National charities join forces to link up two popular visitor attractions

A major project of up to £1.2 million aims to link up two treasured visitor attractions to create a wide expanse for people to explore and enjoy.

The Woodland Trust and National Trust plan to open up borders on the land connecting the eastern part of Belton House and the more recently created Londonthorpe Woods

The area once formed part of the 17th Century Brownlow Estate but over time this historic landscape has become fragmented.

The project will create unprecedented access between the sites, allowing people to seamlessly explore a combined area of 225 hectares of woods and parkland so that people can discover both its secret history and environmental treasures.

Thanks to players of the National Lottery, the project has already received a funding boost of £64,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This development funding has been awarded to help the Woodland Trust progress their plans to apply for a full grant of £428,800 at a later date.

Ian Froggatt, Londonthorpe Site Manager, said: “We’re thrilled to get this initial piece of financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and National Lottery players which we hope will lead to a much larger grant to deliver the project.

“The project will allow visitors to not only enjoy the attraction of Belton House but also explore much of the wider Brownlow estate, including what is now  Londonthorpe Woods.

“With a winning combination of history and nature, it has the potential to be the green lungs of Lincolnshire enabling visitors to enjoy and experience a wealth of health and social benefits”.

The National Lottery grant will allow the project to work towards creating a warm welcome with engaging information which will enable everyone to learn more about these two special places.

A programme of events and activities will be organised to actively involve the local community and visitors from further afield.

Conservation will also be at the heart of the project, it will work to restore and enhance key wildlife habitats, helping to ensure their protection long into the future.

It will also seek to protect and enhance built heritage and parkland features, ensuring the continuation of the Brownlow legacy who had first acquired land in the area in the late 16th century and created Belton house as their family seat.

An extensive consultation programme will kick off in summer 2018, and the charities are looking for as many people as possible to get involved with this.  Work on the ground is due to commence from summer 2020.

However, this project will not go ahead without match funding for the potential National Lottery grant, and the two organisations still need to secure another half a million to make it a reality.


To drive-through or to walk in?

coffee2aThe imminent opening of a drive-through coffee shop near where we live is causing a bit of a stir in our city’s social media pages.

Other than trying to decide whether to drive-through or drive-thru, the celestial-deer named outlet has left me pondering whether I think the whole concept is a good idea or not.

Objectively, I don’t like the way, as a society, we are becoming more and more like automatons isolated in our tin cans with less and less human interaction required.

Subjectively, as the mother of three aged 5 and under, and it’s a big Hell Yeah! from me (as long as they serve orange juice through their window as well because I don’t actually drink coffee…).

I regularly use a drive-through petrol station because why go to the hassle of getting up to three small children in and out of a car, potentially waking them up and/or putting them in front of pester power sweet displays, if you don’t have to?

So I asked some other family bloggers what side of the fence I should come down on.

Linda Hobbis of Mother Distracted, concentrating on fast food drive-throughs, agrees with my objective side – “Hate them.  Cheap, unhealthy food chucked at you in a brown bag.  That’s no way to eat.  Not to mention the nation’s ever growing girth.  Better food and better priced food at service stations is what I would prefer”.

Household Money Saving’s Pete Chatfield joins me astride the fence.  “I love them, apart from two things.  Some of them are designed so badly that when it rains, it drips from the roof into your car when you’re ordering.  And I hate being sat in a queue of 12 cars to see that it’s empty inside.  Despite that, it means I don’t have to move from my car and use my legs.  I would like to see a drive-through Toby Carvery though.”

And other parents also cherish the route of less faff.

“I love them because I don’t have to worry about all the hassle of getting the baby out of the car, into a pushchair, somehow carry the food and manage a pushchair and then get everyone and everything back into the car,” says Laura Chesmer of Autumn’s Mummy.  “Sometimes when my daughter was tiny I’d drive around to get her to sleep then got to the drive through to get some lunch in peace.  It was the only way sometimes!”

And Sinead Latham agrees, “Drive through Sbux has saved many a long motorway journey with just me and the Small.  Don’t have to worry about waking them up and dragging them out of the car when they are sleeping.”

As does All Things Pink’s Maya Dupre, “Love Starbucks and it’s so much easier when they have a drive through especially when you have a baby.  It saves you from getting out the pushchair just to walk in and grab a frappe and then juggle that, your purse and bag back to the car!”

And, for some parents, this practicality can be even more important for them as Ann Hickman of Rainbows are too beautiful explains.  “Drive throughs can be super useful for us.  Two of our kids are autistic and can find the process of going and getting things in a shop stressful.  This way we can get things in our car and the kids can go in when/if they’ve got used to it and the food.  Big thumbs up from us.”

