Trentham Gardens (Stoke-on-Trent)
This is a review of Trentham Gardens, which is a bit of a misleading title really, because as well as gardens to look round, there is also so much more to do here. It tends to be known nowadays as the Trentham Estate, which is a more fitting name. Location: The Trentham Estate is located on the A34 in Trentham ... (sorry if I'm stating the obvious!) in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. It is very easy to get to from the motorway, around a 5 minute drive from junction 15 of the M6. The Monkey Forest is also a part of the Trentham Estate but it has a separate entrance a very short drive away from the main entrance. I will mention here that all car parking is free.
There are a number of shops housed in what I would describe as log cabins. There are a few well known names to be found here such as Hallmark and L'occitane, but there are also many independent shops, which I think is a breath of fresh air compared to visiting most high streets nowadays. Whilst not having a huge number of shops, I find that there is a nice variety of things to browse, ranging from pottery to shoes, whisky to candles, and artwork to pet accessories, there is something for everyone! I do have to mention that, along with the price of most things at the Estate, I have found that prices in the shopping village tend to be rather high, but there are also a few bargains to be had. There is a lovely food store here called Brown and Green, and they have won a number of awards, including Taste of Staffordshire Retailer of the Year. Their prices are rather steep but they have a focus on selling local produce from small companies, and it's a lovely shop to have a nose around. They also offer a number of events throughout the year, such as food tasting and hands on activities for children, so it's worth keeping an eye out for these.
There is a huge garden centre at the Estate, which sells a large range of products. I would say really that it is more than a garden centre. There is a very good range of plants and gardening equipment for sale, and also garden furniture. In addition, there is a good range of books (I have found there are often good bargains to be had), cards and giftwrap, jewellery, clothing, bath products, and lovely area dedicated to home accessories. As with the other areas, prices in the garden centre aren't often cheap, although I would argue that you can also find some reasonably priced items.
Food and drink:
There are a number of places to eat and drink at the Estate. There are several coffee shops and eateries in the shopping village, selling hot and cold snacks and drinks. Cadwalader's have an ice cream section that proves very popular during the summer months when the British weather wants to play ball! There is also David's Bistro, which stays open until late in the evenings and serves very good quality, if rather pricey, food and drink, that I can certainly recommend after having a number of good meals here. David's Bistro sometimes have live music in the evenings, which is a nice touch. Inside the garden centre, there is a small cafe offering lunch items and snacks, a bigger restaurant selling various items of food and drink, and an Italian restaurant. Again, prices in all of these eateries aren't what I would describe as cheap. The Italian restaurant remains open until late in the evening, and they have a side door to allow customers to come and go after the garden centre itself has shut. There is also a Frankie and Benny's located by the entrance to the Trentham Estate, which offers yet another option for visitors after some food. If you enter the gardens themselves, which you have to pay to get access to, there is a tearoom and lakeside cafe available. As you can see, you certainly won't go hungry!
You have to pay to access the gardens, currently £8.50 per adult and £7.25 per child. As you can see it isn't cheap! However, there are also family and annual tickets available and you can use Tesco clubcard reward tokens towards the price, but of course certain terms and conditions apply. You could very easily spend a whole day inside the gardens, as there is so much to do and to see. I last visited the gardens just under a year ago and they were very well kept and lovely to walk around. With your garden ticket you also have access to the lakeside walk, which is a really pleasant path to walk right next to the huge lake. You are able to take a boat ride across the lake or have a trip on the mini train during certain times of the year, both of which children seem to really enjoy. There is plenty to entertain children, as there is also a maze, an adventure playground and a barefoot walk!
I visited the monkey forest a few years ago and enjoyed it, but I did find it to be rather expensive. My partner went just a few weeks ago with his Dad, Sister and Nephew and they also enjoyed it but felt slightly underwhelmed, particularly with how much it costs. The current admission price is £7.50 per adult and £5.50 per child over 3 years old. You can get a joint monkey forest and gardens ticket if you so wish, details can be found on the Trentham Estate website. The monkey forest is as it sounds, an area of woodland with monkeys wandering freely. There are information boards as you walk along giving you an insight into the monkeys behaviour etc and there are hourly feeding talks. The thing that I most enjoyed about the monkey forest was seeing the baby monkeys walking around, as they are very sweet and you can see them very clearly without having to peer into an enclosure. There is a playground, cafe and shop located here. An Aerial Extreme high ropes course is also located on this site, which I'm afraid I can't comment on, as it looks way too scary for me! This costs £25 per adult and £20 per child, and I'm sure it's thrilling if you're not afraid of heights!
