North East Family Fun

A UK Family Travel & Lifestyle Blog

Saturday, 19 August 2017

My Top 5 Days Out in North East England - Clare Talbot Jones | Talbot Jones Risk Solutions


Welcome to the second day of our mini series. Today Clare from Talbot Jones Risk Solutions is sharing her top 5 days out in North East England. 



Clare, Richard and their 2 children are the family behind Talbot Jones Risk Solutions
 a community-focussed commercial insurance brokerage based in Gateshead. Coming from Northern Ireland and Wales respectively, Clare and Richard are proud adopted Geordies and they love to explore the amazing region as a family. Over the Clare:


Hamsterley Forest


We first heard about Hamsterley Forest when our friend shared a blog by North East Family Fun about the newly-opened Gruffalo trail. We promptly took our two Julia Donaldson fans for a visit and fell in love with the place!

The trail is great for little ones, with sculptures and activities to complete around the 1.5 mile route. As well as just following the arrows and ambling round the paths, you can also download the free augmented reality app for extra fun. Alternatively, keep your phone firmly in your pocket and pick up an activity pack to guide you round (available for £3 from the Visitors’ Centre).

Every time we return, the forest’s very impressive offering of playparks, assault courses and low ropes courses has been augmented and improved. The Viking Wild Play course straddles both sides of the babbling river and offers children outstanding opportunities to imagine, explore and challenge themselves. It took us a LONG time to travel the 8000m of the course, as there was so much adventure and excitement to be had. There are elements and some much more challenging elements suitable for much older children (and us grown-ups enjoyed the challenges, too!)

Since our first visit, it’s been our ambition to return on a hot summer’s day and enjoy a leisurely picnic on one of the many idyllic little river beaches we’d spotted. During the heatwave in May (remember that?!) we were excited to have the opportunity to do just that! Dressed in shorts and crocs we had a beautifully relaxed afternoon in the shade, building dams in the river, chasing fish and following the curves of the water as we journeyed downstream.

The next time we visit we’re going to bring our bikes and enjoy one of the many cycle paths through the forest. There are routes suitable for anyone from beginners to experienced mountain bikers among the 33-mile network. Bring your own wheels or hire one of the bikes available on site.
Visiting the forest is free, but there is a parking charge of £6 per car (£10 on bank holidays May-Aug). Bring a picnic and flask and treat yourself to lunch or a snack at the forest café.

Read more: The Gruffalo's Child Trail


Warkworth Castle and Amble


One day it is our dream to retire to Northumberland, but in the meantime, we enjoy visiting at every possible opportunity. One of our favourite haunts is the imposing and forbidding Warkworth Castle , in the picturesque village of the same name.

The English Heritage property is always fun to explore, with an impressive array of dungeons, cellars, great halls and winding stair cases. The views are stunning and the history feels tangible. During the holidays there is a marvellous calendar of events that allow all sorts of exciting experiences, such as falconry, jousting, medieval sword-fighting, archery and more. These are free for English Heritage members, and generally included in the entrance fee for non-members.

Despite being regular visitors to the castle, we only discovered the Hermitage last year. This is one of our favourite family memories.

Wandering along the beautiful and peaceful riverside, we arrived at the crossing point. The children were VERY excited to clamber into a row boat manned by a really friendly and welcoming member of English Heritage staff. It’s only maybe 20m across the river, but we travelled very slowly, so we were able to savour and enjoy the experience of being on the river. We felt like we’d stepped out of the Wind in the Willows!

The Hermitage is extraordinary- an ancient hideaway hewn out of the rock. The light, dappled by the thick foliage, danced on the cave walls and was mesmerising and beautiful. The carefully sculpted statues of the Virgin and Child are weathered and worn, but still majestic. The centuries old graffiti marking the flood levels through the ages act as a very tangible way of linking ourselves to others who visited this place way back in history.

Opportunities to visit the Hermitage are limited to only a few days a week in the warmer months, so check openings before travelling.

After a few fun hours exploring the castle and surrounds, we love to head for Amble. I’ll generally have a browse round the Harbour Village- a group of little gift shops in quaint little pods. Richard and the children will make a start hunting for coal on the beach. This special fuel burns with a delightful green blue glow, due to the salt it’s picked up on its journey down the river.

