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  1. Land and Wave have started family bushcraft sessions for children aged 5 and up and this week we went along to see what would be involved.

    We met the group at Burnbake campsite near Corfe where we were taken off into the woods to find our camp for the afternoon.  I’m not sure what I was expecting having never done anything like this before but I was delighted to see a fire roaring with a huge pot warming on top, a large canopy to hide under and logs to sit on.   

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    After a brief introduction from our friendly instructors we were split into 2 groups and ours were led off to start pumpkin carving.  Tables were already set up under another canopy and we were asked to choose a pumpkin and draw a design on it.  Our son Sam did a grand job of putting a face on our pumpkin and then the adults were asked to cut the top off so we could help the kids scoop out the middle. 

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    Last came the fun bit and my husband did the cutting so Sam could push the middle bits out.  Once our pumpkins were finished and named they received a little candle and we were told we needed to make a den in the woods to keep our them safe and dry.

    My husband takes these things VERY seriously and went off to find a space to make the den whilst me and Sam waited for his instructions.  We found a large hollow and started collecting branches and leaves to put over the existing branch to make a shelter.  Just as we were nearly done I found what looked like a huge Christmas tree and asked Sam if he thinks it should go in which of course he did.  

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    After we admired each others dens we regrouped back at the camp where the instructors were making hot chocolate with marshmallows for the kiddies and teas/coffees for the grown ups.

    Next we learnt all about firelighting and Sam was in his element.  We were shown how to use a flint and steel and then everyone was asked to pull out a bit of cotton wool to put on the floor and see if it could be lit.  Sam tried his very best and the instructor helped him create the sparks required to make his little fire.  After this we were shown how touching a piece of wire wool with a battery would create it to fizz and sparkle and again he was in heaven watching it start in his hand before dropping it on the leaves below.  Lastly, one of the instructors shows us on a log what happens when you add glycerine to the chemical compound potassium permanganate.  After a short period of gentle stirring there was suddenly a little purple flame and quick as a flash it was gone.

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    After our fire fun (all dealt with in a very safe and educational way) we were told to grab a nice stick suitable for toasting a marshmallow on and Sam was eager to get his into the fire until it was practically black and inedible.

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    Now came the part which Sam loved the most.  Everyone was asked to wash their hands and were given a small bowl with flour which water was added too.  We were asked to use our finger to mix it up into a doughy ball and just as Sam finished and stood up his dough managed to leap out of his bowl onto the floor. 

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    I wondered if the 3 second rule would apply but his dough was completely covered in mud and twigs so he had my one and we shaped it into a heart before putting it on the fire ready to be cooked.  While we waited for the bread to cook we tidied up, collected our pumpkins and chatted to some of the other families.  Sam was desperate to try his bread and once it was ready he sat on the log very proudly with his heart and kept saying how yummy it was.  The instructors also had a pot on the fire with some popcorn in and as it reached a high enough temperature you could hear the little popcorns going pop in the pan and the kids devoured it with a sprinkling of sugar on top.

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    The afternoon went by so quickly and all of us loved every minute.  The instructors were excellent, not only do they clearly know their stuff but the kids LOVED them.  They have just the right level of professionalism but at the same time the guys could be right down there at a 5 year olds level talking silly stuff and Sam thought they were hilarious.

    The family bushcraft session we did was 3 hours long and hopefully they will be running more in the future.  For details on all the other activities Land and Wave offer including coasteering, watersports, kids holiday clubs and youth activity days please visit the Website.

    Please note – Dorsetmums was invited by Land and Wave for review purposes however all views are my own.  Activities on future sessions may vary but details can always be found on the website.

  2. Every year I see incredible pictures of the Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens Fright Night and last night we took a trek across the County to see for ourselves why it's so popular.

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    The event starts at 4.30pm and knowing the kids would need some dinner earlier rather than later we decided to head straight into the restaurant.  Although it was crazy busy we were served in no time and out came the food before the kids had time to get ratty.  Our dinner was delicious and while we ate my husband headed for the BBQ to grab a burger which he enjoyed.