There are various events that take place at the Trentham Estate, including transport festivals and the Race for Life. One event that I'm able to comment on is the concert nights that are held here every summer. These concerts take place in the grounds of the gardens, with different tribute acts performing on a stage. Most people tend to take picnics, and it's a nice experience to sit outside (when it doesn't rain!) with a picnic surrounded by lots of other people taking in the atmosphere and enjoying live music. I enjoyed the 'motown' night that I went to last year, although it was a shame about the rubbish weather we had! If you do go to one of these concert evenings, I would strongly advise that you take a large sheet or something you will be able to put over your heads and also your food if it is likely to rain. The only negative we found with the concert that we went to was that the music didn't seem to be quite loud enough, probably because we were in the open air and it drifted in all directions, but a lot of people went close the stage to have a dance, and here of course the music was much louder. Tickets can be bought in advance for these concert evenings, which brings the price down to around the £13 mark. You can also access the gardens for free on the day of the concert by showing your ticket, which my partner and I took full advantage of and really enjoyed.
Where to stay:
If you wish to stay somewhere overnight near to the Trentham Estate, there is a Premier Inn located in the grounds just past Frankie and Bennys.
In summary, visiting the Trentham Estate can be a fairly costly experience. However, there are so many things to see and do that it really is a great day out for all the family. As long as you aware of the prices beforehand, I would recommend it as a really good place to visit. I was contemplating knocking off a star due to the high prices, but I felt that I couldn't due to the amount that is on offer here. It is also a great place to go to just to look round the shops and garden centre with free car parking, and that is a very rare thing!
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National Space Centre (Leicester)
At the start of the year, there was a request for a teacher to help organise a school trip for the year 8s. I decided to volunteer, and ended up being put in charge of organising and running the trip (gulp). That was in October. 7 months later, I have not only planned the trip, but have managed to get there and back again with little ... trouble. So I thought I would tell you of the Year 8 Science Trip to the Space Centre in Leicester.
What is the Space Centre?
Before completing my teacher training, I had never heard of the Space Centre. After narrowly missing out on a trip there, and deciding against the Science Museum, I ended up looking at the Space Centre. As the name suggests, the Space Centre focuses around all things to do with space and space discovery. It is affiliated with Leicester University, which appears to have a lot to do with astronauts and space research. There are a range of exhibitions housed in six galleries, ranging from exhibitions about the planets in our solar system, to a mock-up of a section of the space station (I found the shower in there particularly fascinating). There is a large tower at the front of the Space Centre, which houses two sections of rockets (one of which was used to take mice up to space). These were rather incredible to see, and help you begin to imagine the size of rockets used to take humans up into space. Finally is the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium, 'the UKs largest domed planetarium', a 360 degree space theatre.
What can you do?
There are a variety of shows running at the Planetarium, and I have seen two of them; Astronaut, which is about what it takes to become an astronaut, and We Are Aliens, which is about the possibility of alien life in the universe. I found We Are Aliens more thought provoking, but I feel that Astronaut is more suitable for younger viewers who are less interested in microorganisms and where they can survive. Looking at the website, it seems that you get one show free on your first visit, and then you need to pay for additional shows (not quite sure how that works). Both shows I saw were free, but there was an option to pay for other shows at the cost of 50p per child (not a lot, but when you are taking 110 pupils, it does get expensive!). But it was absolutely amazing viewing the films in the Planetarium, and kept my year 8s quiet for 20 minutes (give or take the odd 'wow'). During a pre-visit we even captivated the attention of a 3 year old, although the finer points of We Are Aliens were lost on him slightly.
