The Naze Nature Reserve | Natural Space And Beach In Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex

Since moving to Walton-on-the-Naze I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve visited the Naze Nature Reserve – it’s such a wonderful space with lots to offer. We go there a lot in the summer, either for a walk along the beach or just to escape for a bit, but it’s also a nice place to visit in winter as well (providing it’s not raining, of course!).

The Naze Nature Reserve, Walton, Essex title image

The Reserve

The Naze Nature Reserve is different to some other local reserves in that it’s not only a large open space for wildlife to thrive, but it’s also surrounded by a beach which is considered part of it. The main space consists of grassy fields with clear footpaths leading several different ways. The starting point is very open and the highest point of the reserve, looking out towards the sea (you’ll be able to sea the Principality of Sealand on a good day) but as you follow the footpaths it becomes a lot more rural, featuring small groves of trees and some natural spaces enclosed by fences which are accessible to the public.

Following one of the right-hand paths will eventually lead you to Stone Point, a small and secluded beach area facing towards Felixstowe. When the tide is out you can see the remains of Old Walton, lost many years ago to coastal erosion and now succumbed to the seaweed. If you carry on left from here you’ll be able to walk along the backwaters which eventually takes you back to the more built-up area of the Naze – it’s a long walk but really lovely and worth doing on a sunny day if you have the time! It also makes a good running route, however the grass isn’t cut frequently so be sure to time it right to ensure the path is fully accessible.

Nature Opportunities

The natural footpaths of the Naze Nature Reserve in Walton, Essex
Many of the footpaths lead to secluded grassy areas where nature lives abundantly

The Naze Nature Reserve is an excellent choice for both animal and coastline lovers. Plenty of nature can be observed if you know where to go – on my multitude of walks I’ve witnessed a beautiful range of insects (especially moths), rabbits and other small rodents, and even a couple of muntjac deer. In the summer months bats are very common, and there are special walks set up after dark specifically to locate and view them. The area is great for bird watchers as many waders and other interesting species can be witnessed at the backwaters, including herons, curlews, redshanks, and reed warblers which all nest by the mud flats. The location is important for migrating birds so visit in the correct season and you’ll be quite amazing at the variety of birds you can witness. Back inland you may be lucky enough to spot a barn owl or other bird of prey.

The Naze is also brilliant for ocean life – my personal favourite are the seals that can be seen swimming in the water every so often, and can be experienced closer up by taking a boat trip out to the small islands in the backwaters where they reside. Down on the beach you’ll find countless examples of marine creatures from crabs to molluscs, and I’ve witnessed starfish, jellyfish, and sea gooseberries on certain occasions. If you’ve got a keen eye you may even spot some sharks’ teeth in the sand!

View of the cliffs and the sea at the Naze Nature Reserve, Walton, Essex
This photo shows the eroded cliffs but also the pillboxes at sea

If you’re more into the geological side of nature then the Naze is the perfect location for that – there’s a reason it’s subject to so many school geography trips! If you visit when the tide is out and walk up to Stone Point via the beach you’ll be able to admire Walton’s famous cliffs, which are eroding at a fast rate due to the sea. The base of the cliffs are made of London clay, overlaid with Red Crag, and are around 54 million years old. Their erosion has lead to some of the paths up top becoming inaccessible and you can no longer walk up them like I could as a child, but they offer some beautiful scenery plus you’ll also be able to witness several pillboxes from the 1940s which are now in the sea.

Food & Drink Options

Walton itself is home to lots of different food establishments and the Naze Nature Reserve offers three different places to eat. Our favourite is the Naze Tower where we go for coffee on a regular basis – they offer sandwiches, hot food such as jacket potatoes and toasties, and homemade cakes and biscuits. They’re very good value and you can either eat outside (windbreakers provided as it gets very gusty!) or inside the tower. If you pay a small fee you also go further up the tower, enabling you to see the local art on display plus the fantastic view from right at the top.

When the Naze Tower is closed (it’s only open during the summer months) we go to the Naze Centre instead, an Essex Wildlife Trust building that holds loads of events and natural artifacts as well as a café. They serve similar food and drinks and you can eat inside or out. I absolutely love their shop, where you can buy garden ornaments, home decor, and fossils/crystals among other things, and they provide really good entertainment for kids during the school holidays.

