YORKSHIRE YOUNG ACTORS on a journey to The Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse

YORKSHIRE YOUNG ACTORS on a journey to The Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse

As the cast of The Wizard of Oz prepare to take audiences on a magical adventure along the yellow brick road at Leeds Playhouse this month, it’s time to meet Lucy Sherman and Agatha Meehan, who will star as alternate Dorothys during the festive run from 20 November 2019 to 25 January 2020.

These images show the young local actors with their new best friends, Doris and Scruff, who will be playing Toto, Dorothy’s faithful four-legged companion on her journey to the Emerald City alongside a stunning puppet designed and created by Charlie Tymms (Life of Pi, Sheffield Theatres, Running Wild, UK tour).

In this timeless story of adventure and friendship, directed by James Brining (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sunshine on Leith, Leeds Playhouse) and designed by Simon Higlett (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Leeds Playhouse), the Munchkins and a number of ensemble roles are being played by local children in two teams – Team East and Team West.

James opted to cast a young ensemble and two real-age Dorothys to heighten the tension and ramp up the energy of this timeless tale: ‘Having a child play Dorothy brings out the jeopardy of the story. As soon as a child steps into Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the whole energy of the piece changes. There’s more vulnerability and an increased sense of responsibility on behalf of the adults for the child, for someone so young and small. I’m also very conscious of having young people in the audience watching the story and identifying with the protagonist – that’s a very powerful thing.’

The Wizard of Oz will play in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre, which reopens this Christmas following the building’s dramatic £15.8m redevelopment.

The theatre will host a sing-along performance of The Wizard of Oz on Friday 13 December, inviting the audience to dress up, sing out and join in the fun. Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances will also be available, and there will be a selection of bespoke wrap-around and inschool activities led by the Playhouse’s award-winning Creative Engagement team.

There’s no place like home

Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining talks about his fresh, dynamic take on The Wizard of Oz – and why it’s the perfect show to mark the theatre’s first Christmas in its newly redeveloped home. 

Why have you chosen The Wizard of Oz for the Playhouse’s first Christmas after its £15.8 million redevelopment?

‘The Christmas show in the Quarry at the Playhouse is a big event that attracts tens of thousands of people. For many, it’s a special occasion that marks the festive season, so we’re always looking for a show that can unite an audience in celebration.

The Wizard of Oz is a story of people triumphing over challenging odds. It’s full of peril, jeopardy, excitement and hope, but it should also make people feel inspired, positive and joyful.

‘Theatrically, it gives us the opportunity to make the most of the amazing space that is the Quarry Theatre. It’s a chance for us to stage a fantastic, affirmative theatrical event. The notion of ‘there’s no place like home’ is particularly interesting because, this year, we’re back in the theatre after our redevelopment. It’s brilliant to welcome people back with a show of this scale – it feels appropriate as a celebration of the monumental year we’ve had.’

What, for you, are the key themes of The Wizard of Oz? And what new elements are you striving to bring out?

‘The story is so well known but now, having worked on it so closely, I have found lots in there I hadn’t recognised or maybe had just taken for granted before. It really repays a fresh look.

‘It’s about a child who’s let down by lots of people, particularly adults, and isn’t having an easy time. She has to battle really hard to discover who she is and, in the process, she enables other people to discover who they are and what their positive and affirmative qualities are.

‘The approach we’re taking is to make it feel as inclusive as possible so that it represents a contemporary view of the world rather than an old-fashioned view. It’s a cherished story still very much set in its original time, but ours is a modern telling that’s very accessible to audiences.’

You’ve chosen two young local actors to play Dorothy – 12-year-old Agatha Meehan and 14-year-old Lucy Sherman – and have also cast a young ensemble. Why was this important to you?

‘Having a child play Dorothy brings out the jeopardy of the story. As soon as a child steps into Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the whole energy of the piece changes. There’s more vulnerability and an increased sense of responsibility on behalf of the adults for the child, for someone so young and small. I’m also very conscious of having young people in the audience watching the story and identifying with the protagonist – that’s a very powerful thing.

‘Lucy and Agatha are working so hard. The show asks a lot of them, but they are really excellent. I’m so impressed with them; they’re both very skilled and talented and also have a wonderful open enthusiasm.’

Why is the character of Dorothy still so beloved by audiences?

‘Dorothy helps liberate people and communities by her actions, and her personality – she’s always completely without ego. She takes other people along with her, inspiring them to make a change in their own lives. The potential of a child to change the world is a really powerful idea. Adults can often be much more aware of risk, failure and disappointment. What I find interesting here is that you have a child who’s put into a position where she has to act beyond her years, and she achieves everything she sets out to do.’

What can people expect from Leeds Playhouse version of The Wizard of Oz?

‘All the classic elements will be there – the ruby slippers, the yellow brick road, the Wicked Witch – but there will be so much more besides. Aerialists, puppetry, real animals – our aim is to not only match people’s expectations but to surpass them. We’re also using projections to energise the aesthetic and bring a new dynamic element to the show.

‘For me, the yellow brick road is an interesting metaphor. It’s obviously a real thing in the story but it also represents a journey, growth and companionship. Also, for me, it represents faith; not in a religious way but in the possibility of achieving something that initially seems impossible. It shows how, if you set out with purpose in good company, you can achieve a goal that you never could have imagined achieving by yourself.’

