Tyranosauraus Rex and triceratops egg at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

Review: Jurassic Kingdom dinosaur exhibition, Osterley Park

Tyranosauraus Rex and triceratops egg at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

“Wow, that’s amazing!” A huge roaring Tyrannosaurus rex greeted us as we arrived at Jurassic Kingdom and the three year old was clearly impressed from the start. The Jurassic Kingdom dinosaur trail is an outdoor exhibition of animatronic and static dinosaurs. There are huge ones towering over you, baby ones hatching out of eggs and hungry-looking ones clawing and fighting each other all along a woodland trail.

Jurassic Kingdom is a touring touring exhibition and we visited it in the first few days at its launch location at the National Trust property of Osterley Park, West London. It will be there until 17th April before touring around the country (see tour locations and dates below).

Osterley House, location of Jurassic Kingdom dinosaur exhibition

They dinosaur models are fairly good; quite realistic and the ones that move usually also have an impressive roar. Our son was a bit frightened by some of the louder roars but he just asked to move away to look at them from a bit of a distance, and he can be a bit overly sensitive. Plenty of children younger then him seemed to be loving it and roaring loudly back! Most of the dinosaurs are roped off and you’re asked not to touch them but there are some smaller ones that you can climb on along the route or dinsaur eggs that you can pose inside for photos. The majority of them – mostly the larger dinosaurs – have signs with details of their names and some information about where they lived and what they ate etc. Personally I think it would have been good if all of them had labels, or at least names, as our son kept asking what they were all called and I’m a bit rubbish at remembering! We were impressed by the amount of dinosaurs he did recognise though and it never ceases to amaze me how little kids, including ours, can remember the really complicated dinosaur names that I can barely pronounce.

There was also an area that I thought was just a sandpit – I steered our son past it quite quickly as I knew he’d want to take his socks and shoes off and I was reluctant as it was a cold day. However, I’ve since read online that it was actually supposed to be a T-Rex excavation pit but it really wasn’t very clear and they could have had some better signage. We probably would have had a go if we had realised.

Pterodactyl or pterosaurs dinosaurs at Jurassic Kingdom, Osterley Park

Along the trail there are woodlands and a den building area as well as some swings to play on, so lots of natural attractions to amuse the kids apart from the dinosaurs. The bluebells are also starting to make an appearance in the woodland and there’s even a nesting swan very close to the path that the children were all intrigued by.

There’s a small marquee labelled as an education area which has a few chairs in and shows a film about dinosaurs if you need a sit down and a rest on the way. There are also a few toilets dotted along the route.

Diplodocus dinosaur at Jurassic Kingdom, Osterley Park

At the way in and out of the trail, along with a virtual reality ride (an extra £5), a merchandise stall and toilets, there are some food vans. Although these were advertised as “mouth-watering street food vans” online it seemed to be fairly standard van food like chips, coffee and sweets so nothing that was very appealing and I was glad we had brought a picnic. Tickets are not cheap when there is a whole family visiting, so we weren’t alone in bringing our own lunch. And unlike some short-sighted attractions, there are no restrictions on bringing your own food which is great. There are a few logs and picnic tables dotted along the trail but it’s probably a good idea to bring a blanket as they were all busy – they could definitely do with a few more. Half way along the trail there were a few more vans selling drinks and churros and, as we love churros, we shelled out an extortionate £6 for a large portion which turned out to be cold and tastelesss so I’d definitely give those a miss. (I know, we’re mugs!)

Dinosaurs fighting, Jurassic Kingdom at Osterley Park

You are asked to specify an hourly entrance time when you purchase tickets and when we arrived at about 11am the trail was very busy. However, it never felt overly crowded and it seemed like there was a steady stream of people arriving throughout the day. Also, nobody seemed to be actively checking our time slot so I think this is more to help stagger visitors rather than something they are really strict about. The trail seemed to appeal to both girls and boys alike with kids of both sexes running around excitedly. (This made me happy as far too often dinosaurs seem to be marketed mostly at boys for some reason.)

Animatronic dinosaurs at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

We spent about three hours doing the trail at a very leisurely pace and with a long stop for our picnic lunch. So you could obviously do it a lot quicker if you needed to or you can stay longer as there is no time limit once you are inside. You could also spend some time looking around Osterly House itself, there’s a National Trust cafe outside the trail if you want something other than the food from vans and the Cadbury Easter egg hunt is taking place in the gardens at the other side of the house. However, our Little One was pretty exhausted by the long walk and the excitement so he was happy to head home full of chat about his favourite dinosaurs.

