Cassiobury Park, Watford: Paddling Pools and Splash Park – BRAND NEW 2017

Cassiobury Park in Watford, Hertfordshire has been undergoing a huge restoration project over the last year, thanks to a £6.5 million investment with help from the Big Lottery and Heritage Lottery Fund. The transformation includes brand new paddling pools and splash park, which we were keen to check out soon after it opened! 

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There is a main paddling pool and a smaller one, as well as a splash park and various water play features too. It has push button controls suitable for all abilities and seems to be mostly accessible (although we didn’t have any wheelchair users with us). Users can enjoy a variety of sprays and fountains of differing heights and styles, plus paddle in the pools themselves too of course! There is plenty of space both in and out of the water, and a (very) small amount of shaded areas. 

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Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

There is a sustainable park hub building that includes toilets and changing facilities, as well as a café. The hub also has a community and exhibition room, plus education facilities. For more information about the wonderful transformations that have taken shape at Cassiobury Park, see Watford Borough Council website.

Gobions Wood, Hertfordshire: A Magical Place To Explore

Today we visited Gobions Wood in Hertfordshire for the first time, which we discovered from a useful list of local nature reserves on Herts Wildlife Trust website. 

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The first section of our walk took us past beautiful meadows, where moths and butterflies fluttered around us as we walked. 

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We then reached the entrance to the wood…

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Honestly, I have never felt quite so overwhelmed (and almost intimidated!) walking into a wood. I literally got tingles down my spine and a surge of excitement in my tummy. 

Two huge ancient trees guard either side of the path as you enter, towering above everything, watching over the rest of the woodland…

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It looks like something out of a film; like walking into a Lord Of The Rings set or somewhere…

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I love the colours and the way the lower leaves create a whispy appearance, almost motioning to the path…

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Squiggle found this and asked me to take a photo…

She loved exploring…

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It is a magical, enchanting place to explore and we hope to return soon! 

Cycling Adventures: Exploring St Albans 

Now, I am the first to admit that I am not a regular cyclist. However, I do love being outdoors and I also like a challenge! So when Inntravel set a cycling adventure challenge; to explore our local area by bike, creating a cycle route, then share what we discovered, I was more than happy to take this on!

Inntravel are a holiday company that have been offering cycling holidays in Europe since the late 1980s. They arrange the hire of a high-quality bike and you cycle self-guided from one welcoming hotel to the next, following detailed maps and route notes while your luggage is transported ahead. Inntravel plan all their biking holidays carefully, making sure that each route is tried and tested, preferably using quiet roads and country lanes. They try to ensure the routes are enjoyable and interesting, giving you the chance to take in the beautiful scenery and gorgeous views.

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Our cycle route went from London Colney (Hertfordshire) across St Albans to Verulamium Park, via Highfield Park then onto the Alban Way. This is a fairly short linear route that covers approximately 5.5 miles each way, so only about an hour or so of cycling in total, but with ample opportunity to pause and take in some of the nearby attractions, or stop for food and/ or refreshments.

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Heading from London Colney high street, the route takes us over a fly-over, which cyclists need to dismount for, onto Nightingale Lane then into Highfield park. The park is a lovely place to explore or have a picnic. There is a tree trail and history trail, as well as a maze.

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Highfield Park
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Highfield Park (with maze to the left)

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Leaving the park, the next step of the route takes us down bike lanes until we reach the Hill End Garden of Rest that leads onto Alban Way. Alban Way is a cycle path that has been created from an old railway line that joins Hatfield to St Albans.

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Alban Way cycle path

The Alban Way disjoints briefly at Orient Close where we cycle down a quiet street. There is generally very little traffic though so it is a peaceful ride back onto the Alban Way again.

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Alban Way by Orient Close

Just past here is an opportunity to dismount if you wish to and follow the footpath along a small section of the River Ver Trail to discover the wildlife and explore Sopwell Nunnery. We loved doing this! Alternatively you can stay on the cycle path until you get to Cottonmill Lane.

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At this point there is some road cycling including crossing a fairly busy intersection (there are traffic lights though). On the other side of the road, is Westminster Lodge and the entrance to Verulamium Park using the cycle path that runs from the athletics track, through the park – where we take in the beautiful views of the Abbey Cathedral in the distance, as well as the scenic views and historical attractions across the rest of the park – onto the Roman Verulamium museum at the other end.

