Author event may inspire children to write

Dan Walker Book Signing PosterBilled as “amazing, action packed stories,” you can find out more about from the author of Desert Thieves and Sky Thieves himself when Dan Walker visits a Lincoln bookshop on Saturday (October 14th, 2017).

Aimed at ages 9-12, the swashbuckling adventure series includes flying galleons, floating islands and long lost treasure.

And Walker is looking forward to his appearance at the High Street branch of Waterstones from 11am to 2pm just as much as any of his young fans are.

“As a children’s writer, events are super-exciting,” the Nottingham writer explains.

“Writing stories is something children do at school, so the understand the process well.  It is not an abstract thing for them.  So when they meet someone who does it for a living – someone who can give them tips and tricks, talk about structure and characters – it’s really interesting.

“In terms of reading as a hobby, kids are always fascinated by the inspiration for characters, events, settings, everything!  I also get a lot of feedback from children who had given up on their writing, but were inspired by meeting an author to get back on it again.”

Author Dan Walker

And it’s not just the children who might find the event inspirational as Walker finds meeting his young readers very beneficial too.

“For a writer, events are great because it means you get to speak to your readers, ” he says.  Writing is a solitary job, and sometimes you get so buried in the details of a story that you lose touch with why you’re putting words on the paper.

“When you go out to an event, and meet readers, it reminds you of the end-point of your story.  You remember who you’re writing for, and the joy it hopefully brings.

“Practically, it gives you a little boost, so that next time you sit down at the computer you’re ready and raring to go.  From a craft perspective, it’s also good to know which bits of your books kids particularly enjoyed, and which bits they didn’t.

“Feedback is good in every station of life; writing is no different.”

Find out more at:


Bushcraft, browsing and a Wobbly Bodger

Belton House Autumn Fayre 2017

Autumn is my favourite season so it’s lovely to hear of other people celebrating it too.

National Trust property Belton House holds an annual Autumn Fayre and this weekend (Saturday, October 14th and Sunday 15th) is 2017’s time to host it.

“The two day Autumn Fayre offers families the chance to immerse themselves in all things autumnal, from learning forest skills with Silverback Bushcraft, and having-a-go at den building in Lincolnshire’s largest outdoor adventure playground, to exploring autumn with the RSPB’s Nature’s Colour trail” says marketing and events officer Anastasia Stratigou.

“Browse a selection of handmade arts, crafts and foods that celebrate the best of regional produce. With local traders selling a variety of foods, vintage linens, handmade jewellery, leather bags, garden items, home décor and more, the fayre promises there will be a treat to be found by all”.

Click here to find details of the stall holders attending: Belton Autumn Fayre Stall Holder List 2017.

The North Front at Belton House, a restoration country house built 1685-88
The North Front at Belton House.  National Trust Images: Andrew Butler.

New for 2017, chainsaw artist Andrew Frost will be creating live action wood carvings in preparation for Belton’s Christmas display, at the fayre on Sunday.  And, on the same day, the Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust’s annual greyhound walk around the parkland will start at 11am.

The Wobbly Bodger will also be demonstrating traditional heritage crafts all weekend.

The fayre will take place from 9.30am to 5.30pm on both days, with different activities throughout the weekend.  Grounds admission applies.

Visit for more information.

Planes, pains and automobiles

#Blogtober17 – Day Three: Car

Today’s #Blogtober17 prompt “car” reminded me of a recent fun family day out despite not all going entirely to plan…

With the weather forecast against us and a desire to find some new indoor attractions to keep the mini ones busy (that didn’t involve soft play yet again) we’d headed into south Lincolnshire on a Sunday in September.

Having consulted the Lincolnshire Heritage Open Days schedule we’d discovered that Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum was hosting a pioneering female aviators exhibition – High Flying Women (this has now been replaced by Airships Over Lincolnshire… Lighter Than Air) and, never having visited before, we put the code in the sat-nav to find out more.

I hadn’t expected it to be a huge museum but also hadn’t expected it to be quite as tiny as it is either – but it definitely punches above its weight.

The minis were as warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by the friendly and knowledgeable volunteer curator as my husband and I were and, clipboards in hand ready for collecting answers in the temporary exhibition section, we entered the room of exhibits to see what was on display.

At any age hands-on learning is much more fun than passive experiences but especially so for children and Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre more than meets this challenge.  A flight simulator, an aircraft recognition game, a chance to try and drop a supply package on target, dressing up opportunities and a navigation challenge mean that you’ll be spending a lot longer in the centre than you may have first thought on entering.


Clutching their lollipops won for completing the worksheet accompanying the exhibition (despite being pre-literate Willow takes these types of things very seriously), we headed out into the courtyard that’s home to a Jet Provost which Luke and Willow enjoyed running around pretending to be airplanes themselves.

