A comic strip with facts, beautifully illustrated fiction and non-fiction, gripping stories and funny books are all on the shortlist for the Blue Peter Book Awards

blue peter

Award-winning author and illustrator Chris Riddell’s latest book on the adventures of Goth Girl is among six children’s books shortlisted for the prestigious Blue Peter Book Awards 2015.

For the first time, a book using comic strips to tell real-life stories is also nominated for an award.

The Blue Peter Book Awards, which are celebrating their 15th year, are special as they ask children to read the shortlisted books and then vote for the two winners.

The shortlist was announced live on today’s (Thursday December 4th) Blue Peter by Michael Morpurgo, author of more than 120 children’s books, including War Horse, and President of the reading charity Booktrust, which manages the Blue Peter Book Awards.

Morpurgo was also presented with the CBBC show’s highest accolade, the gold Blue Peter badge, for inspiring millions of children with his books.

Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death is vying for the Best Story Award along with Boy in the Tower by primary school teacher Polly Ho-Yen and The Spy Who Loved School Dinners written by Pamela Butchart and illustrated by Thomas Flintham.

Adam Murphy’s Corpse Talk, which uses comic strips to tell the stories of scientists, writers, sovereigns and rebels from history, is competing for the Best Book with Facts with Animalium written by Jenny Broom and illustrated by Katie Scott, and The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff written by Andy Seed and illustrated by Scott Garrett.

The four judges – Liz Pichon, Michael de Souza, Anna James and Ewan Vinnicombe – highlighted the quality of illustrations used in many of this year’s shortlisted books, as well as the brilliant stories and imaginations of the authors.

Liz Pichon, author of the Tom Gates series, and winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards Best Story 2013, said: ‘We have a brilliant selection, something for everyone. There’s beautifully illustrated fiction, gripping stories, funny books and the FIRST comic strip style book with facts which is fantastic.

‘We keep hearing that kids don’t read anymore, but if you get the right books in front of them they really will – I’ve seen it!

‘The Blue Peter Awards are a fantastic way of showcasing even more great books.’
Michael de Souza, co-creator of Rastamouse said: ‘We have a great selection of original stories as well as a book using comic strips, which is very different.

‘Books open up a new world for children. If we want to encourage children to read, we need to give them great stories, great illustrations and something they can relate to.’

Blue Peter Editor Ewan Vinnicombe, who was the non-voting Chair of the judging panel, said: ‘In our 15th year of the Blue Peter Book Awards I’m really excited with the judges’ shortlist. There is such a good range of titles in the mix and I can’t wait to find out on World Book Day when the winners are revealed – live on Blue Peter.

‘It was great that we could honour Michael Morpurgo with a Blue Peter gold badge. His stories have inspired so many children over so many years to read and love books.’
Approximately 200 children from 10 schools across the UK will read the shortlisted books and vote for their favourites in each category. The two winning books will be announced on the Blue Peter programme scheduled for World Book Day on 5 March 2015.
The enormously popular Blue Peter Book Awards, which are managed by Booktrust, celebrate the best authors, most creative illustrators and the greatest reads for children.

The shortlist:
Best Book with Facts
Animalium written by Jenny Broom and illustrated by Katie Scott (Big Picture Press)
Corpse Talk: Season 1 by Adam Murphy (David Fickling Books)
The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff written by Andy Seed and illustrated by Scott Garrett (Bloomsbury)

Best Story
Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen (Doubleday Children’s)
Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death by Chris Riddell (Macmillan Children’s Books)
The Spy Who Loved School Dinners written by Pamela Butchart and illustrated by Thomas Flintham (Nosy Crow)

The judges for this year’s Awards are:
• Michael de Souza – Co-creator of the Rastamouse book series and co-founder of Little Roots Ltd.
• Anna James – Editor, We Love This Book and Media Editor, The Bookseller, and former school librarian
• Liz Pichon – author of the Tom Gates series, and winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards Best Story 2013
• Ewan Vinnicombe (non-voting chair) – Editor, Blue Peter and Head of Presentation for CBeebies and CBBC


Have a magical day out this Christmas with the National Trust

Great Hlla Polesden Lacey xmas Tree credit James Day‘Tis the season to be jolly and Father Christmas is making some extra special stop-offs in his hectic festive schedule this winter.

Enjoy a magical day out with all the family at some picturesque National Trust places where you can get into the Christmas spirit by writing letters, exploring enchanting trails and making decorations, all with the help of Santa’s little helpers.

Celebrating festive traditions, the Trust is helping Father Christmas prepare for the season with some special locations for his grottos. From Victorian homes and ancient castles to lighthouses and cosy stables, a visit to see Santa will fill the whole family with Christmas cheer.

