Dragon Hunting Series – Where it All Started

Many of you who follow me on Instagram will know about the dragon hunting adventures we have with BattleKid when we visit the many fabulous castles around us in Wales, but I realised while we were away recently that I never explained where it came from. Well, let me tell you the story.dragon hunting

Last year a dragon appeared outside Caerphilly Castle on Saint David’s Day and stayed outside for a brief time before moving inside the castle. We had missed seeing it that first time outside the castle, but when Lolo was visiting last May, BattleDad and he took BattleKid to Caerphilly one morning. After their breakfast they decided to visit the castle. They stumbled upon the dragon inside and on this particular visit BattleKid was quite unsure of him and his smoking nostrils.

dragon hunting
The Caerphilly Castle Dragon

When my sister surprised us with a visit over the May Bank Holiday weekend, we visited Caerphilly Castle again as she had never been. This time, with some coaxing from BattleDad and Lolo, BattleKid got a bit more comfortable with the dragon, going much closer but he still wouldn’t actually touch him. From that day he became fascinated with dragons and was always asking to go see the dragon. I have written about our bank holiday weekend visit to see the Caerphilly Castle dragon on the blog before.

Then last July, while I was home in Dublin without the boys, they headed to Tretower Castle in Crickhowell after breakfast in Abergavenny. BattleDad decided to make things a bit more interesting by telling BattleKid they had to find the dragon hidden within the castle and that they were dragon hunters. They searched the castle high and low and had a great day together. They searched the castle rooms, the fields around the castle and also the round tower, which sits away from the main castle. They eventually found the dragon off the court yard and from that day forth our dragon hunting adventures continued.dragon hunting

It has been a great addition to our days out, and has allowed BattleDad and me to enjoy visiting the many castles around us in Wales with a toddler in tow. BattleKid finds it great fun to check the nooks and crannies in each of the castles we visit for the elusive dragon and we’ve been lucky to find a dragon in each castle.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Since their first visit to Tretower Castle, BattleDad and I always bring a small dragon teddy bear of BattleKid’s with us to plant somewhere for him to find. It ensures we enjoy ourselves as a family while we adults can also enjoy a bit of historical culture.

And even better, I’ve since seen other parents and parent bloggers incorporating dragon hunting into their castle adventures which is brilliant. It goes to show that with a little imagination from BattleDad last year, a new family adventure for all to enjoy was born.

Have you been dragon hunting yet?

Stay tuned for posts about our dragon hunting at the various castles we have visited around Wales.

Cath x

dragon hunting
An introduction to the dragon hunting series and where it all began

Win a £100 voucher for a Bluebell Mini Session with Sweet Whimsy Photography

Last year I was lucky enough to win a voucher for a photo shoot with the most amazing local photographer here in South Wales. We had an autumnal family photo shoot with Donna of Sweet Whimsy Photography and were blown away with the results. So much so we’ve just had our second shoot with her and are eagerly awaiting the photographs from that session.

Donna has kindly offered someone the chance to win a £100 voucher towards a bluebell mini session with her at the end of the month. The voucher will cover the cost of the photo shoot and the remainder can be put towards your prints or digital copies.

Bluebells
A picture of bluebells I took in 2011

The sessions will take place in Wenallt Woods on Caerphilly Mountain, between Caerphilly and Cardiff. The sessions will take place on Saturday the 29th and Sunday the 30th April, so you must be available to attend on one of those days, and be able to make your own way to Wenallt Woods. You can bring all the family members along, although these mini sessions are not suitable for babies who are not yet able to sit unaided.

If you’d like the chance to win a family bluebell mini photo shoot with an amazing photographer here in South Wales, simply follow the instructions in the widget below. And good luck!

For more information about Donna’s 2017 Bluebell Mini Sessions please visit her website.
Win a £100 voucher for a Bluebell Mini Photo Session with Sweet Whimsy Photography

Cath x

Terms and conditions:

  • One winner will win a £100 voucher towards a mini bluebell session with Donna of Sweet Whimsy Photography. The remainder of the voucher can be redeemed against prints or digital copies.
  • There is no cash alternative and the voucher must be used for a bluebell mini session.
  • All arrangements will be made direct with Sweet Whimsy Photography.
  • You must be able to attend Wenallt Woods, Cardiff on either Saturday 29th or Sunday 30th April.
  • Although this competition is being broadcast on my Facebook page, it is in no way endorsed or sponsored by Facebook.
  • Competition closes on Monday 24th April at 23.59GMT.

Our Visit to Chester Zoo – A Great Family Day Out

Last August Bank Holiday weekend we visited Chester with the sole purpose of using our Bristol Zoo annual passes for our visit to Chester Zoo. We had caught some of the TV show about the zoo, The Secret Life of the Zoo, and it made us more determined to visit. So, with the long weekend, we drove up and stayed only 15 minutes from the zoo.our visit to chester zoo

We arrived at 9.40am to start our visit to Chester Zoo and quickly found parking, which is free. We headed straight to a staff member who checked our Bristol Zoo annual passes and letter, and she directed us straight to the turnstiles where we didn’t have to queue. It was so easy.

