Category Archives: review

Bogs: brilliant snow boots!

Living in the Peaks you need a coat for all weathers, but what to put on children’s feet? We found ourselves always taking wellies AND sturdy boots with us when we went out for the day. Boots are always better for running in and wellies better for splashing in puddles! Was there one brand of footwear out there that could be great for running and give welly protection? The good news, there is!

Nichola at One Small Step asked us (well, E really) to test a new brand she is thinking of stocking – Bogs. E was really excited when we picked them up and loved the cute animal design.

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E getting her Bogs from One Small Step

Apparently they are all the rage in America, but not that well known in the UK. At first glance, I have to admit, I was a bit sceptical as they look just like wellies. But after two weeks of testing them (we like to be thorough), we’re completely sold on them. Here are the reasons why:

Easy to put on
The smart inbuilt handle design mean they are easy for little hands to use to pull on, or for big hands to give a help! Other wellies often have handles but they can break – it won’t happen with these ones.

Waterproof and warm
Bogs are waterproof with soft outer layer and a fleece warm lining inside. E wore them out in minus 0° weather and her feet were kept toasty.
She tested them in snow, sleet and rain and her feet were kept lovely and dry – as this video demonstrates:

The only downside is that they’re shorter than traditional wellies (6 inch) so wouldn’t be able to cope with today’s 10 inches of snow! But we’d probably remedy that by putting her waterproof trousers over her boots, like we normally do.

Great for running around and climbing
Compared to wearing wellies, E found Bogs great for running around in, climbing and generally mucking about. When we visited her cousins in Brussels we planned to go to the local play park. When we heard it has a sand floor we picked the Bogs so she wouldn’t get sand in her shoes and she had no problems climbing all over the climbing frames. They have a rough tread on the sole so grip well. It saved us taking wellies and boots on holiday.

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Climbing in Bogs
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Running in Bogs

Machine washable
I couldn’t quite believe it when I read the box, but they’re machine washable! The mud doesn’t seem to stick on the pretty patterned boots, so we haven’t needed to wash them yet but it’s good to know we have that option.

Price
They are more expensive than you’d normally pay for wellies, but they replace two pairs of boots – walking boots and wellies. Also, we put thick socks on E so she had half a size bigger than normal so they will last her a long time and with another little one we’ll be able to pass them on to A.

Overall, we are really impressed with Bogs and hope One Small Step do stock them so we can get some for baby A when she’s old enough. E loved the pretty animal design, they’re easy for her to put on and great for running around in. They get the thumbs up from us 🙂

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Enjoy the snow today, whatever you’re wearing!

Michelle x

One Small Step generously provided us these boots in order to facilitate this review.  However, as always, the opinions expressed here are completely and honestly our own.

Five reasons to love Whitebox Photography

When you have children you want to capture them growing up with perfect professional photos that make your heart smile whenever you look at them. Baby E was in neonatal after she was born so we didn’t have any cute newborn photos and I was keen to make up for lost time, though I thought it was too expensive to do on a regular basis. But, I’ve found a wonderful local solution which means you can regularly have PROFESSIONAL photos taken at an AFFORDABLE price, right here in the Peak District.

Since our first photoshoot with the wonderful Whitebox Photography we have been back many times and I’m always spreading the word about the fabulous Liam who runs the local franchise. Here are my top five reasons for loving a Whitebox photoshoot:

Unbelievable value
A Whitebox photoshoot is LESS THAN £50. I’ve written that in capitals and bold to emphasis the point – people never believe me! To reserve a photo slot is only £15, so if on the day your children are sick and you can’t go, not too much money has been wasted. When researching online, most other shoots seemed to cost a couple of hundred, this is much more affordable. And at such a great price, you can have regular shoots!

Digital copies
At the end of the shoot you are given a CD with ALL the photos. So there’s no need to um and ah over selecting just 5 pictures (which happens with some photographers) and it means can print them, or share online, whatever you want. We have family all around the UK and abroad so it’s great to easily share photos.

