Kensington Mums’ Social Events this August and September

If you’re a little down because summer’s almost over (and the weather seems to suggest that summer’s definitely over) then don’t fear – local parenting website Kensington Mums once again have a number of exciting events lined up to ease you into Autumn!

On Thursday 18th September, from 1pm to 3pm, Kensington Mums will be hosting a Beauty Masterclass at Whole Foods Kensington – join Whole Foods’ in-house healthy eating specialist Maura and learn how to make some amazing natural products…that you’ll also be able to take home! The products you’ll be taught how to make are an apple cider vinegar toner, a ‘Green Goddess’ face mask, and a coffee & coconut body scrub. The class costs £10 and little ones are welcome – learn how to make something new (and healthy!) as well as connecting with local, like-minded mums. Booking is essential, and can be done online – places are limited, so early booking is recommended! More details here.

Kensington Mums Fit Club

If you’re after something equal parts relaxing and social, there’s also the Kensington Mums and Bumps Coffee Morning taking place on Monday 22nd September from 10am to 12pm at the lovely Hotel Chocolat on Kensington High Street. For £5, you’ll receive a complimentary hot drink, be able to view a chocolate presentation by the resident chocolatier and also have an opportunity to try a small selection of chocolates. You’ll also be able to take advantage of a 10% discount on any purchases made at the cafe or shop. Tickets can be booked online – once again, book early to avoid disappointment! Children welcome; more details here.

And if you’re looking for something a little more energetic to get started with straight away, the Kensington Mums Fit Club is being held in Kensington Gardens every Saturday, 10.30am to 11.30am. This free club is hosted by actual Kensington mums Sabrina and Iram, and is open to all levels – and you can jog, run, bike or just walk during the session. More details here.

More on local mums, parents and kids’ news at the excellent Kensington Mums website: www.kensingtonmums.co.uk.

The Holland Park Cows

This summer, Holland Park once again has some special guests! No, not any special residents at the youth hostel or anything to do with the open air opera…but some English Longhorn cows, located in one of the closed-off fields in Holland Park for a three week period of grazing.

I’m sure that many of Holland Park’s visitors – be they dog walkers, joggers, parents and kids, tourists and others – have delighted in viewing the cows in the meadows located (approximately) in the middle of the park. It’s surely an unusual sight for any London park, and just one of the things that makes this West London park so quirky and delightful – not to mention, a joy to visit.

The four Longhorn cows – 5-year-old Jelly and her calf, Neeko, and 3-year-old Lulu and her calf, Noodle (Noodle!! How cute!) – came to Holland Park on 14th July. They’ve been brought in to help re-establish some of the meadows into wildflower ones for the coming seasons. If you pay a visit to where the cows are, you’ll notice that the fields have a rather rough terrain with little greenery, taken over by brambles and nettles. The cows have been grazing and gobbling up all before them from said brambles and nettles, to thistles and grass; this should help ‘disturb’ the wild flowers and bulbs that lie there that should then flower better in future.

Here’s a few photos of the Holland Park cows from today (1st August), just before lunchtime. Well, by that I mean human lunchtime – the cows had clearly already had their fill, and were lazing around on the grass, presumably digesting. To me it looked like the two babies were lying side by side, with the two mother cows lying a little distance away.

Holland Park Cows
The adults take a rest
Holland Park Cows
Cow enclosure – calves in the centre of the picture
Holland Park Cows
I’d say that’s a well-grazed meadow!
Holland Park Cows
Mama cow

The cows are only there until Monday 4th August, so do pay a visit over the weekend if you want to see them ‘in action’ in Holland Park! You may well catch them up and about, grazing away merrily – they do often come close to the edge of their enclosure, so you can get a really good view of these beautiful creatures.

Puppy Tennis – tennis classes for children – comes to Holland Park

Starting next week, there’s a new set of tennis classes for children that are being held in Holland Park – Puppy Tennis! Suitable for boys and girls aged from 18 months to five years – otherwise known as ‘pups’! – the classes will not only teach your child to play tennis, but will also serve as a way of improving coordination and taking on other key learning skills, all in a safe and fun environment.

Tennis classes for children - Puppy Tennis

Group coaching classes last 45 minutes per session, with six and twelve week bookings available from 5th November 2013; children can begin their sessions any week from then. The classes cost £72 for a six week session, or £144 for a twelve week one; there is a maximum of eight children per class.

Classes take place on a mini court, using mini rackets and sponge balls. As well as fun movement drills and hitting the sponge balls across the mini net at targets, the youngsters will be taught the basics of tennis with regards to the court, tennis scoring, different shots and simple tennis techniques. There will also be match play and imaginative tennis throughout! Week by week specifics can be found at the Puppy Tennis Course Guide.

