On the trail of the Lincoln Knights (part three)

We took advantage of a rare dry day recently to finally finish the Lincoln Knights Trail that celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln and the sealing of the Charter of the Forest.

You can, of course, complete the quest to find the 36 sculptures across the city centre in one go but then you probably won’t have had a run around The Lawn’s play park, stopped for a lesson in a Victorian schoolroom and got lost around the University’s building works along the way and your legs are probably a lot longer than the minis are.

The third installment of our hunt for the guardians on horseback saw us finally take in knight number one as we took to Lincoln’s uphill streets with Willow often leading the way calling “knight, where are you?”

This day’s selection included Luke’s favourite – 07 The Battle of Lincoln Knight – as he has always been drawn to white horses.  And also Daddy Malpi’s favourite – 10 Lincoln City Knight.

Having found all the green shields hidden on the knights and completed the key to reveal the phrase and find the answer to the quest we finished at the Lincoln Visitor Information Centre where the minis were awarded their certificates and badges and we claimed the discount on the children’s book 1217 The Battle of Lincoln book.  It might be aimed at children older than ours and we had planned to put it to one side for when they are a bit bigger but Willow was determined to do her own reading of it for us at bedtime that night.

Just because we know we’ve seen them all now hasn’t diminished their enthusiasm much and, as well as stopping for another photo each time we pass a full size one, they’re also very keen to point out the half-sized education knights designed by local children from 42 primary, secondary and special schools and the mini ones in numerous shop windows around the city.

And, on another day, we also had the chance to stop by the Knights’ Central Pop-up Shop and Activity Centre in the Cornhill to indulge in some themed colouring and crafting, making woven shields.

It’s been lovely to see so many other people of all ages taking part in the trail too whenever we’ve been in town (which makes the couple of incidences of vandalism particularly sad) and we’ll miss their colourful presence after they are auctioned off for charity.

They’ll be on their separate plinths until September 3rd so you’ve still got plenty of time to conquer Steep Hill or take them in in sections like us.  If your summer holidays are already spoken for however you also have the opportunity to take them in in one fell swoop at Lincoln Castle at The Reunion from Wednesday, September 20th to Wednesday, September 27th.

Find out more here: www.knightstrail.com

Unicorns, dragons and fairy folk fun…

Summer of Imagination at Doddington Hall

Dod2Summer of Imagination.

It says it in the title really, doesn’t it?

Such an evocative phrase leaves you conjuring up memories of halcyon days when, released from your normal routine, you’re allowed to let your body and imagination roam free, discovering worlds both real and dreamt.

So, when Doddington Hall & Gardens invited The Mini Malpi along to their summer holiday event, you can be sure we were quick to accept.

To be fair, the Elizabethan family home that’s just five miles from Lincoln – with rooms including the Tiger Bedroom, Long Gallery and Tent Room and five acres of gardens including a kitchen garden, duck pond, nature trail, statuesque trees, sculptures, maze, Temple of the Winds and even its own pyramid – has something to offer the imagination of any season’s visitor.  And its a place that we’ve often enjoyed visiting before.

But its latest programme of events capitalises on all of this and adds and highlights much more.


Unicorns are on the family crest and a galloping blessing of the mythical creatures (created by local theatre designers Belli and Belli) greeted us as we arrived at the Historic House.  Anyone interested in hunting the long-horned white horses (as well as green topiary ones) can find plenty both large and small, hidden and in full stride, around the property.

And a quest for such imagery, along with kings, queens, animals, vehicles and secret doors was our first undertaking as we headed into the Hall and were handed a clipboard and a copy of The Unicorn Quest to hunt the items, collect the stamps and claim our prize.  Fortunately the stewards around the house were on hand to help point our eyes in the right direction if the clue eluded us as well as to tell us the stories behind the objects.

My favourite spot on this visit was learning that a hexagonal patchwork tablecloth once had love letters sewn within it but the minis’ favourite room was once again most definitely the tent room.


The Egyptian tent made in Cairo in about 1880 is now too fragile to be erected outside so has been installed in a former bedroom.  And it definitely captured the imaginations of Luke and Willow.  Daddy and Mummy Malpi are now wondering why we ever bothered buying furniture.

DodIAt that point we decided to take their energy outside and headed to the event’s Creation Station area which, on the day we visited, included the chance to make their own Enchanted Forest Crowns with Nadya.

Whether enchanted or not, the craft of weaving dried flowers and grasses, pine cones and other nature finds into the willow and the final artefact itself were definitely enchanting and very fitting in feel with the overall event.  It was also an excellent family photo opportunity that my eldest two minis didn’t allow me to indulge in.  Visitors more prepared (and cooperative) than us had realised the potential for some magical shots as I spotted at least a couple of fairies and one Robin Hood enjoying the gardens.