The third and final option is Naze Links Café, which is much closer to the car park. Again you can buy a wide variety of food and drink here and they sell some beachy items as well. All places offer ice cream which is a must when visiting the Naze in the summer! There’s also always the option of a picnic which we love to do, with loads of open grassy spaces to set down your blanket and hamper.

WHat You Need To Know

Parking is available at the Naze Nature Reserve for the following prices:
1 Hour – £1.20
Up to 2 Hours – £2.20
4 Hours – £4.00
All Day – £5.00
Overnight – £1.00 (after 6pm)

View of the sea from one of the footpaths at the Naze Nature Reserve, Walton, Essex
What more could you want?

Although it’s very rural, toilets are accessible by the Naze Links Café, and you can find more toilets down on the beaches that head back into town. There’s lots of seating available, particularly up on the cliffs, so it’s also accessible for those who perhaps can’t stand or walk as much. Dogs are very welcome, as are children and large groups! One thing to note is that the area by the cafés contains lots of hidden rabbit holes so be careful where you walk and where sensible shoes to avoid any injury (this is coming from someone who has twisted their ankle multiple times up there – perhaps I should heed my own advice).

I know I live right by it so I could be seen as biased but I really do love the Naze Nature Reserve – I’ve had so many wonderful trips out there (many before I moved to Walton) and it’s one of those places that people of all ages can find joy in. It’s a budget-friendly, peaceful trip for those who perhaps need a break and whatever side of nature you find interesting, you’re sure to find something you like.

If you liked this post then don’t forget to like, pin, and comment! You can check out my other reviews for nature lovers here:

Seven Sisters | Hollow Trees Farm | Three Cliffs Bay

Pinterest image for the Naze Nature Reserve, Walton, Essex
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The Minories Galleries – Colchester Photographic Society | Annual Exhibition Showcasing Wide Range Of Photographic Talent

The Minories Galleries have been chosen this year to show the annual exhibition from Colchester Photographic Society, a local group of photographers ranging from amateurs to professionals.

Colchester Photographic Society at The Minories - Title Image
Artist: Various
Gallery: The Minories, Colchester
Dates: Mon May 13th – Sun Jun 2nd 2019

exhibition content

Colchester Photographic Society’s annual exhibition is featured on the upstairs floor of The Minories, spread over several different rooms. Being a photographic society exhibition there was no real theme to the collection, instead showcasing a whole variety of different pieces chosen by individual members. Among the prints you’ll find portraits, candid shots, landscape, still life, architectural shots and more, each eclectically placed rather than separated into categories.

Colchester Photographic Society at The Minories - First Room

I was immediately impressed by the quality of the pieces… Although a few pieces weren’t massively to my liking I generally enjoyed seeing most examples. It was easy to see that Colchester Photographic Society have real talent within their members, with stunning macro shots of invertebrates to broad, powerful landscape images full of character and mood. Some shots were local and others were from much further afield, such as more than one instance of African-based photography which definitely piqued my interest. There was also a lot of range to the styles in which the photography was presented – triptychs, series, and more edited shots were present within the collection. Some pieces were stunningly realistic, and others looked like oil paintings. It made for a refreshing exploration of art, and it would have been easier to spend quite some time taking each picture in. Most images are also for sale within the gallery, usually for the price of £40.

my favourite pieces

It’s so hard to choose between such a myriad of different images, but some images really drew me in. 21st Century Assassin by Peter Jones struck me first – a haunting image of a hooded man standing in a darkly-lit tunnel. Incredibly detailed nature photography was present in every room, and one in particular that really stood out for me was a series of images featuring kingfishers hunting for food, taken by Robert Bannister.

As mentioned previously I was also blown away by the photography taken in Africa (which I will always appreciate from my experiences in Kenya). Two that really shone for me were Dead Trees And Drinking Wildebeest by Martin Heathcote and Maasai Mara, six black and white animal images from the savannah, by Christine Hart.

For Remembrance there were also two photos I loved that included the much-appreciated Silent Soldiers – The Men Who March Away by Peter Pangbourne and Remembrance by Colin Westgate. Both of these were poignant and spoke powerful words behind the images.

