Half Term Saviour
Muddy tenticles cover the South of England and who better to unearth the fun stuff for families than our brilliant regional Muddy editors? Whether you’re day tripping or planning for longer, here are some of the treats in store for you.
Meet The Bugs, Beale Park, Lower Basildon Wed 15 Feb
Bugs large or small give me the heebie jeebies, but kids love ’em. Head to Beale Park on Wednesday and you can meet the bugs – up close and personal. Yikes! So, if you’d like to experience the amazing world of giant insects, meet a snake, stroke a Giant African Snail or get close to a tarantula, then pop along. The event is free and takes place 1.30pm-3.30pm. Normal Park admission charges apply (Adults £7, Kids £5) but you get to see all the birds, animals, ride the train and play in the adventure playground.
Beale Park, bealepark.org.uk
MUDDY BUCKS & OXON
Clangers, Bagpuss & Co, The River and Rowing Museum, Henley
I’m not sure who’s going to love this most, me or my kids. A behind-the-scenes peak at some of the all-time classics of kids’ TV – learn to speak Clanger and have a go animating characters like Bagpuss and Noggin the Nog.rrm.co.uk
Cambridge Science Centre Pop Ups, Sat 11 – Tue 14 Feb
Cambridge Science Centre is homeless for a while but don’t panic it’s popping up all over Cambridge this half term as part of their Street Science Programme. With loads of fun activities to enthuse even the most reluctant scientist – it kicks off on Sat 11 – Sun 12 Feb at Wimpole Hall, they move to Heffer’s Bookshop on Mon 13 Feb and you’ll find them at The Polar Museum on Tue 14 Feb. Cambridge Science Centre
Story Fest, The Eden Project, Sat 11 – Sun 19 Feb
A creative children’s book festival, with theatrical shows inspired by Roald Dahl, guest authors and illustrators, story-tellers and creative writing workshops. Free with normal Eden entry.
Out of this world at Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre, Lifton, Sat 11 – Sun 19 Feb
I’m yet to explore this fascinating-sounding place but I’m preparing to bundle up the mudlet and get there pronto. Part historical exhibit, part working vintage fairground, it’s a colourful spectacle of yesteryear, complete with working retro rides. I just need to know whether there is candy floss, but i’m on the case, Muddies! As a twist for half term, kids can dress as their favourite space character and get in free and a new ride, Mighty Moonrocket blasts off. There will be face painting for wannabe ET’s and a chance to meet aliens and to visit the Space Lab. How much fun? Open daily 10am – 5pm, fairground-heritage.org.uk
Rex Whistler: More Than Murals, Mottisfont Abbey, until 23 April
If you love 20th Century art, theatre, or interiors then this one’s for you. A new exhibition at The National Trust’s Mottisfont Abbey, reviewed here by yours truly, showcases work by Rex Whistler, the prodigiously talented illustrator, set-designer and fully paid up member of The Bright Young Things who died young. Whilst you’re there, don’t miss the Abbey’s magnificent Trompe L’Oeil Room: the artist’s neo-classical hymn to 1930’s decadence. Mottisfont Abbey, Mottisfont, Romsey.
Fireside Festival, Baldock, Thurs 23 Feb – Sat 4 March
To mark the start of National Storytelling Week, what better than to sit down comfortably and listen to someone narrate this year’s Fireside Festival programme? I spoke to the founder last week, who is full of stories herself. Joanna Bowen started Fireside in Baldock four years ago, initially to save the Town Hall. Her festival now attracts storytellers who are known all over the world. Tickets are selling fast which is why you need to act quickly. Many of the performers were first spotted by Joanna at Edinburgh. This is Sarah Kendall who will be in Funny Women and Fizz. The festival will be on during half term, and there are loads of things for kids, so I’ll include some of them in my half term guide. Fireside Storytelling Festival
Puddle jumping championships, Slimbridge Wetland Centre
Right, pull on those wellies, it’s competition time and the stakes are high. Every day over half term between 2pm and 3pm, Slimbridge is hosting the south west puddle jumping championships with a certain Dusty Duck awarding a splashtastic crown to the winner. Contestants will be judged on their enthusiasm and jumping style, as well as their ‘splash’ skills (in my house, that’ll be how wet you can render your sibling). The competition takes place in Wellyboot Land with several practice puddles available for warm-ups. And, for a post-competition celebration (or commiseration), you can enjoy a cream tea at the Wetland Centre’s Kingfisher Kitchen, where you can look through the window at the Caribbean flamingos who really must be very cold.
