paradise wildlife parkIf you’re in the market to see animals of all shapes and sizes, I’m pretty sure you’ll love Paradise Wildlife Park.

I can see why it’s Europe’s leading zoo, because I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen so much variation under one roof. From reptiles to big cats, penguins to zebras and a life size dinosaur exhibition thrown in for good measure, you’d be hard pressed to not find something for everyone. All three of my children (aged 4-9) were suitably impressed, which is saying something in itself.

The park is huge and it was amazing to see how much space the animals have to roam around. My memories of the zoo from when I was a kid always include sad animals pacing their tiny cages. The animals at Paradise Wildlife Park are clearly being cared for well, and they certainly seemed to be content within their surroundings.

paradise wildlife parkThroughout the day there are feeds and talks you can participate in, to hear the keepers talk about specific animals. They also have daily shows in the jungle theatre. I really enjoyed hearing all about the cheetahs, although it’s sad to think that in this day and age people still kill big cats for their fur.

Did you know that there were over 100,000 cheetahs in 1900, compared to less than 10,000 now?

Did you know that unlike other big cats, cheetahs do not roar, they purr like house cats?

Did you know that cheetahs are the worlds fastest land animals? They can achieve their top speed in just three seconds!

paradise wildlife park

 

Our favourite bits 

There are over 800 exotic wild animals at Paradise Wildlife Park, including five species of big cats. We wanted to try and see everything, and arrived nice and early so we could fit loads in.

The big cats have such a presence, but they were also really chilled out, just loafing around. It’s like they’re looking directing at you, and I find it rather exhilarating being that close to nature. The white tiger was particularly awesome and so beautiful.

paradise wildlife park

The reptile house was fascinating, and I sat watching the alligator for about ten minutes – his graceful moves were so mesmerising. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the cockroaches, because I have a strange and unfounded phobia of them, which my kids all thought was hilarious. Clara was in awe of them because she thought they looked like giant woodlouse, one of her faves.

We love dinosaurs in my house, so the mini train taking us through the World of Dinosaurs was a real treat. There are thirty life size, moving and roaring dinos in the exhibition, which opened recently. They are incredibly well made and a few are a tad scary because of how huge they are, we really enjoyed it.

paradise wildlife park

It’s always a pleasure to see penguins strolling around, who can fail to smile at these little guys? The camels were intriguing creatures, although hold your nose because they’re rather pungent. The zebra was meandering freely in his stable, and we are still trying to work out whether they are white animals with black stripes or black animals with white stripes. Have you ever pondered this?

paradise wildlife park

 

After the children had exhausted themselves inside the park, we went to the outdoor playground for them to tackle the obstacle course. They then had about ten minutes at the soft play area before it was time to start heading off. They would have happily stayed for longer had we not been watching the time so we didn’t caught in rush hour. It was a truly fantastic day out, and I’d love to go back again sometime soon.

Facilities

There are tons of picnic benches dotted around, and lots of clean toilets (including plenty of baby changes and disabled loos). We took a picnic with us, but the food looked decent, and the cafes serve a wide variety of hot and cold drinks, snacks and meals. The park is buggy/wheelchair friendly, and all enclosures have viewing windows suitable for small children and those in wheelchairs.

We had a glorious day in the middle of summer, but there is also a huge indoor play area for not so great weather. They also have several other play areas, a giant paddling pool and adventure golf course to ensure everyone is kept busy.

You can book events and experiences, such as feeding big cats and shadowing the keepers. You can have champagne breakfasts at the park, barbecues, sleepovers and team building days with your colleagues. They also run volunteering days, and are a fully registered charity (see the video below for more details).

How to get to Paradise Wildlife Park 

Drivers will need to make their way to White Stubbs Lane, Broxbourne, EN10 7QA. There are several car parks, with capacity into the thousands, and apparently even on the busiest days there will always be room to park your car.

For the non-drivers among us (like my family), you’ll need to make your way to Broxbourne train station from London Liverpool Street, Hertford East or Cambridge or Tottenham Hale tube. Outside the station there is a phone number to call to request the Paradise Wildlife Park minibus collects you, to take you to the park. The journey time is around ten minutes and costs £3 an adult and £1 a child for a return ticket.

paradise wildlife park

I was so impressed by how quickly the driver arrived and the cost too, as it would have been three or four times the amount if we’d have taken taxis. The journey by public transport often puts me off going to places like this, as they can be monumentally difficult to get to unless you’re in a car. It’s nice to see non-drivers being so well catered for.

You will receive a small discount for buying your tickets in advance online, otherwise you can buy them on the day at the gate. Under two’s go free and other tickets range from £15.68 to £21. Annual passes start from just £5 a month.

