Saturday, 12 August 2017

Visit "Nelson and Norfolk" at Norwich Castle.

We were very excited this week to be invited to the Bloggers Brunch event at Norwich Castle for a guided tour of the new "Nelson and Norfolk" exhibition.

This exhibit brings together historical artefacts from Nelson's and his famous battles, some being brought together for the first time on over 100 years. And what better place to display them to the public than Norwich, the capital city of Nelson's birth place.

Nelson holds a special place in the heart of Norfolk and is remembered still for his inspirational leadership, his unconventional tactics and strategic moves, making him a distinguished Admiral.

Norwich Castle sits proudly upon Castle Meadow, a momentous building which overlooks the city.
In addition to the regular admission fees, Norwich Castle offer a "Special Exhibit only " ticket which is slightly cheaper.

Castle Ticket (inc Special Exhibitions and Regimental Collections)
Adult: £9.15

Concession (over 65s, students, visitors with disabilities): £8.70
Child (age 4-18 yrs): £7.30
Family (2 adults + all children): £31.10
Family (1 adult + all children): £23.30
Twilight Ticket (1 hour before closing): £2
*Park and Ride/Go 4Less/District Leisure Cards: £6.90

Museums Pass holders, Friends of Norwich Museums and under 4s free.
Visitors with disabilities may bring in one companion for free.
Admission to the shop, cafe and Rotunda information desk is free.
Access to the Battlements and Dungeons are by guided tours only, see the Tours page for additional charges.
Special Exhibitions Only Ticket Price
Adult: £6

Concession (over 65s): £5.70
Child (age 4-18): £4.80

For opening times please visit the Norwich Castle website.

We arrived at the castle shortly after it opened at 10am and there was a small queue waiting to go in. Once we entered we met with our guide in the Rotunda and a short time later we commenced our tour.

As we entered the special exhibit room we were faced by a partition wall, a momentary "veil" before we saw the immense Ensign of the Le Genereux! Captured in 1800 in one of Nelson's successful battles, The Battle of the Malta Convoy.
This display is so vast that I couldn't fit the entire thing into a photo so you'll just have to visit and see it for yourself!

Through from here there was further display rooms, inter-joined.
As you entered you found yourself stood in front of Nelson's portrait. A stunning picture in a grand gold frame. 

In the portrait you will see a Spanish sword to the left and Nelsons infamous hat to his right. The real life objects are displayed on the relative sides.

Adjectent to this is Nelson's jacket. Amazingly still stained around the neck from his sweat and hair grease! 

Nelson presented this jacket to Mrs Anne Seymour Damer in Naples. A sculpture for whom Nelson has done several sittings.

He told her that the jacket, which he had worn during the Battle of the Nile, had never been worn again and he hadn't allowed it to be brushed, the streaks of perspiration and hair dust still show the anxiety and stress he endured under battle.

Around the rest of the exhibit we learnt about his sheer tenacity during battles, imploring others "Are you doing your duty today?"
So much so was his influence that this quote was used over 100 years later when recruiting during the 1st World War.

The girls were interested in hearing how Nelson "lost his eye" infact he lost the sight in one of his eyes and later he lost his arm. 

One of the most poignant pieces is the bullet that fatally wounded Nelson in 1805. After he died, Hardy, his ship's captain arranged to have the bullet mounted into a pendant. This was presented to the surgeon who had treated Nelson on his death bed, Beatty. He wore this until his own death in 1842, the pendant was then given to Queen Victoria.
Ironically Nelson was victorious in the battle which saw his death, The Battle of Trafalgar.
I hadn't realised how young Nelson was when he died,  at just 47 years of age and yet proves to still be such a huge part of our history, both to England and our own local history.

The final part of the exhibition details Nelson's funeral. Upon arrival back in England, Nelson was laid in state and given a full honours funeral.
The drape which adorned his coffin can be viewed.

The exhibit contains so much information and artefacts that you would need to see it for yourself, allowing yourself a decent couple of hours in order to fully appreciate all that has been brought together.
The Nelson and Norfolk exhibit runs through until 1st October 2017, not to be missed.