What’s your personal relationship with The Wizard of Oz?

‘I don’t know whether it’s a generational thing, but when I was growing up there were films that seemed to be on the telly all the time, every year, andThe Wizard of Oz was one of them. The story has entered the national consciousness to a certain extent. There are certain lines in it that have become iconic, almost Shakespearean in their recognisability. Like “I’ll get you my pretty” and “I’m melting” – they’ve become part of popular vernacular.’

Has working intensely on The Wizard of Oz changed your view of the story?

‘Working so closely on it means I’ve got to know it really well. The Wizard of Oz is such a complex and interesting story that it has almost taken on mythological proportions, moving beyond its narrative and becoming a powerful emotional arc.

‘The technique of having a reality that is, in effect, in a dream world is something I’ve realised I’ve done quite a lot in my other work, in other shows, almost subconsciously referencing The Wizard of Oz as a source idea. The idea that there is a reality and then there’s an alternative reality based on that reality is a very rich, dramatic and incredibly neat structure to make a piece of work from.’

Who do you think Leeds Playhouse production of The Wizard of Oz will appeal to?

‘It’s tempting to say “all the family”, but it’s a story that reaches even further than that, to people who don’t have a family, to everyone in fact. It’s a great story that, as the Playhouse, we will deliver with an integrity, depth and warmth.’

What makes The Wizard of Oz in the Quarry special? What sets it apart?

‘For me, it’s not just about the songs and the spectacular elements, it’s about interrogating the story, and making it clear and gripping and exciting. I want to make it about something; about courage and friendship and the possibility of transformation and community.

‘We will, of course, deliver on the songs and the dancing and the spectacular elements, but with added dynamism and freshness. I want people to experience things they didn’t expect to see.

‘It’s a family show, but it’s also more than that. It’s a classic story, and we do classic stories very differently at the Playhouse. We respect the original, but present it in a way that feels fresh, modern and completely unexpected.’

The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre

20 November 2019 25 January 2020. Press Night Tue 26 November 2019, 7pm

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk

An interview with the director


By L. Frank Baum

With Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg

Background Music by Herbert Stothart

Dance and Vocal Arrangements by Peter Howard

Orchestration by Larry Wilcox as revised by Toby Higgins

Adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company

Based upon the Classic Motion Picture owned by Turner Entertainment Co. and distributed in all media by Warner Bros.

Leeds Playhouse opened nearly 50 years ago. It is a cultural hub, a place where people gather to tell and share stories and to engage in world class theatre. The Playhouse makes work which is pioneering and relevant, seeking out the best companies and artists to create inspirational theatre in the heart of Yorkshire. From large scale spectacles to intimate performance, the Playhouse develops and makes work for the stage, found spaces, touring, schools and community venues. As dedicated collaborators, Leeds Playhouse works regularly with other organisations from across the UK, and some of the most distinctive and original voices in theatre today. Through their Artistic Development programme Furnace, they develop work with established practitioners and find, nurture and support new voices. They cultivate artists by providing creative space for writers, directors, companies and individual theatre-makers to refine their practice at any stage of their career. The Playhouse’s sector-leading Creative Engagement team works with over 10,000 people aged 0 – 95 every year through a range of weekly workshops and exciting creative projects using theatre to open up possibilities, reaching out to refugee communities, young people, students, older people and people with learning disabilities. At the Playhouse there is always a way to get involved.


Leeds Playhouse’s Autumn/Winter 2019 season will take place back in the redeveloped theatre following a £15.8 million transformation. The new building will include improved access to and around the theatre, a new city-facing entrance and the addition of a new studio theatre, the Bramall Rock Void. The full season consists of: FURNACE FESTIVAL 2019 returns showcasing a weekend of works in progress (13 – 16 November); Inua Ellams’ critically acclaimed BARBER SHOP CHRONICLES returns (20 – 23 November); celebrating 80 years since the iconic film THE WIZARD OF OZ  (20 November – 25 January) is the Playhouse’s Christmas spectacular; Leeds Playhouse presents THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (30 November – 28 December); the The Egg and The Travelling Light present SNOW MOUSE (10 – 21 December), and the Playhouse proudly celebrates 10 years of Relaxed Performances this Christmas-time, pioneered at Leeds Playhouse and now adopted as standard practice in theatres worldwide.


PONDEROSA ZOO: A family-friendly attraction in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire – Review

PONDEROSA ZOO: A family-friendly attraction in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire – Review

Ponderosa Zoo in Heckmondwike is a hidden gem housing over 120 animals from Lemurs to reindeers and reptiles. 

We went on our first trip to the West Yorkshire based Zoo, formerly known as Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre, during the school holidays to experience a family day out. 

Visiting Ponderosa Zoo 

The zoo is located off Smithies Lane Liversedge, Heckmondwike WF16 0PN. I hadn’t realised it was there until recently as it is tucked away. 