And finally, two local pieces that liked – Mersea Pontoon Before Dawn (featured in title image) again by Peter Pangbourne, a hazy purple scene from Mersea that shows a different perspective of the boating island, and Sunrise On The Stour by Colin Brett, a crisp winter riverscape that makes you feel chilly just looking at it.

my impressions

Colchester Photographic Society at The Minories - Upstairs Space

This sort of exhibition is one I would gladly visit several times as there’s just so much to see, and I imagine each visit would bring fresh imagery and meaning. There was so much to take in, and I felt like I was in an artistic retreat as a good exhibition should feel like. I felt that the layout and location of the exhibition worked really well – the first floor of The Minories is really quiet, with windows overlooking their garden space, and the walls are lined with old uncovered beams, making for a lovely ambience. I really felt like there was something for everyone in the room, and I felt proud being able to see just how much photographic talent we have in Colchester. I’d recommend the exhibition for anyone, whether they have a particular interest in photography or just enjoy a bit of art once in a while.

artist information

Colchester Photographic Society was formed prior to the Second World War to promote and encourage interest in the study and application of photography.
This is achieved by a varied programme of weekly meetings during the club’s season, which is September through to May. It includes visits from a variety of skilled and interesting speakers, practical evenings, competitions, plus discussions and encouragement between members. In addition we usually have some planned outings, especially during the summer, which help to provide continuity and additional opportunities for our members.
From time to time workshops are also provided to help members, particularly those who are new to photography or those wishing to learn a particular skill.
The club takes part in several local and regional competitions with other clubs, with great success over the last few years.
(Taken from Colchester Photographic Society’s website)

Gallery information

The Minories Galleries is a public contemporary art gallery run by Colchester School of Art at Colchester Institute.
A listed Georgian building, The Minories is of local importance within the historic town of Colchester. The Friends of the Minories and Victor Batte-Lay Trust have ensured the building be used to the benefit of the local arts community. This has continued and now ensures the Colchester School of Art provides contemporary art and design in one Colchester’s most distinctive buildings.
The Minories Galleries also include the Shop and a Tiptree Tea Room.
(Taken from The Minories Galleries Facebook page)

If you liked this post then don’t forget to like, pin, and comment! You can check out my other art reviews here:

Lost In Wonderland | A Coven A Grove A Stand | Emotions Go To Work

Seven Sisters, South Downs | A Country Park Walk With Stunning Cliff Views

When you think of white cliffs the first place that undoubtedly comes to mind is the White Cliffs of Dover. Forget those for a moment though, as Seven Sisters Country Park offers similar beautiful views with a great hiking trail at the same time.

Seven Sisters Country Park title image

Situated in South Downs National Park in Sussex, Seven Sisters Country Park is one of those places that, when you see it, you just have to stop and take it all in. Dramatic white cliffs offset a relatively calm and flat beach below, easily viewed from the sudden grassy edge above. It proves the beauty of the South Coast of England, reminding those of us here who are land-locked urban that our country really does offer some wonderful natural scenery. The place looks like a painting, and it’s no surprise that it was chosen as one location for the film Atonement (based on the book of the same name by Ian McEwan), starring Keira Knightly and James McAvoy.

Seven Sisters Country Park white cliffs
Striking white cliffs at Seven Sisters

Although a country park that can be visited at many points along its 13 mile or so stretch (there are parking opportunities at several locations), the Seven Sisters are best experienced as a hiking trail. The most common trail goes right from one end to the other – Seaford to Eastbourne, or the other way round. I had the chance to experience the trek as part of a fundraising activity where we headed towards Eastbourne, however I have trekked it from both sides and would recommend you visit twice to do the same as the views are very different depending on which way you are facing.

This particular trek is 13.6 miles long, so it takes a while! For those that are into walking it’s a really great excursion though, and most appreciated in the spring and summer months for that dreamy combination of chalky white cliff and light blue sea underneath the sun. It’s important to note that barely any of the trek is flat – the sisters themselves are steep (I found my hands on the ground at several points whilst ascending), and going down is daunting at first. Sensible footwear is a must, as is plenty of water and protection from the sun (it was around 21 degrees celsius when we went, but the winds from being so coastal meant I didn’t notice I was burning until it was too late).

