Family Day Out: Shrewsbury

Exploring Shrewsbury

Biscuits. With little raisins in. That’s all I knew about Shrewsbury.

But when Sarah spent a day there for work, she suggested that it would make a nice little family day out. So a couple of Saturdays ago we hopped onto the train from Chester and went to check it out. Continue reading


The Lost Carnival, Crewe

May bank holiday weekend is one of the best of the year. Firstly, it’s my birthday. Secondly, there’s always good stuff going on. Last year we went to Geronimo festival. And this year the super team at Wild Rumpus invited us along to the second ever Lost Carnival*, which this year was in Crewe.


Even before you get to the carnival, there are stories, podcasts and videos on their website to get you into the story of two rival carnival troupes, descending on Crewe to fight for survival — but is all as it seems? There was even a Charleston-style dance routine to learn, if you so wished.


We rocked up at 5pm, still enjoying the remnants of a glorious sunny spring day. From the start, the vibe was quirky, Victorian, a little creepy. We were surprised by people’s commitment to dressing up, adults and kids. Crewe’s steampunk scene is thriving!

Before we got there we were worried that the whole thing would be too creepy for the kids, but it was just right. We chose to side with the bright, energetic Ingenue carnival, rather than the mysterious Birds — though two of us had defected by the end of the evening.


The grounds were lovely and green, and nicely enclosed by trees. The whole thing was split into Ingenue and Bird sides. There were two craft big tops, little circus tents housing, among other things, a levitating wonder, a tattooed lady, and a temporary tattoo parlour.

Every hour we were beckoned to the main stage for a showdown between representatives of the two troupes. 5pm saw a standoff between two jugglers, which incorporated a hair-raising ‘walk of death’ with daggers. 6pm was an acrobatic clash. 7pm was time for the dance off, and 8pm a contest between the Ingenues’ Clare V’oyant (get it?) and the Birds’ magician, Max Mager.


The Bookworm getting a dance lesson from two Ingenues and a Bird.

In between there were periodic performances all over the grounds. My favourite was Max Calaf Seve, from Spain, whose trampoline act was theatrical, physically impressive and genuinely funny.


Max Calaf Seve losing his trousers…


…and finding them again.

Sarah and the kids loved Pif-Paf, an acrobatic trio making exceptional use of a rotating 15-foot rotating metal wheel.


Both of the children were transfixed for the whole half hour (which is no small thing for a six- and two-year-old). The Bookworm has been trying out her own acrobatic routine ever since, including some hair-raising stunts on a climbing frame.

We all loved Voodoo Love Orchestra, who roamed the whole site performing joyous latin-inspired brass music, before playing a set from the stage. The Chap got a shout out for his truly individual dance moves.


As well as being mega-talented, all of the performers — each commissioned individually by Wild Rumpus — did a great job of staying in role throughout the evening, making the magic and rivalry all the more real for the kids.

In her review, the wonderful Geekmummy wrote about how safe, comfortable and relaxed the whole event felt, and she’s spot on. It was a really chilled evening. Sitting in the evening sun, watching our kids snuggle up and enjoy Pif-Paf, bellies full of pizza, chips and brisket — it was a beautiful thing.


Can’t wait to see what they do next year.

And you can catch Wild Rumpus at Macclesfield’s Barnaby Festival this June (17th–26th) and the Just So Festival at Rode Hall (19th–21st August).

* we got free tickets — all views are our own, natch.

What did you get up to on your bank holiday weekend? Did anyone else head to The Lost Carnival? Let us know in the comments.


A day out at Paradise Island Adventure Golf

It’s that weird time between Christmas and New Year, and the weather is a bit rubbish. We braved the beach in gale force winds on boxing day (a Kirkup family tradition). We’ve taken a long walk up a hill, made a LEGO Rapunzel tower and even attempted tidying.

