Places To Go, Things To Do

Stuff to do in the Easter Hols 2022

How is it the Easter holidays already?! Why didn’t I book more time off work?! I must make the most of my precious time off with some wholesome days out. If you suffer from FOMO and want to tear your offspring away from their gadgets, good luck and here are a few local, vaguely seasonal ideas in no particular order:

The Tiger Who Came to Tea at Dyffryn Gardens

12 March – 15 May 2022

This gorgeous little exhibition from Seven Stories invites your little ones to play with the tiger in an indoor tea party. There are plenty of fun tiger themed activities to keep your young ones busy and playing through the Arboretum, gardens and the Log Stack play area. There’s also a £3 Easter trail if you fancy it. The usual National Trust entry fees from £5.50 per kid and £11 per adult apply so take a picnic and make a day of it.

Tiger Who Came to Tea at Dyffryn Gardens | National Trust

The Golden Egg Treasure Hunt

10 – 24 April 2022

A treasure hunt competition to find the locations where Beach Academy Wales photographed a shiny replica of Harry Potter’s golden egg. They’ve included some stunning Vale locations, and there’s a cracking prize for a lucky family to win the golden egg used in the pics and a two-day trip London with a Family Studio Tour at Harry Potter World and hotel stay. Register and read the instructions on their website:

The Golden Egg | Beach Academy (beachacademywales.com)

Fonmon Castle Joust

16 – 18 April 2022

This Easter weekend get a taste of medieval times, brought to life with jousting, owl displays, archery, and more. You can also visit in the rest of the holidays for the usual family fun of dinosaurs, story trail and playground. Under 3s are free, adults £16.50, children & concessions £13.

https://fb.watch/ck0juMKOJU/

https://fonmoncastle.com/whats-on-at-fonmon-castle/

Salmon Leaps Walk

This three-hour (or three-mile, depending on whether your want to do the full figure-of-8 route or not) stroll through Dinas Powys woodland and fields is a dreamy and free way to while away a day with family and dogs. We loved tootling about, flinging ourselves about on the rope swing we found and having a good old chat as we ventured along the path. There’s a guide available with details of where to park if you’re not from Dinas Powys (or you could walk from the train station) and the route:

Vale Trail 6 | Walks in the Vale of Glamorgan (visitthevale.com)

Twitchy Curtains

Launched 9 April 2022

Use the QR stickers to experience this free audio trail of Barry’s Holton Road. Local characters will tell you tales from that spot in the past. Based on real stories, use your smart phone and stereo headphones to follow the gossip. For more information and a map of the story route in Barry town centre, head to this website:

Twitchy Curtains – Barry

Cinema, Wrestling and Pop Divas at Memo Arts Centre

The Bad Guys (U) 16 – 21 April 2022

Welsh Wrestling Live 14 April 2022

Pop Divas Live! 22 April 2022

This Easter holiday, the Memo are showing The Bad Guys on the Vale’s biggest cinema screen. If Ocean’s Eleven was a cartoon and all the characters were animals, that’s the vibe of this film. Popular family events Welsh Wrestling and Pop Divas Live return to Barry.

Home-New – Memo Arts Centre, Barry

Amelia Trust Farm: The Big Easter Event

11 – 14 April 2022

All the fun of the farm with extra Easter treats. Included in the cost of entry there’ll be face painting, lawn games and tractor rides. If you complete the Easter trail, there are chocolate prices. Costs £7.50 per child and from £4.50 per adult.

The Big Easter Event at Amelia Trust Farm – Amelia Trust Farm

Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival 2022

17 & 18 April 2022

Head to the Old Hall Gardens and AJ car park for stalls of delicious grub and drinks. Pick up an edible treat or two and have a wander around the pretty town centre. Closes at 5pm both days. Expect plenty of the best foodie businesses in the Vale to exhibit their wares, and demos of their culinary skills.

St Fagans National Museum of History

Open all fortnight, including bank holidays

A classic Easter hols trip. It’s the perfect time of year to mooch around the site. We like to take our dogs so they get a day out too. Doggos must be on a short lead and can’t go in the buildings. There’s a £3.50 Easter trail or you can take yoursleves on a time travelling adventure exploring the cottages, chapel, shops, school, farmhouse etc. Free entry, you just pay £6 for parking. There are a few busses that go to St Fagans, route details on their website.

