Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Days out in Devon: Woodlands Theme Park

Title days out in devon a trip to woodlands

If you're looking for a family day out in South Devon on a sunny (yes! it was sunny) bank holiday weekend, look no further than Woodlands Theme Park in Devon.

With water rides, to help you keep cool, slides, outdoor play areas, shady woodlands, plenty of picnic benches and a lake, there really is plenty to keep everyone occupied.

Have a look at my film of our day and read on to find out more about what we got up to:
We set off early in a bid to get there before the crowds, which would have been great apart from a small navigating error that meant we ended up on the Higher Dart ferry. Although it was an unexpected £5.60 expense, it was something we'd never done before and great fun to watch the boats as we crossed the water.

After that, it was plain sailing (terrible pun), and we arrived in the car park not long after the gates had opened and there was still barely a queue to get in. We quickly found our friends, who are down on holiday.

In fact, we were very impressed with how short the queues were all day. I'm not sure if this is because people had steered away from the park thinking it would be busy on a hot bank holiday weekend or if we were just lucky.

We started on the pirate ship ride, just after the entrance. Elliot was slightly concerned that he might see his breakfast again, as it hadn't been long since we had stopped for a cheeky Maccy D's sausage and egg McMuffin, but he soon recovered as we wandered up to the farmyard area and met goats, chickens, tarantulas, reptiles, rabbits and even meerkats (not in the same enclosure obviously).

It was time for a more sedate ride, so we clambered aboard the tractor ride. It took a while for Beatrix to get the hang of using an accelerator, but we eventually got round, with the typical holiday traffic jam of other tractors behind us.

From there, we headed down towards the boating lake where we all managed to get a ride, thanks to some clever queuing and swapping grown ups so each of the children could have a turn. 

A toilet stop was now required and we found ourselves in a huge indoor soft play area with the really tall trauma tower. The best view of the riders is from the first floor balcony, as this is where you catch the riders expressions at the top before they drop back down again. As well as the Trauma Tower, there are a couple of more traditional fairground rides suitable for smaller children including a small wheel. And then there's the soft play - always a winner in our house - with plenty of slides and a couple of drop slides. Beatrix plucked up the courage to have a go and absolutely loved it. For a five year old, she's a real thrill seeker!

By this time, some tummies were rumbling again so we went back outside into the glorious sunshine and started off down the hill towards the water slides, stopping on the way for a picnic on some benches, conveniently placed in front of a coffee stall.

The water slides are probably the biggest draw to Woodlands, especially on a baking hot summer day. However, we didn't have to queue for long before going on each of the flumes. There is a choice of three and in each, two riders go hurtling down a water slide or a chute in a boat. The orange one is pretty dry, but you're guaranteed to get wet on the purple one. 

While they were waiting for an appropriate grown up to accompany them down the slide, the rest of the children played in the playground at the bottom of the hill.

Once we'd all had a go on all the slides we had a go on the next ride: the toboggan run. The best thing about this is that you are in control of how fast you go. I rode with Elliot, who was a bit concerned about all the signs asking riders to check their brakes and to slow down on the corners. But we rode pretty fast and nearly caught up with the rider in front.

Having exhausted the action and water rides, we opted for a sedate walk through the forest and the latest attraction, the Dino Trek. At the moment, Woodlands have question sheets for children, based on the dinosaur exhibit. You can hand the completed sheets in for the chance to win prizes in a competition (which ends in early June 2016). Both the boys are dino mad, so really enjoyed the chance to get up close with the exhibits.

We ended up in another outdoor play area with a massive sandpit where we stopped for a few minutes before carrying on towards the pedal boats. After a couple of relaxing trips around the island on the lake, we decided to start off back up the hill to find ice cream. En route we stopped at another big outdoor play area with huge slides and walkways through the trees and at the top of the hill we found an ice cream stand and another couple of huge slides. One was most definitely for adults, an almost vertical drop on a water slide. Next door was one suitable for children, with small sleighs used to hurtle down what looked like a dry ski slope, sprinkled with water. For the younger children, a roundabout with swings helped with the waiting.

By this time, the day was over and the park was starting to shut, so we had to call it a day.

Last year, we camped at Woodlands and had two glorious days to explore the whole park. And now, I've had to promise that we'll return later in the summer with our tent so we can do it again.

We hadn't made it around all the attractions, but we'd done enough. Well, certainly enough that 3 year old Wilf was asleep in the car after about 5 minutes. He didn't wake up until 4am the next morning!

Have you been to Woodlands? What was your favourite ride? What other days out in Devon would you recommend?

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Why I named my blog Seaside Belle

A few people have asked me why this blog is called Seaside Belle. It's a long time since I came up with the name, but I do remember it taking me a while to come up with a suitable moniker.