We parked up before checking in at the wooden hut-come-gift shop. We were greeted and showed the treasure trail which was there for Halloween. As it was Halloween when we went you could also pay £3 extra to get a pumpkin carved. The zoo is very reasonably priced compared to larger zoos we have been to. 

ponderosa zoo pirate ship dand pit yorkshire heckmondwike  family blog.jpg

I hadn’t realised how much there was to do from visiting animals to an indoor playbarn, outdoor play area, zip wire and talks on animals. There’s also spaces to eat a picnic or there is plenty of food and drink available to buy on site.

The zoo is compact with lots of paths making it easy to get around. There’s also a sand pit, so it’s a good idea to wear wellies especially when the weather is cold and drizzly like it was when we visited. 

My daughters aged 4 and 7 enjoyed exploring the zoo and filling out the treasure hunt. My Step brother Oscar, who is autistic, also enjoyed the zoo which is off the beaten path and felt a lot more tranquil than other attractions we have been to. 

We sought shelter in the large Lakeside Cafe which is also an events and wedding venue. It’s a cafeteria style eaterie with hot & cold food and drink available to buy. I had a nice tomato sop whilst the kids opted for jacket potatoes. 

We then ventured back outside for a last look around at some of the animals, before picking up our pumpkin which had been specially carved for us, suing our drawings. The kids had a few last goes on the zip wire before we returned to the car. 

I hadn’t realised there was a small indoor play barn as well, so next time we will definitely try that too. 


We had a lovely half-day at the zoo with friendly and accommodating staff. My mum and I really appreciated the emphasis on education, nature and endangered species. 

It’s a down-to-earth Zoo which is affordable and perfect for the whole family. 


Ponderosa Zoo (originally Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre) was created in 1991 by Maureen Cook with the aim to ‘bridge the gap’ between disabled and able bodied people through the care of animals as a form of therapy. At the time the centre held a variety of domestic animals including pigs, goats and cattle.

Since its conception Ponderosa Zoo is now home to over 120 animals from lemurs to reindeer. They are a dedicated team of hard working and passionate individuals who aim to promote animal welfare, in addition to educating the public on conservation efforts and the threats many species now face in the wild. In 2017 we took another step in journey by becoming provisional BIAZA members.

Although they are now a much bigger facility with their primary focus being on welfare, education and conservation, they still hold a ‘Bridge the Gap’ vision by ensuring our zoo is always disabled friendly and offering a variety of grounds keeping roles for disabled individuals to gain valuable work experience in a friendly and welcoming environment.


DISCLAIMER: We received a free family pass for the purpose of this review.


PORTABLE NORTH POLE: A personalised video message from Santa – Review

PORTABLE NORTH POLE: A personalised video message from Santa – Review

As a child I would feel a surge of Christmas cheer over a generic letter from Santa arriving through the door, let alone a personalised video from Father Christmas! 

So you can only imagine my children’s excitement receiving a personalized video message from Santa via the Portable North Pole app. 

Gone are the days, of standard letters from Santa as this app and website helps you to create the magic of Christmas at home. 

What’s it all about? 

Portable North Pole (PNP) is an online platform used by Santa and his elves to send personalized video messages and calls to the people you care about most anywhere around the world. 

In just a few simple steps, you can help Santa gather all the information he needs about your loved one and create a tailor-made video message or phone call that is positively magical. But that isn’t all Santa and his magical elves have in store! To create truly unforgettable memories, you can even download a HD version of your video to keep for years to come.

The Portable North Pole is the original Santa messaging service that globally has sent over 220 million messages since its creation in 2008. 

The magic pass we’ve used costs £12.99. 


How to use it? 

We tested out the personalised video message which you could create through the app or the website. So firstly, I downloaded the app from my App Store (Apple or google play). Then after logging in as a parent you can then submit your children’s details. You insert their name, age, school year and country. 

Within moments these details are used to create the message in video format with the standard video as a base. 

It’s quick and easy to use and a simple gift for my daughter who loved it! 


DISCLAIMER:  We received a magic pass free of charge for the purpose of this review. 


WILLIAM’S DEN ADVENTURE ATTRACTION: Indoor and outdoor activity centre in North Cave, Yorkshire – Review 

WILLIAM’S DEN ADVENTURE ATTRACTION: Indoor and outdoor activity centre in North Cave, Yorkshire – Review 

As we drove through the pouring rain from Wakefield to Hull, I was unsure of what we would find to do at William’s Den on a rainy day. Needless to say we had two enthusiastic kids in the back of the car ready to play come rain or shine. 

As we turned into the adventure attraction just off the A1034 we pulled into a large car park and was glad to see an inviting indoor attraction as well as outdoor play area. 

After any journey the first stop was the toilets which are large and clean and well catered for families with my daughter loving the fact their were parent and child toilets inside some of the cubicles. 

We then checked in to reception who informed us we were just in time for pumpkin carving (as we had come for the last day of the Pumpkin Party which was part of the Den’s Halloween Half-term celebrations). But before doing anything the kids were hungry so we went to the restaurant which is complete with an ice cream parlour serving their own William’s Den Ice cream as well as a pizza oven and large menu. 

My mum (aka designated driver as it would have been hard to reach any other way) and daughters tried the Lasagne which was a hearty plateful including large wedges and salad. 

My eldest daughter also went for the Nutella Milkshake made with ice cream which was £5.50. 