Around the Space Centre are six galleries as I mentioned. Although they aren't massively separated, they do have archways over the entrance with a title to give you an idea of where you are going. The rockets are at the front of the Space Centre and are accessed by stairs (or a lift) and a walkway. The six sections are as follows:
- Orbiting the Earth, which talks about the satellites in space that help us with our everyday lives;
- Into Space, which is where the Columbus module mock-up of the Space Station is housed, alongside astronauts and their life in space;
- Exploring the Universe, which looks at wormholes, the Big Bang and the science behind searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence;
- The Planets, which is split up into eight sections (no Pluto I'm afraid). You can even drive a Mars rover over the 'surface' of a planet, and see Venus in 3D (no snazzy glasses necessary). Here there is also an under 5s play area available;
- Space Now, which is in area which shows you what is going on in space right now
- Tranquillity Base, which is an activity area requiring the tickets given to you on entry. Here are several activities, including controlling a rock digger, and interactive games. There is also a simulator, which costs an extra £1 per person.
There are a lot of interactive activities, such as sending a person into space (this is a two man job), memory, the mars rover, building a model rocket as quickly as you can, a reaction test and much more. The thing I like most about all these activities was that they all worked. I tried out quite a few, and I guarantee my pupils tried out the rest - they all worked well and most didn't require anything to work, although some needed the ticket. One or two required money (such as the simulator and arcade games), but overall that's not bad. The Tranquillity Base activities and the launching a person into space had the most wait time (or the biggest crowds around them), but the longest we had to wait was about 5 minutes. This must depend on how busy each area is, but there is plenty to keep you busy whilst you wait. The final activity is the Weather Pod; this is where you can be filmed on a green screen giving futuristic weather. If you like your film enough, you can scan your ticket again to upload it onto YouTube. Be warned - this does get shown on screens around the weather pod once you have filmed it!
Aside from the activities, there are a lot of informative displays around the centre. The information presented depends on the section you are in, but the level of detail does vary to allow some younger visits to access the information, whilst allowing older visitors to also enjoy their visit. I learnt a lot of things I hadn't come across before, especially about the astronauts that have been into Space. There was also a timeline in the rocket tower, with events such as the release of Sindy dolls, and Sound of Music, as well as key space travel dates. I loved this and found the events on the display quite interesting (if not a little random). It's a shame I didn't have more time to look at them.
Pre-Visit and Booking
I found booking the trip very simple. There was an option to email or call the Bookings team - I opted for email as I hate the phone. I had to send my school details, the number of pupils going, the date and some details about myself. I got quite a prompt reply, with a booking letter and invoice attached. To confirm the day of the visit, the letter needs to be filled in and returned within two weeks (which I just about managed!). You then receive a welcome pack with some FAQs which I found very helpful, as they answered my questions. The Centre also recommends a pre-visit, which two members of staff can go on free of charge, as long as they have ID. I called to book the pre-visit, which was very simple. All I needed to do was give my name, school address and the day I was visiting. When we got there, we had our badges but not much attention was given to them. We were granted access and were able to look around just as visitors would. It was very helpful to go on, as it allowed me to learn where things like toilets were, and which areas we would like pupils to focus on. I was half-expecting a little guidance, but this wasn't really necessary.
Groups are given big wheelie buckets to store their bags in during the visit (the Centre asked for all bags and coats to be left there). These were then stored in the main eating area, and didn't seem to be locked away, which I found slightly unsafe. All bags and coats were returned though, so the system does work. There is an eating time and area available for your group, which is just off the public area. If you are just visiting, there is a café and small eating area nearby, and a larger eating area under the rockets (I'm not sure how I feel about eating under very large rockets!). The café was quite reasonably priced, with 3 teas, 4 donuts and a juice coming to just under £7 (cheaper than other places I have been to). A shop is also at the Centre, with a variety of items such as model shuttles, play mobile (space themed, of course), space ice cream (which my pupils assured me was very yummy) and Dr Who items. There was much more in the store, including your usual pens and rulers, but far too much to list. It felt slightly pricey, but I think that is usual with gift stores.