The Big Museum Easter Trail   | National Museum Wales

A Dog’s Trail

How many Snoopy sculptures will you find? Dog’s Trust is celebrating their new rehoming centre with a free public art trail, a Wild in Art Event. There’s a map of all the decorated Snoopys, designed by local and national artists, school children and community groups, dotted around Cardiff, the Bay, Caerphilly and Porthcawl. And it’s free.

Art Trail – A Dog’s Trail : A Dog’s Trail (adogstrail.org.uk)

Mountain View Ranch: Ranch Easter Trail

On top of all of the usual fun, hunt for the Golden Eggs. We’re big fans of the Fairy Forest, the Jumping Pillow, the Adventure Playground, the Tree Houses, the Vomit Comet, Roly Poly Hill, and of course, the only licensed Gruffalo Trail in Wales. Take a picnic or treat yourselves to one of their amazing stonebaked pizzas. Dogs allowed on a short lead. Under 2s free, children and adults £8. Book online.

Mountain View Ranch

This isn’t a list of everything, it’s just a few ideas if you’re struggling. The photos of my own visits used in this post are all paid for by me. If anywhere wants to invite me along to review or promote, that’s grand, pop me a message. I’ll always let you know if that’s the case.

Each year I feel less motivated to share a “things to do in the Vale and nearby in the school hols” type of post. Last summer I prepped and research a load of things with photos, links, dates, prices etc but then photos of handwritten pages in a notebook of all the parks, beaches etc got shared all over the place by loads of people and I just felt sort of pointless and stupid for wasting my time. So, if you do end up going along to any of this stuff, I’d blooming love it if you could let me know.

shot from above, a child's hand hols a colouring pen above a sheet that spells out STAY SAFE. Other colouring pens are scattered across the table and in the top left of the image, the corner of a picture book pokes into shot.
School Days, Thinking Out Loud

Home Learning: the reboot

My social media is full of references to being “back in lockdown”. The only difference this week to the last few weeks is that now we’re back to home learning. We’ve been at Alert Level Four (yes, in Wales we are not in tiers but alert levels, which is disappointing for a pun lover like me “we’re all in tears/tiers”) since before Christmas so I’ve only been to the supermarket, daily dog walks around the same local park and to drop things to family and friends. We haven’t been on walks with other people because we’re not allowed.

I’m not shocked at being trapped at home again because it doesn’t feel like anything has wildly changed for us.

Home learning is a kicker, but I think we’ve got it nailed this time (she says with a warily smug tone). It’s early days but on our fourth day in I feel a lot calmer and more in control than last March. My kids are used to the platforms and the tech they need to get their tasks done and to communicate with their teachers. There’s a vague routine rather than any timetable or sticker charts. It’s a bit like in Lord of the Flies when they start using the conch shell, a little bit of order in the pandemonium. (Here’s hoping things don’t spiral in the same way). We’re breaking for lunch together and they can finish at 3pm to watch telly or play.

In the first few hours I’d sat in my home office flanked by a primary and secondary aged child being bombarded with a constant stream of seemingly random questions:

How do you spell apocalypse? What’s a parody? How do I work out 1 5/13 + 2 5/13? How many rebellions did Henry VIII have? Which animals could eat me?

I’m trying to have a tad more structure this time around so things can feel a bit more normal and less chaotic. The younger one finished all his teacher assigned activities by lunch time, so I sent him off to read his book in bed. After that he did some Zombie proofing (DIY to you and me) with his Dad who works shifts so happened to be home. The older one is sullenly spiralling (both literally on his office chair and mentally) as the perfectionist in him stresses out over an unsatisfactory (to him) attempt at his art lesson. At least I know what he’s winding himself up (and down) about this time.

We are the lucky ones. We have enough devices for them to use a laptop each (thank you Grandpa for donating your old one), we have WiFi (which as anyone who’s had dodgy Zooms or Teams with me knows isn’t great but it’ll do) and I’m fairly confident with helping them when they get stuck. I’ve only had to brush up on a few maths bits I had wiped from memory.

For all the middle-class mum memes of pouring Baileys onto Bran Flakes, we know there are plenty of families really struggling.

It’s all pants compared to what we were able to do this time last year but 2020 has ground down my expectations. Last January I saw in NYE at a bar in Bristol, went ice skating, to the museum, the beach, Wagamamas, saw Six at Wales Millennium Centre, had a rooftop brunch in London and a work trip to see some awesome work like Death of England at the National Theatre. Maybe January 2020 over achieved but it blows my tiny little frazzled mind to compare that month to this month. We’re only just a week in but there’s no way I’ll be getting my kicks anywhere other than treating myself in Morrisons. By “treat” I’m thinking posh yoghurt instead of an own brand version. Oh the thrills with no frills.