Some mums are such big fans of the idea they’d like to see more services functioning in the same way.

“I’d like a drive-through doctor for routine appointments because I’m tired of sitting for an hour in a waiting room full of sick people for an appointment that’s two minutes long anyway!” says Welsh Mum Christy Bruckner.

“My friend has often told me about the drive through nurseries they have in Texas – she used to drive to the nursery, the staff unbuckle the kids then you drive off!  It’s the same with pick-up.  No fighting for a car parking space or playground politics.  Sounds like the dream!” says Samantha Rickelton of North East Family Fun.

“Obsessed with a drive through!!!” Jenna Newell of Then There Were Three admits.  “They’re so convenient when you have kids.  I wish we had drive thru cash machines here like America, or where I can order my shop online and go to a drive thru to collect it.  Or a drive thru Nando’s!”

And Welsh Mum Writing Helen Trehane agrees with the need for a step up from supermarket click and collect, “Love a drive-thru coffee franchise.  The car is the only place my son will nap now.  I’d like a proper drive through shop.  I’m not talking click and collect, I just want to sit in the car, with Boy asleep, open the boot and let someone load it with my order.”

But it’s Lauren Gordon from Dilan and Me and The Mummy Monster’s Nicola Wills that share my desire for a particular new drive-through service.

“Love them,” says Lauren.  “So good when the baby is asleep and you don’t want to wake them.  I really wish there was a drive through Tesco express type shop, just to pick up the basics like bread and milk without getting out of the car!”

“I want a drive through essentials shop!!!” agrees Nicola.  “I hate having to get the boys out when all I need is milk!!”

Do you love them or hate them?  If you have another genius idea for one then let us know below!

And when they were up they were up…

Down Syndrome Bloggers Network: High highs, low lows

The Down Syndrome Bloggers Network group monthly prompt for January is “They say when you are a special needs parent the highs are higher… and the lows are lower.  I have found this to be…”

FaithReflectionThey say you shouldn’t compare.

But it’s really hard not to isn’t it?

I would’ve thought that we’d have been used to it after Luke decided to set his own schedule when it came to milestones but I can’t pretend it’s not still difficult.

Whenever it’s just us and I can see Faith’s individual progress, it’s fine.  Then I see another baby of a similar age and it’s not as easy.

At just one year old I’m not sure we’re far enough into this journey together for me to be able to answer this month’s prompt with any surety.

Whenever any of your children achieves something it makes your heart swell but the harder someone tries to do something the greater the resulting celebration and I know when Faith reaches a milestone it comes with a whole bucket load of relief too.

For now I remind myself that life is not a race that you want to finish first, that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses that may change and develop over time, hope that she’ll never need open heart surgery again and let my heart swell threefold everytime she shares a smile or giggle with us.

Read more from the Down Syndrome Bloggers Network on the theme of highs and lows:
Trista Park – Highs and lows 

2018 events mean lots of fun in the year ahead

Does the year 2018 still sound futuristic to anyone else?  Some of us are still expecting the Y2K bug to wreak havoc anytime soon…

Fortunately 2018 – the Year of Engineering, the RAF’s Centenary, the 100th anniversary of female suffrage, the 60th anniversary of the LEGO brick – has a lot more positive things in store in Lincolnshire and beyond.

If you’re organising an event you’d like added to this list then let me know at and if you’re particularly looking forward to attending an event yourself this year then tell us all about it in the comments below!

January 30th: International Bomber Command Centre
Serving as a point of recognition, remembrance and reconciliation for Bomber Command, the IBCC opens at the end of January.

February 12th – 17th: Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood
Trusthorpe Village Hall Theatre Group pantomime

February 24th: Lincoln Mums Expo
Advice, support information, special offers and play/activities for mums to be, babies, right through to toddlers and big kids too.

March 18th: City of Lincoln 10K
Stretch your legs whilst running around Lincoln’s historic landmarks including the Cathedral and the city’s Roman walls.

March 24th and 25th: Discover Lincolnshire Weekend
A weekend of free entry to many of Lincoln city’s and countryside’s attractions.

March 27: Komposit The Performance
Five young composers from the East Midlands present their new pieces of music.

April 8th: Countryside Lincs
The Lincolnshire Showground’s interactive family day out featuring all the fun farming, food and the countryside have to offer.

May 4th-11th: Lincoln Fashion Week
Eight days of fashion events in venues across Lincoln city centre.

June 20th-21st: Lincolnshire Show
A celebration of rural Lincolnshire, with an eclectic mix of entertainment, food, shopping, music, horticulture and farm life.