Seven Sisters Country Park lighthouse
The traditional red and white lighthouse that I fell in love with on the trek

As well as the cliffs, frozen in time, there are several other points of interest along the way. The visitor centre is the main port of call and a must-visit for information on the history and wildlife of the area. Free guides are available and there is also a gift shop, plus useful volunteers with everything you need to know. You’ll also come across two lighthouses on your trek – the main one being the Belle Tout, where you can grab a bite to eat and also stay overnight there if you’ve booked in advance. I was more preoccupied by the much smaller, red and white lighthouse on the beach… Easy to miss if you’re not a fan of going near the edge, but beautiful to look at and a great photo opportunity. Remember though – the cliff edge is very sudden and there aren’t barriers at many points, so be very careful on the walk! We spent the majority of the hike in from the edge, where you can still admire the beautiful views, only going closer to look at specific viewpoints.

Seven Sisters country Park - Cuckmere Haven
Cuckmere Haven – Ian McEwan fans will recognise this beach from the other side

I mentioned earlier that the walk is best done in the spring and summer months for the views, but another reason is so you can have a refreshing cool-down at the beach. There are two good opportunities for this – Birling Gap, which is located near some houses and a great place to get ice cream, and Cuckmere Haven, a floodplain with a shingle beach suitable for a swim.

If you’re interested in hiking and want a bit of a challenge then Seven Sisters Country Park is really worth checking out – it may be tough at points, but those gorgeous views will distract you long enough that you’ll be able to make it, whether you go for the full hike or jump in somewhere in the middle. Just book in a rest day afterwards for your legs!

If you enjoyed this review then please don’t forget to like, pin, and leave a comment! You can read my other recent experience reviews here:

Norwich Cathedral | Hollow Trees Farm | Southsea

If you’re interested in hiking, you’ll also want to check out these great locations for walks and hikes!

Three Cliffs Bay, Wales | Mt. Kenya | Isla De Lobos, Fuerteventura

Seven Sisters Country Park Pinterest Image

Norwich Cathedral | A Retreat Of Solace In The Heart Of Norwich

Norwich is a vibrant, bustling city that I certainly fell in love with when I visited for the first time. Norwich Cathedral was one of the reasons why, giving me the perfect time to myself and a visual experience I won’t forget.

Norwich Cathedral title image with Bible

I absolutely love religious buildings. I’m not Christian (my beliefs are very different), but there’s something about a cathedral that makes me have to go inside. Once I locked my eyes on the beautiful Norwich Cathedral I knew I had to make it part of my visit to Norwich.

View of Norwich Cathedral exterior
View of the spire from the cloisters

Norwich Cathedral is very central to Norwich, easily accessible by walking or bus. It’s difficult not to notice and is surrounded by lovely gardens and park spaces. Like most other cathedrals entry is free but you can donate via one of the donation boxes or purchase gifts and other items from the gift shop inside. The cathedral regularly holds services so if you want to visit for other reasons then make sure to double check what’s on before you go!

What really stood out to me most within Norwich Cathedral is the architecture – stunning brickwork and arches combined with delicate stained glass windows and ornate features and decor. It’s a huge building and breathtaking when you think how long it must have taken to build, given that it’s 874 years old as of 2019. I spent a lot of my time there just sitting and viewing, unable to take my eyes off of the intricate design.

Cloisters walkway within Norwich Cathedral
One of the walkways within the cloisters

The cloisters are one feature you absolutely must look at when you go – a quadrangle of walkways surrounding an open air grass space. It’s accessible from two different entrances in the main building and from here you can access the cathedral library (sadly I didn’t have time but I will certainly be going back to see it!). Thankfully it was a lovely day when I visited so I got to see the cloisters in their prime – there was some work going on to one side which meant that not every part was accessible, but it didn’t detract too much from the experience. There’s also a herb garden nearby which features several different plants and provides another space to just sit and enjoy.

Stained glass window inside Norwich Cathedral
A stained glass feature within the cathedral

Once back in the main area of the cathedral you can ascend a spiral staircase to see a range of different religious artefacts collected over the years. These were very interesting to look at and gave background into the history of Christianity within the area. There’s a also space to light a candle in memory of loved ones, and plenty of places to sit and take it in. Guided tours are available throughout the day and are completely free – I listened into one that walked past me and there is a whole wealth of knowledge to be explored there, so certainly worth it for anyone who wants to know more about the cathedral.

I found my visit to Norwich Cathedral quite poignant – I’d had a busy day rushing around the city trying to get shopping and so on, but seeing the cathedral was a nice reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty around me. It’s one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve been to in the UK and I’d certainly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

What’s your favourite religious building that you’ve visited? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin if you enjoyed this post! You can read another review of a Norwich location here:

Biddy’s Tea Room, Norwich

Norwich Cathedral Pinterest image

Hollow Trees Farm, Suffolk | Shop, Trail, & Café All In One!