WWT Slimbridge, Bowditch, Slimbridge GL2 7BT. Tel: 01453 891900. wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/slimbridge
Children’s Wellie Walk, Leeds Castle, 11, 12, 16, 17 Feb
Sling aside those stilettos, grab your wellies, and get the kids out in the fresh air. Have lots of splashy fun in the gorgeous surrounds of Leeds Castle this holiday, as the kids hunt down items on their eye-spy sheet. Get to the kids to spot Moorhens, Black Swans and other wildlife while jumping in a few puddles along the way and getting a little muddy! Also taking place at Leeds Castle this hols is Birds, Bugs & Beasts – a visit from the UK’s number one animal handling company ‘Zoolab’ with an assortment of creepy crawlies and wriggly reptiles.
For the Wellie Walk, meet at the Ticket Office at the Main Entrance at 11.30am. Birds, Bugs & Beasts is included in admission price, leeds-castle.com
Swans Awake, WWT Welney Centre, Kings Lynn – Sat 11 Feb:
Set your alarm (for an alarming 5.30am) and head down to the WWT Welney Centre to watch nature at its best – thousands of swans will wake up on the wetlands and then take to the skies to fly out to the fields for the day. The Fen landscape will fill with the sound of swans calling to one another as they pass over head. Definitely worth getting out of bed for! Booking ahead essential. wwt.org.uk
The Twits, Royal & Derngate, 2.30pm & 7pm, 14-18 February
The hard part for me will distinguishing between the stage-show and members of my own family. Mr. Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And, now at the age of 60, he was a bigger twit than ever. Mr Twit has a very hairy face. His beard is spiky and smelly. It also contains cornflakes, sardines and even some stilton. Mrs Twit is equally as foul and she hates Mr Twit just as much as Mr Twit hates her. The Twits really are the most spiteful and revolting couple you could ever hope to meet. They spend their days playing wicked tricks on each other and mistreating Muggle-Wump monkeys. They also have a particularly sticky trick to catch Roly-Poly birds for their bird pies. But not for much longer because the monkeys have a cunning plan to teach those terrible twits a lesson. Directed by Max Webster (The Lorax at The Old Vic), this mischievous new show promises to be just as disgusting and repulsive as earthworms disguised as spaghetti – the perfect treat for all the family. Recommended for Children aged over 6 years old. Tickets £17. Royal & Derngate, 19-21 Guildhall Rd, Northampton, NN1 1DP
Montacute TV and Toy Museum, Montacute, all week
Daleks, Cybermen, Dr Who …and Kojak! Drag them away from the TV and let them roam around this eccentric, tardis-like museum devoted to everyone’s fave TV programmes and all the paraphernalia that goes along with them. You might enjoy it as much (or more) than they do. There’s a good cafe too. Kids under 4 free; aged 4-16 £4.99; adults £7.99; family ticket £22.99. montacutemuseum.co.uk
War Horse Acting and Puppetry Workshop – Leatherhead Theatre – Fri 17 Feb
This looks flipping amazing. Performer Danny Dalton, who was on stage in War Horse for more than two years, will take you through the basic skills of puppetry. Your child will learn the process of creating a life-sized puppet, and learn how horses move and breathe. It’s on from 9.30am-3pm and costs £35. There’s a limited number of spaces, so book quickly via email or by phoning 01306 886243.
The Leatherhead Theatre, 7 Church St, Leatherhead KT22 8DN. Tel:01306 886243. dandeliontheatrearts.co.uk
Brighton Science Festival – various locations – Sat 1 1 to Sun 19 Feb
If you’re planning a trip to Brighton this half-term, it’s worth knowing about Brighton’s cracking science festival. It’s well worth browsing the full line up but highlights include Dr Death and the Medi-Evil Medicine Show – a gore-filled panto exploring old-fashioned ‘cures’ for diseases; a CSI whodunnit workshop using real forensic techniques; a chance to make slime and bath bombs in the Art Lab, a beach clean with a discussion on sea science and an all-day Pocket Science fair drop in and a chance to build a motorised monster or a basic synthesiser. Prices are various but reasonable. Some events sell out early so it’s best to book. brightonscience.com
Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes, Birmingham Hippodrome, Tues Feb 7- Sat Feb 11
Matthew Bourne’s “enthralling” new ballet adaptation of the Powell and Pressburger film has the look of La-La Land and a new golden-age Hollywood score. The Red Shoes is the love story of two young artists (one dancer, one composer). As Matthew Bourne says: “In today’s culture everyone is very interested in what it takes to become a great performer or artist with the likes of TV and movies such as the X Factor, Black Swan and Strictly Come Dancing highlighting this and the question of what sacrifices need to be made. Audiences also love a backstage story.”