Monday, 21 July 2014

A Break at Bluestone Wales

Last month we had the pleasure of an invitation to go and stay at Bluestone Wales in Pembrokeshire. I love Pembrokeshire and it's somewhere I have been keen to take my children to so we were very excited to go. Bluestone Wales is situated near Narberth in Pembrokeshire, around 12 miles inland from Tenby and in the  national park. Bluestone prides itself on offering 'free-range family fun' and this sounded perfect for my outdoors-loving family. We're a family of four and our children were four and twenty-one months when we visited Bluestone.

Welcome to Bluestone Wales

On arrival at Bluestone you pick up the keys to your accommodation from a 'drive through' reception. We were staying in a Caldey Lodge, which sleeps 4. This is a chalet style wooden lodge with a large, open plan living space incorporating kitchen, dining room and lounge, a double bedroom, twin bedroom and wet room. It has patio doors which open out onto a small patio with a picnic table on it. You can arrange to have a welcome hamper delivered prior to your arrival, with all the essentials for your stay but we decided to go shopping instead. The Caldey Lodge was situated close to the large lake and was semi-detached. We didn't hear our neighbours but I did find it a little strange how close together the picnic tables outside each lodge were. Our neighbours' table was less than six feet from ours so it felt a bit strange sitting out at the same time as them, and with a curious toddler trying to see what the inside of next door looked like, it meant that I was very conscious of their proximity at those times. Our neighbours were really pleasant and didn't mind our nosy LM but I'm sure other people would have.  In addition to this the sitting area was at the front of the lodge, with people walking past so we didn't really feel like it was 'our' space. The only other issue with the accommodation was the wet room. I'm used to showering my children as we don't have a bath but we do have a shower cubicle. Using a wet room to try and wash slippery pre-schoolers was difficult as there is no way to enclose them in a 'safe' space to get them showered and clean. LM was especially difficult. It isn't the best bathroom style for young children at all. A bath or shower cubicle would make life much easier. These two issues aside, the accommodation was great, really clean, in excellent condition and the kitchen was well equipped, making it easy to cook a range of family meals there, If you don't fancy cooking you can use the resort takeaway service or eat at one of the restaurants on site.

Here's a video tour of our accommodation:

Bluestone Wales is a car-free resort. They ask all guests to return their cars to the long-stay car park by midnight on the first day of their stay, until their final day when they can bring their car down to load up and travel home. This makes the site much more relaxed and children can play without fear of cars approaching. The alternatives to car travel are to hire a golf buggy, bicycles or to simply walk. We chose the latter option. There is a little road train that travels around the resort during the day and we made good use of this - The Hail and Ride does a loop of the whole site and it was an easy way for us to get up to the car park or the Blue Lagoon. We generally got this in the morning and walked back to our accommodation in the evening.

Our accommodation was situated a short walk from the Village Centre where you will find restaurants, shops, the information centre and a children's play area. We visited this several times, whether it was for elevenses at the Bluestone Bakery, dinner at the Knights Tafarn, to stock up on supplies at the shop or to let the children burn off some energy in the play park. The Knights Tafarn was the only restaurant we used on site and we found their food excellent, the prices were reasonable and we all really enjoyed our meal with a good choice for both adults and children, excellent presentation and great tasting food. The outdoor seating area here was lovely although we decided to enjoy the indoor area for our meal. The Knights Tafarn has a range of evening activities too but sadly bedtime beckoned so we passed on those.

Meal at the Knights Tafarn Bluestone Wales

The Bluestone Bakery is the perfect spot for a daytime pit stop. We enjoyed coffee and cakes there one morning and found the food and drink excellent, especially the coffee (and I have high standards). It was a lovely day and it really was the perfect spot to sit outside at one of their tables and watch the rest of the park go about their day. I'd definitely recommend taking the time to visit if you go to Bluestone. We visited the grocery store a couple of times to stock up on essentials like bread and milk, it's worth mentioning that it closes at 7 and, if you are arriving late the chances are that they will run out of the essential fresh items. There is a handy dairy vending machine though so fresh milk should always be available. Often shops on holiday sites have vastly inflated prices but I didn't find that here, we were able to pick up some essentials on our first night at a reasonable price.

Elevenses at Bluestone Bakery,Bluestone Wales

The Village is also home to 'Tree Tots', this was one of my children's favourite places at Bluestone. The park allows younger children to challenge themselves with chain bridges, cargo nets and tunnels, while the tiny ones can play on the playground attached. My two spent well over an hour on two separate occasions chasing all over this park accompanied by Ian and I. We all had a ball. Bud found it incredibly amusing when I nearly got stuck in one of the tunnel pipes! I avoided them after that! Seriously though, it's brilliant, with just enough to physically challenge my four year old and give him a massive sense of achievement at completing certain elements of it.