Whether you’re balls deep in lockdown after a bit of festive freedom or, like us, there’s not been a huge change in your day to day liberties, be kind to yourself and to others. Remember school staff are human too and they could’ve done without panicking parents poking them with questions on their weekend when they had no idea what decisions would be made either. It’s hard to be a school leader when everyone finds out the same information at the same time and wrong dates get shared through WhatsApp groups and mis-spelt Facebook posts (ginpig I’m looking at you). If you’re struggling, tell the school, tell your employer, ask for help. And for the love of cheese, wash your hands, stay at home and wear a mask when and where you can.

Thinking Out Loud

Working from Home

With Coronavirus forcing lots of us into a self-isolation, social distancing hibernation, many of us will be working from home for the first time. Not me. I’ve worked from home for the last five years.

Instagram would have you think I sit on my bed in tasteful loungewear with a slim expensive laptop, photogenic dog and a classy mug of posh coffee. Not so. That, my friend, will give you backache. And hairy, stained sheets plus fancy strong coffees give me tummy cramps and aggravate my piles.

I get dressed every day. I walk my youngest to school, get home and open up the big laptop at the dining room table because I’m so messy I’ve filled up my lovely bureau. Then I work. With my two scruffy dogs snoozing at my feet but barking when the post comes. I put on the kettle at 10:25 so I can drink my tea while listening to Pop Master and cursing any fool who dares to phone at half past ten. Who does that?!

Then I do some more work, eat my lunch at my desk (because it’s the dining table) and then get back to work. Sometimes I go out for meetings, take the dogs around the block but you get the picture. I drink too much tea and there’s a fair bit of daydreaming but I don’t switch the telly on, I don’t go on long lunches and I always wear proper clothes.

How I’m going to carry on as usual with the kids home next week is another thing. I’ve been seeing loads of home schooling resources and top tips, both primary and high school have given links and all that for home learning in the coming weeks. Which all sounds very jolly but not so fun while I’m trying to work.

So, my top tips for working from home:

  • Get dressed, be comfortable but get out of your damn pyjamas and have a shower
  • Pace the tea drinking
  • Pause for Pop Master
  • Skype or phone your colleagues instead of an email once in a while
  • Get a bit of fresh air for a break, walk, take your lunch into the garden, do some parkour (not really, just checking you were paying attention)
  • Don’t have your kids home with you.

Ok, we have to suck it up on the last one. I understand why we’ve come to this. It’s surreal, it’s scary and being stuck in the house getting cabin fever is something we can take on the chin if it helps stop vulnerable people getting ill.

Places To Go, Things To Do, Thinking Out Loud

Urdd Eisteddfod 2019 and Welshness issues

I’m Welsh but I’m not a confident Welsh speaker. On the daily, this doesn’t make me ponder on Welshness, on national identity and bilingualism but last week I took my boys to Cardiff Bay for this year’s Urdd Eisteddfod where it felt like a bigger deal on the Maes.

We were non Welsh speakers at a Welsh speaking event in Wales. We had a lovely day and we did feel welcome but also at a remove. I felt like a visitor, an outsider, somehow other.

The Urdd Eisteddfod is one of Europe’s largest touring youth festivals. As well as all of the stalls and activities on the Maes, there are loads of competitions for children and young people in things like singing and dancing following regional rounds. About 15,000 competitors take part through the week. The Urdd was set up to give children and young people the chance to learn and socialise in Welsh.

A sign post in Welsh language with the Pierhead building and Wales Millennium Centre in the background
Ble mae’r bar?

We toyed with sending the boys to Welsh school back in 2012 but our closest English primary school is behind our house. We cross no roads to get there, I can hear the playground from home and garden and it’s a cracking school.

The seven year old was in his absolute element in the Senedd display of the 2D and 3D art and design competitions. He’s a model making fiend and a puppet fan boy. He was so genuinely impressed with the paintings and drawings “wow, I can’t believe this one only came second, it’s a winner for me”, it was unsurprising when he looked up at me, his eyes glowing with creative crafting ideas and asked “how can I join in Mum?” like it’s Blue Peter and anyone can enter. Sorry babes, you can’t because you don’t go to a Welsh medium school. *insert sad child’s face* That’s where it feels excluding and exclusive. Which is understandable knowing that the Urdd exists for Welsh speaking children.