Every single visit this Christmas will support the Trust’s work as a charity looking after special places for future generations to enjoy. Here are the National Trust’s best grottos and activities to get into the festive spirit:

Santa’s Grottos

Belton House, Lincolnshire
Santa in the Stables, 5 – 7, 12 – 14, 19 – 21 December, 12pm – 3pm
This year, Santa is hiding out in the beautifully decorated Belton House stables with the Christmas elves. If you’ve been good all year, you’re sure to receive a festive gift from Santa and afterwards you can enjoy breakfast with the man himself in the Ride Cafe.
Price: £3.50 (including gift from Santa, normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01476 566116

Lacock Abbey

Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire
Santa’s Winter Wonderland, 20 – 21 December, 11.30am – 2.30pm
Explore Brimham Rocks, and have a great day out at nature’s playground this Christmas. Have you been good boys and girls? Visit the land of fairy tales and follow the frosty Christmas trail through the moorland rocks to meet Santa in his snowy winter wonderland.
Price: £4 (includes gift from Santa, booking essential)
For more information, please call 01423 780688

Souter Lighthouse and The Leas, Tyne & Wear
Santa at Souter, 6 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 21 December, 11am – 4pm
This year Santa is returning to Souter in style at the first lighthouse in the world designed and built to be powered by electricity. Post your letter and join the elves in their workshop for Christmas craft making before seeing Santa in his Victorian Grotto where he’s giving out presents – but only if you’ve been good! A hot chocolate with all the trimmings will warm you up on your way home. Santa will try his best to reply to everyone so keep checking the post!
Price: £10 per child (booking essential)
For more information, please call 0191 5290909

Gingerbread house at Ightham Mote, Kent.

Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire
Christmas in the park, 6 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 21 December, 10am – 4pm
With far-reaching views of the Severn Valley, Dyrham is the ideal place to escape the crowds this Christmas. Explore the great outdoors, wrap up warm and take part in the deer trail in the historic park to find Rudolph and his friends. Enjoy seasonal refreshments in the tea-room and pick up those last minute Christmas presents from the shop. Enjoy music and get hands on with crafts near the house and don’t miss Father Christmas who will be at Old Lodge to wish you a Merry Christmas.
Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 0117 9372501

Cotehele, Cornwall
At home with Mother and Father Christmas, 20 – 23 December, 1pm – 3.30pm
The Tudor house of Cotehele is perched high above the River Tamar in the Cornish countryside and Mother and Father Christmas are waiting in their grotto before they return to the North Pole to start their Christmas deliveries. Make sure you catch them before they leave and let them know your Christmas wishes.
Price: £2 (includes a gift from Santa, normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01579 351346

Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire
Breakfast with Father Christmas, 6 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 21 December, 9.30am – 10.30am
This Christmas, satisfy your appetite and experience an extra special Christmas breakfast with Santa in the old kitchen restaurant of Kedleston Hall. Intended as a ‘temple to the arts’ this impressive mansion oozes glamour. Enjoy the cosy space to relax and meet the man himself over a slice of toast!
Price: Adult £7.50, Child: £10 (includes a gift from Santa, normal admission fee applies, booking essential)
For more information, please call 01332 842191

Quarry Bank, Cheshire
A Victorian Christmas, 6 – 7, 13 – 14 December, 11am – 3pm
Join the festive fun with a traditional Christmas weekend at one of Britain’s greatest industrial sites. Meet Victorian characters and find out more about customs from the past and the people that used to work in the cotton mill. Tell Father Christmas what’s on your Christmas list and enjoy Christmas carols, stories, last-minute shopping, and finish your day with a warming mince pie.
Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01625 527468

Dining room dressed Polesden Lacey credit Eddie Hyde

Trerice, Cornwall
Tudor Father Christmas, 13 – 14, 20 – 21 December, 11am – 4pm
Visit this fine manor house in the Cornish countryside and add a touch of grandeur to Christmas this year. Come and meet a special Tudor Father Christmas, hear his tales and go home with a very special paper package tied up with string. This is a magical opportunity to hear stories of Christmas past with five performances throughout the day, lasting 30 minutes each.
Tickets are available from reception for 11.30am, 12.15pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.15pm.
Price: Adult £2, Child £3 (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01637 875404

Speke Hall, Garden and Estate, Liverpool
Victorian Christmas Weekends, 29 – 30 November, 6 – 7, 13 – 14 December, 11am – 4pm
Visit this stunning black and white house on the bank of the River Mersey and see it decorated for a traditional Victorian Christmas. There will be lots of festive family activities with Christmas carols in the Tudor Great Hall and Father Christmas will be waiting in the wings to hear your Christmas list.
Price: £3 to visit Father Christmas (normal admission fee applies)
For more information call 0151 427 7231.