Golf 1

So when Paradise Island Adventure Golf asked if we wanted to come and check out their new venue – for free! – we jumped at the chance. And we brought some friends along for the fun.

Their new course – two courses, in fact – are based at the Coliseum in Ellesmere Port, right next to Cheshire Oaks retail park. Apparently the building used to be a nightclub, but now it’s full of huge model monkeys, sharks and scuba divers.

We did 18 holes on their Lazy Lagoon course which starts, or so they tell us, in a Moroccan bazaar and continues on through an Indian jungle and culminates on a desert island. There are plenty of decorative elements around the place which added a bit of interest for the kiddos.

Golf 2

Most of the holes are pretty straightforward, though Daddy still managed to lose in spectacular fashion. Luckily our good friends Rosie and Dave were on hand to show the kids how to actually hit a golf ball.

Some of the more interesting holes had tunnels to shoot the ball through, with sensors and noises. The Chap got a special, hockey-stick-like club which would probably have made things a lot easier for him if he hadn’t have insisted on using his sister’s.

It definitely wasn’t the most taxing mini golf course we’ve done, though it was good for The Bookworm, who bagged a couple of hole-in-ones.

For four adults and two kids (one under five and one over) it would have cost us £36, which seems a little steep. As it was, we had a fun time with our friends and managed to avoid the weather for a while.

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Family Adventure – The Ice Cream Farm

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Toadstool Play House

When we first moved to Chester – almost 18 months ago – people kept telling us a few things:

  1. Buy an umbrella
  2. Get a Chester Zoo membership
  3. Go to the Ice Cream Farm

So we ended up doing all three. The old Ice Cream Farm was a great place to take the kids. Animals. Ice Cream. Soft Play. What’s not to love?

Yesterday we were thrilled to go along to a special preview of the newly refurbished, all-singing all-dancing, deluxe edition Ice Cream Farm. It was amazing!

The ‘disclaimer’ bit: we got free entry to all the bits and free ice cream. The Ice Cream Farm hasn’t paid us or told us what to say.

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Snow Tree

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Play Bubble

You enter into an outdoor play area of toadstool houses, squishy floors, trampolines, crooked cottages, rickety bridges and an enormous ice cream tree. Every so often, the tree decides to blast snow all over the place.

Our kids were happy playing for ages out there. The wacky designs and super bright colours reminded Mummy and The Bookworm of The Lorax, which is one of their favourite books (and movies).

The design is lovely, and we didn’t have any really concerns of The Chap (nearly two) injuring himself. The Bookworm was absolutely in her element.

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Play Trampoline

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Playground

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Play Tunnel

And then there was the Honeycomb Barn. This massive space was dedicated to sand and water play, with loads of pumps, screws, tubs and contraptions about the place.

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Water Play

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Honeycomb

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Honeycomb Barn

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Soggy Water Play

The Chap loved this bit. He bumped into a toddler friend from one of his groups and they played for ages, splashing each others’ hands with the water pumps.

Then he fell down on his bum in a stream and was a little soggy and annoyed. Definitely bring a change of clothes for this bit.

There was also a ‘climbing wall’ style climbing frame in the Honeycomb Barn, with a pole slide down the other side. The Bookworm was adamant that she could make it over and, after a couple of attempts, she did.

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Climbing Wall

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Slide

Obviously, it wouldn’t have been a day at the Ice Cream Farm without some ice cream! There was a more limited than usual offering because it was a preview day (around eight of their usual 50-odd flavours), but they are all delicious. The Chap had chocolate. Daddy and The Bookworm had Oreo, white chocolate and raspberry. Mummy went for sticky toffee pudding.

The ice creams were all quickly polished off, despite the wind and the play area vying for attention.

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Cones

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Chocolate

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Henhouse

Next up was a spot of crazy golf. Turns out that crazy golf is a toddler’s mortal enemy, so The Chap set out to do everything in his power to destroy it. This included stealing balls, throwing away clubs and trying to escape.