And there was lots to enjoy.

Helping to fill in an insect hotel, listening to the Talking Trees (an initiative funded by the Woodland Trust and led by Lincoln College’s production and lighting designer Howell Thomas), clambering in and out of willow domes, imagining what the inhabitants of the fairy village created by the Groovy Garden Company are like, swinging a croquet mallet, playing a game of ladybird and bumble bee tic tac toe, and generally exploring the beautiful spaces all added up to a summer’s afternoon of continual delights.

As Luke’s speech improves it is lovely to discover how much he remembers of previous days out and activities and Doddington Hall has obviously made its mark as he mentioned the previous egg and spoon race he took part in as well as other trails he followed, one ducks and one rabbits.  But, as an ardent maze enthusiast, there was definitely one area that he simply had to visit again before heading to the cafe for cake.

As well as the cafe staff who saved our cake from getting soggy by helping us relocate inside at the start of a surprise short shower, we are also indebted to the lovely Hall stewards for their help in not only calming and distracting but also managing to enthuse one slightly poorly mini and one having a highly sensitive day when we first arrived (which meant their parents were slightly less fraught too).

Such warm and welcoming as well as knowledgeable staff, coupled with the magical surroundings, mean the Summer of Imagination would be a lovely destination to include in any mini’s (or major’s) summer 2017.

#DoddingtonSOI is open daily until Sunday, September 3rd, 2017 (except Saturdays), 11am to 4.30pm.  Visit www.doddingtonhall.com/summerofimagination/ for more about the event, click here for the full programme and map and visit www.doddingtonhall.com/visiting/opening-times/ for admission price information.


“Logic will get you from A to B”, said Albert Einstein, “Imagination will take you everywhere else.”

Ingenious Inventions

Summer fun at the National Civil War Centre

CWC1When your two year old is treated as a guest of honour from the moment she steps through the door you know you’ve come to a place you’re going to want to return to.

And when the event even includes its welcome drinks in the theme of the evening then you know you’ll have good reason to return too.

Attending the launch of the National Civil War Centre’s summer fun programme Ingenious Inventions in Newark, Willow was entranced from the start as she was able to choose the colour of her drink, watching as the clear liquid became pink as it poured.

Whilst the historical centre’s exhibits obviously focus on the conflict of the period, it was also a time of great innovation and its summer programme is focusing on the “weird and wonderful stories” that 17th century science provided.

A painting activity in the courtyard inspired by Christiaan Huygens’s pendulum clock was next on Willow’s itinerary (and returned to several times throughout the evening), followed by a crafting session based on the discoveries Antonie van Leeuwenhoek made through his microscope in 1676.

She then joined a class from a local school for a talk by Prince Rupert himself – the inventor of a torpedo, a diving bell and exploding teardrops as well as a seasoned fighter and a dab hand on the tennis court.  The pupils’ infectious enthusiasm and focused exuberance was a credit to their school as well as to the presentation which also held Willow’s attention.

Telescopes, pump activated rockets, an inflatable flea and the arrival of her brother and daddy meaning she could go through it all again meant I very nearly didn’t get to see any of the main part of the centre which currently includes the temporary exhibition Shifting Sands: Lawrence of Arabia and the Great Arab Revolt and there’s still a whole floor I haven’t set foot on yet.

So, along with any young historian or science enthusiast visiting for the first time, we know we’ll still have a lot to enjoy next time we’re in the Nottinghamshire town’s museum.  And we know we’ll have particularly lovely guides to aid our discoveries too.

The schedule of summer fun will run from July 29th to September 3rd.  Either Mad Madge or Prince Rupert of the Rhine will be performing daily from Monday to Saturday.  Every Monday will be a Messy Monday with pendulum painting.

Aug 1-6 and Sept 2-6: Terrific Telescopes – Make your own heavenly creations and imagine the 17th Century stars with build your own telescope sessions.
Aug 8-13: Ticking Technology – Put history in your pocket and make a mini watch to carry in your Restoration waistcoat.
Aug 15-21: Microscopic Monsters –  Learn what 17th Century scientists saw when they first looked through a microscope and make some friendly bacteria to take home.
Aug 22-28: A Right Royal Rocket – Investigate the work of a 17th Century scientist and launch your own rocket.
Aug 29-Sept 1: Crafty Calculations – Did you know that the first calculator was invented in the seventeenth century?  Learn about Pascal’s adding machine and make some crafty calculations of your own.

The centre is offering 20% off admission for families this summer.  Valid from July 29th to September 3rd, it applies to any size group with at least one paying child.  Children under 5 enter for free.  Visit www.nationalcivilwarcentre.com for further information.