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Relaxed atmosphere
Liam and his assistant make you and the family feel at ease. There are props for photos, toys to amuse the children and if you’re quick you can have an outfit change! Liam is there to get the most out of you so you’re happy with the photos.

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Super quick
Each shoot is about 15 minutes. That doesn’t sound long, but try grinning for 15 minutes or keeping children happy to pose for that length of time! I’m always amazed at the number of photos you get in 15 minutes – on average we have had about 100 each time. Also it’s just the right length of time for children to stay engaged.

There are so many ways you can enjoy the photos afterwards
We are always  thrilled with the photos and have used them in many different ways:

Large print family photo
Framed by Aperture Picture Framing in Buxton (a GREAT framers, he matched this frame to another we had)

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Printed onto canvas
And displayed on our dresser – we use Photobox

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Framed for us to have in our offices at work

Printed copies to pass to nursery
So E could show off her family

Thank you cards
After A was born

Digital magnets made by Sticky9
So E can play with them on our fridge

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Turned into a beautiful illustration
By the local artist Elizabeth Furness to go next to the pencil drawing of her daddy

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Whitebox Photography is coming to Buxton again at the end of February 2016, you can book a slot online.

I will share our photos after the shoot!

Happy posing 😉

Michelle x

Great Central Railway: Winter Gala – review

Our little family loves steam trains, my grandfather was a fireman on them and hubby’s parents have always enjoyed them too. It was a big tick when husband (to be) confessed his love of steam!

The in-laws has said they were planning to visit Great Central Railway’s Winter Gala and as we hadn’t been before, and handily it was halfway between where we lived and their house (only 90 mins from Buxton), we arranged for us to all go together. It was running over three days (Frid – Mon) and we picked the Friday as we thought it would be a bit quieter.

The Great Central Railway is the UK’s only double track mainline heritage railway where you can be on one steam train and another flies past! There are four stations, with each themed around a different era of steam; a museum; cafes; shops stocked with train memorabilia; a large restoration (locomotive) shed and of course lots and lots of steam trains.

We arrived around 1140 (apologies to the lovely in-laws, we had said we’d probably be there for 10 – but two broken nights in a row had left us exhausted so the day started late) and were immediately greeted with the great view of not one but two steam trains at Quorn & Woodhouse station. We decided to start our journey there as there was plentiful parking. As it was a Gala there were plenty of trains running throughout the day, passenger and goods, toddler E was really excited! As we’d had 90 minute drive to get there, baby A wanted a feed again so I settled down in the cozy ladies waiting room on the platform. Complete with an open fire (toasty) and a leather covered baby changing table! The room with comfortable wooden benches was a perfect spot to eat our packed lunch. The station has been themed around World War II and has been lovingly restored to reflect the era, with interesting posters about how to support the war effort and the radio in the waiting room was playing some fun old tunes E danced to!

Useful Jobs That Girls Can Do - To Help Win the War
Useful Jobs That Girls Can Do – To Help Win the War© IWM (Art.IWM PST 6079)

After a feed we hopped on a train to Loughborough so that we could have a walk around the shed – a proper man’s shed with huge trains in various stages of being restored, so we could use the exposed parts to explain how steam engines work. Most of the renovations seemed to be individual projects, and there were people we could talk with to find out what they were doing.

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Locomotive Shed

Back on the train we went the length of the track, from Loughborough to Leicester North and back again. By now baby A wanted feeding again so we relaxed in a private compartment whilst I feed A and we watched the world go by – bliss! We had fun spotting animals from the train, interesting buildings – one which had a Lego man painted on the side and more trains. At Leicester E and daddy got out to watch the train turn around, I stayed on the train. The relaxing journey took just over an hour.

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Feeding A and watching the world go by

At Loughborough we got off the train and looked at some of the stalls which were selling train memorabilia, toys and other nicknacks. As we’re in the middle of a HUGE clear out at the moment we were very restrained and didn’t buy anything, though to be honest we already have quite a few train sets…

Back on the train we hopped off at our original station and I decided to top A up again so retreated to the warm ladies’ waiting room. Daddy and E stood on the platform and watched more trains.

