The Enchanted Forest

On Sunday we took the children to The Enchanted forest. No Jokes. It’s just down off the M25. Sadly it wasn’t hugely enchanted, but it was still very fun.
Ferried there by my good friend Mr Belgium, we sailed past places with peculiar names like Bean and Bird in Hand street – it made the 45 minute journey more than worth it even before we got to the magical woods.

Upon arriving at Groombridge I realised that I’d made that age old mistake of not planning in advance. Bad mummy. Not only did we have to pay full price for tickets, but it was also a ‘peak day’ which meant extra tickets prices and LOADS more people than would have usually been there.
The ‘peak day’ in question was Wings Wheels and Wartime, basically an excuse for hundreds of car enthusiasts to get dressed up and show off their shiny vintage cars. Amusingly there was also a turn out from the Harley Davidson contingent. I can’t tell you how I laughed watching bikers swinging from trees, but not loudly enough that they heard me, obviously.

Crusoe's WorldFirst up was a rather long walk along the river to get to Crusoe’s World. This was ah-may-zing. Worth the price of the ticket just to watch the kids climbing like monkeys all over this giant tree house thing. I even managed to rein in my over-protective mummy instincts to really let them run free and enjoys themselves. Apparently the whole structure is a recreation of the TV show Crusoe and uses actual props and artifacts shipped all the way from Africa. Impressive.

Next came another long walk through Dragons nest, Mystic pool, Castle village and the Celtic forest. I’ll warn you in advance that there is ALOT of walking to be had at Goodridge. Upside? Kids slept like the dead that night.

Follow the map round (and uphill, urgh) to the Romany Camp, Fort, Teepee and Swing Walk. Sadly this is where I realised that my camera hadn’t actually been working properly, which is a pain in the ass because not only did I not get loads of cool shots of me and the kids acting like idiots, but this was also where the deer hang out. I got so close to a mother feeding her baby deer that I could almost touch, made my breath catch in my throat I can tell you.

ZeedonkAfter chilling in the Fort (and mummy catching her breath, and oh god did I need to catch it) we made our way towards the Zeedonk, anticipation quickening our tired steps. He was pretty cool, but who’s idea was it to cross breed a donkey and a zebra, really? Humans are just sick.

At this point (almost 4 hours later) children were getting tired and grumpy, mummy was getting tired and grumpy, and the men were in desperate need of a beer. We settled for ice cream, but ended up queuing almost 15 minutes for the pleasure. Probably the only complaint of the day. That and the heat anyway, but can’t blame Groombridge for that.

Other things I couldn’t be bothered to type up were the Dark walk and the Swing Walk, various formal gardens, a fancy house that was the setting for the Pride and Prejudice film, canal boat, vineyard, and birds of prey. And probably loads of other things that we didn’t manage to see because this place really is huge. Definitely one of those places you can visit a few times during the summer and not get bored. Verdict? Great for kids of all ages and adults alike. Take loads of drinks (and a picnic) and be prepared to walk for miles – but its totally worth it.

Image credit: all images borrowed from the interwebs. Thanks Google.

A Twitter competition done right

I woke up this morning in bad mood. A really bad mood. One of those “look at me the wrong way and I’ll bite your head off” moods. So it was a very nice surprise to open up my twitter and find that I had won something.
“How and What?!” I hear you shouting eagerly. Well, a couple of days ago I noticed an influx of tweets on my feed with the hash tag: #2020tweets. Intrigued, I clicked the tag (as you do) and found that it’s for a campaign Orange are running from their @OrangeTheFeed account. The premise is simple, tweet something that you’d like to be tweeting in the year 2020, and Orange will choose a few of the best to win something as a “kick-start towards making their future-dreams come true”.