All tennis equipment and rackets will be provided; the tennis pups just need to bring their own trainers and a water bottle to join in.

As well as classes on the tennis courts in Holland Park, there are also sessions available at Bishops Park Tennis Centre in Fulham SW6. It’s also possible to book Puppy Tennis as a kids’ party, or to book individual coaching sessions.

Puppy Tennis was founded by Katharine Brown, who has coached tennis for nine years and grew up as a national junior tennis player. She’s also a fully qualified British LTA coach, is CRB checked and First Aid trained.

For full details on Puppy Tennis, please see www.puppytennis.com.

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park returns for 2013!

One of the most popular Christmas events that’s right on our doorstep – Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – is back this year! Taking place from Friday 22nd November 2013 through to Sunday 5th January 2014, the event’s usual attractions and activities from previous years will be back again, ready to get you into the Christmas spirit.

One of Winter Wonderland’s most popular attractions – ice skating on what is the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink – makes its usual appearance at this year’s event. With a rink that’s over 1,600 square metres in size, you’ll be able to skate away to your heart’s content, entertained by live music playing throughout the day and night at the Victorian Bandstand that sits by the rink.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

Following its success last year, the Magical Ice Kingdom returns this Christmas – but will now be twice the size, with even more snow and ice sculptures! Created especially for Winter Wonderland, this will be a fantastical world of ice and snow with visitors being able to explore a medieval village and a giants’ forest (with ice trolls and a ogre to fight), as well as an ice castle with a scary dungeon. Have a go on the extremely-popular ice slide, but this year enjoy some refreshment at the Ice Bar too. Then sit in the Ice Swan, watch the frozen jumping fish and have a go at kissing the frog!

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

The youngsters will be very pleased to hear that Santa Land returns as well – with its LEGO DUPLO Santa Express, Santa’s Workshop and…Father Christmas himself, of course! He’ll be in Santa Land daily, complete with a sack of free gifts.

Additionally, after sell-out shows at last year’s event, Zippos Circus will be appearing this year as well with two special shows – Zippos Christmas Circus during the daytime, a show suitable for the whole family, and Zippos Cirque Berserk, an evening show for older thrill seekers. The daytime show is jam-packed full of jugglers, clowns and aerialists and the perfect length – at 50 minutes – for the little ones to sit through. Meanwhile, Cirque Berserk is a contemporary circus thrill show with death-defying knife-throwing, fire, the ultimate High Wire and the Wheel of Death – where two extraordinary acrobats spin together in an unbelievably small steel wheel. Additionally, VIP boxes are available for Cirque Berserk, which give you fast-track entry to your own private box, which is stocked with a bottle of champagne and chocolates.

Winter Wonderland 2013 will also feature some of my personal favourites, such as the Angels Christmas & Yuletide Markets which has over 200 stalls offering unusual and handmade cards and gifts such as ceramics, jewellery, wooden toys and Christmas decorations. And no Christmas event is complete without a Bavarian village…bratwurst and mulled wine at the ready! There will also be many other restaurants and bars on site to warm yourself up at, and plenty of theme-park style rides to have fun on.

Tickets for Ice Skating, The Magical Ice Kingdom, the Giant Observation Wheel and Zippos Circus are already on sale – book early online to avoid disappointment! But don’t forget that general entrance to Winter Wonderland is entirely free!

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013
10am to 10pm daily, Friday 22nd November – 5th January 2014
(opens at 5pm only on 22nd November and closed on Christmas Day)
www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
Follow Winter Wonderland on Facebook and Twitter

Aston Martin Centenary Event in Kensington Gardens

Yesterday afternoon – another hot and sunny day in London town – saw an Aston Martin centenary event take place in the beautiful setting of Kensington Gardens. (Wonder if known Aston Martin fan Prince William came to take a peek, just prior to the royal birth?!)  In the company’s 100th year, a number of celebration events are taking place in this country and abroad, and yesterday’s saw some of the rarest, most wonderful and most famous Aston Martins ever made displayed in Kensington Gardens. Given the free entry to the event, the wonderful weather and the amazing collection of cars on show, it’s no wonder that so many people turned up to take a look at these fabulous cars!

Here’s a brief collection of some photos of the event:

Aston Martin Event in Kensington Gardens

Aston Martin Event in Kensington Gardens

Aston Martin Event in Kensington Gardens

Aston Martin Event in Kensington Gardens

Aston Martin Event in Kensington Gardens

Photos: May Day in Holland Park!