    We were very fortunate that it was a dry and mild evening and everyone was very excited to go and explore.  Sadly our son is not one for dressing up but all of us really enjoyed the effort other families had made with their fancy dress costumes.  Everywhere we turned there were scary witches, grousome ghouls and face painted Draculas.

    We started on the West Lawn where the kiddies enjoyed a jump on the trampoline while I went to have a nosy at The Wild and Deadly Show which was going on in the main Pavilion.  Whilst I was in there I found the facepainters hard at work and told my son that after the show there would be some handling which might involve snakes and spiders but this horrified him so we started on our journey around the floodlit gardens instead. 

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    The signs at the start say to keep the lanterns on your left which is very helpful as it can get a little dark in places.  Having previously been during the day I was a tiny bit familiar with the route but it’s very easy to get disorientated and I was pleased that there were other families to follow.  I was desperately trying not to miss anything and as our boy was starting to get tired I’d remembered seeing on the map that there was a witch handing out goodies to the children so we upped our game and found her in less than 5 minutes which put a huge smile on his face. 

    The lighting was just incredible, everywhere you looked was a feast for the eyes and I was amazed at how different things could look just by the simple use of colour and light.  

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    Whilst walking around we came across a few actors who were scarily good and I was grateful none of them jumped out on us as our son was a little wary.  I would often walk away though and hear a scream so it made me chuckle that someone else had obviously received our fright instead haha.  We also saw the eerie White Lady by the lily ponds, a witch telling ghost stories, an area where big and little kids could receive goolish wounds and scars and Twitch the Witch who was helping children make gooey monster slime.   

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    I loved the level of detail whilst walking around and whoever made the milk bottle skeletons needs a pat on the back.  I’m not afraid to admit I’ll be stealing that idea for the kiddies at home.

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    The tunnel of terror was absolutely my favourite part even though I spent the whole time trying to hold my husband’s hand as he was trying to shove me forward first.  I jump very easily and I was pleased that my son didn’t want to go through so he stayed with his Nanny and little sister as they went on the alternate route which led them round the corner to the bottom of the tunnel.  I’m tempted to say what you’ll find in there but actually I think it’s better if visitors discover it for themselves.  Although I did have a few jumps and maybe went through a bit quickly I did have a good giggle and wish I’d gone back through it again.
    In the blink of an eye it was nearly 8pm and as I went for a sneak peak of the fire eater and entertainer on the West Lawn the others went for a loo break.  By now our son was exhausted so we decided we’d had enough fun and got them in the car ready for the long journey home.

    I can 100% recommend this event at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens.  My only disappointment was that we missed the giant spider who had just finished spinning her web and I wish I’d seen the spooky dancers so I recommend you take a good look at the map and timings before you go anywhere. 

    Good to know……………

    If you can, book your tickets online as they are considerably cheaper.  Under 5’s go FREE!

    Toilets and baby change facilities are found by the restaurant.

    I was pleased to see that the activities we came across were free although we found some were very busy so it might be a good idea to search those out quickly if it’s something your child really wants to do. 

    If you are planning on being on the West Lawn at the end of the night to see the fire show and entertainment then please note that you must enter before 8pm.  Admittance after this time will not be allowed. 

    Try not to miss the bench at the far end of the garden which you can sit on to look through the trees and see St Catherine’s Chapel lit up in the far distance.

    Our journey time around the gardens took about 90 minutes but this will vary massively depending on your speed and the amount of activities you do en route. 

    The gardens are very pushchair friendly but please note there are a few steep climbs.  (Luckily hubby was pushing on this occasion).

    Do not let children touch the lights as they get hot and make sure they stay on the main pathways.

    Pack some snacks and juice cartons for the children as the restaurant closes at 7.30pm and it's thirsty work walking around the garden.

    For more details and ticket prices please visit the Website.  

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    Dorsetmums was invited to attend Fright Night for review purposes however all opinions are my own.