We decided to start from the elephant’s enclosure and waited beside their enclosure until zoo barriers opened at 10am. The elephants weren’t out by then so we started to walk anti-clockwise. We first visited the Butterflies, whose house is like the one in Bristol Zoo but with more vegetation in it. From there we walked through the Spirit of the Jaguar but they weren’t out.our visit to chester zoo

Next on our hit list was the Realm of the Red Ape where we saw gibbons and a huge python. I stayed well back but BattleKid was fascinated.

We carried on around to see the flamingos, penguins and cheeky little otters on our way to the aquarium. I think BattleKid rather enjoyed this as he tried spotting both Dory and Nemo in each tank. He was delighted when he finally spotted them.

From the aquarium we passed the aviary where I was absolutely shocked at the size of the vultures. I had never seen one in real life and really had no idea how big they grew. They are shockingly huge birds!our visit to chester zoo

By now it was 11.30 so we decided it was time for a pit stop. We visited June’s Food Court. We had tea and coffee, and cakes, and got BattleKid a kid’s lunch box which was well stocked. We got two bottles of water to take with us and the total cost of this was £16, which I didn’t think was too bad.

Fueled up we headed to see the lions but their enclosure was being cleaned so they were in their houses. Daddy lion didn’t seem too happy. We then headed over the wooden bridge and managed to spot the cheetahs hiding in the bushes. We also saw deer and for split second I actually thought they were in the same enclosure! We also saw the bongos, tapirs and capybaras. I didn’t know their name and was surprised when BattleDad told me. You learn something new every day!

On the way into the new Islands section, opened in summer of 2015, we saw the Babirusa, an animal I had never seen before and who reminded me of warthogs. We also spotted crocodile and tortoise, saw more gibbon and the orangutans, saw Rhinoceros hornbill birds, which are beautiful and also Warty pigs. The main attraction of the Islands is the Sumatran Tigers and they are just stunning animals. We spotted them through the bushed at the side of their enclosure before seeing them through the viewing glass at the front. Beautiful creatures, so majestic.our visit to chester zoo

I have to say we were very impressed with the Islands of Chester Zoo which include animals from Sumatra, Sulawesi and Bali. They are quite new to the Zoo and are simply beautiful. There is even background noises and music playing which reminded me of the background music you hear at Disneyland Paris. The lazy boat river ride in the Islands looks great too although we didn’t get a chance to do it.

From the islands we headed towards the painted dogs, which were recommended by a work colleague, passing zebra, antelope and rock hyrax along the way. And the painted dogs were worth seeing. Just as we arrived at their enclosure they came towards the viewing windows and lay down right there. BattleKid was fascinated by them.our visit to chester zoo

From there we went to see black rhino and meerkats. BattleKid got very cranky at this stage but refused a nap in his pram just like when we visited Folly Farm. We went in to see the monkeys before heading back towards June’s Food Court to collect a handprint picture we had gotten done earlier in the day.our visit to chester zoo

It is a monkey made using BattleKid’s hands and is framed and cost £18. It’s a lovely memento of our day. As it was past lunchtime we decided to stop for fish and chips and BattleKid ate well. The rain started as we sat eating and the playground nearby quickly cleared. An adults fish and chips cost us £7.25 including any side and a kid’s meal cost £5.50. BattleKid had chicken nuggets, chips and ad rink and they were really nice chicken nuggets too.

As we had pretty much seen all we wanted to we decided to end our visit to Chester Zoo with a trip into the gift shop at the entrance. BattleKid got a toy jeep while I got one or two other gifts. Typically, as soon as we left Chester Zoo BattleKid had a danger nap in the car!

Overall our visit to Chester Zoo was a great day out and well worth it. We definitely needed the full day there to see everything we wanted to.

Facts about Chester Zoo:

  • Chester Zoo is one of the UK’s largest zoos at 125 acres.
  • It houses over 20,000 animals which includes 500 different species.
  • It played host to 1.7 million visitors in 2015.
  • It has been featured in the documentary The Secret Life of the Zoo.
  • It receives no government funding at all.
  • They are heavily involved in conservation and also in conjunction with other zoos across 30 countries worldwide.
  • It is consistently rated one of the top ten zoos in the world.