When we’ve gathered our haul and had a scavenge on the beach and a wander down the peer, we always make sure to head to the Quayside Chippy for fish and chips to take out and eat outside, overlooking the busy harbour.

Richard then insists that we go to Spurelli’s for his all-time favourite pistachio ice cream. To be honest, we’re all totally delighted to join him! And that’s a perfect end to a very happy and fun family day.


St Mary’s Lighthouse


One of our favourite family activities in rock pooling, and there’s nowhere we’ve found better to do it than the iconic St Mary’s Lighthouse 

The incoming and receding tide that cuts off the causeway to the island are what makes the rock pool pickings so rich (and the adventure so exciting!) but it does mean that you have to carefully plan your trip according to the tide tables so you don’t get stranded!

You’ll generally find ice cream trucks with a selection of buckets, spades and nets for sale in the car park (charges apply) so you won’t be cut short if you forget to come prepared.

As well as exploring the rock pools, there is a great viewing hut with binoculars and guides for a spot of bird-watching out the back of the island. There are a lot of marvellous opportunities for seal spotting, but visitors are asked to stay well away from these gorgeous and intriguing creatures in order to ensure the safety of all. The sensory gardens offer an interesting opportunity to explore, too.
The lighthouse is open at selected times for a fee. We don’t think we’ve ever gone in, but it would probably be worth a look round- who doesn’t love a lighthouse?! The little gift shop offers some fun little keepsakes and souvenirs, with plenty of pocket-money options.

A day at the sea side is never complete without a fish and chip supper finished off with ice cream, so we head down the coast to Tynemouth for our feast! Marshall’s on Front Street is our choice for traditional fish and chips. Riley’s Fish Shack, the exceptional fish restaurant located in two old shipping containers overlooking the stunning King Edward’s Bay is a must-visit if you haven’t already been. It consistently stands out as my best dining experiences, in terms of quality of food as well as location and atmosphere. It’s no longer a hidden gem, as its great acclaim has spread, so waiting times are long. The children are always perfectly happy playing on the sand while one of us keeps a place in the queue, so it’s not generally an inconvenience.

Although there are puddings on offer at Rileys, our longstanding family tradition is to bring a chocolate fondue with marshmallows to enjoy under the shadows of the majestic Priory as the light fades to night.

Read more: A Coastal Walk to St Mary's Island and Riley's Fish Shack 

Hadrian’s Wall


As an archaeologist by training, Richard is in his element when we head up to explore Hadrian’s Wall. The children are always enthralled to learn more about life in the Roman era and one of our favourite stop offs is Chesters Roman Fort.

The remains of the garrison afford a really interesting insight into life on the edge of the empire and the soldiers’ way of life. We love exploring the bunk houses and stables, examining the remains of the underfloor heating system and finding out about the complex and protracted bathing rituals. There is so much left to see!

The river always calls us for a little paddle on the tranquil and verdant banks, which are a perfect spot for a picnic. It feels very untouched by the modern day.

Rifling around in the mole hills is always rewarded with some interesting finds- generally bits of pottery and bone. The Clayton Collection, housed in the on-site museum brings together quite a staggering assortment of artefacts found along the wall- great practice if you ever learned any Latin at school, and the kids enjoy deciphering the numerals.

English Heritage have recently introduced the Chesters Fort Takeover, a trail for children that engages and informs them about the site’s history. We enjoyed doing the brass rubbings.
We try to arrange our visits to coincide with the many fun events that are arranged during the holidays. The children absolutely loved dressing up as Roman soldiers, learning to march and practising battle formations. On other occasions, they’ve been very interested to learn some archaeology skills and put them into practice. We always learn something new and have a great time.
The small temple to the Roman God Mithras just 3 miles away is fascinating and we love popping up at Housesteads, to explore The Wall and have a further scramble around the most complete Roman fort in Britain. The views are dramatic and well worth the walk.

After a busy day exploring, we love to pop to the picturesque village of Corbridge for some food and a browse of their wonderful range of independent shops.

