly session will have you dancing and twirling this Easter weekend. Embark on an interactive adventure set out by the Canary Wharf team. All you need to join is a laptop or smart phone, some comfy clothes, and your dancing shoes on. The funkier the outfit the better!
From April 15th 2021 Thursday – Sunday at 12pm-6pm
It’s back! Test your putting skills on the colourful mini-golf course. With 9 holes to play through, including the classic ‘loop-de-loop’, the ‘death drop’, and many more trick shot opportunities this is the perfect place to show off your mini golf skills to friends and family.
If you’d seen my post a couple weeks ago, I was so happy to announce that I was able to book us for a short two-night staycation. Last week, we stayed at the Kits Coty Glamping site in Aylesford, Kent. I booked this family trip for us during the summer holidays and it was the only set of dates that were free to book in Gretel House at the time of searching.
How to travel to the Kits Coty Glamping site
The glamping site is in Aylesford which is near to Maidstone in Kent. It’s about a 50 minute train ride from Greenwich however we decided to get a minicab to take us which was about 30-40mins journey in the car. Train tickets are about £15-20 per adult (book in advance for cheaper return tickets or two single tickets) then you’d need to either get a bus or minicab from the Maidstone station to the glamping site. On the way there we did get stuck in a bit of slow-moving traffic as it was approaching rush hour when we left. Check-in at Kits Coty is after 3pm which was perfect because it meant that the kids didn’t have to miss school on arrival day.
If you have your own car and want to drive to the site you can do, Gretel House has its own car park area and the other accommodation have a shared car park area. For driving directions, make sure you read the details in the Kits Coty guestbook which you can bookmark on your phone.
Arrival day at Kits Coty
Once we arrived, we were greeted by the super-friendly Ami who owns the site with her husband Mark. She told us that we were lucky enough to have the site all to ourselves as it was a school weekday so no-one else was booked to stay at any of the other accommodations. Yay! I was super thrilled as it’s usually rare to have a site like this all to ourselves but it did make everything a little easier for us and the kids, especially considering all things COVID. Ami showed us around and to our accommodation which we fell in love with seeing immediately. It looked even more beautiful and magical in person. Little Man said to Ami “Wow! It’s even better than in the pictures!” and boy was he right. 🙂
Kits Coty – Gretel House
Inside Gretel House
Whimsical bunk beds for the kids
Gretel House is a wooden cabin (I believe it’s cedarwood) and is ideal for small families with two adults and two children. It could probably fit a cot-bed or crib in the house too but do check with the owners if this is allowed. The charming sized bed for me and Daddy P looked so romantic with the flower wall behind the bed. The whimsical wooden built-in bunk beds for the kids were as cute as ever. The beds were super comfy and so warm we never got cold at all. There’s also a radiator in the room but we hardly needed to turn it on.
Gretel benefits from having its own eco toilets (a urinal and a sit down toilet) but it’s only for those emergency wees. It did come in handy for us as the kids needed to wee (what felt like) almost every hour or two.
We unpacked our small suitcase and bags as fast as we could before exploring the grounds. The glamping site has a magical fairytale theme – we spotted the White Rabbit’s hole (Alice in Wonderland) as well as the Cheshire Cat.
What and where to eat during your stay…
If you’ve brought your own food or are able to drive to the nearby supermarkets, you can keep all of your perishable foods in the communal fridge and freezer. We only brought dry cupboard foods with us so we kept that in our cabin and ordered takeaway for the two nights. The first night we ordered the local Chinese takeaway which was tasty and affordable. The second and last night, we ordered Dominos which arrived fast and tasted good like usual. If you have a car you may be able to drive out to eat out but as we don’t drive we were bound to the glamping grounds.
If you plan to make all your own meals, there are gas cooking rings available by the kitchen for you to take back to your accommodation and use. If you didn’t book any meals before you can still do so on site but be aware that Ami and/or Mark require 24hrs notice to prepare your booked breakfast/evening meals.
Things to do at Kits Coty Glamping:
make a fire and toast marshmallows
have a little barbeque or picnic in your own garden
book a stone-oven pizza making experience
go on one of the nature walks around the estate to see the animals, the woods, the Kits Coty stones, and Kits Coty House
tie a ribbon onto the Wishing Tree and make a wish (bring your own ribbon!)
We thoroughly enjoyed our nature walks in the woods. It was so relaxing and therapeutic – like the perfect escape away from all the hustle and bustle of city life, away from the stresses of COVID and lockdown, and it was the family time we were craving for to strengthen our family bond.
Our Best Bits at Kits Coty…
My favourite part of our staycation were the nature walks and toasting marshmallows in the fire pit. Luckily, Daddy P knew exactly how to build a campfire so we didn’t have to figure it out. The wood logs are provided for by the site but you’ll need to bring your own firelights or buy them from Kits Coty which only cost 50p so it was not a massive investment. Our fire was burning for a couple hours and the crackling of the fire burning was a lovely soothing sound. The warmth of the fire kept us nice and toasty.