 

Things we discovered during our visit to Chester Zoo for you to consider if visiting the zoo:

  • It opens daily from 10am to typically 5pm. Entry is allowed up to 30 minutes before closing.
  • You are allowed entry to the gift shop and entrance restaurants at 9.30am but the zoo barriers don’t open until 10am.
  • Chester Zoo is huge and buggies, scooters and wheelchairs are available to hire. Bring a buggy for younger children, you’ll need it!
  • We didn’t see all of the zoo in the one day we went, so two days could easily be needed.
  • There is a mono rail and lazy boat river ride (additional costs for these) but we didn’t get to use either.
  • There are 4 main restaurants at the entrance, on the islands, June’s Food Court and the Oakfield Pub. Food is ok for what it is. It could work out expensive for large families so bringing a picnic would be advisable if you want to save yourself some money. There were enough seats at the eating areas both inside and outside for the ones we visited or saw. There are also smaller coffee shops around too.
  • There is a cash machine at the entrance.
  • There is a big gift shop at the entrance and on the islands.
  • Toilets are dotted all over the zoo.
  • Information signs are really good and animal signs are informative. There are also plenty of staff around should you need help or information.
  • There are a few play areas around the zoo but we didn’t go into any. They all looked well equipped.
  • There is free parking at the zoo, and we would advise getting there before the gates open at 10am to enjoy as much of the day as possible.
  • Baby changing facilities, bottle warming stations and feeding friendly locations
  • Various animal talks throughout the day but we didn’t attend any.
  • For full visiting informaiton, please visit the Visiting Chester Zoo website.

Chester Zoo prices*:

  • Weekday term-time:     Ad £24.00            Child £20.00
  • Weekend term-time:     Ad £26.00            Child £22.00
  • School holidays:             Ad £28.00            Child £24.00
  • If booked online there is a saving of 10% so weekday term0time tickets cost £20.00 per adult and £16.36 per child, for example.
  • Families which include 3 adults and at least 1 child can save 16% on their tickets when bought online.
  • Children tickets are for those aged between 3 and 17, children aged 2 and under are free.

We visited on a bank holiday weekend, yet we never felt like it was overcrowded, even when we were leaving at 3.30. There is plenty of space in Chester Zoo, which in my mind make it stand out from other zoos we have visited. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Chester Zoo last year and definitely plan to return in the future when BattleKid is older.

I can highly recommend Chester Zoo as a family day out. There is something for everyone and the number of animals and species to see is incredible. If you do go, make sure you visit the Islands of Chester Zoo. These were definitely our favourite part of our visit.

Thanks for reading. We also filmed a little vlog of our visit to Chester Zoo which is below if you’d like to watch it.

Cath x

*Prices are correct at the time of writing this post.

**We visited Chester Zoo via our Bristol Zoo annual passes. We were not asked to write this post.

our visit to chester zoo

BattleKid’s Obsessions: Age 2-3

I wrote previously about BattleKid’s Obsessions between the age of 1 and 2. This post is the next in the series and documents how those obsessions changed or remained the same between the ages of 2 and 3. In the first of this series we had George enter our lives, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was a morning favourite and cars and bikes featured heavily. Did any of that changed? Well, yes and no.BBattleKid's Obsessions age 2-3

Curious George remained a firm TV favourite and although he wasn’t glued to his George teddy bear as much as the previous year, BattleKid’s room was changed up a bit from nursery to a toddler room with the help of George decal stickers. And George was never far in BattleKid’s cot.

New TV favourites which replaced Mickey Mouse include the animation of the Julia Donaldson stories Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo’s Child. If time permitted BattleKid was also quite taken with The Aristocats, calling them the ‘mussycats’.

One thing that remained and is becoming a bigger obsession as he grows is his love of motorbikes. He loves sitting on BattleDad’s bike. He enjoyed short trips on our mountain on the quad with BattleDad, all while wearing his helmet and he calls his KTM balance bike “Ada’s motorbike”. And he is so confident on it, with feet up, doing figures of rights and circles on it! I think we’re definitely creating a biker.About me 2

He also loves watching bike videos on YouTube with BattleDad, particularly the Chris Birch KTM videos and the Alex Parrillo adventure videos. Our personal favourite is below and BattleKid loves bopping his head to the music!

Last year we took him to Aberdare Park Road Races for the first time, and although we only spent the morning there, he absolutely loved it! We’ll definitely be returning one year and have to sort out getting him to the TT one year soon.aberdare park races

Last but not least we come to Dragons and Castles. BattleKid simply loves dragons, with it all starting with Room on the Broom. He loves the story at bedtime and enjoys the animation film. However, one day last May, while Lolo was visiting, BattleDad took BattleKid and Lolo to Caerphilly for breakfast. They decided to visit the Castle afterwards and so started the dragon hunting quests. Inside Caerphilly Castle was the Dragon, breathing fire and all, and BattleKid wasn’t too sure of it. However, on a second visit to see the Caerphilly Castle Dragon he got alot more comfortable with it and now enjoys regular trips to various castles around us to go dragon hunting. We’ve been to Caerphilly Castle, Tretower Castle and Abergavenny Castle, to name but a few, and our dragon hunting quests continue most weekends as those of you who follow me on Instagram will know.caerphilly castle dragon

I’m interested to see how these obsessions change between the ages of 3 and 4. Dragon hunting I’m sure will continue to feature, as will bikes but I wonder if anything new will crop up. You’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

What are your children currently obsessed with and what are their ages?

Thanks for reading,

Cath x