Read more: Chesters Roman Fort & Exploring Hadrian's Wall by bus


Newcastle City Centre


On Wednesday we popped into town for lunch with friends at the Grainger market and ended up having a memorably lovely day!  

There’s all sorts of fantastic food on offer- Pizza, sea food, Chinese dumplings, decadent puddings, all day breakfasts, crepes…we opted for a sit-down meal in Little Italy. We very much enjoyed the authentic Italian food and great service.

We always enjoy having a browse round the market as there’s so much variety and stallholders are always so ready and willing to engage and educate about their products or services. It’s a really intriguing and family-friendly place to visit, with lots to explore and discover.

On Wednesdays 11-3 throughout the summer there will be different arts and crafts activities available for children free of charge. The children thoroughly enjoyed the very impressive range of Chinese creative makes- fans, spinners, opera singers, fire crackers, masks and more! They had a really great time and were very interested to learn more about this culture.

We then stumbled upon a wonderful art opportunity at the Newcastle City Library. Our little girl happily created a huge collage from textured paper while our boy got creative with a string winding activity. They are keen to return again for more. The Fifth Size Book Adventure will be at the library every Wednesday to drop in between 2 and 4 for these free sessions.

The local museums never fail to provide some great free entertainment over the holidays too. We have happy memories doing archaeology practice, learning to sword fight, handling birds of prey and jewellery making at the Great North Museum, as well as enjoying the usual exhibits that are available all year round. Check out their events page to find out all the exciting opportunities they have planned throughout the holidays.

When we visit the Discovery Museum, we rarely make it past the fantastic Science section, but there is loads more to explore. Drop in activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the holidays allow children aged 5-12 to invent and explore, keeping boredom at bay for only £1.50!
When we’re in town we love to pop into the Quilliam Brothers tea house for a quirky, relaxed and characterful time-out over tea and a treat. There are games on hand to entertain and engage the children, too.

For lunch, you can’t beat a taste-explosion Zapatista’s burrito. The kids enjoy making their choices and seeing their food assembled and Marvel fans young and old enjoy the amazing superhero mural on the basement wall at the Grainger Street branch.

Read more: Play + Invent at Discovery Museum and Zapatista's Review

Thank you so much Clare - I've yet to visit the Hermitage at Warkworth but it's on my list! 
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Friday, 18 August 2017

My Top 5 Days Out in North East England | Michelle Nichol from Wordstruck

I'm taking a little bit of a blogging break over the next 10 or so days. I adore blogging but publishing 5-8 new blog posts every week can take it out of me at times and sometimes, a break is just needed. You'll still find me posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but I'm taking some time away from writing to spend some time with Steve and the kids before I blink and the school holidays are over. 


I have arranged some guest bloggers to help me out and across the next week or so, I'll be handing the North East Family Fun reins over to other people to share their top 5 days out across the North East. It's always nice to have a fresh perspective and I really appreciate all of those who have taken part. We start with Michelle Nichol from Wordstruck. Michelle is a fantastic copywriter based in North East England. You can find Wordstruck on Facebook here.  Over the Michelle......

An adventure with Cullercoats Bike and Kayak

 
I love an active day out in or near water, so the tours offered by Cullercoats bike and kayak are ideal. I recently tried their breakfast kayak adventure, leaving Cullercoats early in the morning to paddle to King Edward's Bay in Tynemouth in time for breakfast at Riley's Fish Shack. It was a huge thrill to see this familiar coastline from a new viewpoint, to paddle between the rocks and arrive on the beach. We even spotted a seal swimming alongside us.
The kayaks are very stable, and with a choice of singles and doubles, can accommodate experienced and novice paddlers (like me). On a tour, you're accompanied by experienced guides, and wetsuits and buoyancy aids are provided. 

You can also hire bikes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards wetsuits and equipment from the shop, and enjoy hot drinks and snacks in the Snug café upstairs once your adventure is over.



Seaton Delaval Hall


We have lots of lovely historic properties and gardens to explore in the North East and Northumberland. One of my favourites, often overlooked in favour of some of the larger estates, is Seaton Delaval Hall. Just a short drive, or bike ride from Whitley Bay, it's a fascinating place, rich in local history.