Prior to visiting Hollow Trees Farm in Semer, Suffolk I spent a good hour or so with my Mum researching family-friendly farms in the area. We were struggling to find anything under £15pp until we came across this gem at only £4.95pp – not only is the place a farm trail but also contains a farm shop and a café!

Hollow Trees Farm Shop Trail & Cafe title image

As the price of Hollow Trees Farm is so much lower than other farms in the area you’d expect it to have less but this was certainly not the case – we were there for several hours and could easily have been there longer had we spent more time in the shop and with the animals. As it was the Easter holidays we also had an extra thing to take part in, which was the Easter egg trail! The (actually quite difficult) challenge consisted of finding a group of wooden egg doors hidden on the main farm trail, and then answering their slightly cryptic clues to fill in a puzzle. Once we’d completed the puzzle we got a free toy which was a nice touch.

Hollow Trees Farm Shop Trail and Cafe outdoor space
One of many lovely grassy areas to explore

The trail itself is a very good length – it’s long enough that there’s lots to see and do but contains plenty of rest breaks for those who might need to sit down and relax mid-way. The trail follows round the various animal enclosures and there are also mini parks dotted all of the place to give some more energetic entertainment whenever it’s needed. The variation is good and despite it being school holidays we weren’t really waiting to use any of it as there was so much to go around. I also loved how natural the place was, with large expanses of grass and hills for kids to run around have fun.

Obviously my favourite bit was the animals, and there was a great range at Hollow Trees Farm from your expected pigs and goats to smaller animals like guinea pigs and rabbits, and even some beautifully coloured birds! There were also alpacas which made my day. Feed can be bought from the entrance for a small price and there was plenty to go around – all of the animals apart from the pigs were able to be fed, and there were special chutes available to pour feed down for any animals that were slightly further away for whatever reason. The animals were all really friendly and clearly loved the attention – I also noticed how much space they had to roam and how happy they seemed, which is something very important to me when visiting animal experiences.

As well as the main trail you can also spend your time there in the farm shop, which sells a range of homegrown and local products, and a gift shop which I really liked as it was quite small and not full of overpriced pointless items like they often are. Instead it contained a small but satisfactory range of farm-related toys and Playmobil products and we ended up coming away with a bizarre blow-up pig that kept the stepdaughter amused for a long time.

Hollow Trees Farm Shop Trail and Cafe goat feeding
My stepdaughter and Dad feeding the most adorable baby goat

There’s also a café on site which serves a good range of light food such as sandwiches and jacket potatoes. We didn’t actually eat here as we were looking to try out somewhere different but the café was quite busy and the food looked great from what I could see. Many families had opted to take picnics with them which is also an option – I felt there could have been more seating areas as many families were sitting on the ground and it took us a while to find a table for our snack break. On a lovely day a full picnic would be a great idea on the trail, and helps to make the day out even more budget-friendly.

My stepdaughter absolutely loved the time we spent there and so did the rest of the family – adults, teenagers, and children were all entertained! I would 100% go back there again – for such a great price it’s the perfect family day out.

If you enjoyed this review then please don’t forget to like, pin, and leave a comment! You can view some of my other family-friendly review locations in the UK here:

Southsea, Portsmouth | Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea

Three Cliffs Bay, Wales | Stunning Beach Away From The Beaten Track

Wales holds a special place in my heart, as it was there that I visited at least once a year on holiday with my Aunt, who lived in a beautiful corner of Swansea known as Sandy Lane. Sadly she’s passed away now and I don’t get to visit so much, but Three Cliffs Bay is one beach that you absolutely must check out if you ever go to the South of Wales.

Title image of Three Cliffs Bay in Swansea, Wales

Three Cliffs Bay, my favourite British beach, is named after three prominent cliffs situated in a row that can be seen from quite some distance away. It’s in Pennard, Swansea, and I believe its unparalleled beauty is partly down to how much people have just left it alone.