There are toilets next to the shop, and behind the weather dome in the centre itself. I do think they could have been signed clearly; even though they had a large male/female sign above them, the ones in the centre were hidden behind a lot of displays and were hard to see. There are a large amount of toilets and sinks in there, which is good for busy periods.
You can go to the café and back into the main centre as much as you need - just make sure you have your tickets, as these allow access into the main centre!
Cost & Times
The cost for our trip was £6.95 + VAT per pupil, and each adult per 10 pupils could enter the Space Centre for free. The cost for a usual visit is £13.00 per adult, and £11.00 for a child between 5 and 16, as well as concessions. Under 5s go free.
There are other activities, such as workshops or school visits, but these were for groups of about 30 pupils and some cost hundreds of pounds, which unfortunately was out of our price range. On the positive side, there was enough for pupils to do and learn without the need for workshops.
Parking is available at the Space Centre, and this costs £2 for the entire day, so make sure you have some change on you (it is a Pay and Display car park).
Tuesday-Friday the centre is open 10am-4pm, whilst Saturday-Sunday and school holidays (stated on their website) the opening times are 10am-5pm.
The Space Centre recommends about 4 hours (including lunch and a Planetarium show) to look around, and I agree. I found that by half 1, the pupils were very restless and had explored the centre and activities, as well as completing a work booklet I printed out. The Space Centre provide the booklets online for you to download, or can print it out at about 9p per page, so it is worth you making copies yourself!
I found the Space Centre overall a really good visit. It was very informative, and I especially liked the fact that every activity available worked (give or take a queue). I think that it perhaps wasn't suitable for such a large group (110 12-13 year olds), and the staff did end up following us around a lot, and limiting where the pupils could go, even though they were behaving very well (give or take 2 or 3 individuals). However, in the two visits I have been there, there were several groups of different ages, including a birthday party, a Brownie group and a toddler group. I'd make sure that the group have the activity booklets provided on the website, as this did focus the group and ensure they paid attention to key parts of the centre. It may be worth printing one off if you go as a family, depending on how fast your child takes in the displays. It is a very informative and enjoyable centre, and I'm very glad I went - as are my year 8s, who all seemed to enjoy their visit!
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Derby Cathedral or the Cathedral of All Saints Having lived in Derbyshire since I was about 14 years old on and off this is somewhere I have been a few times but as it is often years between visits it always surprises me when I go. Our most recent visit was just before we went away and we took my sister in law ... and brother in law as they had never been and we wanted to do something other than just sit at home when they came over. My sister in law loves churches and cathedrals so this seemed a perfect choice.
Previous visits include ones where I took a group of school children, once we took part in a well dressing competition and all the children's efforts were on display in the museum, I have also been to carol services where my children sang as well so as you can see this is a cathedral where I have spent some time.
The current cathedral dates from the 14th century but the 65 m tower is not as old and dates from 1510 to 1530 and is built in the perpendicular Gothic style favoured at the time of the time. This church did not reach the status of Cathedral until 1 July 1927. James Gibbs, who was the Georgian architect of the Cathedral, also designed St Martins in the Field church in London and those with an architectural interest may notice similarities.
This is not a Cathedral full of fancy gilt and decorations; in fact initially it seems quite plain for a C of E Cathedral as it is high ceiling- ed but the wall are pretty plain as is the ceiling . The most obvious decorated element that you notice when you enter is the Bakewell screen which divides the main part of the cathedral from the altar and chancel areas.
There are a number of interesting factors in the Cathedral but I will share my favorite parts as some things are quite specialised and others of no interest to me at all.
THE BAKEWELL SCREEN
This screen looks a bit like a wrought iron entrance gate and was designed by Robert Bakewell who also designed the wrought iron entrance gates outside the museum which look pretty similar in fact. The screen was constructed in the 18th century and the cost at the time was apparently £157.10.0d . It is quite impressive and I have not seen anything similar in other cathedrals. It has a lot of gold paint to lift it from looking a bit like prison bars.
The rood screen is a feature found in a number of medieval churches and dived the nave from the chancel. They can be made of stone, wood or in Derby's case of wrought iron and are carved to look decorative.