Home of the Delavals, who were rewarded for their help at the Battle of Hastings, with land in Northumbria, the building was designed by architect Sir John Vanbrugh in the 1720s.
The Delavals grew rich from industry and using the region's natural resources, including salt and coal and by producing millions of glass bottles which were shipped around the world from nearby Seaton Sluice. In the 1800s the family became well known for their large parties, practical jokes and scandals, and were nicknamed the 'Gay Delavals'. 

The hall was almost destroyed by a fire in 1822, and remained without a roof for many years. Knowledgeable volunteer guides will fill you in on the family history as you tour the hall, and you can enjoy the extensive gardens.




Spotting seals and puffins on the Farne Islands


Further up the coast, trips from Seahouses to the Farne Islands offer a chance for some spectacular wildlife spotting.

These rocky islands, just a few miles off the Northumberland Coast are home to seabirds including amusing puffins and grey seals which you can see basking on the shores. You can only reach them by boat, which is an adventure in itself, and land on one or two of them between April and October.

I lived in the North East for many years before I made the trip, but it was a memorable day out, spotting birds and seals and being fascinated by the puffins, who can stuff an incredible number of sand eels in their beaks. I landed on Inner Farne, where National Trust Rangers helped me identify different species of wildlife and talked about their life living on this remote island for nine months of the year.

Pick a nice day, wear a hat and enjoy a wonderful wildlife tour.


 

Wild swimming at Linhope Spout


If you're looking for the kind of wild adventure that you read about in books as a child, then I recommend a trip to this wild waterfall in the Northumberland National Park.

It's a bit off the beaten track and you won't find a tourist information centre or shop and tearoom nearby. But on a sunny day, you can pack a picnic, park up beside the road and walk along the trail to this spectacular 18m waterfall. It's a decent trek and on a hot day, you may be glad to dive into the 'bottomless' plunge pool for a swim. But the water is always cold.

The walk alongside the burn is home to red squirrels, though I've never seen any here, and it's a popular spot in the summer for adventurous teens and families. But you're just as likely to stumble upon its magic all for yourself.

The nearest village is Ingram, which offers a great place for picnics or the Valley Cottage Café. 



A couple of cultural gems in Newcastle


We are spoilt for choice when it comes to cultural activities here in the North East, but I've picked out to of my favourite places to visit in Newcastle, whatever the weather. They're close enough that you can make the most of both in the same day.

The Laing Gallery was the first place I visited when I came to Newcastle for a job interview. As I got the job and have made the North East my home, it remains a favourite. I love the building's mix of its mix of old and new and the way it hosts ever changing exhibitions which have brought Picasso, Alice in Wonderland and Quentin Blake to town, among many others.

My favourite space is the classic 18th and 19th century gallery. I always take the time to say hello to Isabella and the Pot of Basil. William Holman-Hunt’s pre-Raphaelite masterpiece was the piece I wanted to see on my first visit.

Just a hop skip and a jump across the road is the magnificent Tyneside Cinema. This is one of the best places to escape in the city, especially on a grey day.  More than just a cinema, it's a cultural space that hosts talks, exhibitions and events. 

I love that it's a grown-up cinema, showing independent and quirky films. And that you can get a great coffee or a tasty movie-themed meal in one of its café's and coffee bars. Did you know it's a charity too? So while you're tucking into your high-class burger and fries, you're helping to keep this great institution that opens a window on the world going.


Thanks Michelle - You've certainly inspired me to take a trip to the waterfall and try a spot of wild swimming next summer. 

Michelle is a copywriter, trainer and brand storyteller who helps businesses tell their story through words that attract attention. A former BBC journalist, she loves nosing out a great story and sharing her writing expertise through blog posts, training and workshops.
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Thursday, 17 August 2017

What's On in the North East - Summer Holiday Special | 19th - 25th August 2017

Welcome back to my weekly 'what's on' guide. If you'd like to receive this guide via email every week (it's much easier to refer back to that way), please sign up to my weekly newsletter here.