The three cliffs of Three Cliffs Bay in Swansea, Wales, with a purple flower in the foreground
The three cliffs at high tide

What I love about Three Cliffs Bay is that it’s so secluded – it’s private in that you can’t drive there, and so have to undertake a fairly lengthy walk to get there. You can access it from several routes but all must be undertaken on foot, which I’ve always found to be part of the experience. The route we’d always take as children was over the golf course and then along the multitude of sandy footpaths on the top of the cliffs, which offer breathtaking scenery and lots of fun along the way – the ruins of Pennard Castle, giant sand slides, and a river to dip your toes in, to name a few. The most fun way to access the beach is to run down the cliff via a particularly large sand slide and then follow the river through the marshes until you eventually reach the sandy beaches.

The view of the river and the bay from the top of the sand slide by the Norman castle - Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea, Wales
The view of the river from atop the sandslide – a beautiful walk offering scenery you’ll fall in love with

Because the beach is so secluded it’s largely been left untouched – there are no buildings such as shops or cafés, and you won’t find any public toilets either. Some might find this an inconvenience and it does make it less accessible that other local beaches, but for those of us that want to experience something truly natural it makes the place perfect. The sea is wonderful to swim in, often with great waves for water sports, and you can spend your time exploring the caves or sunning on the beach. The wildlife is amazing too – I’ve come across hundreds of starfish when I visited in the spring, and there’s plenty of curious creatures such as anemones and small fish in the rock pools. It’s also a known rock-climbing spot so you’ll often see people scaling the cliffs.

Like many other British beaches the tide is certainly something to be aware of, and it’s good to plan your trip before you go to avoid finding yourself cut off by the river bed (which fills very quickly and gets rather deep). It’s beautiful when it does come in as there’s a lot more space to swim, though be prepared to do some wading to get to the beach! When the tide is out the beach is a lot more accessible, and you can even explore left to get to Pobbles Beach (another absolutely stunning location with plenty of rock pools and caves for the kids) or right to find a whole other collection of wonderful bays leading all the way up to Oxwich Bay. Safety is so important here though, so again make sure you check the tides beforehand!

A hidden bay near Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea, Wales
One of the many hidden bays you can access when the tide is out (we got the tide mixed up on this trip and had to climb the cliff face to avoid getting stuck – don’t do this, please!)

I’ve spent more days than I can count at Three Cliffs Bay, but each time I walk to the castle and encounter that gorgeous view of the river in the valley leading to the sea I just can’t help but feel completely in awe. There’s something so magical about the place – it’s one of those beaches that you can spend an entire day at away from civilisation, and feel absolutely refreshed and enlightened after doing so. I’ve got so many memories of the place, from having barbeques on the beach as kids to even swimming in the river alongside the cows (it’s Wales, don’t ask!) and if you visit I can guarantee you’ll never forget your time there.

The tide coming in at Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea, Wales
The beach looks a lot different when the tide comes in, but it’s still so beautiful!

Have you visited the stunning Three Cliffs Bay before? Leave a comment if you liked my review, and don’t forget to like and pin! You can check out my review for another (wildly different) UK beach I love here:

Southsea, Portsmouth

Southsea

For sunny days out the south of England has some really lovely places to go, from natural areas to more built up and entertaining venues. Southsea in particular, near Portsmouth, is one such location that has everything needed for a perfect day out – especially if it’s one for the kids.

Southsrea beach title image

Stretching across the coast, the main area of Southsea contains a beach, an arcade and fun fair, a variety of different food shops and entertainment, and an aquarium on the far side next to a fish and chip shop. For those wanting to travel further afield, a hovercraft travels between Southsea and the Isle of Wight quite regularly, which is something we will definitely take advantage of the next time we travel down there! This time we took our stepdaughter Lexie there for the day (with grandparents as well) as it was lovely and sunny.

During the morning when the sun wasn’t quite so warm we headed off first to one of the arcade, which is one of the main attractions of the place. The one we went for was right by the beach and the funfair – it’s quite large, and features loads of different machines and games for both children and adults. Lexie particularly like the Space Invaders game which we spent a good half an hour or so at! The arcade is a great stop if the weather isn’t so wonderful outside and there’s loads of opportunities to win prizes and have bundles of fun. We ended up having lunch in the restaurant above the arcade which consisted of your standard burgers and fries – it was good, but there’s plenty of other places to choose from as well depending on what you’re looking for. The vast amount of green space opposite the beach is also perfect for picnics so bringing your own food could be a really fun idea.

Lexie playing Space Invaders in the arcade at Southsea
Lexie’s focus was intense during this game, and she was actually pretty good!

