Days out · English Heritage · Historical · Museums · National Trust · Outdoors · South West · Uncategorized

Stonehenge

We have discovered that one of the huge benefits of Wales having half term a week after England, is the fact that you can hop over the bridge and visit English tourist attractions without the normal school holiday hoardes being present.  We took full advantage of this fact yesterday and booked an impromptu day out to Stonehenge.

Booking in advance is strongly recommended, and can be done quickly and easily here.  Members of English Heritage and National Trust are entitled to FREE admission, but still need to book a ticket.  Whilst booking online you can also add extras such as audio guides and guide books to pick up when you arrive.

Hubby declined the sat nav’s preferred route in favour of a vague set of directions from a mate, for once this didn’t end in tears or near divorce and was in fact a lovely drive through a set of pretty villages packed with more thatched cottages than I’ve seen in my entire life.  My excited cries of ‘thatched roof!’ were met with indifferent grunts from Mini-me and Monkey Boy who typically had their heads buried in various digital devices for most of the journey.

On arrival parking was quick and easy and right next to the visitor centre, ticket booths, toilets and café.  Word of advice, take the little ones (and yourselves) for a wee now as once you get up to the stones there are understandably no loos.  The whole area is very accessible, fine for little legs and pushchairs.  Quote your booking reference number at the ticket desk and you’ll be given your tickets and guide books and directed to the area where you can pick up your audio guides.  They have different versions of the audio for adults and kids.  After I’d forked out £9 on a family bundle, I discovered that there is a free audio guide that you can download to your phone, but I personally think the fact the kids did not have a screened device within their clutches for the day was a massive bonus so it was £9 well spent!

To get to The Stones you have two choices, you can either jump onto one of the very frequent shuttle busses, or you can walk.  We opted to walk, so armed with walkie talkies (worth their weight in gold when forcing the kids on a walk – Monkey Boy and Daddy are always half a mile ahead, and being able to continue to argue/trade insults with each other even at this distance is enough to distract the kids from the fact they are walking!)  and binoculars to stave off moans of  ‘are we there yet’ and ‘my legs hurt’ we set off.

Walking
‘Are we nearly there yet?’

Even walking at 5 year old pace it was less than a half hour stroll along the same road that the shuttle busses use – fine for pushchairs and safe for little ones as the only traffic is the busses which give all pedestrians a wide berth.

Once there you can wander around the path that circles the stones for as long as you like.  There are a couple of benches dotted around – we managed to nab one to sit down and have our picnic.

Stonehenge
Picnic with a view

 

After initially promising the kids they could get the shuttle bus back to the visitor centre, we managed to trick them into walking by taking the scenic, cross country route back down.  The area surrounding the stones is criss-crossed with plenty of National Trust paths, so we walked up to the burial mounds nearby (kids moaned because they couldn’t climb them due to erosion control measures) and then followed the path back through the fields.  Distraction from walking tactics included ‘lets jump over the cow pats’ and ‘spot the military helicopters flying over’ also ‘lets see how many cannon booms we can hear from the nearby tank firing range’….

DSC04006
Daddy and Monkey-Boy half a mile ahead as usual. When we arrived there was much moaning about the fact ‘We saw other people climbing on top of the mounds, why can’t we?!’ – That would be because the great big sign says KEEP OFF!

Before they knew it we were back at the start where the kids got their promised ice creams and Mum and Dad got to refuel with a coffee.  We had a quick look around the exhibition which is just the right size for kids as you can get enough of a condensed history of the area before their attention spans start to falter.

Mini-Me (5) says:  “I think the rocks were good because they have stayed up for 500 years and you could get those little phones that tell you all about it.  It was really good because it makes you exercise.  There was loads of cows and sheep and I thought that was good,  and we found some really soft sheep wool in the field”

(500 years or 5000? it’s only an extra 0 after all, and said sheep wool is still safely stowed in Daddy’s wallet!)

Monkey-Boy (9) says:  “I liked the audio guides I thought they were helpful, they gave us lots of information about Stonehenge.  We got to see the actual stones but we couldn’t go underneath them.  It was about a 3 mile walk*”

*It was nowhere near 3 miles

Mum says:  “In my opinion this is absolutely one of those places that you should take the kids to and tick off your list.  I think we hit lucky with a quiet day, I can imagine it would be a completely different experience at the height of the summer holidays – so wrap up warm, pack a picnic and have a winter wander with a view!”

 

 

Days out · National Trust · Outdoors

Firestarter!

IMG_0006After being convinced by my parents a couple of years back that the National Trust wasn’t just OAPs and dusty old houses we decided to take the plunge and pay for membership.  I can honestly say we have definitely had our money’s worth!

Last week we headed to Tredegar house to tick off another activity in the kids “50 things to do before you are 11 3/4” scrapbooks.  50 things is a list of outside activities, compiled by the National Trust, that they think every child should have tried before they are 11 3/4.  Activities include things like ‘Rolling down a really big hill’ and ‘Build a den’.  You can pick up the scrapbook free at any National Trust property and then either complete them yourself or head along to one of their organised sessions to tick a specific activity off your list.

Number 47 – cooking on a campfire is something Monkey-boy and Mini-me absolutely love to do, so when we saw there was a session running at Tredegar House we donned our head to toe wet weather gear (our most worn outfits of the summer holidays to date) and went along.  Sessions run at set times throughout the day and are included in entry price (so if you’re a National Trust member you just flash your card and it feels like it’s free – always a bonus in the holidays when it feels like all I do is haemorrhage cash!)  Tickets for the timed sessions are given out on a first come first served basis, which means that the activities are never overcrowded.IMG_0011

The campfire was well organised, under a shelter to keep the rain off, with tree stumps for us to sit on and kneeling pads for the kids round the fire so no soggy knees.  They got to toast marshmallows and squidge them into s’mores between chocolate biscuits, and they even learned a bit about how long man has been using fire (a heck of a lot longer than any of thought!)  After they’d stuffed their faces, and the more organised grown ups had produced wet wipes to make their little darlings look slightly less feral, the older kids got to have a go starting a fire themselves.  Monkey-boy’s inner pyromaniac almost wet himself in excitement… I went straight home after and locked up the cotton wool and Vaseline, and changed the password on the Amazon account.  (Have since found many searches for fire starting flint in the iPad browser history!)

All in all it was a nice way to while away an hour or so on a rainy afternoon, with the added bonus of some yummy treats!

Mum says ” Well organised, kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and learned a thing or two whilst they were at it, if you’re a National Trust member then fantastic value for money, as parking, entry and the activity is all covered by your membership.”

Monkey-boy (9) says “It was really good fun, the fire lighting was really good, Mum won’t let me buy a flint because it’s dangerous!”

Mini-me has nothing to say on the subject as she’s currently sulking because she got bowled out in a game of cricket….