White Peak, Derbyshire
Countryside Christmas at Ilam Park, 7 December, 10am – 4pm
Escape to the countryside and visit the Peak District for hands on festive activities in Ilam Park. Meet Santa, toast marshmallows over the fire, build a wooden reindeer and bird box, make a Christmas wreath or create some decorations for your tree.
Price: Free event and entry
For more information, please call 01335 350503

Croft Castle and Parkland, Herefordshire
Santa’s workshop, 6 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 21 December, 11am – 4pm
Croft Castle sits deep in the heart of Herefordshire countryside surrounded by acres of historic woodland and Santa has stopped off to make those last minute Christmas gifts. Follow the reindeer trail to find Santa in his workshop and get an extra early Christmas gift.
Price: £4 (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01568 780246

A Christmas pudding wrapped in a muslin cloth

Biddulph Grange Garden, Staffordshire
Santa in his Christmas cottage, 7, 14 & 20 – 23 December, 12pm – 3pm
Santa is flying into Biddulph Grange Garden to open his magical Christmas Cottage. Follow the trail to discover the festive Cottage hidden deep in the garden, inside you will find Santa and his helpers, Christmas trees and fairy lights all waiting for you. Bring your Christmas present wish list with you to give to Santa or write one at Santa’s very own writing desk.
Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01782 517999

Mount Stewart, County Down
Santa at the Temple, 4 – 7, 10 – 14, 17 – 23 December, 3pm – 7.30pm
Catch the festive ‘Santa Express’ bus to Temple of the Winds within the picturesque grounds of this country estate. Explore the hidden grotto, meet the elves in their workshop and enjoy festive refreshments before meeting Santa, Mrs Claus and the magic elf. Hear their story, join in the fun and take home a lovely present.
Price: Adult £7 Child £15 (booking essential)
For more information, please call 028 4278 8387

A Christmas choir in the Central Hall at Wallington, Northumberland.

Chartwell, Kent
Father Christmas at Chartwell, 6 – 7 December, 11am – 3pm
Explore the family home and garden of Sir Winston Churchill this Christmas and meet Santa Claus who will be giving out a gift to good girls and boys and then helping the elves to make Christmas crafts.
Price: £7 per child (normal admission charges apply, booking essential)
For more information, please call 01732 861159

Ickworth, Suffolk
Family Christmas sparkle at Ickworth, 6 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 22 December, 9.30am – 4.30pm
Brighten your Christmas with a visit to Ickworth for a festive family weekend in December with Santa, gifts and much more. Visit the Georgian mansion in the heart of the Suffolk countryside for a celebratory family Christmas making decorations, crackers and treats. Sit next to the Christmas tree to hear festive stories and collect a special gift from Father Christmas.
Price: £8 (booking advisable to see Santa) Normal admission charges for the park, garden and house for accompanying adults.
For more information, please call 0844 249 1895

Dyffryn Gardens, Glamorgan
Christmas fair and Father Christmas grotto, 6 – 7, 13 – 14 December, 10am – 4pm
It’s time to get festive at some magical gardens just outside of Cardiff. Come along to Dyffryn to meet Father Christmas, make some pomanders and get your Christmas shopping off to a great start. Pick up some truly local and unique gifts for your loved ones and have a crisp winter walk amongst the gardens scattered with a sprinkling of frost.
Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 02920 593328

Christmas 2011 015 NT Nick King

Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk
Meet Father Christmas, 13 – 14 December, 11am – 4pm
This moated manor house looks like it has popped straight out of a fairy-tale and it looks even more magical at Christmas. Come along and find Father Christmas hiding out in his grotto in a corner of the festive Hall. Discover his secret location and tell him what you would like for Christmas and you’re sure to receive a special gift.
Price: £5
For more information, please call 08442 491 895

Castle Ward, County Down
Santa’s House, 30 November – 22 December (Wednesday to Sunday only)
Mrs Claus welcomes you to help waken Santa as he sleeps by an open fire. Join Mrs Claus for some festive shortbread and mince pies, listen carefully to Santa’s story about Christmas at Castle Ward and collect a treat and a beautiful toy.
Price: Adult £7 Child £15 (booking essential)
For more information, please call 028 4488 1204

Visitors enjoying Christmas at Wallington, Northumberland.

Fun Festive Activities

The Vyne, Hampshire
Fun in the Cracker Factory, 13 – 14, 22 – 23 December, 12pm – 3pm
The mansion’s rooms are decorated for a vintage Christmas, full of nostalgia, warmth and magic. The Vyne’s elves are still hard at work with their preparations for Christmas and you’re invited to help them out in the bustling Cracker Factory, where you can make your own crackers with a bang to take home.
Price: £3 (normal admission fee applies, booking advisable)
For more information, please call 01256 883858

Bateman’s, East Sussex
A Kipling family Christmas, 29 November – 23 December, 26 – 31 December, 11.30am – 3.30pm
The family home of Rudyard Kipling is decorated for Christmas, with all the sights, sounds and scents of the festive period, with a special Christmas trail for the children leading to the elves special workshop. Stop off for a leisurely lunch in the Mulberry Restaurant and a spot of Christmas shopping in the gift shop to end the day.
Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01435 882302

Children visiting Santa ©National Trust Images Arnhel de Serra

Formby, Liverpool
Narnia, 18, 19, December, 2pm – 4.30pm & 20 December, 11am – 3.30pm
Visit Formby this Christmas and walk through the magical story of Narnia where the Spirit of Christmas is all about giving. What can you bring to share some magic this festive season with those in need? Guides will walk you through the woodlands where you’ll discover the magical story of Narnia. Santa will be waiting to collect your gift to give to those less fortunate this Christmas.
Price: £3 (booking essential, normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call please e-mail formbyevents@nationaltrust.org.uk

