19 Apr

Project 365 – Week 16

Sunday 12th April. We bought a new table and chairs for outside, and spent a bit of time finishing off H’s box garden for her home learning – the cress is growing really well. It looks bright and summery, and a week in still nice and bright – Shaun gave it a sneaky water at school yesterday!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Monday 13th April. Back to school, and H was super excited to be back with her friends again. My Souper Boosters arrived from the Covent Garden Soup Co – they had a Facebook offer which I went for. Interesting!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Tuesday 14th April. School, work and so on. Back to swimming. No pilates for me for another week or two, and Shaun was still working from home while they mend Central London. We sat outside in the sun after school eating Fruit Pasti-lollies and reading school books.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Wednesday 15th April. A beautiful sunny day. Washed H’s two smaller school dresses, the ones we got from Matalan to review last year and they were dry by the evening. Good days are measured by washloads and how many are done in a day in my life – thus making this a very good day indeed. The dresses are lasting well and I’m happy with the quality of them.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 16th April. I popped into The Entertainer on my lunch break and bought H her first two wheel scooter (a bargain in the sale for £11). She said to me with the most worried face how much she wasn’t sure she’d enjoy it. Got on the scooter, and immediately scooted everywhere without a problem. She’s been trying it out in the back yard now and is loving it.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 17th April. I do believe I forgot to take a photo. My friend took one of H and her oldest friend, but to protect his privacy I won’t put it here. It doesn’t need documenting on here. They played so nicely and both children played so well together – considering they don’t see each other as much it’s like they never spend time apart – and it was good for me to catch up with my friend too.

Saturday 18th April. NCT summer meet up for all my oldest parenting friends. We don’t see each other very often – indeed, the last time we were together was New Year. It was a lovely sunny day so the kids got outside to play while we all caught up with each other. By the end of the evening all the kids were inside a playhouse under a duvet with glowsticks. I had to obscure the child’s face with some careful picmonkey editing, but I did like this one.


TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

14 Apr


It is almost my favourite time of the year for wandering in woods and forests – time for bluebells! The National Trust have a list of all the best places – and my personal favourite is Hatchlands Park near Guildford – their bluebell wood is amazing! Read on for some more suggestions.

Hatchlands bluebells - NT John Miller

Bluebells have something magical about them. With their sudden, mystical takeover of ancient woodlands the flowers have long been linked to the fairy-world.

Get the family together and discover the delights of these delicate flowers that transform Britain’s wonderful woodlands. The blooming date for bluebells varies depending on the weather, but you can usually expect to see them in April and May.

Here’s a selection of the top National Trust places and events where you can enjoy bluebells in all their glory:

Buckland Abbey, Garden and Estate, Devon

The woodland armada, 2 May – 6 June, 10.30am – 5.30pm

When you visit Buckland, you follow over 700 years of footsteps; from the Cistercians who built the Abbey and farmed the estate, to seafarers Grenville and Drake who changed the shape of the house and the fate of the country. This spring, discover over 100 ships decorated by visitors as they set sail across the bluebell sea in The Great North Wood.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Spring walks, 7, 10, 14 May, 1pm – 2.30pm

Discover the emerging bluebell displays, ransoms and many other wild flowers in the Great North Wood. Join the estate ranger for a two mile walk around the estate to see some wonderful spring delights.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Basildon Park, Berkshire

Basildon Park, a Georgian mansion surrounded by parkland, was lovingly rescued by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid-1950s. Expansive countryside surrounds Basildon Park with great views towards the Thames and the Chilterns. Enjoy a walk in the 400 acres of parkland and woodland, take in the breath-taking views and at this time of year enjoy the changing colours of the landscape.

Beautiful bluebells, 1 April – 31 May, 10am – 4pm

Keep an eye on the Bluebell Watch on the Basildon Park website where you’ll be able to find out when they’re at their blooming best.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Hinton Ampner, Hampshire

Visitors can explore acres of recently opened ancient woodland surrounding this quintessentially English landscape. Stroll slowly through glorious beech avenues and soak up the bluebell phenomenon that appears here. Hinton welcomes picnickers in its woods, and there are woodland ‘sofas’ carved out of fallen tree trunks where you can sit and admire the blue view.

Spring woodland walk, 2 & 13 May, 1pm – 3pm

This spring, enjoy a guided woodland walk taking in the bluebells and the beautiful woodland at Hinton Ampner. Take a stroll in the carpets of Bluebells lining the woods, followed by scrumptious afternoon tea in the tea room.

Price: £10 (booking essential)

For more information, please call 01962 77130


Blickling Estate, Norfolk

Visit Blickling in April through to May and discover one of the best places to see bluebells in the country. Follow the winding paths through the Great Wood and pass through swathes of the dainty blue flowers.Late April to early May is usually the best time at Blickling to see bluebells as they carpet the woodland floor.

Runnymede, Berkshire

Seen by many as the birthplace of modern democracy, this picturesque open landscape beside the Thames was witness to King John’s historic sealing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago on 15 June 1215. This historic landscape of picturesque meadows and rolling hills is perfect for a relaxing walk. Take in stunning views, soak up some history and see if you can spot the Bluebells in the woodlands.

Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House, County Londonderry

Visit this stunning landscape and beautiful gardens where you’ll find magnificent clifftop walks, affording rugged headland views across the awe-inspiring North Coast. The striking eighteenth-century mansion at Downhill now lies in ruin, but the offering of beautiful gardens and stunning coastal walks makes this is a fantastic place for all the family to visit – especially during bluebell season.

Behind the scenes: bluebell walks, 2 – 3 May, 12pm – 4pm

Come along for an afternoon stroll around the Bishop’s Gate gardens and glen to see the bluebells in full bloom. Join the estate ranger who will highlight the latest developments around the wider demesne and show off the hidden gems in the gardens.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

Hardcastle Crags Bluebell cascade Credit Drew Marsh

Nymans, West Sussex

Rumoured to bloom on St George’s Day (23 April), there are carpets of delicately scented bluebells throughout the ancient woodland surrounding Nymans. Described as a garden lovers’ home for all seasons, you can enjoy an extensive yet intimate garden set around a romantic house and ruins this spring. Inspired by the setting and the soil, the Messel family created one of the country’s great gardens in the late nineteenth-century. The garden and nearby woods are perfect for walking, picnicking and spotting bluebells.

