I have visited Warwick Castle on a number of occasions in the past. There was much that felt familiar on this occasion but I couldn't fail to be impressed by the improvements that have been part of a £6million restoration project over the last 10 years and by the programme of events and activities designed to bring history to life.
The collaboration between Mike the Knight and Warwick Castle seemed to me to be a perfect fit. I was looking forward to seeing how my little ones would respond to being immersed in history through play with the familiar characters from a much loved TV show to act as their guides in the dramatic setting of a real castle.
As we were queueing to get into castle, we could see a glimpse of canvas tents that dotted the lawn, cheerful bunting flapping in the breeze and the familiar Mike the Knight branding. It all looked very exciting.
My little ones couldn't wait to dive in, making a beeline for a large sandpit. This gave us a moment to have a look at the leaflet describing all the activities on offer so we could make sure they didn't miss anything. The leaflet also had places for stickers that could be collected on completion of each of the activities (or keeping in character - chivalrous tasks!) Completing all ten chivalrous tasks earns a reward of a fluttering favour.
The activities included Medieval Face Painting, Mr Cuddles Colour and Crafts, Mike's Target Test and a personal favourite Galahad's Gallop - a hobby horse race.
All activities were free and manned by friendly, enthusiastic staff in medieval dress. Although it was busy, we were able to do everything we wanted without too much waiting around and the whole atmosphere was very relaxed. The little ones enjoyed collecting their stickers.
The queues to meet Mike the Knight were long earlier in the day but less so later on. Although my children were excited to see the Mike from a distance, the reality of being close to a cartoon character made flesh (albeit synthetic flesh animated from within by a human being who must have been suffering terribly with the heat under the weight of his/her costume) was almost too much. They reluctantly posed for a hastily taken photograph before making a speedy exit!
For me, the very best activity was Sparkie and Squirt's Dragon Egg Hunt. This involved following a series of clues to discover dragon eggs located around the castle grounds. The eggs were huge, beautifully decorated and resting in nests made from twigs. My children were completely convinced that they were indeed dragon eggs.
Whilst my excited little knights in training followed the egg trail, I was able to follow them and enjoy the delights of the Victorian Rose Garden, the Mill and the Peacock Garden. The final egg was on the Mound which meant an ascent up steps and ramps. The children were delighted by the 'hatched' dragon egg while I enjoyed the stunning views which were well worth the effort of the climb.
If this wasn't enough activity to keep everyone occupied there were also the usual attractions such as the Warwick Warriors (making a lot of noise and bashing at each other with big swords!), the Flight of the Eagles Show and Firing the Trebuchet to name but a few.
The story of our visit would not be compete without mentioning the incredibly detailed sand sculpture created by Raymond Wirick which depicts Warwick Castle, Buckingham Palace and Mike the Knight's own castle complete with dragon. It was built to coincide with summer solstice and was simply awe inspiring. Children have the opportunity to enter a competition, creating their own 'Ultimate Sandcastle' in the sandpit. My little boy was more interested in knocking down his sandcastles and to my embarrassment, throwing the sand around!
For a fantastic family day out, Warwick Castle is easily accessible from Junction 15 off the M40 and the next Mike the Knight weekend takes place on 6th and 7th July. (For more information visit http://www.warwick-castle.com/ )
|The Birthday Boy as Squirt the Dragon|
A new series of Mike the Knight airs on Cbeebies mid July followed by the release of a brand new DVD, Be a Knight, Do It Right on July 29th.