Thursday, 31 March 2016

Win a Family Meal at Pizza Express with a £75 gift card

Readers will have seen that we've recently become part of the #PizzaExpress family, which has been great fun. We've reviewed our local restaurant in Milton Keynes, today took part in a fab Twitter Party where several lucky tweeters won £25 gift vouchers, and now I'm delighted to announce we have another giveaway for a £75 gift card, meaning you can treat the entire family to a wonderful meal out at your local Pizza Express. It's a great place to dine with kids with their special menu and kid's packs to keep them entertained.  Why not use the Easter holidays as an opportunity to try out their new spring menu?

You can check out the reviews from the rest of the team here:

The giveaway is open to entrants in the UK, aged 18 and over.  To enter, complete the Rafflecopter widget below.  The giveaway will be open for one week, and the winner will be selected at random after midnight on 7th April 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Pizza Express - A Gluten-Free Family meal out

Pizza Express was one of my go-to places for a family meal out.  However, since we've all gone gluten-free (for various health reasons), we've not eaten out a whole lot.  I'm a pizza addict, and good pizza is something I've really missed since being gluten-free.  I've tried some restaurant pizzas, take-out pizza and supermarket pizza to cook at home and none of them have quite hit the mark.

We've recently joined the #PizzaExpressFamily blogger campaign, so I was really keen to see how our gluten-free experience would be and especially excited since they've just launched GF dough-balls (OMG OMG OMG).

We love eating out as a family, it's a great way to sample different food and I think it's important children can feel relaxed when eating out, but also learn how to behave in a restaurant.

The children's Piccolo menu I've always found to be great value for money - £6.95 for a starter, a main, a dessert and a babyccino.  Now they offer gluten-free doughballs, and the gluten-free brownie as dessert it means that Ruby was able to enjoy every course without missing out.

It's a shame they don't keep a stock of GF pasta, but let's be honest, we go there for the pizza don't we?

We visited one of our local restaurants at the Xscape complex in Milton Keynes. This is always a very busy restaurant being close to the multiplex cinema and the snow-zone, but it's perfect to visit after a family film.  Apart from their great family welcome and amazing food, one of the things I like best about visiting Pizza Express is that they are often in pretty cool repurposed buildings - we've dined in former banks, old Masonic Halls and listed coaching inns.  The Milton Keynes one is a modern, purpose built premises in the leisure complex, so lacks the charm of some others, but it's fresh and contemporary, with subtle lighting (perhaps too subtle for decent photography, so apologies for the grainy shots!).

Ruby got stuck into her colouring and activity sheets (she enjoyed the pop-out Easter finger puppets) while I perused the menu over a chilled glass of Pinot. There was no question she'd go for the dough-balls, and I like the fact these come with a little side of crudités of tomato, cucumber and pepper, helping her get her five-a-day.  The Old Man selected the antipasto.  When it arrived it was HUGE (I suspect they brought us the sharing platter by mistake) but we all chipped in and helped - we're good like that.  The Antipasto usually comes with baked dough sticks, but these aren't available gluten-free so they swapped them for some GF doughballs. I tried one, for research purposes of course, and they were delicious. Lighter and less doughy than the normal ones, but oh how I've missed doughballs and their moreish garlic butter.  I selected the mozzarella and tomato salad which was light and refreshing, with a generous ball of delicious creamy buffalo mozzarella.  The basil pesto dressing made a nice change from the usual sprinkling of basil leaves.

Onto our mains, Ruby went for a classic Margherita gluten-free pizza, I picked the Padana (my favourite) and The Old Man, an American Hot. The gluten-free bases were thin and crispy style but tasted just as good as the regular pizzas I'd missed so much.  I was a little disappointed with the topping on my pizza, I couldn't taste the goat's cheese at all and suspect it was just mozzarella rather than any goat's cheese.  Maybe because they were thinner, or maybe the lack of gluten, but we were all able to clear our plates happily.  I used to not be able to finish a pizza here and we'd often leave with a doggy-bag pizza box, but we certainly felt less full than usual.  Great news - there was room for dessert!!

