Dear Mummy, we’re big fans of the National Trust, having been annual members now for four years. Mottisfont, near Romsey in Hampshire, is one of our favourite places to visit in the UK and every year they host wonderful Christmas events. … Continue reading
Dear Mummy, we’re so excited! Now that the John Lewis advert has been shown its officially the annual countdown to Christmas 2016. Everything is now downhill until the big day. With Christmas light switch ons to winter markets these are our … Continue reading
Top of Town Christmas in Basingstoke
Dear Mummy, we visited the Top of Town in Basingstoke recently to partake in some festive fun. We heard that Father Christmas and his reindeer were in town. This is the first time I’ve clamped eyes on Rudolf and I wasn’t disappointed. The Top of Town Christmas event was on for one night only, on Friday 5th December. My mummy picked me up early from nursery so we got parked up early before the crowds. We easily found a space up at Joices Yard car park behind the high street and it was free! We couldnt believe our luck! Must be because the Christmas event is on.
We head to The Tea Bar, which is a quaint vintage tea shop in the heart of the high street. It’s very pretty in here and we find comfy sofa’s and warm up with hot tea and a babyccino for me. The Tea Bar is very kiddy friendly and at the back of the cafe is a large low coffee table with children’s books, a large plasma screen, board games and wooden toys next to it. We enjoy some cake and my mummy and grandma catch up and have a good chat, while I play. The Tea Bar has a fantastic range of teas and plays host to Live Jazz evenings, crafty workshops for kids and vintage parties. My mummy would like to go to the Rat Pack evening, check out their FB page for more details 🙂
Its 5pm and we head outside into the cold to watch the school choirs sing, a crowd gathers underneath a large gazebo huddled in chairs. The mayor of Basingstoke is here and opens up the Christmas celebration and we see Santa arrive on his wheeled chariot and heads to his grotto. A lot of people are here to see him and eagerly queue outside one the shops which has been transformed into a fairy light wonderland. While we’re here it’s the perfect time to go and explore the shops. We head to the Naomi House charity shop to see our friend Angie and buy a raffle ticket.
The Top of Town Christmas is part of an initiative by Basingstoke Borough Council to encourage more shoppers up to the top end of Basingstoke to support small businesses and encourage growth. However, the Top of Basingstoke only really plays host to pubs, restaurants, hair & beauty salons, nail bars, tattoo parlours and charity shops, so really needs more high street shops up there too. There are a couple of small jewellery shops which take my mummy’s fancy but the majority of retail shops are in Festival Place Shopping centre now, which is much the same in every big town and city – when large shopping centres open the high street suffers. I’m glad the council are trying to do something positive to keep the Top of Town alive and prosperous. There are still a lot of units closed which is a shame and kind of off-putting. They need some more local businesses up there in pop-up shops, maybe a soft play centre or something to draw the crowds up there?
Its starting to get really cold, too cold for a baby like me to be out so, we enjoy some quick crafting and make a reindeer mask with SL Art workshop and see the reindeers before waving goodbye and heading home. It was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours in an area where we wouldn’t ordinarily visit. Hopefully the Top of Town will play host to more events like this is the future. Can’t wait until Basingstoke Live returns next year! That’s always a sure fire way to get the community up to the old high street.
Love Bella x
Christmas at Mottisfont, National Trust
Today king of mice, tonight king of dolls. Tomorrow… king of EVERYTHING!
Dear Mummy, it’s December and we are looking for fun things to do in Hampshire over the Christmas period. As you all know we’re big fans of The National Trust and have been members now since I was born. Each Christmas Mottisfont hold a Christmassy wonderland in their grounds and the house. If you don’t know what or where Mottisfont is, then head over here to check it out and have a look at some of my past reviews.
This year the Mottisfont NT team have put on a spectacular display, it’s theme is The Nutcracker, where toys and fun comes to life!
The Nutcracker is based on the book “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffman. Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky wrote the music for the ballet which it is now most famous for. Over the Christmas period families flock to see the ballet, but this year The Nutcracker story is being hosted a bit closer to home in Romsey, Hampshire at Mottisfont, National Trust until Jan 4th 2015.
We were lucky enough to go on the opening day and weren’t disappointed with the weather either. It’s a bright and crisp day, the last day of November 2014 and there is a chill in the air. We wrap up warm and put our wellies on, as it’s especially muddy at Mottisfont at present, you see they have some building works happening at the entrance to the estate. The National Trust are creating a super-duper visitors centre which will be opening this time next year! Looking at the plans on the way in, it looks fab – very modern and in keeping with its surroundings.
So there is a temporary wooden chalet with pretty fairy lights to greet visitors to Mottisfont. It’s very quaint. No ducks are out on the river, as it’s too cold! The large trees are all bear, their huge branches looking creepy like something out of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ I half expect a headless horseman to appear out of the large trunks.