After fuelling up, we then had a quick look outside. As it was pouring with rain the kids didn’t want to venture to the outdoor play area and pumpkin patch but I legged it in the rain with my youngest so that they could have a pumpkin each to take home. 

The outdoor area is spacious but not too vast either and on a good day you can see that the kids would love adventuring out in to the play areas. 

Once we had posed for some photos in the Halloween themed photo booth, we then ventured into the indoor play area. 

It is very spacious and made of wood with rope monkey bars, a sand pit, slides, a den with bean bags and lots of rope bridges. 

As my children are 4 and 7 year old they happily went off into the den together and played for a good hour and a half. There are nice wooden benches for parents and carers to sit on and watch. The place felt clean and all the wood and water gave it a really natural feel. Despite all the things to play on, my kids were happiest in the den area where they built walls out of the bean bags. 

It was hard to get them to leave and once they had had a quick look in the gift shop, we were back off in the car with our pumpkins. We had had a fun afternoon out and we could have spent the best part of the day there especially if the the weather had been nice. It’s compact with lots to do and lovely natural environment to allow the kids to learn and explore.

What is William’s Den? All about it… 



A unique indoor play space for children of all ages, constructed from responsibly sourced wood, and housed inside a huge barn, The Den has been designed and hand crafted by a team of highly skilled play experts.  From the Tree House to the Forest Glade and the Eagles Nest to the Rainmaker, The Den is sure to thrill.


We have wide-open spaces and wonderful views at William’s Den for children to explore to their hearts content and connect with nature. They can run wild, enjoy water and sand play, climb wooden structures, whizz on zip wires and spend hours building dens from scratch. Perfect for fun family adventures.

DISCLAIMER: We received free entry into William’s Den for the purpose of this review. All views are our own. 

THE WIZARD OF OZ: Land of Oz at Leeds Playhouse, West Yorkshire

THE WIZARD OF OZ: Land of Oz at Leeds Playhouse, West Yorkshire

With just a month to go, the cast of The Wizard of Oz are preparing to bring the spectacular tale of the magical land of Oz to Leeds Playhouse from 20 November 2019 until 25 January 2020.

These images give a first glimpse of the tremendous trio of Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion as they escort Dorothy and Toto through the poppy fields of Oz, ducking and diving from the terrifying Wicked Witch of the West, played by Polly Lister (The Worst Witch Live, Nimax/Northampton Theatre Royal/Kenny Wax/ Novel, Theresa Heskins; Boeing Boeing & Private Lives for Harrogate Rep).


When venturing into the land of Oz, Toto, Dorothy’s tiny but tenacious four-legged friend, will be magically brought to life by puppeteer Ailsa Dalling, under the direction of Rachel Leonard. Designed and created by Puppet Maker Charlie Tymms (Life of Pi, Sheffield Theatres, Running Wild, UK tour), Toto has been crafted using a plywood skeleton with elastic hinge joints with a jaunty outer-layer of dyed hessian and 1930s-style patterned fabric to create that furry exterior.

In this timeless story of adventure and friendship, young Dorothy and her little dog Toto are caught in a cyclone and whisked away to the magical Land of Oz in a technicolour production directed by James Brining (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sunshine on Leith Leeds Playhouse) and designed by Simon Higlett (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Leeds Playhouse).

The Wizard of Oz will play in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre, which reopens this Christmas following the building’s dramatic £15.8m redevelopment. Audiences now enjoy improved access into and around the building, contemporary seating in the Quarry, new hospitality areas and a dramatic new city-facing entrance opposite Leeds City Bus Station.


The theatre will host a sing-along performance of The Wizard of Oz on Friday 13 December, inviting the audience to dress up, sing out and join in the fun. Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances will also be available, and there will be a selection of bespoke wrap-around and inschool activities led by the Playhouse’s award-winning Creative Engagement team.


The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre

20 November 2019 – 25 January 2020. Press Night Tue 26 November 2019, 7pm

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk

HALLOWEEN THEATRE FUN: Family musical in Sheffield this half term

HALLOWEEN THEATRE FUN: Family musical in Sheffield this half term

Baroness Frankenstein has opened the doors of her castle to creatures of the night looking for a safe place to stay, away from the prying eyes and pitchforks of the townsfolk.


 The problem is, it’s not technically her castle anymore! The Baroness is penniless, and sold the castle to fund her experiments! Meanwhile, the new owner (the wealthy American widow, Hannah Hoople) believes she’s bought a hotel and she’s now on her way to inspect it!


 Aided by her assistant Igor and a gang of ghostly housemates, the Baroness must convince Mrs. Hoople that the castle is in fact a luxury hotel and not a dusty old Laboratory. 


To top it off, they only have one night to do it before Mrs Hoople leaves for Paris the next morning.


If they fail, they’ll have to pack up their coffins and find a new place to haunt!


 This frightfully good family musical is sure to be a hit with big and little monsters alike!

I want my mummy a family halloween musical

Full of show stopping tunes , crazy characters, spooky silliness, and a fancy dress competition with a prize for the best costume, I Want My Mummy! is the perfect treat for this Halloween half term. 


I Want My Mummy! Takes place at the Montgomery, Sheffield on 29th October (7pm), 30th October (1pm signed performance & 3:30pm) and 31st October (11am & 2pm). 