The menu has simple to follow symbols for vegetarian and gluten-free so it was easy to see what we could order.  There is a GF brownie on the children's menu, but Ruby decided she'd rather have ice cream, and managed 2 delicious scoops. Him Indoors chose the salted caramel ice cream and his badly timed visit to the gents meant I got to sample quite a bit of it.  Oh my word, it was out of this world.  Seriously additively amazing.  They should sell that in supermarkets, I'd fill my freezer up!

My regular dessert would be the Caffe Reale, tiny morsels of spiced baby figs served with creamy mascapone and a coffee on the side.  But I decided to try something new, so I opted for the Tartufo Limoncello.  A pure white lemon gelato bomb, the sharpness of the citrus was balanced with the sweet crunchy studs of white sugary meringue.  I was waiting for the liquid alcohol centre of limoncello, but instead found a small, syrupy, almost jelly centre, so while not exactly what I was expecting, it was nevertheless very tasty and a lovely palate cleanser at the end of the meal.

Overall, I was really impressed with how well they deal with allergens.  The menu was easy to follow and there's some very detailed information on their website.  They even have a gluten-free beer.  All gluten-free dishes are certified by Coeliac UK.

We’ve worked hard to ensure that you can be fully confident of no issues upon entering any PizzaExpress. This includes changing processes in our kitchens – including labelling and storage, using new equipment only for gluten-free food, as well as changing the flour we use for tossing and stretching our dough to be gluten-free.

We're delighted that we can continue to enjoy meals out at Pizza Express and it's great to know that whichever branch we visit, we'll receive the same choices.  It certainly makes family trips out much easier.

Make sure you follow the news and fun with the #PizzaExpressFamily team. There's a Twitter Party coming up on 31st March from 2-3:30pm where you can win great prizes, and keep your eyes peeled for your chance to win a family meal.  Thanks to Pizza Express for providing us with a complimentary review meal for the family.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Born To Be Wild - Nature's Playground

This weekend, I went along to the book launch of Hattie Garlick's Born to be Wild with the RSPB.  In actual fact, I'd helped to organise it, ensuring we had a lovely bunch of bloggers along.

You may remember Hattie from her Free Our Kids campaign where she pledged to go a whole 12 months without spending a penny on activities for her child.  Hattie is one cool mamma, finding fun in all sorts of unexpected places and her love for nature and general zest for life shone through when I met her.  She's also a real mum, with real kids, not someone who lives life like a beautifully shot instagram photo.

Her new book Born To Be Wild is jam-packed with nature-based activities, with suggestions and ideas that can be replicated in any community throughout the year.  The book is helpfully divided up by seasons and by materials, so you can always find something fun to do, with whatever the day gives you.

From old favourites such as making stick boats, petal perfume and daisy chains, to more unusual ideas such as 'misleading a butterfly'-

A bit mean, this one, since you're effectively luring male butterflies with the false hope of romance. It feels a bit like creating a hideously misleading online-dating profile'.

I love her honesty and humour throughout the book, and she freely admits that sometimes it's not easy to drag your kids away from the TV and out on a walk. But seriously, take this book with you and you'll have so much fun, the kids won't want to come home!

Nature provides us with such an amazing array of free materials to play with. Combine that with a few cheap craft materials and some household bits and bobs and you've got an endless source  of entertainment.  The kids will not only have fun, but they'll get fresh air, stimulation, learn about science and wildlife and be able to express themselves creatively.

Our kids are often wrapped in cotton-wool these days, so it's great to be able to throw off some of the health and safety shackles and explore.  Hattie has tips for safe wild swimming (hooray!), pond dipping, foraging, mud painting and snowball fights.  A woman after my own heart!

We met at Rainham Marshes, a RSPB reserve just outside of London.  Driving through the ugly industrial environment with towering pylons and fume-filled ring-roads, I wasn't expecting the oasis of calm we arrived at.  A huge, imposing modern-architectural wonder of a visitor centre greets you at first. Here you'll find a visitor shop, a cafe, playground, picnic tables and toilet facilities.

We headed out to the education centre, the kids skipping along the winding paths and boardwalks that cross the marshes.  Our guide, Louise from the RSPB pointed out the best places to spot water voles and enthralled the children with the secrets of some of the plant life - who knew teasels were carnivorous? Not me.