Londoners will know that we’ve not really been blessed with much nice weather so far this year – but could that be something that’s about to change? There’s been a spate of nice weather recently, and we even reached the high teens, temperature-wise, last week! Despite a cooler weekend, the sunny weather remained and has continued this week, with temperatures once again creeping up as each day goes by. On which note, I decided to take a walk through Holland Park yesterday afternoon – May Day  – and found that many locals had decided to enjoy the sunny weather in this great West London park too.

There were numerous people (and plenty of dogs!) out and about – from those sunbathing, to friends chatting on the park’s benches, to toddlers enjoying what must have been one of their first (rather wobbly) park outings, to kids playing sport on the main field in Holland Park. The park’s cafe was also full with those enjoying a nice afternoon tea, as well as some of the chess regulars playing their games there. Grassy areas were unsurprisingly absolutely full of visitors kicking back and relaxing; in some areas, there was barely and space to move! The beautiful Kyoto Garden was also brimming with people, many of whom seemed to be taking in the peaceful surroundings, as well as enjoying watching the fish swim in the garden’s waters. (And again, there were plenty of youngsters doing that too!)

I sadly didn’t see any of the resident peacocks yesterday, but I did encounter an unusual, small black bird with a colourful beak who didn’t take to kindly to be photographed! (Perhaps he’s famous in the bird world, and always gets ‘papped’?!)

I took a few shots of Holland Park in the lovely sunny weather yesterday and you can see them below to enjoy a little bit of nice weather in the park too.

Holland Park Cycle Path
Cycle Path
Holland Park Commonwealth Institute
Works on the old Commonwealth Institute building
Holland Park Sports Field
Sports Field
Blossom in Holland Park
Blossom

Holland Park

Holland Park
Tulips

Holland Park

Holland Park

Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
Kyoto Garden
Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
Fish in the Kyoto Garden’s pond
Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
Waterfall – and people’s shadows – in the Kyoto Garden
Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
Kyoto Garden
Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
Unusual bird in Kyoto Garden
Holland Park
Didn’t like having his picture taken… (he’s pecking my hand here!)

Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk, Sunday 23rd September

The Alzheimer’s Society will be holding their annual Memory Walk in Battersea Park (and nearby areas) on Sunday 23rd September, inviting all locals to sign up, help raise some money and join in with the fun and entertainment taking place on the day!

Memory Walk Alzheimers Society

Participants can sign up for walks of 2, 5 or 10 miles in length that will take place in the Park itself, and through different parts of London as well – including along Chelsea Embankment and across the Albert Bridge. It is free to sign up to these walks, and there is no minimum fundraising limit; whole families are also encouraged to take part, and pets are also more than welcome!

There will also be food stalls, music and entertainment in Battersea Park that day. The event starts at 10am with registration at the bandstand, and will continue on throughout the day.

For more details about the event and to sign up, please see www.memorywalk.org.uk/london.

Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk
Sunday, 23rd September (starts 10am)
Battersea Park

The Olympic Torch in Kensington & Chelsea

On the penultimate day of the Olympic torch relay – the day before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games – the torch passed through many central London areas, including our very own Kensington & Chelsea! Entering the Royal Borough at around 1.30pm, on the north side of the Thames by Chelsea Bridge, the torch wound its way down King’s Road, up and along Fulham Road (meaning a brief detour in Hammersmith and Fulham) before heading up to Hammersmith Road and back along to Kensington High Street.

The torch was scheduled to reach Holland Park at 2.30pm and was to to travel up the main path in the park, before passing in front of the Opera Holland Park (to be greeted by a choral fanfare!) and then head out onto Abbotsbury Road to continue its journey.

I headed to Holland Park at around 1.30pm to soak up the atmosphere and also see some of the fun and games on the main sports field in the park, as well listening in on the choir practising on the steps of Opera Holland Park. There was a superb vibe in the park and it was great to see so many local residents (and workers in their suits!) come down to the park to see the flame. Many had decided to make an occasion of it, coming down with full picnic spreads, champagne to toast the flame, rugs to sit on and much more. There really did also seem to be people of all ages – including a great many babies, who I am sure will be told in a few years that they “saw” the Olympic flame in 2012!

The torch turned up around ten to fifteen minutes late (which, given its importance, I will allow) and seemed to pass through the park very quickly – blink and you miss it kind of stuff! Because, no doubt, of the limitations and narrowness of the park route, the torch was accompanied by any vehicles, just by the Olympics runners and some police men and women. But it was truly great to see the flame in person, and it was – quite rightly – greeted with cheers and applause.

Holland Park

Arriving at around 1.30pm, plenty of people already there to get a good viewing spot

Holland Park

Fun and games for kids on the park’s sports field

Holland Park

Watching the choir practise on the steps of the Opera Holland Park entrance

Holland Park

The crowd develops as the torch is almost upon us

Holland Park

People on bikes, scooters (and also on foot!) alerting us that it’s “five minutes to the flame”

Holland Park

Here it is!