Art Workshop with John Thompson: bluebell woods, 28 – 30 May, 10.30am – 3.30pm

Local artist and tutor John Thompson returns with more of his popular painting workshops. John takes inspiration from the seasonal changes on the landscape and gardens of Nymans and this month’s theme is bluebell woods. Visit for a full day of relaxed and empowering art making in the Potting shed. Learn easy techniques working with acrylic paints on board (be prepared to get messy), making various marks and building textures. All painting materials provided.

Price: £60 (including materials and refreshments, booking essential)

Lanhydrock, Cornwall

Lanhydrock is the perfect country house and estate, with the feel of a family home. The estate is well worth exploring, with ancient woodlands and tranquil riverside paths. You can take the bikes out on the off-road cycle trails, with special routes for families and novice riders. This fascinating country estate has gorgeous gardens, including a brilliant collection of spring-flowering magnolias and woodland areas blooming with waves of daffodils and bluebells.

Bluebell tour, 2 May, 10am – 1pm

Join the Head Ranger for a stroll through the stunning bluebell woods, followed by lunch in the restaurant at 12pm.

Price: £15 (includes lunch, booking essential)

Osterley Park and House, Middlesex

A short hop from central London by tube but a world apart lies Osterely. Surrounded by gardens, park and farmland, Osterley is one of the last surviving country estates in London. Take a seat in the deckchairs on the temple lawn and watch the world go by, take the woodland walk and uncover the forgotten boathouse or wander back through the ancient meadow, bursting with wildflowers and butterflies.

Bluebell walk, 30 April, 6 May, 2pm – 3.30pm

The bluebells at Osterley Park are true wildflowers, on display in the ancient woodland. They have a delicate scent, intense blue colour and flowers that droop down like a bell along one side of the stem. Join a guided tour of the gardens with the ranger as you take in the carpet of colour; learn about the spring flower and its wider role in the management of the estate.

Price: Adult £6, Child £3 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

Godolphin, Cornwall

Discover Godolphin, rich in archaeology and wildlife and travel back in time as you wander around the sixteenth-century garden, one of the most important historic gardens in Europe. Get lost in the tranquil and mysterious woodland, where the years of mining have left an unnatural, undulating landscape. Go for a stroll along the river and don’t forget to stop for a refreshing cup of tea and slice of home-made cake in the tea-room.

Save our native bluebell, 10 May, 11am – 12.30pm

Join an informative walk and talk with Godolphin’s gardener on the current threats to our native bluebell from the Spanish varieties, and walk through the sea of blue in Godolphin’s far orchard.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

Wander through Sissinghurst Castle Garden for inspiring ideas or simply soak up spring and enjoy the rich, warm colours of the Cottage Garden. Also known as the Spring Garden, the Lime Walk is one area where former owner Harold Nicolson controlled the design and planting. Long beds of tulips, fritillaries and hyacinths are marked out by an avenue of pleached limes, scattered by generous terracotta pots, every inch bursting with colour during spring.

Bluebell and wildflower walks, 26 April & 1 – 2 May, 1pm – 2.30pm

Come and see the woodland at Sissinghurst at this beautiful time of year on a guided walk with the ranger team. Afterwards finish the walk off with a cream tea in the restaurant.

Price: £12.50 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire

Dinefwr Park and Castle is an iconic place in the history of Wales and is the perfect place to take a relaxing stroll through some of Carmarthenshire’s most beautiful areas of countryside. It’s the only designated parkland National Nature Reserve in the whole of Wales, where you can discover ancient trees, rare lichen and fungi and some of the best examples of British wildlife you’re likely to see.

Bluebell display in Castle Woods, 1 – 31 May, 10am – 6pm

Don’t miss the spectacular Bluebell display at Dinefwr – a real treat for the senses. It’s difficult to predict exactly when the Bluebells will in full bloom but we know for sure it will be in May and the best place to see the biggest display is in Castle Woods.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex

Sheffield Park and Garden is a horticultural work of art formed through centuries of landscape design, with influences of ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton. Four lakes form the heart of the garden, with paths circulating through the glades and wooded areas surrounding them. Running across the bottom of the estate is the River Ouse and flood meadow. During the spring and summer months the meadow is covered in wild flowers, butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies.

Bluebell walk, 29 April, 11am – 1pm, 6 May, 2pm – 4pm

Join a guided walk through the estate to see carpets of bluebells in the garden and woodland.

Price: Adult £5, Child £2.50 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

Strangford Lough, County Down

Strangford Lough is a unique and wonderful place of immense international importance for nature conservation. It is the largest sea lough in the British Isles, covering an area from Angus Rock at its mouth on the Irish Sea, to the vast sand-flats. It’s one of only three designated Marine Nature Reserves in the United Kingdom. Nugent’s Wood, at Portaferry, is one of the last refuges for the native red squirrel and is the perfect place for discovering bluebells.

Bluebell walk in Nugent’s Wood, Portaferry, 2 May, 10am – 12pm

Learn more about local history, wildlife and work that Rangers do on the estate and around the interesting woodland in Strangford Lough.

Price: Free event

Dunham Massey, Cheshire

At Dunham Massey stroll down camellia walk to see over 10,000 plants in the cyclamen grove, the bluebell meadow and yellow meadow. Take a walk and enjoy a beautiful display of the protected English Bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta on the estate. You can find the largest collection of flowers under the Oaks and Witch hazels next to the Bog Garden.

Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire

Bluebells are the undisputed spring highlight at Hardcastle Crags where they carpet the woodland. At their peak, usually in May they form an almost unearthly blue haze through the woodlands and fill air with their sweet perfume. This wooded landscape is often known as ‘Little Switzerland’ because of the valley sides, pathways and river and in spring the woodland is awash with bluebells.

Hatchlands Park, Surrey
Situated on the edge of the beautiful Surrey Hills and surrounded by charming villages, this peaceful location is just 45 minutes from central London. Hatchlands Park is one of the largest country estates in the county, including ancient woodland and open parkland, with views of the historic house and Surrey countryside. Wix’s Wood is home to carpets of bluebells which will appear in late April and early May. For latest updates on when the bluebells are out visit

Bluebells in garden at Rufford Old Hall NTPL

Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire

Rufford Old Hall is set within 14 acres of glorious gardens and woodland, laid out in the style found during the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods. Enjoy a walk among the small woodland awash with a variety of native trees as well as a carpet of bluebells and crocuses in springtime. The best time to see them is in late April and early May in Beech Walk and the North Woods – see if you can spot the honey and bumblebees visiting the bluebells as well.


