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

Can You Pledge One Hour?

A typical working week in this house involves me leaving around 7.20 and Shaun arriving home around 6.40. This isn’t a unique situation we’re in, and is the norm for most people living in London. Add your commute of up to an hour each way and being at work eats into your day. Andy Stephenson from Weekend Box commissioned a survey recently, and based on the results created Pledge One Hour.

pledge one hour

Pledge One Hour works on the idea that you make sure for one hour a day you spend some quality family time together – and with that is a website with suggestions for activities you can do together.

This all came about as after a survey by Fly Research asked 1,100 parents how much time they spent with their children.

* 40% of parents get less than 1 hour per day of quality time with their children

* 83% want to spend more time with their children and 95% felt that doing activities together made them feel closer as a family.

* 73% cited not having easy access to activities and resources as the biggest barrier to spending more time with their children.

Which is where Pledge One Hour comes in. We’ve reviewed Weekend Box earlier this year and found them great fun. Using everyday objects it did a lot of the thinking for us, and everything is still being played with now. We’re also working through the 50 Things National Trust activity suggestions when we can, so imagine something that covers both?

There are three sections on the website – Explore the Great Outdoors, Indoor Arts & Crafts and Child-Friendly Recipes. They’re all based around things which you should already have – be it sitting outside listening to birds, baking some Popcorn Cupcakes (oh yes!) or just making a miniature kite from an old plastic bag (a Weekend Box activity we’re still getting a lot of play from!) – there’s a lot of choice and it doesn’t cost a lot of money to do it.

As Andy says, “I don’t want to live in a world where parents and children face greater detachment due to the pressures of daily life, where children are left to entertain themselves with solitary screen time or mindless toys that fall short of adding any sensory value to their development. We can’t change the world overnight, but lots of little steps will help to break down those barriers.”

David Bond, Film-maker of Project Wild Thing said: “Our kids are spending almost a third of their waking hours staring at screens and the evidence is clear that this has a serious impact on their health and wellbeing.”

So can you do it? Can you Pledge One Hour? Come and join in – use the hashtag #pledgeonehour and share what you’re doing – with this beautiful weather right now it’s the perfect time to get outdoors and do something fun!

London Science Museum

We met with friends yesterday at the London Science Museum in Kensington. Most people I’ve spoken to say they don’t know where it is, and indeed we were the same until I realised we’d walked past it loads of times – it’s next door to the Natural History Museum, so easy to get to.

The London Science Museum is huge too – and has a fantastic kids area. Actually, they call it a kids area, but us adults waited for the kids to finish so we could try the things on offer.

London Science Museum

My personal favourite – a hologram of a watch which H fell for three times before she got really cross with it. I may be a cruel parent by standing back and watching her trying to grab the pretty watch while laughing – but I loved how she learnt things that I could never teach her.

There were various lenses to look through so you could see each other through them, huge great big lenses and chin-rests so you could see everything, as well as so many other things on offer – I figure some pictures may describe what is on offer better than I can. Dry ice melting in water, and different liquids with bigger bubbles depending on their velocity. A bubble wall! A sound frequency which I tried to recreate my tinnitus on (it was close). A straw you could bite on a piece of wire, stick your fingers in your ears and you hear music (how?!)!

London Science Museum

Next to the kids area is a Red Arrows Flight Simulator – with a smaller one that H aged kids could do (for £2) – the larger simulators are two to a pod and over 9’s only. H was more than happy with her kid-sized ones!

We headed downstairs to The Garden which had more things for kids, but younger ones (0-6 years) – from a play area where you could do plays, to musical areas, to kaleidoscopes and a fantastic water play area with waterproofs for kids.

London Science Museum

We finished off in the design area where there were plenty of interactive things you can have a go at (such as making kaleidoscope style pictures) and a section on 3D printing where someone had the brilliant idea of doing a 3D print of a child’s picture – genius!

The London Science Museum has loads to do. We spent almost five hours in there and barely scratched the surface. H was upset as “we need to do more” (she did the most) so I know we’ll be back.