As we left we visited the gift shop to view the Nelson range that they sell.
A well presented and reasonably price array was on offer, including many books and bottles of Nelson's Revenge, a bitter produced by one of the exhibits sponsors Woodford's Brewery. I many have bought a bottle of this to sample at home!

For more information then visit the Norfolk Museum Services website or find Norwich Castle on Facebook.

When we left the Castle, the queue was still building, I think this new special exhibit is certainly appealing to the public!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Aqua Natura Benidorm

During our holiday to Magic Natura, Benidorm with Jet2Holidays we were delighted to find that we had unlimited free access to the Aqua Natura water park for the entire week as part of our all inclusive booking.

The resort ran a free mini bus to the water park and back throughout the day (literally a constant loop!) However, the entrance to the water park is a 5 minute walk from the resort entrance so you needn't worry about the mini bus if you missed it and didn't fancy waiting. You also have free unlimited access to Terra Natura when you go all inclusive at this resort, all three are neighbours and have access links for guests.

Aqua Natura is also open to the general public and at just 10 minutes away from Benidorm and on a bus route it makes it very accessible.

Opening Times:

If you are not a guest at Magic Natura then Aqua Natura and Terra Natura tickets can be purchased as a 1 park or multi ticket and annual passes are also available. They also offer tickets which include meal deals and group deals.

You can also purchase tickets for both Aqua Natura and Terra Natura by using Tesco Clubcard vouchers! In fact just £5 in vouchers will get you a 1 day entry to the park.

We really weren't sure what to expect when we heard that we had an inclusive water park at the resort, on a previous holiday we had a similar facility and as great as it was it didn't prepare us for what we found at Aqua Natura.

The place is HUGE!!!

Aqua Natura has five large sections: the wave pool, the water slides, the kid’s pool, the lighthouse breakwater and the Spa-Sun Deck.

There are cafe and refreshment facilities for the general public and as part of our all inclusive booking this included food and drinks (alcoholic and soft) at Aqua Natura, this was situated upstairs (these could have done with a good sluice down to be honest as it wasn't pleasant walking up them!) The menu was a little limited, burger and chips, pizza and chips, chicken nuggets and chips (I believe there was a salad option) crisps, fruit and ice creams but they did the job and the drinks servings were very generous! The girls loved the slushies! All inclusive guest just need to show their room card.
Guests are also able to bring in their own picnic.

The main pool is a graduated beach style entry which makes the pool accessible to all, including those with mobility problems, there were some steeper slopes so bare this in mind. The water park also has water wheelchairs available free of charge to those who require them.

We visited during May Half Term and as you will see from the photos the whole place was very quiet!

There were hundreds of sun loungers around the perimeter of the wave pool and kids zone, general public could pay a small fee to hire these, all inclusive guests were able to use these for free. We never had a problem finding four sun loungers together, quite often getting the same ones on the edge of the wave pool. 

The landscaping was quite picturesque, especially with the mountains in the background and the beautiful foliage encompassing the water park, edging the walkways and dotted throughout the pool.

Chris and the girls never waited long to get on the water slides and the children's splash pool was a great enticement for little ones. The water was rather chilly but refreshing in the hot sun.

Over the far side of the water park we were so excited to find there was daily Sea Lion shows. 
We watched this each time we visited and on one occasion the girls were invited in to help with part of the show!

The guy running the show was hilarious, he reminded me of a Robin Williams character and he had a great relationship with the Sea Lions, the main star of the show "Charlie" was a 12 year old sea lion and the handler had been working with him ever since he was a pup! You could see their close relationship and respect for one another.

After the show guests were invited to have their photo taken with one of the sea lions, only a certain amount were allowed through during each session but as the water park was quiet whilst we were there this was never a problem. They had a photographer and you could buy photos but they didn't stop you from taking your own photos either.
The girls had an opportunity to see the sea lion and he just couldn't resist a cheeky kiss or two!

They also offer sea lion encounters, one of which was to swim with the animals and interact with them, priced at 35 euro. 
We didn't get a chance to do that this time but would definitely book up next time we visit (yes we are planning to go again!) 
We watched a group swimming with the sea lion and it looked great fun, swimmers are told to just allow the sea lion to approach you and he was certainly a playful character!