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paradise wildlife park

**Disclaimer: we were given our entry in exchange for this honest review – all thoughts and photos are my own. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.**

 

 

I wrote this piece because I wanted to try and convey what high functioning autism is like through Polly’s eyes. We sat together and read it, and I was fully expecting her to ask me to change some (most) of it. Instead she looked at me and said “mummy, I love it, it’s exactly how I feel.” Needless to say I ended up in floods of tears… 

My name is Polly, and I’m almost nine years old.

I look exactly the same as all the other kids my age, and I mostly act like them too.

I’m not the same though.

I have a neurological condition called high functioning autism. This means my brain is wired differently to most of the other kids I know.

through polly's eyesSometimes, when noises get too loud, inside my head starts to hurt. I know I should put on my noise cancelling headphones, but I don’t always like wearing them. If my sister is talking or singing in an annoying voice, it upsets me. I want to hit her and make her stop. Mummy says to use my words and ask her to stop instead of lashing out, but I can’t help it. My mind can’t think clearly when there is such a lot of noise going on.

Sometimes, if I’ve had a bad night’s sleep, and I’m feeling agitated, I pinch my brother. I know I should get my fiddle toys out or pinch a cushion instead, but it’s not the same. It feels nice when I pinch a person, but then I feel mean when he starts to cry.

Sometimes, when we’re eating, I take food off their plates. I know we’ve all got the same, but their food always looks better than mine, and it’s too tempting not to take it. This often leads to fights being started, but I can’t control myself. It feels unfair that they get the nicest food.

If we’re playing and they don’t listen to what I’m telling them to do, I get angry with my brother and sister. It’s annoying when they don’t follow my instructions. When they storm off to play by themselves without me, I scream “I hate you!” as loudly as I can. I don’t really hate them, but it makes me sad when they leave me out. Daddy says to jump on the trampoline and bounce away my anger instead.

Sometimes, I get cross with my brother and sister for no real reason. Mummy asks me what’s wrong, but I find it difficult to explain my feelings. When I see them playing together, and being happy, it can make me feel sad. “I wish I could be as happy as they are,” I tell mummy after I finish crying. If I’m in the right mood, I like it when she cuddles me because it helps to calm me down.

When I’m not in the mood for hugs they just annoy me even more. I get angry and start throwing things on the floor and screaming. I get so cross with mummy for not knowing that I don’t want her cuddles, and would rather watch my favourite TV shows. Next Step and Junior Bake Off always helps to calm me down, but I get sad when they end.

If I’m playing nicely with my brother, I get upset when he goes to our sister in the middle of our game. It makes me feel like he loves her more than he loves me, and I get angry and sad. I start lashing out, and then no-one wants to play with me anymore.

through polly's eyesWhen my brother and sister touch my special things, I get really mad at them. I don’t like it when my things have been moved around, and aren’t in the right order. I like to have everything in the same order, every day, otherwise it makes me feel muddled.

Sometimes I cry myself to sleep, because I know I’ve not been a good big sister. I try so hard, but some days nothing I do is good enough. Once I accidentally made a glass lamp drop onto my sister’s head, and she had to go to the hospital and have it glued back together. I felt horrible inside, and was worried that she wasn’t going to come home, like Grandpa didn’t.

It’s hard for me to be a good big sister. I want to be, and I am trying, but I don’t always do the right things.

Mummy says that my autism makes me a superhero. She says I have hidden powers that my friends don’t have. Such as remembering things like an elephant, and learning things really fast. Or when I walk into a room and work out what all the different smells are. Or how good I am at baking, even though I’m so young.

Mummy says that I’ve got deep feelings, we just need to think of better ways for me to show them.

So I’m making some promises to my family. I’m going to try and walk away if I know a fight is going to start, and keep my temper under control. If I do a quiet activity like colouring or playing LEGO before I’ve got too mad it’s much easier for me to calm down.

It’s hard to be a big sister when you’re autistic like I am, but I’m trying my best.

Mummy and daddy say that’s all any of us can do.

Kidtropolis I’d like to start this blog by saying I have not been incentivised to write it. We were given complimentary tickets in exchange for my previous Kidtropolis post, and I’ve written this purely to capture the day.

The Good

The event was held inside East London’s impressive ExCel Centre, which was easy for us to get to on public transport. The DLR stops next to the building, which meant no wandering the streets looking lost.

The best thing about Kidtropolis is that once you’ve paid for your tickets almost everything is free. There are around fifty activities and two live mini-stage shows included in the price. We were also lucky enough to win both ballots, which meant we got a Next Step meet and greet, as well as a dance lesson with their choreographer Amy.

Of course there are extras to spend money on – such as food, drinks and merchandise – but absolutely no obligation to buy it. We took food with us, which saved tons, because it’s expensive once you’re inside.