I’d definitely recommend a visit for any little ones who like dinosaurs and, even for children with only a passing interest, it’s a great way to get the kids out and about in the fresh air enjoying the gardens and woodland.

Diplodocus at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

Parking is provided in fields next to Osterley Park and it is worth noting that the walk to the entrance of Jurassic Kingdom at the side of the house is quite long for little ones and ours was not the only one complaining how far it was. However, it will be no problem for older kids and I just wish we had remembered to bring the buggy board. The whole trail is suitable for prams and is a flat, easy walk.

Jurassic Kingdom will be at Osterley Park until 17th April and then will be embarking on a UK tour.


10am to 6pm (last entry at 5pm). Entry is by hourly time slots but once  inside you can stay as long you wish.


Osterley Park, Jersey Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 4RB (sat nav TW7 4RD).

There is parking on site which is an extra £7 which I think is pretty steep on top of the cost of tickets – be warned it’s cash only! It took us about an hour and twenty minutes to drive from Woodford Green.

If you want to take public transport the nearest tube is Osterley on the Picadilly line and its only a 1 mile walk away. Isleworth train station is 1½ miles away. You can catch the H28 Hayes to Hounslow to Osterley, or the H91 Hounslow to Hammersmith to within 1 mile.



£13.50 adults online, £15 on the door

£11.50 Child online, £13 on the door (Under threes go free)

£46 Family Ticket, £52 on the door

Prices are cheaper for the rest of the tour at the other locations in the UK!

The Cadbury Easter Egg hunt costs an additional £3.


Birmingham 20th May – 4th June

Manchester 8th – 23rd July

Blackpool 5th – 13th August

Glasgow 26th August – 10th September

Newcastle 23rd September – 1st October

Leeds 14th – 29th October


Jurassic Kingdom website

Osterley Park website

What’s on this Easter in West Essex: Easter Egg hunts and Easter Bunny spotting


With Easter being early this year, it seems to be racing towards us faster than ever, so here are some ideas for Easter activities for children in Epping, Wanstead, Chigwell and around Essex. There are lots of Easter egg hunts happening locally and quite a few kids activities require booking in advance so if you want to catch the Easter Bunny you might want to get booking.


The Duke pub in Wanstead continues to arrange some great kids and community events with their Kick  Little Duke’s Easter Egg Hunt on Good Friday.

Dates: 25 March 2016
Times: 10am- 12 MIDDAY
Tickets: £3 per child, booking via Eventbrite (link coming soon)
Address: The Duke pub, 79 Nightingale Ln, London E11 2EY
Further information: The Duke Wanstead Facebook page or call 020 8989 0014 or email events@thedukewanstead.com


There’ll be a chocolate reward at the end of this Easter quest where children will need to crack the clues with the help of characters from the past  – maybe a king, a butler, a Roman centurion or even a monk.

Dates: 25-28 March 2016
Times: 11am- 4pm
Tickets: Child (5-15 years) £9.60, Adults £16, Family £41.60, English Heritage Members free
Address: Audley End House and Garden, Off London Road, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JF
Further information: Audley End House and Garden website 0870 3331181


Billed as Essex’s longest Easter Egg Hunt there are eggs hidden along the length of the railway track from Ongar through to Coopersale, which is the length of 131,579 eggs placed end to end!

Children will be asked to find the eggs which have been hidden by Bertie around the Railway. They will have some clues to help them and any child who completes their egg sheet is entitled to a special Easter prize. Look out for the Easter Bunny who will be out and about the stations and this year will have his own special train! And there’ll be a special disco, the Bunny Hop.

Dates: 25 – 28 March
Times: Various
Tickets: Prices vary, see website for details
Address: Epping Ongar Railway, Ongar Station, Station Approach, Ongar, Essex CM5 9BN
Further information: Epping Ongar Railway website 01277 365200


As you hunt for Easter Eggs you can also take a look at the new spring arrivals that have arrived on the farm. You can meet cuddly sheep, giant rabbits, rare breed pigs, long-necked llamas and a loveable Meerkat family. Plus, take a trip on Tex the Tractor to the working dairy farm and let your little ones run wild in the indoor and outdoor play areas.

Dates: 25 – 28 March
Times: 10am – 5pm
Tickets: Normal farm entrance fees apply
Address: River Lee Country Park Farm, Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey, EN9 2EF
Further information: River Lee Country Park website


Earn your Easter egg by following the trail, finding the clues and solving the woodland puzzle.

