Puzzlewood

Visiting Puzzlewood, Magical Woodland in The Forest of Dean

Puzzlewood claims to be “a magical woodland in the Forest of Dean.” As we were staying in the area for the weekend we thought we’d head over to check out the magical claims for ourselves.

We were staying in The Forest of Dean, at Whitemead Forest Holiday Park using Nanny and Grandad’s motorhome. Our annual insurance, that we got on the motorhome, for our trip to Blackpool last year, was about to run out so we thought we’d best make the use of it. Also, being realistic it was probably the last time that we will make use of it for a while as it’s not going to be very practical with a new born on the way.

Puzzlewood was only a 10 minute drive from our holiday park. Being 32 weeks pregnant I’d planned a relatively chilled weekend for us. I was hoping to spend some quality time together before our family expanded. It was also a great opportunity to get out into the fresh Autumn air and explore the nature of the area.

As we entered into Puzzlewood it was instantaneous agreement among Team Mack that it looked magical. Ahead we could see paths forking off in different directions, some high and some low. The trees towering above us had spread their roots far and wide, twisting out onto the paths. Mini said that she thought there was a witch living in the forest. I preferred the nicer options of woodland fairies.

The forest was created over thousands of years, as natural erosion occurred and exposed iron ore that is common in the area. The various trees like the iron ore and their roots grow around it, creating the magical root formations.

Before we went into the forest, Mr Mack downloaded the free Puzzlewood App on his phone. We then had to try to find 10 coins hidden within the forest. When they were found you could capture them using the app and add to your bag of treasure. We had a good explore of the different paths however only managed to find 6 of the coins. There’s no map as such of Puzzlewood so you just get to go wander and explore. Who knows, perhaps we walked around the same part over and over in a loop.

Puzzlewood

Puzzlewood has been featured in lots of film and tv productions over the years and it’s easy to see why. Productions such as Merlin, Tree Fu Tom and Doctor Who have all taken advantage of the breath-taking scenery to showcase fantasy worlds. It is also believed that JRR Tolkien used Puzzlewood for inspiration for his Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, after it was known that he had spent time in the area when writing the books.

On site there was also a café and small gift shop. Additionally, Mini enjoyed playing on the adventure playground and saying hello to the goats and ponies. Just before the entrance to the Puzzlewood, we also came across a barn with a good selection of ride on toys for little ones and an indoor maze.

We all enjoyed our visit to Puzzlewood, it was a really special place to admire the beauty of nature. It was also lovely to just get out into the fresh air and explore, it also helped to work off our roast dinner too! I would definitely recommend a visit to Puzzlewood and would love to visit again in the future, and maybe we’ll get to find the missing 4 gold coins.

Due to the narrow and winding paths at Puzzlewood pushchairs are not allowed, it also wouldn’t be suitable for those with limited mobility.

Puzzlewood

For up to date opening times and ticket prices, please visit the Puzzlewood website here.

During our weekend away we also visited Perrygrove Steam Railway, which happened to be just over the road from Puzzlewood. If you have a day to spend in the area why not fit in a visit to both on the same day.

Perrygrove

Perrygrove Steam Railway Adventures in The Forest of Dean

We recently spent the weekend away in The Forest of Dean. Having looked for local attractions to visit we stumbled upon Perrygrove Steam Railway.

We were staying at Whitemead Forest Holiday Park, which was only ten minutes away from Perrygrove. We were making the most of Nanny and Grandad’s motorhome before the arrival of baby Mack. We’ve been lucky to have a few adventures in the motorhome this year including a trip to Weymouth, Blackpool and North Wales.

As we arrived at Perrygrove we realised it was their “vintage working weekend and railway gala.” As well as the normal attractions, they also had a collection of steam traction engines and vintage engines too. Mini got to sit on a beautiful mini engine that had been lovingly hand built.

Perrygrove

The entrance fee to Perrygrove gives you a ticket to ride the trains as much as you’d like during your visit. As it was a special event weekend they had additional trains running, which was a good idea as the carriages seemed to get filled up quite quickly.

Before boarding the train, Mini wanted to explore the brightly coloured treehouses that she had spotted from the car park. The treehouses are connected by a series of bridges, slides and walkways cleverly hidden amongst the treetops.

Perrygrove

We then headed to the platform to wait for a train. Whilst waiting it was interesting to see the different engines come into and out of the station. Some were passenger trains, where as some were carrying large logs. The logs were then passed to the engines on display as part of the gala, who were being used to chop them into smaller logs.

We boarded Anne, a very shiny red engine who took us on the journey through the woodland. The ride to the final stop was fairly short, although we did have to reverse and take a second attempt at the hill. You can choose to stay on the train to complete a loop back to the first station. Alternatively, you can explore the adventure play area and picnic spot by the station stop. It was good that the play area was under a large canopy to allow play in all weathers.

From this station you can either wait for the next train to take you back to the start or take a scenic walk through the woods. It really is only a short walk and you also get to explore the den building area if you take the walk option.

