Monday, 16 May 2016

Feasts & adventures on beaches & in castles..

Places to visit and things to do - 30th May Bank Holiday and Half Term.

May is one of  of our favourite months - the sun starts to shine and here in the UK we are very lucky to get two bank holidays on either end of the month!  That's two extra days for the team at Belle & Boo HQ to enjoy precious time with our families and friends making, seeing, doing and exploring . As usual there are oodles of things to do up and down the UK for all ages to enjoy, so please read on for our pick of events, free activities and places to go over May bank holiday weekend and during half term.  

Stick Man's Summer Holiday - Essex

During May half term families can join Stick Man at Weald Country Park on his holiday adventures. There will be an activity trail with questions, tasks and a small gift at the end. There is also a Stick Man play trail for kids to enjoy. 

Saturday 28th May thrououtout Half term.

Global Explorers - Westonbirt, National Arboretum

The wonderful Westonbirt is hosting a global explorer craft day where children can take part in craft activities whilst learning about trees from around the world.  Westonbirt is an exceptionally beautiful place and a fabulous way to fire up children’s imaginations. The new walkway up in the trees is fabulous fun. Well worth a day trip.
Global Explorers 
June 1st - 3rd (half term)

Make your own knitted City - Bristol

As massive craft fans and a Bristol based company we were excited to visit M Shed to see Bristol, an amazing knitted version of our home city.  A huge, intricately crocheted and knitted model of Bristol you can spot  a wooly version of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Zoo, a Banksy mural as well as pubs to tiny bicycles. And on 31st May kids have the chance to make their own creations inspired by Bristol using finger knitting and pom poms.

Briswool Event For Kids - 31st May

Family Party on A Victorian Pier - Somerset

On Bank Holiday Monday the wonderful Victorian Clevedeon Pier will be celebrating the launch of their new Visitor Centre. There will be a daytime Seaside Spectacular and i n the evening, a Party at the Pier.  There will be activities for all ages, music, fireworks and lots of surprises.
Clevedon Pier
30th May

Happy Birthday Mr Burningham  - Oxford

John Burningham is one of the UK’s best-loved illustrators and storytellers famous for children books including Mr Gumpy’s Outing.  If you are near Oxford or looking for a day out in one of the UK’s most beautiful cities you might like to take the kids along to the Oxford Story Museum where this exhibition explores Burningham’s  life through pictures showing how he uses widely different techniques to suit the mood of each of his books. One for adult illustrators too.
Happy Birthday Mr Burningham Exhibition
The Story Museum
 29th - 31st May

Sunday 29th May - Tuesday 31st May

Cook & Craft - Cumbria 
We are high fans of the Rheged Centire in Cumbria (who recently was the home to the first Belle & Boo exhibition) .  A great place to visit it has lots of activities for all the family, good food, arts and culture. During halter there are a series of events of kids including the opportunity too create an enormous crocodile or make chocolate soil pudding with local babe Vicky Allison. 
Rheged Centre 
Half Term Activities
2 Jun 2016 & 3 Jun 2016

The Royal Bath & West Show - 1st - 4th June

The Uk’s biggest celebration of rural Life has lots to offer all ages.  For children between the ages of 5 and 14 there is a Family Trail, guiding you to a huge range of brilliant areas plus the opportunity to win lots of great prizes! Don’t miss ther engineering and technology activities specially developed for children. A swell as opportunities to learn about farming including a Sheep Show.
The Royal Bath & West Show
1st - 4th June

Seashore Explorer Week And A Feast on A Beach - Dorset

The gorgeous Studland Bay is offering free explorer events for families throughout half term. Possibly one of the most gorgeous stretches of coast in the UK, set amidst a protected nature reserve, Studland Bay has lots to offer and makes for a great family destination.  And at the end of half term you can enjoy a  'Seabass Feast’ with all the family with two courses of delicious grub cooked and served next to the incredibly lovely beach (Booking is essential for the Seabass Feast). 
Studland Bay
Seabass Feast
Friday 3rd June