When I posted about this on Instagram I had a reply from a teacher at an English medium high school who told me that they had pupils compete so it turns out they don’t have to go to Iaith Cymraeg schools to participate. I did not know this. I thought the Urdd Eisteddfodau were a cultural rite of passage that my kids would have no part of in the same way that the opportunity wasn’t there for me as a child who grew up in Wales at English language schools. And that’s as a pupil who did extra Welsh (true story) and chose to do Welsh GCSE and A Level.

My Welsh is OK, I can get by to a limit. If you did A level French, that’s the kind of language vibe. Except it’s not. I’ve got an A Level in it but I don’t only encounter it at the boulangerie on my holidays. I work all over Wales so Welsh is at meetings, seminars, conferences, it’s in the lunch time chats and evening meals out, it’s sprinkled through emails, it’s on print, websites, in theatre productions, social media strategies. And that’s just work.

At the Urdd Eisteddfod we made an effort to use as much Welsh as we could all day. The 10 year old ordered his hot chocolate all by himself and enjoyed his “un siocled poeth”, the 7 year old  said “diolch” to pretty much everyone in Cardiff Bay.

They were in awe at how much Welsh I used (my children are very easily impressed) “how did we not know you can speak another language?!” I can’t, I’m really not that confident with it but I do try when I can. I felt guilty and lazy for not using it more at home when I do make the effort in work emails and events. I want to use Welsh with them more at home, beyond our current “nos da cariad” (good night love) and “pwy sy’n barod?” (who’s ready?).

Inside the roof of a teepee style tent with bunting and garland lights.
Inside the Children’s Commissioner for Wales tent

It was a lush day out though, one of those exhausting days where you walk for miles, while away time soaking up live music, have a nosey in every trade stall, race cars in virtual reality, golf, join a band, colour in, trampoline, make a bead bracelet, toast mshmallows and bump into a couple of people you know. As it was free entry this year I treated us to drinks and a fairground ride without the inward panic about spending all of the money.

It felt right to expose the boys to a world where people assume you can speak Welsh, it opens their mind up to realising it’s the first language for some people and it’s alive in Wales, not just something to learn in the classroom.

Places To Go, Things To Do

The Big Pit

Boom! It’s National Museum Week 2019 so I’ve been thinking about the last museum I went to, Big Pit National Coal Museum, Y Pwll Mawr. I bloody loves museums I does. The best of them stir a little something in your soul, leave some new knowledge nestled in your brain and get my kids buzzing with the experience. The Big Pit delivers on all three.

The first time I visited, I was excited to get free entry with my Blue Peter badge (which I’ve sadly lost, do they do replacements?) in about 1990. Another time, aged about 18 with my 9 year old brother the day after watching How Green Was My Valley, he produced a white cotton handkerchief to mop his brow because that’s what they’d done in the film. A few weeks ago we took our own similarly aged children and it’s still a thrill to travel in that dark lift 300 feet underground, to stoop through the tunnels, to momentarily stand in darkness, feel the terror and thankfulness that life has changed.

One of the themes of Museum Week 2019 is #WomenInCulture and the vital role of women in the mining industry and mining communities is explored in the Pithead Baths exhibition. Women were only banned from working underground because the inspector was shocked at their state of undress. The work they did was so physically demanding that they were replaced with ponies. Ponies.

As a museum, the displays and experiences above ground have had a hell of a lot of work since becoming part of National Museums Wales, which gives so much more to explore than the 50 minutes down the pit, the shower block was especially effective with interactive bits. Plus, it’s been free to visit since 2001. FREE. (Think it’s £3 for parking though). It’s set in a unique industrial landscape, designated a World Heritage Site.The guys, real life miners, who lead the tours of the mine are essential, their wit, knowledge and warmth give visitors a flavour of the camaraderie and banter of the place.

That said, I’m not writing this wearing rose tinted glasses about the job of mining. My grandad, great grandad, great uncle, my dad’s cousins all worked in the mines of the South Wales valleys. My grandad hated it. “No son of mine is ever going to work down a mine.” The day he started working at the pits as a teenager, a body was brought up from underground (the deceased man is mentioned in part of the museum), so I can’t say I blame him and he worked his arse off to have a career in another sector.

I am, however, writing this sat in the second largest town in Wales that only sprung into existence on this scale because of the coal industry but I’m also writing this in a time when we’re looking for cleaner energy sources than fossil fuels. Museums are powerful when you can make those connections.

The Big Pit

For more info, opening hours, directions and all that, head here: museum.wales/bigpit/