Our Pick of Picnic Spots

We’ve had a few glimmers of sunshine this year and nothing says Summer to us like a picnic. So in preparation for the big warm up, we thought we would round up some of our favourite picnic spots in Reading.

Forbury Gardens

A renowned pretty green space in the middle of the thriving town centre. Free entry and easily accessible. Plenty of nearby facilities with town only a stones throw away so no problem if someone forgets the cocktail sausages!

Caversham Court Gardens

A beautiful Thames riverside spot on the outskirts of Caversham. Not just a beautiful location but also some beautiful horticultural work from the ‘Friends of Caversham Court Gardens’ and also a fascinating floor plan to the original 12th century house. There is a tea kiosk open at selected hours.

Basildon Park

A magnificent Georgian House in some spectacular gardens. Being an National Trust property, this is a paid entrance facility but there is lots to keep the kids and adults alike entertained.

Christchurch Meadows

Located along the riverside between Caversham and Reading Train station, this beautiful green space houses a huge play area suitable for ages 1-early teens. Alongside the play park, in the warmer months the small paddling lido is open for all, just get there early to reserve a pool side spot! All this and a newly opened tea kiosk has arrived for the summer months.

Balmore Walk

Another Caversham choice, but this steep grassy bank is a perfect spot to look out over the views of Reading, you can see all the way to Earley and Prospect Park from this high top verge and it makes a pretty picnic spot to stop and admire our wonderful town.

Prospect Park

A huge expanse of green space in Tilehurst’s borders. This pretty parkland is perfect for a picnic and to give little legs a large amount of space to run around. After they’ve worn themselves out they could check out the miniature railway!

Woodford Park

A lovely park alongside the leisure centre. With a lake and various sports facilities, this picnic can be as relaxed or as energetic as you’d like it to be!



For directions to any of these parks, each title acts as a link through to the Mumsnet Reading Local site page for each park space. Each with full postcode.



Rice Pudding Slow Cooker Recipe

After all that glorious weather last week, this gloomy climate has got our house reaching for the comfort food. Growing up with a Nanna that could cook the most incredible meals from scratch, I find nothing more cosy and comforting than Rice Pudding.

Sadly I never got time to pick my Nanna’s brains over her beautiful old fashioned recipe collection (of course all stored in her head, nothing measured or timed but all done by eye.) Over the years I’ve tried many rice pudding recipes and just none came close. In fact most of them resulted in me serving a stodgy over cooked disaster, that cued many a forced ‘mmmm’ from my husband.

Finally I stumbled across this easy peasy slow cooker version of the recipe and I haven’t looked back. It’s not quite as good as Nanna used to make but it has my family running for a bowl and spoon!


You’ll Need:

  • 110g (4 oz) pudding rice
  • 25g (1 oz) granulated sugar
  • 25g (1 oz) butter
  • 1.2L (2 pt) milk (we tend to use blue top as I think it gives a creamy result but I’m sure semi-skimmed would be just as good)
  • ground cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract (optional flavourings to get the taste you prefer! Our house prefers a good glug of vanilla and a sprinkle of nutmeg.)

To Cook:

  • Grease the slow cooker with butter (quite often the foil wrapper from a block of butter makes a perfect greasing wipe!)
  • Stick all ingredients in, add flavourings as you like, give a good stir and turn the cooker on!
  • Cook on low for roughly 8hrs or high for 4hrs.
  • Add any special extras as you see fit! Eldest loves a big blog of strawberry jam in his and my dad prefers some stewed apples for his!

This stores beautifully in the freezer if the batch is a bit too big for one sitting. Just store, defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat in the oven for 20 or so minutes. The picture above is a stock photo as mine is currently cooking away but I promise it’s just as yummy looking as this.

Shifty McGifty & Slippery Sam – Book Review

We recently received this as a gift and have fallen head over heels with this adorable book, so much so, that I had to share.


Written by Tracey Corderoy, Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam is the tale of two pups living a life of crime. But this robbing pair are not too hot at their career of choice and whilst in an attempt to create a master burglary, they stumble across their true talents in life.

The words leapt off the page in a beautiful rhythm as we read aloud and my 3yr old was instantly entranced. He immediately felt an affection for this dastardly but daft duo. The illustrations by Steven Lenton are quirky but charmingly detailed. Soon my son was drawn in to picking out details and items to understand more of the imaginary world of Shifty and Sam and their canine neighbours.