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Just before 4 pm it was time to leave and a wonderfully helpful volunteer ran to the station’s cafe for us so we could buy the grandparents some local beer to say thank you for the day.

Though we arrived late, we had a splendid day. It cost £20 per adult and under 5s were free, normally it costs £16 but the Gala was a special event.

We’ll definitely go again, we had a superb time – it was easy to find comfortable spots to feed A – and none of us can resist majestic steam trains.

Finally, a thank you to grandpa for his wonderful photos from the day.

Here’s to our next adventure!

Michelle x

The Deep (Hull) – Review

The other weekend we took a road trip to Hull to see some family and it was also an opportunity to visit The Deep.

My hometown is Plymouth, home of the National Marine Aquarium. We had planned to visit when we were there at Christmas time but didn’t get a chance, so needed a fish fix! I’ve grown up in seaside towns and miss sea air (nothing quite like it), waves and the sound of the sea. A trip to Hull and The Deep seemed the perfect antidote.

Having two young ones, even though it’s only a two hour drive away, we decided to stay at a Premier Inn in Hull. It’s quite a new one and were impressed (as ever) with the warm welcome, friendly staff and nice clean room. The bonus was parking on site and the location meant a short walk to The Deep or into Hull city centre.

On the Sunday, after a filling breakfast at Wetherspoons (where I booked the tickets online to save a few pounds), we managed to get to The Deep about 1030. The queue was quite long to get in, but only took about 5 minutes to wait. Whilst waiting we were given a form to fill in to sign up for gift aid and that meant we could return, for free, for a whole year. Not bad.

You have to travel to the top of the building to start the journey, the beginning bit toddler E wasn’t that bothered about, it talks about the creation of the earth, dinosaurs and oceans. She was more interested in getting to see some live fish!

Next we walked through to the Lagoon of Light where children could crouch down and watch the fish swimming about underwater or look over the tank, teeming with hundreds of fish. The shallow tank meant E could compare the view looking under water or from above – quite intriguing. We arrived just as there was a Touchpool session where you can get up close with creatures from the British isles shores. It was incredibly popular, but the guide organised us so every child (and interested adult) got to touch the animals. I carried toddler E and after showing her that mummy could touch a creature without losing a limb, she stroked a starfish and some crabs – rather cool!

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The Lagoon

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We continued to walk around, toddler E loved the large tanks of fish as she (sometimes) could get right up to the tanks to have a look. She was so excited, with her face beaming and shouting mummy or daddy if we didn’t walk quickly enough to see the latest animal she had found. In comparison, Baby A was non-plussed, she snoozed throughout the whole outing.

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There were lots of other exhibits to see; ants crawling along a long rope overhead; an ice wall (easy to miss in the Kingdom of Ice corridor), super fast penguins (spot the blurry penguin in the picture) and some bright, colourful, deadly small frogs. A great range of interesting animals to see, but also lots of ‘informative’ exhibits which E just ran straight past. We would have preferred more animals!

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Near the end there was also a soft play area, it was supposed to be limited to ten children but was heaving, so we walked on.

At the end there are two ways out going up past a huge 10 metre high tank; via a glass fronted lift or walking up stairs. There was a big queue for the glass elevator so we chose the stairs. Though the elevator is rather cool, if you go up the stairs you stop after each flight and can look into the tank – much more time to admire the fish! E was fascinated as you started looking at fish above you, then on the same level, then looked down and then the top of the water. Our favourites were the rays and the tanks biggest inhabitant, the sawfish.

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We had considered going to The Deep’s cafe, but it was packed, so we walked back to the Premier Inn and had a quiet coffee in their lounge.

Looking at the brochure afterwards, we managed to see everything – in only 1 and a half hours. I’d have expected to be there for much longer, but with an excited toddler it didn’t take that long. I was glad we hadn’t made a special trip just to go there for the day.

It was good The Deep, we’ll visit again when we’re next in Hull – great for a morning or afternoon – just don’t expect to spend the whole day.