The education centre is set back from the main paths, an unassuming collection of rusted old shipping containers.  But inside this secret lair, the RSPB host up to 100 school children on wildlife visits.  The  room inside reveals a full-length window across one side giving amazing views of the surrounding area, with Eurotunnel trains whizzing by, ships on the Thames in the distance, but in the foreground, an incredible display of visiting wildlife.  This whole area was once an MOD firing ground, but now it's been totally reclaimed by nature and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna.

Image credit: RSPB
We started with pond dipping, a family favourite, and the kids armed themselves with nets, trays and identification cards.  There was lots of excitement when water boatmen, damselfly larvae and bloodworms were found. After this, we moved inside to create Easter Trees.  A simple collection of twigs, petals and mud made the basis of these designs, and the children let their imaginations run riot embellishing them with paint, yarn and glitter.  Each child proudly held their jam jar tree aloft at the end.
Image credit: RSPB

Image credit: RSPB

Image Credit: RSPB
It was such a lovely day, and great to see the kids going wild.  The rest of the activities in the book should keep them going for the remainder of the year, never mind the Easter holidays!

You can purchase a copy of the book from the RSPB site and a proportion of the purchase price is donated to the charity to help fund the RSPB's conservation work.

Disclosure: I have a professional relationship with the RSPB for this launch, and received a press copy of the book. All opinions and views are my own.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Roast Lamb with Ginger Beer for Easter Sunday

This Easter, Sainsbury's have produced a series of little twists, new takes on traditional, favourite recipes. 

We tried out the lamb in ginger beer, and it went down very well.  I'm a big fan of cooking with fizzy drink - gammon in cola, chicken in lemonade and duck in orangeade have all been popular in our house.  We're actually away for Easter, so we got to enjoy our Easter Sunday roast with all the trimmings a little early.

Serves: 6 plus leftovers
Prep time: 10mins plus resting Cooking time: 2 hours plus resting
·      1.5kg leg of lamb

·      6 cloves garlic, sliced

·      2cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled & sliced

·      1tsp cumin seeds

·      1tbsp olive oil

·      1 onion, cut into wedges

·      2 carrots, cut into chunks

·      3tbsp British plain flour

·      50ml no-added-sugar fiery ginger beer

·      250ml chicken stock, made with
·      1 chicken stock cube
Preheat the oven to 190°C, fan 170°C, gas 5.
Put the leg of lamb on a board and make small slits all over the joint. Press some of the sliced garlic and ginger and a few cumin seeds into each. Rub the oil into the joint.
Put the onion wedges and carrots in a large roasting tin and toss with 2 tablespoons of the flour. Sit the lamb on top and pour in the ginger beer and stock. Roast in the oven for 1 hour. Roast for a further 30 minutes for medium- pink lamb, 50 minutes for well-done.
Remove the lamb from the tin, cover with foil and let rest for 20 minutes. Pour the roasting juices from the tin into a small pan over a medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly reduced. Make a paste with the remaining flour and 4 tablespoons water. Whisk into the gravy until thickened.

Strain the gravy (keep the veg to make a soup). Carve the lamb and serve with the gravy, roast potatoes and the vegetables of your choice.

We're following a gluten-free diet at the moment, so I omitted the flour, and added a little red wine (what? I can't be expected to give up everything!!) to the gravy and it was delicious, really deep and flavoursome with the unmistakable zing of ginger.  The sweetness of the ginger beer balanced out the strength of the garlic. It's definitely a recipe I'll be using again and a perfect centrepiece for the Easter table.
Check out some of the other Easter Little Twists too, including eggs Benedict with avocado and hot cross buns with bacon.   There's some really exciting things going on at Sainsbury's at the moment.  I was pleased to attend their Spring/Summer preview of some of their new food ranges recently and was delighted by some of the new gluten-free products.  Can't wait for them to hit the stores.

Disclosure: I was sent a voucher to purchase the ingredients for this dish.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Where does Sport Relief Money Go?