Holland Park

And there it goes – so quick!

Holland Park

The choir singing, post-flame

Review: Bikeminded’s Alice in Wonderland Cycling Tour

I had the very pleasant experience of being able to join Bikeminded’s Alice in Wonderland cycling tour on Friday evening – and what a wonderful experience it was!

I must begin this review by first stating that cycling isn’t something I do often. Although I do enjoy it (and often rent bikes when on holiday in some low-key and relaxed destination – but that’s holidays for you!), the thought of cycling on London’s busy roads scares me just a touch.

But it was on Friday evening that I picked up a Boris Bike from one of the nearby docking stations and made my way down to Cremorne Gardens in SW10, doing a few practice “runs” on some of the backstreets there to get myself reacquainted with a bike and cycling on the road.

Bikeminded

Cremorne Gardens is a lovely little green space right by the River Thames, and was a great setting for the start of the tour. As the audience – or participants – gathered for the tour’s 7pm start, we were all ticked off the list and given a little bit of guidance (those on Boris Bikes, that is) by the friendly marshalls that were to accompany us on that evening’s tour.

The evening’s performance started as we were ushered in to the Gardens themselves by some of the characters for the first scene – and an introduction to Alice herself. Following an inventive take on the famed Eat Me/Drink Me part of the story, the riverside setting also provided a humorous introduction and exchange between Alice and the play’s Mouse character.

Off on our bikes for the first time, we navigated the area’s streets with ease – with the marshalls providing wonderful help, sometimes stopping traffic where necessary, and making sure we all kept together as a tidy group. We certainly received some bemused looks from pedestrians, as well as the clientele of a Chelsea pub enjoying their end-the-week drinks, but that all made for a more enjoyable experience. (Cycling past a bus stop later in the journey, I did also amusingly overhear one lady say to another – “Oh, I think they’re teaching them how to cycle.” Not quite, my dear!)

The second part of the play took us to a Chelsea playground, which proved the setting for one of the most interactive parts of the evening – chucking sweets at Alice trapped in a “house” (part of the playground) before linking hands to be lead around the park and in front of more interactions between Alice and other characters.

Off we headed on our bikes again, this time cycling through Brompton Cemetery (which, I would like to add, is a total must whether you’re on a cycling tour or not!) before reaching Earl’s Court and a stop to meet the Duchess in a very pretty mews there.

Cycling on to Kensington proper – with a brief foray onto the High Street – we reached Holland Park for the final scenes of the play, including the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (nicely set in the Park’s ecology centre), the croquet scene and the trial over the theft of the Queen’s Tarts. The backdrop of Holland Park was a fantastic addition to the performance, not least being lead through the (real-life) rose garden and encountering some of the Park’s most famous residents, the peacocks – who were thankfully quiet at the time.

Throughout the evening we were given a number of sweet treats as part of the performance (strawberry tarts at the Mad Hatter’s tea party; chewy mushroom sweets for when Alice eats bits of a mushroom), which certainly added some additional charm to proceedings. Although the actors travelled between scenes separately to us, we were joined throughout by Alice, making us feel properly immersed into the play.

All in all, an incredibly fun experience to have taken part in – a very unique bicycle tour combined with some thorough enjoyable interactive theatre elements. All credit goes to both Bikeminded – for commissioning the tour – and the Exquisite Folly Theatre for their fantastic adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

The Alice in Wonderland evnets were the conclusion of a series of tours run this summer by Bikeminded, with previous events in 2011 including those of a spooky variety – a Ghost Tour for Halloween – and the far less scary Coffee and Cake Cruise. More great tours and other cycling events are sure to be announced in future, so do keep your eyes peeled. And do also make sure to join a tour (if not more than one) for not only are they very enjoyable, they’re also a superb way of getting to experience a slightly different side of Kensington and Chelsea.

Henry Moore’s The Arch returns to Kensington Gardens

Henry Moore’s striking sculpture The Arch has returned to its original site in Kensington Gardens, and is well worth a visit. Having originally been sited (as a gift to the nation from the sculptor) in 1980, the piece had to be disassembled and removed in 1996 when it was found to be structurally unsafe. The intervening time period from then until only a few years ago saw the question raised of whether sculpture could return at all, let alone in its original place, but luckily for Kensington Gardens visitors, it has.

Read more about The Arch and its return from The Royal Parks website (which features an superb time-lapse video of the restoration of The Arch) and from The Evening Standard.

Henry Moore's The Arch