Things to do in Berkshire

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Basildon Park

Now under the care of the National Trust, this Grade I country house was built between 1776 and 1783 in the Palladian style – a European style of architecture derived from and inspired by the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio. Basildon Park has had a number of owners including the British Government when it was used as a convalescent hospital and barracks during the World Wars.

Gifted to the National Trust in 1978, today house has undergone major restoration – the elegant interior is a must see. Alongside the fabulous architectural fixtures and fittings throughout the house there are fine paintings, fabrics and furniture to enjoy. Basildon Park lit up the small screen in ITV’s Downton Abbey, the London Season, 2013.

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Source: nationaltrust.org.uk

The Living Rainforest

Approximately 14.4 miles from Reading, The Living Rainforest is an indoor greenhouse run by the Trust for Sustainable Living which is home to a tropical rainforest, popular as an ecological centre, educational centre and visitor attraction. The Living Rainforest has an emphasis on sustainable development and sustainable living to conserve the world’s disappearing forests and threatened ecosystems.

With over 700 different species of plants and animals the centre has received a number of grants resulting in an acclaimed education programme – having attracted 20,000 schoolchildren to the centre in 2010-11, and is now widely regarded as one of the UK’s leading eco-attractions.

Legoland Windsor Resort

If you are out with the children in Berkshire nothing beats a trip to Legoland, offering rides and games themed by these well-loved children’s building bricks. Don’t miss the Imagination Centre with its educational attractions Build & Test Workshops, Lego Mindstorms NXT-based Lego Mindstorms Workshop and Robolab Workshop for a futuristic experience.

With 11 themed areas you and the family can enjoy exploring the Kingdom of the Pharaohs, The Land of the Vikings and Pirates Landing – each offering their own unique fun-filled rides and entertainment. If you have young children be sure to visit Duplo Valley with activities such as Splash Safari and the Duplo train for little ones to enjoy. See Choice Hotel’s Guide to Legoland for more information.

Museum of Reading

Housed in Reading Town Hill the Museum of Reading showcases the history of this Berkshire Town and its related industries. The Museum is open from 10am – 4pm from Tuesday to Saturday and is free to enter.

There are 8 principle galleries to explore, my favourites include ‘Reading: People & Place’ which documents the history of Reading from the 6th Century Saxon settlement through to today and The Bayeux Gallery which contains an extraordinary replica of the famous Bayeux Tapestry (my favourite exhibit) together with information on the history of Saxon migration and Viking raids in the local area.

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Source: universityproducts.com

Kennet and Avon Canal

Made up of 87 miles of waterway the Kennet and Avon Canal flows from Bristol to Bath via the River Avon before linking it to the River Kennet at Newbury. From there it flows to Reading on the River Thames and incorporates 105 locks along the way. A stand out view of the Canal is along Caen Hill where 29 locks made up the Devizes flight.

This stretch of waterway has been developed after restoration work finished in 1990 as a popular heritage tourism destination for boating, canoeing, fishing, walking and cycling, and is also important for wildlife conservation with species such as the water vole, dragonflies and damselflies and a wide range of water fowl making their homes along the canal.

Thanks to Choice Hotels for working with Not Another Mummy Blog

The Most Middle Class Toys This Christmas

Sure, we’ve all seen a hundred gift guides this Christmas. Everyone has an opinion on the best toys you can buy your child (and actually, all my child wants is a Frozen jigsaw and a cape). But, just because it makes me chuckle, here are the most middle class toys you can buy your kid this Christmas.

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1. Cappuccino? Soy latte? Extra hot venti filter coffee? Your child can be a barista with this John Lewis Coffee Machine!

2. This wooden camera might not have as many settings as your DSLR but it’s cute.

3. This wooden sushi set has everything a budding California Roll fan needs. Even soy sauce and wasabi!

4. Mum listens to Radio 2 on her Roberts radio, so little one can listen to CBeebies Radio on this toy knitted retro radio.

5. Want something sweet to go with your decaf skinny cap? Why have biscuits when you can have macarons like these ones from ELC.

