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Days out - recommended by mumsnet members

142 replies

Marina · 29/05/2001 10:03

Following on from Tigermoth's suggestion about festivals, fetes etc, how about recommending your "grand days out" for families here?
We had the nicest time yesterday with our two year old son. We drove to Tenterden in Kent (easiest via M20, but a prettier route via Goudhurst from A21/A262) and rode the Kent and East Sussex Steam Railway to Bodiam Castle (National Trust). The line was only extended to the castle last year with Millennium Fund money and parking is much easier in Tenterden. The railway has little stations crammed full of memorabilia and gadgets and is run by child-friendly steam fans. It travels along the Rother valley which is full of waterfowl, reed beds, BIG cows, etc. You can even have lunch, tea or a drink on board.
Tenterden has a cafe, a children's play and picnic area, baby changing facilities and a station cat. Bodiam has ruins, a moat with tame carp in it, a river and lots of spiral staircases and dank little holes to explore, plus the usual NT facilities of proper loos for everyone, picnic space, tearooms etc. There is a lovely-looking Shepherd Neame pub on the riverbanks and, although we didn't have time, there is also a river barge running between the castle and nearby Northiam (close to one of the stations). All of it could be managed with a pushchair. What did you all get up to?

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Robinw · 29/05/2001 20:46

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Ailsa · 30/05/2001 22:25

West Midlands Safari Park at Bewdley, Worcesterhire, Severn Valley Railway.

North Devon (Woolacombe Bay area) - Once upon a time, Watermouth Castle - both very much child oriented with fairground type rides on a small scale. The Big Sheep (not been to this one but have heard good reports from others that have) - also not sure how they have been affected by Foot & Mouth.

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Tigermoth · 01/06/2001 12:12

Sounds lke you had a lovely time, Marina. Definitely going to give the Kent and East Sussex Steam railway a go. Doesn't it make a difference when the attractions en route are so varied? Even if they are each simple in themselves, they add up to a special day out.

When people create themed play areas, that's one thing I wish they would bear in mind. Lots of bright colours screaming for your attention, too many ice cream booths and over-complicated, cartoon-infested rides can appear so samey after a while. Oh well, I suppose the children who enjoy them think differently.

Anyway, here are my personal suggestions for days out as sampled by the Tigermoths:

Farming World, near Whitstable, Kent. Tel 01277 751144. This is not a very picturesque farm, simply because it is laid out on some very flat land, so as you enter you can see everything at once. The play area is imaginative, however, and includes a small sand pit. There is also a rather charming tiny walled garden and pick your own fruit in the summer.

The real beauty of the place is that it is extremely accessible. Just off the main motorway towards Whitstable -the A299.If you live in south East London, you can get there in under an hour - M2/A2/A299. So, if you want to get out of London and it's late morning, it is easily within reach.

If you don't stop at Farming World, keep driving along the A299 for another 25 minutes and you will be at Minnis Bay.

Minnis Bay is just outside Margate - which is where you want to be too! It is a lovely, quiet, clean, sandy bay. No arcades. Easy and mostly free parking. One cafe, one pub, public loos, award-winning beach, lifeguards, some boats and boaty people. Good for sandcastles.
The tide comes right up, so unless you're prepared to move along the coast a little, check high water times.

You really need a map to reach it if you 're driving. Otherwise aim for Birchington, then ask for directions. Or contact the Thanet Tourist office on 01843 220241.

We also like visiting Drusillas Park, near Alfriston, between Brighton and Eastbourne. Tel 01323 874100. It has lots of interestng small creatures like monkeys, penguins and meer cats. Children can crawl inside a special plastic dome to 'enter' the meer cats area and view them at close range.

The huge playground is one of the best we've been to. Its got old milk floats, tractors and fire engines, made safe for children to sit in, a great interactive water spray feature as well as lots of the usual indoor and outdoor stuff for toddlers and children.