Food Festival In a Castle - Monmouthshire

Looking for a beautiful area of the UK to visit and a place guaranteed to keep your tummies satisfied and your taste buds tingling. Then head to the Monmouthshire Food Festival  held in the glorious grounds of Caldicot Castle. There is a full programme of demonstrations, talks, tastings for grown ups and lots of food and drink to try! There is also The Childrens Quarter a dedicated area for children of all ages, the aim to promote healthy alternatives to high fat and sugary snacks.  There is also a focus on the importance of bees to our food supply change - something close to Belle & Boo's heart. 
Caldicot Castle
4th – 5th June 2016

Sunflowers and Dress Up Days - Northumberland

There are plenty of family adventures to be had at Cragside once the home to Lord Armstrong - Victorian inventor, innovator and landscape genius. Discover the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. It is crammed full of ingenious gadgets; go for a muddy barefoot walk, visit the Young Engineer’s zone, and spend time exploring Nelly's Labyrinth, a network of paths and tunnels cut out of a vast area of rhododendron forest. If that is not enough during half term kids have the opportunity to plant a sunflower and join in a victorian costume activity session. 
Half Term Events At Cragside
Tue 31 May 2016
Wed 01 Jun 2016

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Your child in the next Belle & Boo book!

Your chance to have your child beautifully illustrated in the next Belle & Boo picture book by Mandy Sutcliffe.

In the next few weeks I will begin illustrating the sixth Belle & Boo picture book, due to be published in early 2018 by Orchard Books.

I’m so excited to give one of you the chance to have your child sit with my favourite characters amongst the pages of this new book. 

 Mandy Sutcliffe, Founder of Belle & Boo

To enter all you have to do is spend over £50 on the Belle & Boo boutique from now until 31th May and you will be automatically entered into the draw. 

One Winner will receive:
Their child featured on 1 page within the Belle & Boo book.
1 x art print of the page in the book
1 x  signed copy of the book 
And your child’s name will be printed in the books dedication!

So if you are looking for a gift for a new baby or a birthday present for a best friend then hop on over to our boutique.  Or maybe you need some pretty new kitchen kit or a cushion or a lampshade to freshen up a room for spring.  Or stock up on craft and art materials from our beautiful sew, paper craft and children's art ranges.  There are lots of things to choose from all beautifully designed and made to the highest quality.  

Happy Shopping and Good Luck!

Love Mandy and All at

The Fine Print
Purchase must be made between Thursday 28th April and Midnight on the 31st May 2016 (GMT).
£50 minimum spend and can be an accumulative total of more than 1 product.
The minimum spend excludes shipping costs.
Free Shipping over £50 for UK customers.
Winner will be chosen at random and notified by email. 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Belle & Boo at Rheghed

Have you been to any of the Westmorland group service stations? No? Well you must, I would go as far as saying they are revolutionising service stations as we know them, making them go to destinations just like in 1980 when my friend Alex has his birthday party at one, he he!
We have been selling our Belle and Boo goodies at Rheghed Centre in Penrith, Cumbria since last summer and a tentative plan was made back then to host a Belle and Boo event. Logistically it wasn't the easiest thing to organise because of distance and we are a little control freaky at Belle & Boo head quarters but Rebecca and the rest of her team were amazingly helpful, enthusiastic and creative and we were able between us to transform a dark unused corner of the centre into a Belle & Boo garden, with picnic tables, Belle swinging in a tree with her friends and the branches decorated with our art prints.
Then came the best bit getting to take our families to the Lake District for 4 days with the legitimate  excuse that is was a work trip (although these events never feel like work)

The Belle & Boo children

We stayed on the stunning Lingholm Estate which is going through an incredibly exciting transformation including a walled garden which is said to be one of the inspirations for Mr Mcgregor garden in Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter often holidayed at Lingholm so it was wonderful wandering around the grounds imagining her their with her sketch book and paints.
It is such a beautiful part of the world, 

a Beatrix Potter illustration from Squirrel Nutkin

we rowed, discovered secret islands, climbed mountains, paddled in streams, it was the perfect mini Easter break. 

The events themselves were great fun, people had travelled from Edinburgh and Durham, there were girls and boys from 3 weeks old to 8 years old and I think we all had a lot of fun. Story telling, crafts, face painting, nose twitching and apple munching.