As a parent reading aloud (many times, over and over!) I found the book enjoyable. Even on the third read, I was keen to develop our version of the pups and with much help from my mini director-in-chief, perfected my voices of the main characters.

This book is a perfect bedtime addition for any preschooler in my opinion and it has easily earned a place in our go to ‘calm down’ book selection, one that I know I can pick up and it will easily send my active pair to nestle down on the sofa for a good read.

A Day out at Legoland

Well the big 3rd Birthday finally came and went with great success. We lucked out with the weather and decided on an impromptu trip to Legoland to celebrate. A few friends had recently taken their toddlers and raved about it, so we were curious to try it out for ourselves.

Being a schooldays, the park was relatively quiet, which was a relief as Eldest certainly wasn’t passed much in the patience genes. After whizzing through the gates with no queue, we found ourselves eagerly clutching a map and working out how to best tackle the park.

We took our buggy (jammed pack with all the paraphernalia a toddler and baby brings) but the park also hired out single and double push carts at quite reasonable rates, so if taking an expensive pushchair makes you a tad nervous, this is a great alternative for little legs.

We quickly discovered that Eldest was just skimming under the 1m height restricted rides but that left all the 0.9m rides for him to go on, and there really was quite a selection of preschool suitable rides on offer (Under 4’s ride list). The biggest hits of the day were  ‘The Dragon’ in Knights Kingdom and ‘Scarab Bouncers’ in Kingdom of Pharohs. Another favourite was ‘Atlantis’ a submarine style ride that even Baby was allowed to ride on, on my lap. It was a nice peaceful ride and watching the surrounding fish and sharks was a welcome break for my feet!


‘Thunder Blazer’, a classic spinning metal swing ride, tested my husband and I’s nerves, as the ride didn’t offer the opportunity for us to climb in with our son. So we buckled him in and watched nervously from the sidelines, as to how he would cope flying solo on his first ride. After much “are you sure’ing” from me and mouthed “hold on tight” to our son, it turned out the ride was incredibly tame and in fact by spin 3, he was bored and staring off to space and us both feeling like right numpties.

I packed snacks and drinks galore, worried about the cost of food. However it turned out pretty reasonable. Burgers were picked by the Birthday Boy for his special lunch and the giant bottles of water we got in our meal deal were great to take away with us for the afternoon.

With the sun shining, we decided to finish the trip off in the water splash ‘Duplo Village’. This was a great addition to the day and a fantastic chance for the kids to let off some steam without queues and waits hindering their excitement. By the time we left the village and began the (big) trek back up the hill to the car park, the kids were exhausted with joy and happily snuggled in to the buggy.

There was a car park charge, which I think is a little cheeky considering the cost of the entrance tickets but with the use of a BOGOF voucher from the back of the cereal box, the day was not as expensive as I’d nervously thought. We arrived late morning and there was still plenty to the park that we hadn’t got to explore like the discovery centre and play areas. All in all, I would recommend Legoland hands down for a fun and special day out with your little ones!

Exploring the new Dinton Pastures Park

We’ve been meaning to get over to Dinton Pastures and explore their new park for a while now, but every time we tried the heavens opened. Finally on Monday, the forecast was dry and with much eagerness we headed over.

The array of play equipment spotted from the entrance to the park sent my eldest in to a giddy spin of excitement. The design is truly fantastic and blends beautifully with the nearby lakes. No garish plastic or ugly frames but instead nature inspired designs that encourage the kids to explore and play with their surroundings.

Slides are set in to the large grassy mounds, with kids clambering up the hills and wooden side tracks. There is a smaller one by the entrance and then a much bigger one in the centre of the park. The larger slide set in ‘the mountain’ as my son called it, was absolutely fantastic. There were no steps but instead large rocks, tree trunks or wooden tracks and ropes to climb, so instead of bored children choosing to climb up the slide itself like so often found in classic play parks, the children were instead testing their skills as they worked their way up to the slide.

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The climbing frames really were spectacular. A few too big for my eldest to climb but fantastic as it shows how the park caters to all ages. One involved entwined giant logs with a climbing net inside and another featured carved trees with climbing rock steps ingrained. My sons favourite was one with two huge tunnels and ‘buckets’ as he called it.

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Alongside the frames, there were masses of swings, sandpits with buckets, an earth set trampoline, tunnels, wooden tee pees, aerial swings, and a roundabout.