A 10 minute drive down the road takes you to Alfriston, a very pretty village with some good places to eat.

Lastly, looking ahead to Christmas:

If you are near Exeter, South Devon, in December, Pennywell Farm Tel 01364 642023 hold a special Christmas event.

They put on an impromptu nativity play each day in the main barn. Visiting children are the actors along with the farm animals. Costumes and make-up are provided. The audience sit on bales of hay. After the play the chidren get taken to visit Father Chistmas. Places for the play get booked up weeks in advance. We've only managed to get our sons on the list once, so if you're in the area and want to do this, ring well ahead.

Can't think of anywhere else at the moment, so I'll sign off!

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Tigermoth · 01/06/2001 14:28

PS If you are thinking of going to Drusillas Park, there's a very good farm shop near by.

Middle Farm is on the A27, 4 miles east of Lewes, towards Eastbourne. It has a tea room, craft shops, a few animals and a children's playground - good entertaiment for an hour or so.

The farm shop is the main attraction, however. If you want to buy 'red tractor' logo meat direct from the farm, here it is. Also lots of organic meat, groceries, fruit and veg, as well as frozen and fresh home made organic bread, cakes, and ready meals. Plants and herbs for sale outside. There's another shop selling hundreds of different ciders, perrys, sloe gin (yum!) and fruit wines, many home brewed. I am now the proud owner of a bottle of rose petal wine.

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Jodee · 01/06/2001 15:57

If you are in Cornwall, the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek nr Helston is worth a visit (tel 01326 221361). As well as seals there are sea lions, plus donkeys, goats and ponies.

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Carriel · 26/07/2001 14:41

If you're in the Cotswolds (all those summer weddings..) anywhere near Stow on the Wold area, it's definitely worth visiting the Cotswold Farm Park. We went last weekend with Grace (two and a half) and she absolutely loved it. Open daily from 10.30-5pm in the summer (less in winter) it was £4.50 for adults and £2.50 for kids over 3. Grace got to stroke a tiny baby rabbit, there are guinea pigs and other small animals in a pets corner - plus lots of pigs,including piglets running free, cows etc - loads of adventure play areas, two sand pits, a tots tractor track and proper mini motorised tractors for the over 3's, demos, all sorts. FAB
For directions call 01451 850 307 or look at website www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk
Next day we went to Sudeley Castle - fantastic gardens, expensive but very nice cafe - no baby changing facilities - aargh - but again a great adventure play area particularly good for older kids.

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Willsmum · 26/07/2001 20:02

If you are in the Cotswolds, there is also the village of Bourton on the Water which has a minature model village and a railway museum with loads of buttons to push which start up various little Hornby trains - good fun for grown ups as well as kids! There was also a trout farm and a butterfly farm (not sure whether they are still there though). Also, kids love paddling in the river which runs through the village. The Gloucestershire-Warwickshire railway at Toddington has special steam days and a child friendly cafe. If you want to go shopping, Cheltenham has a wishing clock which blows bubbles on the hour and half hour and several good childrens playgrounds in the parks, as well as the Art Deco Lido. Gloucester has the docks with the Packaging Museum and the National Waterways Museum. Burford (full of antique shops) has a good garden centre and the Cotswold Wildlife Park (a walk around safari park).

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Tigermoth · 27/07/2001 12:45

Wow, I've just heard that a 2-week heatwave is on it's way. About time!!

If you want to find some shade, why not cool off in a wood?

Oxleas Wood, Shooter's Hill Road,London SE18. About 10 minutes drive from Greenwich. Huge ancient woodland with a nice cafe (it's not called London's best kept secret for nothing). There are pushchair-friendly paths to follow, hidden meadows and glades, trees to climb, and old rose gardens and a folly tower to discover. Free parking and entrance.