13 Apr

Celebrate With Cake!

I don’t celebrate birthdays very well. However, there is one part of birthdays that I do manage to do well – and that usually involves cake. If there is cake on offer I’ll eat it – though I shouldn’t go too crazy with my diabetes history. It isn’t my birthday just yet, but last week a day passed by in its own little way, marked with some delightful cakes from Mr Kipling – Mum Friendly turned four.

better with cake

So we had a little celebration. Thanks to BritMums we were sent three different kinds of Mr Kipling’s cakes – French Fancies, Cherry Bakewells and Viennese Whirls – so I loaded up the cake stand and we helped ourselves after our main meal.

better with cake

Yum! French Fancies always bring back memories for me, I remember eating them when I was little, just like H does now. “Mummy, can I have another cake?” she asked, as she eyed up the lemon variety… oh, and let’s not mention her licking the top of every single Cherry Bakewell. I have no idea why – she said there were crumbs.

better with cake

So we chose a couple of the cakes each, so as not to go overboard in one evening (there are plenty of days after school we can eat the rest) and settled down to eat them.

better with cake

The following day we sat outside in the sun, giant glasses of water with a cake to accompany it. This isn’t just one birthday party, it’s several celebrations until the cakes run out! Oh yes.

better with cake

Easter was a bit of a washout for us in the end – I got ill, Shaun got it and finally H got it – so the cakes were perfect for the Mum Friendly birthday party – as we could all eat again – and we made the most of it.

better with cake

What’s even better is I popped them in the fridge, so even a week later I’m helping myself to a sneaky cake – they keep well!

So yes, Happy Birthday Mum Friendly, four years old. We had a little party with deliciously marvellous cakes!

better with cake
This post is an entry for #betterwithcake Linky Challenge, sponsored by Mr Kipling. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/mrkiplingcakes.

12 Apr

Project 365 Week 15

Sunday 5th April. We headed to Hatchlands Park near Guildford to do their Easter Egg trail as we’ve done most of the National Trust properties near here and wanted to do a different one. Every time we go to Hatchlands or Clandon Park we end up taking a stupidly long route which is brilliant – but we almost always forget it’s just up the road from Polesden Lacey. So I’m hoping if we type this we’ll remember when we go back to see their bluebell wood. Anyway, it was loads of fun and had a Robin Hood theme, ending with H bouncing on a space hopper on their front lawn. They even had archery and pony trekking for the Easter weekend, as well as a craft area to make your own arrow – loads of fun and it even cheered up Shaun and I after the rubbish news the day before.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Monday 6th April. H was unwell overnight – the bug Shaun and I had, so it was an easy day – a 2am wake up and looking after her the following morning meant our plans to go to Legoland were put on hold. It did mean we could work on her box garden for her home learning at school, which looks pretty ace! There’s cress growing in the middle!!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Tuesday 7th April. 48 hour exclusion applies, and so I worked remotely looking after H. There was quite a lot of work to do and I got most of it done which was a relief. I’m lucky that I’m able to do that with my job – especially when you’re dealing with a slightly bored five year old who can’t go to holiday club.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Wednesday 8th April. Back to work, back to Holiday Club, H had a trip to Battersea Park Zoo today which she enjoyed. I got a delivery of Mr Kipling’s cakes from Britmums which cheered my day up – THEN I realised it was Mum Friendly’s fourth birthday. So Happy Birthday to me.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 9th April. Just work, holiday club and being happy as Shaun is working in Croydon at the moment so gets home nice and early every night for a change! Having said that, we’re tired out – so it was nice to settle with potato wedges and a Fry’s Curry Pie (and they’re delicious and vegan too) after H had gone to bed. I’m so glad I bought an Actifry at Christmas as I’m finding it really handy for making meals quickly and healthily.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 10th April. Shaun didn’t need to go in to work today so worked remotely from home, and didn’t bother taking H into Holiday Club for her last day – so he worked and played until I got home from work, and H seemed happy enough playing outside and watching Annie. We did our walk down to the Honeywood Museum and around Carshalton and felt happy and lucky to be living where we do.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Saturday 11th April. Legoland! It was pouring with rain in the morning, but I’d checked forecasts and it was meant to be very warm and sunny by 10am, but with a breeze. We got to Legoland by 11am, and most rides had a 15 minute queue which meant we did loads! Afterwards we headed into Windsor, parking by the Thames for free (hurrah!) and right by the castle, trying to find somewhere to eat. We found a lovely local family-run restaurant Viva L’Italia where we got some pizza and pasta which was WAY cheaper than all the chain restaurants nearby. Yum! Afterwards we watched it get darker as Windsor Castle lit up and the Jubilee Fountain got pretty.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

10 Apr

Keeping It Local

Sometimes when it’s warm and it’s a Friday and you’ve spent the week recouperating, working, being at holiday club or whatever, you don’t want to venture too far. Especially when you’re wearing your Elsa dress over shorts and a t-shirt.

Sutton Ecology Centre

So when I got home from work today we wandered up the road to the Honeywood Museum as they’ve just opened a new cafe. On the way to Honeywood is the Sutton Ecology Centre – a fab area in Carshalton which has nature information, allotments, a pond and plenty of things to learn about as well as making good use of everyday things (like tyres – I love how they’ve based a garden around them). Our trip was just a short cut as I was fairly sure the cafe closed at 5pm (I was right) and we made it with five minutes to spare.

Sutton Ecology Centre

The Honeywood Museum is at Honeywood House on Carshalton Ponds, and is a lovely old house dedicated to the history of Carshalton as well as the people who have lived in the house and life there through various times. There’s a war room which H found really interesting and lots for kids – including dress up and an activity area – and it’s free. The cafe is new to the house and serves Movenpick ice cream – and a fine selection too! We grabbed a table right next to the ponds and enjoyed our cones.

H by the ponds

The daffodils are still in full bloom, and the area around the ponds looks lovely – though people still seem to throw their rubbish in there. I have no idea why people would do that. Madness.

Carshalton Ponds

We walked around the ponds, crossing into Grove Park which has a cut of water from the ponds which leads further down, turning into the River Wandle (which then runs into the Thames) – and where there are many ducks and even a heron. It’s one of the few places locally that I love and go back to as it has a great sense of calm. It feels safe too – I can let H wander ahead and she’s happy, whether it’s chatting to squirrels or just wanting to get to the play area at the top of the hill.