The kids loved the whole experience but said they really enjoyed relaxing in the hammocks and sleeping in their Gretel bunk beds. They also enjoyed the nature walks and seeing Daddy P climb up a tree in the woods! LOL
So do I recommend Kits Coty for first-time glampers?
100% I do! We had the best family experience glamping and I am so thrilled that we got to do it at Kits Coty. Years ago, I’d taken the kids camping at a family festival however after that experience, I’ve realised that I love glamping soooooooooo much more. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed being with nature and the outdoors but I also love my creature comforts just as much. I need a warm bed, hot showers and flushable toilets no matter where I go haha! I just can’t do with being fully immersed in nature just yet – especially when I can’t stand creepy crawlies so if you’re squeamish or not a fan of bugs, crawlies and anything else that has several legs or eyes, you might not be a massive fan of glamping. Our Gretel cabin wasn’t 100% bug free but that’s to be expected when you’re outdoors. We had a couple spiders in the cabin but quite a few daddy long legs flying about at night which scared the children. I reassured the kids that they don’t bite and eventually, they were able to get over it and had a good night’s sleep.
We will definitely be coming back to glamp again at Kits Coty next summer if we don’t go abroad. The site was amazing and I have no doubt that during the holiday season, this place will be fully booked. I was super chuffed that we had the site all to ourselves because if there were other families around, some things may have been very different ie. we might’ve had to queue to use the kitchen, toilet or shower, we would’ve been trying to manage bathroom timings so we don’t take too long in the communal areas and other things.
We’re looking forward to our next family travel adventures!
If you’ve never been to Cator Park Adventure Playground before then it’s definitely one park that you need to add onto your little bucket list of local outdoor places to visit with the kids.
I wrote a post last year about the launch of the Cator Park playground but wasn’t able to attend as I was at work and just never really ventured out to Cator Park until last month. So where is Kidbrooke? It’s actually very close to Blackheath, Eltham, Greenwich and Lewisham – even from North Greenwich, it’s only a single bus ride away.
Cator Park North Playground at Kidbrooke Village
The park has been open for a year now and is very popular with the locals. Kidbrooke is a lovely place to visit – the specific area, Kidbrooke Village, was created with sustainability in mind.
We visited the park with some friends who have been to the park before and was able to explore the grounds. We got there around 11am to try and beat the family crowds which helped because by 1pm it was quite busy. Kidbrooke Village’s Cator Park has two giant slides, climbing frames, tyre swings, and two giant wooden ‘treehouses’ which have a giant swirly tube slide each.
NOTE: This place is not to be confused with the Cator Park in Beckenham! I’ve realised that when you sometimes google search Cator Park, the Beckenham one shows up. This one is labelled on Google as Cator Park North and is in the Kidbrooke, SE3 area.
Children can really jump, climb, swing and slide to their little heart’s content! 🙂
Our kids were a little apprehensive at first with playing on the slides and so we started off in the park on the smaller slides and climbing frame. The kids then progressed over to the treehouses and were climbing away. Little Miss LOVES climbing so she was really in her element. She had a brilliant time and was even happier that we had a lovely day out with her nursery pals before starting school. Younger children may find the treehouses a little scary but the trick is to go on it with them a few times encourage them to explore. Over time the children will build up the courage and confidence to do it alone.
The playground is really well-made and very sturdy. The treehouses were my favourite and I even went on the swirly slide a few times with Little Miss. In one of the treehouses, there’s a set of strings which the children can strum and the sound vibrates all the way down the slide. It’s pretty cool!
What should I bring to Cator Park kids playground?
a bottle of water
something to eat plus lots of snacks
a picnic blanket or something to sit on
a light buggy or stroller if you have a toddler
Kids play is exhausting work so make sure you take some snacks along with you. There’s not really much around the park apart from new flat developments but there is a small cafe a short walk away from the park, a Sainsbury’s Local across the road and a few food truck vans. If you got little ones and plan to play for a few hours, make sure you bring at least water and snacks with you.
The food trucks are delicious but not cheap – the delicious burgers were £6 and oozing cheesy chips at £3.50. Prefer a sweet treat? Check out the waffles and crepes van for a range of tasty desserts.
PS. If you need to take the kids somewhere a little calmer, the green next to the park is perfect for chilling out. Sutcliffe Park is also just a 10-15 mins walk away and has lovely views of the river Quaggy and wildlife.