Or, there's the Enchanted Forest, Groombridge Place 01892 861 444, just south of Tunbridge Wells on the B2110.
Its full of surprises and interesting things for children and toddlers, with the emphasis on dinasaurs, red indians, gypsys, and forts. There's a brilliant giant swing walk - our favourite thing - a sequence of big swings suspended from high tree branches. There's also a sandpit, a charming wooden play ground and giant rabbits for toddlers to enjoy. Groombridge gardens and some of the installations in the forest have more adult appeal. There's a good, but slightly expensive cafe - but when we last went in May, we queued for 30 minutes for lunch. There are some lovely picnic areas, but none in the forest itself. But in all, it makes a lovely day out.

If you fancy a cheap weekend at the beach, Youth Hostels are brilliant and very underbooked, thanks to the effects of the foot and mouth epidemic. You can get a family room (2 adults, 2 children) with cot for about 25.00 a night. A typical price for one adult is £11.00 and for a child £8.00. They don't put up their charges in the school holidays and the hostels I know have all been in old and very interesting buildings. You get self catering and bathing facilites, too. There are lots by the seaside. The hostels I know seem to cater mostly for families and single parents. Since you share a kitchen if you're cooking, there's lots of opportunity to get talking to other parents. My older son always finds plenty of playmates, while my toddler has lots of space to explore and runs no risk of breaking anything - there are few nicknacks to break.

The YHA website is www.yha.org.uk - you can see all the hostels on screen there.

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Rhiannon · 09/08/2001 19:06

Had a lovely day on Sunday, went up to central London (early), got parked easily (yellow line - free!) next to Trafalgar Square. Then we bought tickets for the open top buses. £14 adults and £7.50 for 6 and overs (we pretended ours was 5 ssh!). There are about 4 different routes, you can jump on and off as you like and the tickets are valid for 24 hours. We saw all the sights then went for a walk in St James Park, had a late lunch in Cafe Fish in Rupert St and finished the afternoon with a trip to the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood - free! but £2 donation requested. All the exhibits are behind glass so you don't have to worry about what the children touch and there is a wonderful rocking horse the children can play on and various board games and a dolls house and dolls to play with. We had a wonderful couple of hours there. Unfortunately they closed the cafe and gift shop early but I suppose it was nearly 6pm on a Sunday.

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Erica · 09/08/2001 20:02

Rhiannon
Back now!! See usual page. I've only just read the missing person thing. I'm OK - only very slighlty off my rocker. Sorry for intruding on the nice day out page!

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Tigermoth · 10/08/2001 12:26

Diggerland opened recently in Strood, Kent. We went a few days ago. It's full of real JCBs, dumpers and diggers. Children from 5 years old can operate them - scary!!Under 5s can sit on your lap while you pull the levers.

On our visit we found pros and cons - but mostly pros.

Diggerland is in the middle of a large industrial estate and it is part of a working industrial yard. Neither the concrete outside area, the mounds of earth necessary for digging, or the converted buildings are what you'd call pretty. Slighty worringly, an access road runs through the middle it, so you can't let toddlers around freely.

One building houses a 'pub' and a cafe. Lots of space but not a huge menu. And primitive baby changing facilities in the ladies loo. The other building houses a gift shop (lots of JCB and Bob the Builder stuff) and the indoor entertainment, which consists of a small bouncy castle, an enclosed area for playing with toy cars and trucks, a video screen and a collection of computers with digger-themed games.

All this is free when you pay the £2.50 entry.
You also get free access outdoors to a small sandpit, second bouncy castle and under 5s area with push-along lorries and trucks. You also get to see a lot of real diggers, but this held some irony for us, since we had just driven down the A2/M2, negotiating the huge digger-infested road works along the way.

You have to pay for the main attraction - rides and interative games on the diggers. There are about 10 sorts of rides/games to choose from, with three or more available diggers for each ride/game, to limit queues. A book of 10 credits costs £10.00. Single credits are £1.50. Most rides take 1 credit, but some take up to 3. I was talkiing to another mother and we thought it was a novel idea, but a bit pricey. Before you even go on one digger, an adult and child entry is £5.00. Also I think you'd be hard pressed to find enough to do at Diggerland over a whole day.