It's the weekend......



18 - 20 August | Wings & Wheels Festival | Eshott Airfield, Felton

Watch hundreds of aircraft perform stunts in the sky, marvel at classic and super cars and enjoy lots of family fun. Tickets are available from £5.  Find out more here


19 August | Paw Patrol Live | Newcastle Arena

Catch Paw Patrol live on stage this weekend in their "Race to the Rescue' show. Find out more here

19 August | Cardboard Wizardry with Lottie Smith (Space Travel) | Discovery Museum

Head to the Discovery Museum and invent gadgets that will help transport you into space! Tickets should be pre-booked. Find out more here

19 August | Circus Fun | Laing Art Gallery

Join Marty for circus themed challenges and lots of silliness in these special workshops. Tickets cost £6 per child and should be pre-booked. Find out more here


19 August | Peter Pan | Souter Lighthouse 

Chapterhouse Theatre Company will be performing a very special version of Peter Pan in this outdoor theatre at Souter Lighthouse. Tickets should be pre-booked. Find out more here


19 August | Craft Fair | National Glass Centre - FREE ENTRY

The National Glass Centre is hosting a free local craft fair with children's entertainment today. Find out more here


19 August | Our Milo Summer Fun Day | The Parks, North Shields - FREE ENTRY

Expect bouncy castles, inflatable assault courses, face painters, character visits and more in this big family fun day.  Find out more here

19 - 20 August | Arbeia Festival | Arbeia Roman Fort - FREE ENTRY

Arbeia Roman Fort and Time & Tide Events are hosting a special festival dedicated to all things Roman. There will be artisan stalls, have-a-go crafts, demonstrations and re-enactments throughout the weekend. Find out more here


19 - 20 August | Hadrian's Cavalry Live | Great North Museum - FREE EVENT

Visit the Great North Museum across the weekend (11am - 3pm) and you'll be greeted by Hadrian's Cavalry on the front lawn. Find out more here

19 - 20 August | Return of the Romans | Chesters Roman Fort

The Roman's return to Chesters Roman Fort this weekend. Expect demonstrations, re-enactments and lots of Roman-based fun. Find out more here

20 August | The Lost World | Preston Park

Pack a picnic and head down to Preston Park for this outdoor showing. Recommended for older children and their families. Tickets should be pre-booked. Find out more here

20 August | Fairytale & Superheroes day | Ramside Hall

Meet your favourite Princess and Superhero at Ramside Hall Hotel in this special event featuring lots of activities, games and meet and greets. Tickets should be pre-booked. Find out more here

Mid-week fun.......




21 August | Felty Faces | Gateshead Library

Drop into this 'pay as you feel' event and have fun creating some crazy felt faces with The Culture Vulture. All materials are provided. Find out more here

21 - 24 August | Free West Park Summer Play Scheme | West Park, South Shields - FREE EVENT

This event is suitable for children aged 8-14. Enjoy field games and outdoor activities. Find out more here

21 August | Wild Parks - Totally Tree-mendous | Saltwell Park - FREE EVENT

Drop in to this event and take part in free activities including tree ID, tree rubbing and tree hugging. Find out more here

21 August | Fingerprint Bees | Cherryburn

This chance to get crafty is included with normal National Trust admission. Find out more here

21 August | Create a birdhouse | intu Eldon Square - FREE EVENT

intu Eldon Sqaure's 'funner summer' continues today with the chance for children to create their own birdhouse. Find out more here

22 August | Barefoot Mud Painting | Cherryburn

Take off your shoes, get muddy and walk across a giant piece of paper to create your own unique piece of art. Find out more here

22 August | Create a windmill | intu Eldon Square - FREE EVENT

Get creative at intu Eldon Square today and create a colourful paper windmill. All materials are provided. Find out more here

22 August | Mister Twister Magic Show | Playhouse Whitley Bay

Mister Twister returns to the Playhouse with his silly magic show. There will be tricks, balloon modelling, magic, comedy, party games and more. Find out more here

22 August | Read-a-Rama | Seven Stories

Join this unique summer camp in an afternoon event hosted by the University of Washington, USA. The event explores books and activities surrounding taking care of the earth. Free event (admission and pre-booking applies)  Find out more here



