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!”

 

 

Bristol · Days out · Outdoors · South West · Uncategorized · Zoos

The Wild Place Project, Bristol.

Until recently I’d never even heard of Wild Place Project in Bristol, Just off J17 of the M5, it’s only a quick hop over the Severn Bridge for us and since discovering it at the end of the summer holidays we’ve become Annual Pass holders and been back twice.  Easy to get to, free parking and plenty of picnic spaces and places for the kids to literally run wild – an open meadow, woodland to explore and barefoot trails – it ticks all the boxes for kids with some energy to blow off (and let’s be fair that’s all kids isn’t it?).  That’s on top of the fact that the place is also an actual zoo.  With plenty of opportunity to get up close to the Giraffe, Okapi and meerkats to name but a few the kids were kept entertained for the entire day.

lemur at wild place project

 

A highlight for us all was the walk-through lemur enclosure, the kids loved getting so close to these cute little creatures, whilst at the same time being covertly educated by my determined reading of all the signs we passed.  Pretty early on in the day Mini-me caught on to the colour coded symbols showing the level of endangerment of each species so we got a running commentary all around the place as to whether the animals were ‘safe’ ‘endangered’ or even ‘extinct in the wild’!

At various ponts throughout the day there were talks at the various animal enclosures,  the staff were enthusiatic, knowledgable and more than happy to answer the kids questions.  We also caught the mini beast talk where the kids got to hold such delights as the Madegascar Hissing Cockroach – I selflessly turned down the chance to hold this delightful creature in order to give the kids longer holding it…. Monkey Boy was absolutely made up when the beastly thing lived up to it’s name and emitted a lovely hiss for him as he cooed over it!

Dotted around the place there are old 4 x 4 vehicles for the kids to play in, they were kept entertained for ages by these, driving themselves ‘to the jungle’ or ‘through Thailand’ the only limit was their imagination and every child crammed into that jeep seemed to be having a wail of a time on that epic adventure.  After a while most of the parents gave up trying to drag their offspring away to see the animals and just enjoyed 5 minutes watching the Gelada, without having to explain to their little ones just exactly what that monkey was doing to his friend!!

The Wild Place Project also has an indoor playbarn, which kept both Monkey Boy (9) and Mini-me (5) entertained for long enough for Mum and Dad to enjoy a hot coffee from the cafe in relative peace.  Other attractions include a giant swing, leap of faith and climbing wall (additional fees apply for these – although annual pass holders do get a small discount)

Monkey Boy (9) says ‘The Wild Place project is a very good place to educate your children, it shows you animals that are endangered that they’ve breeded back to life’ (I think he has visions of some Jurassic Park style lab full of mad scientists growing endangered birds from ancient DNA….)

Mini-me (5) says ‘I think it was good because we got to see lots of animals, even woolves, and the woolves were my favourite because I’ve never seen them before.  I liked the meerkats, and I also liked the animal that had the head of a horse and a zebra’s butt*!  I think the lemurs were good because there were different types of them, and they can leap so far. (*Okapi!!)

Mum says ‘Fantastic value for money, 3 trips and I’ll have made my money back on our annual pass.  Can easily spend a full day here – take a picnic and enjoy it in the meadow! Am currently working on the hubby to let us spend a night at Camp Baboon  – watch this space…’