The London Science Museum is free admittance, with additional costs for some exhibitions. The shop is brilliant with loads of choice and interesting things to buy – I found several things I’d like to get for myself. There’s also plenty of food choice and for us it was quiet which is good! There’s decent buggy and wheelchair access if you need it, and several lifts around the building too. Their website is here.

London Science Museum

A Cheaper London – an Easter Edition

We had a busy Easter Sunday, and in keeping with my nature of trying not to spend money, we found several things to do….

Easter Island Moai at the British Museum

We started out by heading up to the British Museum – which I found a little bit claustrophobic (disclaimer – I’ve been getting weird dizzy spells, and the light and dark didn’t help, so I felt a bit wobbly), until we headed out into the main area with the roof by Norman Foster – a marvellous sight too and a good place to clear your head. We found the mummy of a Cleopatra (not THE Cleopatra) although I couldn’t help finding it a bit odd… you die and end up in a museum? I know it’s ridiculously old and all that.. but.. I found it odd. We saw the Rosetta Stone too which was interesting, though a bit like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre – you can’t get that close thanks to the crowds!

British Museum

Fortunately the museum is free so we can go back – their canteen was good, and had a deal giving you a free children’s meal if you bought hot food. We wanted sandwiches so didn’t take it up, but keep an eye out as you get there.

Covent Garden Easter Egg trail

We headed down to Covent Garden where they had various easter eggs dotted around, as well as a man dressed as the Fat Controller by the Thomas one, and a large Moshi Monsters bus (which was closed, phew!). We intended to go to the London Transport Museum, but it’s pricey (edited to add – Sharon pointed out you can get 2 for 1 vouchers – check here – we’ll definitely do that in the future!)- it stays open later on a Sunday but even then it was £15 each for two hours (as that’s the time that was left) – though just going into the shop to browse was good enough for the two little ones. We popped upstairs for a coffee to be greeted with this….

EDITED TO ADD – the £15 is an annual price, so actually it’s a fantastic deal – you can go back several times over the course of a year which makes the London Transport Museum fantastic value – thanks for clarifying LTM! (see comments below)


Being in Covent Garden meant I’d have to pop in the Moomin Shop – be prepared to walk upstairs, as it’s unavoidable (so not buggy-friendly), but there are tons of Moomins things to buy, we picked up two books for just over £10.

A walk over the Thames always brings good views, and you can have fun spotting things as well as newer additions to the skyline. On the South Bank is the Royal Festival Hall – and views in the warm.


I popped into Foyle’s by the river, so caught up with everyone else inside the hall – my sister told me they were on the sixth floor, so on arriving at the RFH found the lifts by the entrance don’t go up that far. I walked further down to the next lift, and stepped into the Singing Lift which is possibly the best thing EVER. It goes higher for the top floors with a “Level siiixxxx” for that, and lower for the bottom with a “Level onnnnnnne” and big smiles from everyone who gets in.

Yes, we may have gone from Level 5 to Level 1, back up to Level 6 and finally Level 2… stopping at most floors. H and G both found it hilarious!

Covent Garden Easter Egg trail

After that we headed home, overall spends were just for food, transport goodies (I got a great 1970-2013 coaster and a kids map of London) and Moomin’s books – so not a bank breaking day at all. We just missed the food market outside the Festival Hall, but I bet it’d be good for bargains…

Oh, and we did plenty of walking – H fell asleep on the tube home and slept well that night – phew!

The Fat Controller at the Covent Garden Easter Trail

A Cheaper London – Diana Memorial Playground

We had a fairly frugal day this time, what with payday looming at the end of the week. A quick trip to the Natural History Museum, then a wander through Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens, where the Diana Memorial Playground lives.

We had to queue as it was busy and they don’t want it too overcrowded – but got in quickly. The actual playground? It’s fantastic. A massive wooden pirate ship lives in the middle with various rides and places – all designed for little ones (there’s even an under 3’s area which H quite enjoyed amongst some obviously over 3 children) and going up to the age of twelve.

Diana Memorial Playground

There’s swings, slides, teepee’s and pretty much anything you can think of. Near the pirate ship are a few fountains where your kids can roll up their jeans, take their socks off and splash around in water and do some water play safely.

