A snowy indoor trail filled with animated animal friends, storybook characters, festive scenes and Darth Vader. Sounds like a winning combination.
Out of all the animals to capture the imagination of young children, it’s the large mammals. Lions, hippos, tigers, bears, elephants and others feature highly in children’s books are when a visit to the zoo is mentioned, they come at the top of the request list. Happily there’s a space not far out of London where the big animals roam free (well relatively, depending on their level of ferocity). We’d been to Whipsnade once before, which isn’t too far from us, but this was our first visit with Tilly. Offering soft play and a playground as well as an amazing array of animals, we were keen to get stuck in.
Many families have been away on holiday and returned home, yet there’s still a few weeks of summer holidays still to fill. Fortunately there’s no shortage of places to visit if you know where to look. Here are dozens of ideas across South Buckinghamshire and South West Hertfordshire that are particularly suitable for families with younger children…
Relatively little known amongst the great houses of England but boasting some truly breathtaking gardens, Wrest Park is tucked away in rural Bedfordshire, to the north of Luton. Managed by English Heritage, our visit coincided with their Georgian games event, one of a series of family friendly activities taking place over the summer holidays.
It’s surprisingly little known that a family of snow leopards reside at the Lakeland Wildlife Oasis, just off the A6 near Milnthorpe, not far from Kendal in Cumbria. As we were spending part of our summer holiday just up the road, it sounded like a great trip out for toddler Tilly.
Activity farms come in a range of sizes. Near us they range from working farms hosting occasional events through to the enormous, which border on theme parks in their own way. Langleybury Children’s Farm is towards the smaller end of the spectrum, yet conveniently located just off the M25 near Watford.
We’ve finally started seeing some hot, summery weather and with family visiting have been looking for somewhere to go for fun that’s out of the heat. Woodland is excellent for keeping cool on warm days so I opted to take the family to Penn Wood, one of the largest woods near to us and somewhere I’ve enjoyed returning to over the past few years. The woods were an instant hit with Tilly, who set about running around the trees, throwing leaves around and generally having a ball.
On our doorstep is something of a legendary destination, albeit in miniature. Bekonscot, taking its name in part from its home town of Beaconsfield, is regarded as the grandfather of miniature villages, having opened in the 1920s. It regularly features on television and we keeping spotting it on the CBeebies series ‘Show me show me’. Pretty much anyone who grew up in this part of the world will have visited as a child. Having moved to the area, however, it was to be a new experience both for me and toddler Tilly.
Our half-term kicked off with a visit to a reenactment event at the Chiltern Open Air Museum. Throughout the season the museums hosts a range of events and reenactments and the Romans are always a favourite with us, although this was the first time we’d seen the gladiators, performed by Britannia.
Most of our trips are as a family unit but there are times when my teacher wife’s marking pile is so tremendous she just needs to crack on and have us out of the house. Such occasions allow me to indulge in a touch of dad geekery. I’m talking about those destinations that wouldn’t much interest my wife but which Tilly and I can enjoy. As she’s a fan of Thomas I reckoned a trip to a local steam railway would go down well.