The BFG, Mr Men and a gecko’s echo…

Newark Book Festival 2017

Formerly known as Books in the Castle, this year’s Newark Book Festival (July 15th and 16th) was rebranded, revamped and a resounding success.

With a last minute change to the mini ones weekend schedule we headed to Newark on Saturday instead of Sunday as planned and, with many of the events already sold out, we were very glad there were also street theatre acts to enjoy and drop-in workshops to join in too.

On arriving in the Nottinghamshire town, we located the festival’s stall in the market place and were just in time to enjoy a performance by The Smallest Theatre in the World.

The humorous take on Hound of the Baskervilles (in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the first Sherlock Holmes publication) involved audience participation and hijinks that captivated Willow who got especially excited whenever a character popped up on top of the theatre’s roof.

NBF3We then took time to listen to Doctor Rhyme reading us a poem describing the problems of trying to write a poem when your tin of alphabetti spaghetti turns out to be spaghetti hoops and requested a poem to be written in celebration of Luke starting school this year.

A quick chase of the BFG around the market place, who we were quite happy to wave at but not quite brave enough to high five, and a short stop to refuel and then we set off to join in the Make and Create: Mr Men session at Millgate Community Centre.

Cardboard templates, scrunched up newspaper, kitchen roll liners, tissue paper coloured squares, facial features and accessory add ons plus some liberally applied glue and sticky tape and Luke had his own Mr Tickle and Willow a Mr Man all of her own creation.

The Roger Hargreaves characters are staple reading in the minis’ library and it was a well thought out craft that the smallest of hands could join with, that could be similarly recreated at home with a rummage through your recycling and which it wasn’t too difficult to get a recognisable finished artwork from.

There was more even crafting to be done afterwards as we headed to Newark Library where there was also dancing and stories to listen to as children’s author Lucy Rowland introduced young readers to her titles The Birthday Invitation and Gecko’s Echo alongside the library launching its Summer Reading Challenge.  Luke was suitably impressed, requesting to buy a copy of Gecko’s Echo to take home with us which he was able to watch the author sign for him and his sisters.

Before it was time to go back to the car we stopped to explore Newark Library’s lovely children’s area with it’s inventive seating and bookshelves that are also tunnels, it’s play kitchen and dolls’ house.  Willow had clearly got the message that books are good as she helped herself to a huge pile of different titles to have mini excerpts read to her from.

And, back at home, bedtime reading requests involved several renditions of Gecko’s Echo (and who wouldn’t appreciate a story featuring a strong mother?) with a couple of the Mr Men stories to follow.

I used to love attending literary festivals before I had children and, whilst it may be in a slightly different way, it can be even more fun with them.  Definitely one for the diary for 2018, hopefully with a little more planning involved too.

Lincoln (still) Loves Kids!

Lincolnshire County Council’s Samantha Phillips, Visit Lincoln’s Lydia Rusling and Emma Crellin from Lincoln Mums launched the second edition of Lincoln Loves Kids at the Lincolnshire Show. Photo: Visit Lincoln.

Did you pick up a Lincoln Loves Kids brochure last year?

If you did then you’re one of the reasons the pilot project was so successful it had a second edition commissioned.

Promoting family activities and experiences in the city and surrounding countryside, it is produced by a partnership between Visit Lincoln, Lincoln Mums and Lincolnshire County Council’s Heritage Services.

“If you know a budding history hunter or outdoor explorer who needs entertaining or want to find out what clubs and classes are available, just pick up the free 2017 Lincoln Loves Kids brochure,” says Visit Lincoln’s business development manager Clare Williams.

Samantha Phillips, Emma Crellin, Lydia Rusling and EBP’s Emma Wellbourne.  Photo: Visit Lincoln.

“All 40 pages are crammed full of ideas for places to visit, experiences you can enjoy as a family and the best places for child friendly food stops, as well as swimming classes, messy play sessions and baby massage.

“As well as working with all the venues again on this second edition, we’re also organising an event on Saturday, July 29th, in the city centre to coincide with Lincoln by the Sea.”

The new edition once again includes a competition to win a family break in Lincoln and now also includes a family “Selfie Trail”, sharing the best places in the city to capture that perfect family photo.

Lincoln Mums’s Emma Crellin says “In Lincoln we really do have the best of everything for families to enjoy.  It’s great to be involved with Lincoln Loves Kids as the guide brings all the many activities and destinations we have on offer together in one place.  It also highlights all the places where parents can use their Lincoln Mums card too!”

15,000 copies of the brochure will be distributed throughout the city – I’ll definitely be looking out for one! – and you can find out more at www.VisitLincoln.com/kids.

Newark Book Festival 2017

NBF logoThe biggest ever Newark Book Festival promises to transform the Nottinghamshire town into a land of adventure and heroes during the event’s weekend of July 15th and 16th.