Her favourite things in the park are those dizzy-inducing spinny things you sit in that I can’t even look at, and the fireman’s pole.

climbing frame

We stayed for a play for a while and for the first time H was able to almost climb to the top of the castle in the playground. She’s grown.


We walked past the Carshalton Water Wheel which has had the main hut area restored recently. It doesn’t say what they’re doing there, but there is something going on. Intriguing…!

Carshalton Water Wheel

After a busy afternoon playing we popped into The Sun pub, our local which is right by The Grove, H was super happy as we got the little cubby hole area to sit in, and Shaun joined us.


I do like living here. As I’ve said on The Adequate Parent, it’s a lovely place. It’s just annoying our rent situation is set to change, though fortunately the landlady isn’t selling (she’s just increasing our monthly rent by £280 a month). The rent hike means we can still do all the free things, but helping the local businesses exist by having a quick beer or stopping for an ice cream might be something we have to do without. That makes me sad. I like to spend money on things which help other people locally.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

08 Apr

Hello Kitty Live Fashion & Friends

Hello Kitty Live – Fashion & Friends is on its way, with an extensive UK tour in October 2015!

Hello Kitty Live Fashion & Friends

Hello Kitty Live – Fashion & Friends is on its way, with an extensive UK tour in October 2015, and an official World Premiere at Hammersmith Apollo, London on Thursday 8th October.

The full Hello Kitty Live tour goes on general sale at 9am on the 10th April at www.hellokittylive.com – and there will also be a special appearance at Westfield Shepherds Bush W12 in M&S at 1pm this Friday – 10th April.

Sanrio GmbH, Live Nation and Zen Tiger Live in association with WME Entertainment officially announce the forthcoming launch of HELLO KITTY LIVE – FASHION & FRIENDS. The first chapter of a series of live shows starring Hello Kitty, her family and the other Sanrio characters.

HELLO KITTY LIVE – FASHION & FRIENDS gives fans of all ages the first ever opportunity to physically enter the world of Hello Kitty as she takes to the stage live and in 3D for this World Premiere, the latest development in the continuing evolution of this global super brand.

A ‘Pop Show’ in the truest sense, the soundtrack features high calibre artists including Charli XCX, Bruno Mars, Kylie Minogue, Echosmith, Clean Bandit, Flo Rida and many more.

See Hello Kitty like you’ve never seen her before as this fashion icon welcomes audiences into her world in a story that highlights the value of friendship, creativity, respect for nature and a love of learning.

The producers at Zen Tiger Live have assembled an accomplished creative team comprised of Richard Lewis, creative director of a long list of successful productions including Peppa Pig Live and Lazy Town Live; Del Mak, choreographer of TV show Got to Dance and LRNZ, one of the most acclaimed upcoming visual artists on the digital scene. Together they have created a fun-packed show, where the characters on stage and the animations on a mega HD screen interact with the public as the story unfolds.

Steve Homer, Promoter at Live Nation Entertainment, said ‘We are delighted to have Hello Kitty Live – Fashion & Friends on our roster; she is a natural addition to a line-up of Global superstars we work with including Madonna, Rihanna and Beyonce.’

Hello Kitty Meet & Greet – The Atrium, Westfield London W12, Friday 10 April 1.45pm

To celebrate the announcement of the UK Tour and tickets going on sale, Hello Kitty will be visiting The Atrium at Westfield London in White City on Friday 10 April at 1.45pm. Fans and families are welcome to come along to meet Kitty in person.

Fans will also be invited to enter a competition to win the ultimate Hello Kitty fan prize – the ‘Platinum Hug’ VIP package at a venue of their choice, plus runner-up HELLO KITTY LIVE SUPER-FAN GOODY BAG prizes which will be full of exciting Hello Kitty merchandise.

An exclusive and limited series of HELLO KITTY LIVE – FASHION & FRIENDS merchandising will be available only at the show venues.

Hello Kitty Live - Fashion & Friends. Credit Sanrio Puroland 2

The official premiere will be in London on 8 October 2015 at the Hammersmith Apollo before the show departs for an extensive tour across the UK with future dates planned across Europe (tba).

Here’s the UK tour information!
Adult tickets: £18 – £25 per ticket*
Child & Family (in sets of 4, must in include at least 1 child): £16 – £22 per ticket
Schools & Groups: £16 – £22 per ticket (11th ticket for teacher free)
* Premium ticket: £29.50 (Aylesbury and London only)


Sunderland Empire
5pm Monday 5 October 2015
0844 871 3022

Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
5pm Tuesday 6 October 2015
0844 871 7607

Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
7pm Wednesday 7 October 2015
0115 989 5555

Hammersmith Eventim Apollo
7pm Thursday 8 October 2015
0844 249 4300

Bournemouth Pavilion
11am & 3pm Saturday 10 October 2015
0844 576 3000

Northampton Derngate
1pm & 4pm  Sunday 11 October 2015
01604 624811

Edinburgh Usher Hall
1pm & 4pm Tuesday 13 October 2015
0131 228 1155

Aberdeen Music Hall
12noon & 3pm Wednesday 14 October 2015
01224 641122

Dundee Caird Hall
2pm & 5.30pm Thursday 15 October 2015
01382 434940

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
1pm & 5pm Saturday 17 October 2015
0141 353 8000

Manchester Palace Theatre
11am & 2.30pm Sunday 18 October 2015
0844 871 3019

Liverpool Auditorium
5pm Monday 19 October 2015
0844 8000 400

Stoke Regent Theatre
4.30pm Tuesday 20 October 2015
0844 871 7649

New Wimbledon Theatre
4.30pm Thursday 22 October 2015
0844 871 7646

St David’s Hall Cardiff
5pm Friday 23 October 2015
029 2087 8444

Brighton Theatre Royal
1pm & 4.30pm Sunday 25 October 2015
0844 871 7650

Wolverhampton Civic Hall
11am & 3pm Monday 26 October 2015
0870 320 7000

Southend Cliffs Pavilion
11am & 2.30pm Wednesday 28 October 2015
01702 351135

Portsmouth Guildhall
11am & 2.30pm Thursday 29 October 2015
0844 847 2362

York Barbican
11am & 2.30pm Saturday 31 October 2015
0844 854 2757


08 Apr

The Best National Trust Gardens to Visit This Spring

As the days get longer and winter starts to fade, spring arrives in fresh bursts of colour and new life.