Dates: Easter Saturday 26 March
Times: 12 noon – 3pm
Tickets: Booking essential, £2 per child payable by cash on arrival
Address: Hainault Country Park, Romford Road, Chigwell, IG7 4QY
Further information: Woodland Trust website


There will be Easter fun for two days at the Craft centre with Easter Crafts, an Easter egg hunt, bouncy castles, pygmy hedgehogs, biscuit decorating, stalls and more.

Dates: 26-27 March
Times: 10am – 4pm
Tickets: Money raised is for the McDonald House Charity
Address: Blake House Craft Centre, Blake End, Braintree, CM77 6RA
Further information: Blake House Craft Centre website


There will be lots of Easter activities on offer  including egg decorating and Easter crafts. There will be egg rolling at 2pm and an Easter trail with clues through the woodland as well as a chance to meet the Easter Bunny.

Dates: 27 March Easter Sunday
Times: From 2pm
Tickets: No booking necessary, just turn up. Recommended donation £2 per child to help them as a charity to maintain Epping Forest
Address: Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge/The View, Rangers Road, Chingford E4 7QH
Further information: Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge website


The hall will be open for the afternoon until 5pm and children can join an Easter Egg hunt and meet the Easter bunny while enjoying the spring flowers in bloom in the gardens. Tea and coffee and homemade cakes will be available and the gift shop will be open until 4pm.

Dates: 27 March Easter Sunday
Times: 2pm-4pm
Tickets: £5 per person, Egg Hunt 50p per child taking part
Address:  Copped Hall, Crown Hill, Epping, CM16 5HS
Further information: Copped Hall Trust website


The Essex Wildlife Trust is running a duck hunt where children can search Chigwell Meadows for ducklings to win a prize. There will also be the chance to make Easter crafts to take home.

Dates:27 March Easter Sunday & 28 March Easter Monday
Times: 10AM- 1PM
Tickets: Drop in session, no need to book
Address: Chigwell Meadows, The Grange Farm Centre, Chigwell, Essex, IG7 6DP
Further information: Essex Wildlife Trust Website


This Modernist Grade II listed garden run by volunteers is only open on Sundays and on Easter Sunday there will be an Easter Egg trail for the whole family. There’ll be children’s activities and refreshments available in the Barn Tea Room.

Dates: 27 March Easter Sunday
Times: 2pm – 6pm
Tickets: Adults £4, Concessions £3, Children (5-16) £1 and under 5s are free
Address: The Gibberd Garden, Marsh Lane, Harlow, Essex CM17 0NA
Further information: The Gibberd Garden website


There’s a huge range of entertainment on all day which includes Knights of the Damned Jousting Team, birds of prey flying displays, The Suffolk Punch Heavy Horse Display Team, The Goat Show including bottle feeding lambs & kids, Miniature Pony Display, Terrier Racing, children’s entertainment with Devilstick Peat, ferret racing plus arts, crafts & gift marquees.

Also on Monday at this event, they’ll be a Companion Dog Show – so bring along a canine friend and have a go. (And all proceeds from entries will go to Marie Curie Cancer Care).

Dates: 27 March Easter Sunday and 28 March Easter Monday
Times: 10am – 5pm
Tickets: no need to book in advance, £7.50, concessions £6, children age 5-16 £ 3,
Family Ticket: £,19 (2 adults and 2 children). Children under 5 are free. Free parking available.
Address: River Lee Country Park Farm, Fishers Green Car Park, Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey, EN9 2EF
Further information: Oakleigh Fairs website 


As part of the Beatrix Potter 150th Celebrations, this Easter Foyles are hosting a Peter Rabbit Egg Hunt. Join Peter on his adventure to find the ten eggs hidden in-store. There will be activity sheets to colour-in and stickers to take home if you can spot all the missing eggs. Throughout the day there will also be an egg decorating workshop set up in the children’s section, which you can just turn up to.

Dates: 28 March Easter Monday
Times: There will two sessions 11am-12noon and 3-4pm.
Tickets: To register email events@foyles.co.uk with the  session you would like to attend.
Address: Olympic Park, Montfichet Rd, London E20 1EJ
Further information: Westfield Stratford website

Christmas train Special Christmas train at Audley End Miniature Railway. Picture: David Johnson

Santa’s coming to town: Santa’s grotto and stop off points in West Essex and nearby for Christmas 2015


Yay! It’s November which means I can officially start talking about Christmas. I love the festive season but my partner finds my over-excitement a bit much so I’m banned from breaking out the Christmas songs until now. As the little one is two this year, I’m hoping he’ll really get into the whole Santa thing. He certainly understands what presents are now. So I’ve rounded up some places where you can take your kids along to meet Father Christmas, special Santa grottos in Essex and nearby as well as family-friendly places with plenty of festive atmosphere for the children and grown ups.