Please note disabled access is not available at the theatre.


For more information, go to: 



DIGITAL DETOX: A parent’s wellness retreat to Swinton Bivouac in North Yorkshire

DIGITAL DETOX: A parent’s wellness retreat to Swinton Bivouac in North Yorkshire

I recently stayed in a tree lodge at Swinton Bivouac and experienced their wellness retreat.  The retreat was a digital detox and the opportunity to spend time outside of my regular routine without having to think about a small human or our very naughty Labrador, writes Blogger Carley. 

I feel I need to start this with a description of myself as a mobile phone addict. As a family we do spend the occasional evening with no electronics, no phones, laptops or even a TV.  It is important to me that we spend time connecting and stepping away from screens. That said I don’t worry about screen usage and I think that it is a luxury that our generation have the ability to access the web in our hands.

To be able to capture precious moments on our phones, connecting with people and being able to work almost anywhere, sometimes in my pj’s, is amazing. I am addicted to my phone and it is an important part of my life.  It provides me with memories, connects me to the people I love and also is a big part of my business.   I don’t think my phone usage is anymore than my friends.

swinton bivouac digital detox estate

For me it is about balance and the break from my phone gave me some chance to reflect on my personal use.  There were so many times over the weekend when I went to reach for my phone, to add a reminder, to take a picture, to text my husband.  Having no phone to use focused my mind on the amount of times I pick up my phone.  It was much more than I would have thought. That said I was staying on the edge of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and there were so may beautiful things to photograph.  I remember when my daughter started school the teachers were clear that we should not be on our phones in the playground.  We need to be receptive to our children’s descriptions of their days not looking at something else.  This has stayed with me and I am always ready to hear about her day and have my phone away. I am not confident that had this not been raised that I would have been as disciplined at the school gates. Having clear boundaries around phone use and family time is really important to me and I need to keep checking in to make sure that my phone use isn’t affecting my parenting or interaction.

The Swinton Estate is the perfect location for a wellness break and there was plenty to do to keep my mind occupied without thinking too much about my phone.  After checking into the tree lodge we were treated to a sound bath with Gill McCreadie we spent some time getting to know each other over dinner before going aback to our lodges for the evening. The food was amazing and all locally sourced. It is lovely to have someone else do the cooking.

The second day started with a sunrise woodland walk with Faith Douglas. I was a bit apprehensive about the 6am start but the weather was kind to us and it was a great way to start the day. Hearing the birds and really taking time to look around whilst the sun came out was a good way to start the day. By the time we got back to the lodge we had our breakfast delivered before we were treated to a trip to the spa on the Swinton Estate. The spa is one of the leading spa destinations in the uk. I had not realised how big the spa was and the range of facilities including a large pool, thermal facilities and a range of treatments. For the brave there is an outdoor pool, which is bio-filtered, and oxygenated chemical free water – it was a little chilly for me but a good experience on an early autumn day. There are plenty of loungers all around the spa and all have a butler service! The thermal suite was full of areas to relax, a therapeutic foot spa, steam bath, salt steam room and Finnish sauna as well as an alfresco sauna. We spent two hours there on day two and then there is the opportunity to return at the end of the retreat.

Unlike other spas locally it was not crowded and felt really calming.  After another delicious meal we were back in the forest with Faith for a silent forest walk. I was quite worried about my ability to be silent for two hours – it was touch and go at times when I tripped and almost impulsively made a noise and on another occasion when we came across another group in the forest. The woodland and setting is perfect for deducting stress levels and soaking up the setting in mindful way.

To be out for a walk without having to worry or be responsible for anyone else. No naughty dog to call back or child to tell to be careful. It felt so tranquil and peaceful – the views were stunning!

After our evening meal we were went up to sit around a campfire and experience reiki drumming – I had never experience it before but would defiantly recommend.  On the third day there was an energising sound bath before leaving at lunchtime.

It would be much easier to have a digital detox if I was with my family.  The lack of communication was difficult for me.  Over the summer my daughter went on a camp with guides for three nights and that was equally difficult.  We are so used to being able to check in with one another.  Times like this are helpful to reflect on how me communicate.

The retreat was great to connect to nature, I really enjoyed the forest bathing and the silent forest walks.  There were several times that the view was so stunning I longed to be able to grab my phone and take a picture but I refrained.

Working on my devices for several hours a day I am always accessible, answering emails into the evening.  This break has made me think that I have to be able to find a balance. Not to get into a technology trap, to share fun experiences outside of technology both as a family and personally.

It can be hard to stop the reflex of grabbing my phone, I am going to be more mindful and teach my daughter what life without technology was like.  Spend time outside smelling the fresh air, noticing the sound of the trees and making connections.  As well as us having screen free time at home I am going to make it a priority to have phone free time when we are out.  I am a true believer in collecting memories and not things and need to remember that  sometimes it is ok to have memories in my head and no photos.

A digital detox has been interesting and I would love to do it again with my family.

The next wellness retreat is on the 21-23rd June 2020. Costs are £279.50 per person based on two people sharing.

Have a look at the website for a range of activities and events in the meantime.


Pop over to my blog to see more information about the Swinton Estate and some more photos of the retreat.







Pop over to my blog to see more information about the Swinton Estate and some more photos of the retreat.