Montacute House, Somerset
Huskies at Montacute, 13 – 14 December, 11.30am – 3pm
Montacute is a place of beauty and wonder and is even more magical at Christmas. Watch a team of huskies pull a wheeled rig up and down the west drive and get up close to one of man’s most enchanting and fluffy best friends. Meet Santa in his Grotto at weekends from 6 – 21 December, 12pm – 3pm.
Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01935 826 294

Children visit Santa at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire ©National Trust Images, David Levenson

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire
Dear Father Christmas, 29 & 30 November, 6 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 21, 22 – 23, 26 – 31 December, 1 – 4 January 2015, 11am – 3pm
The magnificent ruins of Fountains Abbey look even more magical during the winter months with a sprinkle of frost in the air. It’s nearly Christmas and the elves are waiting at their twinkly post office to receive some very special letters. If you’ve said your pleases and thank-yous this year, be sure to write to Santa to tell him how good you’ve been. There will be paper, pens, envelopes and stamps at the ready – all that’s left is for you to write your wish list, become the elf postmaster, and send it off to the North Pole. If you drop in after Christmas, make sure you write to Santa to thank him for your presents.
Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01765 608888

Petworth House and Park, West Sussex
The Gingerbread Snowman, 26 December – 2 January 2015, 10.30am – 3pm
Join a festive trail around the country house and park in the Sussex countryside this Christmas. The Cook has dropped all the ingredients for her gingerbread recipe in the Pleasure Grounds; can you find them and write them down to make your very own Gingerbread Snowman at home?
Price: £3
For more information, please call 01798 342207

Allan Bank and Grasmere, Cumbria
Notes to Santa, 1 – 21 December, 10am – 4pm
There’s no better place to put pen to paper than at Allan Bank in Cumbria, once home to William Wordsworth. Write your note to Santa with all your Christmas wishes and leave it in the big sack ready to be delivered. Wait to see your letter sent up the chimney and to make sure Father Christmas gets your message.
Price: Free event (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 015394 35143

Blickling hall - Christmas interior. please credit National Trust Images

Uppark House and Garden, West Sussex
Stir up Sunday 30 November, 11am – 3pm
Join in the tradition of Stir up Sunday at this tranquil house perched on the South Downs ridge. Take turns to come and stir the Uppark Christmas pudding and to make a festive wish. A bag of spices and a real sixpence will be yours to take home to add to your very own pudding.
Price: 50p (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01730 825 415

Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Christmas Angels – Family make and take at Christmas, 29-30 November, 6 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 22 December, 10am – 4pm
Visit Stowe this Christmas and discover a vast landscape with over 40 historic temples and monuments each with their own story. Every Christmas tree shouldn’t be without its very own angel, so have a go at making a handmade one this festive season. Don’t forget to add a pinch of glitter to add that extra special sparkle to their wings.
All craft materials, decorations and instructions are provided.
Price: Free event
For more information, please call 01280 817 156

Coleridge Cottage, Somerset
A Georgian Christmas, 13 December, 4.30pm – 8.30pm
Add a sprinkle of romance to Christmas with a visit to home of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Get into the festive spirit with a candlelit evening of carol singing, fireside stories and a festive present for every child.
Price: Adult £5, Child £3 (booking advisable)
For more information, please call 01278 732662

Visitors taking part in Christmas baking activities at Attingham Park, Shropshire.

Tickets on Sale for ‘My First Ballet – Swan Lake’


To help introduce children – and their parents – to the beautiful art form that is ballet, The English National Ballet launched My First Ballet a few of years ago with Sleeping Beauty. They followed that up with Cinderella and Coppélia. By using fairy tales, the audience is familiar with the stories, which helps them to understand the action. The ballets are danced by second year students of the English National Ballet School in performances produced by English National Ballet.

This year, English National Ballet and English National Ballet School present arguably the most famous ballet, Swan Lake. Based on Russian folk tales, Swan Lake tells the story of Odette, a princess turned in to a swan by an evil sorcerer. It was first performed in 1877, when it received universal criticism for the dancers, storyline, sets, decorations, orchestra, score and more. Swan Lake has a long and complicated performance history and it underwent several changes but it continued to run and grew in popularity. Now, major companies around the world sell out tickets every year when they include it in their new seasons. It is one of the world’s best loved ballets, with its stunning and recognisable Tchaikovsky score and moving dances.

In the My First Ballet series, the score is accompanied by a narrator, who begins with a lesson in ballet miming and continues to help translate what is happening throughout. She or he also encourages the children to participate. At the My First Ballet presentations, children are not expected to sit quietly. They are encouraged to get involved and noisily munch on bags of sweets during the shows. If they get up from their seats for a little stretch, no one is going to mind. What is amazing is to watch their enthralled faces during the performance. The majority of kids are swept away by the emotions of the ballet. It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch.