Here’s to our next watery adventure!

Buxton Opera House: panto

Our first outing to a Christmas panto

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I was so excited to take toddler E to her first panto – Aladdin – at the majestic Buxton Opera House.

After a dash through the Pavilion Gardens, we arrived at the theatre with minutes to spare. But there was still time to buy a magic wand, there were a few to choose from and E went for the really REALLY colourful one.

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This year’s panto is Aladdin, a classic tale, fun for all the family. It started off with a loud bang and lots of boooos from the audience when the baddie Jafar appeared on stage (he played the audience superbly and was my favourite!). E was scared and cuddled into me (I was glad I had bought her a ticket for £2 which let her sit on my lap, rather than her own seat). But, by midway through the first act she was starting to shout along with everyone else.

The interval was a welcome break for my lap and then on to the excitement of the second act, which (no spoilers) included a magical ride, some topical costumes at a space party and a great ‘it’s behind you’ scene. With music and songs throughout, the panto was great entertainment for all – with enough innuendoes peppered through to amuse the adults. It’s running until the 2nd of January, so if you don’t have tickets hurry up! Here’s a video with a taste of what you’re missing:

We thoroughly enjoyed the show, but as E found it a bit loud next time I’d consider taking her to the quieter show they put on for autistic children.

Here’s to our next Christmas adventure!

Michelle x

Peak Rail: Santa Special

Steam train fun meeting Santa

Yesterday our family and friends braved the winds and rain to visit Santa, who travelled on a Peak Rail steam train specially to meet the children! Much fun was had by all…

On a wet and windy afternoon
We hurried to Peak Rail
We had special tickets to meet a man
Dressed in red, who said ho ho ho

We climbed on board and found our coach
And settled in our compartment
A cosy space for adults and bairns
With festive decor throughout

The elves came round and gave out gifts
Festive candy canes for smiling children
Mulled wine and mince pies
For slightly frazzle parents!

The train took off – choo choo it went
And entertainment began
Balloon animals, magic tricks
And festive Christmas songs

And then in the distance we heard a ho ho
And a smiley beared man appeared!
It’s Santa said the children
And they were grinning ear to ear

He asked if they’d been good
And their Christmas present wishes
Then came the gifts for all the children
Train, doggy and soft toys

We waved goodbye to Santa
He had many children to meet
And the entertainment continued
As the train steamed on and on

Much fun was had by all
A festive magic treat
We’ll come next year, we all agreed
On Peak Rail’s Santa Special

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A magical festive ride, which we finished off with a meal at the Grouse and Claret. Booking recommended as it was packed!

Here’s to our next Christmas adventure!

Buxton Opera House: Gruffalo

Last week (wrote a few weeks ago but only just published!) we took E to her first theatre trip, we were very excited to be going to see The Gruffalo at Buxton’s Opera House.

E is nearly 18 months old and hubby was worried she might not enjoy the experience and would be disruptive, but I told him the theatre would be jam packed with kids – of course! We booked our tickets well in advance, a group booking with our neighbour which meant we saved a few pennies.

On the day the sun was shining in Buxton so we had a lovely walk through the gardens before meeting up with (what seemed like) all the children in Buxton ready to go into the theatre. We had seats in the stalls which were easy to get to, but definitely no room for a pushchair so we were glad we had carried her there.

E had her own seat, but being a little girl she sat on our laps so she could see the stage. As the lights went down and the actors started their performance she was quite glad to have us to cuddle. It took her while to relax in the new, strange surroundings, but once she did she was bouncing and clapping along to the songs.

The Gruffalo – what a show! We really enjoyed it, there was a level of humour for the parents as well as the children. The three actors worked their socks off and engaged with the audience through the words to the story everyone knew, snazzy costume changes and songs for people to sing along to. And at an hour in length, the timing was just right to keep the children engaged and the parents happy 🙂 It also meant we didn’t have to entertain E during an interval or pay for expensive snacks!