23 August | Climb a really big tree day | Cragside

A unique chance to climb some of the tallest trees in the Cragside estate. Find out more here

23 August | Family Ukelele Workshop | Washington Arts Centre

Fancy trying something a little different? How about a Ukelele workshop. Learn your first chords and play a song together. Find out more here

23 August | Build your own bug hotel | Great North Museum - FREE EVENT

Drop into the museum between 11am - 2pm and create your very own bug hotel. Find out more here

23 August | Let's Get Muddy Activity Day | West Boldon Lodge

Don't forget your wellies for this session of muddy fun. There will be the chance to try some mud painting and create your very own mud pie. Find out more here

23 August | The Wind in the Willows | Gibside

Gibside are hosting a very special outdoor performance of The Wind in the Willows in the walled garden tonight. Tickets should be pre-booked.  Find out more here

It's almost the weekend.......




24 August | Play + Invent - Transforming Transport | Discovery Museum - FREE EVENT

Drop in to this event and create your own transport themed cardboard fun. Find out more here

24 August | Digit Planting | Dalton Park - FREE EVENT

Join Dalton and his free workshop next to M&S. No need to book - simply drop-in Find out more here

24 August | Seashore Safari | Souter Lighthouse

Join a wildlife ranger and explore the creatures of the rocky shore together. Find out more here

24 August | Wonderful Wood Workshop | WWT Washington

Drop-in throughout the day and learn how to create something wonderful from wood with the help of expert Mark Crowley. This event is suitable for all ages and abilities and included in admission. Find out more here

25 August | Bug hunting and pond dipping | Cragside

Learn about the creatures that live under water and how they differ from those on land. Included with normal National Trust admission. Find out more here


25 August | Rock Pool Ramble | St Aidans Beach, Seahouses

Rangers will be on hand to help you look for crabs, star fish and maybe even lobsters. Find out more here




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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Disney On Ice Weekend at Blue Reef Aquarium | Kids Go Free | 19 & 20 August 2017

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details

Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure is coming to the Metro Radio Arena in October, and Blue Reef Aquarium has joined forces with Disney On Ice to celebrate in style!

For one weekend only, on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 August, 2017, Blue Reef is offering free entry to younger visitors dressed as their favourite Disney characters, and inviting them to take the Disney On Ice trail through the aquarium to enter a lucky draw to win one of five sets of family tickets to the opening night of Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure  at the Metro Radio Arena on Tuesday 3rd October. This offers a massive saving of up to £8.25 per child. 



The lucky winners will join Mickey and friends on a timeless journey, exploring the worlds of Disney’s The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan and Frozen. Plus, warm up at the Fit to Dance pre-show featuring Zootropolis! Upbeat music, lovable characters and unforgettable moments making an experience to cherish forever!



The Disney On Ice themed weekend will include free arts & crafts, story reading and bookmarks, and one mammoth prize of a pass to win free family entry for a year to Blue Reef, and VIP entry to the opening night of Disney On Ice, with pre-show hospitality, a meet and greet with two members of the cast, and goody bags for the kids! To enter, visitors will be invited to take a selfie alongside The Little Mermaid’s Ariel, upload it to Facebook and tag Blue Reef Aquarium and Disney On Ice.

If you have not visited Blue Reef Aquarium before, check out Life In Geordieland's review here. It's lots of fun for kids and perfect when teamed up with a trip to Cullercoats beach. 

Costume Inspiration (affiliates)




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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Primary School Uniform - Where to invest and where to save


It feels like we've only just started the school holidays but my mind has already been thinking of buying the kids' new school uniform. In fact I've already bought the majority of it (although I can guarantee I'll be buying a few things at the last minute too - that's just me). I've been buying school uniform for over 7 years now and with three children to buy for, I thought I'd share my experiences of where to save and where to spend money.