How to get to Cator Park North Adventure Playground
Address: Cator Park North Playground Kidbrooke Park Road London, SE3 9GN
If you’re lucky to live near enough to walk then yay! It’s walking distance for anyone living in the Kidbrooke Village area. If you live in Eltham it’d be around a 15mins walk if you live near Sutcliffe Park otherwise from Eltham High street, get the bus to Sutcliffe Park and walk the rest of the way.
by Bus I think bus is the easiest, most convenient and cheapest option (apart from walking) to the park. The two buses that I’m aware of that stop closest to the park are 335 and 178. Alight at the stop ‘Cranfield Walk’ (stop M if you’re coming from North Greenwich or Woolwich direction, stop L if you’re coming from Lewisham or Blackheath Park.) If you’re coming from Greenwich you can either get the 286 to Blackheath then catch the 335 to Cator Park, OR get the 129 or 188 to North Greenwich and catch the 335 from the station. If you’re coming from Woolwich or nearby, get any bus to Woolwich town centre and catch the 178 direct to Cator Park.
by Car You can type the address directly into your GPS navigation system and it’ll direct you to the park however there isn’t any parking nearby the playground. You’ll have to park at either Kidbrooke station and or near Sutcliffe Park using the pay & display machines and walk to the park from there.
by Train/Tube From North Greenwich underground station, catch the 335 bus directly to Cator Park and get off at Cranfield Walk stop M. If you’re getting the train, alight at Kidbrooke station and walk to the playground which is a short 5mins walk. It’s literally on across the road from the park.
Want to read this post on another device? Simply scan the QR code:
I first met mumpreneur Nahdia @Nahdz_Adventures from a Paint & Slurp event that was ran by her and London artist @artsybeaumont which was super fun. This was a few years ago and the craft event is all about bonding with your child making art together on canvas whilst enjoying a healthy smoothie. Since then, I’ve been going to Nahdia’s amazing sensory workshops, Sensory Sunday with Nahdz.
The now-mum-of-three is an amazing, a real supermum – she blogs, runs her own business, takes care of her boys and travels with the kids in between. Mumspiration right there! She’s also supports lots of small businesses; when I first qualified for my kids yoga teacher training, she came along to my classes with her boys without fail. I’ve since moved away from there so haven’t been able to yoga with her and her boys as much anymore but I’m so glad I got to spend a good few months with teaching them family yoga. I could see the boys progressing in their yoga poses and strength every week.
What is Sensory Sunday with Nahdz?
Sensory Sunday with Nahdz is a monthly workshop that allows children to explore, play, and experience sensory stimulation (messy play) in a fun and safe environment. Parents can sit back and mingle with other parents or get just as involved with their children. The children can play to their heart’s content without anyone telling them “don’t make a mess” – every child’s dream. At the end, parents can walk away happy whilst Nahdz and her team work their magic clearing everything away. It’s guilt-free fun!
It’s a very inclusive event and is suitable for any child that likes sensory/messy play or you’d like to introduce your child to sensory/messy play. Little Man and my nephew loved the one I took them to a couple years ago. I haven’t taken Little Miss before so I think she will really enjoy the event. As I now work weekends, this makes it harder to do things with the kids when I’m not around. Daddy P is not really the best at looking out for these fun things to do.
Play, play and more play!
Nahdia usually sets up around 4 different trays (depending on number of children attending, PS parents/carers go free!) each with a different sensory element. The one we attended we had a dinosaur tray filled with pulses, rocks and plastic dinosaurs, another table had coloured rice and magnetic numbers and letters. It was even fun for me to plunge my hands into so I know the kids loved it. There’s also usually a special guest (ie. a book reading with an author) at the end of the workshop too which is a perfect way to wrap up the event.
The workshop is for children as young as pre-walking babies and toddlers up to primary school age. I took Little Man when he was 5 and he really couldn’t get enough of it!
Okay, where do I sign up?
Check out @Nahdz_Adventures instagram page or Eventbrite for upcoming Sensory Sunday dates. So far, the events have been held at Space@61 in Dulwich which is a cosy space that can be hired for events. I love the venue, it’s super family-friendly. It’s quite easy to get to with parking spaces nearby and outside the venue.
I wish I could tell you half of the things. Alice used to say, beginning with her favourite phrase ‘Let’s pretend.‘
– Through the Looking-Glass, ch.1 ‘Looking-Glass House’
How can I sum up the ROH performance of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground? It was like a whirlwind of CRAZY! Just like Alice falling down the dizzying rabbit hole, the performance was a spiralling sensation. I really did not expect the performance to turn out the way it did, but am so happy I got to watch it.
I was invited to attend the press evening performance (Feb 4) with Little Man but unfortunately he was ill that week so I took Little Miss along with me instead. I wasn’t sure what to expect as she is only turning four so I thought it might be a little overwhelming for her but surprisingly she lasted well. You could hear the animated voices of other children in the auditorium who seemed to love it. What’s not to like about a chaotic performance from giant ‘eat me’ cakes, blue ‘drink me’ bottles, four giant crying baby heads and Humpty Dumpty?
A cheeky selfie before the show starts
The spectacular view of the ROH auditorium
We arrived slightly later than planned and the queue to collect tickets was much longer than expected – I was unfortunately not in the right queue! How was I to know?! LOL We made it to our seats in the auditorium stalls (row L) which had great views of the stage. We took a few selfies before settling down for the performance to start.
My thoughts on Alice’s Adventures Under Ground
This opera is unlike any other; it breaks all the rules. Singers are pushed to the extremes with their vocal ranges (hitting over 30 top ‘C’ notes in the first five minutes of the performance!), Jabberwocky sung in English, Russian and German, and Humpty Dumpty recounts his tragic tale to a rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy… all thanks to Gerald Barry and his clever mish-mash of Alice in wonderland and Alice through the looking-glass.