The various sea lion experiences were detailed and priced on a display board near to the sea lion enclosure.

The water park also has a small shop, just behind this you will find the photo shop where you can view any photos taken of you and your group during your visit. There was no pressure to buy but they were happy to tell you all their offers (these seemed to vary depending on what you had looked at, how many children were in your group, what experiences you had visited etc.) They were also open to bartering! 

Lastly I mention the Mermaid School!
This was priced at 20 Euros per child (or adult if you wished) and the experience was amazing. I won't tell you all the details, that can wait for another blog feature!
But just look at how beautiful the girls were as Mermaids.

We booked our holiday with Holiday Hamster, They were great and handled all parts of the booking for us. Make sure you check them out if you're looking for great service.
They can also be found on Facebook.

Enjoy your holidays!!!!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Exciting News!!!! World's First Escape Game in a Working Church Opens in Norfolk!!!

We are very excited to be going to this at the weekend! Here's some information to whet your appetite and we will be sharing our experience on the new History Mystery very soon!

The world's first escape game in a working church opens on Saturday 12th August at St Andrew’s Church in Blickling, Norfolk. This unique joint venture from Norwich based History Mystery and the Diocese of Norwich is a highly innovative use of an active church.

So why use a working church?
It will significantly boost funds for repair and upkeep, whilst providing an opportunity for people to enjoy what is the UK’s fastest growing form of live entertainment, and players have the full run of the church, including parts you don’t normally see. 

What make this different from other Escape Rooms?
Everyone loves to solve puzzles, and this new game “The Queenmaker” is based on the story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, played in the parish church where Anne would have worshipped as a girl.

What's it all about then?
Alasdair Willett, Managing Director of History Mystery said: “Anne’s fate is a well told story, but Blickling church is a unique place to bring to life a part of her story that’s not so often a focus; Anne and Henry’s love. Your objective is to see the noble couple to the alter, solving puzzles and challenges to get them there before time runs out! 

We’ve designed the game to run throughout the whole church, but in a way that the church remains fully open to visitors too, which is something that has never been done before.” 

What happens when you play an Mystery History Escape?
History Mystery creates unique history-based live escape games for 2 to 10 players, based on real stories of people and places, played in the historic locations where those stories actually happened. Their first escape games opened in Norwich’s medieval Guildhall a year and a half ago and have proven to be a massive hit with first-time players and seasoned gamers alike.

Mr Willett added: “We knew that escape games were really fun, but feedback from players in Norwich shows they absolutely love the additional element of real-life narrative. The Blickling location gives us the chance to tell one of the most famous stories from English history, and one that ultimately led to the formation of the Church of England.” 

And what does the Church think about it all?
Revd Canon Andrew Beane, Team Rector of the Aylsham & District Team of Churches said: “We are really excited about working with History Mystery at beautiful Blickling Parish Church. The church stands at the gateway to the stunning Blickling Estate and provides a wonderful opportunity to welcome people to the church, and discover more about its story, history and wonderful royal connections.

The church is open every day and visitors are always welcome. Recreation is 're-creation’ restoring what God has made and loves. Across our Team of 15 Churches The Aylsham & District Team Ministry is always looking for new ways to help people discover God in creative ways. From rural broadband, to community festivals, children's activities to tech cafes, from music to social media we are celebrating God’s love in our beautiful and vibrant rural churches.
Welcoming History Mystery to the church is just another way of doing this and the wonderful thing about them is that they have worked so hard to tell the story and history of the parish Church, the Church of England and our Nation so as well as having fun we are also learning!” 

As the heart of communities, churches are not just used for worship and there is a rich history of a wide variety of recreational activities taking place in them. The Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick said: “Across the Diocese there are a number of imaginative ideas for using church buildings in the life of local communities. This is one of the most exciting and creative I have come across. I think it is a wonderful way of opening up the church even more and reminding us all that church is a place of fun and laughter as well as prayer and worship. I am thrilled it is happening here and I look forward to having a go!” 