The Cafe has been swapped around since we last visited, which is a shame as the dinning areas seem a bit more cramped and the queues for food longer. It could be because its busy today….We grab some yummy Christmas Cake, a kids picnic box and some warm soup and a jacket potato. My mummy dives into the cake before she’s had the soup! I, on the other hand, am quite content to be a fidget-bum and terrorise the rest of the dinners by weaving in and out of the chairs and creating havoc. It’s all a bit stressful to get all of us sat down and eating, and mummy and daddy take turns to feed themselves then me. An elderly group sit next to us and just stare.
After lunch we head outside to explore, running around like mad loons on the grass – and that’s just mummy. You see my daddy is still not well, he had pneumonia and don’t think he’s fully recovered yet, so walks around finding it hard to breath.
We head into the house and follow The Nutcracker paper guide and activities (the printed map is a suggested donation of £1 and is a good keepsake) We follow Clara and other characters from The Nutcracker around the large manor house. First we stop to see the enormous size christmas tree and wrapped presents – the baubles are larger than my head! My uncle, cousin and daddy sit on the carpeted floor and play with some of the old-fashioned toys laid out (it’s all very civilised) well…it was until I decided to have a mad 5 minutes, jumping around and dancing to silent music.
We head down the pretty lit corridor to the large wooden staircase and see Herr Drosselmeyer (a character out of the Nutcracker) directing visitors upstairs to the dream mechanical world of the Nutcracker. We play peekaboo through the banisters and I get scared of the large wooden puppets, we don’t have time to sit and craft paper puppets, so my mummy takes them home for us to do later.
The next room is filled with clear little boxes. Inside these boxes are little mechanical toys. They look super cute – but on closer inspection and when daddy pushes the red buttons on the side of the display cases – they come to life! I get scared instantly and look away. However, my mummy is in her element, pressing each and every one of those red buttons and enjoying the displays. The weird and wonderful automata are on show from the famous Cabaret Mechanical Theatre. We eventually walk through Mottisfont’s art exhibition rooms, where the Nutcracker story is projected through film, showcasing an exciting battle between the Mouse King and the toy soldiers, artwork and activities (we won’t tell you too much as we don’t want to ruin the surprise for you if you decide to go) but it’s awesome. Beautiful little lantern theatres reveal more of the story.
We’ve been inside the house for nearly half an hour, and as the sun is shinning we head back outside to find the ‘Land of Sweets’ in the courtyard, a cuppa tea and some Christmas presents from the gift shop.
My mummy decides that sticky fingers shouldn’t be inside a gift shop and after picking up several times and being told to put them back, I’m safely escorted from the premises by daddy. However I do mange to convince them to buy this cute little pack of jingle bells for the tree….well, they aren’t really for the tree! I take two out and frantically wave them up and down, making the bells ring around the courtyard, people stop and stare and they sound very christmassy – just like reindeer bells I think. It’s not long before I’m trading one for a chocolate coin off my cousin..yes I’m really that devious. My mummy peals the golden wrapper off it and I devour the chocolate coin – my first one ever! Now that my cousin and I have bells we ring them together creating even more noise – its such fun!
Holding hands we all head to the ‘Land of Snow’ in the Winter Garden to take in the beautiful art installation by Sarah Filmer. Glass and perspex snowflakes hand from the tree and sparkle in the winter sunlight. The sun is bright and low in the sky and the snowflakes twinkle when the wind catches them, we also see large mirrored snow geese swooping up to a large oak tree.
I have fun chasing my cousin around down the windy paths and through the gates, I get very muddy after falling over a couple of times. My mummy however, is not horrified by that – I mean whats a bit of mud eh? What she IS horrified by though is other visitors reactions and judgment to seeing me covered in mud *Shock* Horror* covering their expressions….come on guys! It’s only a bit of mud…haven’t you ever seem a muddy child! Jeeeeze!
The temperature has dropped and we ahead back to the courtyard where I play in the learning and activity room, colouring in a gingerbread man and sticking little gems on him, while daddy warms up. On returning outside I see my opportunity to check out this large puddle which has been playing on my mind. I wanted to play in it earlier, but didn’t have the chance.
Now mummy and daddy are having a rest drinking their tea and watching me from afar I jump in. The puddle covers my feet so I can’t see them anymore, mummy and daddy are talking and I can hear them discussing about whether I’m ok jumping in that large puddle and what happens if I………oh dear. I’ve fallen over. Right in the puddle. Right on my bum. Water seeping into my boots. Doh! Oh well, at least mummy and daddy have ANOTHER spare set of clothes.
Needless to say on the way out we dodge all puddles……
There is mist coming off the River Test, when we leave at 4ish, we’ve lost the daylight and the half-moon is out, I eagerly point at it shouting ‘mooooom’. Its cold. Real cold. My cheeks are rosy and my fingers are like little icicles. We all bundle in the car and head home. I sing loudly all the way home (much to the annoyance of mummy).
If you love the Nutcracker story…or just love Christmas, then this is the place for you. It really will capture your imagination.
We were most impressed by the time and effort that went into the creation and preparation of the Land of Sweets by Mottisfonts Craft Group….so well done! It really was appreciated.
We had a fantastic day. I’m sure these photos say it all!
Love Bella x