However my sons really enjoyed their afternoon there. The car-mad toddler's mouth was in a permanent 'O' of pleasure. My 7-year old son found lots of like-minded boys to play with, and dug a huge hole with a JCB singlehanded. Girls were a bit thin on the ground, though the ones who were there looked happy enough.

If you go, I'd get a map off their website. The place is not very well signposted and we got very lost.

Diggerland is near Rochester, so you could combine a visit with a walk round the historical town and castle. Or you could pop into Bluewater - a 20 minute drive away.

There's also a Diggerland up north, near-ish Newcastle. It may be better established than this one.

But still worth a visit. It's certainly different.

Diggerland: Whitewall Road, Strood, Kent - 01634 291290
Diggerland: Langley Park, Co Durham - 0191 373 3883

www.diggerland.com

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Emmam · 10/08/2001 15:12

What a coincidence! I was at Diggerland too at the beginning of August! We took my 12 year old nephew for his birthday and he had a fab time. Our two year was most impressed with the JCB ride (he kept blowing kisses to the driver everytime she did a circuit!) He was disappointed he was too little to go on the dumper truck train, but he loved the bouncy castles and the road map play area and he even enjoyed 'helping' with the computer games. We spent around 4 hours there. We actually travelled quite a way to get to it and once I had got over the shock of it being in a fairly grotty industrial site and that it wasn't as big as I was expecting, we all had a really good time. Both kids were exhausted at the end of the day and fell asleep in the car clutching their newly purchased diggers and posters! Tremendous fun.

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Tigermoth · 10/08/2001 15:20

How funny, Emmam! My 2-year-old has a really similar reaction to the big JCB digger, only in his cas he kept waving it 'hello' and 'goodbye' as we waited for our turn. Shame about the age limit for the train - I'm sure I could have squeezed onto one of the seats and carried my toddler in my lap.

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Tigermoth · 10/08/2001 15:44

Also, following on from Rhiannon's posting about taking children into central London, if you don't fancy driving, try the new Jubilee line extension.

I can't say I've been to all the new stations, but the ones I've used( North Greenwich next to the Dome, Westminster, London Bridge and Bond Street) are much better provided with lifts than is usual, so it's easier to travel with pushchairs. The stations are quiet at weekends, the architecture is stunning and more to the point the trains are very, very frequent.

If you park near the Dome (£4.00 for a whole day - and no shortage of parking space), you can be on the platform within 5 minutes and (heaven or not depending on your tastes!)in Bond Street in 25 minutes.

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Riv · 11/08/2001 10:14

Whipsnade anyone? We were going to take a 4 year old before foot and mouth broke out. Has anyone been - is it any good?

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Nmd · 11/08/2001 18:32

Our two (3 & 18 months) absolutely love it, and we sometimes meet friends there with a 9 year old son who goes several times a month. Need to go fairly early in summer & probably other holidays to avoid queues but loads to see, good cafe, some small animals running around the park with you, friendly staff etc. & drive through sort of safari park on the way out. I'm not over keen on zoos, but Whipsnade & London zoo seem to get children really interested & talking about it for ages afterwards.

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Helenmh · 16/08/2001 14:21

For those in the midlands I can thoroughly recommend "Conkers" which is part of the national forest near Ashby de la zouch. It has great outdoor play areas for most ages including teens, nature trails, a large indoor interactive area which is good fun on the subject of nature and the environment. There are two cafes, shops and landscaped lake areas with picnic tables. Also nature trails and pond dipping

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Spring · 17/08/2001 12:19

Helenmh - where is Conkers? Does it have a web site? Sounds ideal for somewhere to take my 2 year old. We're near Nottingham so would be approaching from the roundabout of J24 M1.