My First Ballet: Swan Lake debuts 2 April 2015 in London. This is followed by a mini tour to Poole, Woking, Manchester, Brisol and Leicester. Tickets are very reasonable and a fraction of the cost of the premiere ballet companies. Buy your tickets here.


Choreography: George Williamson after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Concept and Direction: George Williamson
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Musical Arrangement: Gavin Sutherland
Original Design: Peter Farmer
New Design: Louie Whitemore

The Final Poppy at The Tower of London


It is estimated that over 4 million people have visited The Tower of London to view the amazing art installation of ceramic poppies entitled ‘Blood-Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ by ceramic artist Paul Cummins. Today, to mark Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, the final poppy will be planted and the final roll of honour will be read. There will be a moment of silence at 11:00 am, following the firing of 21 gun shots.


Volunteers have spent months installing the handmade poppies – one for each British and Commonwealth soldier who died in WWI. It has been a powerful message of remembrance for the nation and the world, one that we will all remember forever. Rarely has any art installation drawn such crowds or illicited such a powerful response as this one, for the anniversary of the start of World War I.

The poppies will be removed from tomorrow and it will take until the end of November – so there is still a chance to see the poppies. Thousands of the poppies will go on tour and will then make their permanent home in the Imperial War Museums in London and Manchester.

The remaining poppies have been sold for £25 each – with all net proceeds going to charities Help for Heroes and the Royal Britsh Legion. They were so popular that they sold out some time ago and it is estimated that they will raise more than £15 million.

The Fableists will donate £4 for each one of our ‘Make Art Not War’ t-shirts that are sold today in our shop or our web site to the Poppy Appeal. Details are here.


Buy Our ‘Make Art Not War’ T-Shirt and We’ll Make a Donation to the Poppy Appeal 2014

make art instaOne of our most popular t-shirts is Anthony Peter’s ‘Make Art Not War’, which depicts soldiers, armed with art materials. It is available for ages 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-10. It is made of organic cotton and Fair Wear certified. It has also been certified carbon neutral. It is a limted edition print – there are only 500 t-shirts printed with this design.


The Fableists will donate £4 from the sale of each of our ‘Make Art Not War’ t-shirts in our store and online at TheFableists.com through November 11th 2014 to the British Legion’s Poppy Appeal for 2014.

Order yours from our web site here.

The Fableists on the cool heads… the Contemporary Boys’ Store

cool heads

Photographer, creative director and mother of two boys, Kiki Kouthoofd has launched her own curated shop for boys, online. For the past couple of years, Kiki has been blogging and photographing her life and lifestyle as the mother of boys at the cool heads. She has attracted many loyal followers, who love the brands she’s discovered, the looks she’s put together and her fun and friendly way. This is a special blog, where you feel you know the writer and that you are getting personal recommendations. And they are the best kind.


Photos via the cool heads

Now, it makes sense for Kiki to offer her finds for sale in her beautiful, curated shop for contemporary boys and their style-savvy parents. This shop is by no means exclusive to boys – as Kiki herself acknowledges, the current trend towards unisex looks makes this a great shop for cool girls who want to play with the boys.

You’ll find more than fashion! the cool heads offer a great selection of books, magazines, wall art, accessories, toys and more.

the cool heads tees

You’ll find some amazing brands at the cool heads, all hand-picked by Kiki:


We are thrilled to be in such great company.

the cool heads are based in Amsterdam but ship their collection all over Europe. Visit thecoolheads.bigcartel.com and have a look.


Ethical Box Launch: All the Best Ethical Brands

ethical box


Here is a link to bookmark: www.ethicalbox.co

Ethical Box features a number of great ethical brands and will grow to be a one stop place for all your ethical shopping needs. This is exactly the kind of site that can make ethical choices easier for consumers – and we all need to get behind that!

Here are the brands you can find on the site today:

ethcial box brands

Go have a look!

Have an awesome autumn half term with the National Trust

Autumn at Anglesey Abbey1 ©National Trust Images Richard ToddWhether it’s enjoying a stroll in a spectacular landscape ablaze with colour or spending time with friends and family jumping in fallen leaves, there are plenty of reasons to love this time of year.

Autumn is here for you to enjoy with all its colour, conkers, orchards full of apples and hedgerow fruits just right for picking. So why not take a family walk this autumn, discover some special places on foot and take part in some of our ‘50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ events this half term.

Take a walk on the wild side and track a woodland creature, build a bug hotel or hold a scary beast. If that’s not enough there’s tree climbing, wild art and conker competitions to keep the kids entertained in the great outdoors.