From the carpets of delicate bluebells in the gardens of Blickling Estate in Norfolk to the sheets of brilliant tulips at Sizergh Castle in the Lakes, a stroll in a National Trust garden is sure to dazzle and amaze.

It’s also a great time to experience nature springing back to life. Don’t miss the laburnum arch, a shimmering tunnel of golden blooms in late spring at Bodnant in Wales, or the aroma of azaleas and magnolias at Stourhead in Wiltshire.

Here are some of the top spring gardens and seasonal events to enjoy:

Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill, Cambridgeshire

Visit the grounds of this quintessentially English house for captivating views, vibrant colour and delicious scents in every season. Explore the picturesque working watermill and the wildlife discovery area. In spring, drifts of daffodils flourish throughout the grounds and over 4000 hyacinths emerge in the meticulously maintained flower beds of the formal garden. A sea of delicate tulips will emerge in the mystical Himalayan Silver birch grove to welcome the arrival of spring.


Blickling Hall ©NTPL Matthew Antrobus

Blickling Estate, Norfolk

Four centuries of good husbandry have made Blickling’s 55 acre garden one of the greatest in England. It changes through the seasons and has evolved over the centuries to reflect different fashions. Visit in May and follow the winding paths through the great wood, and pass through the carpet of dainty English bluebells in spring; it’s one of the best places to see them in the country. At the heart of the garden, discover one of England’s great Jacobean houses. Don’t miss the fragrant beds of the parterre and inspiring double borders. You’ll find hellebores, daffodils and bluebells, azaleas and rhododendron, wisteria and peonies as well as quiet places to sit and enjoy the view. If you fancy getting active there are around 500 acres of parkland and woods to explore on foot or by bike. If you want to get away from it all try and find the secret garden – a great place for quiet contemplation and to listen to the spring bird chorus.


Bodnant Garden, Conwy

Marvel at plants from all over the world grown from seed and cuttings collected over a century ago. Created by five generations of one family, this 80 acre garden is located with wonderful views of Snowdonia. Its grand terraced lawns, renowned collection of rhododendrons and a gloriously romantic waterfall make it one of the most celebrated gardens in Wales. In spring don’t miss the Dell; hidden deep within a wooded valley, with the river Hiraethlyn chattering through it’s a riot of colour and a haven for wildlife. Spring is also the perfect season to visit the laburnum arch, which will be in full bloom by late May.

What’s On: The Far End is now open

The Far End will open for everyone to explore for the first time this spring. One of the oldest parts of the garden, it was originally laid out by Bodnant’s Victorian creator Henry Pochin. Pochin began by creating paths along the riverside and planting conifers, some of which are now Champion Trees. His successors continued planting trees and shrubs from all around the world along the banks of the River Hiraethlyn. The area was never opened to the public but over the last few years gardeners have been renovating banks, beds and paths, creating a new circular walkway and bridge which will give you an easy access, level route around this beautiful part of the garden. Now, three years on, the Far End has been completely rejuvenated and is open for everyone to enjoy.


Sissnghurst Bluebells ©National Trust ImagesJonathan Buckle

Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

Wander through Sissinghurst Castle Garden for inspiring ideas or simply soak up spring. Enjoy the rich, warm colours of the cottage garden and on the Moat Walk discover a bank of bright yellow azaleas. Also known as the spring garden, the lime walk is one area where former owner Harold Nicolson controlled the design and planting. Long beds of tulips, fritillaries and hyacinths are marked out by an avenue of pleached limes, scattered by generous terracotta pots, every inch bursting with colour for about four weeks. Early spring sees this garden become a carpet of colour: pink chinodoxias, scillas and white anemones, looked over proudly by a Magnolia salicifolia and a big, bold mauve rhododendron.

What’s On: Bluebell and wildflower walks, 26 April & 1, 2 May, 1pm – 2.30pm

Come and see the spring woodland at this beautiful time of year on a guided walk with the ranger team. Finish the walk off with a cream tea in the Granary restaurant.

Price: £12.50 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

For more information, please call 01580 710700

Make a weekend of it: Stay in the Priest’s House, which sleeps six, and spend evenings relaxing in the grounds and gardens at Sissinghurst once everyone else has gone home. The cottage sits on the edge of the White Garden and is an absolute must-stay for garden lovers.


Morden Hall Park, London

With diverse landscapes and hidden histories, Morden Hall Park is a green oasis in suburbia. The river meanders through the former deer-park, creating a haven for wildlife. The 2.5 acre garden is the perfect place to relax with friends and family. When you step through the gates, you’d be forgiven for imagining yourself to be in the middle of the English countryside. Surrounded by meadows, trees and the gentle sounds of birdsong and running water, the park offers a rare sense of discovery and a chance to get away from it all. From late May until early September, wander around the 38 flowerbeds on both sides of the stream and take in the wonderful scent of roses and dahlias.

What’s On: Guided walk – a Victorian estate, 5 May & 6 June, 2pm – 4.30pm

Discover the past history of Morden Hall Park on a gentle tour of the estate. This will be followed by homemade seasonal soup or tea and cake in the Potting Shed Café.

Price: £9 (Includes tea and cake, booking essential)

For more information, please call 020 8545 6850

Summer garden party, 27 – 28 June, 11am – 5pm

Visit Morden Hall Park for a delightful two days in the rose garden to kick off the summer season. Wander around an array of artisan food stalls and be tempted by the delicious treats and produce on offer. Stop and watch one of the many cookery demonstrations or entertain the little ones with vintage games and rides. Why not bring along a picnic rug and simply relax amongst the roses.

Price: £4

For more information, please call 020 8545 6850


Nymans spring borders©National Trust ImagesJohn Miller

Nymans, West Sussex

This twentieth-century garden has an amazing collection of rare and important plants, bursting with colour in spring. Spot displays of camellias and magnolias and drifts of daffodils. Walk around the garden at your own pace or join a daily introductory talk or guided tour. One of our best spring highlights is the perfumed, flower filled walled garden. Full of daffodils, wild flowers and blossoms, a walk through the wall garden is a treat for all the senses. Watch out for camellias, magnolias, bluebells and rhododendrons throughout the estate and take a walk in the woodland and wild garden to see all that Nymans has to offer particularly at this time of year. Inspired by the garden lovers’ home there is a large shop and plant centre with a special collection of plants grown on site.