Behind the arcade you can find the funfair. There’s plenty of rides to choose from – some for adults but mostly child-orientated – with your typical funfair ticket system to go on them. The carousel was one of Lexie’s highlights as well as a giant bouncy castle assault course type thing which must have been a hit with lots of kids there as it was packed! The rides are quite nicely spaced out and there’s plenty of room to sit and watch your little ones having fine, plus a gorgeous view of the sea. My favourite ride was the Big Wheel, which went higher than I thought and gave great views of both the sea and the surrounding areas of Southsea.

View of the entertainment within Southsea including rides, arcades, and mini golf
The view of the entertainment area from the wheel when we first stopped off

Our final stop for the day was the beach, where plenty of ice cream and candyfloss is available on demand for a treat. Southsea is a particularly sandy area, as are many other beaches in the area – I’m more of a fan of the soft Essex sands I have locally, but I still enjoyed spending some time there in the sun. It’s a nice place to relax and eat your ice cream, and the shingle aspect makes it perfect for stone skimming. I wouldn’t recommend the beach as a good place for swimming because of all the stones, but paddling is definitely still an option.

The man and stepdaughter enjoying stone skipping on Southsea beach
Stone skipping on the beach, which provided plenty of entertainment

On this particular visit we didn’t have time to visit the aquarium, however we’ve been there before and it’s a really great way to spend the day. I don’t have any pictures unfortunately, but there’s loads of different aquatic animals to be seen including many varieties of fish, rays, turtles, and jellyfish. Demonstrations are done with the rays which are quite popular and it’s fairly easy to get the opportunity to stroke one (I managed to do this several times – rays are one of my favourites).

After spending time in the aquarium (and the unavoidable gift shop, of course) it’s a lovely idea to finish off the day at the fish and chip shop. All fish are locally caught and they do lovely chips , so don’t miss out! It’s also much quieter that end, as it’s a bit of a walk from the arcade and the other busier amusements.

If you’re near to Portsmouth but want to avoid the shopping and the crowds then Southsea is a great destination – whether summer or winter there’s plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy.

If you liked this review please click like and leave a comment!

Lost In Wonderland – The Minories

It was International Women’s Day just the other day and it’s always great to see women empowered and appreciated for what they’ve contributed to the world. There’s quite a lot of female-focused art in Colchester at the moment, and The Minories in Colchester is now showing another great example of the talented female artists we have within our community.

Lost In Wonderland The Minories Colchester title image

Artist: Various
Gallery: The Minories, Colchester
Dates: Sat 9th Mar– Sat 23rd Mar 2019

Lost In Wonderland is a new exhibition that features only women artists and is loosely themed around Alice In Wonderland, but from a feminine perspective. The pieces on show focus on narrative and exploration, among other themes.

Pam Schomberg's pieces from Lost In Wonderland at The Minories in Colchester
A selection of Pam Schomberg’s pottery pieces

Something that struck me about the exhibition was just how dextrous and interactive it is, which is something I always appreciate. The very first room features porcelain and stoneware works from Pam Schomberg, whose designs I felt absolutely captured by. Her pieces have a real Alice In Wonderland feel to them – ornate but quirky tea sets with legs and beautiful colours, and stunning wall pieces that stand out. I would quite happily have displayed the whole collection in my home (sadly the budget does not allow).

Artwork featured within Lost In Wonderland at The Minories in Colchester
Just one corner featuring a beautiful selection of art

Once in the main room of The Minories the viewer is treated to a rather eclectic range of artists and pieces. My eyes were drawn immediately to a set of collages by Olivia Browne, featuring magazines and photography. Like Schomberg’s work they have a magical feel to them and it’s easy to lose a lot of time studying each of the individual images and how they come together. Wall art is shown from several different artists – beautiful book-focused art from Alison Stockmarr, family photography from Carina Ioannou, and a particularly poetic and encapsulating set from Elinor Rowlands including photography of words and a collection of short films that explore her experiences with ADHD and RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy).

In the middle of the room stand two interactive pieces. An ever-evolving piece from Gemma Abbott, inspired by Tacitus, showcases the stories of historical women so often told by men, and invites the viewer to plant a seed within the main piece of the set, These Holes We Dig. The other piece, by Roseanna Chew, is an installation inviting the viewer inside a cosy red tepee of sorts which is filled with photos, with the intention of making them feel safe and reflective of the friendship and warmth that surrounds them.