When they’d come back down to land it was then time for the automobiles section of the day and when things started to go slightly awry.

Next on the itinerary was to stop for lunch at V-ATE, a “pit stop dining experience” in Boston – sadly it seemed to have been next on everyone else’s itinerary too and we arrived to be told there was an hour-and-a-half wait to be seated which we didn’t think the minis would endure.  The restaurant has only recently opened, the photos of its extensively themed interior have heralded much hype and, according to those I know who’ve managed to get a table so far, the hype is justifiable both for the food as well as overall experience. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to try again another time, perhaps not on a Sunday lunchtime.

Fortunately our next planned stop – The Bubblecar Museum – advertised having a cafe as well as being “the UK’s most unusual motor museum” so we headed straight there instead.

Despite being far from a petrolhead and actually a very reluctant driver at best, the Bubblecar Museum is somewhere I’ve long wanted to visit.  I’m a big fan of 1950s style and the microcars are, quite frankly, just cute.  As Luke’s toy cars are everything to him at the moment I thought it would appeal to him too.

Our welcome didn’t quite have the warmth of the earlier one however as the curators seemed quite suspicious if not disapproving of the mini ones’ exuberance.  With the dire warnings of potential dangers of their static car, motorcycle and moped displays ringing in our ears (not to mention the chance of fingers being trapped in the entrance door) we still managed to enjoy the displays in the micromusem, circling both floors several times talking about the different colours of the vehicles and pointing out items in the cabinets.  With no interactive elements to their collection (you can pay extra for a ride in a Bubblecar) we didn’t spend quite as long here though.  Luke did make sure he left the gift shop clutching a new toy car for his collection however.

The day did also serve to fuel my enthusiasm for finding more small and quirky museums to visit however as I find the passion behind such specific collections particularly engaging.  And seeing as I’ve just found out through Twitter that there’s a Lincolnshire Chair Museum perhaps we have our next destination!

If you know of any interesting little museums then let me know in the comments below.


Have a howling Halloween!

Spooktacular events for 2017

LukePumpkinI might not be appreciating the start of the autumn season as much as I normally do due to the start of school but it does signify that Halloween is just around the corner and that still remains my favourite time of year.

In 2016 we marked the occasion with a themed family photoshoot with A. Rowan Photography which was great fun but, seeing as she’s taken her talent back to America, we’re going to have to keep an eyeball out for something else to do this year.

WillowWitchFortunately there’s lots to choose from in and around Lincolnshire – you can take a walk around around a pumpkin patch or some haunted city streets or, if your toes tremble too much at the thought, then take the ghost train or bus.  Whatever your deadly destination be sure to dress up to join in the frightening fun!

Some events need advance booking, there are only so many pumpkins in a pumpkin patch and, of course, all live (and undead) events are subject to change so be sure to click on the links to check the details and phone before travelling.  And don’t forget to keep checking back in case we’ve added some more eerie entertainment to the list!

September 30 – October 28:

Halloween Maize Maze, Uncle Henry’s, Grayingham

October 7-31:

Pick up a Pumpkin Festival, Maxeys Farm Shop Pumpkins, Kirklington

October 13:

11am-8pm: Spalding Pumpkin Festival, Spalding Town Centre

October 14:

11.30am-2.30pm: Halloween Preview Event, Pescod Square Shopping Centre, Boston

From October 14 (selected dates):

Bell’s PYO Pumpkin Patch, Benington, Boston

October 20:

4pm-5pm: Tiny Terrors in the Maize Maze, Uncle Henry’s, Grayingham

From October 21:

Halloween Festival, White Post Farm, Farnsfield

October 21-29:

Halloween Half Term, Rand Farm Park, near Market Rasen
Monster Mash-up, National Civil War Centre, Newark

October 21-30:

9am-5pm: Pumpkin Festival, Pink Pig Farm, Holme Hall
10am-3pm: Trick or Treat Treasure Trail, RSPB Frampton Marsh
10am-3.30pm: PYO Pumpkins, Doddington Hall

October 21 – November 1:

School Scarecrow Competition, Doddington Hall

October 21 – November 5:

Black Cat Trail, Wollaton Hall and Deer Park
Spooky Halloween Terror Trail, Rufford Abbey Country Park

October 22-29:

Halloween Activities, Bransby Horses Rescue and Welfare

October 23:

10am-5pm: Halloween Holiday Spooky Animal Encounter, Tattershall Farm Park
10.30am-4pm: Normanby Hall’s Wonderful World of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Normanby Hall

October 23-27:

Spooky Children’s Tours, Wollaton Hall and Deer Park

October 23-28:

11am-4pm: Hallowe’en Half Term, Tattershall Castle

October 23-29:

11am-4pm: Gruesome and Spooky Prison, Lincoln Castle
Halloween, Hall Farm Park, South Kelsey

October 24:

