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Muddy Herts Half Term Survival Guide Oct 2015

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Half term is nearly upon us, and with Halloween (wooo….) right in there there on the last weekend, brace yourself for a week-long spook-fest just brimming with creepy goings-on.  Loads to enjoy, both indoors and out — some stuff running all week for you to roll up to as and when, some one-off bits that you’ll need to book to be sure.

See you out there!

Saturday 24 October 

Get half term off to an outdoorsy sort of a start with some small mammal surveying at Rye Meads Nature Reserve, Stanstead Abbotts.  It’s a chance to see some of the tinier creatures on the reserve up close and great for any nature nuts you might have.

Boo At The Zoo at ZSL London Zoo

Bigger beasts your thing?  Whipsnade Zoo’s ‘Boo at the Zoo’ has all sorts on offer throughout the week (24 Oct-1 Nov), alongside its usual fab selection of creatures – some creepy, some cute.  Glow in the dark masks in the bat cave?  You’ll excuse me if I let you go on ahead…

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Willows Activity Farm kicks off its annual Pumpkin Festival, too (24 Oct-1 Nov).  Loads of farmward fun, as always, and you get to search the pumpkin patch for that perfect specimen – then take it home and carve it or cook it or whatever you choose.  Older children can get stuck in there and then with the Carving Carven, or smaller one can check out the Pumpkin Arts and Crafts marquee.

If you’re near Ware, there’s an indoors Half Term Fun Day at Ware Drill Hall.  Soft play, art activities, stalls, face painting, that sort of thing – as well as ‘appearances’ by Elsa (let it go….), Peppa Pig, and Spiderman.

Little Frankenstein’ – a jolly tale about a puppeteer whose puppets keep falling apart, and who then creates a real live puppet to help him – sounds like a gentle scare for younger folk at The Old Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead.

strange music

And Hertford Theatre are showing the family film ‘Strange Music’ – goblins, imps and elves a-plenty in a magical fantasy based on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (hey, it even counts as educational).

Sunday 25 October

Head to Hemel for a Spooky Sunday.  The Old Town Hall will be transformed into a Haunted House as part of the High Street’s Old Town Halloween, and there will be all sorts of ghoulish goings-on before fireworks in Gadebridge Park after dark.

Capel Manor Gardens are transforming into ‘Creepy Manor’ with a Halloween Festival (25-31 Oct).   You can visit the Creepy Manor ruins, carve pumpkins, get your face painted, and there are films and workshops all week – as well as ‘Halloween teas.’

There’s loads going on at Shepreth Wildlife Park this week (25-31 Oct), too, alongside all the usual keeper talks, animal feeding and displays.  Look out for trails, bat feeding pumpkin carving and (shudder) a spooky insect display (25-27 Oct).  Big party on the big night, too.

owl who was afraid of the dark

In contrast, Sandpit Theatre has a production of Jill Tomlinson’s gorgeous book ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark’ – a very sweet story that will charm rather than spook your littlies.  I mean, how can you resist a baby owl called Plop?

Monday 26 October

There are all sorts of Halloween treats to get painting at Berkhamsted’s Pottery Project – spooky skull boxes and pumpkin pots – as well as (hush my mouth…) some Christmas things if you’re planning ahead. Sessions, which you’ll need to book, start on Monday and carry on all week.

Get your wellies on for Minibeast Monday at Rye Meads Nature Reserve.  Lots of rootling around in the log piles and the long grass in search of creepy crawlies.  Great fun, if you like that sort of thing.

amazing bubble man

Be amazed by ‘The Amazing Bubble Man’ at the Alban Arena – Louis Pearl and his combination of art, magic and science has sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe for the last 8 years.  Looks amazing – and something to keep small folk mesmerised for an afternoon.

The Ark Theatre in Borehamwood is presenting a mash-up of Old Macdonald and the Three Little Pigs – and more, apparently – this half term.  Lots of animal silliness, by the sounds of it – and lots of audience participation.  Definitely one for the younger crowd.