Santa at North Weald station for Santa specials train rides Epping and Ongar railway

Some things like the Santa train in Epping get booked up early so it is worth getting tickets as early as you can. Other events have yet to publish their full details and I will be adding to this post soon as I get more information, so keep checking back.



Santa special Christmas train Epping and ongar railway

All aboard for a fabulous festive day out. We took the Santa special train last year and had a fabulous day. On arrival, there is mulled wine and mince pies for the adults and juice and snacks for the children. Then the classic steam train will arrive at the station where you can board for the short journey through the countryside to Ongar. There are children’s entertainers on board and Santa and his elves come round to deliver gifts to all the children. The train stops for a short while at Ongar where a brass band plays carols and you can stretch your legs before boarding the train back to North Weald.
There is limited parking at North Weald so it’s advisable to get one of the special vintage route master busses from Epping or Ongar. All in all it feels very festive and if your little one loves trains they will have a brilliant time.

Dates & times: Santa specials will run on the 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 22, 20, 23 and 24 December. Departures from North Weald are at 09:45*, 11:25, 13:05, 14:45** & 16:25** (*excluding 5 & 6 December, **excluding 24 December).
Price: Adults £16, children £13 respectively but some busier days will costs slightly more for adults. You can also book out entire train compartments for large groups.
Address: Trains depart from North Weald station, CM16 6BT
More details: Epping and Ongar Railway website

reindeer at chigwell nursery for christmas
This is where we get our real Christmas tree to I love the fact that the whole nursery feels Christmassy and is full of decorations. To be honest, this is not the place to go for a big flashy grotto but a great way to fit in a visit to Santa while picking up your tree and decorations. There’ll also be local carol singers from 2:30pm on Saturday 5th December.

Dates & times: Saturdays: 28th November; 5th, 12th & 19th December: 9:30-12:00 & 2:00-4:30. Sundays: 29th November; 6th & 13th December: 9:30-2:00
Price: Free. A voluntary collection box will be present, with all donations going to local community group Youth Plus.
Address: Chigwell Nursery, High Road, Chigwell, Essex, IG7 5BL
More information: Chigwell Nursery Website or call 020 8500 2690


We love the soft play centre at Ashlyn’s farm shop as it’s a great place for the little ones to run off steam and is clean, safe and friendly and it has a brilliant farm and outdoor playground. For Christmas, they are offering tractor rides to visit Santa and his deer in his grotto. There’ll also be festive treats like mulled wine and mince pies available to buy.

Dates & times: Farm opening hours during December, call to confirm.
Price: £12.50 per child which includes 2 accompanying adults. Booking advised, call 01992 523 118 to book.
Address: Ashlyns Farm Shop, Epping Road, Epping, Essex, CM16 6RZ
More information: Ashlyn’s Farm shop website

Sometimes an all-singing, all-dancing Santa experience is what you’re after and the grotto at Westfield Stratford delivers. We had a lovely time there last year and it starts with an interactive film featuring the children and the highlight for my son was a huge moving train set. This year Shrek and Donkey will be helping Santa out with a 4D cinematic sleigh ride which will transport you through the skies to Santa’s workshop in the North Pole. Each child will have the chance to speak with Santa and receive a gift and photo packages will be available to purchase after your visit. Last year we got a really sweet little snow globe with a photo inside of our son with Santa. And it’s worth noting that there is a buggy park near the grotto.

Dates & times: 16th November – 24th December 2015
Price:  Peak single: £10, peak family (4 people): £35, off-peak single: £8, off-peak family (4 people): £28. Peak and off-peak sessions are displayed on the date & time selection page of the booking site.
Address: Adventure to Santa’s grotto is located outside at Chestnut Plaza beside Cafe Football and Omega. Westfield Stratford, Montfichet Road, Olympic Park East London E20 1EJ
More details: Westfield Stratford Santa’s Grotto website

Christmas train Special Christmas train at Audley End Miniature Railway. Picture: David Johnson

It’s a bit further away in Saffron Waldon but the Audley End Miniature Railway transforms its usual enchanted fairy and elf walk into a Christmas special. Families take the Santa Express train into the woods to visit Father Christmas and his elves at his woodland Grotto. Each child receives a present and there’s letter writing in the craft tent for older children and a bouncy castle which is an extra £1.50 weather permitting. For adults there’s some complimentary festive roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and tea or coffee.