A huge THANK YOU to Rheghed for making us feel so welcome and a special hello to all that came.

Love Mandy x

Friday, 22 April 2016

Earth Day: Help Kids to Protect Our Planet

From an early age children learn about the damages we are doing to our planet - sometimes hearing quite 'scary' things.  So, like many of us, little people want to know how they can help.  In addition to recycling, there are many fun, positive and small ways we can encourage our children to help protect our world; reassuring them that it isn't the end of the world and showing even the very young that they can 'make a difference'.

Start by picking up a few of the fantastic books out there full of ideas and information to get the brain cells ticking. ''Not Your Typical Book About The Environment' is an upbeat book better suited to older children but incredibly useful for parents of all ages illustrating that it is not all doom and gloom.  

For younger children  THE PROMISE is an exquisitely illustrated story about our power to transform not only the world around us but ourselves, simply by planting trees. In The Forest is a visually arresting pop-up book exploring the worlds disappearing rainforests (a topic currently on the KS1 national curriculum)

Get creative and give a bee a home.
Relating environmental issues to our own back garden makes 'big' topics easier to understand, and in the UK our bees and butterflies are disappearing fast but our world needs them,  after all they pollinate our plants and crops. In recent years the number of Honeybee's has fallen by 30% in the UK alone and 97% of wildflower plots have been lost in the last 70 years! What's going to happen when they have gone!? For one thing we won't have pretty flowers but also the cost to our economy will be enormous. We will have to pay humans to pollinate our crops (something already happening in china).

So how about getting little people to make Bee's a lovely home.

Red Ted Art has a super simple Bee home made from twigs, a large plastic bottle and some string.
Or for those who want to offer their bugs a little luxury here's how to build a Bug Mansion from untreated wood (an old bit of furniture, planks of wood, a wooden crate) , a few old bricks (ask the local builders what they can spare) plus twigs/ grass/leaves.

As Belle & Boo is a Bristol based company we had to mention  Bee Bristol.  They are looking for volunteers who can help them on their mission to plant and maintain areas of wildflowers in Bristol to attract the bees. A fun way to meet new people and get involved.

Explain the plight of bees with the help of a book that your child can star in -  'The Homeless Bumble Bee' is a personalised book from Friends of The Earth.   The Beeman tells the story of a grandpa and his granddaughter with essential facts about the vital part bees play in our world.

Plants flowers for the bees on you balcony or in your garden. Help children to plant a packet or two of cornflower seeds and create a blooming beautiful garden to attract bees ready for the Great British Bee Count 2016 (19th May - 20th June).  Or make a donation and receive a Bee Saver Kit from Friends of The Earth including information as well as seeds

If sowing seeds with young children you might want to read And Then It's Spring , a beautifully illustrated and poetic tale of a boy who decides to create a garden. It follows his journey from planting seeds after a chilly winter to patiently waiting for them to appear in springtime.

Adventures In Nature
The wonderful Wildlife Watch is the children and teenage branch of The Wildlife Trust and is the go-to for ways to encourage children to engage in their environment.  Find excellent, downloadable activity sheets including how to make a butterfly table which
is a perfect activity for all the family to do together.  Or how about making  a homemade seed bomb.

Sign up to become members of WildLife Watch and children will have access to local activities across the country many aimed at young children (up to 12 years).  The groups give kids opportunities to discover local wildlife and get involved with practical activities from environmental artwork to genuine conservation research such as barn owl surveys.

Get Into Gardening:

The Curious Garden is an utterly gorgeous picture book to enthral and inspire children to get into gardening - a boy finds a struggling garden and decides to take care of it.

Little Green Fingers is a fantastic blog with the aim to get kids into horticulture.  Lots of outdoor, gardening craft ideas and tips including how to make a bird feeder  and an extremely useful guide for teachers who are running pre-school and nursery gardening clubs (also helpful for parents).

Local urban gardening schemes are springing up in cities across the UK.  Urban Roots in Glasgow has an explorers club for 5 - 12 year olds where kids can make films about the environment to growing food. The wonderful Hulme Community Garden Centre in Manchester has toddler and parent groups as well sessions for people with learning difficulties, a schools program and lots of opportunities for adults.

