Sunday 27 May 2012

Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire

Slimbridge Wetland Centre is a great place for people of all ages, not just those who are into photographing wildlife as there is plenty of things for everyone. Charlotte was a bit 'seen one duck seen them all' but there were plenty of boards around to explain the different types of ducks, and the reserve is split into areas of the continent. Plenty of quiet bird hides for those who like to spot something more unusual and out of the way of the popular central areas. For the kids there was a number of play parks, there was a canoe safari (looked great but we didn't go on it) and the best bit welly boot land. On the day we went it was more swimming costume and crocs. Welly boot land is a stream that you can build dams on to learn about the flow of water... or just run and splash in to cool off on a hot day.

There are areas you can hand feed the ducks, hands-on session with frogs and toads, otter feeding session. Check the noticeboards for a what's on that day when you arrive, there was a lot more on than we managed to do or space to mention here. There were some great pond dipping areas, but sadly no nets, we were really looking forward to the pond dipping too, was a really fun pond dipping game available. We took our own packed lunch, there are plenty of benches and picnic areas around, but we did stop for a drink in the restaurant and the selection looked quite good.

The whole area is flat and really accessible, including a lot of the hides, the whole reserve is really well planned out.
We had a really fun day, and it was a full packed day, as we left Charlotte asked when we will be going back... would like to say its because she liked seeing all the birds but I think it was more to do with welly boot land.

Friday 25 May 2012

Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire

We recently visited here for the Cadburys Easter Trail (which was excellent fun even if a little wet), but the Manor and grounds open most of the year. The house is open for part of the year but we haven't yet gone round the house, the grounds are impressive enough.

The gardens are stunning and quite something to walk around, with view points across the county along the way, big slopes that make you want to be 5 again and roll down them, also aviary's home to a collection of exotic birds, garden sculptures and fountains.

The very poplar outdoor playground is wonderful to visit and good for children of all ages and spread across the side of a hill with footpaths between the stages. There is a very lovely restaurant and stables cafe, which sells some amazing cakes. Throughout the year there are regular family friendly events.
All areas are easily accessible for pushchairs and prams

Abbey Meadows Outdoor Pool, Abingdon

The Abbey Meadows outdoor swimming pool has just opened for the summer season until 9th September 2012. The sun has come out and so its time to enjoy the pool. We visited a few times last year and often had the pool to ourselves, under 16's also swim for free have a look at the soll leisure website take along the form and a passport sized photo on your first visit. Take a look at our review from last summer to see how great it is.
The water feature in the Abbey Meadows is also now open, very popular with the kids and its free. Along with crazy golf, tennis courts and 9-hole pitch and putt course.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth, Hampshire

 At 170m above Portsmouth Harbour is the Spinnaker Tower, right on the waterfront at Gunwharf Quays. We had gone to Portsmouth on a rather wet day, but thankfully by late afternoon the sun was out and it was lovely and bright giving us a great view across Portsmouth.

A lift takes you up to viewing deck 1 at 100m above sea level (there are 3 "decks"), its not a glass lift which I was very pleased about. The first viewing deck is the largest and as has a glass floor in the middle. Charlotte who was the bravest of us all was on there rolling around, jumping and running. I managed to walk across but Daddy stayed some way off as he is scared of heights. The 1st deck has glass walls on 3 sides and photos to pinpoint certain attractions.

Its up some steps to viewing deck 2, which also has a cafe, this is where we left daddy whilst Charlotte and I headed up to the Crows Nest (110m above sea level). This is the smallest deck, glass on 3 sides but with an open roof, you really do get the best views from up there. The lift to go back down departs from deck 2.

Charlotte really enjoyed walking on the glass floor, and we really loved the views across Portsmouth to Isle of Wight, watching the boats come and go.

I was surprised by how small the viewing decks were, on busy days you could be jostling for space at the windows, but that's only as we were comparing it to the Sky Tower, Calgary, Canada. One negative was having to pay for children from the age of 3, a 3 year old isn't going to appreciate it as much as an older child.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

We spent a really enjoyable day going round Portsmouth Historic Dockyard there really is a lot to see and do there. Not even the great British weather could ruin our day, and a bonus was under 7's go free.
Readitdaddy and I both last went when we were still at school, some years back, and all I remember of the day was HMS Victory. Was quite surprised to see how much more there is to see and do. Your entrance ticket includes HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, a harbour tour, Action Station, story of the Mary Rose (conservation work is currently ongoing on the Mary Rose so she's not on show) and a number of museums.

We started off at HMS Warrior, just by the entrance, to be greeted by a very cheery sailor who was on hand to explain things as we went around (and tell us about the ghosts!). Parts of the ship, like the washroom/laundry, even smelt like you had gone back in time. A leaflet is given to you to accompany your trip round, and also signs in each area to explain things. The history of the Warrior is very interesting, and her significance in Naval history. She is part wood, part iron, also sail and steam.

Next we took the 45min harbour tour to see all todays Naval ships upclose, this happened to include some famous ones such as HMS Dragon which was only launched last year, and HMS Illustrious which is the current aircraft carrier in service. This took us back to when we visited Fleet Air Arm museum where they had a mock-up aircraft carrier you could go round. We felt very tiny in our boat beside all the big warships. An audio tour was given on board and was very interesting.

We had a lovely lunch in the Georgian Tearooms, and wondered through the most bizarre antiques storehouse. Then headed onto HMS Victory. The lack of information on HMS Victory made us feel like we missed a few things, lots of signs around explaining certain things (like the storage in the Grand Magazine) but the marker for where Nelson fell to his death we almost missed. There was no information given in the Admirals Cabin, nor in the leaflet, we over heard someone explaining that the outfit was the one Nelson died in. As I say though other areas gave a wealth of information (how they preserved Nelsons body in a barrel of brandy). The history and importance of the ship and the role it played is told well.

After going round the Victory and naval museums we finished the day off in Action Station, we were a little disappointed by this as a lot of the hands-on things were broken. Kids love to press buttons and turn handles but when it does nothing they soon get a bit fed up. The climbing wall looked great fun though and also the training circuit.
When asking Charlotte what the best bit of the day was she said everything, so that really must mean she enjoyed it all. There are a lot of steps to go up and down on the ships, and very steep ones so having a child who can easily navigate them is important.