Here are the National Trust’s top half term events to tick off this autumn:

South East

Standen, West Sussex
Spooky Woodland Art , 29 October, 11am – 2pm
If you’re feeling brave, explore the woodland and wider estate at Standen and create some spooky woodland art for Halloween. Get creative in the outdoors with local artist Bleau Hudson, and tick off number 18 on the ‘50 things’ list. Bleau will show you how to create some eerie wild art inspired by trees and woodlands around you. If you can, collect some art materials beforehand and bring them with you – cones, twigs, leaves, bark, leaf litter and other woodland materials will all come in handy when creating your masterpiece.
Price: £3 (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01342 323029

New Forest Northern Commons, Hampshire
Forest Play, 28 October, 10.30am – 1pm
This beautiful sprawling wilderness offers opportunity for both retreat and adventure this autumn. Join some of the rangers in the New Forest for a day of lighting campfires, building dens and woodland craft. Foxbury, near East Wellow, is a safe enclosure with space to play and learn and the basecamp is the ideal place for wild play, with rustic seating and a readymade fire pit perfect for marshmallow toasting and hot drinks. The rangers will show you the best ways to build and light a fire, help build dens, plus there’ll be woodland craft activities.
Price: Adult £2.50, Child £5 (booking essential)
For more information, please call 01794 344020

Tree climbing at Mottisfont - ©National Trust Images Arnhel de SerraPolesden Lacey, Surrey
Big Tree Climbing, 27 October, 10.30am – 4.30pm
Climb in the canopy of the big tree in Preserve Copse with the supervision of highly skilled and friendly instructors and get a bird’s eye view of Polesden Lacey and beyond, and if you’re brave enough take the zip wire back down again. If you fancy stretching your legs and getting your feet firmly back on the ground there are acres of the estate to explore and perfect spots to sit back, relax and enjoy the views.
1 hour sessions limited to 7 children per session. Suitable for children from age 6 years and over (no height restriction) Full tuition, safety equipment and harness will be provided.
Price: £15.50 per hour session (free entry to grounds for participant, plus one accompanying adult if child is under the age of 16) – booking essential. Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 0800 0556760


Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill, Cambridgeshire
Awesome Autumn Adventures, 25 October – 2 November, 10.30am – 5.30pm
Come and see Anglesey Abbey change colour with a range of self-led awesome autumn activities. The gardens and wildlife area provide a great place to catch brightly coloured leaves as they fall off the trees. Enjoy a game of conkers, create beautiful wild art, build a den and find many more adventures hidden in the grounds.
Price: Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01223 810080

Children building a den from twigs and branches, in the grounds of Allan Bank, Grasmere, Cumbria.

Hatfield Forest, Essex
Deer Rut Walk for Families, 28 October, 4pm – 6pm
Explore Hatfield Forest in the Essex countryside this autumn, once a favourite place for royalty to show off their hunting prowess. Join the ranger team for an evening journey into the secretive world of the fallow deer during their rutting season. Learn how to track and stalk in silence and remember to bring your camera for those majestic shots.
Price: £10 (Ages 8 and over only, booking essential) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01279 870678

Ickworth, Suffolk
Out and about Wednesdays, 29 October, 11am – 3pm
It’s awesome autumn and Ickworth is a grand place to see the changing colours of autumn. Set your creativity free and make some wild art with nature’s bounty scattered around the estate. Dive into mountains of leaves and then catch as many as you can falling from the trees. Discover the magnificent horse chestnut trees and choose your winning conker to join the great conker competition. Have a great day out in the Suffolk countryside and complete numbers 10, 18 and 33 of your ‘50 Things’ challenge.
Price: Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01284 735270


Croome, Worcestershire
Tree Climbing, 27 October, 10.30am – 4.30pm
If there’s one ‘50 thing’ you should do this autumn it’s climbing a tree and taking in the colourful landscape around you at the top. Spend an hour with two with highly-skilled instructors who will teach you how to use ropes, knots, carabineers and harness to climb to the top of the tree and zip wire back down again.
Run by the Great Big Tree Climbing Company.
Price: £15.50 (for ages 4 and over, booking essential)
For more information, please call 0800 055 6760

Child climbing a tree in the garden at Quarry Bank Mill, Wilmslow, Cheshire.

Eyam Hall and Craft Centre, Derbyshire
Plant it, grow it, eat it, 25 – 26 October, 11am – 3pm
Roll up your sleeves as bring out your inner gardener as you get ready for another ‘50 things’ challenge at Eyam Hall nestled in the Peak District. Join the gardeners to harvest the apples and start to prepare the ground for more crops with number 41 on the list: Plant it, grow it and eat it. Lend a hand and plant your own seeds ready to harvest early next year and see how tall they can grow. Just like you, fruit and vegetables need a bit of time to grow but they’re definitely worth the wait. It all takes time but later next year you can enjoy eating your home grown produce.
Price: £3 (includes garden and craft activities) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01433 639565

The Weir, Herefordshire
Build A Bug Hotel, 30 October, 2pm – 4pm
Even bugs need to get away from it all once in a while so why not come along and build a bug hotel at this riverside garden. Bring the family along and join the gardener to learn more about creepy crawlies that make their home in the grounds. Once you’ve built your masterpiece take it home and put in your own garden and see who comes to stay.
Price: £3 (booking essential) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01981 590509