1pm: Spooky Storytime with Rhubarb Theatre, Tattershall Farm Park

October 24-31:

Halloween at Hartsholme, Hartsholme Country Park

October 25:

11.30am: Spooky Storytime with Rhubarb Theatre, Tattershall Farm Park
Noon-4pm: Spooky Critters Crafts, Southwell Workhouse
6.30pm-8.30pm: Halloween Disco, Fun Farm, North Hykeham

October 25-28:

6.30pm, 7.30pm and 8.30pm: Doddington Hall ‘o’ Ween, Doddington Hall

October 26:

9.45am-12.30pm: Pumpkin Party Music with Mummy, St Andrew’s Community Centre, Saxilby
10am-11.30am: Pumpkin Carving, Lincoln Arboretum
10am-4pm: Haunted House: A Halloween Spectacular, The Back Garden Drama Company, Waddington Village Hall
1pm and 2.30pm: Halloween Story Walks, Easton Walled Gardens

October 26-28:

10am-3.30pm: Ghost-Hunter Kit Bags, Museum of Lincolnshire Life, Lincoln

October 27:

10am-11.30am: Pumpkin Painting Party, hosted by The Creation Station Grantham and South East Lincolnshire, Huntingtower Community Primary Academy
11.30am: Spooky Storytelling with Rhubarb Theatre, Tattershall Farm Park
2pm-4pm: Duckling Halloween Disco, Whisby Natural World Centre
2.30pm: Meet the Ghosts of Wollaton Park, Wollaton Hall and Deer Park
4.30pm-6.30pm: Children’s Halloween Party, Nettleham Library
5pm: CANCELLED, Halloween Hullabaloo and Eerie Explorers, Newark Castle
5pm-7pm: SOLD OUT, Toddler Halloween Party, Pink Pig Farm, Holme Hall
5pm-8pm: Creepy Critters, North Lincolnshire Museum, Scunthorpe
6pm-8.30pm: Halloween Roller Disco, Fun Farm, North Hykeham
Museums at Night: Ghosts, The Collection, Lincoln

October 27 and 28:

5pm: Haunted Halloween Spooky Walk, Tattershall Farm Park

October 27, 28 and 31:

6pm and 8pm: Ghost Tours, Tattershall Castle

October 28:

10am-11am: Halloween Spectacular, Splat Messy Play, Saxilby Village Hall
10am-4pm: Shrek’s Haunted Halloween Swamp Grotto, Hildred’s Shopping Centre, Skegness
10am-4pm: Halloween at The Village of the Damned, The Village, Church Farm, Skegness
11am-5pm: Ghostly Hallowe’en Hall, Gunby Estate, Hall and Gardens
11.30am: Halloween Family Outdoor Cinema – Hocus Pocus, Rufford Abbey Country Park
noon-4.30pm: Spookymon Go! Boultham Park, Lincoln
2pm-6pm: Halloween Party, Marshall’s Yard, Gainsborough
2.30pm: The Addams Family (PG), The Venue, Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln
3pm: Halloween Party, Hemswell
3.30pm-8pm: Cleethorpes Spooktacular Halloween Fireworks and Fair, Meridian Park Showground, Cleethorpes
4.30pm: Firework Spooktacular, Lincoln Castle
6.30pm: Mayhem Halloween Party, Ignite Elim Church, Moorland Community Centre, Lincoln

October 28-29:

10am-5pm: Halloween Weekend, Hardy’s Animal Farm, Ingoldmells 
5pm: Halloween Ghost Bus Tour of Lincoln

October 29:

10am-4pm: Halloween Pumpkin Carving and Crafts, The Ritz, JD Wetherspoon, Lincoln
11am-3.30pm: Halloween Open Day, Bluebell Wood Farm Shop and Goats, Skelton House Farm, Nettleham
11am-4pm: Hallowe’en Spooktacular, Tattershall Castle
2pm-4.30pm: BFLF Spooky Spectacular with Mark Archer (ALTERN8), The Engine Shed, Lincoln
2pm-5.30pm: Halloween Spooktacular, Wyndham Park, Grantham
2.45pm-5.45pm: Halloween Specials, Lincolnshire Wolds Railway
4pm-6pm: Light Party Jungle, Bardney Village Hall

October 31:

5.30pm: Great Lives Halloween Special with Chris Packham, LPAC, Lincoln
6pm: Halloween at Cogglesford, Cogglesford Watermill, Sleaford
6.30pm, 6.45pm, 7pm and 7.30pm: Lincoln Ghost Walks
Victorian Night of Fear
, Lincoln Castle

November 3:

6pm-8pm: Leo Lion Cubs Club Halloween Party, Leo’s Play Centre, Newark

Have I missed your event?  Email me at


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:

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 for more about the event, click here for the full programme and map and visit 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 for further information.