Alice: Claudia Boyle
The Red Queen: Clare Presland
The White Queen: Hilary Summers
The White Rabbit: Sam Furness
The March Hare: Peter Tantsits
The Cheshire Cat: Mark Stone
Humpty Dumpty : Joshua Bloom
All of the cast above also played various other roles.
A big well done to the cast for their vibrant performance. The fifty-five minute show was a little too short for my liking but at the same time, it was just the right amount of time for families with younger children to enjoy. I really enjoyed it but for Little Miss, she just didn’t get it which was disappointing. I guess it was just too much going on at one time for her. It was her first time watching an opera performance and I’m sure if it was Little Man, he’d probably would’ve thought the same thing. However for him, he’d be able to get by from reading the surtitles – that’s what he did when we went to watch The Lost Thing.
There were also moments that made me burst into laughter. My favourite scene was after Alice went through the looking glass and witnessed the battle between the red knight and white knight. It was hilarious watching the two duelling then falling off their horses, only to apologetically help each other get back on to battle again. Little Miss’ favourite (and recognisable scene) Alice falling d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-down the endless rabbit hole that even she had to catch her breath before meeting the rabbit and the four ‘eat me’ cakes. The four baby heads which represented the four bottles totally threw us both off which was quite funny very weird! I really don’t remember that scene from Alice in Wonderland at all!
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bit, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
“When Alice tumbles down into the Rabbit Hole into Wonderland… she meets a successions of strange characters in unusual situations… Following the trial of the Knave of Hearts – accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts – Alice finds herself in Looking Glass Land…
Here, Alice becomes a Queen herself.”
The story is told in a most peculiar yet enchanting way. Lewis Carroll would’ve been appreciative of this wonderful approach. There’s singing, shouting, speaking, growling and squealing alongside the orchestra accompaniment. With two performances a night for 6 nights, it’s pretty intense. The show itself was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of performance. It’s fast, it’s wild and it’s fantastic. If you missed it (it went by as quickly as its performance dates) then I hope the Royal Opera House will put this opera on again next year.
It’s definitely one not to be missed. 🙂
For a more formal take on the show, you can check out British Theatre Guide’s review from Vera Liber who I met at the last ROH performance I’d attended. Unfortunately I didn’t bump into her that night but if she’s reading this, I send my love and warm greetings!
So you want to hear a story?
Yrots a raeh ot tnaw uoy os?
Last week we were invited along to attend a showing of The Lost Thing at the Royal Opera House. As the show was suitable for children aged 6+ I was allowed to bring a plus one and naturally, I took Little Man with me. We don’t go to the theatre regularly and normally when we do go, it’s usually to our local Greenwich Theatre (which is fantastic for families!) so going to a fancy one like the Royal Opera House, I had to make sure my little monster was going to be on his best behaviour.
We attended the evening performance (7.15PM) but there are days when a matinee performance is showing. We made our way from North Greenwich to Covent Garden easily and just missed the rush hour period as we set off around 5PM. When we arrived at the Royal Opera House, we were ‘greeted’ by the doorman (they just opened the door, no smiles and we were the first to initiate the actual greeting, but hey ho) who showed us the way to the reception desk. Looking around I could see why we were not as warmly welcomed as we would be at our little Greenwich Theatre. The majority of the ROH attendees are mostly older, mostly middle-class and attended without children. A totally different demographic than what we’re used to seeing.
As we headed downstairs to the Linbury Theatre, it was a little less intimidating as we saw more families and young children. Little Man didn’t notice anything but as a parent, I feel like the theatre should be a more welcoming place for those with young children. Perhaps if we had attended a matinee performance it would’ve probably felt less judging as we usually associate evening shows with adult guests rather than young families.
As we were a little early, we decided to head back up and have a look around the small gift shop. We bought a laser-light keyring and a ballet pump keyring for Little Miss. We then headed back downstairs to the cafe outside the Linbury Theatre and had a hot chocolate and a brownie which satisfied our sweet craving.
What is The Lost Thing?
The Lost Thing is a picture book written and illustrated by Shaun Tan. It became one of his bestselling books worldwide and well-recognised in the literature world. The story is about a boy who discovers ‘The Thing’ which doesn’t seem to belong to anything in particular, making it ‘lost’. In the book, The Thing looks very mechanical and is orange-red with greenish metal claws and legs whereas in the theatre production, it’s more organic and living with a green, moss-like body and ever-changing number of legs.
In this theatrical adaptation by Ben Wright and Jules Maxwell (from Candoco Dance Company, a world-leading professional dance company) we are treated to a different kind of storytelling; one that’s filled with not only music but also theatrical singing, opera and dance along the way. ‘Mixing it up’ is definitely a good way of exposing children of this new generation to a variety of performing arts.
Review: The Lost Thing at Royal Opera House
Despite the lukewarm review of the show being “too static and slow” from The Guardian online, I much agree with the reviews from Culture Whisper and British Theatre Guide. The performance was pleasantly executed, and provided both children and adults with some true thought-provoking moments. In the programme booklet they gave me, it mentions that The Thing in the performance is not meant to replicate Tan’s illustration but instead, represents something living and organic. The Thing can shape-shift changing from two legs to eight legs, growing larger or smaller depending on its mood.