Winter Coats - SPEND


I always, always invest in a decent winter coat for the kids towards the end of September. This coat will see them throughout the winter and it must be super warm, keep them dry, have a hood and pockets. We walk to school (and it's a 25 minute walk) so it's vital that a good coat will keep them warm and dry. I usually buy their coats from Joules, Next or Marks and Spencers but I am very tempted to splash out on a Barbour coat from the outlet near us for them all this year.

Heidi's Winter Coat from Next

Spring Coats - SAVE


Spring coats don't need to be as warm and as long as they are shower proof and have a hood, that's fine with me. I spend about 1/3 on the kids' Spring coat as their summer coat and will happily pick up a spring coat from the supermarket.

School Shoes - SPEND


Again, because we walk to school, shoes are something that I definitely think you should invest in. Heidi has worn Start-rite shoes for the past couple of years and they really do last well. They are comfortable, waterproof and last for at least 6 months. Heidi has worn these Fleur shoes during the last 2 months of term and there's hardly a mark on them!





PE Kits - SAVE


There's no point in splashing out on designer trainers or sportswear when your children are in Primary School in my opinion - plenty of time for that in their teenage years! 

Trousers - SPEND


I buy the boys' school trousers from M&S or Sainsburys. I love that they don't need to be ironed and have been reinforced to withstand lots of rough and tumble. In all my years of buying from M&S / Sainsburys, I've never once had to replace trousers due to them becoming shabby. I also like that they have an adjustable waistband. 

Skirts - SAVE


Now I don't know what it is but for some reason, I can get away with buying Heidi cheaper skirts. I am not brand-loyal and will just pick a school skirt up anywhere that I see an offer!

Socks & Tights - SAVE

I buy all of the kids' socks, tights and underwear from good old Primark. A top tip is to buy different colours and PLAIN so they're easy to match. Harry has plain grey socks, Jack plain black and Heidi black tights/white socks. They are so cheap that you don't mind replacing every season if you have to. 

T-Shirts and Shirts - SPEND


Cheaper T-shirts tend to fade and thin fairly quickly in my opinion and buying something of higher quality means that you'll actually get more washes per wear. I like to buy from M&S or Sainsburys.

Summer Dresses - SAVE


A summer dress is a summer dress to me. The quality doesn't really matter as they don't get to wear them that often! I just tend to buy them whenever I see them for £2/£3 in the sale somewhere. 

School & Lunch Bags - SPEND


I wash our lunch bags at least once a week so I need them to be of good quality and aren't going to fall apart after 2 minutes. Harry is very particular and likes a bag with a shoulder strap so he can carry across his body if he cycles to school. The same goes for school bags - the kids have quite a bit of stuff to carry to school so I want a bag that is going to be comfortable and stylish for them so don't mind spending a little extra.



Hats & Gloves - SAVE


Gloves and kids are so annoying. There isn't a week goes by in the winter when one of my children will lose one! Because of this, I stock up and buy multiple of the same plain pairs from Primark at the beginning of the season. If anyone has any tips on how to stop kids losing their gloves, I'm all ears!

If you're looking for more advice on what uniform to buy this year, I highly recommend reading this post by Family Makes as various brands are put through their paces.


A huge thanks to Start-Rite for gifting Heidi her school shoes this year. I only ever promote brands that I have thoroughly tried and tested and I'm confident I can recommend. Start-Rite are definitely one of these brands and are a brand I have bought from and been very happy with in the past. Start-Rite are running an offer throughout the school holidays where you can receive 30% off a pair of trainers or plimsols when bought with a pair of school shoes. They also provide lots of advice and measuring tools on their website here and FREE next day delivery until 10 September. 

Let me know where you spend and where you save when shopping for school uniform.



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Monday, 14 August 2017

The Fat Hippo | NEW Kids Menu - perfect for fussy eaters

*Collaborative post - please see my disclosure policy for details

Breaking News! The Fat Hippo launched a new kids menu today. Harry, Heidi and Jack were invited down to put the new menu through it's paces tonight. We visited The Fat Hippo Jesmond and it was busy, busy, busy so reservations are definitely recommended if you don't want to be disappointed. 