6. Just the thing that every child needs, when they’re pretending to go shopping – a Waitrose trolley.

7. Does your child’s dolls house have a toy Aga? If not, I pity the dolls!

8. Help your child get their five a day by juicing and making smoothies with this toy smoothie maker.

I may mock, but who am I kidding, I’d love to see any of these toys in my daughter’s toy box. My name is Alison and I’m a thoroughly middle class mum. I’m off to eat brunch in a posh cafe and read the Sunday papers with my family…

Yay! Santa’s Bringing A Le Toy Van Honey Bee Market

Le Toy Van market

We took the four-year-old to see Father Christmas today. It was just fantastic to see her totally convinced that we were at actual Santa’s house and that she was meeting the man himself. There was a magical quality to the day – the garden centre we took her to has a whole 45 minute experience in the lead-up to meeting Father Christmas, starting with sitting in a ‘train’ to the North Pole, throwing snowballs at naughty penguins in a coconut shy-style game, making your own tree decoration and mixing reindeer food. The four-year-old loved it. Unlike last year, when she was too petrified of this man with a beard to speak to him, today, she bounded up, and when he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, confidently told him “An Anna cape” (the poor man didn’t have a clue what she was on about, so I stepped in to explain… he really should watch Frozen, to become au fait with the little ones’ requests…).

I tried to think back to what it must be like to ACTUALLY believe that Santa is real. I have memories of being aged five or six, trying to get to sleep on Christmas Eve but being so excited about Father Christmas flying through the air nearby. And memories of opening the living room door, to find presents on every chair, knowing he had been. It was the most exciting thing ever, wasn’t it?

This year, as well as an Anna cape (FYI I’m going to attempt to make one myself since you don’t appear to be able to buy one on its own) Father Christmas will be bringing the four-year-old an amazing Honey Bee Market by Le Toy Van. I can tell you this, because she doesn’t read my blog.

Le Toy Van is a brand I’ve loved for a few years. After spotting the gorgeous Honey Bake Tea Set on Mother’s Always Right, I treated my daughter to one, when she was two. Their wooden toys are just beautiful and the market is no different. We were sent the market and trays of food to feature here on the blog, and having given it a thorough testing (OK, Mr P and I *might* have pretended we were market traders…) it’s getting a big thumbs up from us.

Honey Bee Farm Market

You’re right, of course, a farmers’ market is probably the most middle-class toy ever. Just add some freshly brewed coffee, The Sunday Times and an organic roast dinner and you’ve got the perfectly clichéd middle-class family Sunday.

But who cares when it’s SO CUTE. Continue reading

A Blissful Night At Woolley Grange, Wiltshire

Woolley Grange Hotel

There aren’t many hotels that I’ve stayed in for one night and wished that I could stay for a whole week. But that’s exactly how I felt as we left Woolley Grange in Wiltshire a few weeks ago. We had spent just 20 hours there, and I could easily have stayed for days.

In a nutshell, Woolley Grange is all low ceilings, wooden beams and log fires. There’s a friendly warmth as you walk into the reception area and in the lounge, elderly couples having afternoon tea mix well with toddlers stomping through in wellies, carrying sticks and other treasures they’ve discovered outside.

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We stayed in the John Baskerville room, which is on the first floor and is split level – you walk into a living area (with single camp bed for the four-year-old) and go upstairs to a bedroom and large bathroom. It was ideal, as the little one enjoyed having her ‘own room’ and it meant we could have our own space too. In our bedroom, the four-year-old found a small chair in the corner, and declared it ‘her chair’ before promptly plonking herself on it with the iPad to watch CBeebies.

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As soon as we arrived, we realised we’d left the four-year-old’s suitcase at home (OOPS) but the reception staff were really helpful in directing me to a nearby Sainsbury’s where I could buy her some clothes, PJs and toothbrush. While I drove there (through Bradford Upon Avon which is TOTALLY BEAUTIFUL by the way, especially in the purple twilight) Mr P took the four-year-old swimming. Continue reading