“We wanted to take it in a completely different direction and build on the skeleton of the story, which is about celebrating difference, supporting what is lost, and potentially contemplating what we are losing. We decided to shift the nature of The Thing itself to be this odd, biodiverse, many-limbed organism…“ Ben Wright, interviewed by Lyndsey Winship
I can understand why there may be some disappointment as to why the original story was never followed through completely but then again, adapting a picture book into an opera/theatrical performance is not ordinary neither. The story lines is minimal but I think that makes it easy for children to understand. There’s also surtitles and audio description for those hard of hearing. The diverse cast are fantastic – all extremely talents and a good mix of both disabled and non-disabled dancers, musicians, singers.
I thought the interpretation of The Thing as something organic and living, familiar yet somehow forgotten, was like a metaphorical example of the world we live in today. There is a scene where The Boy almost hands The Thing over to the odds and ends department, but then a janitor appears and strongly advises against it, saying that things left there get permanently forgotten. We then see the janitor being comforted by The Thing and feeling happy that it’s in his presence. It reminded me of how happy and content we once were to just enjoy simple things ie. nature but now we’re constantly fixated on our phones and devices.
“In the book, the denouement is that it finds a place where it belongs. In our version that place is a very saturated, green, mossy jungle…” Ben Wright, interviewed by Lyndsey Winship
Summary: my thoughts on The Lost Thing
Little Man loved the performance and has asked to go back to watch The Thing come to life again. We will aim to go before the new year. He also lost his thing (a small toy) there at the theatre, which has now become his ‘lost thing’ – now isn’t that a story within a story for you?
I loved the story so much that I ordered the picture book online for Little Man, he instantly recognised the book from the ochre colour scheme and enjoyed reading it however he told me that he much prefers the ending that he saw in the opera adaptation.
The Lost Thing is showing until January 4th 2020 and tickets are between £7.00-£35.00 for a seat, how can you resist a familiar yet story?
You can watch the video of Shaun Tan’s story here:
P I N T H I S P O S T
[AD] We were given complimentary tickets to attend the performance of The Lost Thing at the Royal Opera House in exchange for this review post. All opinions and content are in my own words and photos that have been used are credited to their sources respectively.
This winter is the best time for us to get our skates on and unleash our inner figure skater vibes! I cannot skate but that doesn’t stop me getting on the ice. I try to go at least once every year and each year I tell myself that I will take up skating and get better… but like NY resolutions, the feeling and motivation disperses and I’m left saying the same thing year on year.
I’ve taken it upon myself to give myself a Christmas mission and visit 5 beautiful and magical ice rinks in London. Below are my favourite five rinks which are all outdoors so you can enjoy the stunning views of majestic surrounding buildings.
There are so many ice skating rinks in London to visit but here are a few a good places to start you off…
Somerset House is mainly known for hosting London Fashion Week/Weekend events but every winter they also put on a spectacular ice skating arena, especially if you visit late afternoon/evening time when the lights are on. There’s a big Christmas tree as the centrepiece, plus having the building as a backdrop for your skate is simply amazing.
A few days I went with one of my work girls to skate and we really enjoyed ourselves. It really is a stunning location but get ready to see a lot of couples skating together, a lot of newbies clinging onto the edge of the rink and more experienced skaters showing off their moves in the middle of the rink. There’s no skate aids here apart from for young children so I wouldn’t recommend skating here if you’ve never been on the ice as you will just be clinging onto the sides of the rink for the whole session. I am not great on the ice and found it quite challenging without any skate aids but managed to get by a little although I had to have lots of resting time in between because my legs got tired… Real quick. Also it gets quite busy on the ice but really feels festive and enjoyable.
They play good music on the ice and the lights change colour which creates a lovely skating atmosphere. Sessions are 45 mins which is a good amount of skate time. The skates for hire are really good quality and I’ve found lace-up skates to be extremely comfy compared to the standard clip-in ones.
Adult tickets are from £11 for the 45mins session which includes skate hire. Arrive at least 15mins early to drop off your bags at the hut (first bag/item is free, £2 per item thereafter). Then go into the other hut to collect your skates. There’s also Skate Lates from 8pm where you can enjoy skating listen to the latest hits and some classics from the venue’s DJ. Good vibes!
Based at the foot of a UNESCO Heritage site, voted as UK’s Top 10 visitors attraction the Queen’s House in Greenwich is one of the most beautiful places in London. The ice rink here is the only outdoor rink in South East London and is beautiful to skate around. This year, the rink at Canary Wharf has not been brought back so this is currently our closest ice skating rink.