Kidtropolis is pegged as the best kids show in the UK, and I can totally see why. I think it’s safe to say there is something for all children within their advertised age range of 2-12. I can’t think of anywhere else on earth where it would have been possible to meet the Lorax, Darth Vader, Next Step, PAW Patrol and Flawless within the space of a few hours.

As you’d expect the big stars are security protected, but some can be found wandering around chatting to fans. There are lots of opportunities to collect autographs, which is fully anticipated with the back page of the (free) programme being left blank, and marked autographs.

Kidtropolis

The Bad

We had the afternoon session, which ran from 2-6:30pm, and our first live show started at 2:30. This meant dragging the kids away from the fun they were having on the 200ft obstacle course, which they’d all decided to gravitate towards first. It felt rushed, and the stage wasn’t particularly well sign posted, but we got there just before the show started. It was well worth persevering with, because Flawless were absolutely amazing to watch (see next section).

After the show the children wanted to get autographs and learn some dance moves with them. This meant we got completely distracted and forgot about the dance lesson we had won in the ballot, which started at 3:30. By the time we remembered around 3:45, it was too late to join in. Polly and my friend’s girl were gutted, and as you can imagine there was lots of mummy guilt for not getting them there on time.

That wasn’t the only unfortunate event that occurred. About thirty seconds after going inside the Next Step live show at 4:30, Clara said she needed to go to the toilet. As the show was only going to last around 20 minutes, I said to her that we’d run there and run back as fast as we could. It was very dark inside, and whilst running back I tripped over. I was convinced I was fine, until it was pointed out by security that I was covered in blood. Turns out I’d cut my elbow quite deeply, but thankfully didn’t need any stitches. While I was being patched up by the fabulous paramedics, my friend made sure the girls got to their meet and greet. I arrived just as our party was at the front of the queue, and managed to photobomb the pictures.

Kidtropolis

The Awesome

The Flawless live show was nothing short of incredible. The level of coordination and effort going into that type of dancing is simply stunning, and a visual smorgasbord to view.

They had a huge mixed age troupe up on stage, and all the children had a turn to dance. Their sheer determination shone, and they were all an utter joy to watch. I didn’t realise they ran a dance school in central London on a Sunday morning, am thinking it might be worth checking out at some point for my girls.

I’m sure the Next Step show was brilliant too, if only I’d seen more of it. Polly and my friend’s 9yo were chuffed to bits to meet their idols and be cooed over. Myles signed Polly’s t-shirt and she has plans to put it in a frame so she can worship it.

I’d say the best part of Kidtropolis was the children getting to make the decisions about where to go and what to do. Properly hanging out with the stars was a huge draw, and will provide them with many happy memories.

Tips for next time 

Kidtropolis I’ve asked myself if I’d go again next year, and would definitely like to if it’s on again. We got the ExCel Centre nice and early, and got the children to write lists of everything they wanted to do and see.

In hindsight, I think six kids aged 3-11 and only two adults was pushing it, because with the best will in the world, balls are going to get dropped. In our case it was the dance lesson.

There was so much to do that it would have been impossible to get through everyone’s list. I think next time I’d be tempted to have a maximum of two similar aged kids per adult. Unfortunately, when you have to cater for bigger age gaps in general, you’re always going to come across this sort of dilemma.

Older children are perfectly safe to roam around independently, and there are clearly marked meeting points in case anyone gets lost.

My friend’s 11yo was in the gaming section for big chunks, but they aren’t security tagged, so if you have a smaller child who likes to run off then you’d have to keep a very close eye on them.

Overall, it was a fab day out, and we made lots more memories to add to the bank with our dear friends.

Oh, and for anyone who was wondering, my arm is healing up nicely thanks.

P, C, F Greenwich

Amid silly amounts of sleep deprivation, out of control bedtimes and hubby not being home more than he was, an impressive list of awesome also occurred this week. Thought it would be nice to share a few of the ups from our rollercoaster of a life…

Book edits

The biggest news is that I’ve finished the edits for my novel, and am happy to start submitting the fifth draft of Picking up the Pieces to would-be agents. Although it’s a daunting prospect, it’s also an exciting one. Getting this task done has been no mean feat considering that three months ago I’d lost all faith in the book and my writing abilities. Once I put my mind to something, and fully commit to it though, I’m a force to be reckoned with. It’s great to feel proud of something that I’ve achieved, now I need to keep this momentum going and not get too disheartened by the inevitable rejections.

Back to learning

Even though they were all enjoying their Smartick lessons, I’ve really struggled to get the kids to do them throughout the summer. Polly felt it was unfair to have to work when her friends were playing all day, which is of course a valid point. However, I don’t think that 15 minutes maths each day is too much to ask during the holidays. I was really pleased that she did her lessons every day this week, and watching Polly meant that Clara and Freddy wanted to do their lessons too. We’ll continue doing this for two more weeks, then start our learning schedule after that. I’m excited about getting back into our routine, we’ll all be desperate for it by then.