Earlier this week I took part in the #TeamHonk challenge for Sport Relief with the lovely Vanessa and Sarah.  Today, my daughter has excitedly scooted to school in her track suit ready for a day of sport and a sponsored mile run. Tonight, Sport Relief ambassadors and celebrities will be all over our TV screens.  But where does the huge amount of money raised actually go?

Well, Sport Relief funds are split 50/50 between overseas projects and funding initiatives and good causes right here in the UK.  Lots of them will be small, local organisations who are not well known outside of their local community, but who do vital work and deserve highlighting.

This week I had the opportunity to visit NOAH Enterprise, a local charity who provide support and assistance to some of the most disadvantaged in the community.  Dealing with a wealth of issues that come with homelessness, they offer a pathway to help people back onto their feet, and to re-start their lives.

Service users come along to the centre for basic needs such as a hot meal from the canteen or the evening soup kitchen; use of the showers and toilet facilities; use of the laundry; appointments with the visiting doctor and dentist; as well as specialist help dealing with housing departments; form filling; language skills; re-training; work experience; job-seeking advice; addiction recovery programs; and more holistic services such as art therapy and drama and music workshops to regain confidence and purpose.

The day centre is open every single day of the year and provides a final safety net for those who have fallen through all the cracks.  This is often the last point of refuge. 

You can tell, that this organisation uses every penny to the benefit of the people it supports.  They don't have plush offices, swish signage or fancy merchandise.  The centre is rough around the edges, but they don't waste money on unnecessary frippery.  The team work tirelessly to raise money in any way they can, tapping into local businesses to use their staff and skills.  They've had the MD of a local aviation firm come in and give invaluable advice on job-seeking, large fast-food outlets provide food to the canteen one day a week, and other firms have donated IT equipment and office furniture.

The problem of homelessness is a rising one.  The latest rough sleeper count in Luton where NOAH are based was 53.  The previous year it was 33.  The latest rough sleeper count in nearby Bedford where NOAH are starting to work was 51. The previous year it was 25.  Jim O'Connor the Chief Executive explained that this represented just the tip of the iceberg.  It doesn't take into account the huge numbers of sofa-surfers, those in temporary accommodation, those in hidden squats or those who sleep on the outskirts of the town centre such as the rising number of tent sleepers.

I used to work for a homeless charity and I know just how hard it is to raise funds.  Homelessness is not a sexy charity, and you have to work hard to compete with the big charities who have huge budgets for marketing campaigns and advertising.  Cancer charities for example are ones that everyone has some kind of personal connection to one way or another, but homelessness and addiction still has a stigma attached.  There's still a feeling amongst some members of the public that they've brought it on themselves - I can't tell you the amount of discussions I've had with people about this issue.

But I think now, opinions are changing.  The current benefit cuts and austerity measures have given a stark reminder that actually, most of us are only one or two pay packets away from being in the same situation.  The rise of food banks and the media coverage of that has opened up the conversation about poverty. Many of the people who use the day centre, have found themselves in a spiral of poverty brought on by just one or two life changes. A redundancy, a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or an illness can be all it takes to start this journey to homelessness.

The staff at the centre had organised some people for me to interview, but this is always tricky with the transient nature of the service users.  We weren't able to meet the lady I'd been expecting to meet, but what happened unexpectedly that day gave me much more of an insight into how NOAH works.

As we were standing chatting in the corridor, a woman walked by.  She stopped and reached out her hand to my face.  She was around my age, but her face was puffy from crying and she had a cut above her eye.  She then took hold of my hand and held it tight.  All I could do was squeeze hers back.  We stood for a few moments in silence, but I could see the desperation in her eyes.

When she spoke, tears spilled over.  She was imploring me to help her, but she spoke no English.  Communication was impossible and I've never felt so helpless.

Thankfully, there were staff on hand who could interpret.  While she asked for help, she never let go of my hand once.  It was such a personal moment of despair and I felt as though I was intruding, but for some reason she wanted to hold onto me.  All I could do was offer her a hug and hold her hand.  Maybe that's what she wanted?  Some human touch and interaction?

She spoke to the staff in her own language, admitting she was struggling with alcohol and asked for help to recover.  There was a flurry of activity as the guys started the ball rolling, and lots of gentle explanation of her need for commitment to a program.