North West

Buttermere, Ennerdale and Whitehaven Coast, Cumbria
Buttermere Family Adventure Trail, 25 October – 2 November, 11.30am – 3.30pm
Escape with the family from the hustle and bustle of modern life and discover dramatic fells, farms, woodland and three lakes to explore. Have a change of pace as you follow the trail towards Buttermere lakeshore where you can skim a stone or make a splash as you jump over the waves. There are lots of ’50 things’ activities you can try out here; have a go at building a den in the woods or climb a tree with your friends. Who can find the best twig for a game of pooh sticks in one of the becks? Challenge your family to a race, so choose your stick wisely and take on the challenge.
Price: £1.50 per trail map
For more information, please call 017687 74649

Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Family Rut Walks, 27 & 30 October, 11am – 12pm, 1pm – 2pm & 2.30pm – 3.30pm
Whether it’s kicking up leaves, collecting acorns, or having fun at the log pile, autumn is an ideal time for families to explore the great outdoors at Dunham. Discover the autumn rituals of Dunham’s deer revealed in a family guided walk during the rutting season.
Price: Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 0161 941 1025

Children squirrel-spotting on Brownsea Island©National Trust Images

Formby, Liverpool
Squirrel Cycle Tour, 25 October, 10.30am – 1pm
The National Trust have teamed up with the ‘Visit’ project so you can get on your own bike or hire one for our cycling events. Formby is famous for its red squirrels, natterjacks, and prehistoric footprints – there’s plenty waiting to be discovered. Take a tour on two wheels and see if you can spot some of Formby’s famous red squirrels. The ride will make a stop at Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve for refreshments and to learn some more about the conservation of these fantastic creatures. This route will take you across the landscape using paths and roads into Southport from where you can make your way home or get the train back to Formby.
Price: £4 with your own bike or £6 with a hire bike (Normal admission fee applies and the ride will take around 3 hours)
Booking Essential on-line – registration from 9.30am for a 10am start
For more information, please e-mail formbyevents@nationaltrust.org.uk

South West

Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall
Wild Art Week, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30 & 31 October, 1 & 2 November, 10.30am – 4.30pm
Have fun creating some amazing wild art in the tropical Glendurgan Garden this autumn.
Have a go at making a colourful crown of autumn leaves or maybe a pebble picture at Durgan beach, or even a magnificent masterpiece by the maze. If you fancy a natural puzzle, take a stroll around the cherry laurel maze and see if you can reach the middle first. On your way back stop off at the Giant’s Stride rope swing for some spinning adventures.
Price: Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01326 252020

Child with a handheld GPS at Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire.

Stonehenge Landscape, Wiltshire
Geocaching – give it a go!, 28 October, 2pm – 4pm
Try a geocaching treasure hunt among the woods and fields on King Barrow Ridge this half term. If you’ve never tried geocaching before, you’re missing out on all the fun and ticking off number 49 on your ‘50 things’ list. Try your hand at treasure hunting and we’ll lend you a GPS device for the afternoon. Geocaching is about finding ‘caches’ that have been hidden by other ‘geocachers’ – some, like ours, include small toys and trinkets. Bring something with you to swap for something in the cache.
Price: £4 (booking essential)
For more information, please call 01980 664780

Tyntesfield, Bristol
50 Things activity – Hold a scary beast with our bug specialist, 29 October, 11am – 12pm & 1pm – 2pm
Tick off number 30 on your ’50 things’ list at this Victorian Gothic Revival house just outside of Bristol. A local bug specialist will be visiting Tyntesfield with a variety of his creepy crawlies for you to see and touch. Learn about what they eat, where they live and even try holding one if you dare.
Price: £3 (booking essential) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01275 461900 ext.138

Child making a picture from twigs and leaves in the garden taking part in a Family Fun event at Plas Newydd, Anglesey, Wales

Yorkshire and North East

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire
Bug Box Making, 28 – 30 October, 10am, 11am, 1pm & 2pm
Discover breath-taking views across the magnificent twelfth-century abbey ruins and the beautifully landscaped Georgian water garden this autumn. As winter approaches we’re not the only ones wrapping up warm in preparation for the chill. Our creepy crawly friends are also looking for somewhere to bed down and you can help them out by making them a brand new home. Roll up your sleeves and come and make a wooden bug box for your garden.
Price: £5 per bug box (booking essential) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01765 643176

Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, Northumberland
Activity Day, 29 October, 10am – 2pm
Struggling for things to do this half term? Why not join the Hadrian’s Wall Country Group team as they host a day of fun filled activities for all the family. Join in with pond dipping, mini beast hunts, bush craft, geocaching and much more – it’s the perfect way to work through your ’50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4′ list.
For more information, please call 01434 321888