I was so pleased we had chosen this show for her first theatre trip. The Opera House is a fabulous building (it was restored…) It’s a great location in the middle of Buxton; there’s parking nearby or the train station isn’t far away. I’ll be checking the programme to find the next kids show we could attend.
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Thanks for reading, here’s to our next adventure!

What we liked:
* Great show!
* Beautiful theatre, perfectly formed for little visitors
* Easy to get to location

Would be even better if:
* Can’t think of anything! Um..

Pavilion Gardens Café (review)

We’re so lucky living in Buxton within 5 minutes walk of the Pavilion Gardens and we’re there almost on a daily basis – be it a morning or evening stroll through the park, visiting the Pavilion for an event or popping in for a coffee.

When we first moved here I used to spend time in the Coffee Bar as they sold cakes I could eat! Now E is older we tend to go to the Café next to the gallery as it’s very well set up for children.

It’s a popular spot with local families and also tourists so it’s always good to get there early. If I’m by myself I enjoy sitting by the window and looking out over the gardens, but when I’m with pickle a seat by the children’s soft play is the preferred spot.

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Soft play

The soft play area only appeared in the last six months and it’s a great idea. Kids of all ages enjoy playing and compared to soft play centres it is free! There’s also a parking space for pushchairs, microwave for heating baby food and baby changing (though on my last visit that was a bit smelly and dirty and needs a good clean).

This week I didn’t start back to work until the Wednesday so first thing Tuesday morning I took us to the café. It was nice a quiet – as you can see E was queen of the castle!

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Pavilion Gardens Café

I ordered a black americano and a toasted tea cake. Price wasn’t too bad, but it’s the only place I’ve come across that charges extra for milk with your coffee and jam with a tea cake!!

E was happy playing, popping back occasionally for a snack and I relaxed and browsed the web as there’s free WiFi.

It’s always a good place to go when it’s raining and quieter than the local soft play centre.

In summary, we enjoyed:

* parking for pushchair
* comfy sofas – would be perfect if still breastfeeding
* free soft play
* free WiFi
* waitress service

Would be even better if:

* they didn’t charge separately for milk – seems a bit mean!
* baby changing was given a good clean

It’s a great local spot, we will be back again.

Thanks for reading and here’s to our next adventure!

The Tea Chest (review)

Yesterday was Easter Bank Holiday in Buxton and, after a few days always visiting family, it was lovely to be home and have a day to potter around town. I’m now starting to feel a bit like a local as I notice changes to the town, such as when commercial spaces are being developed and new bars, cafes or shops open up. The latest new venture to open is The Tea Chest, housed in The Courthouse Building on George Street in Buxton.

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The Tea Chest

Opened only a few days before, the chap I chatted to said he was inspired to open the cafe as there were many coffee shops in Buxton, but none specialising in tea. Being tea lovers ourselves (I’ve just counted and we have 8 varieties in the house at the moment) it was a place we wanted to visit.

We turned up with E in her rather large pushchair so took a seat near the front so there was plenty of room. There was a children’s high chair so we plonked her in that so she could watch the world go by. The menu was standard tea shop food – some breakfast items, paninis, cream teas etc. and there were also some lovely cakes on display at the counter.

There were also seats outside, on the courtyard, but we thought it was a bit too chilly. Inside there are lots more seats, some next to the front door and some around to the side. If I was still boobing E I would have gone to the back for a bit more privacy. No comfy chairs but I think I would have survived!

I thought I’d try out their coffee – simple black Americano whilst hubby had the Caravan Tea. I ordered sausage ciabattas for the two of us (sorry h, apparently you’d wanted bacon!) and beans on toast for E.

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Food and tea timer!

Drinks arrived promptly, coffee was good (not too bitter, good strength) and the tea was accompanied by some egg timers. You used these to choose the strength of your tea – pretty neat.

H went for the strong timer, but when he poured the tea it was rather weak and he was a bit disappointed. When we lived in Oxford we were spoiled with cafes using Jeeves and Jericho local tea – their Russian caravan tea is sublime – strong and smokey! The ciabattas were tasty (local sausages) and E enjoyed her beans on toast.