There’s signs around the playground – which point out that while the playground does follow all EU safety regulations, that it’s recognised children need an element of risk to learn and progress – and that children should be supervised at all times (which is sensible enough information!) – but as one review I read said, if you lose your child, just head to the pirate ship in the middle – they’ll more than likely be in there.

I really liked how it was fenced off from the rest of the park – so you can’t just get in or exit – making it a safe envoironment and also how there were areas for everyone – you don’t have to be the best climber to enjoy your time there.

The Diana Memorial Playground is free of charge to get in – and is approximately five minutes walk from Queensway or Bayswater tube stations. For more information please visit the Royal Parks website.

A Cheaper London – Thames Ditton Miniature Railway Open Days

We’re on a definite train theme this year, and were tipped off by a friend about Thames Ditton’s Miniature Railway which is operated by Malden and District Society of Model Engineers who have open days for the public on the first Sunday of every month after Easter and until October (as well as Bank Holiday Sundays).

Thames Ditton Miniature RailwayWe’re on the August Bank Holiday weekend right now and its open today and tomorrow – Bank Holiday Monday.

Admission to the site is free, where you get an option to buy various tickets to ride miniature trains on their two tracks – both of which go around twice. The coolest part of all this is it’s run by volunteers – there’s zero commercialism here – no sponsorship, just trains, people restoring them and the public getting to ride on them.

Thames Ditton Miniature Railway

We bought two unlimited travel tickets at £6.50 each (there’s no parent or child fares) and swapped them between us so one of us got to ride with H (while I gossiped with a friend mostly).

There’s a buggy storage area, and they don’t allow bags or baby slings onto the trains – but you can store them at the station safely.

The trains run every few minutes on two separate railways – and are usually hauled by model scale steam locomotives. Some trains are hauled by diesel and electric locomotives.

Thames Ditton Miniature Railway

On site there’s refreshments, and a large grass area which is perfect for picnics. You can access this via a footbridge from the main entrance. The site opens from 1pm, trains run from 2pm to 5.30pm.

Every year the club runs Santa Specials – pre booked rides to see Santa at a cost of £10 per child. I’ve no idea what it’ll be like, but I’m liking the sound of it.

Thames Ditton Miniature Railway

How to get there – this is the slightly difficult bit. It’s on a trading estate type area in Thames Ditton – there’s not much parking, so park around the nearby park on the Portsmouth Road (A307) – it’s just off Claygate Lane – postcode KT7 0DL. We turned from the Tolworth Roundabout on the A3 and it took under ten minutes to get there.

A Cheaper London? Part 3.

The day before payday, the one where you try not to spend a thing. What better time to head to a trusty National Trust place, free as you’re a member – and take a picnic along as well?

Claremont Landscape GardensSo today we headed to Claremont Landscape Gardens – loads of grounds to walk around and explore, hills to roll down and loads more – and it doesn’t cost a penny (as we’ve already paid for our membership – do it via Quidco and get decent cashback as well as a reduced rate – it’s an excellent deal and you make your money back after visiting two or three places).

Claremont Landscape Gardens

There’s the thatched cottage with loads of John Crane wooden vegetables and costumes to play with, which occupied H for a good forty minutes or so…

Claremont Landscape Gardens

But yes, sun and space – today was a good cheap day – and we’re still within the M25.

Claremont Landscape Gardens

A Cheaper London, Part 1

So, the bit I didn’t get done. We have family over at the moment and we had a bit of a crisis – payday can’t come soon enough, basically… that and birthdays imminent (H and Shaun), and with the family over lots of daytrips, we’re having to watch that we don’t spend too much – so without doing the ‘We’re skint, we can’t do anything’ route, we’re trying to do the ‘let’s not spend too much’ one instead.

We’ll see how we go.

Kew Gardens

Day 1 was a trip to Kew Gardens – somewhere I’d never been but often intended to. I think in my head I thought Kew would be a massive garden full of flowers and not much else, but actually as National Trust members and having been to Wakehurst Place, you can see why the two places are linked so closely – they’re quite similar – even if it’s not the plants and flowers they have.