Fun at Tree Tots, Bluestone Wales

Our other most visited place at Bluestone was the Blue Lagoon Waterpark. Entry to this is included for all guests of the resort and it is open to the public too. We all loved the pool and went almost every day during our stay. There are a mixture of flumes and activities to keep older children (and big kids like Ian) entertained, alongside waves and a lazy river which Bud adored. This took you outside into the open air and back into the main pool again. The changing areas were great with plenty of family sized cubicles and there is also a well stocked shop, great for if you forget those essential arm bands or swim nappies. We encountered the Free Rangers here - dressed as pirates and engaging the children with lots of water fun and pirate behaviour - Bud was delighted with them. They are Bluestone's in-house entertainers who can be found at the Adventure Centre too, we didn't make it there, we just didn't find the time but find out what my friend Anna's boys made of it at In the Playroom. I wish we'd had more time as Bud would have loved the unlimited Crazy Golf there! Anna also writes about the Gold Panning Experience which is one of the bookable, paid activities available. There is a huge range of these available but we didn't really find one that worked for both of our children and we didn't want to split up the family to take part with just one child. I'm sure families without a young toddler like LM would find something for them to enjoy and there was a wide range that Bud would have liked I think.

Blue Lagoon WaterPark, Bluestone Wales

Bluestone is very handily situated as a base for exploring Pembrokeshire and we had a few trips out to Tenby, Folly Farm, Pembroke and Saundersfoot. The area is quite compact and you shouldn't find anywhere more than a half an hour drive away. I'll be posting about Folly Farm soon.

We loved our time at Bluestone Wales, from the tiny frogs who swarmed the road in front of our accommodation every day, delighting the children, to the peace and quiet and amazing star filled skies in the evenings, it was wonderful. I'd recommend it for families who like to be outdoors and take advantage of all of the range of activities offered by Bluestone. If you're a family who wants to use accommodation as a base for exploring an area you might want to consider somewhere else, more inexpensive, as, to get the full benefits of your Bluestone stay I think you need to spend a significant amount of time on site. We would definitely return and I'd love to bring more of the family next time and stay in one of the larger properties I think. There is something for all of the family to enjoy at Bluestone Wales, it's a fantastic place to holiday.

If you would like more information, or to book a break visit Bluestone Wales, or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

Disclosure: We stayed for four nights as the guests of Bluestone Wales and our accommodation was complimentary. All opinions are unbiased and honest.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

#MySundayPhoto 20/7/2014 Bud Runs Ironkids

Ironman  UK takes place annually in our hometown, Bolton. As part of the weekend of sport the organisers stage Ironkids, a fun run for children aged 3-14 the day before the main event. We first heard about it last year but too late to register Bud. This year we were in time.

Yesterday he ran 500 metres in the rain with his Uncle. He didn't complain about getting wet and loved every second of the run. He was then presented with his medal, which he is delighted with. I'm so proud of him and he definitely wants to do it again next year.

Bun Runs Ironkids UK Bolton


Expressions photos

Friday, 18 July 2014

Play Patrol - Bigjigs Rail Railway Station

We were very excited to receive our first Bigjigs parcel the day before we went on holiday and I almost had to prise Bud and LM's new toys from their hands ready to review on our return. Bud's first delivery saw him receive the Railway Station from Bigjigs Rail and I knew it would be an instant hit.

Play Patrol - Bigjigs Rail Railway Station Wooden train set

We're new to wooden train sets. Bud received his first sets at Christmas and I was really pleased to see how well he took to building his own tracks and playing with his trains upon them. Since then we've inherited some and added a few charity shop purchases to the bought sets and he has amassed a reasonable collection. It has become one of his favourite ways to while away an hour or two and I love how building tracks and playing with his trains has aided his imaginative play.

The Bigjigs Rail Railway Station is a solidly built building which has a length of track outside, allowing you to build it into a track layout and have trains stop and go at the station. It has a moveable barrier which can be put down to keep trains in the station then lifted to let them travel on their way, or you can use it as a terminus station and use the barrier as buffers. It measures 21cm wide so it's a striking addition to any track. The station is really solidly built and the painted station design carries over to both sides so you can have your passengers walk through from the booking office on to the platform. As with all Bigjigs Rail, it is fully compatible with all generic wooden railway so it doesn't matter which track you have in your collection, you can attach pieces to the beautifully crafted connectors on the track at the front of the station. The painted design is brilliant, from the roof tiles, to the station clock, ticket window and toilet doors!