In the end, I chose something that reflects where I live and what inspires me: the seaside. And to add a personal element, I chose the word belle. Belle means beautiful lady. Now, I'm not saying I'm necessarily a supermodel, and the content of the blog is not about beauty in the physical sense, but it's a lot about becoming a more beautiful person in terms of self-improvement, knowing your worth and being the best you can be.

Naming a blog is not an easy task and there are several considerations:

  1. Think about the content of the blog and whether your blog name reflects this.
  2. Check the name is not already in use. You can do this with a simple search on Google or you can go to a domain name registration site, such as GoDaddy, and simply type in your name. It's also worth doing a quick check on some of the social media sites to see if anyone is already using your preferred name. The last thing you want is to register a domain and then find you can't use it on Twitter. This actually happened to me so my Twitter name is less than ideal: @seasidebelle1 rather than the simple @seasidebelle.
  3. Keep the name short enough to be used on social media channels, like Twitter
  4. Think about how people will type your blog name into a search engine. You might come up with a really clever play on words, but will that mean that people can't find your blog because they type in the wrong spelling. For example: rightblog/writeblog.
  5. For the same reason, you should be wary about using numbers. If your blog name is two become three: will your audience type in 2 or two (or even to or too)?
  6. Try not to limit yourself. Even though a lot of my blog content is about being a mum and parenting, I knew I wanted my blog to last a long time and I didn't want to be tied down to being a 'mummy blogger', so I was definitely sure that I didn't want the term 'mum' to appear in the title.
How did you come up with the name for your blog? What considerations influenced your choice?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

I'm going to BritMums Live 2016

I'm going to BritMums Live 2016! I booked my ticket last night.

I'm just a bit nervous about it because it means I'll be joining the great and the good of the blogging world. But I'm also very excited because it marks my coming of age. I feel like I'm finally becoming a proper, grown-up and hopefully more professional blogger. Obviously, there's a lot to learn, but hopefully BritMums Live will help with that!

If you've never heard of BritMums Live, it's an annual conference in London that brings bloggers and influencers together to meet, socialise, network with brands, improve their skills and inspire their creativity. The event culminates in the coveted BiBs (Brilliance In Blogging) Awards. Who knows, maybe with what I learn at BritMums, I might even enter these awards next year?

This year is the fifth time BritMums Live has run and it takes place at The Brewery in East London on Saturday 25th June. If you want to follow the event on social media, you can use the hashtag #BML16

To make things easier for people going to the conference, especially for nervous newbies like me, BritMums runs a linky to enable attendees to get to know each other before the big day.

So here I present my answers to the linky questions:

My name: Jo Bowery

My blog: Seaside Belle

Find me on social media at:

How I look: I'm average height and build. I have shoulder-length brown hair and hazel coloured eyes. This is a picture of me playing rugby. I'll try and scrub up a bit before #BML16. It was the only fair;y recent picture I could find where I'm smiling!

Is this my first blogging event? No, a few years ago I went to an event run by Jo Middleton from SlummySingleMummy in Bristol about blogging. But I went to that one with my professional hat on as I was developing a blog for a freelance client and, for me, it was more about blogging for business than blogging for me.

I will be wearing…I have no idea what I'm going to be wearing (agh! what am I going to wear?), but it will probably be the usual mummy uniform of skinny jeans, maybe my hot pink ones, and a sleeveless top of some description.

What I hope to gain from #BML16: There is so much I want to learn about blogging, so I hope my expectations aren't too high! I want to learn how to make my blog more professional. I want to learn more about blog design, photography, vlogging etc. I also want to understand more of the legal implications, including how to develop terms and conditions, how to run giveaways and how to work with brands. But ultimately, I want to meet other bloggers, especially those who juggle blogging with motherhood and work. And I want to be inspired. That's not much to ask, is it?

My tips for a great conference: Smile a lot and say hello to lots of people. Take business cards (note to self, order some blogging business cards), listen more than speak and enjoy.

Please say hello if you see me. I can't wait.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

10 baby milestones the parenting manuals forgot

There's nothing I love more than sharing my kids' milestones. We all enjoy capturing photographs and other evidence of that first smile, the first tooth, first hair cut and those first steps.