Dates & times: Open on the 28th & 29th Nov, 5th & 6th, 12th & 13th, 16th – 24th December. Trains run 11.00am – 4.40pm.
Price: £8.00 per person on the 28th & 29th November, £10.00 per person on the 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th, 16th – 24th December, Under 2s are free. It is advisable to book tickets in advance but tickets are also available on the day.
Address: Audley End Miniature Railway, Audley End Road, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JB
More details: Audley End Miniature Railway website


Santa will be stopping off in his cosy, twinkly grotto at Redbridge Central Library during December. His merry elves will be on hand to keep you amused and spread some Christmas cheer.

Dates & times: Saturdays 5, 12 & 19 December 11am – 4pm. Tuesdays 8 & 15 and Thursdays 10 & 17 December 11am – 1pm. Monday 21 – Thursday 24 11am – 3pm.
Price: £3.50 per child with a gift included, book in advance at the library or online at The Little Box Office
Address: Redbridge Central Library, Clements Road, Ilford, IG1 1EA
More details: Redbridge Central Library website


Although the details on their website are currently minimal, one of the people who works in the View told me that this is a lovely magical weekend. Santa’s Grotto is inside the Queen Elizabeth Hunting lodge which gets decorated and there is festive music to get everyone in the mood. Booking is essential and as it is only on for a few days it’s likely to get booked up quickly.

Dates & times: Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 December from 10am – 3pm
Price: **UPDATE: TICKETS ARE NOW ALL SOLD OUT** Booking is required and costs £12.95 per child which includes a gift. You can buy tickets in person at The View or by telephone on 020 7332 1911
Address: The View, 6 Ranger’s Rd, London E4 7QH
More details: Epping Forest events website

If you know of another stop off on Santa’s busy schedule that you’d like me to include just comment below or tweet me @westessexmums.

What’s on in West Essex this October half term: Monday 26th – Friday 30th October 2015

It’s finally starting to feel like Autumn and the October half term will be here before you know it. So here’s some inspiration for child-friendly activities and things to do around West Essex and London.



Michael Rosen Going on a Bear Hunt exhibition Discover Centre Stratford

Opening on Friday 16th October, this interactive family exhibition at the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford is suitable for children for both to 11 years old. I’m sure we’re one of millions of parents across the country who end up reading We’re Going on a Bear Hunt on repeat so this is bound to be a popular exhibition. There’s even a Bear Hunt trail for younger children to swishy swashy and stumble trip through. It’s not only the work of he much-loved children’s author Michael Rosen that features in the exhibition but even things that provided inspiration for his writing such as his grandparents sitting room and his classroom. You can also step inside a humungous chocolate cake and explore the Bad Things in the Dread Shed. There’s also a chance for older children to create their own poems and find out some fun facts about Michael Rosen as they go around the exhibition.

Price: £5 per adult or child, £18 family of 4, free for under 2s
Opening Times: During half term and weekends you’ll need to book one of the following slots: 10.20 (half term only), 11.20am, 12.20, 1.20, 2.20, 3.15 and 4.15pm. Then during term time you can drop in on weekdays between 3-5pm and there is no need to pre-book.
Address: Discover Children’s Story Centre, 383-387 High Street, Stratford, London E15 4QZ
Further information: Discover Centre website


Daily drawing drop in sessions which take children on an adventure around the museum and are suitable for all ages. Illustrator Salvatore Rubbion, author of A Walk in London will be running the Explore and Draw sessions on Monday and Wednesday. Using drawing and collage children will help to create a long fold-out picture exploring the special things about the capital. Illustrator Heidi Deedman will be helping children create their own Toy Stories, a book and story inspired by the real toys from the Museum’s collection on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
The Enchanted Forest Toy Theatre Workshop will be a chance to create your own story in a quintessential magical setting with illustrator Frances Barry who will help you draw trees, characters and creatures.

Price: Most are free but the Explore and Draw, Toy Stories, Enchanted Forest Toy Theatre workshop all cost £5 (with parent or carer) and you can sign up on the day. These three activities are most suitable for ages 5 – 12 years.
Opening Times: Activities 11am – 4pm, museum is open daily from 10.00am to 5.45pm (last admission 5.30pm)
Address: V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA
Further information: V&A Museum of Childhood website


Spooky Secret Island, Royal Gunpowder Mills

Professor Nitrate’s evil twin Dr Gore will be hosting science shows and cooking up some diabolical experiments, much to the amazement of all those present in his crazy Mad-Lab.

An array of frightfully fantastic activities will be available for all ages. Try hat and mask making to transform yourself into a witch, monster or other spooky character for the day. Be prepared to get messy with some ooey-gooey monster slime making, freaky monster skin, and make gruesome discoveries in the feely boxes.