We had the pleasure of skating here on its launch event which was fantastic. The kids had such a wonderful time and I am so glad to have an ice rink so local to us! For me, this rink comes in as a close second behind Somerset House because even though it is an amazing rink with really magical views, the skates let me down – they are the really cheap clip on ones which hurt my feet so bad. The good thing about this rink is that they have not one, but TWO types of skate aids for you to choose from. A penguin aid for less confident skaters and the banana aid (seen below) which is ideal for tiny skaters and complete first-timers. The banana aid is really fun but for those pushing the aid around, it’s hard work! Get ready to burn extra calories with that thing.
A night – or late afternoon skate here would be stunning. As you can see from the image above, the Queen’s House lit up at night is really something. It looks magical and so festive! The rink doesn’t get overly busy too which is great as it means more space on the ice to go round. Tickets are from £13.50 for adults and from £6.75 for kids, unfortunately there are no family tickets but if you’re a Royal Musuems Greenwich member, you can take advantage of their discounted tickets.
South Kensington is well known for their museums and now every winter, for their ice skating too! Passing here last winter with Little Man I thought about taking him on the ice but unfortunately he’s not a big fan as I am with ice skating so we gave it a miss. I’m planning to head out this year with Little Miss as the ice rink is small but good enough for parents with young families. There is a morning parent & toddler skating session which includes skating, skate hire and a free hot drink for both… of course we will opt for the hot chocolate option! 🙂
This rink is on my list to take the kids once we break up for Christmas holidays. It looks like it’ll be a good one and a skate by the NHM would be a delight! Naturally, we’ll head into the museum after for a little look around and lunch at their cafe or a nearby restaurant. Adult tickets are from £12.65 and tickets for children start from £8.80. There’s also a reduced family ticket for four cost from £39.60.
Every Friday evening from 7-8pm, fragrance brand Viktor&Rolf will be transforming the ice rink into a Flowerbomb fantasy. Join in as they turn the ice pink, hang sparkling baubles from the Christmas tree and the infuse the air with their new Flowerbomb fragrance.
Situated in the gardens of Henry VIII’s historic home, the Hampton Court Palace outdoor rink offers you the chance to glide across the ice whilst being surrounded by spectacular views of the amazing Tudor palace. This scenic skate is perfect for all skaters from complete beginners to the advanced. Skate aids are available, and just like at Queen’s House you can choose from the penguin or the banana.
Tickets are slightly pricier than the other rinks already mentioned (apart from Somerset House) from £15.00 per adult and £10.50 per child. This will have to be a solo skate for me or with friends as it’s slightly out of reach for us and to be frank, the prices are a little more dear. From the images on their website, I can see that people are wearing the blue clip-on skates… a big turn off for me however that view does look really appealing. There’s also a cafe bar by the rink so you can grab a hot drink and something to eat before or after your time on the ice. 🙂
Skating around an outdoor bandstand playing live music? What more could you ask for! This rink looks pretty amazing in the day time and at night, even more special. When I visited this rink with my girl friends, unfortunately it was a very wet evening and we all got caught in the rain. It was only a mist but so much water pooled onto the ice, it made me really nervous with skating on it. However it wasn’t all bad – the wet ice actually made it easier to glide and skate but it was certainly more slippery in some areas of the ice as the rain froze over.
There are penguin skate aids at this rink for hire £5 per aid which I bought but ended up not using. There were many families on the ice that couldn’t really skate but didn’t want to put money out to get an aid and were really struggling. I ended up giving my penguin to a young child who skated with his mum and sister who were also inexperienced skaters.
There was a professional photographer on the ice when we skated so be aware that staff will tell you that you can’t take photos on the ice – because they want you to obviously purchase theirs so if you must take a photo like we did, make it snappy and do it discreetly.There was also live music; we had a singer performing with her guitar. Her acoustic renditions of Christmas songs were mellow, festive and added perfect ambience to our wet skating session. We enjoyed our 45 minute skate and of course, my feet got blistered from the clip-on skates which were in really bad condition. They had the worst skates compared to the rinks at Somerset House and the Queen’s House.
Apparently Hyde Park’s rink prides itself as the largest outdoor rink in the UK I can’t tell you for certain. From photos, I thought the Hampton Court rink looks bigger but I won’t know until I go there myself. As soon as I can tell you, I’ll let you guys know. 😉
Okay, I know my post title says Top 5 but think of this as your bonus ice rink location because I couldn’t disregard it.
Tower of London is one of the Historic Royal Palaces in London (like Hampton Court Palace) and a very popular attraction for visitors in the UK and overseas. You can skate outside the fortress and admire the beautiful ambience as it’s lit up in the evening.
Prices are similar to Hampton Court; from £15 for adults and from £10.50 for children. For me, this one will be a miss but I’m sure it’ll be a great visit if you’re a History buff. Skate aids can also be hired here (must be booked in advance) but their website doesn’t specify what kind of skate aids are available.
I hope you enjoyed this little round-up posts of my top 5 magical outdoor ice rinks in London. Have you visited any ice skating rinks this year or perhaps you’re looking to go soon before Christmas? Leave me a comment if you have any other recommendations of open-air ice rinks in London too! x
When I was a young girl, my father decided that he wanted me to develop musical talent. Lucky for him, I wasn’t too bad at it and was able to pick up playing piano quite easily. Unfortunately, I stopped playing piano around the time I was doing my GCSEs because I felt like it was all too overwhelming for me. In hindsight I am a gutted I didn’t carry on but that’s life and my priorities were different to what my dad wanted/expected them to be. To this day however, I still enjoy listening to piano music and admire those who play it.