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Helenmh · 17/08/2001 14:32

Spring, I have found a website for you which has lots of detailed information. It is five miles from junction 11 of the m42. It is on the B586 in Moira near Ashby de la Zouch. We went from Derby via Burton and followed signs to Leicester but that might not be your most direct route. There is a map on the website. I forgot to say there is miniture train which your 2 year old might like. A
ny questions just ask.Their website is www.visitconkers.com

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Dorisday · 18/08/2001 22:14

for those in the north -harewood house is fantstic-as there is everything for kids of most ages-wonderful car parking in the grounds -so u can picnic near your car-an amazing adventure playground -different parts starting from toddler bits up to big teenager thingy-and a coolzip line kinda thing!there's the wonderful bird garden(including penguins and flamingo's) also a lovely lake where you can go on a half hour boat ride-with a man!a walled garden and of course the gorgeous house itself. i bought an annual pass -for a couple it's £36-which pays itself after 3 trips!!give it a go-it's cool!

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Spring · 20/08/2001 12:40

Thanks Helenmh. I'll give it a go, probably on Monday..........

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Emsiewill · 20/08/2001 18:45

If you're in the North Wales area, then we found there's loads for families to do - plenty of farm parks, zoos etc. A few places particularly worth a mention; an indoor play area with terrifying slides in Caernarfon (called something like the Fun Place) - you can't miss it, near Safeway in an old church. Great area for under-fives, too.
The Greenwood Centre near Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic), the theme is wood and the things we do with it - loads of interesting stuff including building a den in the woods, archery, big toboggan run, treetop walk, maze, viewing platform with spectacular views of Snowdon (well, my MIL says they're spectacular, it was v cloudy when we were there!). Also the Sea Zoo in Brinsciencyn (sp?) on Anglesey is worth a visit. We were there for four days and didn't even get a third of the way down the pile of leaflets.

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Riv · 21/08/2001 11:48

Nmd thanks for your reply we want to try it out next week - am I mad may wait til a Sept weekend!?

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Alih · 21/08/2001 13:40

How about Twycross Zoo? It's great for littlies because there are lots and lots of monkeys, ranging from chimps to gorillas. Other animals too, ie elephants, lions, camels etc.
The cafe is not too sophisticated, but do good kiddies basics - fishfingers, sausages and if all else fails chips (not the daily diet you understand!) It certainly kept us busy for a day with a 19mth old.

My other strong recommendation is Gullivers Land -we went to the one in Milton Keynes. It advertises for 2-10s I think, but I visited with 2 20 mth olds and had a whale of a time. Mini ferris wheels, jungle water ride, vintage cars, train, and lots lots more. Its free for under 90cm, and about £8 for mum. All rides are then free.

I recomend going in September after schools go back, I went early July, and didn't have to queue for anything. Also, when the littlies wanted to stay on for another go, they could.

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Ems · 21/08/2001 17:17

The Times newspaper '2' supplement (Tuesdays) has been covering some interesting days out for kids, today was article about Longleat (I would recommend it) and a list of other animal parks.

We really enjoy Marwell Zoo, very open, lovely for picnics, playground, MASSIVE shop, train etc.

Paultons Park, near Southampton, M27, wonderful for mini children, before they get to Chessington/Alton Towers sort of age. Little rides, bouncy castle and floor level trampolines under cover, dinosaur walkway through the woods (we go for this alone!!) restaurants, swings, sand, really really good place.

Warwick Castle is always worth stopping off at if you're trying to break up a long journey.

But our best trip this year is the London Frog Tour. (cant remember web address). Goes from opposite the London Eye, big yellow old army vehicle/boat! Forgotten the long word to describe it! You get a tour round Buck Palace, soldiers on horses guarding Downing St, Big Ben etc for about 45 mins, then over a bridge and down a slip road into the Thames, the excitement was almost too much for my 5 year old! 20 min river tour. Brilliant. So wacky. Need to book, it is SO popular.

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