Nostell Priory and Parkland, West Yorkshire
Conkers Bonkers, 30 October, 11am – 3pm
Only a stone’s throw from Wakefield lies Nostell, built on the site of a medieval priory it offers landscaped parkland and gardens. Visit this half term for self-guided, guided and themed walks. Stroll around the estate or speak to one of the rangers to find out exactly where the best trees are to find a winning conker. Remember, it’s not always the biggest conker that wins. 50 things tip: put some conkers in a bucket of water; all those that sink to the bottom are winners, those that float are losers.
Price: Normal admission fee applies to gardens
For more information, please call 01924 866841

Child playing in the autumn leaves; NT Images John Millar (1)

Northern Ireland

Crom, County Fermanagh
Nocturnal Nature Tour, 23 – 24 October, 7pm – 10pm
One of Ireland’s most important nature conservation areas, Crom’s ancient woodland and picturesque islands are home to many rare species. Take a tour in the jeep and discover what lurks among the trees and foliage of Crom estate after darkness falls.
Price: Adult £10, Child £5 (booking essential)
For more information, please call 028 6773 8118

Mount Stewart, County Down
Festival of Light, 31 October, 6pm – 10pm
A Magical event not to be missed is returning for a Halloween spellbinding special at Mount Stewart as the woodlands come alive with lights and music. Bring the whole family for an unforgettable, fairy-tale experience with an illuminated lake walk and log fires in the tipis.
Price: Adult £10, Child £7.50 (5-17 years), Family £30 (2 adults and 2 children) (booking essential)
For more information, please call 0844 249 1895


Plas yn Rhiw, Gwynedd
Autumn Adventures, 25 October, 11am – 3pm
Come and have an autumn adventure at Plas yn Rhiw, a manor house that has views from the gardens across Cardigan Bay. Play Halloween games, explore the woodland and complete some of your ’50 things’ activities by creating wild art and building a home for a wild creature – there’s plenty to do.
For more information, please call 01758 780 219

Visitors enjoying one of Bristol Astronomical Society's stargazing evenings at Tyntesfield, North Somerset.Craflwyn and Beddgelert, Gwynedd
Craflwyn Night-time Ramble, 29 October, 6pm – 9pm
The foothills of Snowdon are a great place for a night-time ramble in the woods in the heart of Snowdonia. Tick off some more of your ‘50 things’ and go for a nature walk at night, discover star-gazing and cook on an open fire.
Booking advisable
For more information, please call 01766 510120

Stackpole, Pembrokeshire
50 Things autumn challenge, 28 October, 12pm – 3pm
Visit this beautiful stretch of coastline with sandy beaches, wooded valleys and lily ponds this autumn where you can do as many of the ‘50 things’ activities as possible, including kites on the courtsite, cooking on a campfire, snail racing at the stone seat, and all things autumnal.
Price: £2 (Normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01646 661425

Buying Wisely: When Will We Get the Message?

This short film is not new. A friend shared it on Facebook this morning and, as I had never seen it, I thought I’d share it with you. It was made to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York in 1911, the worst industrial disaster in the city’s history. But until workers the world over have basic rights, it will be timely – and essential viewing.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire killed 146 people. Workers were unable to escape as the owners had locked the doors to prevent unauthorised breaks and theft of goods from the factory. The majority of those killed were young women – aged 16 to 23. In the wake of Rana Plaza, Tazreen and more, this story is all too familiar.

The aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire saw a shift in labour rights in America. Eventually sweatshops were eliminated across the country. Outlawed. Illegal. The same was happening for industrial workers all over the ‘Western’ or ‘Developed’ world. This was a major victory for the bulk of the population in these nations.

But as has so often occurred in history, in taking care of our own problems, we dumped them elsewhere. We exported our labour rights violations to other countries.

Now, 100 years on, it’s time we cleaned up the mess we’ve made. And the only way that this will happen is if consumers start voting with their hard-earned money. If you buy from fast fashion, high street brands who are exploiting workers overseas, then urge them to do what is only right. Write them a letter outlining your concerns and if you don’t get a satisfactory response, then stop buying from them. There are high street brands who are making changes. Most have not eliminated the human rights violations in their supply chains altogether but small changes are a starting point. Spend your money with them. Or better yet, save your money. Lining the pockets of massive multi-national corporations is not as important as basic human rights. Nor is wearing the latest ‘fashion’.

It is so important to teach our children well. Let’s encourage them to think about what they are buying and why. If we can raise our children to be mindful consumers, then they will live more sustainable lives, which will benefit the planet and all her inhabitants.

You don’t have to take this from me. Listen to the thousands of experts out there who have been telling us that we need to make changes for decades. Most importantly, listen to your own conscience because at the end of the day, this is a question of ethics and turning a blind eye is irresponsible and just plain wrong.

Sarah, The Fableists


It’s Organic September: Small Changes = Big Difference

organic september pdf

Organic September is a celebration of all things organic, organised by the Soil Association. The month is packed with events and promotions to highlight the importance of buying organic in order to support a greener world.

This year’s theme is Small Changes, Big Difference and the Soil Association is urging the British public to make a small change to organic this September.Consumers are urged to make one small, organic change to their shopping habits this month to add up to big differences to animal welfare, the health of garment workers, and the environment.

What will your small change be?