The Aurora Orchestra at King’s Place
The Aurora Orchestra create interactive, musical storytelling concerts aimed at under 5s. This was something unheard of to me but I thought the chance to exposing my little ones to classical music early on would be a great idea. The only other time the kids got close to hearing classical music was when they were still inside the womb and I’d occasionally put on classic.fm for them to listen to.
The Aurora Orchestra are currently performing their new storytelling concert, Beethoven and the Dinosaurs at King’s Place in Kings Cross and last week, I went along with Little Man. He’s six so older than the recommended age but I didn’t mind and neither did he! The Orchestra will be there until the end of this week then they’ll be back again in February to perform Chopin and the Dragonfly. You can also go on Youtube and have a little look at how the concerts are performed: https://youtu.be/GPjSTd-moZ4
A little bit of participation from the grown-ups is always good fun but the Aurora Orchestra team are really good at retaining the children’s attention. The concert was 45mins long was was definitely long enough. Each musician had their own solo part to play which was lovely; our musician trio was made up of the flute, the cello and the piano.
The following pieces by Beethoven had been specially arranged for the concert:
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 6
Bagatelle Op. 33 No. 2
Symphony No. 6
Piano Concerto No. 3
Moonlight Sonata pt. 1 & 2
Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major
Symphony No. 7 (adapted)
Piano trio Op. 1 No. 1
All of the children really loved the concert. They were all so attentive, there was only one outburst from a teary child but he soon settled after seeing some more dinosaurs appear. We had moments of dancing and laughter especially towards the end when the storyteller asked the children what dance move could the dinosaurs do and a little girl shouted out “pooing” it was refreshing to see the storyteller going along with it. 🙂
The concert is on show from December 1-8 so don’t miss out on booking your tickets for Sunday if you want to check it out. As it’s in King’s Cross you can make a day out of it with the family by heading over to the British Library. Check their website for timings and prices. A family ticket for 4 (2 adults 2 kids, or 1 adult 3 kids) cost just £23.50 which is great value.
I am really looking forward to the next concert, Chopin and the Dragonfly (in February) so I can take Little Miss with me to experience the concert. I think it’s brilliant how they can weave these classical pieces into stories and make it fun and immersive for the children. We’ll be going on a weekday as I’m at work on the weekends but hopefully that should mean less crowds for us to battle on our commute!
About: Far, Far Away series
Far, Far Awayis Aurora Orchestra’s series of immersive storytelling concerts for young children aged 0–5 and their families. These interactive musical adventures bring to life music by a particular composer or style of music, weaving together live performance, an original story by critically-acclaimed poet Kate Wakeling (Aurora Writer-in-Residence), and a set design built around the audience and musicians. Audiences are invited to step inside each story through guided listening, singing, dancing, holding props and much more, becoming immersed in a magical world of music, language, discovery and play. Some past Far, Far Away productions have been Beethoven and the Dinosaurs, Tchaikovsky and the Marvellous Kingdom, and Bach and the Noisy Night-time.
Queen’s House Greenwich Ice Skating Rink
Dates: 29 November 2019 – 12 January 2020
(closed Dec 25)
Winter time is the only season where I need no excuses to drink my body weight in hot chocolate and look like a Michelin-man. I’m loving all of the fluffy layers, borg-lined jackets and teddy-fleece fabrics this year. It’s been a real long time since I’ve skated however this past week I have been going regularly to ice skating rinks around London. In an upcoming review, I’ll be sharing my favourite outdoor ice rinks in London with you so look out for that soon. For the past few years living in the area, there’s always been an ice rink in Greenwich. It’s a a lovely little suburban town that draws people from near and far to visit and sample its culture and cuisine.
The Queen’s House is part of the Royal Museums Greenwich, one of the UK’s Top 10 visitor attractions. It’s also a UNESCO protected Heritage site and has been beautifully preserved. Next door, you’ll find the National Maritime Museum and they have a wonderful under 5s play area that’s free to drop-in. Across the road is the Old Royal Naval College where you’ll find the newly renovated Painted Hall. Behind the museum is the ever-popular Greenwich Park, and just a short but steep climb up the hill, you’ll find The Royal Observatory.
The last remaining tea-clipper, the Cutty Sark is a short walk away and on Wednesdays, there’s a toddlers soft-play session under the ship. If you have a young child, you can really make a day out of your visit by combining a few things to do together. Check out this post of when we went along to the Toddler Time session at Cutty Sark. There’s always lots going on at Greenwich Market over the Christmas period so be sure to check out the their website.
Ice skating in Greenwich
We were kindly invited along to the opening launch of the Queen’s House Greenwich Ice Rink. Apparently this outdoor ice skating rink is the only one in South London There wasn’t many of us there which made it a lovely first experience for the kids, despite the rainy weather. We will definitely be back in the next week or so for more skating!