The Fat Hippo feels like a very cool place to take your kids and I know we'll be bringing the kids here in years to come - probably even into adulthood. The Jesmond restaurant was mostly made up of families with grown up children catching up but little ones don't feel out of place here either (check out this post from our visit in 2015 when the kids were aged 4, 6 and 7 if you fancy a trip down memory lane)





A lot of thought and detail has been put into the kids menu and H, H and J all loved the special Fat Hippo touches such as the box to design your own burger and the hippo swamp colouring in activity. It certainly kept them occupied.


The children's menu is £6 and suitable for under 12s. I love that it's now completely customisable and kids can pick a patty (beef, bean, breaded chicken or plain chicken), toppings, sauces, garnishes and side. If your children fancy a chicken burger with cheese, chorizo, mustard and pickles - their wish will be granted. Or if like Jack they prefer just breaded chicken and cheese with no sauce, again it's no problem. Kids can build their own burgers exactly to their own specification - perfect if they're going through a fussy phase or simply can't stand to eat anything that has so much as touched a lettuce leaf.


Heidi was also delighted to find that there are now options other than burgers on the menu now too. Heidi's not really a burger eater in general and always prefers a pasta dish where possible and she thoroughly enjoyed her mac and cheese which comes with a side and a choice of sauce too. You can also order chicken fingers if burgers aren't your thing.


The portions are huge! Harry loves burgers but Jack's not so keen on bread. They made some sort of pact where Jack promised Harry he would try a burger this time as Harry always says they are the best. Jack loves his food and he was well chuffed when a huge burger was placed down in front of him. I have no idea how he managed to eat it all (plus dessert!).



A Fat Hippo burger is one of Harry's favourite foods of all time and you can see how happy he was to be tucking in. He'd been looking forward to this visit all week - I need something new to bribe him with now!



Then for Heidi.....Mac and Cheese which she also thoroughly enjoyed.


Kids can order Hippo Juice, Cordial or Milk as part of the £6 deal or pay £2 extra to upgrade to a shake which of course my three wanted to do. I stole a sip and it was so good! In fact, I think they should serve these half portions on the adult's menu as the normal shakes always fill me up too much.



The Fat Hippo's not all about the kids. In fact, Steve has declared The Fat Hippo Underground as his number one restaurant in Newcastle. We'd already enjoyed Fat Hippo burgers earlier in the month at a local food festival but honestly, I don't think you can ever have enough. Steve brought his herd card along and of course, he had to order a secret menu item. He was going to go for a 6 x 6 until I told him not to be ridiculous so settled for a Sloppy Joe instead. He loved it and even declared it as his new favourite burger above his beloved PB&J. If you'd like access to the secret menu, simply sign up to the herd here. It's free to join! 



Me, I'm a creature of habit and 9/10 I order 'The Fat Hippo' burger. Why change something if you love it? Fat Hippo burgers are the type of burger you do get messy eating as they are so huge and juicy but it's best to just dive in and get on with it.



Despite eating at The Fat Hippo on numerous occasions, I have yet to try a dessert. After starters, mains and shakes I am always far too full. I had a game plan to make it happen this time - we skipped starters and I ordered wine rather than a shake. This meant I could just about squeeze in dessert. The kids ordered a Fat Hippo Brownie (£2 supplement) which is just the cutest brownie I have ever seen! It looks quite dry in this pic but that's just the lighting - it was actually super moist and chocolaty and served with a butterscotch sauce which reminded us of a swamp. Clever! I love the branding at The Fat Hippo - they really do have it spot on.



No Hippo-shaped desserts for the grown ups (FYI Fat Hippo - you should add the hippo brownies to your secret menu) and Steve's looked rather boring in comparison. It seems like kids get all the fun! It tasted just as good though. I went for a delicious Toblerone cheesecake - a lovely treat in lieu of my normal milkshake.



The New Fat Hippo Children's menu is available from all branches as of today. Fat Hippo restaurants are perfect for an informal and fun meal out with kids that will be enjoyed by all. I would especially recommend The Fat Hippo Underground which is ideally located next to Newcastle's Theatre Royal and a perfect spot to enjoy a pre-theatre dinner with kids. Jack always loves going to what he calls 'the underground restaurant'. Let me know if you fancy it.




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