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A sweet and small touch was that dotted about the park were wooden poles with inbuilt magnifying glasses. An amazing encouragement for children to investigate the wildlife and nature around them. Other incredible design touches included a nest of wooden eggs and a huge chair for children (and ahem.. adults) to climb upon.

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Plenty of wooden round picnic tables with tree stump chairs are within the park, making it a perfect picnic destination. Although my only tiny niggle was that they are quite huge and no good for smaller children to sit at, as being too low and far from the table.  However it really is a tiny niggle as there was plenty of benches and picnic space for us to easily pitch up at.

There is no entrance fee to the park, simply a £2 pay and display car park charge for 4 hours (£1.50 for under 1 hour) which I think is fantastic value when you put in comparison to other similar play areas within the local area. The on site cafe however, whilst lovely was a touch expensive, so we plan on bringing picnics in future with maybe an ice cream as a treat!

All in all, the park was nothing shy of wonderful. Even the baby who spent much of the time in the sling and crawling amongst the grass had a great afternoon, taking it all in. We ended up spending a blissful 4 hours at the park and by the time we found our way back to the car, I had a deliriously happy exhausted toddler and a snoozing baby on my hands. The perfect result!

Please note, all views are that of my own and are in no way influenced or prompted. All photos are not for copy or use elsewhere.

To annual pass or not?

As I mentioned in my previous post, coming up soon is Eldest’s 3rd birthday. Now normally every year in his birthday loot, is an annual pass to one of our favourite spots around Reading. The first year it was for Beale Park. A wonderful wildlife park just outside of Pangbourne. This was fantastic for us as not only did he adore the Little Tikes village or the ‘car park’ as he called it, but my son went free. Under 2’s gain free entry to Beale Park so an adult annual pass was needed for me. We happily spent our summer riding the little train, feeding goats and watching the lemurs.

2nd birthday came and I wasn’t so sure on renewing anymore. I found we hadn’t got much use of the pass in the winter months. Whilst fantastic in Summer, we found it was rather lacking come the colder months. The indoor soft play room was a tad  whiffy and sadly the most neglected part of the park.

So in the end we took up a quarterly pass for Kids in Action, a fantastic soft play just outside of Reading in Winnersh. The themed play rooms, alongside the large soft play frames, were fantastic entertainment for a 2yr old (even though my shins still bare the bruises from some enthusiastic drivers in the Crazy Coupe car lot!) My son would of loved an annual pass but I nearly fainted at the cost, so the quarterly one had to do.

Now we umm and ahh over where to try for 3rd birthday. Going back to Beale Park is an option, as Eldest has several friends also with passes. Although now at 3 and needing his own pass, the price is a tad steeper. Other friends have taken up Merlin, Wellington Country Park and Bucklebury Farm passes. The first, I think may be a tad wasted on our little chap and a touch too expensive for us. Is there anywhere you’d recommend? Any annual passes you’d swear by for a toddler and baby in tow? If so, do let me know!

Summer fun at Beale Park

Preparing for a very big (a bit too big) arrival.

We, like many, have been busy sorting out the garden this long weekend. Amongst the surrounding hum of neighbouring lawnmowers, we were getting stuck in and preparing for the hopes of another beautiful summer. But not just that, we prepared for a very eagerly anticipated arrival… A trampoline.

Eldest turns 3 later this month and he’s been wistfully staring at trampolines at every opportunity. It wasn’t until other parents started telling us the wonder of the ‘happily goes to bed when asked, sleep right through’ result of a night, following an afternoon spent on a trampoline, that my husband and I were sold on the idea!

The area was measured, the trampoline ordered and following this, flower beds (ahem.. weeds) have been cleared, a small tree chopped removed and bark laid. All in preparation for the wondrous trampoline.

Only one thing dawned on us today. The space we measured, cleared and planned on suited a 10ft trampoline. So why, oh why have we managed to order a 12ft trampoline?! How? What? Why? Were we drunk on the toxic fumes that the promise of a peaceful bedtime can bring? Did we get click happy and click the wrong one? I blame my husband and his dodgy DIY skills and measuring, he’s blaming my expensive shopping habits… But we’re both a bit perplexed as to how it happened.

So now the next week involves us trying to set up and shoehorn this gigantic trampoline into a very much, smaller gap OR try and organise a very speedy exchange in the days pre birthday. Either way, please wish us luck!


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