Wars of the Roses live at Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is one of our favourite days out in the UK and we were thrilled to be invited to stay over in a Lodge in the Knights Village so that we could make the most of a visit and enjoy the new Wars of the Roses experience.

When we arrived at Warwick it was really clear and easy to find the Knights Village which has its own parking area. The reception staff were really helpful and although we couldn’t check in immediately as we had arrived quite early, we were given a special code which enabled us to use a secret gate to access the castle without having to walk to the main entrance. This was brilliant.

After a general stroll around the castle we decided to go and see Wars of the Roses live, partly as there are only 2 shows per day and we wanted to maximise our opportunities to see it.

Wars of the Roses Live is set in a specially-constructed riverside arena and is a spectacular show of knightly heroism, all included in  the castle admission at no extra cost. We knew (from having friends who are re-enactors) that the show was staged by a group called The Devils Horsemen who are absolutely without doubt the best at jousting displays and horsemanship of this type in the UK- even appearing in Game of Thrones. So, with that in mind we were all really excited!

The arena holds a crowd of 2,000 and evokes magnificent medieval jousts recorded in historical sources. It really adds to the whole experience. The show uses the key players in the wider Wars of the Roses story with direct links to Warwick Castle include Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick – known as The Kingmaker, who switched sides from York to  Lancaster and imprisoned Edward VI (whom he had helped to ascend the throne) at the castle; and The Kingmaker’s daughter, Anne Neville – born at Warwick – who became Queen of England upon marriage to Richard III. It really is an amazing spectacle, the horses were incredible and some of the stunt riding simply awe-inspiring. We loved it so much we went back and saw it again. Much discussion followed on how much effort it must be to train both horses and riders to do this sort of thing and whether it would be possible to learn quite quickly!

Top tips for watching the show- make sure you get in the queue nice and early to secure yourself a good spot. We made the mistake of standing on the decking and then lots of people stood in front of us, so stand at the front by the fence  especially if you have small children. Also, make sure you’ve all gone to the toilet before you get to the arena, we saw so many people having to leave to take their children to the toilet as there are none nearby.

Without doubt this trip will be one of the highlights of our summer, not only because we really enjoyed our time in the Castle watching the Wars of the Roses, exploring the castle, watching the bird and the Horrible History show and generally just enjoying our time together. The thing which really made it was the chance to stay over in the Knights Village.

Being an archaeologist with children who really like and appreciate a bit of history you can imagine my utter delight at being faced with a medieval style bed (in fact I was so delighted I tweeted it and put it on my private Facebook page to which many of my archaeological friends remarked jealously). The whole experience was utterly fantastic, both luxurious and historic! The beds were comfortable with crisp bed linen and the wet room was as good as i’ve seen in any really top quality hotel.

Have a look at our video (unfortunately my phone ran out of battery half way) but it gives you a good idea:

The other delightful thing about staying over was the ‘all you can eat buffet’ for dinner and breakfast (in a medieval style banqueting hall) followed by the evening entertainment. The kids had a fantastic time after dinner wandering around by the River Avon and learning circus skills, archery and having the opportunity to have their photograph taken with a falcon. It was lovely to see them doing something active and learning new skills.

learning archery

Warwick Castle is one of those places which never fails to delight, it is both historic and entertaining and somehow there is always something new to see and enjoy. There was more than enough this time round to keep us occupied for two whole days which I must admit did surprise me. However, I think one of the nicest things about staying over was not feeling that we had to rush and see everything in a day.

Staying over in the Knights Village is clearly really popular, we spotted several families celebrating birthdays both young and old. Having an experience like this is a brilliant alternative to a soft play party or similar, so I could definitely see why people had opted to do this and my children seemed really keen on the idea for us going forwards. You can choose whether you stay in a tent (prices start at £49.75pppn based on a family of four sharing a Warwick Tent, just a few paces from the new show arena.) or a lodge like we did.

Overall a weekend at Warwick Castle is a great experience, we really made the most of our visit and made some memories we wont forget. However, if you cant stay over its well worth a trip to Warwick Castle just to catch the Wars of the Roses Live which will blow your mind if you like a bit of history and some fabulous horsemanship.

Book now at www.warwick-castle.com for the best price guarantee

Disclaimer: We were given free entry to the castle and free accommodation, however this hasn’t influenced my review- our family loved the whole experience!

 

Book Review: Early Learning at the Museum- Nosy Crow with The British Museum

It isn’t very often that I get really, really excited by picture board books. In fact, if i’m honest I could count the number of times on one hand- probably less. HOWEVER, being a museum curator and archaeologist I could not believe my luck when these two titles dropped through the door for review.

Nosy Crow have teamed up with The British Museum to produce these 2 chunky concept board books and there are more to come!