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Views of Verulamium Park (from Roman Hypocaust)
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Cycle path near The London Gate

 Verulamium park has a wealth of Roman history to enjoy, including the mosaics/ hypocaust, remains of the Roman wall, theatre and the museum. If history is not your thing, you might enjoy a walk around the lake or visit the Wildlife Trust centre instead.

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Before heading back home along the same route, you can also stop for refreshments at the Inn on the Park, nip into Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (rumoured to be the oldest pub in Britain) at the other end of the lake, head down past the museum to pretty St Michaels Village that has a selection of delightful pubs, or grab a bite at the well-known Waffle House.

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After our local cycling adventure, I really the idea of a cycling holiday. Slow paced and relaxing, yet active, with plenty of time to be outdoors and a chance to enjoy exploring new places; that all sounds ideal to me! Plus I like the fact that with a cycling holiday, you don’t need to stick to circular routes or have to turn around and head back to your original destination because your luggage is forwarded onto your next destination. Also as they are not groups cycles, they can be personalised with your choice of selected routes for the day and travel at your individual pace. It sounds great for any level of cyclist, including very occasional complete amateurs like myself!

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Inntravel.

Camping Guide: Get Organised With Halfords

We have been on many outdoor style holidays, staying at campsites or holiday parks. We tend to be caravanners and often, but not always, opt for locations by the beach. We have had lots of precious moments from waking up to see rabbits hopping about outside our window, to exploring Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door for the first time last year, and discovering adventurous nature paths from our holiday site to the beach.

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Dorset

However, I reflect back on our very first holiday as parents – a caravan trip to the seaside – and we were so unorganised and unprepared! Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of special memories from the trip – Squiggle’s first touch of sand, putting her toes in the sea for the very first time, sleeping away from home with her for the first time ever. It was wonderful in so many ways.

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First paddle in the sea.

But the caravan was basic with no heating, so it was very much like camping in a tent. Plus it was out of season too, so not very warm- and as new parents we forgot so many camping essentials! We even had to dash out in the evening to get supplies; we were literally banging on the window of the nearest store just as they closed up, begging them to let us in for 2 mins to make a quick purchase – cue a supermarket sweep style grab for blankets and extra thick sleeping bag! Oops!!!

Halfords have created a useful Guide To Camping with lots of helpful essential packing tips, so luckily you don’t have to make the same Rookie mistakes as we did! There are also suggestions for campsites; from beach lovers to cycling and outdoor adventures, wild camping, and caravanning sites, plus other camping ideas too – there is even a playlist if you need some musical inspiration!

What are your top camping tips? I would love to read them! Leave me a comment.



*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Halfords.

An Early Start (In More Ways Than One!) #30DaysWild 

We woke up super early last Sunday morning and watched the sunrise out of an upstairs window. It was really relaxing and a lovely feel – good way to start the day! Here is a speeded up video clip of it. (Note to self: window cleaner needed 😉 Ignore the dirty marks!) 

We then went to Southend-on-Sea for a day out at the beach. It was so empty and peaceful early Sunday morning. Squiggle had fun playing on the beach, paddling in the sea and looking for crabs.

Turns out the beach is very peaceful at 8am on a Sunday morning…. who knew? 😉😄💙 #livinglifewild #bluemind

A post shared by Katie (@living_life.our_way) on

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We then walked along the seafront, past Adventure Island funfair and the pier, to Three Shells Lagoon. Squiggle enjoyed a lovely morning paddle/ swim in the lagoon. Unsurprisingly it was very cold apparently!

We also spotted bird footprints in the sand and we spent a few minutes doing a quick beach clean too, as there was alot of litter around sadly.

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Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, beach clean up, litter, environment, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Here are some other photos I took from the visit too….

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Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

It was such a lovely and relaxing day!

Click for photos and a blog post I wrote from a previous visit. 

#LivingLifeWild #30DaysWild

National Pet Show: A Fantastic Day Out For Pet/ Animal Lovers!

This past weekend saw the return of the National Pet Show to Excel, London. For those who have never heard of it, this event hosts tonnes of pet-related stands with information, advice and products, as well as lots of talks, activities, shows and demonstrations. Of course, there are lots of animals too! 

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We went to this event once previously, when Squiggle was much younger, back when it was held at Earls Court. (Blog post here). We had a lovely time and Squiggle remembered it well so we were excited to return!