Installation pieces featured at The Minories in Colchester for Lost In Wonderland
These Holes We Dig installation by Gemma Abbott, with Roseanna Chew’s installation in the background

As well as the artists mentioned several other artists are featured – Dorry Spikes, Jane Frederick, Pauline Medinger, and Emily Godden. There’s so much to be seen in the exhibition that I can’t touch on them all, but each artist brings something a little bit different to the theme, meaning that there will be something there for everyone interested in art, and you’ll most likely have one or two that really stand out to you. I found the exhibition inspiring – not only because we have such a talented collection of women in Colchester and the surrounding areas, but also that they are so diverse, each with their own stories and imagery to convey. Definitely worth a visit to The Minories if you’re in the area, and you might even find yourself inspired to create something within that theme yourself!

If you liked this review please click like and leave a comment! You can also check out my reviews for two other current local exhibitions created by women here:

A Coven A Grove A Stand – Susan Pui San Lok

Emotions Go To Work – Zoe Beloff

Firstsite: A Coven A Grove A Stand – Susan Pui San Lok

The history of witchcraft is more in the spotlight in Britain now due to the recent rise in believers of Paganism, Wicca, and other belief systems and religions that incorporate witchcraft, but for the majority it’s still largely unexplored. Essex and the surrounding counties have a prevalent past when it comes to witchcraft, with the most notable event being the witch trials held in the area. This is the focus of Susan Pui San Lok’s latest exhibition, ‘A Coven A Grove A Stand’ at Firstsite in Colchester, where she explores these trials through sight, sound, and audience participation.

Title image of A Coven A Grove A Stand against photo of Old Knobbley

Artist: Susan Pui San Lok
Gallery: Firstsite, Colchester
Dates: Sat 9th Feb – Mon 22nd Apr 2019

The first part of the exhibition invites you to remember a persecuted witch by writing their name with your own on a large blackboard wall. I chose to remember Margaret Moone of Thorpe-le-Soken, a village local to me. I really love this as an introduction, as it gets the viewer to consider the impact and history of the topic before it’s even really begun. I spent some time reading the wall, and it prepared me to get the most out of what was to follow.

The rest of the exhibition is spread over three different rooms, with a striking recycled cardboard installation as the first thing you see, designed around 3D scans of ‘Old Knobbley’, an oak tree in Mistley (believed to be 800 years old) where witches were thought to have hidden. This tree is featured again in a video in the second room, accompanied by audio providing information of the persecuted – who they were, how they died, and why they were sentenced to death. Beautifully haunting folk music plays in the background of the main room, so encompassing that I had to stop and listen to it on its own. The lyrics of the music are printed on the wall towards the back left, describing the concepts of female sexuality against violence and power.

Large cardboard installation of Old Knobbley against multicoloured glass panes at Firstsite
The striking cardboard installation, centre to the exhibition and set against a rainbow of glass panes

The most powerful part of the exhibition for me is the final room, showcasing embroidery to honour the persecuted, as well as a hundred red ribbons tied from the ceiling to honour those without names – it’s set up in such a way that you’re able to walk through the ribbons to fully experience and digest the concept. I appreciated how Susan Pui San Lok has got the community of Colchester involved with this part, with Colne & Colchester Embroiderers’ Guild, Stitch & Bitch Colchester, and Young Art Kommunity all creating the embroideries and Mohila Shomity assisting with hanging the ribbons – it adds to the personalisation and reminds the viewer that these are the ancestors of our community. This is something from our past that brings us together, and we can all relate to it.

Final Firstsite room - red ribbons hang in front of a wall covered in embroidery hoops
The memorial ribbons with the embroidered hoops behind them

I found the exhibition to be quite emotive as I have a particular interest in the history of witchcraft, especially locally. Much of the emotion comes from within, as Susan Pui San Lok has been quite minimalistic with her artistic choices, using a ‘show not tell’ approach and allowing the viewer to build up the exhibition and its impact from their own feelings. For me, it felt personal and poignant, however for this reason it may not feel that way for someone with little interest in the topic. But for those that appreciate the history, ‘A Coven A Grove A Stand’ at Firstsite is a collection of art that works just as well as a memorial and will get you thinking back to those times and what really went on.

If you liked this review please click like and leave a comment! You can also check my other reviews for Firstsite exhibitions here:

Emotions Go To Work