July 14th-15th: Newark Book Festival
Two days dedicated to celebrating authors and their work that aim to “fire your imaginations, challenge and inspire you present the very best in literature and the arts”.

August 24th-27th: Asylum Steampunk Festival
The largest and longest running steampunk festival attracting participants from around the globe.

August 31st-September 2nd: So Festival
A coastal festival of outdoor theatre.

September 26th-30th: Gravity Fields
The theme for this year’s science-based festival held in Grantham is “voyages of discovery”.

October 1st-31st: Wolds Words
An autumnal cultural festival featuring an array of craft, heritage, literature and performances.

October 13th: Lincoln Sausage Festival
Cooking demonstrations, food stalls, children’s entertainment and live music.

November 24th: Inflatable 5k Santa Run
Flip, bounce and boing your way around the inflatable assault course in full Santa kit at the Lincolnshire Showground.

December 1st-2nd: Lincolnshire Food and Gift
The fair brings together more than 150 varied stands with the very best Christmas offerings, entertainment from live choir groups, cookery demonstrations and a children’s Santa’s Workshop.

December 6th-9th: Lincoln Christmas Market
Cultural entertainment and more than 200 stalls nestled within the medieval square and surrounding area.


An unwrappable gift

Down Syndrome Bloggers Network: Intangible Gift

The Down Syndrome Bloggers Network group monthly prompt for December is “What is one intangible gift you want to give to your child?”

When my three year old is asked to choose just one thing she really struggles.  If she picks up wrist bells from a group’s music box she has to have at least four, one for each wrist and ankle and preferably a few more in her hands as well.  One item from the songbag becomes a pile in front of my feet.  One toy from the shop usually translates as a minimum of one for each hand.

It turns out she might get it from me.  When I first thought about the Down Syndrome Bloggers Network group’s December prompt what one intangible gift I would give to my children a whole list quickly formed in my mind.

IMG_5841[1]It’s quite normal to have lots of hopes and dreams for your children’s future and, whilst you bemoan how quickly the time goes, you also want to fast forward to see the adult they’ll become and the results of the paths they will choose and whether or not they take any notice of any of the signposts you indicate along the way.

I guess when you have a disabled child those aspirations become slightly coloured, assumptions underlying them unsettled.

I know that Faith may require an extra dose of all the strengths you wish for any child.

Determination is key and fortunately Faith is currently displaying no shortage of this.  If the road to success is trying hard then, even if she takes a little longer than typical, she’s sure to reach her goal.

But, as we head towards the time of year that celebrates peace, perhaps we should focus on the present rather than projecting ourselves into crystal ball imaginings.

So I will choose patience as the gift I would procure for her if I could.  Patience with herself, patience with a society that seems obsessed with pushing forward when we could be enjoying the moment, patience with people who don’t always show the kindness they should to those of differing abilities they lack the understanding of and patience with her mother as she learns to navigate this new world alongside her.

And maybe if I manage to get enough patience for her, a little bit could rub off on me too.

Read more from the Down Syndrome Bloggers Network on the theme of one intangible gift:
Bean Post Farmstead – A Priceless Gift: Instilling a sense of purpose in our children
Cedar’s Story – Intangible Gifts: The Gift of Opportunity 

Trista Park – Joy to the World

Festive fun in the fairytale forest

Robin-Hood-BannerIn the midst of Lincoln’s seasonal theatrical offerings, the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre has carved out its niche by offering a winter show rather than a traditional pantomime.

Robin Hood and Maid Marian – Winter in Sherwood is 2017’s production by The Lincoln Company made up of Lincoln School of Performing Arts students.  It’s a perfect pick for the year of the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest and we were delighted to be guests of the arts centre for its opening night on Tuesday.

Littered with eclectic cultural references, it earns its age 6+ recommendation with its use of heightened language but there was still plenty for my younger minis to enjoy too.

Strong heroes, tomfoolery and hijinks with a pair of gormless guards and the dubious allegiances of some wandering minstrels, rousing songs to clap along to, a repetitive strain to join in with that saw my three year old drawing back her bow, a few flash bangs, a pretty smattering of snow, a boo-able baddie and alternative staging with the audience sitting on three sides of the action proved very engaging to all who had come to watch.

Luke says his favourite bit was when Robin Hood was locked up in the castle with the sheriff’s two hapless knights, a comic scene that included all his three favourite characters and an impressive show of archery skill, and Willow was absolutely mesmerised by meeting the characters after the show who were very lovely with a couple of star struck mini theatre goers.

Winter in Sherwood is showing at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre until Sunday, December 24th and includes a relaxed performance on Friday, December 22nd.  Click here for further information.