What’s On: Head gardener’s spring highlights walk, 16 April, 11am – 12pm

Take in the seasonal highlights of the garden and Arboretum with an exclusive guided tour with the Head Gardener. Find out what is at its best this season and what to look forward to in the following months. Hear about the garden projects and practises and have your questions answered. Finish off your walk with a warming beverage in the cafe.

Price: £5 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential, includes tea and coffee)

For more information, please call 01444 405250

What’s On: Introduction to gardening, 7 May, 11am – 12.30pm & 2pm – 3.30pm

Join a free introductory to gardening tour with the rangers discussing the Magnolias and Camellias at Nymans. Discover hints and tips each month that you can apply at home and learn more about how they garden at Nymans. Suitable for novices and enthusiasts.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies, booking advisable)

For more information, please call 01444 405250

Make a weekend of it: At the heart of Nymans Woods is the out of the way retreat Woodlands Cottage. With space for up to four people, it was once home to the estate’s game keeper. This is a real out-of-the-way retreat surrounded by beautiful woodland with walks and lakes, within an hour of London and 30 minutes from Brighton and the Sussex Coast.


Hidcote, Gloucestershire

You’ll see a richness and diversity of plants from around the world at Hidcote. Lawrence Johnston was passionate about plants. He went to endless trouble and expense to find unusual varieties that would bring colour, scent, shape and texture to the garden. The garden is divided into a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, each with its own character. The formality of the ‘rooms’ melts away as you move through the garden away from the house. Lose yourself in a network of beautiful garden rooms waking from their winter slumber. Enjoy drifts of narcissus and later aquilegias and Welsh poppies in the Pillar Garden, and the blossom filled orchard with emerging wild flowers. Magnificent magnolias are filling the skies with a warm pink glow so make sure you don’t miss them this spring.


Stourhead Apollo statue ©National Trust ImagesClive Nichols

Stourhead, Wiltshire

This world-famous landscape garden has at its centrepiece a wonderful lake reflecting classical temples, mystical grottoes, rare and exotic trees and offers a day of fresh air and discovery. Stourhead house is set amongst ‘picnic perfect’ lawns and parklands, which are filled with beautiful blooms and colour throughout the spring months. The succession of azaleas, magnolias and rhododendrons bursting into flower brings the garden to life with subtle fragrances.

What’s On: Spring blooms garden tours, 1 – 31 May, 11.30am – 12.30pm & 1.30pm – 2.30pm

When Stourhead first opened in the 1740s, a magazine described it as ‘a living work of art’. This spring, experience Stourhead at its blooming best on a free guided tour.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01747 841152

Make a weekend of it: Just outside the gates of Stourhead garden, 89 Church Lawn is a pretty eighteenth century stone cottage which sleeps seven.


Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall

Lose yourself in the three valleys of Glendurgan Garden – full of fun, natural beauty and amazing plants. Described as a little bit of heaven on earth this sub-tropical garden blooms with magnolias, wild flowers and woodland flora, including drifts of bluebells during the spring months. There are exotic trees and shrubs dotted around the valley garden. In the spaces between, wildflower areas have been developed over the last twenty years. Enjoy them at their best in spring and early summer. The magnolias are stealing the show at the moment; enjoy their magnificence and spot many other spring favourites on a walk through the valley garden. Glendurgan was created with family entertainment in mind. The maze, giant’s stride swing and beach are all waiting to be explored.

Make a weekend of it: At the foot of the valley that is home to Glendurgan Garden are three beach side cottages, The Old School House, Quay Cottage and Beach Cottage in the lovely hamlet of Durgan. Tucked away in the woods is a tiny timber built, thatched cabin for two, called Wood Cottage.


Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall

Traditionally known as the National Trust’s earliest flowering spring garden, there are breath-taking displays of magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias throughout the spring at Trengwainton, along with a beautiful walled kitchen garden full of ideas for your own growing space. Follow winding, wooded paths, find picnic spots by the stream or sit in quiet corners and breathe in the peace of this special place. The lower walled garden contains plants from around the globe and now is the perfect time to see the flowering magnolias in all their glory. The shelter of the brick walls, and west Cornwall’s mild climate, provide the conditions for more tender species to survive outdoors.

What’s On: National Gardens Scheme open day, 26 April, 7 June, 10.30am – 5pm

Discover exotic plants, an inspirational walled garden and beautiful sea views from the Terrace.  Free guided tour at 11.30am.  All entry proceeds and any donations for the tour will go to the NGS.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01736 363148

Make a weekend of it: Stay in spacious the Nanceglos House, on the boundary of the garden at Trengwainton. With original features including its own well, this large cottage is ideal for gatherings of friends and family, sleeping nine.


Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire

With 3,800 acres of parkland and gardens, peaceful woodlands and a magnificent lake to enjoy there is plenty of space to explore and relax with your family and friends at Clumber, especially in spring when the woodland is alive with birdsong and a shimmering carpet of bluebells. The beautiful walled kitchen garden is famous for growing hundreds of varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs, and has the biggest collection of culinary rhubarbs in the country. Clumber Park also boasts the longest avenue of double lime trees in Europe. Planted around 1840 to line one of the main entrances into the Park, the majestic Limetree Avenue is over two miles long.

What’s On: Rhubarb weekend, 9 – 10 May, 12pm – 4pm

Indulge in all things rhubarb in the Walled Kitchen Garden at Clumber Park including tastings, demonstrations, games and rhubarb-themed tours. Pick up some rhubarb for sale to enjoy at home and celebrate Clumber’s National Rhubarb Collection.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01909 544904


Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

Tucked away outside of Kendal, Sizergh Castle has beautiful gardens and 1600 acres of estate to explore. You’ll find real variety in the garden – from the formal Dutch garden to the wilder landscape of the magnificent limestone rock garden. Sizergh has been allowed to evolve and expand gradually over 300 years and is still being developed to this day. During spring see the brightly coloured tulips on the top terrace, walk beneath cherry blossom in the Dutch garden and enjoy the spring colours in the rock garden. There are lots of frogs, newts and numerous species of birds to spot, as well as bees and hens in the apple orchard.

Make a weekend of it: Holeslack Farmhouse is a perfect country cottage. The farmhouse is on the Sizergh Castle estate that stands at the gateway to the Lake District and is set in 1600 acres of limestone countryside. Grade II listed it has many original features including a spiral staircase and seventeenth century oak cupboards. The farmhouse sleeps eight.


Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal (Water Garden), North Yorkshire

Explore the ruins of the twelfth-century Fountains Abbey and spot dainty spring flowers breaking through this stunning landscape. The water garden is just as spectacular with its moon-shaped ponds and classical statuary. Studley Royal Water Garden was the breath-taking vision of John Aislabie and his son William. In the early eighteenth-century John Aislabie had great plans to impress visitors to his Yorkshire estate and turned the wild and wooded valley of the river Skell into one of England’s most spectacular Georgian water gardens. Amazingly the garden you see today is little changed from the one that would have impressed Aislabie’s visitors 200 years ago. Look out for primroses and wood anemones and catch the scent of wild garlic in the woods around the abbey.

What’s On: Water Garden tour, 9, 29, 30 May, 2pm – 3.30pm

Travel back in time to Studley Royal in the elegant Georgian era. Hear how the creative genius of the Aislabie family produced this World Heritage Site garden.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01765 60888828

Make a weekend of it: With eleven holiday cottages on offer, including apartments in the luxurious Fountains Hall and five cottages converted from a group of eighteenth century farm buildings there’s plenty of choice at this World Heritage Site.


Bridge at Wallington, ©National Trust Images Matthew Antrobus

Wallington, Northumberland

Discover Wallington, a much-loved home to generations of the unconventional Trevelyan family. The Trevelyans loved being outdoors and close to nature and the house is surrounded by an informal landscape of lawns, lakes, woodland, parkland and farmland just waiting to be explored. Soak up the atmosphere of the tranquil East Woods, alive with the sound of birdsong and discover the beautiful walled garden, a colourful haven of tranquillity in the springtime.

What’s On: Ranger walk – Wallington’s swan lake, 12 May, 10.30am – 12.30pm

Visit for an exclusive tour of Rothley Lake and discover the wonderful wildlife that lives in this hidden site. Rothley Lake was originally designed by ‘Capability’ Brown to be a fishing lake but is now one of the top spots for wildlife on the Wallington estate and home to red squirrels, otters, crayfish, wild flowers and, of course, swans. Take a minibus trip to the lake and join a special guided walk to look for wildlife and find out about the history and archaeology of the lake.

Price: £4 (normal admission fee applies, booking essential)

For more information, please call 01670 773606


Rowallane Garden, County Down

Rowallane contains a treasure trove of exotic plants from around the world and spring time is one of the most exciting times to visit. This is when the enormous and much-admired collection of rhododendrons burst into colour. The magical walled garden is also a must see for the magnolias, daphnes and azaleas.The garden was created by Reverend John Moore in mid-1860s, planting woodland and using interesting stone ornamentation to sculpt the informal landscape. His nephew, Hugh Armytage Moore, continued his work from 1903, mingling exotic species with native plants – giving the garden a dramatic atmosphere.

What’s On: Spring plant fair, 2 – 3 May, 11am – 4pm

A wonderful opportunity to purchase plants from a range of specialist plant stalls, as well as from Rowallane Garden.

Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 02897510131


To find out more about booking a holiday cottage please visit: www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk

06 Apr

A Cheaper London – Transport Museum and Sheep

On Saturday we headed out into Central London, a fairly easy journey for us as it’s around 25 minutes from Carshalton. We decided on a trip to the London Transport Museum as it’s somewhere we’ve wanted to go for a long time, and as well as that the Shaun in the City exhibition of Shaun the Sheep figures is happening around London right now.

The London Transport Museum shows the history of transport in London; in case you hadn’t guessed. There’s plenty for kids there, and with it being in the heart of Covent Garden, there’s enough for adults too. Your entry gives you an Annual pass to the museum so you can keep going back, which is a really good deal too at £16. All under 18’s get in for free.

London Transport Museum

A Zone 1-6 travelcard costs £12 each, which has gone up rather a lot since the last time I bought one – so we decided to use the 2 for 1 deal to get our Transport Museum tickets, which requires a rail ticket to qualify(Oyster cards don’t count). With a Transport Museum ticket at £16 we’d still be in credit. The downside of this was we didn’t read the small print, and the free ticket has to be a day pass – fair enough, they’re a museum and had we done then we wouldn’t have done the deal, so bear in mind when you go!

London Transport Museum

There was loads for H – dressing up, trying out vehicles, sitting in old carriages, learning about London’s history – and quite a topical one, there’s a small area made to feel like a tube station but set up with seats and bunks like an air raid shelter. I insisted H sat and watched the video, and she was asking lots of questions and really engaged by it. At the start of the trail everyone gets a stamper card – you look for numbered signs along the way and stick your card into it, press the stamper and you’ll have a shape cut out or stamped upon it. There were lots of activity cards at the entrance as well which we took a few of to do in our own time.

Shaun in the City

As well as the Transport Museum, there’s the Shaun in the City tour happening right now in Central London. We downloaded the app to find them as we’re the kind of people who walk right past things without seeing them (this has happened several times) – so having something which shows us the direction and whereabouts of each sheep was helpful. You can get the app for Apple and Android phones, and it costs but with all money supporting sick children in the UK – so we didn’t complain!

Shaun in the City

We managed to find seven of the 50 in London at the moment – starting at Buckingham Palace (we got the train in to Victoria), we found one in St James’s Park, walking up The Mall to Trafalgar Square there are two further ones there, then head towards Covent Garden for another two. (then we had a break and went to the museum)

Waterloo Bridge has them at either end, so another excuse for a sit down (or in H’s case a game of Duck Duck Goose outside Somerset House) before we finished at the London Eye, using our Merlin passes to have a sit down for 30 minutes, the lure of any further sheep long gone as it was nearly 7pm!

It was a fun day out, it didn’t cost us too much money and we got to walk around rather than relying on public transport. Had we realised we’d do so much walking it would have been cheaper to get a London Terminals return ticket (approx £8 for us in Zone 5) – so if your child enjoys walking distances (this was approx 5.5km) then it’s worth considering if you’re doing the 2 for 1 deal and need a railcard.