The rest of us enjoyed it. I won.

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Family

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Crazy Golf

Then we were back on the play area for more.

There were some brand new JCBs and quad bikes (presumably for older kids) but they weren’t operational yet.

All in all, the place is really well done, super kid-friendly and colourful, and our two loved it.

We were really grateful to go along to the preview day, particularly as all the attractions were free. On a normal day admission is free, giving you access to the outdoor area, but the Honeycomb Barn, crazy golf and other bits would cost money.

You can find out more on the Ice Cream Farm site.

Cheshire Ice Cream Farm Bridge

Has anyone else been? What did you think? And which ice cream is your favourite?

Or is there anything similar near you? Let us know in the comments.

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Family Adventure – The Great Orme

Our family day out this week led us to Llandudno. Here we found the Great Orme. I’m sure there’s a wealth of history behind this rather large hill. Unfortunately the Chap was running amok in the little museum so I was unable to read any of it.


I do know that the tram we took up there was very old. It was also great fun. There are two trams you have to get to reach the summit. The Chap who is almost two was thrilled at the fact there were no windows or car seats. This gave him complete freedom to poke his head out of the window like a woof woof and wave manically at any passer-by.


I think the Great Orme must lay claim to at least the best high-altitude playpark in Wales, if not in Britain. I’ve not come across any other peak summit which has sported such a well designed jungle gym. There was a great cafe at the top too and on this particular day a male voice choir. Adam was even able to satisfy his craving for a ‘not real sausage’ hot dog at this altitude. He was unaware of the Chap’s appreciation for this particular artificial food substance and soon lost the rights to his snack.

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Bookworm enjoyed the large slide and running down part of the hill as the midway-to-summit train had broken down. I was happy to try a little descent with them both. I want to get the whole family in training for the Lake District next year. Adam has never been.

After our little toddle down to the midway station, and the final tram to the bottom, we soon found ourselves almost right on the pier. Fish and chips were naturally the order of the day. Even with me being on quite the health kick at the moment, I could not deny myself this seaside ritual.


We embarked on the beach. Spades, buckets, towels and spare change of clothes: prepped! (We are never usually this organised.) The kids had been up since 6 am though, so we had had enough time to get ourselves together. I took the Chap a bit further down the beach in search of the best sand-castle-consistency sand. He had a dabble in the odd rock pool but became a tad nervous at the sight of a crab near his toe. Bookworm did unfortunately (but hilariously) slip on a piece of seaweed and landed smack on to her bottom. The Chap and I were both laughing. The Bookworm (who is six in Novemebr) insisted in her rather 15-year-old-like manner that it was not in fact funny and stormed up the beach in search of a comforting daddy.


The Chap was demonstrating the importance of the ‘getting the rocks in your bucket first’ principle. What is it with boys and rocks?

We were pretty tired by 2.45pm. The Chap had missed his nap but powered on till we made it to the car. Thankfully we were just off the high-street. We really like Llandudno. It’s about an hour’s drive from Chester, but worth it. Next time we will stop at the bay just before called Colwyn Bay as I’ve great things about this area too.


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Underwater Street Liverpool

On a friend’s recommendation we headed off to Underwater Street in Liverpool. Underwater Street is on the docks and a little bit hidden if your not looking out for it. Situated in a rather lovely period building, it’s an absolute gem.


I would roughly explain it as a role play, hands-on, creative, physical, sensory, science-filled exploration place (which also does parties). The website describes it more succinctly as a ‘discovery centre’.

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Why canal boats can be fun: Ellesmere Port Boat Museum with kids

“If you want to get soaked, go to the boat museum.”

That became our eldest’s motto during trips there in 2014. Not because we allowed them to fall into the canal, but because we chose rainy days for every visit. On one particularly torrential trip one of the shop assistants came out to the car with us, holding a big ‘Canal & River Trust’ umbrella over our heads.

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