Price: Adults £8.77, children £6.97
Opening Times: 10am – 5pm (last entry 3 pm)
Address: Royal Gunpowder Mills, Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 1JY
Further information: Royal Gunpowder Mills website



This special half term event for children 3 years and upwards features local authors hosting talks and workshops on storywriting, illustrations and craft activities.

Michael Rosenberg, author of Chilly Goes to Australia, will be carrying out hour long readings and workshops at 11.30, 12.45 and 2.00. And Julia Habgood, who wrote and illustrated Esmeralda and the Prancing Parasols, will be sharing her wealth of knowledge on drawing and illustrating in her 45 minute workshops, followed by 15 minute readings from her debut published childrens book, also at 11.30, 12.45 and 2.00.

Price: Free entry and no need to book
Opening Times: 11am-3pm
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
Further information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website



Spooky storytelling Dracula may well be getting the audience involved and they recommend coming dressed in your scariest Halloween outfit for a spine chilling visit to Valentines. Suitable for all ages.

Price: £5 per child (maximum 1 adult per child), Pre-booking essential on 020 8708 8100
Opening Times: 2pm – 2.40pm
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
Further information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website



There’s a chance to get creative and make your own pom-pom spiders, pumpkins and ghosts to decorate your home with this Halloween. Suitable for children 4 years and over.

Price: £5 per child, pre-booking essential on 020 8708 8100
Opening Times: 10am-11am
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
Further information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website

Have fun transforming old jars into amazing Halloween decorations, guaranteed to create a spooky atmosphere at home! Suitable for ages 4 years and older.

Price: £5 per child, pre-booking essential on 020 8708 8100
Opening Times: 2pm-3pm
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA
Further information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website


An illustrated presentation on Comets and Meteors: their relationship and how to observe them. Audience participation with practical activities and time for questions. Given clear skies, there will be the chance to observe some notable objects with a 15cm Newtonian reflecting telescope. Take appropriate clothing and footwear in case the ground is muddy. Suitable for children aged 8 and over (must be accompanied by an adult).

Price: £6 per person, booking required.  Email enquiries.ef@field-studies-council.org or ring 020 8502 8500.
Opening Times: 6pm – 8pm
Address: Epping Forest Field Centre, Paul’s Nursery Road, High Beach, Loughton, IG10 4AF
Further information: Field Studies Council website



Join us at The View for an afternoon of pumpkin carving. From jack-o-lanterns to spooky faces, learn how to create a design that will impress any trick or treaters – with prizes for best-carved designs!

Price: £5 for a pumpkin and tealight, and a free hot or cold drink. £3.95 if you bring your own pumpkin. £1 for non-carvers. Booking required (2 hour time slots) call 020 7332 1911.
Opening Times: 10am – 3pm
Address: The View, 6 Ranger’s Road, Epping Forest E4 7QH
Further information: For more information and to book, please contact The View on 020 7332 1911. The View website


Join in with creepy crafts, monstrous makes and a spooky scavenger hunt in the forest. While siblings of all ages are welcome, the activities are aimed at children aged 5-11. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear in case the ground is muddy.

Price: Children £4, adults £2, booking required.  Email enquiries.ef@field-studies-council.org or ring 020 8502 8500
Opening Times: 10am-noon
Address: Epping Forest Field Centre, Paul’s Nursery Road, High Beach
Further information: Field Studies Council website

If you know of any other events that you think local mums should know about just leave a comment below or tweet me @WestEssexMums.

What’s on in West Essex this bank holiday weekend: Friday 28 – Monday 31 August



Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

It’s your final chance to visit the UK’s largest urban beach if you haven’t done so already, as Beach East closes on Monday. The kids will love the sand, paddling pool and fairground rides all within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford and close to Westfield. Read my full review of Beach East here and my advice is to get there early and bring you own picnic to avoid the expensive food on site.

Price: Entrance is free and rides are £2-£4
Opening times: 10am – 10pm
Address: Stratford Waterfront, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, next to Westfield E15 2DU
More information: West Essexs Mums review or Beach East website.


Oliver Jeffers real life rocket at Discover Centre Stratford

If the weather is true to bank holiday form, there may be some rain to contend with this weekend. If so, it’s the final few weeks of the current interactive exhibition at the Discover Centre in Stratford featuring the work of the brilliant children’s author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers. My son loves his ‘How To Catch a Star’ book so I’m feeling bad I haven’t taken him yet so I’m keen to get down there before it closes on the 6th September as friends have told me it’s great. The magical worlds of his books are brought to life and you can take a trip to the seaside, row a boat and make friends with an alien and a penguin. There are also activities for children aged 0-11 years old.