*please note – when we visited the London Transport Museum they were getting back to normal after the powercut on Kingsway. We’re more than aware of it as it affects Shaun’s work. When we went they couldn’t serve hot food and had a limited supply of sandwiches. Some people had shouted at staff which is a bit rude and unfair – they’re doing the best they can given the circumstances. Hopefully things will be getting back to normal now for them anyway.*

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

05 Apr

Project 365 Week 14

Sunday 29th March. We had a lazy Sunday as the weather was rubbish and we didn’t want to go out, thinking the coming Easter weekend would be nicer. Well, it is, but it’s still not great! H built a den and left us this sign. “Private – only children. Please do not disturb or punishment” – her handwriting looks pretty bad as this is a pen where the nib moves in when you write which quite frankly, I can’t write with at all.

h sign

Monday 30th March. She has grown again. As we rent we can’t really keep much of a log of H’s height which will stay with us forever, etched into a wall somewhere. We can still make pencil lines in a doorframe though, they’re easy enough to paint over or rub out. 127cm. She’s only just five and a half. Sigh.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Tuesday 31st March. Every time we go to my friend Jos’s house for a party she has these amazing cheese balls – and this time I took a photo of the packaging, found them at Ocado, ordered them and made them myself. Added bonus they’re Gluten Free – and if you add dairy free cheese then it should be good for people with those issues too (read : Shaun). So I made some for H and my girly night in on Tuesday night. Shaun was busy working late as it was the Accounts Year End.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Wednesday 1st April. I had today booked off work, and was envisaging a lie-in, but H was having other ideas. Our main plan was going to see The Sound of Music in Wimbledon. The play was wonderful. H was so well behaved, considering the first half is an hour and a half long – and she really enjoyed it too. Her first proper musical on stage!

the sound of music uk tour h

Thursday 2nd April. I was up through the night being sick so didn’t go into work. I had felt a bit weird at The Sound of Music so whatever it was decided to let me know we weren’t agreeing. We’re starting to get leaflets in from all the local councillors and I couldn’t help but notice the irony in this one. Sorry to get political. As a Facebook friend pointed out, there are enough people who didn’t bother to vote, who if they voted Labour here (assuming they’re not bothering as they’re being told not to) would actually mean Labour win. Which of course is a big assumption, but food for thought. Also, this is the same tactic used here five years ago, and look what happened then. SIGH!

Lib Dem Election Campaign

Friday 3rd April. Good Friday. We were lazy, I was eating again, we watched a couple of films – the first Harry Potter and the first Freaky Friday. We painted some corks to make some bees for H’s home learning project for school.

cork bees

Saturday 4th April. A trip into London. We decided to go to the London Transport Museum as we’ve never been – so headed up to Victoria and walked there via the Shaun the Sheep trail which is on at the moment. We spotted seven of them and walked from St James’s Park up to Trafalgar Square, on to the Museum then over Waterloo Bridge, finishing at the London Eye (and fortunately we’d taken our Merlin Passes with us so went on there to have a sit down). This is my favourite picture of H, I’m getting a print of it as she looks so happy.

H bus London Transport Museum

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

03 Apr

The Sound of Music UK Tour

The Sound of Music UK tour is in Wimbledon at the moment. H and I caught the Wednesday matinee performance this week, and loved it. Read on to find out more!

the sound of music uk tour

The Sound of Music UK tour is calling at various venues around the UK at the moment, and is currently at the New Wimbledon Theatre. I’ve grown up loving the film and the play, both of which have their differences. I’ve seen the film more times than I could even estimate, and have seen several stage productions too. Most productions seem to try to recreate the film on stage – understandable as it’s such a lovely film, but they’re missing a trick as the original stage play makes the film much easier to understand. In addition to this, the play has many funny moments which don’t feature in the film at all.

Fortunately the Sound of Music UK tour version is the play – with just one minor change, subsituting ‘An Ordinary Couple’ for ‘Something Good’ (which was written especially for the film).

the sound of music uk tour 2

Danielle Hope plays Maria, and was marvellous. A lot of her pronunciation and the way she sings brings memories of Julie Andrews in the same role, a comparison which is hard to avoid when she’s wearing a short blonde wig. We didn’t have Steven Houghton as the Captain, but his understudy Lynden Edwards was great. I was looking forward to seeing Houghton as I’d seen him seven years ago in Blood Brothers, so that was a bit disappointing. The children were all marvellous and all their voices worked well together. Jan Hartley as Mother Abbess was wonderful too – ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ was powerful and moving (I may have shed a tear or two).

The play itself brings back in the old numbers ‘No Way to Stop It’ and ‘How Can Love Survive’ both songs featuring a singing Baroness Schraeder and Uncle Max, giving them a bit more depth of character than the film did – and with the former song giving the situation in Austria (the Anschluss) a perspective – Elsa and Max believe you can’t stop what’s going to happen, and try to convince the Captain he should pretend to be on-side with the Nazis. This is what leads to the Captain and Elsa breaking up. The latter song is sung again by all three, celebrating their individual wealth and trying to work out how they’ll actually exist together when they’ve both got everything they individually need!

Let’s not forget young Rolf – a different character to the one in the film; the silence in the theatre at the end scene in the Abbey as the Von Trapps escape shows how convincing he was; his love for Liesl and his warnings for them to leave Austria are given a satisfying ending.

the sound of music uk tour h

This was H’s first proper musical on stage, and she loved it. Her favourite character was Gretl, probably as she’s five too – she’s already being like her mummy… ! She managed well with it, the first half of the play is approximately an hour and a half, with a 20 minute interval and a 55 minute second half – so it’s quite long but there are plenty of songs which break up the dialogue when you’re five and just want to hear the music.

Everywhere is celebrating the film being 50, but I would highly recommend seeing the Sound of Music UK Tour while you can – the production is going all over the UK at the moment and just this weekend Wimbledon are offering half price tickets. We’d already bought our tickets, but they’re also doing a ‘Children go Half Price’ deal too (subject to availability, terms and conditions apply).

My biggest criticism. No merchandise! I’d have loved to have a book to accompany it, or even just pictures in the programme. I came away having spent £3 and hoping to spend more. I’d even buy a soundtrack were one to exist – mainly as my only version of ‘No Way to Stop It’ is the original Broadway Mary Martin version!

the sound of music uk tour - poster

The Sound of Music UK Tour has a Tumblr page here

Bill Kenwright’s site is over here with dates and information – plus a gallery where you get a good idea of the gorgeous sets on stage.

I’m already thinking about going again… sigh!

There’s an awesome timelapse video over here of them setting up the stage at Wimbledon

and a fabulous extended trailer here which gives you an idea of how fab Danielle Hope is too

Our next visit to Wimbledon will be for the touring production of Annie in November – H is just as excited about that! (as am I, it’s been over thirty years since I’ve seen it on stage!!)