And while there are countless parenting books and emails letting us know when and what we can expect as our cherubs develop, I'm sure I'm not alone in sometimes resenting the rose-tinted view of babyhood they depict. Why don't they warn you about some of the downsides? So here are some of the more realistic developmental milestones you can expect as you charter your way through that first year of childhood:
  1. Within the first day, you may well encounter the first unexpected milestone: baby's ability to pee (usually straight into your face) as soon as you remove their nappy. Everyone enjoys an eyeful of urine. So cute!
  2. At around the same age, you may also experience the first projectile poo. If you're lucky, even if it bypasses the nappy completely, it will be contained by their clothes. But you may be unfortunate enough to be holding a naked baby when this happens, like poor Al Ferguson from thedadnetwork.
  3. There's no better sign that you need to cut baby's nails than when you are at the receiving end of a rake down the face when baby suddenly realises they can grab your nose.
  4. We spend weeks waiting for baby to start rolling. The novelty soon wears off when they like to perfect their technique as you change their nappy - the dirtier the nappy, the better!
  5. Bath time is always a lot of fun. But watch out for the first poo in the bath  – usually when sharing their water with an older sibling who is drinking the bathwater from a watering can. 
  6. Babies love practicing moving their arms and legs and after a few months, they will enjoy perfecting this skill with the octopus move as you attempt to dress them. Dressing your baby becomes a battle of wills as you each pit your wits against each other to encourage the correct limb into the correct clothing hole.
  7. Discovering their voice. It's fantastic when baby's soft gurgles start developing into babbling. What's less amusing is when baby discovers they can change pitch, especially when the preferred tone is extremely high pitched and very loud.
  8. At around 9 months as baby perfects the art of crawling, they also discover a radar that can identify an open stair gate and embark on a climbing expedition as soon as your head is turned.
  9. At around 10 months, baby may begin to stand while holding on to furniture. They soon discover that it is even more fun if they can stand and pull gently at a drawer and then toss out the neatly folded contents into a messy pile on the floor.
  10. Eye hand co-ordination is also developing fast at around this age and they quickly developing the ability to post things through a hole. This is great if it's the shape-sorter that is designed to encourage this skill, but it's not so fine when it's a biscuit being slotted into the DVD player.
What less than joyful milestones have you encountered?

Friday, 20 May 2016

The day I launched my vlog

In my day job as a marketing consultant, I am increasingly aware of the importance of video content. But it's hard to advise clients about using video without having huge direct experience. So I've decided to bite the bullet and give it a go in my personal life and launch a blog.

Rather than launch a brand new channel under the SeasideBelle banner, I decided to start off with my existing YouTube account under my real name.

Here is my first ever vlog post. If you like what you see, please subscribe to my channel and let me know what you think.

And if you vlog, let me know where in the comments and I'll subscribe to you too.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Why I don't recycle old blog posts on social media, but probably should

One of the things that really annoys me about the blogging world is when I see a link to a blog post on social media and then click on it, only to discover the blog post is actually months or even years old. Actually, it's not just blogs sometimes organisations do it too.

Maybe it's because I come from a journalistic, news background, but usually, if I see a new social media post, I expect it to link to new blog content. So when it doesn't I am disappointed. My expectations have not been met. I struggle to understand why someone would send me to an old part of their blog and I start to wonder if this is the best they've produced or if, in fact, they've actually updated their site at all since this post? If or when I explore the site further I'm already in a bad mood, feeling duped.

I do understand that social media feeds move quickly so there is a school of thought that suggests you post often to maintain attention and engagement. But what's the point in posting stuff that isn't relevant?

I've struggled a lot with this question and whether to repost links to old content as an easy way to maintain momentum on my social media networks. Am I missing a trick here?

The nub of the issue, for me, is expectations. So I've come to a compromise. I have softened in my stance and devised three rules. These are based on the premise that as long as the old content has some relevance, or what we call in the news trade - a hook, then it is OK to post a link. BUT...it has to be clear that this is old content.

  1. Mention in the social media post that this is old content. Luckily, there are a couple of hashtags you can tap into: #throwbackthursday or #onefromthearchives are two easy terms you can add to your post to make it clear to the reader that you are linking to older content. Obviously don't use #throwbackthursday on a Monday or anything or you really will look like you don't know what you're talking about!
  2. Review your old posts and update them. You could then post the link and point readers to the fact that you've updated your old posts. 
  3. Finally, tap into trending topics, newsworthy issues or awareness days and make it clear that this is old content. For example, 'The sun is finally out. If you're struggling to get sunscreen on the kids, here are some tips I posted last year."

I can see that posting older blog content, particularly evergreen topics, can be a useful way to drive traffic and boost social media activity, so I probably will jump on the posting old content bandwagon. But hopefully, I won't annoy my readers with unnecessary and irrelevant links.

Do you post old content? Do you have any rules? Am I bonkers to worry about this?