Admitting an addiction problem is such a huge turning point in someone's life. I don't know what had happened to get her to that point, but clearly it was her moment.  The staff were not going to let that moment pass.  I know how difficult recovery is for anyone, but for someone living such a chaotic life, sleeping in a squat, miles away from her friends and family, I can't imagine how difficult her journey is going to be.  She now has the right support, and I hope with all my heart she makes it.

As I left the centre, I walked through the town to visit the NOAH Boutique charity shop to see their fundraising activities there.  The shop was calm and quiet, with volunteers steadily working away in the background stocking the store and serving customers - raising funds and gaining valuable work experience.

As I browsed the books, Amy Winehouse came on the radio.  Listening to the words of Rehab, the stark contrast struck me between the celebrated artists and 'tortured souls' who have a talent which brings them world-wide fame, and those who are completely unknown, ignored by almost everyone who passes them by on the street.  Sadly Amy Winehouse never overcame her addiction problems, I really hope the story with the lady I met turns out differently.

Sport Relief have given £30,000 over three years to support their work. This supports their art, music and drama workshops, as well as cookery lessons and running the food kitchen.  If you'd like to donate, you can sponsor the Team Honk challenge here.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Win Bed Linen with Homemaker Bedding

Spring is the perfect time to refresh your bedroom, and a really cost-effective way to give your whole room a new look is with a set of stylish new bed linen.

With new bedding and a few key accessories you can bring your bedroom right up to date.

Homemaker Bedding is giving one lucky reader the chance to win a set of bedding of their choice, in any size you'd like.

How about this bold and colourful tropical set, right on trend with the exotic theme.

Whether you'd like linen for your room, a guest bedroom or a child's room, they have so much to choose from.  From romantic florals, bold colours, stylish checks and cosy Nordic there's something for every taste.  They offer great value for money too.  This beautiful child's single set is just £10.99.

Readers can take advantage of 10% off too using this special code: HOME10 which is valid on any order.

To be in with a chance of winning, please complete the rafflecopter below.  One winner will be selected at random, and can choose any style currently in stock in either single, double or king size.  Sets including curtains are excluded from the prize giveaway.  Open to UK entrants only.  Closes at midnight Sunday 20 March 2016.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Prize will be fulfilled by Homemaker Bedding.  We received a single set of the camper van design as a thank you.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Choosing the Perfect Sofa

A sofa is likely to be one of the biggest expenses in your living room, so making sure you choose wisely is key.

I always recommend Sofa Sofa to friends and family, I've purchased my last two from them and am happy to endorse them to others.  We've had great service from them, the delivery drivers are really friendly and efficient, placing it in position and removing all packaging.  Our current sofa is around 4 years old but still looks amazing and most importantly is comfortable for lazing on in the evening watching TV, or sitting with my laptop during the day to work.  

You can rest assured that they are manufactured in the UK using only the best materials,  and come with a 2 year guarantee on fabrics and 5 years on the hardwood frame.  

In our old house, we had one of their leather sofas which I adored.  A modern style with chunky squared arms, it also caught the eye of our house buyers who requested that we include it in the house sale.  I was upset to leave it, but it worked out for the best since we had a month-long gap between our sale and completion on our new house, so it was one less thing to send to storage!

Both my sofas from Sofa Sofa have served us very well for years and years, and they really are amazing value for money and great quality.

Here are my top tips for choosing the perfect sofa:

1. How will you use it?

Decide how you and your family are likely to use it.  How many people will it accommodate?  Do you like to sprawl out and watch movies together?  Does it need to be long enough for a sneaky daytime nap?  People don't like to sit between 2 cushions, so if more than 2 people are likely to be using it, consider going for a settee with one bench-style cushion.  If you prefer to sit more upright, look for one with a higher back.  Feather pillow backs are comfortable, but they need constant plumping to stay looking great, so factor in whether you have the time for this.

2. Stay neutral

If you like to follow design trends, it's more cost-effective to stick to an overall colour in a neutral tone, rather patterned fabric or a bold colour.  That way you can update with cushions and throws rather than having to invest in a new sofa each time you re-decorate.  If you have young children or pets, consider a darker colour which won't show marks such as charcoal grey or brown.