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And if you fancy something a little different to the usual Halloween malarkey, why not head to Ware – where they’re celebrating The Day of the Dead (26-31 Oct) instead?  Mexican shop Casita Bonita is brimful of ways to celebrate that have nothing at all to do with ghosts and pumpkins.  Instead, it’s all about skeletons dressed as mariachis or catrinas and colourfully painted skulls.  There’s a treasure hunt (with prizes!) through the town centre, and you can have your photo taken with the life-size skeleton statues in store, as well as a chance to have your face painted like a Mexican skeleton!

Tuesday 27 Oct

Loads of theatrical fun happening on the Tuesday.  Positively heaps to keep you and the smalls entertained.

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‘The Haunted Dolls House’ is a new play based on the ghost story by M. R. James (no, not the ‘50 Shades’ James – a different one altogether) and it sounds proper creepy.  A collector buys a beautiful dolls house, but then it reveals a terrifying secret and the poor man’s life is simply never the same again.  It’s on at The Old Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead (27 Oct) and the Radlett Centre (28 Oct), so that’s 2 chances to be scared out of your wits!

If you prefer your monsters a bit cuddlier, then ‘My Pet Monster and Me’ sounds like a fine choice.  Little Sophie Bucket hatches a cuddly monster out of an egg (you’ve never done that?  really?) and has lots of jolly monster fun on the farm.  Cute or what?

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Little ones might enjoy ‘A Dragon’s Tale,’ too, at the Sandpit Theatre.  A googly-eyed fish gets thrown back and grows and grows until… well, can you guess what it turns into?  And then, afterwards, you get to meet the puppets and make your own dragon puppet.

We’ve read ‘Aliens Love Underpants’ more times in our house than you can shake your knickers at – so it would be cool to see it on stage.  (I can probably repeat it, word for word, after all..)  Hertford Theatre has 4 performances (27-28 Oct), and they’re sure to be pantastic (sorry).

Aliens Cover high res web edit

Perhaps your little lovelies are happier on the stage than in the audience.  Rhodes Theatre is offering them the chance to make a ‘Play in a Day’ – working with theatre professionals to create their very own production with which to amuse and amaze family and friends that evening.  Sounds brilliant.  I have at least one budding thespian in my house – and the age range (5-11) means I could book both of them in to the same thing, which very rarely happens.  Hoorah!

Fancy a film instead?  Watersmeet Theatre in Rickmansworth is showing the new ‘Cinderella’ – you know, the one with Cate Blanchett being gloriously wicked.  And it’s free.  I’ve not seen it myself, but my 5-year-old authority on everything princess-related assures me it’s fantastic.

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Or if princesses aren’t their thing – and, lord knows, they aren’t everyone’s – how about ‘Monsters’ University’ at the Ark Theatre in Borehamwood.  The theatre is hosting a whole day of activities of which the film is just one part, in conjunction with Herts Inclusive Theatre.  And the popcorn is free – hoorah!  Pop ‘em in fancy dress, book ‘em in for the day with a packed lunch and… I don’t know…. catch up on some you-time.

And then there’s Wimpy Kid.  Or, to be more precise, ‘The Wimpy Kid Show.’  If you’ve got a fan of the series at home, this looks like a perfect afternoon of Wimpy Kid nerdiness…. er, I mean, fun.  There are activities – ‘The Wimpy Kid Draw-Along’ among others – as well as ‘The Wimp Wars! Quiz’ and video clips of Jeff Kinney talking about the books and the films.  Do they love what’s-his-face, the wimpy one? They’ll love this.

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Wednesday 28 October

Get your little ones up and active with the Popdance Holiday Activity Camp in St Albans.  A whole day of shaking their tiny tushes – with dancing, games, activities and a chance to let off any remaining steam in DJ Jungle’s soft play.  Makes a change from sports camps, for sure.

If you’re heading to Hertford Theatre for ‘Aliens Love Underpants,’ there’s a drop-in session before the Wednesday 2pm show.  Come along and decorate a pair of pants to wear – over your clothes! – while you watch the show later.  Pants will be provided….

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Rhodes Theatre in Bishop’s Stortford is screening ‘The Little Mermaid’ with a visit from (*ahem*) Ariel herself before the show – and a fancy dress competition with prizes for boys, girls and grown ups.  The perfect opportunity, surely, to dig out that scallop shell bikini…

If you’ve got a small person into big action films, the ‘Hollywood Special Effects Show’ at the Alban Arena could be a winner. Industry pro’s explaining how it all works – and blowing stuff up.  Oh, and there’ll be monsters.