Saturday, 7 May 2016

7 reasons I ran the first Teignmouth Colour Rush

I wasn't planning on doing another charity run for a while, having already done the Great West Run for Parkinson's and the Rock Solid 15K for Exeter Leukaemia Fund (ELF) in the last six months, but when the rugby girls suggested doing the first ever Teignmouth Colour Rush for Rowcroft Hospice, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here's why:

  1. It was the first time this event has been held in my home town, so I was really proud to take part. Plus, it was easy to walk back home afterwards.
  2. It's not a regular 5K charity fun run, you run through paint stations where volunteers chuck cups of brightly coloured powdered paint all over you, which not only hides your bright red face, but is a beautiful spectacle
  3. It's for a great cause. Rowcroft Hospice is a South Devon charity that provides palliative and end of life care. Lots of people taking part in today's event have known and loved family and friends who have benefitted from the work of the hospice.
  4. The route is a mixture of terrain with half run on the beach and half run along the promenade, which provides great variety for any runner.
  5. But, the joy of the Colour Rush is that it's not a race. Yes, there was a clock, and the competitive side of me was pleased that I ran it in 28 minutes despite having not really run since RockSolid in March, but lots of people walked it and just enjoyed the atmosphere.
  6. It's a great team event. Most people took part with their friends and I was no exception, it was a great opportunity to catch up with the rugby girls after the end of the season.
  7. The event is just as much for the supporters. It's three laps so supporters had ample opportunity to wave to their friends and marvel at the colourful clouds rising up from each of the paint stations.

Would I do it again? Without hesitation yes. And would I recommend it to anyone else? Definitely, especially if you've never taken part in a charity run before because it's not really a run at all - you can take it as easy as you like. It's off road, so there's no pressure to be finished in a certain time because the road needs to open again, so you can take as long as you like and really soak up the wonderful, friendly atmosphere.

If you've been inspired to support the work of Rowcroft Hospice, I'd be very grateful for any donations made through my JustGiving page.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Babysitter etiquette - 9 ways to treat your babysitter right

As a teenager, I used to do a lot of babysitting. It was perfect for me, I loved babies and young children, I could watch whatever I wanted on TV and I got paid to do it!

Nowadays, I sometimes babysit for a friend or my sister in the hope of earning credits for them to return the favour and let me and my husband go on a rare night out.

Whether you're paying for a babysitter, involved in a formal or informal swap system or use family to cover your childcare, there is a certain etiquette for the way you treat your babysitters.

  1. Try and get the children into bed (ideally asleep) before you leave. If this isn't going to happen, let the babysitter know what to expect and what the bedtime routine entails. There's nothing worse than hustling your own kids into bed before you leave to babysit and then having to get someone else's kids into bed as well!
  2. Be clear on any specific house/family rules. Are the children allowed to have fizzy drinks? Are they allowed to kick a football in the house? You can guarantee that if children think there might be some leeway with a new face on the scene, they'll try and milk it if they can. And rules that might seem obvious to you may not be as clearcut to someone who doesn't live in your house.
  3. Clarify what the babysitter can or can't do. Do you have any strong opinions on whether the babysitter can have a guest over while they are in your house? Are they allowed to crack open a bottle of wine?
  4. Tell the babysitter where you are going and what time you expect to be back. And stick to it or phone if the plans change. If a problem were to arise, it's useful for the babysitter to have an idea of where you are in case something happens to your mobile (you might not hear it ring or you might have drunkenly dropped it down the toilet).
  5. Leave refreshments: tea, coffee, wine, beer, crisps, fruit, chocolate, biscuits. The babysitter might not take them, but they'll appreciate the thought. And leave them out on the side, don't just say, there's stuff in the cupboard. For the babysitter, it is much easier to help yourself to something that has been purposely left out than it is to root around in cupboards worrying that you are eating the children's packed lunch supplies.
  6. Show the babysitter where to find essentials for emergencies. Where are your First Aid supplies? Make sure you let the babysitter know if there are any medical issues she should be aware of, such as allergies, and how to deal with them. You might also want to let the babysitter know where to find a torch or the location of your fuse box, in case of a power cut. Let the babysitter know if this is a circumstance that would warrant them calling you.
  7. A WiFi password is always appreciated. The babysitter might not just want to watch your TV or your collection of box sets. They may be bringing work with them or just want to browse Facebook on their phone or laptop.
  8. Come back when you say you will. If you've said you'll be home by 11 and it's nearly midnight, the babysitter will start to worry about what might have happened to you. The babysitter might also have to be up early in the morning and will not appreciate staying longer if they didn't expect to - even if you do pay them extra.
  9. Sort out transport home if the babysitter isn't driving. The last thing you'd want on your conscience is if something happened as they walked home alone in the dark. And the babysitter won't appreciate paying for a cab out of their hard earned wages.
Do you do anything special for your babysitter? I'd love to hear your babysitter tips.