Price: Free for under 2s, £5 for adults and children, £18 for a family of 4
Opening Times: 11am – 5pm
Address: 383-387 High Street, Stratford, London E15 4QZ
More information: Discover Children’s Story Centre website



Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 15.26.15All aboard! On Sunday and Monday afternoons you’ll be able to take a miniature steam train ride at the back of Ridgeway Park. A friend of mine takes her little boy quite regularly but we’ve yet to give it a go so this could be  good option for Monday. It’s run by the Chingford & District Model Engineering Club and prices are pretty reasonable with free parking in the park and on local streets.

Price: Kids under 3 are free with a fare paying adult, costs depend on the track in use but are 60p or £1.50.
Opening times: From 2pm – 5.30pm
Address: back of Ridgeway Park, Chingford. E4 6XU. (Near the Green Man pub near the top of Chingford Mount)
More information: Chingford & District Model Engineering Club website



ladybirdAs part of their regular Fun Day Sunday, this weekend the family-friendly drop in session will focus on mini beasts. You’ll be able to make bee finger puppets, rocking snails, butterfly masks and ladybird crowns. You’ll also be able to explore the Valentine’s gardens to see how many mini beasts you can find living there.

Price: free entry, no need to book you can just turn up
Opening Times: 11am-3pm
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA,UK
More Information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website



Part of the flower festival that is on all weekend at the church, the family fun day will involve children’s games, a bouncy castle, a BBQ and other refreshments as well as stalls.

Opening Times: 10.30am-4.30am
Address: Between Coppice Row and Piercing Hill, Theydon Bois, CM16 7DN.
More information: St Mary’s Church website

What’s on in West Essex this weekend: Saturday 8 – 9 August 2015

It looks like a warm and sunny weekend ahead, so here are a few ideas for fun family-friendly activities to enjoy in the open air in the local area.

Not content with hosting the UK’s largest urban beach this summer (you can read my review of Beach East here) the Olympic park is going all out with a whole weekend of free kids activities suitable for a wide range of ages. There’ll be music and aerial and acrobatic circus performances from NoFit State’s Open House, the UK’s leading large-scale contemporary circus company. They’ll also be hosting introductory workshops and performing impromptu stunts so catch them at 4pm on Saturday, 11am and 2.45pm on Sunday at the South Park Lawn.

Folk Dance Remixed

Folk Dance Remixed

If your kids are more into dance, then they’ll love the Folk Dance Remixed Festival, a mash up of popular dances to live music. It is promising to be a high energy and unique mash up of maypole, clogging, ceilidh, street, house and breakdance with a hint of African and Bollywood, to a live soundtrack of fiddle & beat boxing. There’ll also be a special native Māori performance as well as dance workshops on both Saturday and Sunday between 1pm-5pm at the Fountain Room, South of the Park.

As part of Taste The Music, across both days there will also be a whole host of performances and free music taster workshops rom samba style drumming to reggae vocal sessions. And if that’s not enough, the Arcola Theatre will be performing Bella Bartok’s famous Opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, in the scenic parklands using puppets as well as professional opera singers.

And I love the sound of the Giant Storytelling Snail, home of two eccentric storytellers Sheldon and Shelby, who travel the lands and gather stories as they go. They will actually be at the Olympic Park for the whole of August with daily storytelling trails at 12pm and 3pm but they will also open their home for reading, colouring and drawing all day. This weekend it will be open from 10am-6pm and the Snail will be opposite the Timber Lodge and Tumbling Bay Playground in the north of the Park.
Further information: Go East Fest website

Although Marsh Farm is a bit further away in Chelmsford, there is loads going on at their Kids Fest it looks worth the trip. They are billing it as Glastonbury for kids with lots of favourite characters and children’s TV personalities on stage. Your children will no doubt recognise Mr Bloom from CBeebies and apparently quite a few mums admit to a little crush (I hear he’s also starring in Hollyoaks too, anyway I digress). There will also be Lloyd from Disney’s Art Attack, Mad Science, Shaun the Sheep, Happy’s Circus, Hupsilly Hill and all the Partymen. There will also be bubbles, the biggest inflatable village in the South East, dinosaurs, Punch and Judy, Horse World, robots and lots more. The ticket price also includes entrance to the farm and if you’re quick you can currently buy tickets for 20% off (making them £19.99) via the Little Bird website.
Further information: Marsh Farm website