3. Keep it in proportion

If you have large, high-ceilings and Victorian rooms, you can afford to go for a high-backed traditional sofa with scroll arms.  For smaller proportioned, modern rooms, stick with lower, squared arms which are more space-saving.

4. Measure it out

If you've just re-decorated or moved into your home, it can be easy to get carried away when faced with an empty space.  Sofas vary hugely in dimensions, so whilst you may think you have plenty of room for a three seater, make sure it will fit and not dominate the room too much.  Lay out newspaper on the floor to give you a feel for it's size, or better still build a 3D model with cardboard boxes so you can get an idea for how it looks in the space.  Don't forget to measure your door openings too!

5. Make it work harder

Sofas can have a dual purpose.  If you're short on bedroom space, consider investing in a sofa-bed that can convert to accommodate overnight guests.  If you have an open-plan living space, consider an L-shaped or modular sofa to give your room definition and work as a divider between spaces. 

This is a collaborative post but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Delilah Dog's First Holiday

This February half term was our puppy's first holiday.  It's fair to say I was a little apprehensive!

We'd booked our holiday cottage in Wales way back before Delilah arrived, but luckily we knew it was dog friendly so we just had to pay a small supplement.

Our old dog had always loved staying at Ty n Simmde and exploring the Welsh countryside, but how was a delinquent pup going to react?

The first challenge was the journey.  It's a good 4 1/2 hour drive from our house and Delilah had never travelled that far.  Her brother who lives with my mother-in-law gets terrible car sickness even on short journeys, so just in case we packed lots of wipes and towels to clean up, and factored in lots of pit-stops.

We needn't have worried.  She travelled beautifully.  She nested down in my footwell on her blanket, and pretty much slept for the whole journey, with a few quick wee stops at service stations along the way.

We'd taken her dog crate to sleep in, along with her bed and some toys to make her feel at home, and she settled into the cottage right away.  I knew they kept some old blankets stashed away, so we covered the sofas in case for when she inevitably jumped up on them.  The one thing we were missing was a stair gate to prevent her marauding around on the beds upstairs!

Delilah loves to chase and/or chew everything she sees.  So her days were pretty much leaf, leaf, leaf, stone, stick, leaf, stone, leaf, leaf, snooze and repeat....  She had an absolute ball!  

There was one whimper-inducing moment when an errant sheep from the next farm wandered into our garden and she shot inside with her tail between her legs, but other than that, it was all good.

She coped remarkably well with all the walking, we sometimes forget she's only 6 months old, so shouldn't really be going on massive hikes as her little hips are still developing, but with lots of breaks, she was grand.

The beach was a revelation to her.  She spent ages chasing the little bubbles of foam that washed up the shore from the sea, and drank a fair bit of salty sea-water from the rock pools (crazy animal).

We were optimistic that Delilah would be a swimmer like Ella was, but she wasn't keen on the cold water.  We need to work on that.

Snowdonia is well geared for welcoming dogs, and she behaved beautifully in every cafe and restaurant we visited, curling up under the table and going to sleep. The only place she wasn't allowed was on the canal boat trip we did, so she got an extra long and rainy towpath walk instead!

If anything, she behaved better on holiday than she does at home.  To be honest she can be a bit of a handful still, chewing and jumping up.  I guess she got a lot more mental stimulation than she does on a normal day stuck at home with me while I'm working.  I must make more of an effort to take her out and do stuff during the week, and not just her normal two walks around the block.

I really do think it was a great adventure for her, and we can't wait to take her back at Easter.  I'm so glad she enjoys the great outdoors like we do.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Win a FabLab Bath Bomb Making Kit

Now, we've made DIY bath bombs before, but there's something so much simpler about a lovely kit that includes everything you need to make them.  Whether it's to give the kit as a present, to make the bath bombs to give away for Mother's Day or Easter, or simply to make and use at home, this kit from FabLab Interplay has it covered.

This is suitable for children aged 8 and over, and I just know that my daughter would love to do it.  Everything is included (you need to add a little liquid soap from your kitchen or bathroom) to make up to 12 little bombs, there's even wrapping paper, ribbons and gift tags, so they'd be perfect to make for Mum for Mother's Day.  