The books feature a range of objects form the museum collections to try to help children grasp the concepts of letters and numbers through using fabulous images of objects in the collections. To add to the books adults can scan the QR code in each book to find out more about the featured objects and there is a full key at the back.

These are perfect books for anyone with an interest in history who has new children, they are such a refreshing change from the usual types of concept book and hold an interest for parents as well as the child. A brilliant idea, I love them and they will be staying on our bookshelves for a long time!Find out more here.

ISBNS:

123- 9780857638168

ABC- 9780857638175

They are priced at £6.99 each and publish on 4th May

Film Review: The BFG

I date many of the things I remember in my childhood by the Steven Spielberg film which was out at the cinema at the time. My sister loved ET and I remember her being in reception at school whilst I was learning to read. She got an ET keyring after seeing the movie and we both cried about ET going home. Raiders of the Lost Ark made archaeology seem glamorous and perhaps influenced my future career as an archaeologist. Twister was at the cinema when I was at uni and so on. So you can imagine how exciting it was to be invited along to the UK premiere of The BFG.

cof

The photo above shows us sitting by the tree from Giant Country. The whole of Leicester Square was transformed into Giant Country and it was absolutely magical. That wasn’t all the children were thrilled to meet Lindsay from Blue Peter who told us that they were covering the premiere on the programme so do watch out for that!

The BFG is one of my favourite Roald Dahl books, I’ve written a lot on this blog about how brilliant his books are. Not least because you can read them and enjoy them as much as an adult as you  can as a child. Its basically the story of orphan Sophie ( loosely based on Sophie Bfg1Dahl the authors grand-daughter) and her dreamlike adventures with a Big Friendly Giant. If you’ve read it you wont need me to say anymore, if you haven’t – well- I wouldn’t want to spoil it.

The film features Mark Rylance as The Giant, a role which he performs superbly and Ruby Barnhill as Sophie. They both give brilliant performances and the mix of animation and live action does work surprisingly well. There are some real visual treats and an epic music score. We all loved the fact that Sophie had a northern accent, a treat since we had assumed she would be American.

Have  a look below and check out the Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/BFGMovie/


However, as much as I’d love to say that we really, really, really loved the movie, it was just a little too long. It seemed a little bit like a series of scenes threaded together and I found myself counting down the plot points from the book. Now, that said, I read the book many years ago and my 9 year old happens to be reading it at the moment. He tells me that it isn’t quite the same story as the book in places- inevitable- but I guess this could be a bit disappointing for big fans (I’d have to read the book to check though).

From what I recall, The BFG was quite a multilayered book and is actually really quite dark, even sinister in places. The brilliance of the books is that they are just that little bit un-nerving. I think this is where the movie goes wrong, because it all feels a little bit Hollywood and magical. Its a beautiful looking movie and there is a fairytale ending. It just didn’t feel quite like the book felt when I recall reading it, or how my 9 year old feels reading it at the moment.

Overall, we enjoyed the movie. It isn’t a bad movie, it works in lots of ways and is a good film. I suspect its just not for hardcore Dahl fans and more for Spielberg fans. To be honest I’m wondering if i’ve finally grown out of Spielberg. The kids liked it, I suspect they wouldn’t put it at the top of their list of this summers recommended cinema viewing but it wont be at the bottom. A firm 3.5/5 from us.

Synopsis

From the imaginations of two of the world’s greatest storytellers, Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg, THE BFG tells the extraordinary tale of a young girl named Sophie (played by British newcomer Ruby Barnhill) and the Big Friendly Giant (played by Oscar Winner Mark Rylance) who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Together they embark on a marvellous and buckswashling adventure filled with snozzcumbers, dream jars, frobscottle and even the Queen! The mismatched pair form an unlikely friendship that will inspire enormous bravery in the BFG and give Sophie a taste of the family she dreams of.

Directed by three-time Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg, the film reunites the director with his Oscar-nominated collaborator on “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” Melissa Mathison, who adapted the childrens author’s timeless adventure for the big screen. “The BFG” is produced by Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer with Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Michael Siegel serving as executive producers.

The film stars three-time Tony Award®, two-time Olivier Award, BAFTA and Oscar® winner Mark Rylance as the Big Friendly Giant; Penelope Wilton as the Queen; Comedians Jemaine Clement and Bill Hader as Fleshlumpeater and Bloodbottler; Rebecca Hall as Mary, the Queen’s handmaid; Rafe Spall as Mr. Tibbs, the Queen’s butler; and introduces newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie.

The story was first published in 1982 and has been enchanting readers of all ages ever since. Dahl’s books, which also include “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Matilda” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” are currently available in 58 languages and have sold over 200 million copies worldwide.

The BFG will visit cinemas across the UK & Ireland from July 22nd, 2016.