We left school and arrived at the National Maritime Museum at 3.40pm, as we were a little early we popped into the museum for a little look around. We could see that the brightly lit lighthouse beacon from outside the museum and, like boats to a lighthouse, we were pulled in by the light. We had a little look around the souvenir shop before heading back out and across over to the Queen’s House. The weather was not too cold but I’d highly recommend dressing the kids up warm for the ice. We warmed ourselves up with delicious hot chocolates but you can also choose from teas, coffees and mulled wine. Snacks and sweet treats were also available.
Checking in at the QH reception and getting a hot chocolate before our skate sessionSkating sessions can be booked in advance online. Prices are from £13.50 for adults and £6.75 for children. The skating sessions are 45 minutes which is pretty standard timing. The prices are also similar to other outdoor ice rinks in London. If you add in the benefits of the rink being stunning and on the doorstep of two museums, it’s decent value-for-money. After checking in we went to change into our skates, children’s size starts from infant UK 9, if your child’s feet is smaller than this they offer bob skates which go over your child’s actual footwear.
Skate aids are also available to hire for £5. They have two types of skate aids to choose from; the penguin which is suitable for single beginner skaters and the banana skate aid which is a godsend if you have more than one child. Just pop your little ones on and push them around the ice but be aware, it’s tiring work especially if your kids are older as their weight makes it harder to push and steer if you are also a beginner skater.
Our best moments & highlights…
The stunning background views
When it comes to outdoor ice skating rinks, the view has to be one of the highlights.
I can confirm that the Queen’s House lit up after dark for our session was truly amazing. It really added to the magical experience. Even if you skated here during daylight hours, I think it would still look just as beautiful. I will be back very soon for a solo skate and will definitely opt for a morning session. During the daytime, the Queen’s House is always open and free to enter so make sure you pop in and have a look around at the wonderful artwork and don’t forget to check out its stunning Tulip spiral staircase.
Unfortunately, I get blisters on my feet each time I skate because my feet are flat and over-pronated. If you have a similar condition, make sure you wear thick socks and/or bring some gel cushion pads to avoid excessive rubbing. For me it’s also self-inflicted as even though I can feel my feet are over-rubbing I never get off the ice. Quitting is for losers… haha!
The family-friendly size
The Greenwich ice skating rink is on the smaller side compared to the likes of Winter Wonderland and Somerset House however I personally think this is much better and safer especially if you have a young family and/or you’re not that confident on the ice. A smaller rink usually means staff can be more attentive and approachable for handy tips and help on the ice. As it’s a newly opened rink, there’s less of a crowd on the ice which gives you a better skating experience however I am yet to go here on a weekend so it might start getting busier as the days go by.
If it’s your first time on the ice, I’d recommend watching some Youtube videos on how to fall safely and how to skate. It’s always important to learn how to fall safely as a bad fall on the ice can really do some damage to your body especially your back and even head. If you’re an experienced skater you can still enjoy the beauty of the rink but may find yourself doing several laps pretty quickly. Not a problem as there’s also less people on the ice so you can practice those backward swizzles and turns. 🙂
A priceless first-time experience
Little Man and Little Miss thoroughly enjoyed their first time on the ice. The laughter and fun and giant smiles on their faces was priceless! For Little Man, it’s technically his second time on the ice but the first time he actually skated. As much as they loved Daddy P and I pushing them around, they were brave enough to get up on the ice and skate with one of us holding their hand. Little Miss seems a natural on the ice, Little Man needs a little more practice to find his feet and his balance.
A local attraction for us
Lucky for us, we now have an ice skating rink a short walk or bus ride away from us which is fantastic. There’s always so much on offer here and I am more that grateful to live in such a wonderful area. I’ll be taking the kids to see Santa once December hits and we’ll surely be back for another skate and visit to the museums. Schools around here break up on December 19th so we’ll have the Friday free to get out and do things.
If you live further afield, Greenwich is only 10 minutes from London Bridge and is very well connected with public transport. I’d advise leaving your car at home as there’s hardly any parking spaces available. You’ve got the national rail close by as well as the DLR, the river boat (Thames Clipper), numerous buses and the underground (Jubilee line) at North Greenwich which is a bus ride away, approx. 2 miles away.
Perfect for intimate skate dates
A smaller, intimate ice rink also makes a great place to skate for couples wanting a skate date. Daddy P and I have said that we’d like to return to skate together, probably on a school day when both of the kids are still in school so we can have a little bonding time together.
This rink is a great venue for couples however, I wouldn’t recommend considering a skate date if it’s your first time on the ice as what happens is you’ll end up just clinging onto the side of the rink instead of actually skating and having a good time together. Although saying this, at least here you can hire a banana skate aid to help you move so if one of you can skate… you can push the non-skater. 🙂 The other romantic place to skate is Somerset House however they don’t offer any skate aids so avoid going there if you’ve both never skated.
NB. We were invited to the press launch and compensated for our time on the ice in exchange for this blog review. All words, opinions and content are my own and photos must not be used without my consent.