Bluewater has always been a second home to the Muddling through’s, like many other families in Kent and neighbouring counties, and never more so than at this time of year. With a wealth of shops and restaurants it’s the ideal place to tackle all your Christmas to do list under one roof. But, this year we added Bluewater to our Christmas traditions list with just one thing on our agenda; to spend quality time as a family enjoying the build up to the festive season. Something that perhaps can get a little lost amidst ALL of the stuff that needs to be done.
This year the Ice rink has returned to Bluewater alongside many other special Christmas activities, and now that the girls are of an age they can just about manage the concept of ice skating, we were delighted to make plans to head over with the girls to the Ice rink and share with them their first ever Bambi on ice moments.
But before we got down to the real fun, we wanted to do something embracing the spirit of Christmas with the kids; to remind them that whilst we are incredibly lucky to be spoilt with love, family and gifts, this isn’t the case for every child. So we chatted to them about the concept of Bluewater’s Giving Tree and to my surprise, they embraced it whole heartedly, excited to go shopping for some children less fortunate than themselves.
So last week we hit Bluewater together on a school night and set the girls the challenge of finding the Giving Tree, which luckily can’t be missed outside Marks and Spencers. It’s vast branches laden with named tags of all different ages and names left us overwhelmed at who to choose, but eventually we picked out two teenage girls who we hoped to send a little bit of Christmas joy to this year.
Armed with our tags (and wondering what on earth teenage girls might be in to) we hit HMV and Animal and with the helps of Tigs and The Mouse chose a bobble hat and some tech gadgets for some worthy recipients as chosen by a number of Kent and Sussex charities.
Delivering them into the Giving Tree box was utterly heart warming and I was so proud of the girls for understanding and appreciating the concept. It’s surely one thing we should actively be pushing onto the kids at Christmas; to give and share what we have and remember others less fortunate than ourselves. The Giving Tree has already firmly taken a place in my heart as a new Christmas tradition we will be keeping up each year.
So with the good deeds done, and after a dinner pit stop, we headed out of the Village, beside the lake to the under cover Ice Rink. Our pre-printed tickets let us glide through the box office and we took a rink side seat to watch how it’s done as the previous session drew to a close. The years of my teens came flooding back as we watched the skaters of all abilities whizzing round the ice (and clinging on to the side!) and with mixed excitement and trepidation at the beginning of our session we were first in line for our skates and the girls were bursting to get on the ice.
I was a little unsure whether the girls feet would have skates to fit – Tigs, age six with size 10 feet was no problem, but the Mouse and her dinky size 6 feet were too small for proper boots. Undeterred by this she was more than happy to get stuck in with the strap on double blade bob skates over her trainers and seemed surprisingly steady on her feet with them.
My memories of ice skating involved uncomfortable boots requiring three layers of socks and hook and eye laces, but the skates were cushioned, comfy and with easy to use Velcro and clips. If only skating in them was as simple 😉
Armed with hats and gloves we made our first shaky moves onto the ice, with Dad Muddling Through looking particularly manly as he shuffled around holding on to the side for dear life. Mind you, we were all pretty much in the same situation! One thing is for sure though is that we all had a real laugh about it and the kids were trying something totally new which is always a joy to watch.
After a lap or two of the inevitable barrier clinging, we all found our feet (with the help of some rather friendly and conveniently available push along seals). The girls absolutely LOVED the skating and were begging us to whizz them around the ice faster and faster, not wanting the session to end. But alas, the one hour session came to an end just in time for Mum and Dad to collapse into a heap, return the skates and get our feet back on solid ground (that feeling still feels strange, all these years later!).
Despite the weather not being on our side for our visit, the rain didn’t affect our visit as the ice rink is covered with a twinkling canopy of festive fairy lights. The Christmas tree is a magical centrepiece and also the perfect backdrop for the professional photographs which we had to purchase to remember our visit. A mounted 7X5 print cost less than a tenner and was a must have as it captured the excitement of the whole family so beautifully.
On the subject of photography, it’s worth knowing in advance that mobile phone cameras cannot be used on the ice – a wise move if you don’t want your phone smashed to pieces as you fall over! (Not that we did *smug*). But you are welcome to snap away from the safety of the side areas and viewing platform. Ice skating prices start from just £9 for children, £10 for juniors (13-16 years), £11 for adults and £34 for a family of 4 (maximum of 2 adults) and sessions last one hour including time to collect and return skates.
As we made our way out of the Ice Skating area we passed by Santas Grotto and it looked so inviting lit up by fairy lights in the darkness, and despite hovering momentarily decided we’d probably had enough excitement for one Wednesday night! If a visit to Father Christmas is on your agenda when you visit Bluewater be sure to book to avoid disappointment – he is a busy man in the run up to Christmas! This year the Grotto invites little ones on a unique Christmas adventure where they will meet Santa, Mrs Claus and the elves. All children will also receive a reindeer hat and enjoying a magical 4D screening of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.
And so, as we step into December and prepare for the magic of Christmas to unravel for 2018, I can safely say that the Muddling Through Family had a head start this year. Thank you to Bluewater for a brilliant experience, lets hope our skating skills improve in time for next year…
To see more snippets of our Festive Family experience at Bluewater head over to my instagram stories highlights reel from the evening @mummuddlingthrough
To find out more about the Ice Skating Experience at Bluewater, see the website here: www.bluewater.co.uk/articles/ice-skate-bluewater