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Or get away from all that technology completely at the Verulamium Museum’s session on ‘Roman Rooms’ – no TV, no Xbox, no WiFi….  Oh, the horror.

Thursday 29 Oct

The Radlett Centre is bringing Oscar Wilde’s story ‘The Selfish Giant’ to life this half term with a musical production that starts with a workshop to encourage the audience to get ready to sing along later – and invites some of the children to take part in the show itself (pick me, pick me!).

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If you’ve not seen the ‘Minions’ movie yet, there’s a chance to catch it at the Watersmeet in Rickmansworth – and tickets are only £3.50 for you and £2.50 for them.  Bargain.

If the weather’s playing ball (fingers crossed), there’s the Bird Safari and Storytime at Rye Meads Nature Reserve to keep in mind.  You’ll be identifying birds around the site, then back inside for some bird box building, and rounding off with a story and a drink (don’t mind if I do, thank you).  You’ll have to book – and adults go free (hoorah).

The Verulamium Museum in St Albans is telling the story of Pompei on Thursday.  Book in to hear all about the dramatic events of more than 2,000 years ago – and make your own volcano to take home.

Friday 30 October

Head to Inn on the Park in St Albans (30-31 Oct) for ‘Something Spooky…’ in their Halloween Den – a chance to party with the ‘Wish Upon a Party’ witch, make spooky things to take home, and get your face painted in the most frightful fashion!  Feast on vampire juice (er, squash to us mere mortals) and creepy jelly treats.  Mwah-ha-ha….

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If you’re not in a spooky mood, how about ‘Dogs Don’t Do Ballet’ at Watford Palace Theatre (30-31 Oct) instead?  (I’m guessing they probably do, though…)  Watch lovable Biff as he sneaks into a ballet class and then amazes all and sundry with his pirouettes and pliés.  Lots of lovely classic music, too — Fauré, Elgar and Tchaikovsky – so you can feel terribly cultured at the same time.

Saturday 31 October — Halloween!

There are all kinds of things going on all week at the Shepreth Wildlife Park, but the highlight has got to be the after-dark tour and party on Halloween itself.  Love the sound of that.

Or, if smaller beasties are your thing, Rye Meads Nature Reserve is having its own Halloween Fun Day — carve pumpkins, go swamp dipping, make messy wildlife feeders, get crafty spider-style, and so on.  If you’re brave, you can stay late and – grab your torch! – go on the night walk around the reserve.  The walk needs booking, but the rest?  You can just drop in.

Who ya gonna call?  Ghostbusters!  Remember what a, er, classic that was?  Well, re-live the ghostbustin’ excitement this Halloween as Mothership Cinema screens the phantom-filled film at All Saints’ Church in Hertford – along with a licensed bar (in a church?) and New York City style street food.

puss in boots

It’s nearly panto season (oh yes it is…) so here’s a bit of a headstart at the Trestle Arts Base in St Albans with the panto-esque tale of ‘Puss in Boots’ – only with puppets, smoke and mirrors, and (so I’m informed) an ‘avalanche of fruit and nuts.’  Sounds like fun?  And that day, there’s also a free (love it) Big Draw 2015.

Bishop’s Stortford Museum is holding a Halloween workshop – starting with some Beowulf storytelling (bit different) and then moving on into spooky arts and crafts.  No need to book, and it’s just £2.  Bargain.

may frozen

And it wouldn’t be a holiday guide without at least one ‘Sing-Along-A-Frozen’ now, would it?  Luckily, you can head to the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage and sing along to your heart’s content at one of the two showings on 31 Oct.    You even get a prop bag and a ‘Singalonga Princess’ to help you along and teach you some dance moves (air grab, anyone?).  You don’t have to dress up, but, well, I bet they’ll want to…

Sunday 1 November

Verulamium Museum has a brilliant gallery talk on Sunday afternoon – that has nothing at all to do with Halloween or pumpkins.  Learn all about Gods and Goddesses, and you get to have a good look round the museum too.  (Then head to the nearby Inn on the Park for a hot chocolate – well, I would…)

And then it’s just one more sleep….

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