There was a café at Perrygrove with the usual selection of lunch items and snacks. As we’d already eaten lunch before our visit we didn’t eat anything but did use the café for a drink stop.

We spent a lovely afternoon at Perrygrove, it was great to see that the staff were clearly very enthusiastic and passionate about the trains, which were all beautifully looked after.

Perrygrove

For up to date opening times and ticket prices, please visit the Perrygrove website here. Details can also be found of their other special events such as teddy bears picnic and visits from Santa.

During our weekend away we also visited Puzzlewood, which happened to be just over the road from Perrygrove. If you have a day to spend in the area why not fit in a visit to both on the same day.

holiday reading

Summer Holiday Reading with E-Shores

As well as being a huge fan of holidays, I also really enjoy getting stuck into a good book. However, with a busy job and family life, I often struggle to find time to relax with a good book. We recently went on a family holiday to Fuerteventura and at 24 weeks pregnant, was looking forward to the opportunity to have some time to enjoy some holiday reading.

E-Shores travel company, kindly send me a package with everything I’d need for a relaxing summer break. They have teamed up with lots of fantastic bloggers to help share recommendations for holiday reading. My book was chosen by Charlotte , who selected “The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson.”

Along with my copy of the book, there were also plenty of other lovely goodies to help me enjoy my holiday reading. I was kindly gifted with a new sun hat, waterproof bag to keep the book dry, a book light, a sunglasses case, bookmark, sun cream, and a tote bag to carry my things around in. Thank you, E-Shores it really was a perfect kit to help me relax. You can read more about the E-Shores holiday reading project with bloggers here.

Mini chose that she wanted to spend some time in the holiday club on whilst we were away, so I took the perfect chance to get stuck into my new book. I really wasn’t sure what to expect with the book. To be honest I would normally go for a chick-lit selection and knew that this was going to be much different. I really enjoyed getting stuck into the book and found it hard to put down once I’d started.

holiday reading

The story focuses around Alan, who on his 100th birthday decides to escape from his care home. As the story unfolds we learn how remarkable a life that Alan has led and the parts that he has played in many momentous historical events of the 20th Century.

Getting stuck into holiday reading, really helped spark my interest of books again and was a great opportunity to sit back and relax. The choice of book has also opened my mind to choosing other types of books in the future. I enjoyed reading the book so much that I have also bought the sequel, which I’m looking forward to reading now that I’m home.

For me, holiday reading helped me to enjoy the simple things. It was lovely to sit back and relax and feel the sun on my skin, whilst enjoying my new book. In a world of increasing technology, I enjoyed the opportunity to get away from my phone for a while and really escape into the story.

holiday reading

Getting the chance to sit back and relax with my book whilst these two play in the sea

Thank you E-Shores for the holiday reading package and to Charlotte for the great recommendation. Now that I’m home and the rain is pouring outside, I’m already planning my next holiday adventure, and of course which book I’ll take away with me.

Fuerteventura

10 Money Saving Tips for a Family Holiday Abroad and in the UK

Those that know me, know that I love holidays and am always planning our next adventure. However, I am also always on the look out for ways to save money when going away and to get the best value for money. As I’m due to go onto maternity leave shortly, money will be shorter for us for a while. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to go away on holiday, but I have been thinking about how we can achieve trips away on a smaller budget with some great money saving tips.

I’ve shared my money saving top tips and ideas to stay in budget for both holidays abroad and in the UK. I hope you will find them useful and would love to hear your tips too.

Fuerteventura

ref=”http://mommamack.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_2594.jpg”> I love holiday time with Team Mack but always try to get the best value for money for our time away.[/ca

Money Saving Tips For Holidays Abroad

1 –  Spend time researching where you’d like to go and then shop around for the best deal. Lots of different travel agents will book the same hotel, but there are often big variations in prices between them. With the growth of the internet there are more and more online travel agents offering fantastic deals, including some new ones that you may not have heard of before such as Holiday Gems. They have some fantastic offers and there is still time to squeeze in a holiday for this summer with last minute bargains.

2 – If you are staying in a large hotel complex, don’t always be tempted to book trips and excursions directly through your rep or hotel. Find out the types of excursions they are offering and research online if you can book them yourself for a cheaper price. If you are staying near a coastal resort and want to go for a boat trip, have a walk down to the harbour and have fun haggling trying to book the best price trip.

We recently visited Fuerteventura on holiday and saw a trip advertised through our hotel reps to an uninhabited beach. The advertised cost was 60 Euros per adult and 40 Euros for Mini. We did some research and found that we could catch a special off road bus from the local bus station to the same beach. We did a return trip for 30 Euros for all three of us for exactly the same location.

money saving tips

tp://mommamack.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/7585701536_img_9072.jpg”> Exploring our own private beach in Fuerteventura

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3 – Weigh up the cost of booking coach transfers versus the cost of hiring a car for your stay. We hired a car in Fuerteventura and had fun using it to explore the island, with the help of our lonely planet guide. We visited historic sites and viewing points, which were the same being offered on an expensive Island excursion tour trip. Having the car also meant that we were able to explore at our own pace. Additionally we used the car to drive to a large supermarket to stock up on snacks for the week and some toiletries that we had forgotten, which was much cheaper than buying them from the hotel shop.