Rescheduled from 21 June, between 1pm – 4pm children can learn Learn bushcraft skills such as fire lighting, den building and the responsible use of knives. Suitable for ages 5-15 the event is free but you do need to book in advance so hopefully there are still places – call 020 7332 1911
Further information: Epping Forest website


Sorcerers apprentice poster

And although this isn’t strictly on this weekend, I thought it was worth pointing out that an open air play suitable for children is on this Wednesday at the The Temple Enclosure in Wanstead Park. We went last year to see George’s Marvellous Medicine by the same theatre company and even though th little one was a bit small he enjoyed it and I loved it. It’s a great event to go to, just pack a picnic and an umbrella (we got rained on a bit last year but it was still great). This year the play is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the traditional tale of a lazy wizard’s apprentice and his runaway ensorcelled broom. A play promising more water than you’ve ever seen on stage before! Gates open at 2pm and the performance starts at 3pm.
More information: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice booking website

As ever I’d love to hear what you think if you visit any of the events listed, so feel free to add a comment below or tweet me @westessexmums.

Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

Review: Beach East at Olympic Park, Stratford

I was really excited to hear that the UK’s largest urban beach was opening just down the road in Stratford, so this week we headed down to Beach East at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to check it out.

Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

Luckily, the weather was warm and sunny on the morning we visited as this definitely helps with the beach vibe! I parked in Westfield shopping centre but you could also park at the Aquatic Centre or get the tube or bus to Stratford. We arrived just after it opened at about 10am and though it was fairly quiet when we arrived, it quickly filled up and by the time we left the place was getting pretty rammed. Obviously, with schools just breaking up this is to be expected but this was a weekday, so afternoons and weekends are going to be super busy.

boy on Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

The ‘beach’ is basically a little complex near the aquatic centre with fun fair rides, food stalls, picnic areas and a large sandy area complete with paddling pool. You do have to walk past a lot of rides to get to the beach area so the pestering starts straight away. However, if you can drag your kids past that the sand was lovely and clean and we brought along a bucket and spade which is always good for simple but effective entertainment of toddlers.

boy playing in sand at Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

While there are some food outlets as I’ve mentioned, they are selling stuff like hotdogs, chips and other fast food so if you’re trying to be a bit healthier or just want to save money you are allowed to bring in your own food and drink (although no glass bottles etc). Personally my little one is so fussy at the moment that I resent paying out for food he’ll barely eat so we packed a little picnic to eat on the beach. A few mouthfuls got eaten before he wanted to run around and play in the sand again. But if you can get them to sit still for long enough a rug is a good idea. There are a few deck chairs but these did all get commandeered by  10 am and they are not very comfortable for little ones. Be warned though – that fine sand gets into everything – gritty sandwiches ahoy! We had packed the swimming stuff for our little ones but they didn’t seem that interested and frankly, I was pretty glad because it was getting very busy with older kids as time went on. But if your kids are a bit older, I’m sure they’ll be desperate to have a splash about and a paddle in the water.

boy near food stalls Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

As soon as we arrived, my little one had spotted a ride with little cars so he spent most of the morning talking about the green car and attempting to run off to have a go. Most of the rides suitable for younger children seem to cost £2 but others go up to £4 and you need to buy tokens at the kiosk first. Despite initially enjoying sitting in the car, when the ride started it did go round the corner quite fast and my little one got a bit scared and started to cry. It was all a bit heartbreaking as I couldn’t get him out of the car until the ride stopped but my friend’s son of the same age was fine so, as ever, who knows how your toddler will react! However, I did notice the lady running it let some younger children on and quite a few of them seemed to be crying! So I’d suggest watching some kids go round on the rides first to get a sense of it and what age group they are and if you think your child would enjoy it (of course this is no guarantee with the unpredictable little monkeys!). There are lots of other rides for older children, such as mini roller coasters and swing seats that all look great fun – although I can imagine it could quickly get expensive.

boy in toy car at Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

Apart from the unsuccessful ride, we had a lovely morning there and when the sun was shining it definitely felt like we were on a beach and it had a distinctly holiday vibe. As it is open until 10pm and has bars, we decided it would be an interesting place to go on a date night for something different on a  warm summers evening. Not that we actually ever go out on date nights, but if you are the kind of parents that can get your shit together to do that I’m sure it would be fun!

Beach East is open until 31st August 2015. It’s open from 10am – 10pm and entry is free. You can bring your own food and drink and pushchairs but no dogs.

Beach East website

Address: Stratford Waterfront, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, next to Westfield E15 2DU

Have you been to Beach East? I’d love to know what you thought of it, just add your comment below.