This is pretty high and although the Cathedral cannot be seen from across the city you do get a pretty good view of the city if you climb the tower.
I have climbed this a number of times with classes of children but my in laws declined the offer. The stairs are narrow and dark so not suitable for anyone with height fears, disabilities of claustrophobia. The tower is not always open either so be prepared to be disappointed if you come and it is a day when it is closed.
One reason it may be closed is if the weather in inclement and another is if the resident peregrine falcons are nesting. They first arrived in 2005 and in 2006 a special nesting platform was built for them. Since then the same pair successfully reared chicks in 2007, 2008, 2009 and other pairs have joined them. Now there are Webcams so you can observe the birds online and on a video in the cathedral so that the birds can be seen without being disturbed which I think is a wonderful thing for a Cathedral to boast.
The tower has also become popular for abseiling down for charity but I can't say I have been tempted to join in that event.
DING DONG THE BELLS DO CHIME
Derby Cathedral is very proud of the fact that it has the oldest ring of ten bells in the United Kingdom, and in fact one of the bells , the 15th century tenor is actually older than the tower itself. These bells played by a carillon play daily at 9am, 12pm and 6pm so if you are nearby you should be able to hear them play.
SYMBOLS OF LOCAL TOWNS
Near the rood screen in front of pews that are ninety degrees to the altar there are wrought iron symbols to represent the different Derbyshire towns and these pews are where the representatives of the city council sit when they came to services of importance.
THOSE RESTING HERE
Famous people who are remembered here include Bess of Hardwick from Hardwick Hall nearby. Henry Cavendish , famous natural philosopher, scientist, and an important experimental and theoretical chemist and physicist. Georgina Cavendish better known as Duchess of Devonshire played by Keira Knightly in the film 'The Duchess'. Finally we have a William Ponsonby who I have never heard of before this.
OTHER INTERESTING THINGS
There is a special plaque or memorial to Florence Nightingale who apparently helped who helped design the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary. They do hold a memorial service and celebrate her birth date in the Cathedral and there is a school and road named after her in Derby as well as three statues too. This famous lady's connection with Derby is slightly tenuous as she was born in Italy, spent most of her life working overseas and died in London but her family did own Lea Hall just outside Derby. If interested you can book to stay in this hall in the Derbyshire Village of Lea and be impressed with the grand entrance with its chandelier.
Although you do have to go down some stone steps this is not the usual dark, damp crypt often found in churches. This is small and painted cream and has been made into a small chapel which is very plain and quiet as well as being slightly chilly.
THE CLOCK AND CARILLON
For those interested in clocks there is a very fine one in the Cathedral tower and it is this timepiece that chimes regularly playing a tune. It apparently plays different tunes on each day of the week but I have to admit I was not aware of this fact before the last visit. If I am in the city at noon I will take special note in future.
We did wander over to enjoy a cup of coffee and inspect the Cathedral treasures under the cafe. One of the 'treasures' is actually from Shirley church and is the famous plate which we only have a photo of in our church. There are a number of other treasures there if that kind of thing takes your fancy. There is also a small at gallery with paintings from a local artist which I liked more than the cathedral treasures.
The cafe is small and friendly selling drinks and cakes and snacks. They also have cards and books for sale too so it a nice place to sit and look back at the Cathedral over the road.
WORTH A VISIT
Yes it is a very different sort of Cathedral with lots of interesting and different things to see. It is not a building I would drive to visit from afar but if you are in the local area then it is well worth a visit. It is open most days and is free so a a place for a rainy day visit. It is right in the city centre and there are lots of cafes and restaurants nearby for lunch after or before your visit.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.
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Sightseeing National / The remains of a 12th century abbey now in the care of English Heritage.
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Sightseeing National / The remains of an 11th Century Norman Castle in East Yorkshire now in the care of English Heritage .
Sightseeing National / Blagrave Street, Reading, RG1 1QH.Tel no: 0118 939 9800
Address: Buxton Road / Sightseeing National / Castleton / Hope Valley / Derbyshire / S33 8WP
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Address: Hardman Square / Sightseeing National / Spinningfields / Manchester M3 3EB
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