FAMILY WALKS TOP 10: Where to go Walking in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and win a spa day

FAMILY WALKS TOP 10: Where to go Walking in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and win a spa day


Walking is a such a simple and free way to keep fit as a family but sometimes you need some inspiration when going on a walk with kids.

As this year is the Year of Walking where we live in Yorkshire and we are passionate about getting active as a family, we wanted to share with you our favourite walks so that hopefully you can be inspired to get active.

Here are our top 10 family walks where we live in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. 

There are so many walks to enjoy here where I live in Wakefield. I like to do most walks as a family (so it’s my two daughters and I, and sometimes the grandparents!) or sometimes I do longer walks with friends. 


  1. Angler’s Country Park is brilliant and has Room on the Broom story trail as well as stunning scenery and a nice cafe. There’s also a playground too next to the cafe and plenty of places to eat a picnic.
    Anglers has been awarded Green Flag status – recognising it as one of the best parks in the country.
  2. Sandal Castle and Pugney’s Country Park: Sandal Castle ruins has stunning views of Pugney’s and the rest of Wakefield as well as a cafe. There’s also plenty of picnic spots down at Pugney’s with a lake and water sports, a children’s play area and an outdoor gym. Don’t forget to do the Blown Away story trail at Pugney’s or to take advantage of the water sports on offer! After a stroll along the lakeside path, take a ride on the Pugneys Light Railway (available on selected weekends – www.pugneyslightrailway.co.uk).
    You can park for free at Sandal Castle and walk down to Pugney’s Country Park (or vice versa, although you have to pay for parking at Pugney’s).
  3. Canal Walks:  I have also started enjoying canal walks and I find them a great way to quickly escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. I tend to just walk by the canal next to Doncaster road and follow that along. There are parts that are well kept and other parts that are not, so just be vigilant of any rubbish along the path but most of it is wild flowers and barges. 
  4. Yorkshire Sculpture Park: You can drive or catch a bus from Wakefield Bus Station to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton. It’s a lovely day out especially when the weather is good. There’s lots of places to buy food and drink as well as a plethora of places to have a picnic. They have indoor areas too when you can do crafts and they often run family-friendly workshops as well. 
  5. Newmillerdam Country Park and Boathouse: There are lots of walks to do around Newmillerdam. But a great child-friendly one is the Gnome Roam.

    Enjoy a scenic walk exploring the country park, find the sculptures and complete the activities and challenges as you go.

    Pick up your free leaflet from the dispensers in the car park or download one here.

  6. Hemsworth Water Park and Play World: We love coming here in the summer. It’s great to walk around the lake and it also has a brilliant outdoor play area called Play World for the kids. There’s a cafe and small indoor play area too if the weather isn’t great. 
  7. Nostell Priory, National Trust: Nostell Priory is home to a mansion and stunning grounds. National Trust members park and enter for free but others must pay a fee. They do a Park Run as well however which is always free and you can walk it too.
  8. Thornes Park and Clarence Park: I’ve been bringing my daughter here since she was a baby as we used to go to the gym at Thornes Park Stadium (where you cans also hire buggies to run with). The park itself as an enclosed Secret Garden, an outdoor gym trail, a playground, a duck pond, a small railway and a nice little Stork Cafe. There’s also an Aviary next  to the Duck Pond and a Rose Garden with a green house inside. 
  9. Pontefract Castle:  It’s just a short walk up the cobbled hill to discover the ruins of Pontefract Castle. It’s well worth a walk around the site and a trip down to the dungeons is a must. There’s also a nice visitor centre where you can buy refreshments too as well as lots of child-friendly workshops on (but check when these are in advance). 
  10. Urban walks: by this I mean walking to and from anywhere and everywhere. Whether it be Wakefield City Centre and walking from Trinity Walk to Wakefield Cathedral and onto The Ridings and the Sun Lane Leisure Centre… just walking instead of driving to places will make you feel so much better. 
  11. National Coal Mining Museum of England (NCMME): I’d not realised until recently how much there was to the museum especially outside and down the coal mine. There’s an outdoor and indoor play area too. 

So however and wherever you want to get out and start walking… just try to walk at least 10 minutes a week in one consecutive journey and download the Aspire Health app to track your walking as well as to win prizes. 


Walking is one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become fit. It’s simple, free and ideal for people of all ages.

Below is a list of the many organised walking activities you can find across our district. You can filter the list based on location, difficulty and distance, whether they are suitable for all the family, whether the route is suitable for people with disabilities, and whether there is a cost for hiring equipment such as a running buggy.

You don’t need to join one of our organised walks to get going – there are plenty of places you can begin your Year of Walking!

Family walks and story trails – Take on an adventure together with our ‘Room on the Broom’ Adventure Trail, ‘Gnome Roam’ or ‘Blown Away’ trail.

Walk The Wakefield Way – a route around the whole district which is divided in to 11 sections. Why not walk a section that’s local to you and then try some of the other parts too?

Short walks – originally designed to help you get out and about on your lunch break, our short walks are anything from half an hour long to a little longer.

Disability friendly walks – there are loads of walking routes around the district which are wheelchair and disability friendly.