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We have only been to Excel once with Squiggle before, to watch the Paralympics in 2012, and I don’t think she recognised it. I personally really like this venue because it is spacious and has good facilities. Events can be very crowded and overstimulating for a child with autism, so it is good that the venue is big enough that it is possible to find a space in a quiet corner if needed. Plus, as it is located by the docklands, there is also somewhere calm outdoors to go for some fresh air if it does get too much. 

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The pet show itself has a huge range of animals to see. I didn’t get a photo because s/he was attracting quite a crowd but Squiggle adored seeing the hairless cat, as well as many other rare breeds. I loved this funky dreadlock looking dog, a bergamasco, which is certainly not a breed I had come across before. So gorgeous though!

Perhaps a slightly unusual highlight but, for me personally, one of my favourite parts was getting inspiration for our new bunny housing. We have already got the actual enclosure itself, but we spotted some great ideas of what else we could include for enrichment!

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Squiggle also loved the opportunity to meet some more exotic pets in the reptile section, such as Terry the tegu, a python (I think?!) and a very giant tortoise. It was lovely to experience these magnificent creatures close up and hands on! 

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Over at the More Than stand, there was a little display going on by this cute little poodle pair. I gather there were other appearances spotted here too! I also liked the park theme with children’s games, such as Connect 4 and Jenga. A nice little chilled out spot in the midst of the hustle and bustle!

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As I already mentioned, there were lots of demonstrations and shows. For example, we saw this golden retriever display and got to meet them afterwards too.

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There were lots of stalls with useful information too, such as various animal charities. We enjoyed meeting the therapy pets, including this beauty. I think a therapy dog would be amazing. But I also feel that any pets are great for autism, anxiety etc… They are so therapeutic! 

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There were loads of children’s activities too. Stories, colouring, meeting animals, talks, games and even an exciting future vet activity with Noel Fitzpatrick. There was also a weaving activity; Squiggle was most excited about the huge rabbit that had been created!

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Tickets cost from £13.91 for a child ticket. However, Littlebird often have deals available, so it is well worth checking if there are any discounted tickets. Also, carers get free entry to assist those with disabilities so if this applies to you then do get in touch with them.

As well as the London dates, the show is also held at NEC in Birmingham each November too (next dates are 4th and 5th November 2017). It is open all day from 9.30am to 5pm, with a schedule of different shows, talks, demonstrations and appearances throughout the weekend.

It is a really fun day out. A fantastic event for those with their own furbabies, wannabe pet owners or general animal enthusiasts! 

*Thank you to More Than for the complimentary pair of tickets we received. All thoughts are opinions are my own.

Eco Travel: My European Bucketlist 

I admit that many of past travel adventures have not been organised with sustainability in mind. In my younger years, I was far less environmentally minded than I am now, so if I had ever used an eco- friendly company or visited a ‘green’ city it would have been nothing more than a happy accident to be honest! 

However, I do remember with fond memories one trip along the west coast of USA, which included a stay in San Francisco. Whilst I didn’t realise it back then, I know now that this consistently ranks high up in the greenest places within USA. This doesn’t surprise me with its sustainable food choices, a clear emphasis on the environment and clean transport system. Having reflected on the many places I have travelled, I think this is probably the one that was most eco- friendly. I would definitely love to visit again and see how it has progressed even further in the last decade!

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San Francisco, California

Of course times change and these days I am far more mindful of how my actions impact the environment. For future travel, it would definitely be a major factor in our plans. I would love to explore the world in the most eco-friendly way possible, maybe driving around in an electric camper, visiting beautiful scenic spots off the beaten track, as well as lovely environmentally-conscious towns and cities too. I have a long bucketlist of places I would love to visit all over the world, with Galapagos Islands (closely followed by Alaska) at the top of that list. Closer to home though, there are two places within Europe that are also high on my bucket list; Amsterdam (Holland) and Reykjavik (Iceland), both of which are very eco-friendly. 

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Reykjavik, Iceland 
Photo Credit: Beckie Gate

I have heard all about Reykjavik from various friends who have have visited this gorgeous place recently, and I admit that I have spent hours pouring over their stunning photos. As Green Tourist explains, a major source of the city’s power is from the geothermic activity in this area, which makes it very energy-efficient. Cycling and walking are the most popular forms of transportation, plus hydrogen buses are used rather than vehicles that rely on fossil fuels too.