4 – If you are travelling all inclusive, and do decide to go out of the hotel for the day, ask if there is a picnic lunch available to order. Often hotels offer this at no or little additional cost if ordered the day before. Alternatively, see if you can make some sandwiches at breakfast time and pick up fruit and snacks from the breakfast buffet that you can take with you. This will work out much cheaper than paying for an additional lunch when you are out and about.

5- Think about if you really need to book additional upgrades and extras with your holiday package. For our recent trip we were asked if we wished to pre-book our seats on the plane. For the three of us, this would have cost an additional £80 for both flights. However, online check in opened 7 days before we flew and at this point anybody could select their seats from those remaining. I set a reminder on my phone to log on as soon as I could and was easily able to choose great seats, all sitting together at no additional cost at all.

Money Saving Tips for Holidays in the UK

1 – I know it isn’t for everyone, however camping can be a real adventure for children. I have to admit though that I’m not a fan of full on camping, we have however been lucky enough to borrow my parents motorhome for some UK trips away. We’ve managed to find places to stay that have lots on site, such as entertainment and swimming pools. These facilities are normally included in the cost of your pitch fee so can be a great way to get away for less.

motohrhome

amack.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/photo-06-08-2017-09-40-54.jpg”> Having fun on our first motorhome adventure

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2 – Think about joining annual membership schemes. These can be costly as an initial outlay however the more you use them the more money you can save. When holidaying in the UK we have made great use of our National Trust annual membership. It has meant that we have been able to explore new places, without any additional costs incurred.

Last year we also had Merlin Annual Passes. We made the decision to base some of our UK trips away around where the attractions were, such as our trip to Weymouth. It meant that we got to visit lots of exciting attractions and didn’t have to account for the cost of these in our holiday expenditure.

Tyntesfield

.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/IMG_1167.jpg”> Making the most of our National Trust Membership on our recent holiday to Somerset

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3 – If you can, consider going away with a group of family or friends. If you split the cost of larger accommodation between groups it can often work out a lot cheaper, for even a more luxurious stay than if you were on your own. You can also share the cost of food, and potentially take it in turns to cook for each other.

4 – The weather in the UK isn’t always that reliable. Take a movie night in kit, consisting of a selection of DVDs, popcorn and snuggly blankets. Then you’ve got a fun treat organised for those rainy days that isn’t going to break the bank.

5 – When staying in the UK for self catering, ordering a food shop online before you go is a great idea. You can either have it delivered to the accommodation or some supermarkets offer a click and collect option. It means that you’ll have a great selection of food available and won’t be as tempted to rush out to the nearest takeaway after arriving after a long journey.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored blog post

Tyntesfield

National Trust Adventures at Tyntesfield, North Somerset

This year for Christmas as a family we received passes to National Trust for the year, with the plan to use them on weekends at home but also when we were away too. Recently during our Easter holiday stay in Cheddar Woods, we visited Tyntesfield property in North Somerset, not far from Bristol.

It was a bright sunny day in the Easter holidays so lots of other people had the same idea, which meant we had to queue a while to get into the car park. However, once inside the grounds it really didn’t feel busy at all.

Tyntesfield

Entrance was included with our passes although we chose to pay extra from Mini to do the Easter trail. She was given a map with activities to do at various locations, such as reading a book or colouring a picture. The trail was well thought out and was more involved than others we’d done that week. Sadly some of the activities hadn’t been looked after and were unusable.

The Tyntesfield estate was large and sprawling, they even ran a little shuttle bus around the site for those that needed it. The house itself stands proudly in the middle of the estate and has its own chapel attached. We could have explored the house as part of our annual pass but decided as it was such a lovely day to spend the time outside instead.

Tyntesfield

We found a lovely play area which Mini enjoyed exploring. It also happened to be right next to the café so Mr Mack and I indulged in a spot of tea and cake whilst she played, we were on holiday after all. Not all National Trust properties have a children’s play area, and some have a more natural woodland play area. Tyntesfield also has an even bigger children’s play area than the one we found but we didn’t realise until we were leaving and it was at the other end of the estate, hidden in the woods. We will make sure we explore that if we go back again. Mini didn’t mind too much as she was happy exchanging her trail map for a Easter egg.

Tyntesfield

After our tea and cake stop we had a slow walk back through the estate towards the car park. It was lovely to appreciate the gardens and beautiful flowers. Mini was more interested in running around in the free open space, which is the great thing about National Trust properties, they encourage  children to explore the spaces freely.

Tyntesfield

We all enjoyed our afternoon at Tyntesfield and feel that there would be plenty more to explore if we visited again including a tour of the house and the hidden play area in the woods.

To find up to date ticket price and opening hours visit the Tyntesfield website here.

If you are looking for other family friendly activities to do in Somerset we also visited and would recommend the following attractions:

The Wild Place Project

We The Curious Museum

Wookey Hole Caves 

Country Kids