Parks and countryside – You don’t need a walking route to go for wander, especially when we’ve got so many great parks and such beautiful greenspace.


Take part in our Mama Walks Challenge

In Partnership with Wakefield Council, Mama Mei and Yorkshire Families, we are challenging all Wakefield Mamas to move more this October. Join Mama Mei as she gives her top tips on how to get moving this October across the Wakefield District. Just download the Aspire Health app from Google Play and on the App Store and join the Mama Walks Challenge.

For more information visit https://mamamei.co.uk


So why not join us by downloading the Aspire Health app, CLICK ‘JOIN THE CHALLENGE’ to win a spa day for two…

You can also find Mama’s Health Club group on facebook and follow the hashtag #MamaWalks  



From crafts to markets and holiday clubs… there is so much on in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Here is what’s on at Leeds galleries and museums this October half-term…

Abbey House Museum

Little Shoppers

Every Fri, 10am-4pm 

A fun drop in session for under 5’s in the Victorian Streets with a range of play shops, fake food and a trail or craft every week.


October Half Term

·         Haunted Halloween Crafts, 29 Oct, 10am-4pm

Get ready for Halloween with a day of creepy crafts in the eerie decorated streets of Victorian Leeds.

·         Spooky Silly Science, 30 Oct 10am-12pm & 2-4pm

A day of spooky science with petrifying potions, bugs, goo and bubble snakes. No scientific knowledge is necessary, only curiosity.

·         Happy Halloween, 31 Oct 10am-4pm

Spooky fun with Halloween themed crafts and trails. 

·         Monster Mash Up, 1 Nov 10am-4pm

Make a variety of monsters from paper, pom-poms and plasticine.


Discovery Centre


Behind the Scenes Tour

Every Thurs, 11am & 2pm

One of the best ways to access and see the Leeds Museums & Galleries collections is to hop onto a free store tour! From toucans and telephones to meteorites and masks, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


Beastly Beasts & Spooky Tour

30 Oct 10am-12pm and 1-3pm

Bring your battery powered candles for the Halloween spook-fest. Discover the weird and wonderful world of the museum monsters hidden behind closed doors! This is a free event but must be booked in advance by calling 0113 378 2100.


Kirkstall Abbey


Muddy Monkeys

Every Tues, 10-11am

A friendly free session for under 5s and their carers. Each week there’s a range of crafts, toys, books and instruments and if the weather’s nice then there’s games outside too.


Kirkstall Abbey Markets

26-27 Oct, 12-3pm

Come along to Kirkstall Abbey where you can try and buy some of the best produce Yorkshire has to offer. All products are locally sourced and are produced and supplied by award winning people with a passion for food. You will also find Jewellery, fashion and collectables on offer too.


October Half Term

·         Mini Owls, 29 Oct, 10-11am

The Tuesday under 5’s session gets a feathery make over for half term.

·         Not So Scary Scarecrow Trail, 29 Oct-3 Nov 10am-3pm

A hunt around the abbey featuring some not so scary Halloween scarecrows!


Leeds Art Gallery


Big Draw Campaign

26 Oct, 11am-4pm

Big Draw family fun using cartoon drawing skills and collage to make pictures that say something inspired by the New Contemporaries exhibition.


Slow Making in Artspace

29-31 Oct, 11-4pm

During the half term holiday’s artist Lou Samray will be leading family friendly activities in Artspace to keep your creative juices flowing!


Leeds City Museum


Tiny Tigers

Every Friday, 10-11.45am

Free craft activities every Friday for under 5s and their carers. 


Rory’s Tiger Club

Every Saturday, 11am-12.15pm

Head down on Saturday mornings for different free craft activities. 


Under The Sea

26 Oct-1 Nov

Have a whale of a time this half term with underwater-themed family crafts. Create a mini whale, junk jellyfish and other sea life creatures to take home.  Make a splash on the free museum Whale Trail too!

·         Whale Weekend, 26 Oct, 11am-1pm

Come and celebrate the return of the Pilot Whale skeleton. After decades in store, Leeds City Museum are putting this awesome animal back on display. There’s family crafts, hands-on activities and whale talks on offer too. 

·         Whale Tales, 29 Oct, 10.30am & 2.30pm

Find out more about the Leeds Pilot Whale at informal public talks with Rebecca Machin, Curator of Natural Science. Meet under the whale.

·         Tiny Tigers Under 5s Club, 1 Nov, 10-11.45am

Meet under the whale skeleton for a special Whale-themed craft activity.

Sensory Room for Families with Additional needs

31 Oct, 10.30-11.30am

A pop up sensory room with dark dens and tactile toys, for a calmer moment on your museum trip during the holidays


Leeds Industrial Museum


Mystery Matinees

Daily during school holidays, 2pm

Every Wednesday & Saturday catch a family flick in the art deco surroundings of the 1920s Palace Picture House.  There’s family friendly scary movies every afternoon during the October Halloween half term holidays! Family tickets are priced at £9.


Half Term Holidays

29-31 Oct, 12.30-3pm

Discover the real stories of Halloween with 21st century witches from the Leodis Pagan Circle. Family craft sessions will include the old favourite jack-o-lanterns and willow wand making. There’s also the chance to make your own luxury oat milk bath-bombs using herbs from the autumn harvest of the colour garden.