The geography of Iceland is interesting and makes it a wonderfully unique and breathtaking place to explore, with the geysers and beautiful waterfalls, as well as the point where you can walk between two tectonic plates. I would love to stay in one of their glass domes and hopefully maybe even get to see the Northern Lights if we are lucky. That would be incredible!

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Solfar statue (sun voyager) 
Photo Credit: Karen at Tickets, Passport, Kids

The second on my European bucketlist is Amsterdam, Holland. I know a couple of people who have lived here and they have shared many stories about what a brilliant place it is! Most people either walk or cycle around the city, there are very few cars, making it a clean place to visit or live in that sense. Apparently most residential homes and businesses also use, and often generate their own, clean energy too. 

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Amsterdam, Holland 
Photo Credit: AF

There are lots of unusual places to visit in Amsterdam, such as the KattenKabinet (cat art gallery) and the Bloemenmarkt (flower market), as well as lovely quaint little cafes and eateries. I am sure visiting Anne Frank’s house would be a truly memorable experience too. Apparently there are also many wonderful outdoor walks to explore, taking in the pretty sites. And I personally would love to stay in one of the fantastic houseboats on the canal, that I have seen in many photos. They look amazing!

Of course there are many other European destinations on my bucketlist, as well as travelling the rest of the world too, but these are two places that particularly capture my attention – and my heart! Happy travels everyone!

Where is top of your travel bucketlist? Or have you been to an absolute dream place? Tell me your story in the comments!

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Thank you to the friends who have contributed their wonderful stories and lovely pictures, fuelling my wanderlust further! 

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza 

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza event is a fun day out that we have been to every year for a number of years and yet it still works just as well as it is suitable for a range of ages. This year we were lucky enough to get a free family ticket through Herts Big Weekend but we did wonder whether this might affect the size of the crowd. Luckily, although it was busy, it didn’t seem particularly packed. And there is plenty of space and lots to do which helps it feel less crowded too.

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The schedule of events is carefully timed so that you can still do the majority of activities and shows even if you are only there for half a day, like we were, but there is certainly more than enough to do for a whole day out too. We were able to do everything we wanted without feeling rushed from one thing to the next but without much spare time to fill either! 

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Squiggle meeting Lilly Bobtail

Some of the highlights of this particular event include the Bunny Hop show, Easter Garden egg hunt, meet and greets with Peter Rabbit, Lilly Bobtail, Benjamin Bunny and Easter Bunny, and various shows by Peter Rabbit and friends – including a brand new show featuring all three characters on stage together. We didn’t see this particular show but we did watch the Bunny Hop show with the Easter Bunny.

Squiggle loved this show and got really into it. One song in particular about chocolate really made her laugh and it was really catchy; she has remembered alot of it to sing to herself after just hearing it that once! 

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Bunny Hop Show

The Easter Garden is open for most of the day, daily throughout the Easter Eggstravaganza event. Here you are given a basket on entry and then search the garden to find five different coloured eggs. Once you have completed the hunt you can exchange the five eggs you found for yummy chocolate prizes. 

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Easter Garden

This is also where the Easter Bunny makes an appearance for meet and greet sessions, so be sure to check the schedule if you want to time your visit right! (Entry to Easter Garden is only permitted once). 

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Squiggle meeting Easter Bunny

Other activities also available at Willows include Peter Rabbit playground, agility course, sand pit, funfair rides, bouncy castle and slide, animal encounters, tractor ride, indoor role-play village, tractors, soft play, and arts and crafts. Plus of course lots of animals! There is also a large cafe and gift shop. For further information see Willows Activity Farm website.

All- Weather Camping: Why You Should Get Outside (in any season!)

We love being outside, whatever the weather. It is a wonderful way to relax, a natural stress reliever; great for mind, body and soul. It feels good to connect and engage with our natural environment, and the fresh air certainly blows the cobwebs away! As this article from The Independent explains, going off-grid i.e. turning off devices and relying on natural light, combined with staying outdoors can really help sleep too. And we all know how enough good quality sleep makes all the difference to everything! So it really is true that any and every season is the perfect time to go on outdoor adventures.

From motorhomes to caravans and log cabins to pop-up tents, there are a huge range of options if you want to plan for a more natural outdoor getaway. Whether you will happily pitch up on any basic available space, or you are more of the glamping type, you will find a selection of sites to choose from throughout the UK (and elsewhere!) open all year round. 