Or as a family become involved with some of the community growing schemes such as Leatherhead Community Gardening or the pioneering Incredible-Edible which originated in Todmorden. The idea behind Incredible-Edible is that through growing, cooking and then selling food people work together to build their local communities.  Groups can be found across the UK and even in New Zealand.  CAn't find one to join? Get your family and friends together and start your own.

We hope you found one or two of these ideas helpful.
Let's work together to help  save our planet, one seed, one bee and one wildflower at a time!

Belle & Boo

Thursday, 7 April 2016

11 Creative, Fun & Inspiring Things to do In April

Belle & Boo's monthly round-up of creative and cultural events for all ages.

April offers many exciting events and activities to inspire, educate and entertain all ages (and many are free). Visit a farm to cuddle a lamb, watch hire-wire walking over a lake, see a parade of colourful canal boats, go on a wild nature hunt or watch a spectacular dancing Jungle Book.  These are just we have found for you to do this April across the UK, read on for more info.  Don't miss out!

Rainbow Factory, A unique new story book museum - Leeds

Although not an event we had to mention the new Rainbow Factory in Leeds because it sounds like the sort of place we would want to visit with our children.  A  unique interactive storybook play centre The Rainbow Factory brings traditional stories and modern literature to life in lots of exciting and engaging ways. Enjoy the 'Goldilocks' crafts and meet lots of favourite fairy tale characters. There are also special themed events and activities to ensure children get excited about stories, reading and writing. 

The Rainbow Factory
Visit the website for further information

The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl - London

The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl at the Southbank Centre is an interactive exhibition for children to learn about the writer, his life as well as how he came up with his ideas for stories like The BFG to Fantastic Mr Fox  A guide takes groups through the exhibition where kids can see and touch a collection of Roald Dahl's personal processions and hear tales of people, things and places that inspired him (and there are lots of jokes at the expense of parents and adults that children will love). A fantastic way to spark older children imaginations and encourage them to pick up a pen and write their own stories. 

Recommended for ages 7 - 12
The Wondercrump World Of Roald Dahl
Southbank Centre

Lambing In Beautiful Wales 

A visit to Lake Vyrnwy in Wales is a truly memorable experience, especially when your children can meet the new born lambs.  Visit the 'maternity' wing of the farm and see lambs being born for a very special experience children will remember for years to come.  The farm on Lake Vyrnwy is a special place, managed by the RSPB who ensure the farm is run in ways to benefit the birds, wildlife and environment.  There is also a cafe nearby and the lake itself is incredibly striking.

Lambing at Lake Vyrnwy 
During April
All ages

Cuddle A Lamb in Surrey

There are many lambing events across the UK during April but the events at Gaston Farm also help to raise money for three charities including an orphanage in Nepal and an African soup kitchen.  As well as having the chance to cuddle a lamb there are tractor rides and a cafe to enjoy.  Last year they raised over £35,000 from their events.

Lambing At Gaston Farm
Closes on 17th April
£6 entry
West Sussex

Andy Warhol in Oxford

Visit the wonderful Ashmolean museum in Oxford to see a unique Andy Warhol exhibition with over  100 pieces of his work on display from a private collection.  Tickets cost £11 for adults (with a gift aid donation) but children under 12 go free so it is a great way to introduce children to one of the worlds most iconic and influential modern artists in history.

Andy Warhol
Open unti 15th May.

Retelling of The Jungle Book - Windsor, Exeter in April and other cities through the summer

Looking for a new way to engage kids in theatre then Metta Theatre might have the answer with their contemporary version of The Jungle Book.  The classic tale has been reimagined using energetic street dance and amazing circus tricks to enthral all ages. Catch them on stage in Windsor and Exeter in April and check the website for dates across the rest of the UK and Scotland during the next few months. 

Metta Theatre's Jungle Book
All ages from 0 upwards

World Heritage Day Celebrations in Bath 

Every year Bath holds a World Heritage Day Festival to celebrate the six reason why Bath has been inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site (one of the only two cities in Europe where the entire urban area has World Heritage status). Each year the theme changes and 2016 celebrates Bath's history as a fashionable 18th century spa resort.   Try out some Georgian dancing, play dress up in replica costumes and have a make-over Georgian style plus lots of talks, tours and music.