So when does The Queenmaker start?
This new event is launched on Saturday 12th August.
Games last an hour and will initially be run from 10am to 7.30pm at weekends, whenever the church is not in use for services and other events, with advance booking recommended and more information available from

Find out more information by visiting History Mystery's website or find them on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Great Yarmouth Heritage Walk

We recently went along to a Great Yarmouth Heritage Walk to hear all about the Glorious Memories of Great Yarmouth's Golden Mile.

This guided walk commenced at Wellington Pier and took us on a 1.5hr walk, taking in the sights as we made our way down to Britannia Pier. 

Our guide, Len (a very informative character who definitely kept us on our toes as he lead us along the walk) met us at the entrance of Wellington Pier, equipped with his notes and old photos and postcards which we could use to compare the sights from today and yesteryear.

Taking place regularly from April to October, Heritage Guided Walks, led by an official Great Yarmouth heritage guide, are one of the most interesting ways of discovering more about the area. and is very reasonably priced at £4 per adult and £1.50 per child (under 7's go free!) There are several other walks available (11 in total I believe) throughout the town and borough, details of these can be found here.

As we followed Len, he told us snippets of information about the town and seafront. He would stop at places of interest and chronicle the history of particular buildings or famous habitants. 

We encompassed the Winter Gardens, once a beautiful and thriving social arena, today it is a sorry sight crying out for restoration. 

Across the road, the grand Carlton Hotel, built by Charles John Palmer, a local man and previous Mayor of the town. His business was also responsible to the building of many of Great Yarmouth seafronts iconic buildings - The Assembly Halls and Wellington Pier being part of this.

As we made our way along to front we heard the theatrical history of the Windmill and what transformations the building had gone through over the years. Chris and I shared memories of our childhood at the Windmill when it housed "Wally's Windmill" a fantastic multi level play area.

Now the building houses a crazy golf, but many of its original beautiful features can still be seen.

We detoured from the immediate Marine Parade and along to The Hippodrome Circus. We love this place and always try to catch the seasonal shows. 

We spent some time here hearing about the original circus owner, George Gilbert and his passion for the production. Built in 1903 the Hippodrome Circus once overlooked the beach, however nowadays an amusement arcade has been squeezed in front where the gardens once sat.

We rejoined the seafront on the next road and crossed back to the beach side, here we heard about the old skating ring where the Marina Centre now stands and stood back to take a look at what was originally Goode's Hotel, a very grade red brick building which drew the crowds to visit the healing powers of the sea!

Nowadays the building houses another amusement arcade and upstairs a bar (which I believe is now closed?
Time for a walk up the Jetty, the original wooden jetty was pulled down in 2012 as it was deemed too costly to repair, instead a concrete walkway now stands in its place, a poor monument to the landing place of Lord Nelson following battle in 1801.

Whilst we were on the jetty Len told us tales of some of the maritime history of the town: the navy, the sea merchants, sea disasters and some of our local sea life - squint off into the distance and you can make out Scroby Sands with its seal inhabitants.
We continued our final stretch to Britannia Pier, which we strolled along taking in the views. 

Along on the walk with us were two holiday makers, they expressed their surprise at how neither of the piers actually reach the water. This is a fairly recent change, I recall working on the pier 20 years ago and the sea was certainly under the pier then, so far up that the theatre sat above the sea.

As we reached the theatre, we were told how the previous theatre destroyed by fire in 1958. Len told us how he had been part of the building firm that put up the theatre that stands here today, it is in fact the fourth theatre that has stood on the pier.

Here we finished our walk. Chris and I had thoroughly enjoyed it, the girls had started of well but began to get restless in the last 20 minutes. Chris actually admitted later that he had not been looking forward to it at all and had considered trying to get out of it but was so glad he had gone and he is now looking into dates to book onto our next Heritage Walk - the Quayside and Seaside at Gorleston-on-sea! He can't wait!

I would highly recommend the walks to people who are interested in delving into the towns history. 
The Greater Yarmouth area has some fantastic history and architecture to admire, and some colourful stories of local characters to go with it. It did prove to be a real eye opener though into how the town has changed over the years.

Make sure you check out the website for details about the Heritage Walks and to find out what else is available in Great Yarmouth or find them on Facebook.