Weekend Crafts

Every Sat & Sun 

Come rain or shine Lotherton has something for all the family. Take a break and get crafty during your visit with activities in both the hall and Wildlife World on Saturdays and Sundays. Themes change weekly so there’s always something new to get stuck into.


Spooky Scarecrow Trail

26 Oct-3 Nov

The Scarecrow trail is back with more haunts than ever before, including our spooky trail through the haunted woods! Visit the Scarecrow Skeletown and experience the scary side of the Wild West, but only if you dare! With creepy crafts and activities every day, there will be plenty to entertain your little terrors at Lotherton this Halloween!


Temple Newsam


Temple Newsam Tours

·         Hidden Temple Newsam, Tues & Sat, 11am

Take a journey under the House and learn how the servants got around unseen. It involves some steep steps and uneven surfaces and is suitable for ages 7+.

·         Discovery Tour, Thurs, 11am

A 45 minute tour of the house taking in the main highlights as chosen by Temple Newsam tour guides.

·         Through the Ages for All Ages, Sat & Sun, 2.30pm

A tour for younger visitors with a chance to handle items from the Temple Newsam collection and hear stories of people who lived and worked on the estate.


October Half Term

·         Beastly Creepy Crawlies, 26-3 Nov

Spiders, bed bugs, carpet beetles and moths all want to set up home in Temple Newsam house but they have other ideas! Find out how to spot them and what they do to stop them during a bug busting half term. Get crafty and make your own spooky spider or bed bug to take home.

·         Halloween at Home Farm, 26 Oct-3 Nov, 10am-4pm

Home Farm will be dressed up in its spookiest finery throughout the half term holidays. Take part in Halloween themed crafts in the Joiner’s Shop from 10am-4pm each day.

·         Meet The Artist: Kevin Blenkinsop, 30 Oct, 11.30-12.30pm

Kevin makes weird and wonderful creatures from found and recycled materials. He is back this half term to show off his brilliant beasts up close and personal.

·         Pumpkin Carving, 30 Oct, 1-3pm

Bring your own pumpkin to carve in the Walled Garden (or collect the pumpkin you planted if you went to the planting activity earlier in the year!)

·         Spooky Spooktacular, 31 Oct, 5-8pm

Scare yourselves silly with a visit to the darkened house and fiendish farm! Take a tour of the house complete with tales of spooky past residents who creep through the corridors at night. Try your hand at spooky crafts, collect some terrifying treats along the way and don’t forget to dress up for the occasion, the scarier the better!

Thwaite Watermill


October Half Term

Keep active during the half term holidays, grab a nature pack from reception and hit the eco trail along the canal.

·         Crafty Tuesday, 29 Oct, 1-3pm

Get involved with creepy crafty fun and make your own ghoulish ghosty.

·         Experimental Thursday, 31 Oct, 1-3pm

Design and make a dancing Halloween robot, ready for a jitterbug boogie at the Monster Mash this Halloween!

Orchard Explorers

30 Oct, 1-3pm

Head to the historic orchard for some apple related family fun! Taste the fruit from the trees that the old mill owner planted, make freshly pressed apple juice, and as it is almost Halloween enjoy making some spooky fruity art!

SHEFFIELD ABSEIL: British Red Cross’ Steel City Abseil down Hallam university – Join us!

SHEFFIELD ABSEIL: British Red Cross’ Steel City Abseil down Hallam university – Join us!
Can you remember back to the beginning of the year when you were thinking about your New Year’s resolutions and you said that you wanted to try new things and step out of your comfort zone? Well, this is your chance to do so! 

The British Red Cross in Sheffield is organising the annual Steel City Abseil down the Owen Building (Hallam University) on Saturday 26th of October. It’s only £10 to enter with a goal of £100 or more to raise for the Red Cross. You can sign up here: www.redcross.org.uk/steel.

This Abseil is for everyone: for those who already abseil and for those who have never tried it before. It’s not only one of the best ways to challenge yourself (which is a great thing!) but it’s also a chance to support the Red Cross and help us to make a difference to each and every one of our service users’ lives.  So, there’s definitely no excuse for you not to sign up!

The British Red Cross supports people in any kind of crisis across Sheffield and Yorkshire: we run advice sessions and integration workshops for refugees and asylum seekers in our city centres, we loan out wheelchairs to residents, we send out volunteers in special “campervans” to people who have had housefires or floods, and we teach first aid and crisis education to young people. So, by doing the abseil you’ll be keeping all these services running.

And if you’re thinking that you have better ways to spend your Saturday, let me tell you that you don’t! This is a great activity for you to do with your family and friends and it’s also a great opportunity for the kids to learn a little bit more about the British Red Cross and the importance of its work. What better reason to step out of your comfort zone and conquer your fears!

Our abseilers all talk about feeling a sense of mission accomplished and, one of the highlights for a British Red Cross staff member who took part last year was, the look on people’s faces when I told them what I was doing, and the feeling when I looked back up at what I had abseiled down! “The hardest part was getting over the edge”, but the adrenaline, pride and accomplishment as a result was well worth the split-second of fear. 

The challenge of the year – and this one’s for YOU!


Written by Barbara Rocha (British Red Cross)