Winning at GAPS

I’ve been back on the GAPS Intro Diet for three weeks now, and am feeling good for it. You can read more about my current journey over on my other blog. I’ve been loving getting back into shopping at farmers markets, and making loads of stock and fermented veggies. Here’s a photo of a delicious plate of ceviche I made, I cannot tell you how good it was. You know you’re in for a treat when you buy fish on a Sunday that was caught on the Friday.

ceviche

Caring for a sick pigeon

Yesterday morning we discovered an injured pigeon in our garden. It looked like it had been attacked, was unable to fly and could barely move. The children worked beautifully together as a team to take care of it, then we took it to a pigeon rescue centre. It’s run by volunteers, and I’m glad to have found it in case we need to use it again in the future.

Jumping on a giant trampoline bed

It’s not often you get to bounce on a giant trampoline disguised as a bed outside an iconic London train station. When Virgin Media invited us to do so, while we’re promoting their new Kids TV channel and app, we jumped at the chance. My three relished their time on the bed, and were all smiles throughout. It’s just a shame this isn’t an every day occurrence! You can read more about that here.

Howling family days out have been well documented here on the blog (remember Father’s Day?) so for me to give anything the accolade ‘best family day out ever’ is really quite something. This is how I’m feeling about Friday, which was a wonderful boost as we’ve not been having a great time lately. What made it so wonderful was that all five of us spent more of the day smiling and laughing than we did grumping and harumpfing. It’s literally that simple, but sadly doesn’t happen often enough for us. What did you get up to, you might be wondering?

We went to see PAW Patrol Live at Wembley!

best family day out everUnless you live screen free, most children have a favourite TV show. Sometimes these fave shows last a few months, and other times they last for years. Us parents have to cross our fingers and hope that said fave isn’t insufferable (not mentioning names here, but that pig…)

3yo Freddy has adored the Paw Patrol for over a year, and fortunately for me, I don’t mind them either.

Who are the Paw Patrol?

For those not in the know, the PAW Patrol are a team of super dogs led by 10yo Ryder. Together they save their town Adventure Bay from trouble and strife. No job is too big, and no pup is too small for the PAW Patrol to save the day.

Freddy has all the soft toy pups, tons of PAW Patrol clothing, and has watched every episode at least a hundred times. In fact it’s fair to say that he bases his whole life around the gang. This is an actual quote from my boy:

“My favourite colour is yellow mummy, because Rubble is yellow and he is my favourite pup.”

You can imagine the glee when he was told that we’d be seeing the pups in real life on stage. We’ve been on countdown for weeks, and on Friday his mind was officially blown!

Our thoughts on the show

Freddy has the capacity to sit in front of Netflix and watch endless episodes, so the live show being an hour and half (including a small interval) was perfect for him. 

Freddy loved singing along to the songs, and really got into the storyline, which wasn’t dissimilar to those from the TV series. The characters were a true representation of what they look like on the TV, and he was very happy that the PAW Patrol saved the day in the end. I was especially impressed with the actress who played Mayor Goodway, she had the voice and persona down to a tee.

Although Polly and Clara (8 and 5) were complaining that they were ‘too old’ for PAW Patrol, they both really enjoyed themselves. The cherry on the cake was getting to meet Chase, Skye and Ryder on the stage afterwords – it really was pawsome! We all left the arena buzzing, and agreed that it was the best family day out ever.

**Spoiler alert (from the mouths of babes)**

Freddy’s favourite part was when Everest and Jake rescued Rocky and Rubble from the avalanche.

Clara’s favourite part was when Marshall rescued Chickaletta.

Polly’s favourite part was the singing and dancing at the beginning and the end.

All in all, a resounding thumbs up from us. If you have a fan of the pups on your hands, I can guarantee that you would make their year by taking them to a live show!

best family day out everThe official word

The PAW Patrol pups are coming to an arena near you for their first ever UK and Ireland Live tour! When Mayor Goodway goes missing during the day of the Great Adventure Bay Race, the pups come to the rescue.

Families can join Ryder, Chase, Marshall, Rocky, Rubble, Zuma, Skye, and Everest for an action-packed adventure that shows no job is too big and no pup is too small!

Running at 80 minutes, PAW Patrol Live! “Race to the Rescue” includes two acts and an intermission. The show is set to engage audiences with Bunraku puppetry, an innovative costuming approach that brings the PAW Patrol characters to life on stage with their vehicles and packs.

Give the pups some social love

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follow the hashtag on Instagram #PAWPatrolLiveUK 
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**disclaimer: we were given our tickets for the show free in exchange for writing this post, all thoughts and photos are my own. For my full disclosure policy, click here**