Kew Gardens

If you’re a member at Kew, or indeed plan to visit several times in the year a membership is worth it. Kew is just slightly too far away and in London for us – so I suspect we’d probably go once a year which means we wouldn’t use it. Alas being a National Trust member doesn’t count for anything at Kew, so there were no savings to be had there. In fact, it’s only now I found the 2 for 1 deal over here (sigh) which would save you £15 or so – you just need a National Rail ticket.

Kew Gardens

Having said that, we wouldn’t have qualified as we chose to drive – parking is £6.50 all day, but you’re close to the park – handy if you’ve a tired toddler. There was free parking around one side of the gardens (at least it looked free!) but we couldn’t get a space.

Inside you have fields, glasshouses with some fabulous plants and loads to look at. There’s a children’s play area which reassuringly is big enough for an adult when your toddler decides she’s stuck (cough, then does it again straight away and doesn’t get stuck), food wasn’t cheap, but I didn’t see signs that say you can’t take your own picnic.

Kew Gardens

There was plenty of wandering around to be done, lest we forget the terrifying walkway which I didn’t get on – it was too high for me and apparently does sway a bit so be aware of that if you’re not good with heights. My fearless child just lay down and looked at us on the ground, as you can see through the floor. It is free to go on and has amazing views.

Kew Gardens

There’s also an underground display which she liked, identifying all the creepy crawlies.

Kew Gardens

There was so much to do and I know we could go back and do a lot more – and we will. I wish there was a reduction for National Trust members (though understand why not!) as we’d definitely go back there a lot more.

Money saved? Not much this time although running and walking around large gardens doesn’t cost you a penny.

A Cheaper London? Part 2

Okay, I realise this is confusing being part 2, when part 1 hasn’t been written yet, but I’m trying to be chronological here and haven’t had time to do yesterday.

So – the in-laws are over from Australia and we’re sightseeing – however, I don’t agree in paying full price for anything if there’s a way you can get it cheaper, so this is essentially what this is about – especially when it involves kids.

Today’s trip was over to London’s South Bank – The London Eye, a wander along the river, a trip to Wahaca and loads of free things along the way (with more that we missed).

London EyeSo, the London Eye. At £18 each it’s pricey – but don’t let that put you off. If you head over here you can register and sign up for a 2 for 1 voucher – which for us was an almost £40 saving (4 adults, one under 3 went free). All you need to qualify is a Railcard travelcard (Oyster cards are no good, nor are Underground issued ones) – check the T&C’s for more information, but it’s worth it if you’re getting a travelcard anyway. You can also buy a ticket for the London Aquarium which is worth a visit as a combined price saving you a little more – and is only a couple of minutes (even at toddler pace) from the London Eye.

When the London Eye isn’t busy you can walk on, so we had our tickets and were on within  ten minutes which was good too – no waiting around or arranging a time to get on – which considering it’s the day after the Olympics finished, you’d expect it to be a bit busy. Save yourself some money too – get someone else in the pod to take a photo of you with a good London Skyline and avoid the ridiculously expensive ones you can buy there…!

Our World In Lego

After that we wandered along the South Bank – where the Festival of the World is going on (until the 9th September) – so you’ve crates you can climb into, rides (which cost £2 per person – the carousel would need an adult if your child is less than 1m30), a fabulous Lego World, and the utterly fantastic Rainbow Park – a huge sandpit which starts in plain until it works through the colours of the rainbow – it’s sand you can’t build a sandcastle from, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Don’t leave it too late! It rained a bit today but we were fairly sheltered under the trees.

Rainbow Park, South Bank Centre
There’s so much to do that we missed the Amaze Me maze built from books, and didn’t get to explore properly really – it’s definitely somewhere to go back to – but best of all it only costs you the price of your travel (and food) to get there!

Food-wise, I tried a free trial of a Tastecard, but couldn’t use it anywhere for 5 people (and FourSquare let me down too) – so we ended up going to Wahaca who have a pop-up store – they’re not cheap, but there is also a small stand for street food which does all the same things as in the restaurant – and Wahaca are yummy (and have plenty of vegetarian choices) – and very filling. Plan in advance and Pizza Express often has good deals – and free WiFi, plus if you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch their app is extremely useful.

WahacaAll in all, our South Bank Trip did pretty well as far as not spending money goes! I’m not sure what’s in store tomorrow…