Back for its third year, more than 100 authors, artists, entertainers, wordsmiths and street performers will take part in ticketed panel discussions, live music, book markets, children’s storytelling, family activities and literary talks on everything from crime writing to bear hunts to the BFG and Sherlock Holmes to Steampunk in various venues across Newark.

gecko echo cover (2)Sara Bullimore, artistic director for Newark Book Festival, said: “We’re so excited to be building the festival with a new feel, brand and working with more venues to bring a bigger festival to Newark. Our programme is full of fantastic fictional tales and amazing true stories from some of the UK’s finest writers; showcasing their talent, stimulating debate and inspiring the next generation of writers.

wally-wizard (2)“We chose this year’s theme, Adventures and Heroes, to celebrate Visit England’s Year of Literary Heroes, as well as Nottinghamshire’s incredible writers.  There’ll be something for book lovers of all ages, from children’s writers and comedy theatre groups to best-selling novelists and the finest local writing talent.”

Pirate Pete HB cover (2)Mini readers may want to look out for Wally the Wizard on his Magic Ship of Stories, Words and Pictures and Make and Create Mr Men workshops and the launch of the library’s Summer Reading Challenge on the first day of the festival.

And on the Sunday, they can take part in The Festival’s Famous Adventures, celebrating 75 years’ of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, at Newark Castle alongside face painting, treasure hunts and the inimitable Admirable Admirals, as well as enjoying a Pirate Pete storytime at the town hall and time to meet Doctor Rhyme in the Market Place.

Tickets are on sale now from the Newark Palace Theatre Box Office, call 01636 655755.

For a full programme and to find out more visit www.newarkbookfestival.org.uk

Half-sized knights are riding into Show


If you’re planning to do the Lincoln Knights trail on Wednesday, June 21st and Thursday, June 22nd then you’re going to come up one short unless you head a couple of miles north of the city and walk through the gates of the Lincolnshire Showground.

Designer and illustrator Mel Langton’s Show us what you’ve got knight will be riding into the county’s showcase event, taking the spotlight at the Epic Centre during the Lincolnshire Show, before being returned to her trail position in City Square in Lincoln.

The “Show us what you’ve got” knight will be travelling to the Lincolnshire Show on Wednesday and Thursday before returning to City Square in Lincoln.

Mel said: “My aim for the Lincolnshire Showground Knight was to show off all that the region has to offer, highlighting the significant role the Showground plays in entertaining and educating locals as well as attracting visitors from further afield.

“It was therefore really important to add lots of detail into the design, representing everything from live concerts to farming shows – you need to look really closely to spot everything.”

The knight with blonde plaited hair and rosy pink cheeks “to show off the healthy glow that you get from the great Lincolnshire outdoors” is far from the only mounted guest to be attending the Show.

Along with the showjumpers, Shetlands, hunters and shires, there are also more than 40 half-sized knights that will need stabling too.

Launching at the Show as part of the wider Knights’ Trail, is the Education Programme, led by the EBP.  The trail of one metre high exhibits have been designed by local children from 42 different primary, secondary and special schools. The education Knights will be displayed across the Show before moving to indoor locations throughout the city centre until the start of September when they are returned to the schools.

ShowLogoJayne Southall, CEO of the Lincolnshire Showground, said: “We cannot wait to unveil our Knight army at the Show, it has been great working with all the different partners involved and we look forward to celebrating what really will be a unique year showcasing Lincolnshire at its best.”

Matt Corrigan, chief executive of Lincoln Business Improvement Group, said: “The Lincolnshire Show is playing an important part in the programme for the Lincoln Knights’ Trail by hosting the launch of the Education Programme. A new addition for the 2017 trail will be the 40 half-sized Knights; and Lincoln BIG is particularly pleased that EBP has involved so many schools across our county.”

For more information on the Education Trail and the schools taking part visit http://the-ebp.co.uk/knights

ShowActivityPackOf course the Show isn’t just all about its equine exhibitors.  Freestyle motocross displays, agricultural machinery as well as farm animals, rural crafts, dog agility, retail therapy, culinary delights and demonstrations and an aviation zone are just some of the other highlights of the two-day event which attracts about 60,000 visitors each year.

If you’re planning on taking your mini ones on either, or both, days this year then you can help build their excitement by downloading an activity pack ahead of the event.  Containing a wordsearch, maze, Beasties & Beanstalks game, mini Knights map, colouring in, recipe and details of this year’s Schools’ Challenge, you can start their fun even before they set foot through the gates.

Advanced tickets to the Lincolnshire Show are £19 for adults. Children are £6 and under-fives go free. Family tickets, admitting two adults and up to three children, are £40. Car parking is free on both days.

Visit www.lincolnshireshow.co.uk