Play Patrol - Bigjigs Rail Railway Station

All Bigjgs Rail packaging now features cutouts on the back of the box. The Railway Station has it's very own Station Master Sam ready to be cut out, assembled and put to work. These are an excellent feature and, if you visit the Kids Zone on the Bigjigs Rail website you can find some additional cutouts to add to your railways in the 'cut and play' section. 

Play Patrol - Bigjigs Rail Railway Station  Cut and Play Activities

Bud is thoroughly enjoying adding the Bigjigs Rail Railway Station to his wooden railway play. It's definitely become a focal point for all of his track construction and has replace his bridges as the starting point for all of his tracks. Interestingly he will often play with the railway station on it's own, bringing toy people in to 'buy tickets' and interact with Station Master Sam, and stand on the platform. When he has it connected to the tracks it's all about how the trains approach the station, wait at the barrier and then get on their way.

From an educational perspective it's clear that wooden railway is having a really positive impact upon Bud. Laying out a track helps with dexterity, coordination and mathematics skills. It's so interesting to watch him puzzle out how to make a track connect up and add and remove different sections until it forms a circuit, even if he does get frustrated and ask for help sometimes. It seems that every time he plays with the track he tells a story, he knows where the train is going and who it will pick up or what the cargo is. It's a really creative, imaginative experience for him and I love listening to him. If his Dad or I join in, or other children do, he gives instructions for what your role is, what your train is doing and it's part in the storyline. It is a thoroughly imaginative experience.

Play Patrol - Bigjigs Rail Railway Station

It's hard to show Bud playing with the Railway Station in photos so here's a little video to show it more clearly, including another Bud song.

The Bigjigs Rail Railway Station has an RRP of £14:99 which I think is a reasonable price to pay for a sturdy, beautifully painted item. It's become a favoured toy here and I think should be a must for any little wooden railway fans. We would definitely recommend it. 

Disclosure: We were sent the Railway Station as part of our role as Play Patrol agents, all opinions are honest and unbiased.

Liven Up Your Wardrobe and Win a £50 Voucher for Bonmarché

I always love being able to offer giveaways to all of my readers and, while it's lovely to treat the kids, it's also important to me to offer fab prizes for my grown up readers to treat themselves with too! I've teamed up with Bonmarché to offer a fantastic new giveaway to my readers today. One lucky winner will win £50 to spend at Bonmarché, either instore or online!

For those not in the know, Bonmarché  are an online, and high street, ladieswear range. They have a wide range of occasion wear, day wear and accessories suitable for any event. As I'm giving away £50 to spend I thought I might have a browse and tell you how I would spend £50 on the site, so here goes...

Bonmarché Giveaway

Crochet Neck Spun Floral Print Maxi Dress - £25
(available in two lengths)

Corsage Detail Peep Toe Shoes - £18

Enamel Flower Bracelet - £6

I'm loving the crochet detail around on so many clothes at the moment and I think the dress has a really pretty print which would make it perfect to pack for your Summer holidays. You could even make it work for a Summer wedding with a pair of heels, pretty clutch and a shrug or shawl.

If you'd like the chance to spend £50 at Bonmarché please complete the Gleam widget below. The blog post comment is compulsory and will unlock a range of additional entry options. Please read the terms and conditions.

Win £50 to Spend at Bonmarché

Thursday, 17 July 2014

What's Happened? What's Happening? - Summer Holidays and Farm Fun

What's Happened? What's Happening? saw it's most successful week last week and I've loved sharing all of your posts. It was great to see a good few posts linked up to What's Happening, there are some really exciting events on the way for lots of bloggers. Just a reminder that if you're writing a preview of an event, sharing a what's on guide or giving away tickets you can link up here.

My favourite post in What's Happening? last week was a wonderful comprehensive day by day guide to the Summer Holidays, it features events across the country with a suggestion for every single day. I can virtually guarantee everyone will find something interesting happening near them. Go check it out. It's brilliant. There have been some fantastic ticket competitions linked up this week too. Go and check them out if you're looking for family fun this Summer.

In What's Happened? there was a plethora of farm posts (I wonder what the collective noun for farms is?), anyway a good few bloggers have been enjoying family time down on the farm recently. Old Holly Farm, Longdown Activity Farm and Millets Farm Centre have all seen bloggers visiting. We'll definitely be investigating Old Holly Farm as it's only about half an hour from us and farms are one of our favourite places to visit as a family. Elsewhere Hodge Podge Days saw the deer at Dunham Massey and Little Mr A at Mummy of Two had a once in a lifetime as King of the Scarecrow Festival in their local village.

What have you been up to this week? Have you been anywhere exciting? Have you written about your plans for the school holidays?

Please link up below, and grab my badge to add to your posts.

What's Happened? What's Happening?