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Stock image

For example, there are lots of lovely places to camp via Camping and Caravanning Club, such as this wonderful Tavistock site in Dartmoor National Park, Devon – which is somewhere I haven’t been to since I was a child myself, but I would love to return and take Squiggle too. 

More locally, this campsite in Hertford is very popular amongst our local home ed friends! Also closer to home, we really love Aldenham Country Park, which also has camping facilities on-site too. 

Another area we have passed through briefly but would love to stay longer is the New Forest. I spotted this fab place called Setthorns Campsite that has a stripped back, closer to nature feel about it. For somewhere a little more luxurious, Sandy Balls Holiday Park has been recommended to us by various friends numerous times. 

Or check out this eco-friendly campsite, Skyside, set in a gorgeous spot of Penrith, Cumbria. Situated in the valleys of the stunning Lake District, you can use this base to explore (in my opinion anyway!) some of the most scenic parts of the country. It has been years since I last visited this area, but I can assure you it is absolutely beautiful at any time of year! 

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We firmly believe that there is no such thing as the ‘wrong’ weather for spending time outside, all you need is suitable clothing and the right equipment; be prepared with the necessary gear and there is nothing stopping you! Oh and don’t forget to grab yourself some insurance before you head off, such as Camping and Caravanning Club insurance for example. Now, what are you waiting for?!

Do you have any top camping tips? What are your outdoor essentials? Where is your favourite campsite or overnight outdoor spot? Share in the comments, thank you!

*This is a collaborative post.

5 Places in Hertfordshire to Visit For That Festive Feeling

Are you trying to find festive things to do with the kids that will get you all into that Christmas spirit? Here are five places to visit in Herts for some family fun that will leave you feeling wonderfully festive…

1. Willows Farm Santa Spectacular

We go to this Santa Spectacular event every year and it’s a fantastic day out. Not cheap but plenty of festive fun to be had! More information on my previous blog post here.

2. Notcutts, St Albans

Notcutts is a nice place to pop into on a tight schedule, because you don’t need much time to enjoy the festive magic yet is still well worth a visit if you are local, mainly for the giant dancing snowman! I have heard santa also visits on occasion, sometimes even for breakfast or tea with guests! (Event must be booked in advance). 

Notcutts, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Christmas, Santas Grotto, snowman

3. Ayletts Nurseries, St Albans

I have already written about this lovely local garden centre, because it was Christmassy enough to warrant its own separate post! Great festive atmosphere.

4. Van Hage Garden Centre, Great Amwell (nr Ware)

Again, Van Hage is so fabulously festive that it has a post of its very own! With an ice rink, grotto and wonderful Christmas displays, it is enough to take the scrooge out of anyone! 

5. Christmas Drive or Walk

Earlier in December, St Albans Christmas market would probably have taken this spot. But a Christmas walk or drive to see beautifully decorated houses is something that we all really enjoy and is a well-loved activity for many families. Our personal favourite is Beech Road in St Albans, who are raising money for Mount Venon Marie Curie Cancer Wing with their amazing display, but I’m reliably informed by Diary of an Unexpectant Mother that there are also brilliantly decorated houses on Brocket Road near Lemsford and lovely lights on Handside Lane in Welwyn Garden City. Amy from The Smallest of Things also suggests Blair Close in Hemel Hempstead too. Wherever you walk or drive, you are bound to spot plenty of festive sights! 

Beech Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Christmas, festive house, charity fundraising, go fund me, living life our way

And two more just outside of Hertfordshire…

Centre: MK (Milton Keynes)

There is an excellent Christmas event in Middleton Hall, which is situated within this large shopping centre. There is a carousel, train, snow globe and huge igloo which houses santa and his elves. The activities charge separately and aren’t cheap, but it does mean you can pick and choose, and it is a great treat. Plus, even if you skip any of the parts that cost and just have a general wander, it is still beautifully festive.

Crews Hill Garden Centres (Enfield)

If you aren’t familiar with this area, Crews Hill has a long row of garden centres. It’s a fab place for garden or outdoor enthusiasts at any time of year, but during Christmas it becomes a mini winter wonderland. Don’t miss Springtime nurseries, which is particularly festive! It has real reindeer, plus an indoor train ride to visit the grotto, an ice rink and a snow globe. 

Springtime nurseries, Crews Hill, Christmas, garden centres, Living Life Our Way

Do you have a favourite place to visit for that wonderful festive feeling? Please share yours with me in the comments section!