World Heritage Day Bath
17th April 
Priory Park Landscape Garden
All Ages

Charlotte Bronte Exhibition Curated by Tracy Chevalier

Charlotte Bronte was born 200 years ago.  To celebrate the Bronte Parsonage Museum asked one of our great female contemporary authors, Tracy Chevalier ,to curate a special exhibition which explores Charlotte's constrictive life and her huge ambition.  Learn how Charlotte and her sisters lived in the contained environment of Haworth and how they expressed themselves through writing and painting. Lots to see and think about.

Charlotte Great and Small Exhibition
On until January 2017
West Yorkshire

Cardiff Children's Literature Festival - Wales

We love books and reading with our children so if you are in Wales this month then don't miss out on this fantastic celebration of english and welsh children's literature taking place in Cardiff. There are 50 events to choose from for families and schools so whether you want to entertain a toddler or looking for something more grown-up  the festival has lots to choose from.  Buy tickets for workshops and readings with award winning authors and illustrators including Horatio Clare, Kes Grey and Jacqueline Wilson or join in with the many free activities also on offer.  There is also as marvellous Roald Dahl party and celebration of Harry Potter.  For adults there are academic discussions and a workshop on how to write children's books.

Cardiff Children's Literature Festival
16th - 24th April
All ages

Muddy Puddles Nature Scavenger Hunt - Bristol, Manchester & London

Get kids outdoors for a wild Nature Scavenger Hunt run by the team behind the brilliant outdoor clothing brand Muddy Puddles.  Children will get to work with their family as a team whilst enjoying a morning exploring and learning about nature.  The Nature Scavenger Hunt's are being held  in Bristol and Manchester and on Hampstead Heath in London.  Tickets are free but must be booked. A fun and rewarding way to spend some precious family time together.

Muddy Puddles 'Nature Scavenger Hunts'
Bristol, Manchester and London
April 24th

Relive the story of George & The Dragon - UK

The Parton Saint of England and soldiers is celebrated with pageants and medieval celebrations at  beautiful English Heritage sites across the UK. Meet knights and dragons at castles including Kenilworth Castle, Dover Castle and Bestow Castle in Cheshire. A fun, magical day for kids to learn about history and traditions.

23rd - 24th April
St Georges Day Celebrations
English Heritage Castles Across the UK

Draw and Create With Anorak

Join Anorak Magazine for a day of creativity and art at The Drawing Imaginarium (part of the D and AD Festival in Shoreditch). Anorak has created a really intriguing menu of creative activities to get excited about including  a School of Paper Planes, An Imaginarium Aquarium , a Fuzzy Felt workshop,  Arnold The Idea Generator and Anoraks Paper Band.  Expect bright, bold and beautiful ideas to spark imaginations and what is more IT'S ALL FREE!

April 23rd - 24th

A Day At The Lake - Staffordshire

Step back in time for a weekend of spectacular outdoor entertainment. In the late 1800's Rudyard Lake was a destination for thousands of day-trippers looking for entertainment.  The Day At The Lake event will reimagine the lake as it was during it's golden age over 100 years ago with exciting theatrics including hire wire walking, storytelling and lots of live music.  People can also enjoy the rowing boats, an old fashioned fairground with a helter skelter and swing boats plus a vintage market andplenty of food and drinks stalls  The event is being produced by Wild Rumpus who created the award winning Just So Festival - it sounds magical.

Day at The Lake
30th April, 1st & 2nd May
Rudyard Lake, Staffordshire

Canal Boats At Waterway Festivals - Various UK locations

The vibrant waterways festivals in  London's Little Venice, Norbury in Staffordshire and Skipton In North Yorkshire celebrate the history of canals and waterways as well as the communities that still use and love them.  The largest of the three is in Little Venice where the sight of colourful narrow boats on a Spring day is a delight. But each festival has everything needed to make a lovely day out for the family - music, food, competitions, boat trips, floating stalls selling gorgeous things and activities for kids.

Visit the Canal and River Trust website for a list of events.
April 30th, 1st and 2nd May
All ages