After munching through food from the breakfast menu, we were still hungry, but E had enjoyed her bread and beans and was full up.

Before we left we had a quick chat to (we think) the owner, checked that there are baby changing facilities (yes), gave feedback on the tea and wished him luck in his venture. For a tea shop we were hoping to be inspired by a really good cuppa – but maybe next time?

In summary, we enjoyed:
* chilled atmosphere
* small selection of teas to choose from
* fast, friendly service
* option of children’s menu

Would be even better if:
* there was WiFi!!
* teas brewed better (chap thought there might not have been enough leaves in the tea pot)
* wider range of teas to choose from
* better teapots like our cool red favourite

I’m following them on Facebook, so if WiFi is set up and the tea menu expands we’ll be back to sample another brew.

Here’s to our next adventure!

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Back again – there’s free WiFi 🙂

Peak District Mining Experience

Last weekend we had visitors to Buxton, my sister and her family with two young boys. With a wet weekend forecast we were on the hunt for indoor activities, but unfortunately quite a few are closed this time of year. After a hunt through some tourist brochures we came across an advert for Peak District Mining Experience – open, indoors and suitable for kids, result!

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We were terribly organised and made a packed lunch the night before so turned up at 1120 so we could have some grub before the midday tour. When we arrived we paid for the tour / museum and asked if there was anywhere we could have some food before heading to the mine. We were gruffly told no, there were 24 cafés down the road or sit on seats outside. We had a look around outdoors, but as it was raining we instead went back inside and asked if the children could share the table they had for drinks. The member of staff didn’t reply, but the other people at the table were more than welcoming.

Whilst my sister let her children eat, I used the outside toilets to change baby E. Not a pleasant experience 😦 It was cold, the changing unit was filthy and, as I often find, no strap so I worried about her wriggling off.

Once E was changed we headed back to the museum where we were handed a dustpan and brush to sweep up the crumbs the children had made! It felt as if the member of staff was going out of her way to make us feel uncomfortable, the adults before us who had dropped crumbs on the floor hadn’t been asked to sweep up…

Housework done, it was off to the mine!

The mine is the otherwise of the road to the museum, up a steep path. On arrival we were told that when we brought the tickets we should have been advised it was wet underfoot, lots of talking (the guide seemed put off by some other children who were starting to fidget) and lots of crouching down to get through tunnels. Nope, we hadn’t been told anything but felt we could probably cope! Anyway, I had it lucky, hubby was the one carrying baby E – with hard hat for safety 🙂

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The tour guide was a nice enough chap, stopping at various points and giving info. on how mining used to be carried out – I’m surprised anyone survived, a horrendois job – or how much gold was still in the hills. Quite a lot apparently! But excavation would destroy the local area so thankfully that wasn’t allowed, but this information made my nephews even more keen to try out the panning at the end!

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The weather had been quite wet the last few days so it was also wet in the mine, our feet and jeans got quite muddy. Mental note – wear wellies next time!

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The tour round the mine was just the right length to keep a group of small children engaged and we didn’t have to walk too far. It was tricky in places bending down and walking through tunnels – well it was for the adults but not the walking children! There were a few of us carrying children and this was tricky, it would have been helpful if we had been advised of this when booking our tickets.

When we came out there was the option for panning for gold, I declined but my nephews were very keen so we left them in the cold and walked back to the museum.

After the slight disappointment around the tour, the museum was an eye opener. There was so much to see including real artifacts, films to watch, tunnels to crawl through, pictures to see, text to read… it is fantastic! There was mining equipment that had been dug up from the depths of the ground and was on display, such a lot to see.

Once back from panning, my nephews enjoyed crawling through all the tunnels. There was a digger to sit in and lots to do – they had a lovely time!

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Overall with the museum experience as well, we enjoyed our visit. The initial attitude of staff and lack of information did taint the visit, but the explorative and engaging offer from the museum won us over. Not a bad trip for a rainy afternoon in the Peaks.

Thanks for reading, here’s to our next adventure!