Head over to Blue Bear Wood for their full review of the bath bomb kit (and another chance to win).

Image credit: Blue Bear Wood

To be in with a chance of winning this set for yourself, just complete the rafflecopter.

Closing date is midnight Sunday 13 March 2016.  Open to UK residents only.  One winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries.

Disclosure: Prize is supplied by FabLab/Interplay.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Celebrate Earth Hour 2016

Earth Hour began 9 years ago in Sydney, Australia when the lights were switched off as a symbolic statement about climate change.  Since then the WWF Earth Hour has grown to become a massive global movement involving over 170 countries.

It takes place on 19th March this year at 8:30 pm and residents and organisations are encouraged to switch off their lights in a world moment of solidarity in the fight against climate change.

I first heard about the movement through reading Thinly Spread's blog, where her family participate each year, lighting candles and sparklers, snuggling around the fire and playing board games.

It's such a simple action, but you can use your power to make positive change. Last year, as well as individual households, over 10,400 landmarks and 2,000 schools participated and there were 70,500 events registered.

“Climate change is a people problem. People cause climate change and people suffer from climate change. People can also solve climate change. WWF’s Earth Hour shows what is possible when we unite in support of a cause.”

Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary-Gene 

This year, there are a number of exciting events taking place around the country with the Forestry Commission.  Earth Hour in the forest is a series of events taking place throughout March from family-led torchlit walks looking out for nocturnal creatures, to star-gazing events led by professional astrologers:

Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk
Visit Rendlesham for a Dark Forest guided walk. On 19 March, Wild Woods will lead you on a forest trail where you will get the opportunity to gaze at stars, look out for night animals and experience some night-time magic. The walk will last approximately 2 hours, booking is essential.

Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria
Explore the forest by twilight. Families can join us for an evening adventure in the forest, exploring the woods then enjoying hot chocolate and storytelling around a campfire. Booking is essential and costs £2 per adult, £1 per child.

Kielder Castle at Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland
Kielder Castle will be hosting the spring Kielder Star camp on 2 – 6 March. A gathering of astronomers from all over the UK to observe, stargaze and photograph the astronomical wonders of the night sky. If you are a beginner, there will be some talks to enjoy on 5 March between 12 – 4pm and even an opportunity for solar observing if the sun is shining. All activities are free of charge.

Grizedale Forest, Cumbria
Enjoy a star walk through the forest, led by professional Astronomer, Robert Ince. Robert will explain the constellations and their mythology, unlocking the mystery of the night’s sky. Booking is required and costs £10 per adults and £5 per child. Included is free parking and free refreshments.

Gisburn Forest, Lancashire
Recently receiving its Dark Sky Discovery Site status, visit Gisburn Forest for some star-gazing. Wrap yourself up and be in awe of night’s sky as the cosmos magically reveals itself.

Hamsterley Forest, Durham
Hamsterley forest is hosting two magnificent events in celebration of Earth Hour. On 2 March, 7.30 – 10.00pm guests will have the opportunity to see Jupiter, King of the planets. Gaze at the amazing cloud bands of Jupiter and the famous Great Red Spot, a massive hurricane that has lasted for hundreds of years! On 25 March, the forest will again open its doors between 7.30 – 10.00pm, allowing guests to take in the magnificent star clusters. These beautiful collections of jewels in the night’s sky make excellent objects to see with binoculars or with a small telescope.
Tickets for both events are £7.50 and should be brought from the café in advance, or book online at

Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire
Come and take part in a twilight self-led trail and find out which animals are active at dawn and dusk, and why they like these dimly lit hours. The trail will be in place on 19 and 20 March and the Forest will open between 7.30am and 8pm on these days. The Twilight Trail is self-led so visitors can take part at a time that suits them.

If there isn't an event local to you, why not print out the free downloadable activity sheets and do your own event in your nearest forest, or even at home. Why not wrap up warm, grab a torch and a flask of hot chocolate and your favourite bedtime story and have an after-dark adventure in the woods?

Learn more about the WWF World Earth Hour here and follow the conversation on social media #EarthHourUK