Never one to shy away from a trending hashtag, I went ahead and added my own ‘future dream’, and as you can see below Orange thought it was inspired enough to win a little something:

Now I know the idea of a twitter competition isn’t something new, but I think this stands as a firm example of it done right. It doesn’t have a long list of complicated rules, and they’re not asking people to spam their followers with endless links or try and get x amount of retweets. Quite simply, they’re asking people to talk about themselves, and a handy by-product of that chatter just so happens to be those same people talking about and promoting Orange.
When Orange contacted me to let me know I had won, not only did I retweet that to my followers, I also took it over to my facebook to share it with my friends and non-tweeters there, and here I am writing up a blog about them too. Word of mouth in action.
And don’t forget that a positive impression isn’t limited to a social media platform, it transcends into the real world too, and for me personally comes at a time when I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with my current provider and its uninventive top-up surprises.

Update (18/03/11)
I DM’d Orange (thats a direct message for you non-tweeters) yesterday and asked them if they wouldn’t mind giving me a few moments of their time and few words about the idea behind the competition.

Martin from Poke (the creative agency that run The Feed for Orange) said:
“Twitter is usually all about what you’re doing right now. But, we reckoned, what about using it to talk about what you want to be doing? We thought #2020Tweets would be a nice way to invite people to think about their aspirations for the not-so-far-off future, and to give them a bit of a nudge towards making it happen.”

And when I asked Emily (also at Poke) why they chose to go with a hashtag as opposed to a RT she answered:
“We always use hastags on our weekly posts. One of Orange’s main objectives is to create conversations, so hashtags are a nice natural way helping to start those.”

Clever people with a real and authentic approach to social media. Well done Orange, and well done Poke! I am now officially a convert, and will be bringing my custom to Orange as soon as I can find find a contract (and new smartphone) that suits me. That’s not a hint, honest 😉

7 Day Song Challenge [Day 5,6,7]

Having been a bit busy these past few days I did neglect to keep up with the 7 day song challenge. However! This does not mean failure since I don’t remember specifying that the 7 days had to be consecutive, ha!

Anyway, rather than continue spamming my own blog with 3 more days of videos I thought I’d just go ahead and catch up on all 3 days in one nice big video-heavy post.

And so we begin/continue! Day 5 – a song that makes me laugh

Flight of the Conchords – Bret you’ve got it going on:

This is a favorite on my iPod (much to the bewilderment of non-fotc fans) and it deeply saddens me that the TV series has ended and I never had the opportunity to see them at a live gig. Bad times 😦

Day 6 – a song that I can play on an instrument

I can only play (badly) 2 songs, on 2 different instruments, so lets go with both.

Nirvana -About a girl:

Back in ’05 an awesome guy I knew offered to help me learn to play the guitar. I owned a beautiful purple acrylic string bass and up until that point had done nothing but throw it appreciative glances and stroke it lovingly. This was the first (and only) song I learnt before giving in to the realisation that I really wasn’t dedicated enough to continue and live with the ever present finger burns.

The Animals – House of the rising sun:

My mum was great on the keyboard, and she taught me how to play this when I was a child, using the handy addition of little lettered stickers on the keys. I don’t have a great musical talent (unless memorising song lyrics counts?) so this remains the only song I can play, and I certainly don’t do it any justice! A fantastic song by an equally fantastic band.

Day 7 – a song that reminds me of childhood

Without a doubt this has to be The Steve Miller Band – The Joker:

Invokes memories of sitting at the top of the hallway stairs (well past bedtime) listening to this playing on my dads stereo, whilst he strummed along on his guitar surrounded by a haze of cigarette smoke. Remains a favorite and is a regular on my iPod shuffle.

Penguin of Death

This little fella has been a good friend of mine for a few years now. I just wanted to share his pretty face.

The writing that you can’t read because of my utterly useless camera is as follows;

“The Penguin of Death.

Things you need to know:

1. He is strangeley attractive because of his enigmatic smile

2. He can kill you in any 1 of 412 different ways.”

I also happen to own this rather spectacular hairbrush. Gotta love Edward Monkton.